Sunday, August 15, 2021

Shadows of Darkness: Whisking Through the Whispering Woods

Lots of screens in the game look like this.
      
I pick up the game from outside the cave. At the end of the path leading to the cave is a stone obelisk with the figure of a squid on top. Beyond the obelisk is a bonsai tree growing in the rocks. I try to reach it, but the obelisk blocks the way. I try to move the obelisk, but I'm not strong enough. I mark the location for a return visit. 
  
Moving west (the only way to go), I find myself at the edge of a swamp. My paladin's "danger sense" goes into overdrive, but as usual, I hardly need it: I can see the disembodied limbs rising from the swamp waters and grasping for me. Lights dance on the far edge like a bunch of will-o-wisps. I head north and leave the swamp for later.
        
Later, I get in some rock-throwing practice with one of the limbs.
     
Six squares of pleasant forest follow, some with babbling brooks or rolling hillsides. A hawk flies on and off screen. I pick up some rocks and flowers (just because the game will let me). My journey ends in a square with a thick tree. I can proceed no further north, so I go east. I have just enough time to note the stone wall of a town in the distance before I'm attacked by a "necrotaur," a fierce monsters with sharp claws and teeth. "Despite their appearance," the magazine Hero notes, "necrotaurs are not actually undead creatures." Undead or not, this one nearly kills me. My health bar is down to nothing when I finally strike the killing blow. I immediately use my paladin healing ability.
      
The first random combat nearly kills me.
    
Moving north, I see the town gates. I want to pause on this screen--although I could easily choose many others--to note what a wonderful job the authors did giving detailed descriptions to everything on the screen. This tradition goes back to So You Want to Be a Hero. On this particular screen, there are separate descriptive paragraphs for the stump, the trees, the town walls, the boulders that shore up the town walls, the pumpkins, the scarecrow, the corn, the bridge, the gully beneath the bridge, and the towers. I don't know that I need John Rhys-Davies narrating every word of description, but I do appreciate the text.
   
One of the many textual descriptions on this single screen.
     
I grab an ear of corn as I cross the bridge into town. The gate opens into a town square, dominated by a large rock with a staff driven into its apex. The serene theme that plays can only have something to do with Erana. I walk up and grasp the staff and hear an eerie voice in my head: "This I must first do--the sacrifice of life for one of love." I try talking to the staff, and the feminine voice elaborates: "My destiny is not yet fulfilled. One life for a death, and one death for a life." (Erana is voiced by Diane Pershing.) I like the idea that the mysterious Erana may yet have a role to play. I can't figure out anything else to do here for now, so I move east.
 
I also like that an experienced Quest for Glory player can identify Erana's influence just through visual cues.
    
I arrive in an area with a couple of quaint houses. An old man in what looks like sleeping attire is either doing calisthenics or looking for something. It turns out to be the latter. When I approach him and talk, he introduces himself as Nikolai and asks if I've seen "his" Anna. All conversation options just lead to him going on about Anna, so I soon say goodbye. Conversation in Shadows is a bit different than the last game. You can either click on yourself to "tell" the NPC something, or on the NPC to "ask" something, but you can't switch between them in the same window the way you could in Wages of War.
  
There are two doors on the screen. The left is locked, and no one comes to it when I knock. Clicking on the right brings up a little screen with six bells. Five of them play a tone in sequence--I think it's the tune the aliens play repeatedly in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I just have to ring the bells to match the tune, and the door opens. 
  
I enter a stone hallway with a tiled floor. A bust is on one wall, a painting on the other. (The bust periodically blows and pops bubblegum bubbles.) A weird device on the floor is labeled "Transcendental Receiving Animal Processor" ("be careful; that might be a TRAP," Rhys-Davies offers). A sign on a far door reads: "Dr. Cranium's Private Laboratory. Entrance by prior appointment or demonstration of superior intelligence only."
         
I recover on the floor while small antwerps bounce away.
     
I fiddle with the TRAP, which indicates that it can help me identify an animal, analyze the proper bait to use for it, and then catch it. This is nothing I have need for right now, but I take note of it. I listen at the right door and hear a bunch of "bouncing." Even though I suspect what will greet me when I open it, I do so anyway. A bunch of small antwerps jump out and knock me to the floor. "Fortunately, these were just baby antwerps," Rhys-Davies says, "so the attack wasn't fatal." The door closes, and if I try to open it again, the same thing happens. Opening the left door just notes that the room contains a rat maze, missing the rat.
  
A voice invites me to "come on in!" at the far door, but it's locked. Trying to unlock it brings up a little picture puzzle involving keys and keyholes. I can arrange the tiles into the shape of a keyhole, but it doesn't seem to do anything.
     
I presume I need a key before this will really work.
     
I go back to the TRAP. When it said it could identify an animal, I thought it meant based on some fur or scat or something. Instead, it asks questions, starting with "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" I try to get it to identify some of the monsters in the game by answering accordingly, but it just keeps quitting with silly answers. If I answer in a way consistent with baby antwerps, however, it identifies them correctly and tells me to feed them avocado. Having none, I leave.
   
The TRAP wastes my time.
   
I walk along to the north end of town. The game says I'm hungry, so I nibble at some corn, but it doesn't seem to do any good because I soon get a message that I'm starving. I thus ignore the large castle gate and abandoned building and head south to the center of town. There, I find, in a row, the burgomeister's office, a general store, and an inn. Darkness falls as I study the signs, so I enter the "small but nicely-furnished country inn." The game has me automatically pay the 15 kopeks per day requested by the portly innkeeper. As instructed, I sit down by the kitchen, and a woman shuffles out with a helping of chicken paprikash. 
    
That's pretty much the same as anywhere.
      
My stomach sated, I talk to the innkeeper in more detail. He calls himself Yuri Markarov; his wife's name is Bella; the inn is called the Hotel Mordavia, "the only place to be when darkness falls." He warns that I should always be back in town before dusk and the inn before sunset. He doesn't have much else to offer except that the local monastery has a bad reputation.
   
The mazurka that plays when you enter the inn is my favorite composition in the game so far. (I might be wrong that it's a mazurka. It feels like the right word. It could just be a waltz.) Yuri is voiced by Stu Rosen, who died a couple of years ago at age 80. 
      
