Saturday, January 13, 2024

Worlds of Legend: First Piece of the Amulet

What do you bet Sushiana turns out to be the real villain?
        
Like its predecessor, Worlds of Legend is shaping up to be a very linear game. The starting dungeon rewarded me with a key to the dungeon in Kishyai. I spent most of this session exploring that dungeon. At the end, I got the key to yet another dungeon. I assume it's simply going to continue along these lines until the end.
   
As this session began, I left the city of Imperia for the overworld map, which is dotted with cities and settlements. Armies belonging to a variety of factions crisscross the map, sometimes engaging in battle, sometimes conquering cities. It looks like a strategy game, but there really isn't any way for the player to participate in it at a strategic level. You can't control any of the armies, only your own party.
      
A strategy game map without the strategy.
     
As far as I can tell, the only consequences to the entire overworld events are:
 
  • You can't enter a city belonging to another faction without paying a bribe or showing a pass (the player starts with 4 passes).
  • If you run into an enemy army while going across the land, you either have to fight them (in a "banner encounter") or show a pass. If you defeat them, you get another pass.
       
Visiting a city I don't control.
     
You can't take over enemy cities, although I suppose you could try to wipe out enemy armies so that your own faction has a better chance of randomly wandering to those cities and taking them over. 
   
The opening dungeon had been so easy that I figured banner encounters would be similarly easy. My first attempt at one disabused me of that illusion. The enemies wouldn't stop coming, and they eventually ground my party down to dust. I probably could have lasted longer, or perhaps even won, with better attention to spells, but I wasn't prepared to engage the spell system in that level of detail yet. I reloaded and avoided banner encounters for now. To be fair, the manual recommends that you avoid them at the beginning.
       
I'm not sure why the enemy armies have skeletons.
     
Hovering my mouse over the cities showed that Kishyai is in the northwest corner. I slowly made my way there, stopping at cities along the way. It appears that most cities have an apothecary (buy and sell spell reagents), a holy temple (pray to restore luck and get resurrected if necessary), a blacksmith (buy and sell weapons and armor), and an artificer (buy and sell magic items). At my first city, Fai-Kung, I got rid of my excess inventory. Each apothecary only sells between 3 and 5 of the game's 8 reagents, so you have to visit multiple apothecaries to get fully stocked. 
   
I visited "an odd shrine," where my only options were to "call forth the eternal champion" or "enter shrine." The game told me that I'll need the Eternal Amulet for the former and "the ring of access from the hand of one of the ancient Drune Lords" for the latter, so I guess this is something for later in the game. 
      
I'm not sure what this was about.
     
My second stop was at a northern temple of the Mad Monks. I had options to "show items," "buy runes," and "train levels." I guess this is how you level up. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough experience for the next level yet. I don't know what "show items" does. Whatever item I "showed," the monks just said it didn't have any runes. When I chose "buy runes," I was surprised to see that there was one rune I hadn't bought in Legend: "Vivify." It's necessary for resurrection spells. It cost 20,000 gold, about 3,000 more than I had at the time, so I saved it for later.
   
Eventually, I made it to the city of Kishyai and entered its vaults. The key that Sushiama had given me was necessary for the first door. 
      
The first room of the dungeon. I like the faces on the floor.
     
It took me about six hours to fully clear the dungeon. It was three levels, and just like the first dungeon, while the path wound its way around each level, down and back up again, actual progress was very linear thanks to locked doors that required specific keys.
    
The battles were a little harder than the opening dungeon. I couldn't just put the emulator into "warp" mode and ignore them. The first three characters mostly weren't in any danger, but my runemaster kept losing hit points quickly. I mixed up a bunch of "Heal-Regenerate" spells specific to her and some "Heal-Surround-Heal-Regenerate-Surround-Regenerate" spells for when the whole party got low. Between the runemaster's "regenerate" and the troubadour's "March of the Bold Ones" (which also regenerates), I could usually heal between battles, though sometimes a new battle would come upon me while I was waiting. The dungeon offered a resurrection chamber, just like the first one, but I generally reloaded when a character (inevitably my runemaster) died.
   
