Monday, July 17, 2023

Warriors of the Eternal Sun: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

It's a little late for that.
Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
United States
Westwood Associates (developer); SEGA (publisher)
Released 1992 for SEGA Genesis
Date Started: 18 June 2023
Date Finished: 12 July 2023
Total Hours: 20
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
The only Dungeons & Dragons title released for the Sega Genesis, Warriors was developed by the same studio that had previously created Eye of the Beholder for PCs. The game re-uses a lot of mechanics and assets from Beholder, though most of them are simplified for the nature of console play. It's still a reasonably fun game, set in the Mystara campaign setting. The player controls four characters of the standard basic D&D race and class options. They're servants of a Duke Barrik, dealing with the ramifications of the duke's castle having been teleported wholesale into the "Hollow World" interior of Mystara, where the central sun never sets. The unique part of the game is the two combat systems, one for indoors, one for outdoors, though neither completely satisfying. It's a bit too easy to exploit the indoor combat system, and other aspects of the game (economy, equipment, role-playing options) are limited. But if Warriors isn't as good as the best PC D&D titles of the era, neither does it do anything terribly wrong. It offers reasonable entertainment for a reasonable length of time.

This session began with me cursing my past self for ending the last session in the middle of a jungle instead of taking time to go back to town. That journey alone takes about half an hour. 
When we got back, the town was in worse shape than we left it. NPCs said things like: "Stay away from me! I know you just want to hurt me!"; "This is all your fault!"; "Get out of town you lousy bums!" Even the shopkeepers were rude.
This is the city's cleric.
Fortunately (given what happened next) we visited the shops before visiting the duke. We bought +2 leather for the thief, a +2 mace for the cleric, and a +2 dagger for the mage. I salivated over the +2 plate mail and a Wand of Fireballs, but they were too expensive.
I'd rather have too little money than the opposite.
In the throne room, Marmillian was claiming that we had gone back in time to the "ancient civilizations of the Azcans and the Oltecs." Merciful Mictlāntēcutli, I thought "Azcan" was lazy. Whether "Olmec" removes the t from "Toltec," changes the m in "Olmec" or crams together "Olmec" and "Aztec," it's still pretty lame. Are there Olcans in this setting, too? Azmecs? Inctecs? Maycans?
In any event, Marmillian was also clearly going insane. The Duke was worse. He was furious at us: "I will not tolerate this incompetence any longer! You will walk through the flames and find the caverns of which I have been told or you will perish in the attempt! The next time I see your faces, they will be before an army or on the end of a pole! Guards! Take them away!"
I still prefer him to Lord British.
This was followed by the guards literally escorting us out of the city and barring our way back in. This whole episode was later presented as the baron not being in his right mind, but he's not wrong. We have failed in our missions to find allies. I'm just not sure why he thinks he needs them.
The next step of the game was clear: walk through the lava on top of the northwest plateau and apparently find some more caves. The Rings of Fire Resistance protected us from the effects of the lava. We fought fire giants, fire elementals, salamanders, and hellhounds as we explored the plateau.
The first creature in the penultimate dungeon.
Unfortunately, the rings didn't (or didn't always) protect from the breath of the red dragon that we found lurking on top of the plateau, nor the one that guarded the first room in the cave we entered. Both dragons were curious. I spent some time wandering back and forth between them, trying to grind a little, so I got used to their tactics. Nine rounds out of ten, they would choose a physical attack, which was damaging but survivable. If we got unlucky, though, they'd breath a fireball and kill two or three of us. Very rarely, we would make some kind of saving throw and only take minimal damage from the fireball, but otherwise, the game might as well have been set to auto-reload every time a dragon formed an image of a fireball in his head.
I saw the dragons as a grinding opportunity not only because they delivered about 2,500 experience points but because the outdoor one dropped nearly 2,000 gold. This turned out to be a spectacular waste of time because, as we'll see, gold had no more use in this game from the moment I got kicked out of the castle.
The outdoor dragon wastes his time on a physical attack.
I didn't spend too long at my grinding attempts. Although the experience rewards were high, so were the experience points I needed for the next level. I calculated I'd have to kill about 50 of them to level everyone up. After a while, I moved forward.
I noticed another interesting thing while fighting the red dragon in the caverns, though. He started some distance away from the party, and I could nail him with a couple volleys of missile weapons or spells before he reached the party. Sometimes, he'd dodge out of the way, and after about 20 seconds, the interface would register that we had hit something. I didn't realize until this dungeon that missile weapons could damage enemies off-screen. They do in most games, so I don't know why it didn't occur to me. In this case, the missiles were hitting a group of hellhounds about 15 spaces away. For the rest of the game, every time I found myself facing down a long corridor, I fired off a salvo just to see if I hit anything. If so, I kept firing until I heard the sound indicating an enemy kill. I don't even know what I was killing some of the time.
