Sunday, April 24, 2022

Lands of Lore: Almost There

 
"How do I know that's the real Ruby of Truth?" Later: "I hold the Emerald of Truth, and as you can see, it does not contradict me when I assert that I hold the Ruby of Truth, which does not contradict me when I assert that I am Conrad from Gladstone."
      
I guess my annoyance with Lands of Lore was, as I suspected, a product of my general mood at the time. When I fired it up again for this session, I had an enjoyable time with it, despite starting in a bad place. I almost never close a session in the middle of a dungeon. In this case, I had closed the last session not only in the middle of a dungeon, but in the middle of an area I was having trouble navigating and practically in the middle of a combat. This created a steep curve for getting back into the game.
   
The puzzles became a bit more complex in the caves of the Draracle, to the point that I'm not sure I solved some of them and don't know how I solved others. For instance, on Level 2, near where I left off, there was a corridor ending in a wall with a button. Pressing the button opened an alcove on the west wall with a message that said: "Dagger in. Dagger out." I put a dagger into the slot and it closed. Pushing the button again caused it to re-open and offer me a better dagger. (I have so many daggers now with special names that I don't remember exactly which one I got from this slot.) Great. But when I tried again with a second dagger, I didn't get the same result; instead, a wall opened nearby and spewed out half a dozen cave men that I spent the next 20 minutes running from, hiding from, and clearing one by one, all while keeping up with the other cave men that spawned every time I crossed whatever tiles caused them to spawn. The point is, there have been plenty of other buttons that I didn't fiddle with by pushing them multiple times, so who knows how many other secret areas I've missed.
     
Putting a gem in a relief of a dragon.
      
Overall, Lore has been pretty solid with its navigational puzzles, which are always a vital element in the Dungeon Master family. So far, I've identified the following mechanics:
   
  • Buttons that open hidden doors or open and close pits.
  • Multiple buttons that must be pressed in a particular sequence.
  • Switches that open walls and only respond to particular keys. 
  • Buttons on the far sides of pits that must be "pressed" by throwing an object over the pit to hit them.
  • Hidden buttons that look like regular wall patterns until you click them.
  • Illusory walls that you simply walk through.
  • Pressure plates that open and close walls, some of which must be weighed down.
  • Pressure plates that cause fireballs to come roaring down the hallway. These can also be weighed down to stop the trap from triggering repeatedly. 
       
Instead of strafing immediately into the adjacent hallway, I pause to take a screenshot.
    
  • Cracked walls that require a special mallet (found in these caves) to bash down.
       
The first time I've seen this particular mechanic.
      
  • Illusory pits that can simply be walked over.
      
Dungeon Master veterans will find only a few original items in that list, but Lore has a couple of twists that I like. The first involves the annotation of these puzzles on the automap. Very often, these annotations are the only ways I even find out about an element (e.g., an illusory wall or hidden button), which could be seen as a negative, but I mostly like it. The automap is just annoying enough to activate (there's no keyboard shortcut and there's a relatively long pause) that there's a slight punishment for not noticing or testing things yourself. The second is that your characters sometimes comment on puzzles. It must be based on probability since they don't do it every time, but every once in a while, you'll step up to a wall and one character will say, "There's something strange about that rock!," and you'll know there's a hidden button.
       
The automap shows most of the navigational obstacles that the game has to offer.
      
On the negative side, respawning continues to be my primary annoyance. It's not so much the fact of respawning, which I normally like, as the particular way it's handled. Part of the problem, I think, is that the dungeon levels aren't really big enough for all this respawning. This is particularly felt when it comes to sound. The game does an admirable job of assigning a unique sound to each enemy and then playing that sound when an enemy is near. The problem is that with such small levels, enemies are always near, and respawning means that you can almost never fully clear them. I don't know what good it does to subject the player to constant grunting or buzzing except increase the sales of Xanax.
   
The rest of the dungeon was relatively quick, although owing to my choices of direction, I don't think I explored the entire thing. Lower levels introduced giant flying mosquitos or something, and their buzzing is perhaps the most annoying sound I've ever experienced in an RPG short of the "Gigglers" in the original Dungeon Master. At some point, I found a new spell--"Freeze"--which affects all enemies on screen and handled them nicely. The bottom level had some acid-spewing slugs that destroyed armor and shields. I confess that I reloaded the first time this happened and then took off those items for the rest of the dungeon. 
        
I cast "Freeze"--which has a needlessly long animation--on a couple of giant bugs.
      