Combat remains a chaotic mess. Except for spells and the occasional use of items, you don't really have anything to do except watch it. I know spells are supposed to be the saving grace of the whole system and some people love it for that reason, but I can't get behind a system that leaves 3/4 of your characters so little to do. My primary complaints are unchanged from Legend:
    
  • When left to their own devices, characters will choose an enemy to target and then stupidly continue to focus on that enemy, ignoring enemies who are closer, even if it means that the enemy they're focused on is out of range. They'll try to cross the battlefield to engage that one enemy, even if there's no way to reach him. If they're able to finally get to him, half the time he's gone.
  • Characters can only move at right angles on the tiles.
       
This one saw my characters stuck in a doorway.
      
  • Characters can only turn as part of a movement. If a character defeats an enemy in front of him and is being attacked from behind, he has to step out of his current space, and re-enter it to turn around. 
  • There's no way to tell anything about enemies--health, powers, defenses, even their names. You have no way of determining who should be your primary target except general memory, and too many enemies look the same to me or are differentiated only by color (which doesn't work well for me).
  • In the chaotic mess of combat, with enemies and characters constantly moving, it becomes very difficult to target anything that requires targeting, or to ensure that no allies are surrounding a character who's about to use a "surround" action.
  • Targeting spells is nearly impossible because they almost always hit something before they hit the enemy (or ally) you're trying to target.
     
The difficulties associated in targeting mean that the spell system, otherwise innovative, loses a lot of its luster. Options like "Surround-Damage" or "Missile-Damage-Surround-Damage" which are fun to string together are also deadly to your own party members. So you have to cast something like "Antimagic-Surround-Antimagic" before every battle to exempt your own characters from the effects. It just gets tedious. But I'll experiment more with magic and have more to say about it next time.
    
Building my list of spells.
      
Overall, it feels like I'm either just passively watching the battle or expected to micromanage it to a point that the game's controls don't really support. It's frustrating either way.
  
Although I started well-stocked on reagents, I didn't have a particularly good stock of nightshade, which is necessary for "Surround" actions. I got to the end of the dungeon with only a handful left.
 
As commenters have pointed out, the puzzles are perhaps the most fun part of the game. Having experienced them for two dungeons in a row, I'm now prepared to say that either they're fairer than they were in Legend or I just didn't get them when I played Legend.
 
There were about half a dozen "puzzle rooms" in Kishyai, ranging from easy to challenging. Most puzzles are really just about getting to the next room, although some involve finding your way to a chest. When the goal is to get to the next room, you just have to get one character over there; if one character can exit a room, all the others somehow find their way automatically to follow him. My favorite puzzle in this dungeon was one that involved pulling levers to maneuver some tiles so that they created bridges to cross water. Each lever pushed a different tile in a different direction. 
        
This room was fun, though it occurs to me that I should have just been able to "Teleport" to the other side. I'm not sure if I even tried that.
      
My least favorite puzzles are the ones that require casting "Damage" spells on specific tiles. The game is inconsistent about whether you can cast spells across gaps, and I never understand what the different tile colors mean. I end up wasting a lot of spells and damaging myself.
      
There's a "Damage" tile somewhere under those monsters that I have to hit.
        
As I mentioned last time, you have to search every physical feature in a room--furniture, chests, pillars, statutes--because objects can be lurking anywhere. This session, I found some items in pools of water and on torture racks. My inventory swiftly got overloaded.
       
Sophie finds boots on a torture rack.
    
A lot of the items you find have spell effects, and part of the game involves figuring out what items have what effects. For instance, there's at least one wand that heals. You don't want to start wielding that in combat.