Registering hits for shots I fired a few minutes ago.
The dungeon that kicked off with the red dragon was three levels. It was annoying because the doors transitioning to new levels looked like regular doors, so several times I lost my progress on a level (it resets when you leave) with no warning. When that happened, I started taking advantage of the opportunity to race back to the exit (I had to fight or evade the dragon every time) so that I could save. In the long run, this turned out to be a good thing.
The first two levels had gargoyles, fire giants, hellhounds, zombies, giant ants, fire beetles, rock statues, trolls, ogres, and giant scorpions. Most of them were in rooms, so I developed a habit of bursting in, assessing the situation, backing out, and then figuring out the best approach, including spells. I found that if the room was bigger than 2 x 2, the mage's "Entangle" was a great resource. It would hold the enemy in place while I backed off and shot arrows and stones at it. I found "Lightning Bolt" at some point, but I never got comfortable using it; there was always too great a danger that it would bounce back. "Fireball" was the usual life saver, and the great thing about it in this game is that it continues past enemies after damaging them and continues damaging anyone else along the path. "Ice Storm" also proved very useful when I found it.
A large force of trolls.
Between this dungeon and the next, I found higher-level spells, including "Cloudkill," "Death Spell," "Anti-Magic Shell," "Stone to Flesh," and "Disintegrate," but I never achieved the levels necessary to learn them. All my characters ended the game at Level 8 or 9. Level 9 requires between 160,000 and 300,000 experience points (for the characters I had), depending on class. The highest level in the game for my characters would have been Level 14, which requires between 700,000 and 1 million experience points. I can't imagine doing that much grinding. Is there an obvious place that I overlooked? It is spectacularly unnecessary--though part of me is sorry that I didn't get to experience higher-level spells.
Speaking of spells, the interface for spellcasting is one of the worst aspects of the game. You have to assign them individually to one of the two attack buttons. Once they've been cast, you have to go back and re-assign your weapon or another spell. It's annoying enough that I often didn't cast spells even when they would have been useful just because I didn't want to have to go into the menu twice and make the selections. Spells should have been called via a different command. If I had to play the game again, I'd play with two clerics and two fighters (cleric spells are important, but mostly for in-camp healing).
Giant scorpions were a bit of a problem because they poison characters, but fortunately poison isn't equivalent to instant death here the way it is in the Gold Box games, and by now I had several potions of "Cure Poison" and the cleric's "Neutralize Poison" spell.
Level 3 is where I ran into trouble. I opened a door and ran into a pack of wights. Before I could blink, they had swiped two levels off my fighter. There are many things I'll suck up and deal with in an RPG, but level draining isn't one of them. I reloaded from outside the dungeon and lost about 30 minutes of progress. I re-entered and hustled to the room, this time with my cleric's "Turn Undead" ready. I opened the door and blasted them with it. I wasn't sure it would work at her level, but it did, killing all of them instantly.
Destroying some undead.
I moved on to the next room, opened the door, and immediately got level-drained by two wraiths. Hearing what she did upstairs at that moment, I think Irene nearly called the police.
I decided to use the doomed party to map the area and learn what I'd face in each room so that, after a reload, I could make an informed attempt to get through it. The level has lots of level drainers--wraiths, wight, specters, and a "shadow"; I'm not sure if the latter was a level-drainer or not because it died so quickly. The good news, I discovered, is that most of these enemies guarded fairly useless treasure. To get to the one place that I absolutely had to go on this level, I just had to get through a room of non-level-draining ghouls.
There's a path from the stairs (DWN) to the special encounter (highlighted) that avoids almost all the undead.
The place I had to go, which I cleared on my third attempt at the level, was a small room containing an Oltec merchant. She offered an alliance with my people "in exchange for opening this new trade route." I'm not sure what that meant, exactly, since the only thing I "opened" was the way to a one-room cell, and that route respawned with monsters the moment I left. But I took the win.
The Oltecs look a bit Greek.
In the excitement of finally completing the duke's quest, I nearly missed the error tone that indicated there was something on the floor but my inventory was full, so I couldn't grab it. I discarded something and picked up the object, which was a medallion. It turned out that I needed this later. I played a lot of the game without my headphones on, so I'm very lucky this wasn't one of those times.
Excited to tell the duke the news--and perhaps even win the game--I hustled back to the castle. A sense of dread overtook me when I didn't see any guards or NPCs at the entrance. The shops were trashed, their tables broken. The well was wrecked and leaking water into the courtyard. There was no one to be found, anywhere, even on the duke's throne.
That's not really how wells work.