I think the balance between magic and melee combat is relatively strong. Melee attacks often miss, so magic would be the obvious choice except that you can only cast three or four spells per mana bar. You have to choose carefully. You don't want to run out of mana in a place where you're suddenly swarmed with enemies. You're tempted to rest and heal after every battle, but with the game's copious use of respawning, that can be a major risk.
     
Finally, we wandered down a staircase and a hall and found ourselves in the chambers of the Draracle, a reptilian creature with white eyes and a single horn sticking out of his forehead. (His name is meant to be a portmanteau of "dragon oracle.") The scene that took over was mostly scripted. Conrad explained that we were looking for an elixir to cure King Richard. The Draracle's attendant--a hooded figure standing in the shadows behind him--cut us off. "Peasants! How dare you speak before placing an offering!"
   
At first, I wasn't sure how to make an offering. It turned out that I needed to click the gold altar in the background. This, again, is an unusual feature of Lore, where images that you initially take as cut scenes are in fact interactive.
   
I tried a bunch of things. Baccata rejected most of them with, "I think they want a different offering," even the gold chalice that I was sure would do the trick. I thought I'd have to return to the dungeon and hunt around for more stuff, but I realized that what they wanted was something that I had equipped, not in my inventory: a jeweled dagger. I was sorry to see it go, as it had the best "strength" rating of any weapon I've found so far. 
     
Really? He doesn't want some random skull?
   
Having received his offering, the Draracle told us that the Elixir of Tybal would cure King Richard. We have to assemble the ingredients and create the potion in "an ancient white tower." As for the four ingredients, the Draracle presented them as a riddle:

  1. Butcher the creature whose flesh has never lived.
  2. See the sweetness of our enemy.
  3. Collect it from the deadly depths.
  4. Powders taken from the heart of our mother.
  
Lara left the party at this point, as she was intended for service to the Draracle anyway. She took some equipment with her when she went, but nothing terribly important.  
        
He wouldn't be much of an "oracle" if he just told you things straight out.
        
Confused over what to make of the list, the party decided to return to Gladstone. The Draracle automatically dumped us into a special series of corridors winding up to the exit, so we couldn't finish exploring areas that we had left unexplored when we found his chambers in the first place. Giant rats were waiting around almost every corner. Then, as soon as we exited, we were attacked by a pack of orcs.

Once we cleared the orcs, we found Timothy lying mortally wounded at the base of a tree. He said that Castle Gladstone had fallen, and that Scotia and the Dark Army had taken King Richard's body. Before he died, he recommended that we find "the Council," whose four keys would allow access to King Richard's body and the application of the Elixir of Tybal. "Remember, you must save the king and destroy Scotia."
       
This death is poignant for some players. To me, he was just some guy I met in a bar.
       
I can't help but note at this point that our goalpost keeps moving backward. We started off on a quest to find the Ruby of Truth so we could counteract Scotia's Nether Mask. Then Scotia wounded Richard, so our quest became about healing Richard. Now our quest is about even getting access to his body in the first place. At some point, it might be time to just recognize that we've lost.
    
Baccata opined that the Council probably followed Dawn--whose exact position I'm still cloudy about--into some place called Opinwood. After a brief conversation with the castle blacksmith, who was hiding in the bushes, we hopped a ship for the new area.
      
As you're about to discover, I forgot about the "some chap in a wagon" part shortly after I read it.
      
The ship dumped us into a new forest map. There was a new bestial enemy for us. At some point while I was writing this entry, I remembered that one of the game manuals actually tells you the names of your foes. Apparently, these guys are called "pentrogs." The manual suggests that fire magic is the best way to fight them, which of course is one spell that I don't have. I did find "Lightning" in a chest at the end of the forest path.
    
Casting the new "Lightning" spell on a pentrog.
    
Clicking on miscellaneous stumps, nests, and bushes has produced small handfuls of coins, herbs like aloe or ginseng, and sometimes more valuable treasures like potions or magic rings. I enjoy the greater interactivity of these screens.
        
Only in an RPG would you hold on to such a thing.
    
We found the entrance to the Urbish Mines, a guy in a wagon who refused to tell us anything, and a beggar who took 5 silver crowns but had nothing to say. A longsword named "Flayer" sat at the end of  a path. A tree-stump chest gave us a new sword and a pair of bracers.
       
This got us nothing, but maybe it affects something later.
        
There was no sign of Dawn or the Council. We only had two options to continue the quest: the Urbish Mines and the Gorkha Swamp. I was closer to the swamp when I finished mapping the area, so I went that way.
    
Most of the swamp map.
       