An awful lot of items will teleport the wielder (as will a "Missile-Teleport" from the runemaster)--one of the few ways to put your characters around the chaos of a battlefield in a strategic manner, or get a character out of a deadly situation. These items are almost always called "Cloud-something" (e.g., Cloud Ring, Cloud Helm). There are a variety of potions that boost attributes, rings that cause damage to everyone in a radius, and so forth. Testing these out and making use of the valuable items was somewhat fun. I just wish (again) that the game gave you some indication of enemy difficulty, or overall battle difficulty, so you know which ones merit your best items and your detailed attention.
     
Mixing a "Teleport" spell.
      
Miscellaneous notes:
   
  • I probably should micromanage the troubadour songs more instead of just always keeping it set on "March of the Bold Ones" (regeneration). The manual has a description of what each song does. For instance, "Warriors Awakening" boosts party strength and "Smithy Song" boosts armor class. For some reason, there's an exclamation point next to the effect of "Adieu Sweet Dullard" ("Boosts Party Intelligence!"). I'm not sure why the game is so excited about that one.
  • Changing the troubadour song of course changes the in-game music. I've been playing with sound off, though, since there aren't any other interesting sound effects.
  • The berserker's special ability is "Berserker Rage" in which "he can do untold damage to monsters." The assassin's is "Hide in Shadows," which improves backstabs. Neither seems to have a penalty, so I don't know why you wouldn't just leave them on all the time, in which case why are they options instead of defaults?
  • The automap is pretty good, but I wish it annotated locked doors or allowed me a way to do so. 
       
The automap generally saves you from having to make your own.
       
  • One shortcut the game gives you: If you "Take" a bag of gold from the floor post-combat, the character you assign will keep going around and cleaning up other bags of gold until they're all gone. You don't have to specify them individually. It shares this with Bloodstone, which otherwise has a completely different interface.
  • Sometimes at the end of combat, "Teleport" is active for one or more of my characters for no reason. The next time I click on a square, they teleport to it instead of walking to it. Is this the effect of an enemy spell? Why?
  • One of the game's few concessions to keyboard shortcuts is that the spells are all mapped to the number keys, so you can just hit "1" to cast the first spell instead of going into the "Cast Spell" interface. The key will even make the runemaster active if she wasn't already. That's great except that the number keys are awfully close to the function keys, which switch between characters. I'm constantly casting spells when I don't intend to.
         
I was up late clearing out Kishyai. Eventually, I found the right sequence of keys to a room where I found one of the four Amulet Shards. When I hit the exit, I had gained about 53,000 gold pieces and between 50,000 and 80,000 experience points, depending on character. I ended up with an excess key ("Lost Key") that didn't fit any door in the dungeon that I could find. 
       
1/4 done?
         
I sold my excess inventory at the nearest town. I wandered the towns until I found one with an apothecary selling nightshade and got stocked up. I tried another banner encounter and won this time, though just barely.
      
It's about time I found someone selling nightshade. I was worried I was going to have to pick it myself in the fens at midnight.
        
Back at the monastery, I bought the "Vivify" rune and went to level up. The monks gave me the option of paying them or fighting them. I tried fighting them, got my ass kicked, reloaded and paid. It's not like I don't have the money.
       
Leveling up comes with attribute increases.
         
Finally, I took the amulet shard back to Sushiana. "Good," she said, then handed me the key to the dungeon beneath Iyoto. I guess I know where I'm going next.

Time so far: 12 hours

29 comments:

  1. I mean, the presentation is charming and the user interface at least innovative, but that doesn't count for much when the game, especially combat, plays like s**t.

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  2. Love the subtitle ;P
    Overall, it feels like I'm either just passively watching the battle or expected to micromanage it - isn't it (and many other issues you describe) the problem with any RTwP system? I had exactly the same feeling trying to play Baldur's Gate.

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    1. It's certainly a bit true of Baldur's Gate, but at least there you can have some idea of if something is a more passive encounter with relatively easy enemies and ones that require specific management such as dealing with basilisks, trolls or enemy spellcasters.

      It was definitely (one of) my issues with Pillars of Eternity too, but with that I found the micromanagement so tedious so I lowered the difficulty and it has been a few years now but I keep meaning to actually try and finish the last few bits.

