Monday, January 8, 2024

Worlds of Legend: Emperor Avenged

The title and the description don't seem to really match.
My first entry on this game seems like a lifetime ago. For this one, I'm starting over, conceding to my commenters' suggestions to import characters from Legend. The import process worked smoothly. I don't know why I said last time that your equipment imports with you. It does not. Instead, it's replaced with a standard set of gear for each class (barbarian, assassin, troubadour, and runemaster). But nothing else changes about the character. You have the bard songs, spell runes, reagents, attributes, and gold that you left Legend with, making Worlds absurdly easy for imported characters, at least in the opening stages. Hit points double, perhaps a concession to those who (like me) thought Legend was too hard.
My imported berserker.
My characters, who did not complete the previous game, are only Levels 6 or 7. Characters who won would import somewhere between 14 and 16. All my characters are female:
  • Meschiya Bighorn of Gert, berserker
  • Banu Fritzel of the Bywater, troubadour
  • Sophie the Cat of Frest, assassin
  • Chloe the Sylph of Feoranzo, runemaster
As a reminder, these four characters, fresh off their Legends victory in Trazere, have been summoned to the Empire of the Moon, the home of the assassin character, whose father, the emperor, has just been assassinated. The game begins in Imperia at the house of Sophie's aunt, Sushiana. She suspects the emperor's advisor, Tri-Mann MoChun, who has seized power. Sushiana wants the party to find the four shards of the Eternal Amulet to somehow save the empire.
The only other things to do in Imperia are to buy horses and enter "the Vaults," the dungeon where Tri-Mann MoChun resides. I had thought that this was just a starter dungeon for new characters, but I guess it might be necessary for everyone.
The usurper threatens us as we enter his domain.
I completed the dungeon this session. It consists of almost 100 screens, both rooms and hallways, organized into two levels. The path through them is relatively linear, as you have to pass through a series of locked doors and choke points to get to the end. I got a little lost a couple of times but otherwise didn't need to map. 
I've mentioned a couple of times that Irene and I have spent the last year playing Gloomhaven and Frosthaven, the quasi-RPG dungeon-crawl board games from Cephalofair. There are some similarities in the approaches. All of the rooms in both series are assembled from a library of assets, including wall textures, floor textures, and furniture. (I suppose this is true of a lot of games, but it seems more obvious here.) None of the rooms are fully realized graphically; instead, bits of furniture, braziers, chests, and other game elements provide hints as to what they're supposed to be, with your imagination filling in the rest. In the computer games, almost all of those objects can potentially hold treasures, so you have to search every one.
There's just enough here to give the sense of a "bedroom." Note that I found the items in the bed.
With my imported characters, combat was so easy that it wasn't even an issue. I put the emulator into warp mode a few times just to get it out of the way. Enemies rarely overcame my defense values and didn't do much damage when they did. The few hit points I lost were rapidly restored with the "March of the Bold Ones" bard song. I didn't cast any spells in combat except to screw around and remind myself how the system works. I'll thus save a longer account of combat, magic, and bard songs for a later entry in which I faced more challenging foes.
Combat with some orc-like things, some skeletons, and some beholder-like things.
Among the items of furniture, I found a few equipment upgrades, including gauntlets, iron boots, and a battle axe, but most of the other items--potions, scrolls, horns, rings, duplicate weapons--just crowded my inventory, and I ended up dropping a lot of it.
Looting a chest.
With combat so easy, the only real challenge came in the form of puzzles. Worlds features the same sort of puzzles as Legend, in which you have to experiment with a variety of mechanics like teleporters, switches, rotating pillars, and missile-shooters to figure out the right sequence to open a door or get to the other side of a room. Some of them are fair, with the elements behaving in a consistent, empirically determinable manner; others seem random to me.
The first puzzle room I found was relatively easy. The goal was to get to the other side of a patch of water. Each side of the water had one teleportation square and one pillar with a button, and in the (inaccessible) back corner was a pillar that shot fireballs along with two squares at the end of the pillar's range, each with a "Damage" rune.
The first "puzzle room."
You solve puzzles like this by taking a save and starting to mess around, noting what each element does. It turns out that the first button causes the pillar to fire a missile. The second causes the pillar to rotate. When the missile reaches the southern "Damage" rune, it teleports anyone on the first teleportation pad to the second. When the missile reaches the eastern "Damage" rune, it causes the eastern door to open. The solution is to have someone stand on the first teleportation pad, have someone else press the first button, have the first (now teleported) character press the second button to rotate the pillar, and then have the second character press the first button again.
Some of the puzzles have multiple teleporters in succession but don't teleport someone if another character is already on the destination pad. There are times that the solution is to block the destination pads to keep someone from teleporting. 
In this room, I had to block destination squares.
Out of four or five puzzle rooms in the dungeon, only one gave me any serious heartache. I figured it out without a hint, but the fact that I nearly caved bodes ill for what I'm sure are more complicated puzzles in the future. It was the only puzzle that required me to cast spells--specifically, to cast "Missile Damage" ("Forward Damage" might have also worked; I didn't try) on a "Damage" rune to get a missile pillar to fire. The shot below shows the setup.
One of the more difficult puzzle rooms.
When the missile pillar initially fires, it teleports any character on the teleportation pad to the other side of the screen. After that, the solution is to:

  • Have the teleported character stand on the glowing "Damage" rune between the pillar and the "Damage" rune in the southwest corner.
  • Hit the "Damage" rune on the east side with another damage spell. This causes the pillar to fire, hit the character instead of the rune, and then rotate to face east.
  • Have the telepored character stand on the "Damage" rune directly east of the pillar.
  • Hit the "Damage" rune on the east side with a third damage  spell. This causes the pillar to fire east and hit the character, which somehow causes the southern door to open.
Note the inconsistencies. Why does intercepting the missile cause the pillar to rotate in one case but not the other? Also note that the two "Damage" runes that the character has to stand on have no backgrounds, and two of them have different-colored backgrounds. I can barely discern the colors and I'm not sure if they're telling me anything anyway. (As an aside, Irene got me those Enchroma glasses for Christmas. They definitely help when I need to be able to distinguish two colors, but they do it by suppressing other colors and making the entire scene look dim and weird. I probably won't be using them much.) Actually, after typing this, I guess I figured it out. It's not the missile hitting the character that causes the pillar to rotate, but the character's interception causes the missile to do damage to that particular square. In any event, figuring this one out was a bit harder than the others and took a couple of reloads.
This room gave me some trouble, too, but I didn't take any notes on it. (I did most of this a month ago.)
All that's left is the story, such as it is. As you enter the dungeon, Ti-Mann Mochun appears to threaten you, apparently confirming his role in the old emperor's death. As you go through the dungeon, signs on the walls update you on various plot points. None of them are supposed to be literal signs, as it would make no sense for someone to have written any of them. They're just the only way the interface has to give the player some text.
"Upon entering the imperial citadel," one says, " you immediately see the lack of human occupants. Fierce beasts roam the ancient halls." As you penetrate deeper, the game tells you that, "you feel that some dark power was involved in the foul murder of the Holy Emperor." When you head downstairs, a sign says that, "Like the upper halls, the imperial dungeons have been invaded by creatures of darkness." 
MoChun must have been confused every time he walked past this sign.
Eventually, you find your way, via multiple locked doors and keys, to "the private chambers of his Imperial Majesty Ti-Mann MoChun." In the chamber beyond, MoChun attacks, alone, and the battle was over so fast I didn't even get a screenshot. "The evil usurper is defeated," a sign says, "but the secret of his power is still a mystery."
Stairs lead up to an isolated part of the first floor, where (past more locked doors and keys), you find MoChun's treasure chamber. One of its chests has The Book of Skulls, "a practical guide to the summoning and controlling of elemental beings." This book is snatched by Sushiana when you return to the surface (the long way, which annoyed me). "With this," she says, "we may be able to save the Empire." She provides a key to the next dungeon, the keep of Kishyai.
I thought the amulet was going to save the empire.
I admit I'm surprised we killed MoChun in the first dungeon. I thought he'd be the final boss. I'm not sure why the party needs to "save" the empire at this point. Can't the normal rules of succession just take over now?

