Thursday, March 9, 2023

Antepenult: Odyssey

When I wrapped up last time, I had explored all that I could explore of Havilah, the starting continent. I needed a ship to get around the southwestern mountains to the rest of the world, where I would presumably find the ruins of King Sylvan's castle and maybe learn more about the demon that sacked it. I had learned of other worlds--Tartarus, Aetheria, and Atlantis--but I didn't know whether they were completely different universes or other continents on the same map.
I could get to Aetheria through a moongate, but the arrival was surrounded by a wall of ice, so I couldn't go anywhere. [Ed. Every time I've said "ice" up to this point, I've been wrong. It's clouds.] I learned that to get to Atlantis, I needed to sail a ship over the edge of the world, and the ship would need the wheel from the H.M.S. Cape first. But I had found my way to Tartarus via the dungeon called Psychos. I thus started this session there.
In retrospect, it should have been obvious from the name that Tartarus was underground. Its water, which I originally took for lava, was red or green or something. Not blue, in any event. It was also completely surrounded by "mountain" squares. I think the developer was trying to evoke something along the lines of the underworld of Ultima V. But its coordinates started comfortably far to the northwest of Havilah, so I originally started mapping it on the same overworld map. Only when I was half-finished did I realize I was going to have a conflict.
Sailing the underworld.
The map ended up being 65 x 65 [Ed. 64 x 64. I was accidentally including the row and column where I put the coordinates.], dominated by a maze in the north and an open "sea" in the south. The maze dumped me into two open areas, one of which had a castle called Imperium and the other with a dungeon called Typhlon. A ship waiting along the shore gave me access to the sea, in the middle of which was an island with a city called Cnossos.
This map is why I barely got 1,500 words out of 7 hours.
Enemies were relatively sparse, and of the same type found in Havilah. The real danger is that there is no way to get to Psychos in Havilah without traipsing through poisonous marsh, so I arrived poisoned. Poison isn't as bad in Antepenult as in some of the early Ultima games, but it still sucks, and it put a limit to how long I could explore the new land before either returning to Havilah or reloading. Eventually, I found healing in Imperium, but it took a while.
Imperium was ruled by a King Minos, and I got the impression from his people that he was a bit of a tyrant. He didn't have any quests to give me or aid to offer me. His guards hit me if I tried to talk with them. Rations are three times as expensive as on the surface. A few NPCs in the castle talked about their hope that a warrior would come along and destroy the king. I spoke to the king himself, but he had nothing to say but to crow about how great his country and castle were.
I think Crete was nicer. Fewer green rivers.
In the castle, I got the first hint that the game might have a magic system. An NPC suggested that I "go to the cell of Aloeus" and ask him about "Magic Missile." The "cell" likely refers to the vast dungeon beneath the castle with dozens of locked doors. I started to explore it, but I ultimately ran out of keys before finding Aloeus.
Open the wrong door of the dungeon.
There were no armor upgrades, but the castle's weapons shop had bows and swords, and I had just enough money for one of each. An NPC had told me that the castle's daggers were magic, but that wasn't reflected in the menu or the price.
I have to go all the way to hell to get a bow and sword.
Cnossos had a healer and, predictably, a large maze. Near the healer, I found an NPC named Ariadne, weeping for Theseus, who went into the labyrinth to fight the Minotaur and never returned. I went through the labyrinth myself but never found Theseus or the Minotaur, which is probably a good thing, as an NPC in the castle had told me that I needed seven magic daggers to defeat the Minotaur, and I hadn't been able to afford them.
I wish I could help, but this doesn't seem to be a canonical version of the tale.
The dungeon Typhlon was a bit of a mystery. It was a maze of up and down ladders, but I'm pretty sure I tried every avenue and ultimately found nothing. I didn't search every wall for secret doors or search every square, however. No NPC in Imperium or Cnossos even mentioned the dungeon.
I left Tartarus for the surface, intending to return with more money and keys. My plans were derailed when I almost immediately found a ship off the northern coast. Ships in this game start with crews of pirates, but once you attack and kill them, the ship remains. You have to make sure to do this when the ship is adjacent to the coast or there's no way to reach and use it.