Not long after entering the swamp, we fell into a sinkhole and died. I guess we'll have to watch more carefully for those. A few steps later, we met a Gorkha, who (in the worst voice acting of the game so far) told us that we'd be welcome as long as we didn't attack any Gorkha. Gorkha are intelligent amphibious creatures. Enemies in the swamp were animated balls of swamp muck called "boglytes" who responded well to our "Freeze" spell. Baccata (but oddly not Conrad) kept getting poisoned from the swamp.
      
The Gorkha display heads of orcs who have strayed into their territory.
      
I met a Gorkha living in a treehouse who offered to decipher the riddles on the scroll for 100 silver crowns per riddle. I had over 500, so I decided to buy two hints, knowing I could return later. He said the "sweetness of our enemy" was probably nectar from giant hornets, and a "creature whose flesh has never lived" is probably some stone-based enemy.
   
I next ran into a Gorkha selling bows. I wasn't interested in a bow, but I was interested in selling my excess junk. My inventory by this point was chock full of excess weapons and armor. I sold what I felt comfortable selling and got up to 802 crowns. I kept five missile weapons--two throwing stars and three daggers that all had names. The two stars are called "Shining" and the daggers are "Back Biter," "Stiletto," and "Razor." I later found another dagger called "Assassin." I rarely need more than five missile weapons; enemies close the distance too fast. Later, I found another blacksmith's shop selling arms and shields, but I didn't buy anything.
     
One of the frog-men gives me a hint.
     
We started to find areas blocked by sinkholes. I soon realized that the "Freeze" spell doesn't just hurt enemies; it also temporarily freezes the surface of the swamp. We were thus able to get over the sinkholes. We found some kind of giant face looking like a monkey that healed us in exchange for any item. Later, we ran into another one that gave 60 gold pieces for any item, which made me feel stupid for selling some of my excess stuff to the bow seller for 5 gold pieces each.
        
We freeze a swamp monster--and the swamp.
       
Eventually, we found the Gorkha chief, who offered to trade us a "beautiful red stone." He didn't like what I offered him (a jeweled goblet), but he said he'd give us the stone if we would kill the "powerful living sticks [who] have stolen our beloved Brass Helmet." I had options to accept, attack him, or try to steal the gem. I appreciated the role-playing options, but I just accepted.
  
As I re-equipped my weapons (we had to un-equip them to approach the chief), I realized that my four-armed companion has two weapon and shield slots, and this entire time, I've only had one of each equipped. I gave him a second shield and a sledgehammer, which should increase his combat effectiveness. While we're on the subject of inventory, Conrad has two ring slots but Baccata has none. I've found two rings--a Duble Ring and a Bezel Ring--but I don't know what either of them do. 
      
Smacking a walking stick.
      
I wasn't sure where to find giant walking sticks, but I needn't have worried. When I left the chief's hut, they started appearing all over the swamps. They were pretty easy to hit, and their only special attack was to occasionally disarm Baccata. It took a while to find the one that had the "ceremonial mask" that the chief wanted. When I returned, he gave us the red stone--which turned out to be the Ruby of Truth--and a trident called "Mantis."
        
I might not introduce myself to everyone using that title. No offense.
      
I returned to the Opinwood map. The wagoner had said something like, "How do I know that you're telling the truth?," so I figured the Ruby of Truth might work. We fought through a horde of orcs and pentrogs to get back there. Fortunately, my supposition was right. When the wagoner saw the Ruby of Truth, he admitted Dawn was in the back of the wagon. She couldn't have just heard us speaking the first time?

Dawn poked her head out and we related everything we discovered. She gave us her "key," a pyramid, plus two empty flasks to help collect ingredients. When I showed her the Draracle's riddle, she suggested that "powders from the heart of our mother" must refer to a reagent called Earth Powder. She tried to order Baccata to abandon me and return to his apprenticeship, but fortunately he refused.
      
Maybe a little less honesty, Conrad.
      
There are two ways to go from here. One is to the Urbish Mines, which the manual suggests is a classic RPG dungeon full of traps, monsters, and treasure. The other is an alternate exit from the Gorkha Swamps to another forest. The mines are closer, so I'm probably going to go there next.
   
As I close this session, I reflect that this game is giving me what I've been asking for years: Dungeon Master with the other trappings of regular RPGs, including a detailed plot, NPCs, and an economy. The regrettable thing is that the developers simplified a lot of the mechanics of Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder. A dozen hours into the game, and I only have four spells. Most of the time, I've only had two characters. There are fewer inventory slots and fewer usable items. Character development seems slower and less rewarding. Most important, I find the maps smaller, more claustrophobic, and less interesting. Still, even if it isn't exactly what I've always wanted, it's an important step towards what I've always wanted.
    
Oh, incidentally, I never lowered the difficulty level. I'm just too stubborn. That should have been predictable.
  