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    2. Pillars combat was information overload for me. I ended up cheesing it.

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    3. Maybe the problem is the rest of it--that the game controls don't really support the micromanaging. FTL (which is the only RTwP game I've really played) has some battles you just sit back and watch, but when you have to micromanage the controls work well enough for you to be able to manage what you need.

      (I think of FTL as a party-based RPG where the party members are the ship systems.)

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    4. RTwP has always seemed like the worst of both worlds. By design each individual half is worse than their respective real-time and turn-based counterparts. Their only saving grace is that you can deal with trash mobs faster than a turn-based game, but there are a ton of better options for that.

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    5. AlphabeticalAnonymousJanuary 13, 2024 at 2:48 PM

      > I had exactly the same feeling trying to play Baldur's Gate.

      I have to agree with this. After the blissful granular control allowed by turn-by-turn combat systems, trying to play Baldur's Gate for the first time (about 6-8 months ago) left me feeling, at best, quite confused. I slowed to a halt some months ago, though I'd like to blame now having two kids in the house under age 3...

      Also, CB: I finally got to explore New Orleans (a town sometimes celebrated in this blog) last week. Fun place. Any connection between "Irene" your wife and the eponymous French Quarter restaurant?

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    6. AA, I wish you'd told me you were going. I would have suggested a couple of places and given you some light errands.

      No connection--I've never been to Irene's, oddly. I think I chose that pseudonym from the Lead Belly song, but it's been more than a decade, so I'm not entirely sure.

      I like RTwP in the Infinity Engine games. As matt says, the issue here is that you can't do enough during the "pause" phase here. You can only target an action already initiated.

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    7. Considering how much I enjoyed the Infinity Engine games I'm still surprised by how much I don't really like RTwP. For some reasons I don't fully understand I enjoyed it more in the two Icewind dale entries, maybe because they are intentionally more combat-centered they managed to fine-tune it better. I still wish one day I'll be able to play the two Baldur's gate with a turn based engine and honestly think Torment could have been better without combat at all (maybe exaggerating a bit here but it's the clunkiest of the five)
      Pathfinder:Kingmaker offers the best experience for me. Player can choose on the fly, even mid-combat, to pass from RTwP to Turn-based with a key press. It's delightfully flexible.
      On the other hand after replaying Pillars of eternity 2 with turn based combat I ended up liking it better with RTwP. It just flows better.

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    8. I played BG 1 and 2 for the first time a few years ago and was also frustrated with the combat which always seems to result in chaos. I persevered, however, and by the end of BG2 I was completely in love. My strategy is to always auto-pause on enemy contact, maintain battle formation, and never never trust the AI.

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    9. My take on RTwP (from very very limited experience) is that if it works, it's because it allows you to have fractional speed and simultaneous action without turning everything into a test of your reflexes. Which means being able to issue fine-grained commands during the pauses. Like Phaedrus says, auto-pause on contact and keep pausing whenever you need to change your tactics.

      The opposite of this is a game where you and the other side alternate turns but it's still a test of your reflexes and timing--which would be like Crypt of the Necrodancer, where you and the opponents can only act on the beat of the music, so you have to act in rhythm but you can't get out of the turn cycle by doing things faster. (I assume. I haven't played that either.)

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    10. My experience was that of Phaedrus, only it happened back then when the infinity engine games where the hottest stuff on the CRPG market. It took some time but the end I even loved the Icewind Dale games which feel like they only were made for the combat system.

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    11. where/were I really hate the missing change comment feature

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    12. > Torment could have been better without combat at all

      I also think it's true, despite the nice cutscenes for the highest-level spells. But it would have probably been too much of a revolutionary idea at the time. How could a RPG game without combat ever be greenlighted?

      Disco Elysium was able to pull it off, but twenty years later and only because Torment paved the way. And even today many RPG fans in a well-known forum maintain that Disco cannot be defined an RPG at all...