A well-drawn screen. The Quest for Glory team really knows how to draw inns.
      
I move on to the three other patrons: Hans, a farmer; Ivan, an elephant herder ("unfortunately, there are no more elephants in Mordavia, so business has kind of fallen off a tad"); and Franz, a wealthy garlic grower. These characters are voiced by Neil Ross and Jess Harnell. I hope no one minds that I keep mentioning the voice actors, but this is just an incredible list of people early in their careers. None of them are exactly giving the performances of their lives, but video game acting must have been a new thing, and they were reading lines that had been written a year earlier, probably without consideration that actors would eventually read them. Anyway, the three patrons are reserved and cagey. They don't trust a stranger, nor my claims to be a hero. Eventually, I turn in for the night, have breakfast the next morning (a garlic souffle), and head out. 
   
Dmitri Ivanov, the burgomeister (voice: Gregg Berger), is leaning out his window when I exit the inn. He demands to know who I am and how I got there. I tell him my story, but he refuses to believe that the cave was even open, let alone that I could walk out alive. He also refuses to believe that I'm a prince of Shapeir. "The sooner you leave, the better for all," he says. "We certainly do not need a stranger to stir up new troubles." How different a welcome I'm receiving in Mordavia versus Spielburg, Shapeir, and Tarna! He does give me the key to the old adventurers' guild at the north end of town, long closed. he also tells me of "strangers" who moved into the old Castle Borgov.
       
This seems like the kind of guy who would ban all toys.
     
I head into the shop, which is run by a "sturdy" woman, Olga Stovich, in a rocking chair, and swarming with black cats. Olga is the most talkative NPC so far (voice by Susan Silo). She tells me that Bella, the innkeeper's wife, lost the couple's only child. There are werewolves in the area, and Olga thinks they are gypsies from a local camp. Her own husband passed away some time ago.
    
I have no idea what I'll need a hand broom for, but this is part adventure game.
     
Olga sells trail rations (sandwiches), candy, cloves of garlic, shopping bags, flasks of oil, pie pans, and small hand brooms. I buy everything, including five trail rations, five pieces of candy, and two cloves of garlic, and still have five gold crowns leftover (from a starting 15). 
   
When I return to the north end of town, there is now a stonecarver working on a headstone. His name is Igor (voice: Jeff Bennett). He makes a bunch of gravedigging jokes but otherwise doesn't have much to offer.
     
Finally! A funny gravedigger.
    
Using the burgomeister's key, I enter the old adventurers' guild. The dilapidated building has a moose head on the wall, an exercise machine, and some books on a shelf. Using the machine swiftly drains my stamina but improves my strength. (My "Communicate" and "Intelligence" attributes have also increased from the conversations.) I pick up a rope-and-grapnel set, which I assume is more useful for thieves. A case on the wall has a fine long sword, and I break the case and take it.
  
I sign the logbook "with a flourish." The logbook holds the account of a Piotyr and his battle against the cultists of the Dark One. Erana perished or disappeared in the battle, leaving her staff behind. Piotyr brought the staff back to town and planted it in the square. He then headed off to battle the remnants of the cult, and apparently never returned. 
      
The Adventurers' Guild.
      
The bookcase has copies of Hero magazine (which the game encourages me to read in full), some tips on spellcasting, a silly brochure having to do with Dr. Cranium, a book about "Talk Fu," and a manual describing how to use the stair-stepper. My "Strength" and "Magic" attributes go up.
  
Back outside, Igor warns me against walking up to the monastery, but I do so anyway and suffer my first character death when the stone octopus above the gate comes to life and strangles me with his tentacles. Fortunately, I had saved just before.
  
Having exhausted things to do in town (until I find some avocado), I return to the forest and start exploring to the west. A couple squares west and one north, I find a gate blocking the path to Castle Borgov. A gatekeeper stands in a window next to the gate. He welcomes me to Mordavia, noting how rarely they get "fresh blood" here. He introduces himself as Boris Stovich (voice: Jim Cummings), which is confusing because that would suggest he's Olga's husband, and Olga said her husband was dead. He recounts that the head of the Borgov family were the Boyars of Mordavia for centuries, but the last Borgov disappeared years ago. He says that the castle is now occupied by the "master," the master's daughter, the "foreigner," and some "strange guards." His description of the foreigner indicates that it's almost certainly Ad Avis. Anyway, he says he can't open the gate for me without orders from the master, and I can't force it or climb it right in front of him. I move on.
       
Guys, I think he might be a vampire.
      
I skirt along the western edge of the game map (further movement blocked by thick forest and rocks) until I reach a lakeside and my paladin danger sense goes off. A nude woman, her long hair strategically placed, rises out of the lake. She says she's cold and asks me to come in and "help her be warm again." This is one of those situations where you know what's going to happen, but you have to see it anyway. I enter the water, and of course she drowns me in the lake.
    
In real life, there would be 100 guys with SCUBA gear lined up here every morning.
     
Reloading, I speak to her. She introduces herself as "the Rusalka." Hero warned me about her, a "spirit of a young woman who died drowning." There is supposed to be a way to release her. I'll have to find it.
  
The borders turn east (I skip the path leading to the cave). I defeat another necrotaur, though again it nearly wipes me out. In a southern forest square, I find a strange bush with "blood-red berries and tentacle-like branches." I find that a few thrown rocks get the bush to drop some berries, but it swats me every time I try to pick them up. If I were a wizard, I'd use "fetch." The grapnel is of no help. While I'm trying to figure it out, I'm attacked by a "vorpal bunny," one of the game's dumber enemies, and kill it quickly. I vow to return to the bush when I have a solution or I'm healthier.
    
This doesn't feel like my most heroic moment.
     
Dusk starts to fall before I get to the map's eastern edge, so I head back to town. But before I get there, I find a small pond with an island in the middle. The game notes that I feel a sense of peace. That, coupled with the music, indicates that I'm in Erana's Garden. I stretch out on the grass intending to sleep until morning. But my peaceful sleep turns into a nightmare:
    
You feel the sensation of floating freely in a swirling cloud of magic. You feel as if you were suddenly totally alive. You can remember every happy moment of your past, taste every favorite sensation, hear all the colors of the universe. This is the true joy of living.
  