Fortunately, Marmillian was still in his tower. "The duke beat me and left me for dead," he said. He went on to say that the people went insane, trashed the castle, and fled into the forest. "I was wrong about time travel," he said. "We are inside a huge zoo that houses lost civilizations of our previous world." This particular valley has an ancient evil called the Burrower living beneath it. "It drives all life forms crazy." It hadn't affected us because we kept traveling outside the valley.
Our only hope, he said, was to destroy the Burrower. To reach it, we would have to travel through the Caverns of the Evil Elves. He gave us detailed directions, but I was sure I remembered the right place from having discovered it earlier. He gave us a scroll to read when we encountered the Burrower. "It will summon the immortal Ka who will destroy the beast." I'm curious how he figured out all this stuff, and acquired this scroll, while he was insane.
I wonder if that's what they call themselves.
Let me pause to note the ramifications of these events. From the moment you get kicked out of the castle, about two-thirds of the way through the game, you can no longer spend any of your money, get any equipment upgrades that you don't find, or get healing and resurrection--except by hiking all the way to the lizardmen's swamp or the jungle and using the magic pools. It would have been nice if opening the Oltec trade route had stationed a merchant wagon somewhere on the map or some other replacement for the lost city. The game keeps giving you gold rewards even after it knows they won't do any good. If you plan to grind in this game, I guess you want to do it before you go to the lava caves; after that, you lose your chance to buy weapons, armor, and spells tied to your higher levels. I wonder how high the weapons go. If I grinded all the way to Level 14, would the store sell +4 swords?
We walked the long way around the valley to the cavern, fighting a number of combats along the way. The medallion let us pass the location where a voice had previously said, "These passages have been sealed by the ancients!" Another message warned: "You now enter the realm of the Dark Elves!" Why does every setting have to have dark elves?
They could have avoided a lot of death with a toll plaza set up here.
The ensuing dungeon was three levels--a dirt cavern, a stone city, and another dirt cavern. A player prepared with maps could reach the endgame in about five minutes. I explored the entirety of all three levels, which did nothing for me since I found no new valuable items and gained no new levels. 
A warrior and a wizard.
The first level was a mix of dark elves--warriors, lieutenants, captains, magic-users, and wizards--and animal monsters such as basilisks, rock pythons, cave bears, tiger beetles, gelatinous cubes, giant bats, stone giants, and a new monster for me: a kind of dragon called a "flapsail" (at first, I thought it was a regular dragon whose name was "Flapsail"). I was naturally worried most about the basilisks, having no way to heal petrification, but there were only a couple of them and I was able to outmaneuver them and kill them quickly. 
A Malazan character's origin story.
Level 2 was a large, sprawling dark elf city with combats in almost every room. Most of them were laughably easy, but occasionally a wizard was able to pull off a "Fireball." I had to reload once from outside the caverns--stupidly deciding to run through the first level again, for the experience that it turned out I didn't need. (At this point, I didn't know the end was nigh.) I made a lot of use of my "fire blindly down the hallway" strategy.
Easily the largest map of the game.
The city had a kind of "pyramid" in the northeast corner that took me up to a single room, which took me to the final level: a sprawling cavern full of large, open rooms and long hallways. The enemies were pretty scary, including efreet, chimeras, and at least one medusa and one vampire. I was worried about getting killed and having to do the whole dungeon again. But the open nature of the level gave me plenty of room for all the tricks I'd learned, and I got through it without even getting seriously injured, mostly by hitting enemies from afar with missile weapons and spells. 
I don't know what that is down there, and if I'm lucky, I won't have to find out.
When I was about halfway through the dungeon, I saw an enemy down a corridor. I fired a dozen shots at it, and none of them connected. Curious, I inched forward. The foe was the Burrower--a large, one-eyed, tentacled creature. When I reached a step away, the game took over.
They probably call him that because he burrows.
"You use the scroll to summon Ka!" it said. "Ka" turned out to be--wait for it--a Tyrannosaurus. Cue the absolutely cheesiest endgame "cinematic" in RPG history. (You can watch it here.) It featured pictures of the dinosaur and the Burrower floating around the screen and colliding together to indicate their battle. It ended with Ka's foot on the Burrower's ruined body.
Quality movie-making here.
Ka was an intelligent Tyrannosaurus, apparently, because he spoke to me. He congratulated us, said that he'd healed the minds of our people, and "told them of our achievements."
I'm picturing a Tyrannosaurus wandering into town, saying, "Hey, guys, I wanted to tell you about . . . where are you going?"
This transitioned to a much better endgame sequence (reminiscent of Questron), showing the party marching triumphantly through the gates of the castle, past clapping guards and cheering townsfolk, and into the duke's chambers, where the duke apologized and, as a reward, made us the "leaders of your guilds." I didn't even know we had guilds. "We will rule this land together and try to make peace with our neighbors," he said. The game ended with the credits rolling over a bucolic scene of the Eternal Sun shining over a peaceful valley.
Greeted as we come into town.