Miscellaneous notes:
  • Every character started the game with a "pass." I don't know what they're for.
  • The dungeon had a room with some symbols on the floor, a button on a pillar, and a note reading: "Reforge thy bones." I assume this is where you can resurrect dead characters.
The party wraps up a battle in the resurrection chamber.
  • I keep accidentally hitting ESC while in the dungeon. This causes the party to flee.
  • Aside from some of the names and the occasional taijitu (yin-yang symbol) or mini-pagoda, the game hasn't made much use of its oriental theme. 
  • At least in the starting dungeon, the game has solved one of my complaints from Legend: that a lot of the rooms had random symbols on the floors that weren't used for any puzzles. There are still a few, but they're very muted and clearly not active.
It's time to head outside Imperia, explore the outdoor map, find a store, and find a trainer. The party left the dungeon about 11,000 gold pieces richer (from a starting treasury of about 4,000 gold). The berserker earned 10,000 experience points, which would have been almost enough to carry her to Level 4 if she had started at Level 1. Thus, I expect the next dungeon will be at least a little closer to my level.
Time so far: 5 hours


  1. 'As a reminder, these four characters, fresh off their Legends victory in Trazere, have been summoned to the Empire of the Moon, the home of the assassin character, whose father, the emperor, has just been assassinated. '

    Sounds legit.

  2. The game's graphics are pretty good, but the dim color scheme would drive me nuts. I paid for the whole palette in my VGA card, please use it! haha I guess on the original CRTs you could crank the contrast to fix it. I wonder if it did originally look that way or if it's an emulation bug?

    1. It makes more sense if you consider the Amiga as the main target platform and the DOS version as a secondary concern. A VGA graphics card can display 256 colours simultaneously, whereas the Amiga can only display...16 colours at once, if I recall.

    2. The Amiga could display 64 colours at once, with the caveat that the last 32 colors must be half-brightness versions of the first 32. Of course, if you only used 16 colours, the graphics would take up 33% less space on disk and in memory... so most games didn't use the full 64 colours.

    3. They could be arbitrary colours, though.

    4. Amiga games and Atari ST games could and did use bright colours (see Dungeon Master... this seems to just be a bizarre case of art direction. Abandoned Places 1/2, Dragonflight, and Fate: Gates of Dawn do a similar dim/dark thing. Even the Amber games do to an extent. I think it's to give it a paintlerly look like old illustrated manuscripts or fantasy book cover paintings where there was rarely a true white colour used, but I'm not a huge fan of it when it makes contrast harder to see. See also (or don't, because it's yellow and gradiented): the text in Ultima VII

    5. The monsters were pretty colourful as I recall, even if the backgrounds weren't.

  3. "sardine can", "roulette table" and "bathtub" would have been my first three guesses for what the game calls a "bed".

    1. I thought it was a bath of acid myself. Though if you are throwing someone into a bath of acid, the pillow is a kind touch.

    2. "This is my pyjama chainmail and my sleeping war-axe, so in the mornings off they go and under the pillow" - owner of that bed

  4. Interesting, sounds like this one really improves upon the flaws of the last game. Not too surprising, because I found Bloodwych unplayable too, but the remake Hexx pretty good outside of the game-breaking bugs. Seems like by 1993 TAG figured out what worked and what didn't.

  5. “I was supposed to do some cross-blog synergy with the Scribe in November and let him down by taking an unexpected break”

    Well, nothing comparable to BloodNet, which you and the Adventurers' Guild blog were supposed to play alongside. Their coverage of the game seems frozen, as well as your contest to guess their final rank of the game.

    1. "I just beat it. Expect a 'Won' post soon" - May '23.

  6. I really enjoyed both Legend games, but to me they were entirely about the puzzles. The combat was just an obstacle to the fun parts. If you don't like the puzzles, these games would be serious slogs with little payoff.

    1. My feeling too. I actually enjoyed the chaotic combat with all the colourful little monsters - but it's the puzzles that I mostly remember.

    2. I've almost always found puzzles an impediment to my enjoyment of games. Bard's Tale IV has some great ones though.

    3. To me, they require a certain amount of faith that they're going to be fair. That faith is established through experience with a particular author or editor. I never worry that the New York Times crossword is going to pull a fast one; Will Shortz has been following the same editing rules for decades.

      From Legend I don't have particularly good experience with these authors, so each puzzle causes more anxiety than joy. It's hard not to approach each one with the assumption that I'll need a hint to solve it because I needed so many hints in the previous game. Fortunately, i powered through the ones in this session.

    4. I loved Legend for the puzzles too, and I quit the game on the final dungeon because I just. couldn't. take. any. more. combats.

      And since this was in the days pre gamefaqs etc, I was happy to keep hitting my head against the (dungeon) walls to solve those puzzles.

      Now I wonder how better or worse the Worlds of Legend puzzles are.

    5. A few days after I wrote the comment above, I published the next entry, and in there I suggested that the puzzles in WoL are both a little easier and a little fairer than in the first game. It may be that I just understand the mechanics better, though.


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