Suddenly, you find yourself trapped by darkness. You cannot breathe. The darkness is tearing the warmth, life, and magic from your body. Pain--the agony of lungs without air, the burning cold of a body trapped in ice, the terror of helplessness as death approaches. You float, cold and lifeless. You wake in a cold sweat. You remember every detail of the nightmare as though it had really happened to you.
    
Despite the nightmare, I awake with full health, stamina, and magic meters, so something must have gone right.
     
On the one hand, I have horrible nightmares. On the other, I wake up at sunrise fully rested. Where do I sign?
       
I find nothing else to do in Erana's Garden. The fruit tree won't even let me pick anything from it. I continue east, finding a lot of blank forest squares and dead ends as I hit the eastern border and turn north. Another vorpal bunny wastes my time. 
  
I reach a forest square that has six bushes. The mewing of a kitten comes from one shaking bush. As I approach, the mewing turns into a roar. Then a giggling voice asks: "One and one and one make three; tell me what you make of me? Reading, writing, riddling game; can you tell me what's my name?" Hero alerted me to this: a spirit of the forest with "a very mischievous nature." It's called Leshy. I answer such. The creature is disappointed and the bushes disappear. "Leshy, Leshy, riddle rhyme," the thing says. "Can you solve it every time?" Then it vanishes. I leave the screen and return, and the bushes are back. I touch them one by one, causing them to disappear, and Leshy stands up again. "If you save a plant from goo," it says, "I can help you with a clue." That plant may be the bonsai tree outside the cave, which I have a note to return to.
    
I think you're a poor substitute for a meep.
      
East of the city, I find a cemetery. I read the gravestones. One, to an "Elyssa," is probably the name of the Rusalka--it indicates that she found a "watery grave." I don't know whether her name will be enough to release her. Her "lost true love," Janos, lies in the grave beside her empty one. Other inscriptions to Ligeia Poe, Pasha Sperry, Mikhail Mehd, Arken Tenna, Kari Naishon, and Barnie Blue are simply occasions for silly poems or puns.
   
He presumably saw Dela wearing her new jersey.
        
I open a mausoleum on the right, and a body falls out, but I otherwise can't do anything. The one on the left is to the Borgov family. It is locked and won't budge.
  
As I continue to the east, I am killed by a wyvern and have to reload. I should mention that the "death' screens make fun of you in the best Quest for Glory tradition.
     
They aren't quite as helpful as in the first game, though.
     
It takes me a couple more tries to defeat him. I learn that I have to block low until he gets sick of casting fireballs, then attack high. He still nearly kills me and leaves me poisoned. I have to rest a few hours to restore stamina, which allows me to use my paladin healing ability. It eventually wears off.

A wyvern blasts me with a fireball.
      
I still haven't decided if I like the new combat system. The timing of attacks and parries seems to matter a lot more than in the previous games, but the enemies are so fast that it's hard to actually react to their movements. I'm eager to try it with a wizard and his arsenal of spells.
    
In the northeast corner of the map, I reach a gypsy camp. A man comes out of a wagon as wolves crowd around me. He orders me to leave, threatens me with the wolves, and refuses to answer any of my questions. I try to offer him various things, but nothing works. Eventually, I turn and leave.
   
No one's got a swell cleft in his chin like this gypsy.
     
With that, I seem to have explored the entire outdoor area. It's no bigger than Spielburg. I've annotated a number of puzzles. There are a few things on my list to try next:
   
  • Return to town and speak to everyone again. Maybe the things I've seen will open up new dialogue options.
  • Re-explore the wilderness at night. Sometimes there are different encounters at night.
  • Return to the woman in the lake and see if I can get anywhere with her name or her lover's.
  • See if I'm strong enough now to push over the monolith guarding the bonsai tree, which may allow me to get Leshy's hint.
  • Try to climb or force the castle gates at night.
  • Try to get the berries from the bush while at full health so at least it won't kill me.
      
My map of the game so far.
     
I don't think I need any hints just yet. I always like this part of the game, once I've established the basic lay of the land and can focus on solving puzzles.
  
Time so far: 5 hours

107 comments:

  1. FYI, even in the CD version, there's a puzzle that generally has to be started in the first 5 days or so or else it will lock you out of victory due to a bug:

    Fyrrc ng gur vaa ng avtug sbe gur svefg frireny qnlf hagvy bar riravat lbh'yy or jbxra hc va gur zvqqyr bs gur avtug ol n perngher va gur sebag unyy. Guvf perngher, n Qbzbibv, jvyy unir n dhrfg sbe lbh gung vaibyirf tbvat vagb nabgure ohvyqvat va gbja. (Gur ohvyqvat va dhrfgvba pna'g or ragrerq gvyy nebhaq Qnl 3 be fb, ogj.) Bapr guvf dhrfg vf qbar, tb onpx gb gur Qbzbibv ng gur vaa ng avtug naq ur'yy tvir lbh n pehpvny vgrz sbe yngre va gur tnzr.

    Nccneragyl vg znl or cbffvoyr gb qrynl gur oht'f bafrg ol abg fyrrcvat ng gur vaa sbe gur svefg frireny qnlf. Ohg vs lbh fyrrc ng gur vaa ng nyy jvguva gur svefg svir qnlf, gura lbh ZHFG ivfvg gur Qbzbibv naq fgneg uvf dhrfg qhevat gung gvzr be ryfr lbh'er genccrq va n jnyxvat-qrnq fpranevb.

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    2. Vs lbh qba'g ivfvg gur Qbzbibv qhevat gung gvzr, gura ur arire fubjf hc nsgrejneq naq guhf lbh pna'g pbzcyrgr gur tnzr orpnhfr lbh arire trg gur vgrz juvpu lbh arrq sebz uvz sbe pbzcyrgvat uvf dhrfg.

      In lighter matters - that Boris sure looks uncanny, doesn't he? He's a prat for apparently leaving his wife like that, though.

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    3. I'm glad you mentioned this, and that I "translated" this, because I had indeed missed that encounter. Moreover, I'm having a repeated crash in another part of the game. Thus, I guess I'm starting over.