The throngs continue to cheer as we approach the throne.
And thus the game ends without any explanation for why the duke's castle got teleported here in the first place. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
This looks claustrophobic.
I took a look at the hint guide, and I see that I missed several side dungeons, including a hidden one in the castle cemetery that would have provided a shortcut to the final dungeon. The guide answered my question about equipment. +3 items become available at higher levels, but that's as high as it goes. You can also apparently buy Rings of Regeneration and Rings of Protection after crossing some level threshold. The cleric doesn't get "Raise Dead" in this game; her only sixth-level spell is "Cureall," which removes the effects of just about everything. 
I also watched a couple of speedruns, with players winning the game in less than half an hour, most of that spent walking back to the castle from the various far-flung dungeons. When you know where you're going, the game is relatively quick. However, the speedrun characters seemed to do a lot more damage in combat than my characters; I'm not sure what the players may have done to rig that. They also took far less damage from the traps in the Azcan pyramid than I did.
I realized something while watching it. For interior combats, it really doesn't matter how many party members you have. Action always cycles to the next character, with no cooldown, so a single character is as effective as four. In fact, a single fighter is arguably more effective than a party of four characters, some of whom are inevitably weaker. If I had to play the game over again, I might try it with a single fighter and a single cleric (letting the other two die early and keeping them dead). They'd get all the experience and would level up faster.
Long entry, but I don't want to spend a separate one on the GIMLET, so here it goes:
  • 5 points for the game world. The backstory, though not successfully resolved, is at least original. The setting, though silly, is at least unusual. I like the way the plot advances, with the castle denizens devolving over time.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. Games with more advanced character systems are starting to ruin Dungeons & Dragons for me. I know that leveling gets more interesting in later editions with perks and feats and weapon specializations and such, but in this edition, you don't change much unless you're a spellcaster, and spellcasting is a minor part of this particular game. I suspect an agile Level 1 party could win this game if they found the right gear quickly. [Ed. Maybe not. I forgot about the Azcan pyramid and the need for a high hit point total to survive the traps. I also meant to mention here that the thief seems terribly under-utilized, but note Rujasu's comment below about the "backstab" ability.]
I didn't realize "CHKSUM" was a D&D statistic.
  • 4 points for NPC interaction. I was on the fence between 3 and 4 here and decided to be generous. There's no interactivity, but you do learn about the world from NPCs and their evolution over the game is amusing.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. You get the usual D&D menagerie, which itself is varied enough, but the monster variances are less interesting here than in more tactical titles. There aren't really any non-combat encounters or puzzles. [Ed. As commenter Mat Stephenson notes below, one improvement of this game over Eye of the Beholder is that you face more than two enemy types per level. I didn't think this was quite enough to adjust the score, but it's still worth noting as one of the few things that didn't degrade from Beholder.]
This was the last combat of the game. The developers really didn't understand what a "hydra" is.
  • 4 points for magic and combat. You get two combat systems here, one adapted from Eye of the Beholder and one more reminiscent of Dark Sun. Both are simplified and thus less interesting and less tactical. The small selection of spells adds some interest.
  • 3 points for equipment. The selection is more limited here than in most D&D titles, and it's almost all generic. I don't like tying its availability to your level.
Encumbrance was a problem throughout the game.
  • 4 points for the economy. It's great for just over half the game; you're always trying to save up for the next equipment bump. Then the plot makes it useless for the second half.
  • 3 points for quests. You have a clear, linear main quest with no options. There are no "side quests," but there are at least some optional dungeons. 
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. Graphics are adequate; sound effects are a bit sparse; movement and attacks work fine with the console controller, but the menu is a bit cumbersome.
  • 5 points for gameplay. It has some mild non-linearity (in exploration if not in plot), mild replayability, moderate difficulty, and it's only too long by a couple of hours.
That gives us a final score of 39, a respectable showing. In many ways, it's an average game, but it's at least average across the board. Most PC D&D games are exceptional in one or two areas and completely fall apart in a few others. This one gives you a nice, even, perfectly pleasant experience throughout.
I don't know what magazine back in the day was the go-to for Genesis players, but MobyGames directed me to the May 1992 Electronic Gaming Monthly, which offered four different quick takes on each reviewed game from four different guys. Warriors got two 7/10s and two 4/10s. The two low-scorers admitted in their paragraphs that they just don't like RPGs. The two 7s noted that despite its name, the game is unlikely to please hardcore D&D fans, with which I would agree, but that it offered some enjoyable if not spectacular gameplay. The June 1992 GamePro similarly found the game a mixed bag. The reviewer praised the interface, graphics, and quest but criticized the "one-dimensional" storyline and NPC interaction and the simplified combat and lack of role-playing. The reviewer said that he looked forward to the next D&D title for the Genesis. There were, alas, no more.
"The DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game"? Wouldn't anyone who played the game just say "Dungeons & Dragons"?
The making of Warriors was covered last year in the British magazine Retro Gamer. The author interviewed Louis Castle, Westwood co-founder and Warriors lead designer, which makes it all the more disappointing to me that the article elides a lot of key points. For instance, we learn that the idea of creating a D&D title for the Genesis originated with Sega itself, who initially approached Strategic Simulations. This makes sense, as SSI had the license from TSR to produce D&D titles for both computer and console. "Westwood's history with the Eye of the Beholder series made us a natural fit," Castle is quoted as saying, without explaining how and why SSI passed the offer to Westwood without even requiring that their name be mentioned in the credits. Maybe they just did them a favor. It's also not entirely clear whose idea it was to set the game in Mystara, but it seems to have been Castle's. The article mentions the porting of the combat system from Beholder but not the other assets. Then we get this utterly mysterious paragraph:
"We used a proven combat model for the dungeons," explains Louis. "But the outside world was a bit more difficult because we wanted a massive open world--with a party of characters following behind the leader, often resulting in less than ideal unit placement when ambushed." Consequently, Louis's team experimented with a timed turn-based style for the external environments, similar to the dungeon combat. However, player frustration, increased by the distinctly laborious need to reposition characters on the fly, led to the final format of third-person turn-based combat for outside, first-person real time inside the game's many dungeons and caves.
I can't tell what's different between the "final format" here and the original format that left players frustrated. Certainly, in the final game, the outdoor combat is turn-based, requires positioning of characters, and often starts in a non-ideal configuration. I would have also liked to know if there was any Ultima VI influence on the outdoor exploration and how the outdoor combat system ended up so much like Dark Sun's even though the latter game came a year later from a different (if related) developer.
In any event, the article concludes that the game faced mixed reviews but sold reasonably well. There were vague plans for a sequel, but Westwood was acquired by Virgin the same year and got busy with other games, so nothing ever materialized.
Playing very long games like Serpent Isle and Ambermoon often gets tedious even if they're good, so Warriors has been a nice, contrasting diversion. I'll probably be looking for another one as those games drag on. I've never emulated a TurboGrafx game, so Griffon might be just the thing.