Just as in Ultima IV, the wheel is found in a place that you'd probably search anyway.
Once I had the ship, I was able to explore the rest of Havilah, which was 192 x 192, rather than the anticipated 256 x 256. The main continent turned out to be the only landmass except for a small island off the southwest coast. The world is ringed by a void, and sailing within 30 squares of the void gets you trapped in currents that eventually pull you over the edge. This is instantly fatal until you find the wheel to H.M.S. Cape. I knew where to recover that and found it fairly quickly.
The final map of Havilah.
The island in the southwest bay has a city called Delos, and there was absolutely nothing to do there except to explore a maze and find the Copper Rune.
The ship also allowed me to finish mapping the southwest part of the main continent, access to which had been blocked by rivers and mountains. It has the ruined castle of Pergamum and the nearby destroyed city of Argolis. Argolis had absolutely nothing living and nothing of value that I could find. Pergamum was full of corpses, ghosts, living skeletons, phantoms, horses running wild, and a couple of thieves. Fire burned and lava flowed freely throughout the castle from a nearby mountain. It was another great use of simple iconography to tell a story.
Sylvan's former throne room. Even the liches were turned to stone.
I found one living NPC named Zacynthos hiding in a secret area, but all he could offer is that someone killed everyone.
It seems cruel just to leave him.
With nothing else to do in Havilah for the time being, I sailed over the edge of the world and found myself in Atlantis, a small underworld area surrounded by a wall, maybe the same size as Tartarus. I didn't bother to map it; I just used gems to find key areas.
Unfortunately, I didn't take great notes in Atlantis. There were two cities (Tyre and Sidon), a castle called Poseidon, and an unnamed village on a central island. Tyre and Sidon had their entrances on the water, so I had to sail my ship up to them to enter, then sail the ship around the various islands of each city. 
The unnamed village had a secret area where a cleric gave me a Writ of Curing for 10 GP. This appears as an object that you Y)ooze ("use") and appears to cure poison indefinitely. I suspect if I find "Magic Missile" or other spells, they'll work the same way.
Given that curing at healers costs 90 GP, this is a bargain.
A vortex in the northeastern part of Atlantis deposited me in a lake back on Havilah. 
Only in CRPGs do you sail into whirlpools and water spouts.
Various notes on outstanding issues, puzzles, and quests:
  • Some nixies in Sidon started me on a hunt for information about a coin that I would have to pay Charon to cross the River Styx. The last clue I had about this, from a dragon in the Tyrian zoo, was to ask someone named Hippocoön. Unfortunately, I never found him nor any entrance to Styx.
For tea?
  • Drawing a theme from Ultima III, a number of NPCs talked about Marks. It appears that I'll have to accumulate the Marks of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water for some reason, but I have clues for only a couple of them.
  • There's an area in southeast Atlantis that I can't figure out how to access. The only entrance is covered by shallow water that my ship can't sail. It likely leads to Styx.
This area.
  • I still haven't found anything to help cross the ice in Aethereia. I haven't even found anyone that acknowledges that it's a problem. It makes me wonder if I haven't overlooked some obvious mechanic.
  • Peering at a gem produces no results in a lot of places that you really need it to, like the labyrinth in Cnossos.
  • I have three of the four runes. I'm lacking the gold. The last clue I have is to ask Axylos the beggar, who I've never met.
  • Polymele, the ship builder in Sidon, asked me where my ship was from. When I said "HAVILAH," she said, "Oh, a stolen pirate ship!" I guess Havilah has no legitimate shipping industry--which raises the questions about what the pirates pirate.
  • When you're following clues in this game, you have to take notes not just about what to do, but who told you to do it. NPCs frequently ask, "Who sent you?" or "Who told you to come to me?" I assume that's to avoid a player just spamming keywords to every NPC. 
I'm still enjoying the game, but I unfortunately took over a week off from playing it (I had pre-scheduled a batch of entries), and I didn't take the best notes in this last session. I suspect I'm going to have to replay a lot of the territory I explored this time, particularly Atlantis.
Time so far: 17 hours