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    4. But is this really true? Can anyone else confirm? If it's true, then I see this flaw seriously damaging the final score.

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    5. I don't know about "seriously damaging". Typically for the GIMLET it seems that major bugs might take maybe a point or two off a score, no?

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    6. It's confirmed on some web pages. I can confirm that I didn't go out of my room at the inn during the first five nights, and the dude wasn't there once I did.

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    7. iirc the hero should be wakened by a sound in the middle of the night.

      Also iirc, I've found the Domovoi once without sleeping - I just picked the lock to the inn when returning from... profiteering walk... at night and he was there.

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  2. You might want to talk to Olga about her cooking again.

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    1. (also, it reads a little weird that she's the only town NPC for whom you didn't mention the voice actor)

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    2. I also got stuck in my original playthroughs on this. I think it's because it's unusual in this series for you to need to think that deeply about your items this way.

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    3. Another NPC later clued me in about this.

      I didn't mention that voice actress for a reason. She's a damned Brexit supporter.

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    4. Who cares what she supports as long as she does a good job with the acting?

      That said, I prefer playing the game without voice acting. I think I played the floppy version, which didn't have any. More bugs to put up with, but I prefer reading at my own pace over having everything voice acted.

      It's especially annoying with descriptions of looking at objects.

      I found the full voice acting in recent bigger budget RPGs like Divinity Original Sin 2 and Pillars of Eternity 2 really irritating, too, and ended up turning down the VA volume to zero. Occasional voice acting is great, but when a game has a lot of text and every single line is voiced... that just irritates me.

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    5. I knew even as I wrote that that someone would think I was being serious. I just didn't think it would be someone who participated in the thread that I was clearly referencing.

      Serious answer: I don't know why I overlooked her the first time; I updated the text above to include a link to her page; as far as I know, she's never said anything public about Brexit, which makes sense given that she's American.

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    6. People have a right as individuals to not support anybody for any reason they can come up with, major or minor, no matter how good of a job the person did. Doesn't matter how much I like Ultima, if it came out that Richard Garriot was an axe murderer, or a child abuser, or didn't tip his servers or was just kind of rude in an interview once, it's my right as a consumer to then no longer purchase his games nor give them what little exposure I could provide.

      Something I wanted to say in the other thread, but the conversation was over by the time I thought of it.

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    7. Yes, Chet hass what he needs to make progress ;)

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    8. Well Alex, I don't have the impression that anyone in the other thread was going to deny anyone the basic rights you are describing. So I really don't know why you're bringing that up, but whatever. I still want to reply to: "if it came out that Richard Garriot was an axe murderer, or a child abuser, or didn't tip his servers or was just kind of rude in an interview once, it's my right as a consumer to then no longer purchase his games nor give them what little exposure I could provide." The first two reasons are extreme and I think anyone in their right mind could understand that. Again at least my point in the discussion is, that for the latter reasons to actively boycott and, as happens all too often on the internet, try to convince others by making lengthy posts etc. is exactly the kind of thing which is going wrong these days. Instead of showing more tolerance or understatement it seems to be better to seek complete opposition and no compromise whatsoever whith each other. Yeas, people are only doing what's in their human right, but It's also my right to pint out that this kind of disruptive behavior is not helping society I the slightest. I'm really just stating facts here.

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    9. Sorry for the bad spelling, my tablet is really not suited for such posts...

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  3. Gosh, those are great graphics for '93, each screen looking prettier than the next one.

    Contender for most beautiful game ever reviewed?

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    1. I always thought many of the scenes in QFG3 are even prettier, but as painterly backgrounds in this era of games go, QfG4 is certainly a great one.

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    2. The second image is particularly beautiful (the gravedigger - not so much). Though painted VGA backgrounds have been a staple of Sierra adventures since at least 1991. I remember "Conquest of the Longbow" from 1991 as being similarly good-looking.

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    3. That whole Sierra era was quite fantastic, several games with wonderfully painted backgrounds. Space Quest 4+5, King's Quest 5+6 also had some great scenes.

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    4. Sierra games did look pretty good at the time, but when I was a kid I always thought Lucas Arts games had better graphics. Smoother animations for sure.

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  4. The mazurka is actually from the Edvard Grieg's suite Peer Gynt (written by Henrik Ibsen). The piece is called Anitra's Dance. It was my very first meeting with Grieg's music. The suite also contains better known pieces like the Morning mood or In the hall of the mountain king (funnily, I have heard those only later since I've started with the gaming only after Manic miner was in).

    For some reason, it always pleases me to hear classical music in the games, be it Albinoni in the Might and Magic VI or Vivaldi in Planescape: Torment (Civic festhall).

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    1. Thanks for making that connection! I even own the Peer Gynt suite, but I guess I haven't listened to it often enough. Grieg annotated its tempo as "di mazurka," so I guess my terminology wasn't so far off, even though most descriptions seem to call it a waltz.

      I wonder how many of the compositions in the game are borrowed from such previous compositions.

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    2. Let’s not forget the Pavane for the Earl of Salisbury in Bard’s Tale.

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    3. The QfG4 arrangement of Anitra's dance sounds like it was inspired by the TI-99/4A game 'Alpiner'. Both games repeat the same part of the original composition over, and over, and over.

      The QfG4 version:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czh4n_ARKi8&t=974s

      The Alpiner version:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPURasK8EPg
      (The ditty played during the title screen repeats throughout the game when its not interrupted and restarted by a sound effect)

      BTW... for the tech savvy readers, I highly recommend setting up a Roland MT-32 to play QfG4. The music in QfG4 is the best in the franchise [citation needed]. I used a real MT-32, USB MIDI cable, and DosBox. There are instructions on the web for using a MT-32 emulator with DosBox, but I have never tried it. To get a taste of what it sounds like listen to the other clips in the first video above.

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    4. I actually use DosBox-X exactly for the reason that it comes with the MT32 emulator included. Beside many other additions.

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    5. OK, I consider myself a classical music wonk (I can pretty much identify most canonical classical music in games), and I had never made the connection between Bard's Tale and a piece by William Byrd, as I'm not into Renaissance music. Thanks for making my day, Narwhal!