Ed. I'm keeping the text below so that anyone reading the comments isn't confused, but the problem is solved. Thank you!

Looking for help from anyone who's ever emulated a Thomson T08 or T09. I downloaded the DCMOTO emulator and figured it out. Downloaded Les Chevaliers de l'An Mil from this location (the only one I could find). Figured out how to type the commands . . .

. . . in the emulator. I get a "bad disk" message. I don't know whether to take this seriously or whether there's some emulator setting that I've missed. It doesn't help that the emulator menus and instructions are in French, and I have some conversational French, not technical French. If you have an idea, please let me know. Otherwise, I'll move it to the "Missing & Mysteries" list after a few days.
Further information: The site I linked has three versions: FD, SD, and EXE. The EXE version, even if I was willing to run it, wants a user name and password to download. The FD version is the one I tried. I can't figure out how to even reference the SD drive in Thomson's BASIC.


  1. Nice you've finished the game! It almost seems like the ending was rushed, as it doesn't feel right. Would've been nice to have had a final boss monster to defeat or something like that. Not being able to level up your characters in normal gameplay, to try out higher level spells, again seems like an oversight and rushed game testing.

    One thing I do like about this game is how it has more than 2 types of enemy per dungeon level; something that Eye of the Beholder didn't have (I'm pretty sure it had a maximum of 2 different types of enemies per level, or if that's not the case technically, then they only ever used 2 types of enemy per level). It makes the games much more varied in this respect to the Eye of the Beholder series.

    1. That's a good point. Yes, I'm sure I encountered at least half a dozen enemies on some levels in this game, maybe even 8.

    2. EOB1 has a limit of 2 enemies per level because it was designed to run on very low-end computers, and that means memory constraints.
      EOB2 has the same limit because it reuses the engine from EOB1.
      Might&Magic 3 is wholly different tech but it has the same limit for the same reason (I'm reasonably sure MM4/5 don't have a technical limit).
      Dungeon Master has a limit of four but it runs in lower-color mode so that's comparable.
      EOB3 has limit of two not because of engine constraints, but because the team had a lack of sprite artists.

    3. I thought Dungeon Master only had two types per level. Maybe there were a couple of exceptions e.g. different types in separate mazes on one level, and the non-moving fire elementals that appeared on the second-last level with Lord Chaos and some demons. But those seemed like they could have been hacked in despite a general limit of two.

    4. According to the Dungeon Master Encyclopedia web site, most levels have 3 distinct monsters, several have 4 and level 3 has 6!:
      - Rockpile
      - Screamer
      - Giant Wasp
      - Magenta Worm
      - Ghost
      - Mummy

    5. Well, shows how much I remember - I thought I had in indelibly in my head since I played it around 1990!

      They must have liked the 'two types per level' aesthetic, though. For example, I remember Level 3 as being all purple worms and some screamers - and from the encyclopedia it very nearly is! The other four monsters are basically one-offs.

      And a few types per level makes sense as creating a certain atmosphere and an ability to strategise according to what you expect to see, so it's not something that you would only do due to memory restrictions (having done a bit of coding myself, memory restrictions were an obvious explanation, so maybe I revised the extra monsters downwards in my own memory over the years).

      It can be taken too far, though. I bounced off Crystal Dragon because there seemed to be only one type for several levels. (I think I may have felt short-changed by having only two characters, also. We were coming out of the era of giant parties...)

    6. Dungeon Master has a limit of colours, but not of monster types. The game uses the whole palette minus 1 (or 2) and the last colour depends on the "main" monster per dungeon level. There is some kind of ranking how important the colour of the monster is. That leads to worms being red, if there is a dragon on the same level, but yellow together with beholders, orange with spiders and magenta if there isn't a coloured monster with them (like rock piles). Also jawas change colour often. Some combinations are okay, others quite ugly. That kind of limits the monster combinations per level, but in a unpredictable way.

  2. Hey Chester! I've been meaning to comment on this for a bit. This game is a childhood favorite of mine, and I'm one of the people who speedruns it. So I can answer your questions about that!

    "the speedrun characters seemed to do a lot more damage in combat than my characters; I'm not sure what the players may have done to rig that."

    First off, the thief's Hide in Shadows ability is bugged. On the overworld, it works somewhat like actual D&D rules. In dungeons, it never wears off so you get a backstab bonus on *every single attack* from any angle. So you just hide at the start of the run, never fight on the overworld, and never rest so you deal double damage for the entire game. Also, we roll a character with 18 STR, giving a bonus to all attacks. This includes ranged attacks for some reason. This is not the most glitch-free game, as you may have gathered.

    "They also took far less damage from the traps in the Azcan pyramid than I did"

    Mainly, we just memorized a route that avoids most of the traps by going through secret doors in the right places. The ones we are forced to walk over don't do much damage, even if the thief fails to disarm them.

    Loved the playthrough & review of the game! It's a favorite of mine for nostalgic reasons and has a great soundtrack, but I think you're dead on about the strengths and weaknesses of it.

    1. Thanks for the additional information! I completely forgot about the thief's backstab ability after the first couple of hours of the game. Everything else makes sense.

    2. Also your linked video of the ending shows characters with 25s everywhere when it tells you to write down the numbers

    3. "we roll a character with 18 STR, giving a bonus to all attacks. This includes ranged attacks for some reason"

      Cool this exploit helped you! For fussy players, it looks like it could be fixed by this fan-made patch ( ) :
      "Check for missile weapon in melee accuracy routine and use dex for bonus, not str"

  3. Here's a website that shows what I mean regarding number of enemy types per level, the same was certainly true for Eye of the Beholder 2 as well. Not sure about 3.

    1. Dungeon Hack only has two monster types per level and that's the same engine as EOB3 (can't be too long ago that I played EOB3 itself, but I hardly remember anything about it).

    2. Actually, Dungeon Hack supports at least 3 monsters as the end-of-level boss was often not one of the two normal monsters for the level.