Time so far: 11 hours

36 comments:

  1. I like that the spell animations go outside the main view window.

    At a wild guess, one of Conrad's unidentified rings protects against poison.

    And Dawn could have heard you speaking earlier, but you might have been Scotia in disguise (just like how your earlier encounter with Dawn turned out to be Scotia in disguise).

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    1. Fair enough. But that still doesn't explain how they know I have the real Ruby of Truth.

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    2. According to the Cluebook the Bezel Ring cebgrpgf gur ornere sebz orvat cbvfbarq and the Duble ring vzcebirf gur erpbirel bs urnygu cbvagf sbe gur jrnere.

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    3. I wonder if the 'Bezel' was a mangled reference or to a 'Bezoar' stone?

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    4. I doubt it since Bezel is a term used for jewellery; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bezel_(jewellery)

      When I first played the game I read Brezel ring instead, which conjured a different image.

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  2. Ah, you've should've tried touching the beggar. In general, everything can be clicked and have some kind of response pop out of one of the characters, as you've noticed.

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    1. I'm pretty sure I did, but all he said was something like, "Don't touch me."

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    2. At least he was not super important.

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  3. You must keep the difficulty at the highest level!

    So the automap shows illusory walls as such even if you haven't noticed, i.e. crossed them already? That would indeed somehow appear to defy the purpose of such a feature in the first place - even if under the circumstances you actually welcome it.

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    1. Yes, it shows an "S" where there's an illusory wall even if I haven't crossed through it.

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    2. I think that it is a good feature because it defeats the pixel hunting in blobbers, which I don't think it's a great mechanic. Though who knows, lately I found myself arguing against a guy on Twitter that was extremely sure of pixel hunting being a totally valid mechanic and what happened is that as gamers we are now unable to adapt to any kind of game design that is not user friendly, to what I kindly suggest to play while smashing your feet against drawing pins as the appropiate way to play any game.

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    3. I agree that pixel hunting is annoying, though instead of showing yet undiscovered features on the automap you could maybe make them easier to see & find, include clues etc.

      For illusionary walls though, usually there is no pixel hunting involved. It's more a matter of realizing there could be a room (or running into every wall which indeed again can quickly become annoying).

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  4. I'm glad you came around to liking this little gem a bit better.

    About the mild non-linearity: In the Draracle Cave you could've found another gem/pearl that opened a different relief and another dungeon section which would have led to a different offering than the jeweled dagger (a chalice, I think).

    As someone mentioned above, it's the Bezel Ring which keeps you from getting poisoned (and falling asleep); it's a pity that the effects of special or magic items aren't defined more clearly in-game.

    I know that the spell selection is rather limited, but isn't it cool that they have a purpose beyond combat, like freezing the swamp?

    You didn't lower the difficulty, you rascal, but only wait until you reach the entrance to the Urbish Mines ;)

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    1. Frankly, most blobbers have spells that have a purpose beyond combat; that's nothing special. What I'm missing in this game is buff/debuff spells, or utility spells like Invisibility and Teleport. Eye of the Beholder has a couple, but Might & Magic is chock-full of those.

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    2. However, I recall Chet found the spellbook in EOTB awkward to use; it seems likely that Westwood received feedback on that and decided to improve it. The one-page list of spells is certainly user-friendly.

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    3. True. Interface-wise, it's an improvement.

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  5. I'm currently playing this again on my Surface tablet with ScummVM, which is really comfortable: left hand on the movement arrows, right hand for everything else. All while lying in bed - plays like a charm. Unfortunately the 2.x versions of ScummVM don't seem to recognize a long press as right mouse click - anyone an idea how to solve this? Don't want to try older versions until I find the one which used to work ... For now I can play on easy and not using any items is fine, but later on it will probably be necessary to use items.

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    1. with magicdosbox every input and output is modifiable and macroable. you would be surprised what some people share on the forums. some screenshots look like different games. as for me, using a swipe for all characters to attack and different swipes for menu and map are already very neat. you just need to give some time and effort which some of crpg minmaxers like me are good for.

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    2. also playing Anvil of Dawn, Dungeon Hack and Might&Magic3-4-5 all gave better experiences on the phone than on the PC

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    3. @armagan how exactly? Do you use an external keyboard or how do you manage with the movement, magic and attack combos?