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  5. The lock puzzle should 'click into place' once you've gotten ALL the pieces in the correct order, I think? It's not fully completed in the pic above, in any case.

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    1. You have to have the key first. I was fiddling with it before finding the key.

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  6. You broke into the case and stole a sword? Not very Paladinly.

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    1. Well, I figure it's kind of "mine." As the only adventurer in town, I'm now sort of the custodian of the adventurer's guild. I have the key, after all.

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    2. The sword is there as a "in case of emergency break glass" situation rather than a fancy sword in a display case

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  7. I don't see a problem with crediting the VAs, especially considering it really doesn't hurt anything to do it.

    I feel like all the scuba gear in the world isn't going to help you against someone actively trying to drown you... not that it'd actually stop a lot of people from trying.

    Being well rested, with the only cost being horrific nightmares? Sounds like a great deal to me!

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  8. Are you playing with the game speed turned up? Would combat have felt better back in the time the game released?

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    1. I was a little curious about this when Chet mentioned the hunger messages he was getting, which I don't recall being so much of an issue (although it has been a while since I played)

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    2. I'm playing the GOG version, which I think calibrates it to era speeds. Hunger hasn't been an issue after the first day. I visited the general store rather late. I also might have burned time standing still while I wrote things in the blog entry.

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    3. I can confirm that on era-appropriate hardware, the combat was very difficult due to the speed of emeny attacks. I seem to recall a combat speed slider though... Am I misremembering?

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    4. There is a speed slider. It affects how quickly you and enemies move on the main screens. I don't know if it affects combat; I'll have to experiment. I assumed Chris meant to ask whether I had the speed ARTIFICIALLY turned up via the emulator.

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    5. Again, I might be misremembering or confusing the CFG games, but I seem to recall both a game speed slider and a combat speed slider. Is that wrong?

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    6. There is a slider for combat difficulty, which does affect the speed of enemies.

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    7. Yes sorry Chet. The speed difference from the earlier games made me wonder

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  9. Is this really a bona-fide RPG coz it looks like an adventure game. Like King's Quest. Oops was I not supposed to bring this topic up, just curious are we moving to adventure games now?

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    1. The Quest for Glory series has always been a blend of RPG and Adventure game.

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    2. Clearly someone who hasn't been following the blog very long. Not only has Chet played a variety of hybrid RPGs, he's played all the previous QfG titles. They're easily accessible in the archives, Anon.

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    3. Yeah, but I exacerbated it a bit by not including any screenshots of my improving statistics. I'll try to highlight that in future entries.

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    4. LOL this is clearly an adventure game. Its by Sierra. It looks like every other Sierra game.

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    5. Anon,

      Chet has a working definition of CRPG that includes several criteria. The CFG series meets pretty much all of them, so for purposes of this blog, this game is a CRPG. You can find these criteria in the post called "What is a CRPG." You'll notice that "published by someone other than Sierra" is not on the list.

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    6. Obvious troll is obvious troll.

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  10. I'm told by the internet that at least in parts of the world, the word for stereotypical flashy-dressed wagon-dwelling insular fortune-tellers with a reputation for petty thievery is a serious slur against a real-world persecuted ethnic group, and should be avoided. I grew up under the impression that the word wasn't referential to anything in the real world any more than references to draculas and wolfmen. I'm sure the makers of the game, much like Cher, weren't aware of the word being used as hate speech.

    I dunno, this is the first time in a while I've seen the word used other than in reference to how it should be avoided, which probably tells you more about the kinds of web sites I visit than anything else.

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    1. My impression is that the word is considered a "slur" primarily by white people who, as usual, are looking for mud to sling at other white people. To me, it is a strong, honorable, romantic word that conjures positive images. If I ever hear from someone of Romani heritage who objects to my usage, I may reconsider. Until then, it is a word that you will find on my blog, especially when we're dealing with fictional usages. If that makes you not want to read, I understand.

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    2. Agreed! When someone says they got gyped they're talking about something honorable, not invoking a stereotype of deceit universally understood to be insulting for decades upon decades.

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    3. By your logic, no one should say “Jewish“ or “Hebrew” because some people corrupted them into “jewed” and “hebe.” They’re not the same thing, and you knew they weren’t the same thing when you posted that.

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    4. Seems to me that a fictional usage (as here or in Ultima) should be fine in referring to the game being discussed? If we're talking about real world usage, that might well be different. Maybe also worth noting that Americans are perhaps a bit removed from the real discussion on this usage, since Europe is where the Romani typically still face very real persecution in many places. If we flip the situation and for example a European or East Asian tried to tell me the N word was fine for them to say because for them it's not weighted down with the history of American slavery, white supremacist terrorism, and Jim Crow, I'd be taking that claim with a pretty hefty chunk of salt.

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    5. I know at least one person of Roma descent who isn't happy about the g-word. That said, since it's how the game itself refers to those characters, and they are entirely fictional, I don't think that much harm is done here.

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    6. @Bruce, that's actually a conversation that regularly happens in Russian, since the Russian word for Black people is derived from the N-word. And in principle, it was intended as a neutral word, without any negative connotations. But the Black people in Russia find it offensive nevertheless, because of its origins.
      Personally, I'm rather ambivalent on slurs - there are a few that could be hurled at me, but I don't necessarily mind them in other, e.g. humorous, contexts. But I also don't find it terribly difficult not to use them, so I really don't understand why some people put so much energy into arguing that those words aren't offensive.

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    7. I mean, in a discussion like this, you really have to think of examples other than "the n-word." The n-word is unique in that we don't say it even when we're criticizing someone for saying it. A better example would be if some culture had a long history of using "Jap" to simply refer to people from Japan with no negative connotations attached. It would be somewhat obnoxious for people from the U.S. to tell them they had to change their vocabulary because we used the word pejoratively during World War II.

      My reading of "gypsy" is that it's similar to the "black/African American" debate in the U.S. (or perhaps more accurately, the debate as it was in say the early 1990s). For a while, we were told to stop using "black"--until actual black people objected that they didn't find the word offensive and in fact thought "African-American" was unnecessarily complicated. Go anywhere online, and you will find some Roma saying they prefer "gypsy," some saying they would rather not hear it, and everything in between. I suspect that those who find it pejorative come from places where it has been used pejoratively. As Bruce points out, that's hardly ever true in the U.S.