    3. You're right. I did think about the final level and the boss there, but I thought I remembered there only being one other enemy type on that level. But there's a kind of "preview" enemy for the next level on each level as far as I remember. I guess it would have been silly for an engine that was newly created in the early 90s to be limited to two enemies per level only.

      It must be because of a lack of different monsters then as mentioned above, as monsters already repeat with 2 per level with deeper dungeons.

  4. Level drain is one of the cruelest aspects GG built into 1st edition, especially considering how ridiculously hard it is to gain levels already. I've had players threaten to quit my tabletop games over it. Baldur's Gate makes it less punishing with the Greater Restoration spell.

    1. Yeah, I can't imagine sucking that up in a tabletop game. I was about to say, "I'd probably threaten to quit, too," but I don't think I would. I'm not a TTRPG player, but I imagine that if I was, I'd have to adopt a kind of code of ethics that said that once I agreed to play with a particular DM, I'd have to accept what happened. Otherwise, what's the point of having rules at all? Threatening to quit would be a kind of extortion that would ruin the intended dynamic of the game. But I'd still want to.

    2. My solution was "pay a Priest in town 1000gp to restore the lost level." This satisfied my players while also keeping them broke and motivated ;)

    3. Just the lost level the lost level and all the experience points achieved towards the next one? The failure of the Gold Box games to do the latter is why I reloaded so much.

    4. There were spells that could restore levels, but the whole point behind level drain in pen and paper D&D was to put something in that made players really fear the undead. You didn't go up against higher level undead unless you absolutely needed to or were capable somehow of completely destroying them outright upfront.

    5. I do play tabletop rpg's, albeit Call of Cthulhu, and had players threaten to quit at the mildest inconvenience during the first session ;)

    6. I'm sure most DMs wouldn't put so many enemies that can level drain in a single place! (Unless they were trying to deliberately knock back some overconfident players, perhaps)

      I think this is one of those things where you end up with a lot of "house rules", as seems to be the way a lot of the time with D&D.

    7. Your reaction to level drain is a common one (and the mechanic has been removed entirely from newer editions of the game).

      There are (at least in the tabletop game) different kinds of poison, most of which don't immediately kill you.

    8. @AP: Valhingen Graveyard in Pool of Radiance (and the corresponding module Ruins of Adventure, I guess) and all those @#%& undead attacking in droves in Death Knights of Krynn would like a word with you... .

    9. Andy's talking about tabletop DMs. CRPG developers are sadistic monsters who like nothing more than to see players cry.

    10. My players are generally very trusting of me as a fair DM. It's just that level drain from a wight scratch seems so disproportionately punishing. They accepted the results however when I offered the priest restoration solution (restoring lost levels and xp) and they ran away from every wight they encountered after that.

    11. I should also note that I play the version of D&D basic (via Labyrinth Lord) that Warriors of the Eternal Sun is based on.

    12. I don't remember if this came up at the time, but in Bard's Tale 1 you wanted to get level drained, because while restoration was costly you have buckets of money at that point in the game, plus the level XP restoration happens _past_ the XP point you start at. I remember gaining a lot of levels quite quickly this way.

      Never played a D&D game that was that nice, though.

    13. if you run your own campaigns you can 'defang' the level drainers. As DM you have many options. The same applies when you do your own games. A spell like 'death ward' or 'negative plane protection' should have been included. According to the spell descriptions 'protection from evil 10'' might help (Protects entire party from special attacks for the duration of the spell) but that would be a contradiction to the canon version of the spell.

  5. I wonder if "timed turned-based combat" in the article meant a semi-real-time system--ie, cycling through your characters with only a set amount of time to select each character's action before it because the next actor's turn. And then they settled on a traditional turn-based system?

    1. Oh, that makes sense. I probably wasn't focusing enough attention on the word "timed." That's basically how it works in the dungeons.

  6. "I can't imagine doing that much grinding."

    There is a 'perfect game walkthrough' on IGN which explains among other things how to max character levels and yes, it admits itself this needs a LOT of grinding. Some other hints found on the net are about cheesing game mechanics and using reloads to maximize effects.

    BTW, the IGN guide was last updated in 2017 and some maps on gamefaqs were uploaded less than a year ago, so there are also other people around still playing this.

    "I don't know what magazine back in the day was the go-to for Genesis players"

    Neither do I, but there was a British one called Mega Drive Advanced Gaming (the Genesis was known as the Mega Drive outside North America) which in its issue 2 (October 1992) had a review of WOTES with some introductory hints, rating it 65%, and in the next two issues included an extensive 'Players' Guide' for it - you can see part 1 here (part 2 should be in this full issue 4 scan, but somehow I can't get the download to work).

    An overview links to two contemporary German reviews, a very short one in ASM 10/92 (rating 10/12) as well as a bit more elaborate one in Power Play 11/92 which is generally positive, but gives only 76% mainly due to finding the game's difficulty curve quite uneven.

    Apparently there are lots of unused items and spells in the code, including their respective artwork - you can check them out on The Cutting Room Floor. Part of them can be used through hex editing as confirmed by Doug Lanford who was a tester on WOTES and created a page about it - according to him, when he first saw the game it had little to do with Dungeons and Dragons.

    Finally, for those interested in the music (which Chet usually turns offand therefore rarely judges or even comments on), the tracks can be found here .

    1. the "wizard theme" from those tracks is very reminiscent of Legend of Kyrandia's music (as to be expected, given the composers!)