  1. This is turning into a grand adventure.

    "Peering at a gem produces no results in a lot of places that you really need it to, like the labyrinth in Cnossos."

    Guess you saw (or noticed) it, but just in case - the readme file warns you that it does not work everywhere, but still uses up a gem when tried.

    The whirlpool here goes nicely with the Greek mythology as a possible reference to Charybdis - while serving as Ultima-style portal at the same time where you actually want to sail into it as you point out.

    1. PS re Greek (mythology): Castle Poseidon with King Neptune as a ruler (as per your first screenshot)? That's a bit surprising - given how much Falstad appears to have been sticking linguistically to the Greek (and biblical) theme(s), I'd rather have expected Castle [something different sea-related in Greek] ruled by Poseidon instead of his Roman Alter Ego.

      Wikipedia tells me Aloeus was a son of Poseidon and that typhlòn could mean blind and (indirectly?) the cecum, so basically a dead end, but maybe someone with actual knowledge of Greek can confirm/correct this.

    2. Yes, typhlos (τυφλοσ) has the basic meaning "blind", but it has connotations of dimness, obscurity, and inescapability, and is also used for things like dead ends (which is all fitting for Tartarus).

  2. Replies
    1. "U" is mapped to U)nlock, but he could have used O)pen for that, since unlocked doors open automatically when you walk into them.

  3. This sounds really like a hidden gem, thanks Chet and the people that found it and the programmer that made it.

    1. No Kidding! The gent who wrote this really put some serious time into it and appears to have made it work!

  4. Really interesting game that keeps delivering. Nice story, too.

  5. Seeing these maps and remembering how many, especially lesser known, games you have mapped, Chet, I was wondering: I understand only part of the maps you created in the past thirteen years are included on the blog pages - have you ever considered making them all available, assuming you still have them?

    If doing so on the blog site itself is too much additional work (I'd be willing to gather links for those already posted if that helps), alternatively by providing them to a site that collects those? Of course only if due credit is given, maybe including a link to your coverage of the respective game.

    Even with a disclaimer re completeness and accuracy, I could imagine the 'CRPG Addict map collection' would make for a unique repository. Might be helpful if people get stuck or want to get a feeling for the size of the game world before trying / starting a game.

    1. It's not a terrible idea, but there are a few problems:

      1. My map sets are never complete. I tend to get lazy and stop making them or half-ass them.

      2. I use Excel's commenting features for a lot of the important information, like the texts of messages or the details of treasure drops. People would have to be okay with the maps being in Excel or a similar format to get the full use out of them.

      3. I'd have to take the time to strip personal information from the properties of the workbooks.

      But, yeah, I COULD import them to Google sheets and link them from the list pages, assuming everything makes the transfer okay.

    2. From my reader's perspective, 1. and 2. are questions of expectation management. Even though you like to map, this blog is not the CRPG Mapping Addict, they're just a byproduct (though in my opinion an interesting and potentially useful one). So no one should expect perfect maps for everything in their favourite format here - same as no one expects step-by-step walkthroughs on this blog - and a disclaimer could take care of that.

      I am not at all versed in Excel or similar programs, but if I need or want to use something in that format, I work it out somehow. And having maps that maybe are not complete or pixel-perfect in a form I'm not so familiar with or some might consider less than optimal is still much better than no maps at all in my view - gift horse and so on.

      Of course, if you would not want to put maps out there as yours which you feel are 'half-assed', that's your decision. And there is also definitely the last factor you mention, additional work. It would be totally understandable if you feel that playing games for the blog, writing entries, managing comments and general site administration and updating already cost enough of your time as it is without adding maps to the mix.

      But if you ever decide to do it, I'd think it would make a worthwhile addition.

    3. Converting automatically from excel, comments included, should be a relatively simple task for the programming minded here, and would be happy to help.

      Ensuring all appropriate names and metadata are scrubbed at the source sounds like a bit more hassle though.

  6. If the water(?) in Tartarus is the tiles around the ship, then it's kind of a muddy green striped with brown. It probably doesn't look much different to you than it does with full color vision, if I understand correctly.

  7. I don't know if this is as noticeable to you, but I find it funny how simple and unshaded the iconographic tiles are, and meanwhile the moons at the top of the screen are completely shaded with at least ten shades of grey.

    1. And I suspected there are exactly fifty for some reason.

    2. AlphabeticalAnonymousMarch 10, 2023 at 9:24 PM

      Kenny, is that you?

  8. "I used to have 3 adventurers a day"

    Some "Arrow to the knee" vibes there...

  9. "The map ended up being 65 x 65". Since 64x64 is so much more common on early computer games, what might have happened is that they could simulate a 65x65 map by using — your favourite topology — a 64x64 torus. That way, the outer wall on the top would be the the same squares as the outer wall at the bottom but seen from the other side (and same for the left and right). So I like that there is evidence that (almost completely unnecessarily) the underworld might be a torus.

    1. By the way, I loved your proof that completely unnecessarily, Ultima VI was a square flat world floating in a torus void, such that floating off one side in a balloon eventually arrived at the opposite side. I showed my daughter after we won the game and she almost lost her mind.

    2. It's actually 64 x 64. I was accidentally counting the header rows (where I put the coordinates). The maps in Antepenult don't wrap.

      Ultima VI is a square flat world floating in a void that has teleporters at the edges that move you to the other side of the void. No RPG world is EVER a torus.

  10. Excellent reading so far. Despite having not played an Ultima game, the coverage of this, and comparison to Ultima remains very interesting. I second some voices that say covering some of these less popularised games to be most interesting!

  11. "Only in CRPGs do you sail into whirlpools and water spouts"

    And strategy games! Heroes 2 has whirlpools act as teleporters.

  12. Just wanted to add my thanks for the write up on this game. A true hidden gem. Can’t wait to see how it wraps up!


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