      More to the point--and to VK's snark about "I don't understand why some people put so much energy into arguing that those words aren't offensive"--is that there isn't an acceptable substitute as far as I'm concerned. When I say "gypsy," I do not typically mean "Romani," any more than I typically use "Bohemian" to mean "someone from Bohemia." "Gypsy jazz" and "Romani jazz" are not anywhere near interchangeable.

      I don't want to go round after round about this every time a gypsy shows up in a computer game. If you honestly feel my use of the term is offensive TO YOU, I would be happy to hear about it, but otherwise continuing to talk about this is utterly unproductive.

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    8. "jap" is a particularly interesting case because it appears to be largely unimportant to people in Japan, but is widely considered offensive by English speakers of Japanese descent. So it's not a case of "White progressives taking offense on behalf of someone else", but it is a case of the offended group being people on whom the term is used, but not necessarily the "definitive" case.

      I think there might be something similar with the word in question - I gather (though I could be wrong; it's something I only have a small amount of exposure to) that actual Roma generally find it less offensive than other traditionally-itinerant groups to whom the term is sometimes applied (Which makes sense; you've got to imagine it stings to have people assume all nomadic cultures are Roma).

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    9. I mean, it's not ambiguous. Gypsy is a racial slur. If some affected people are okay with it, that's good for them, but you don't get to use the N-word because one black friend tells you he's cool with it, and the same goes here.

      Bigger and more commercially-invested minds have engaged with this recently over at D&D publishers Wizards of the Coast, and it resulted in some significant changes to their Ravenloft products to retain the flavour of Eastern European gothic horror while removing the racism.

      The argument "if you're personally offended, speak up" is bullshit when the people in question are a minority, and when you've already exhibited a hostility to their viewpoint and entertained and made a space long-time commenters who said absolutely vile things the last time this topic came up. If I were Romani, I wouldn't risk getting harassed or doxxed by engaging with the comment thread here, I'd just abandon the site and never come back.

      Not only is it unrealistic to expect such people to feel they can safely engage here, it's unfair to put the burden on them to fight their cause each and every time - because it's not just your blog where they're going to have to make the argument, it's *every other place* where this discussion keeps coming up, despite it being *unambiguously a racial slur*.

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    10. And as for intent - look, if you didn't meant the word offensively, and then you find out it's nevertheless offensive, you say sorry and stop using it. You don't double down on how you're allowed to use it because you didn't mean it in an offensive way. If an innocent kid uses the N-word without realising it's a slur because he heard some adult say it, we can all accept the kid didn't know any better, but they still need to stop.

      And if you're looking for a term that encapsulates the fantasy notion that we see in QFG4 without importing the specific real-world culture of Romani, I don't think there's any problem with the term "travelling folk". Otherwise you're an eloquent fellow, I'm sure you can find a good phrasing.

      But note also that it's not just the word that's the issue here - it's the tropes that go with it, which include but are not limited to thieving and scamming, aggression (and sexual aggression), superstition, laziness or unwillingness to work a traditional job, lack of formal education, etc. As with any population, you'll find real life examples of people who meet some of these tropes, but the racism comes from that being the recurring depiction of these people, and them being immediately identifiable from those tropes. So dealing with the name issue by itself doesn't fix the whole of the issue.

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    11. The funny thing is that "gypsy" has only become a racial slur in some people's ears because of the negative connotations of certain aspects of gypsy culture. Of course there are positive and neutral things about their culture too, or at least it was when there was more demand for their traditional skills.
      Today we are supposed to call them "Rom people", but I have only negative experiences with "Rom people" who commute back and forth between Romania and my home town, while the supposedly more negative name "Gypsy" still has a certain romantic ring to it, which I think is rather ironic.
      Anyway you can't have a culture which is based on living off the larger society instead of _in_ it, and demand respect. There is a reason why Gypsies are the only ethnic group who has never demanded their own country.

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    12. Why do some people feel the need to be offended on behalf of others? It's usually college educated middle class white people who want to virtue signal, while the people who the word is about don't even care.

      It reminds me of a funny situation a couple of years ago when a museum in California had an event where people could wear a kimono, to give them a closer contact with Japanese culture and some hands-on experience with the Japanese collection. A bunch of locals claimed that was cultural appropriation and therefore racist and disrespectful.

      Actual Japanese people in actual Japan loved the idea and when the news about the detractors reached them, they thought they were anti-Japanese agitators. Because why would anyone who loves Japan be against bringing Japanese culture closer to the people?

      This kind of politically correct thought policing is annoying, doesn't help anyone, only makes conversation more difficult, and makes you look like a misguided fanatic who gets easily offended.

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    13. I grew up listening to a band called The Gypsy Kings. Pretty sure they created that name for themselves, nobody forces them to use it, and are not planning to rename themselves to Romani People Kings ;)

      So my tendency is to agree with Chet's view that " the word is considered a "slur" primarily by white people who, as usual, are looking for mud to sling at other white people."

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    14. Do you mean the Gipsy Kings? If so, they are of Spanish Romani heritage.

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    15. "There is a reason why Gypsies are the only ethnic group who has never demanded their own country."

      We don't need this sort of crap here, thanks.

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    16. I'm not offended on behalf of others. I'm just offended. I don't have to be Jewish to be horrified and disgusted if someone calls someone else a "k**e". I can accept that it is inherently revolting to be offensive and derogatory to another person on the basis of their race.

      But if that isn't enough, I can be offended because if a person uses a racial slur about one group behind their back, what am I to believe they think about my friends who are Korean, or my friends who are queer, or my sister who has Down Syndrome?

      And I know that Chet's not remotely intending to be offensive, and I accept all the good faith in the world, but at the end of the day, when you get told something is offensive, the only classy thing to do is apologise, and find a different word.

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    17. Well, Greg, I find "I," "the," and "a" to be offensive. Presumably, you'll be "finding different words" from now on, or, more likely, you won't accept my assumed authority about what is and isn't offensive, any more than I accept yours.