    2. listening to a few more and while the genesis sound chip was not exactly highly regarded, they certainly managed to squeeze a lot out of it

    3. You could definately squeeze a lot out of the Genesis' sound chip, it just required knowing how to use it. Issue is a lot of developers didn't know how to use it and used a... less than steller driver for it instead

    4. The music is certainly a high-point in this one. I really appreciated how each area has it's own wander, combat and win theme, it makes the transitions from exploring to fighting pretty smooth.

    5. Yeah, the tricky thing about sound on the genesis was that the way you did it, generally, was by having your main program on the genesis CPU push a second whole-ass program to the Z80 CPU that was hanging out on the genesis to provide Master System compatibility, and that second program could use the whole computing output of the Z80 to drive the sound chips. Which meant that unlike most every other console of the period, you didn't have to switch back and forth between managing the sound and doing the whole rest of the game. But it also meant you had to write a whole second program for a completely different architecture, and coordinate between the two.

    6. The genesis sound chip was not well regarded? According to WHO?

      They used a Yamaha YM2612, a close cousin of the chip used in the venerable Sound Blaster. Not quite as capable or flexible, but still a pretty high quality device.

    7. @Gnoman: At first reading I thought you were saying it was according to the World Health Organization ;-).

    8. Wow, I'm British, I grew up in the Mega Drive era and I have never heard of Mega Drive Advanced Gaming until today. 37 issues!

  7. Nice! Been waiting for you to finish this one so I could go on some long Sheldon Cooper-esque "fun fact" posts. :D

    Couple points first. Ka is indeed a "dinosaur", he was one of the first dinosaurs to achieve immortality. And yeah, level draining in old D&D rules sets is terrible.

    So Mystara came about from an interesting set of events...

    In the late 70's, TSR somewhat accidentally split D&D into two rules systems. One was the original D&D, which was supplanted by the Holmes "Basic" version. The other was Gygax's AD&D hardcovers. The plan, as it were, was to introduce players to the game with a friendly well-written and simple system which was applicable to level 1-3, and then have them gravitate to AD&D. The AD&D books are even written more as reference manuals than actual tools to learn to run or play the game. But Basic proved to be SO popular they had to continue printing it, then expand upon it, adding the "Expert" rules set, which expanded the level range to 14. The promised "companion" supplement eventually became another box set, Companion rules (Level 15-25), followed by Master (26-36) and finally Immortals. The last of which had rules for your characters becoming primordial gods with a whole new set of chalenges.

    So, it goes without saying TSR's top people didn't like this. But BECMI (as it's nicknamed) was too popular to stop printing. And not long after TSR changed hands in the 80's, it was realized no new material had been made and was deeded. The modules had hinted at greater content but never delivered. The fact the "Known World" map was extracted from a map of Earth from about 100 million years ago is telling.

    So around the mid/late 80's, the Gazateer line was produced, detailing the original countries mentioned in the Expert module X1 "Isle of Dread" one by one, with far greater detail. They integrated a lot of module material into the setting more overtly; X2's Castle Amber has the Amber family as a prominent principality in Glantri. One of the lead writer/designer for Mystara's setting was Bruce Heard, he even uses "Amberville" as his Twitter handle. As part of this, they also mixed in Arneson's Blackmoor setting, having it be an ancient culture that harnessed technology but destroyed themselves in a nuclear war. In fact, ALL magic on Mystara comes from a nuclear reactor radiating "magic", and it's slowly running out. In the late TSR era, almanacs were published updating you year to year as to the happenings in Mystara.

    Hollow World was one of those side projects that resulted from the turbulent years when TSR printed things because they'd get paid by their publisher to do so, even if they weren't selling. I'm honestly surprised (and happy) that ANY CRPG was made based on the setting, much less the BECMI rules set, albeit in a loose manner. My understanding is the setting was a lot more popular with European TTRPG players than American.

    In the end, When Wizards of the Coast bought TSR and decided to make a new edition, their first act was to end the split of rules sets. They also dropped "Advanced" out of the game's title. BECMI lives on in 3rd party games such as Labyrinth Lord and Old School Essentials.

    1. My friends and I were huge fans of this setting. We bought all the Gazeteers and associated materials. Such a fun world.

    2. I appreciate the additional background and context!

  8. I did an LP of Order of the Griffon a good decade back: I'm not sure I can recommend it especially if you want to play legit. Its a bit like Westwood's Battletech game in that its clear they ran out of time or money or game size and just shipped it. While its MUCH better than said Battletech game it still comes off feeling unfinished.

    1. Wow, nice! I got interested in OotG, thanks to Chet's mention and me being a tabletop player. I got the impression it had lots more RP and depth that WotES (multiple dialog answers, tactic overview combat...) but I trust you on any quirks as you drank the whole bottle ^^.

      Your LP style is hilarious! Must have taken ages to prepare the scenes. Love that you care to explain what Basic D&D is (I am "young", only know about D&D5 and AD&D from Pool of Radiance; needed to dig it for WotES). Will browse through your LP right now.

    2. I have to agree with Tarnyko. You clearly put a lot of work into those images. Now I'm tempted to just read your LP rather than play the game.

    3. Well one should still play or not play as desired. I did that whole project on a G5 iMac and we had a hurricane somewhere during it. Modern emulation is much better now. And Comic Life is much lovelier to use on a 12th Gen Intel with 1080p monitor, 32 gigs of ram, and a GeForce 3060. Sadly my files are long gone so every error I made in formatting or text or whatever is stuck there to haunt me forever. But the game had potential and it comes so close but just doesn't get to the End Zone. I do hope folks enjoy my silly LP though!