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    4. first i create an invisible touch button, then set a macro, for example to press f1 f2 and f3 to attack with everyone at the same time. than i set swipe up gesture to that invisible button.
      it is easy for LoL and Anvil of Dawn but I created many more complex layouts for Dungeon Hack and Might and Magic too. For example when I open spellbook in dungeon hack, change of a specific pixel triggers zoom function for spellbook area and i select the spell much easier on my phone. when I close the spellbook it changes back.
      also I create macros for changing inventory items. for example it first changes the equipped items, use them automatically and then changes back to the old equipment. in Dungeon Hack it is very useful for casting spells while using two weapons on my hands. Also in Might and magic teleporters, I used pre arranged buttons to fill on the destination. I also put buttons on top of character portraits to cast the last spell on that character again. it was very useful for Might and Magic healing and curing. using a Well for all the party members with one touch is also possible.
      i even played a flight simulator without any external input. only with touch and swipe. you can put different buttons in different bags or layers and make them automatically fill the screen or make them visible invisible according to pixel changes in the screen so that you can have different controls on different views and screens.

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    5. i forgot to answer your question Touching on the screen is set as left mouse click. you can change it too and also there are many options for different mouse buttons.

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    6. Taking furious notes, but I guess it takes a bit of adaptation to change your way of controlling the game to specific swipes. Also, quite a lot of time tweaking the configs. Thanks!

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    7. just check this forum:
      http://magicbox.imejl.sk/forum/

      there are preconfigured mgc files shared by users. this is their master list:
      http://magicbox.imejl.sk/forums/topic/mgc-master-list/

      they are provided with screenshots

      also check out all the videos of this youtube channel:
      https://youtube.com/channel/UCGftubsmJS9qmEnLC0y-NIQ

      the freedom to play some games with any configuration you can imagine is an intoxicating experience. I highly recommend it. It is not as hard as it seems.

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    8. you don't have to use swipes. for example you can play world of xeen, dungeon hack and maybe anvil of dawn just using left mouse button and hence the only configuration you need is to enable mouse with absolute touch control (ie. where you touch is where you click)
      in all my games i set swipe to press esc and swipe down to and enable disable onscreen keyboard. keyboard of magic dosbox is different from androids. it is very transparent with complete key set. you can use that keyboard to save your game and fill in other content. that is everything you need to start with. you can set double-touch for right click but then your one-touch left clicks will be delayed so you may want to create an onscreen key for it. after you immerse yourself with the application and the game you play, the endless possibilities to enhance your gameplay may lead you to add insane configurations. they are not necessary but fun.

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  6. I'm reasonably sure that Eye of the Beholder 2 (by the same authors, mind you) also has a wall that requires a special hammer to break.

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  7. Despite owning the manual (in digital form), I didn't read it once. It didn't feel necessary for this game. Reading about the monster resistances/weaknesses would have been helpful. I found out about the pentrog weakness for fire another way.

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  8. " Dungeon Master with the other trappings of regular RPGs, including a detailed plot, NPCs, and an economy. The regrettable thing is that the developers simplified a lot of the mechanics of Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder."

    Now that you mention it, a Lands of Lore with a more formal, class based (D&D?) party would be really cool.

    I wonder if that was the original intention of Eye of the Beholder 3?

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    1. EOB3 has no plot beyond "here's a foozle, go kill it"; and no economy either. It has NPCs to a comparable level as EOB1 and 2. I'd say it's pretty obvious the original intent of EOB3 was to be the same as EOB2 but in a different locale.

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    2. I never finished it so unsure. I do remember some NPC interaction being cut from the final version so maybe there were some ideas there.

      Now I also wonder if anyone working on EoB3 made it to LoL - I vaguely remember some artists did, but unsure about designers etc

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    3. Both LOL and EOTB3 are trying to be more diverse in the party members; LOL has this character with four arms, one with no footgear slot, and all of them have important hidden stats (like speed). EOTB3 has n cvkvr punenpgre jub arireguryrff unf gur fnzr pneelvat pncnpvgl nf rirelbar ryfr, naq n jrerjbys.

      I do wonder how noticeable any of that is in gameplay, but kudos for trying.

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  9. I was wondering if not recruiting Timothy would save him because he will not go to Castle Gladstone, but now I see that he was doomed anyway.

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  10. That cracked wall mechanic feels very Nintendo. Indeed, there's a very similar mechanic in the Legend of Zelda games.

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    1. Please someone correct me if I am wrong, but I am sure that the breakable walls is a rpg dungeon trope older than the videogames themselves. And probably it was already present on games I have not played like Rogue.

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    2. I was talking about cracked walls as a mechanic specifically in DM-style games. Not just cracked walls, but those that require a special tool to break. Obviously, bashing through walls in general exists in lots of previous games and genres.

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    3. Yes, the Zelda games do that, showing you cracked walls, then later giving you the tool (bombs) to access them, which encourages you to go back and re-explore areas to look for more cracks.

      Delete

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