      A the end of the day, when you honestly believe that someone is "not remotely intending to be offensive," the only classy thing to do is to not provoke or prolong a senseless argument by telling him that he is.

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    18. I guess my read of the word would be closer to the awkwardness of discussing people indigenous to the americas--do we say Native American (awkward, and only used in the U.S.), indigenous (too awkwardly academic), or Indian (obviously a misnomer but with some institutional support)? The reality is none of them are right--they're exonyms for people who don't necessarily see themselves as a unit, and who in any case are rarely asked their opinion and probably wouldn't have reason to trust whomever was asking. If we were talking about a particular tribe or population we should use that name, and otherwise we're left scrambling if we want to be sensitive.

      The other reason I think I'd lean toward Native Americans is that there is a whole genre of tropes and stereotypes associated with the people that was created about them rather than by them.

      So I'm not going to get on anyone's case about the word, but when it comes to talking about how the portrayal actually works in this game, I think it's fair to talk about it. And I think it is... pretty poor. I think it's a product of the approach of the game; Shapeir and Tarna felt like places, and their people were treated respectfully, while Mordavia is more of a stage for horror tropes. Overall I don't think that hurts the game, but for me it falls flat in that northeast corner of the map.

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    19. You said "the"!

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    20. My thinking about the g-word here went along the lines "wow this game is old enough not to understand how offensive this is". Of course it is a bad racial stereotype that has not aged well, but it would be the same even if the game would call them Romani. Right guys? Guys?

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    21. Wow, if Quest for Glory IV caused this level of agitation I'd hate to see what Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist would result in.

      That game has more...severe issues.

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    22. Colin: Native American/American Indian is an EXCELLENT analog. There is no consensus among that population about the preferred term. Some people insist that "Indian" is a slur while some American Indians continue to insist that they prefer it. This situation is exactly the same as if I went on a European writer's blog and chastised him for using "Indian" as if the question had been settled. (More to the point, it would be the same if I went on a blog dedicated to, say, Peter Pan, and chastised the writer for using it when referencing its use in the stories.) He'd doubtless wonder what he was supposed to do when referencing the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the National Congress of American Indians or, for that matter, Indian pudding. In any event, I would be wrong in declaratively stating that "Indian is a racial slur."

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    23. As I've said in my very first comment, I don't see it as problematic in this particular case since it's used in reference to fictional entities. However, I'm not a Rom, so it's not like my perspective on the matter is very relevant.
      That said, "there isn't a good word for it" is rarely a good excuse because language is not set in stone. Btw, the bit you were replying to wasn't intended as snark - more like an expression of genuine (mild) amusement. There just are better hills to die on, from where I'm standing.

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    24. "There are just better hills to die on" goes both ways. Everyone who refuses to let this thread just END (myself included) deserves the same measure of "mild amusement."

      My obstinacy about this is less to do with the word "gypsy" specifically and more to do with being told what words to use and not use on my own blog.

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    25. I get the impression that the 'Jap' issue (I mean, it's nothing but a simple contraction like, say 'Scot') is mainly localised in the US and has something to do with guilt about wartime propaganda cartoons that depicted them unkindly (the US dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese too, but those do not loom nearly so large in the mind of the modern social justice activist as do unkind caricatures).

      If the word 'Gypsy' were erased from the English language, the general population would feel much the same about nomadic ethnic populations as they currently do, and for the same reasons. Indeed, I'm not sure the word *is* very much used in most places except in fictional contexts like old songs and computer games. Living in Ireland, the groups I will encounter are Travellers (who have been through a few name changes already) and some Roma, and they are referred to by those names, not 'Gypsy' which is more generic - I would not normally even capitalise it, as I would not think of it as referring to a specific group.


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    26. Ya'll are a bunch of doosh bags.

      There, problem solved.

      ;)

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    27. Chet, you're just wrong. It's unambiguously a slur. Googling "gypsy slur" returns nothing but results that explain why, and at least the first one after Wikipedia is written by an affected person.
      (https://now.org/blog/the-g-word-isnt-for-you-how-gypsy-erases-romani-women/ )

      If you were genuinely offended by any word I said, and I hadn't intended that word to be offensive, I would apologise, even if I thought it was a silly word or didn't understand how you were offended by it. But pretending false offense for reasons of debate is childish and unhelpful and trivialises the experience of people who suffer actual bigotry every day of their lives.

      The reason you have a good idea of what's offensive to African-American or Jewish people is because of literally more than a century of advocacy and communication directed *specifically at your demographic* by a coordinated population of affected people in the country that you live in - and still too many Americans are unclear on the concept. The fact that you are only just now discovering that gypsy is offensive - and has been offensive since it was created, by white Europeans, to imply that Romani were Egyptians - is not surprising, but doesn't give you a right to manufacture some ambiguity where none exists. You're not to blame for your ignorance, but you are to blame for refusing to learn when corrected.

      My Patreon support for you is relatively small, but I'm going to go and halt it until you get your head right on this.

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    28. And on the other hand:

      We asked many members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities how they preferred to describe themselves. While some find the term “Gypsy” to be offensive, many stakeholders and witnesses were proud to associate themselves with this term and so we have decided that it is right and proper to use it, where appropriate, throughout the report. We also heard many other terms used to refer to the Communities that are completely unacceptable and hate speech will be explored in Chapter 6 of this report.

      But don't let me take anything away from the autoerotic thrill of moralizing in public, of course. (Though oddly enough I have yet to hear a person of color, or anyone else in an oppressed or historically victimized group, say "Hey, you know what we really need? More upper-class white scolds with graduate degrees who use our experience and identity as a pretext to preach on the Internet.")

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    29. I can't believe the sanctimony of GregT, complaining that you won't submit to his correction.
      I am a long time reader and I want to support the addict for standing up to the bully.

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    30. I might point out that to Americans "Gypsy" is effectively a fantasy race with hardly any connection to the actual Roman, and consequentially most Americans have a hard time processing the notion of the term being a slur in much the same way as they'd have a hard time if you claimed "Elves" was a slur. From my european friends, I'm given to understand that it's very different in other parts of the world, where there's a very real connection to the element of racial oppression within living memory. I sometimes get the impression that there's a similar reversed situation with "Indians" - there's a layer of distance for europeans when depicting the indigenous people of the americas that desensitizes europeans to the harm in being racially insensitive there.