    4. I enjoyed it @Captain Rufus! One can easily see your patience wear off as the game progresses, though: your humour gets more sarcastic, and the last entries are shorter (you clearly want this wrapped up ASAP).
      If I got it correctly, OotG starts promising and with lots of cool features, but gets very repetitive and grinding-prone towards the end.

  9. The developers really didn't understand what a "hydra" is.

    Hydras come from Greek mythology. According to it, whenever you cut one head, two grow up.

    Therefore, I suppose hydras could be born with one head only. Thus, this game includes baby-hydras or hydras who never lost a head.

  10. About the Westwood as solely credited issue, the Hint book states that the game is under sublicense from SSI.
    I'm assuming the game went with the same deal as the first 2 EoB games, except that of course the console manufacturer is the publisher. So SSI probably got their share of the deal.
    Relationships between the 2 companies soured when Westwood was sold to Virgin, in the following years.

    1. I guess I can see why. Westwood was a small development studio that clearly would have been subservient to SSI. Virgin was a large developer/publisher that was in direct competition to SSI.

  11. This feels like a bit of an unfair question, but is there any explanation of why the Medallion of Passage to the Drow Caves was in the Oltec merchant's room?

    1. No. Not unfair at all. I should have commented on that. It doesn't really make any sense.

  12. @Chet, about DCMOTO & "Chevaliers de l'An Mil":
    - Password prompt on the website must mean a missing resource.
    - I get the same prompt when trying to download the latest DCMOTO, so I used my tried-and-tested version: v10.0 (13th October 2007 ; yeah I know...)
    - I succeeded with the .fd by doing the following:
    1) In "Tools" -> "'Parameters", choose "TO8";
    2) In "File" -> "Load floppy...", choose the .fd file;
    3) Restart the computer with "File"-> "Cold restart" (the one between "Esc-Echap" and "Quit") ;
    4) Type "B" (or click or the 1st right-side yellow box, "BASIC 512 MICROSOFT 1.0").
    5) It should load. It it doesn't, press [Space].

  13. Cureall is the spell that later editions (and thus games like the Gold Box games and Baldur's Gate) called Heal.

    Heal, in this D&D edition, is actually an arcane spell which duplicates Cureall, from before they decided that giving "magic-users" a healing spell that good was a no-no.

    It is surprising that your clerics don't get Raise Dead.

  14. "The EXE version, even if I was willing to run it, wants a user name and password to download."

    The username is "dcmoto" and the password is "thomson" (these can be found at the homepage of the website). The exe file itself seems safe to run, if you want to try it.

    1. Thanks. Tarnyko's instructions above worked, so I'll go with that for now.

  15. Interested to see if you go for Griffon. It was one of 3 games we had for the T16, bought on deep discount (20$ for system 10 for game) in the mid-late 90s. It's save system ruined it for me. The TV we played it on was atrociously old and the symbols were hard to make out (yeah, a password save system for a DnD RPG). Save-states should be a saving grace for it. I think my brother beat it pretty quickly. It's not a long game. I just never had any luck with it.

    1. OotG supports saving to the CD attachment's storage so luckily passwords aren't the only option since they are ridiculously complex. That also has the advantage of allowing for saving and loading anywhere while passwords are only available on the world map.

    2. Dang, I never even saw the CD add-on in person. In fact the day we picked up the T16 at Electronics Boutique was the 1st time I had seen one of them in RL. They weren't too popular down here in southern Louisiana. None of my friends even knew what it was. It was still fun for a while though. Had they packaged it with something besides Keith Courage it may have caught on better. That was a lousy game. In fact I said we had 3 games but I think now it was just 2. Keith and Griffon.

  16. I wonder when you'll get to 'Order of the Gryffon'. Another console port.

  17. Congratulations, nice work! It's not a hard one, but it's a fun journey. I found it borrowed fondly from Beholder nostalgia for me enough to be enjoyable. That said, the overworld combat threw me repeatedly. Having never played gold box (terribly neglected), I feel I would enjoy them greatly from this minor taste.

    Couldn't remember the final encounter, though I knew there was no boss. How do you forget summoning a t-rex god? I suppose it was a rushed ending and became forgettable

  18. Wow, I'm super-surprised you got to the ending so quickly! Some notes:

    Did you find the Pyro Hydra to be an easy foe? I killed him very easily, but I chalked that up to my incessant grinding (or at least I remember it as such). I still hadn't reached the level cap though.

    I barely remember that dinosaur. I didn't (and don't) find a tyrannosaurus rex to be as impressive as a dragon.

    Evil elves calling themselves such... that reminds me of the old X-Men comics with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Even as a kid, I would question whether they would truly call themselves evil... the mutants, I mean. It was eventually explained away that they put "evil" in the name to scare homo sapiens, but at some point, they just referred to themselves as the Brotherhood of Mutants.

    Did the game give you a password to use for the upcoming sequel (which never happened)? The chksum you mentioned, I think that's to bring a character into said non-existent sequel. I remember the password being quite long. Maybe all the chksums together?

    Congrats on finishing this shorter-than-I-remember-it game!

    1. Hi, Amy. Your comments got hung up in the spam filter; sorry about that. I just went through my screen shots. I do have an image of a "pyro hydra," but I don't even remember the battle, so I suspect it was easy.

      I did not take a screenshot of any longer code for the sequel, but it's possible that I just blew by it.


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