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    31. So "gypsy" is a slur because it is based on the wrong assumption they gypsies originated from Egypt(*), but it's correct to call them "Roma" or "Roman". What did the gypsies ever do for the Roman Empire and Roma the Eternal City? The gypsies were originally from India, so maybe we should call them Indians instead?

      *But according to James E. Watkins "Gypsies generally claimed to be Egyptians". No idea how reliable he is, though.

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    32. The etymology of Romani/Rom isn't that hard to look up. The key point is probably the degree to which they chose the name rather than having it imposed on them, as is the case for 'Gypsy'?

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    33. If you call Geoffrey 'Jeff' even though he has said he prefers Geoffrey, you're kind of a jerk right? But obviously there are lots of Geoffreys, and there is no transitive property of Jeffs. You have to take each Jeff as they come.

      Nation-States can (and do) dictate the proper ways to refer to their citizens in various languages, but when you're dealing with minority groups and non-state nations there usually isn't going to be an authority to take direction from. There are no hard rules, although 'don't be a jerk' is a good soft one. I avoid the word mostly out of caution, but I'm more unsettled by the depiction. I think Ross's point about how many peoples' conception of Romani is a fantasy is well-taken, and I'm not sure it's entirely harmless.

      We're talking about decades-old games of course, and I"m not sure they're very actively harmful today. And it's a shame this discussion has to happen about the QFG games, which have as generous and kind a spirit as any RPG I can think of from that era. The depictions in this game are mostly clumsy by today's standards, obviously not malicious in their own time.

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    34. @petrus

      You don’t have to worry about the etymology, because that’s not the issue. If use of a particular exonym is likely to bother a member of the group, you don’t use it.

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    35. @Greg

      While I’m sympathetic to several of your points I think your last sentence is likely to make someone want to do the exact opposite of whatever you suggested they do.

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    36. I am not approving any more comments related to this sub-thread.

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  11. Perhaps my favorite childhood game of all.

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    1. This would've been mine too, if I hadn't played Quest for Glory II first. The series just oozes charm and character.

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  12. Not sure if you have played Castle of Dr. Brain, just wanted to say that not just the name as you mentioned, but most of the stuff in the Dr. Cranium section is directly referencing that game. In particular the entrance with the lamps that play a tune that you have to match is the same as the first screen of Dr. Brain, and the second screen has a similar thing where clicking on a door brings up a sliding puzzle in a little window. Same with "Dr. Cranium's Private Laboratory. Entrance by prior appointment or demonstration of superior intelligence only." which might be a direct paraphrase from Dr. Brain though I don't remember. But the goal of the game is similar, where you have to prove you are smart enough to get an appointment to meet Dr. Brain. Weirdly even though it's a kid's game and this game is overall a more gothic mature feeling game, the interior of Dr. Brain's castle is a lot darker and more foreboding looking than the bright pink and green version in the homage from this game.

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    1. Compared to earlier games in the QFG series, this one relies less on inventory puzzles and more on logic puzzles. That's probably because it shares a designer with the Dr. Brain series. It's not a bad thing IMHO but it does give the game a different vibe.

      Lbh trg zber ybtvp chmmyrf ng gur guvrs thvyq, be jura gelvat gb ragre gur pelcg be gur frperg cnffntr.

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    2. Dr. Brain was also created by Corey Cole

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    3. I'm fairly certain there's a wink and a nod to Dr. Cranium being the ancestor of Dr. Brain somewhere in either the game or the documentation.

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    4. I never played Dr. Brain. Other than maybe a few minutes with one of the King's Quests in the 1980s, I've never played any Sierra game that wasn't a QFG. Thanks for expanding on the relationship between them.

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    5. Island of Dr.Brain is such a cheerful joy to play. I still play it occasionally to this day, on the hardest difficulty the math puzzles still manage to completely stump me!

      It also had one of the most interesting manuals I've ever read and I still have the original one I received in 1992, complete with my nine-year old's handwriting on the inside cover with my address and phone number, in case I ever lost it.

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  13. I tried to get into QFG so many times. I couldn’t. I feel like the non-adventure game elements, most notably the combat, get in the way of the adventure game.

    I figure combat needs to exist for one of two reasons: As part of the RPG progression loop, or because its fun (the action-adventure reason). I don’t think combat in QFG is enough of either of those things.

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    1. Agreed. Combat definitely feels like a weak point of the series. Most of the time you can avoid it if you wish, even, if you're a wizard or thief character.

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    2. I've enjoyed the combat in the second and third game; not so much in the first, fourth, and fifth game. Of course the combat engine is different every time, so YMMV on that.

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    3. The only QFG game that managed to have fun combat was II, I think. The original had a certain elegance, and the remake is slower-paced but more tense.

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    4. One of the things I think QFG2 doesn't get praised for enough is how, at least during certain fixed encounters, there is no separate "battle" screen. With Khaveen, Merv the Griffin, Earth Elemental, etc., it just seamlessly transitions into the combat engine. Chrono Trigger gets a lot of love for doing this, but QFG2 did it earlier.

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    5. @Ahab, in fact they did it already in the original Hero's Quest. The battle with the kobold and training with Weapon master. I also loved this and wished there were more of it..

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  14. for everybody enjoying these CRPG/Adventure Hybrids I can really recommend two recent games:
    Quest for Infamy from 2014
    and
    Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements from 2019
    Both are have great stories, are fully voiced and totally have the Kings Quest vibe (although I never played any myself).
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/264560/Quest_for_Infamy/
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/270610/Mages_Initiation_Reign_of_the_Elements/

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    1. Heroine's Quest, also from 2014, I thought was great -- very classic QFG approach, in a Norse-inspired setting.

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    2. Yes Heroine's Quest is great! It is free to play as well!

      https://store.steampowered.com/app/283880/Heroines_Quest_The_Herald_of_Ragnarok/

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    3. I meant of course Quest for Glory vibe, not Kings Quest. I will look into Heroines Quest, thanks! And I just bought the QFG1-5-Package at GOG, currently 35% discounted:
      https://www.gog.com/game/quest_for_glory

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