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    13. Some RTwP combats had me unpausing, waiting a second and repausing, to queue up new orders, because there was otherwise too many things to track (especially when you're kiting with 2 different characters at once).

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    14. @Vauban Disco Elysium is an interesting case, for me there's no doubt that it is an rpg BUT I can get it can be difficult for the kind of person that doesn't think that Quest for Glory is an rpg to see it as such.

      That said I personally think that while it doesn't have "traditional" combat it's still full of it as many dialogues, basically every time you are interrogating someone, are actually combat encounters, where almost everything has a skill check associated with its outcomes and too many fails can literally kill your character. It's really amazing how they thought about almost everything and there's something for every build.

      Looking hard it gets easy to see how its system is an heavily home-brewed variation of D&D with its four main stats being strenght, dexterity, intelligence and wisdom.

      Still a work hard to replicate but I hope it has opened the door to more similar games

      @Tristan Yeah, that describes my experiences with RTwP quite well, In the end it's basically the only way I can play them, constant stopping and restarting to micromanage everything and everybody. It can get really tiresome

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    15. Pathfinder: Kingmaker was ok for turn-based but had a lot of bugs where I'd sometimes have to go into real-time just to get my character to do something - the turn just wouldn't clear.

      I avoided PoE2 just because I loathe RTwP for many of the reasons above.
      Also... I think it encourages designers to have too many fights.
      Because they're "real-time" designers don't necessarily think of them as taking all your attention, so they put more in, but then they include elements where you basically have to pause them all the time anyway (in PoE I could try letting a random encounter just be real-time, but invariably a mind control spell would go off from an enemy and if I wasn't paused everything would go south quickly)

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    16. Probably my positive experience with P:K owns a big debt to the fact that I got to play it very late (Wrath of the righterous was about to come out) and most of the bugs already got ironed out. I've accruded more than four hundred hours with it and got an almost bugless experience (and I say almost because a few things mostly story-progression related could still need me to reload to get right)

      I still haven't played WotR but before that I want to play their Warhammer 40k game

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    17. @Roconauta: as someone who loves P:K and played through it twice, P:wotr is a frustrating unbalanced mess imo. Your fun will probably depend randomly on the class+mythic path combination you take.

      PST was indeed a nice adventure game where the RPG parts were a hindrance. From combat to the "class system" (of which there are only 3 and one is clearly better than the others iirc), it's a frustrating business

      As for Legend/WoL, the problem with the "RTWP" system is that, in fact, it's not RTWP. iirc, you cannot give orders to your characters when paused.

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  3. I've long said that many RPGs could do with way less combat, and this seems like a perfect example, especially if then you could adjust focus on more puzzle dungeons.

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    1. Yes, there are far, far too many battles in this game.

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    2. I'm assuming WoL also has random dungeon spawns like Legend did?

      Too many combats and a poor combat system are a terrible combination

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    3. Oh, my, yes. I routinely get into a cycle where I'm trying to rest and regenerate and more enemies show up.

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  4. Having experienced them for two dungeons in a row, I'm now prepared to say that either they're fairer than they were in Legend or I just didn't get them when I played Legend.
    Third option, you're just better at them now. It has been over 200 games and 5 years since you played the first one.

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    Replies
    1. True, but it's not like a lot of other games feature puzzles quite like these.

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  5. Pick nightshade in the fens at midnight ?
    That is a reference to Ultima 4-5-6. Nice !

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    1. Actually, it was mandrake root that was in the Fens of the Dead (as well as the Bloody Plains). Nightshade could be found by the player in Spiritwood.

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  6. "I don't know what "show items" does. Whatever item I "showed," the monks just said it didn't have any runes."

    Hmm, I understand they're supposed to give you information on any magic properties of items you show them. No idea why you only got that answer.

    "The monks gave me the option of paying them or fighting them."

    Besides not having to pay, you might also find useful items in their dungeon if you fight them successfully (according to the manual). Of course this assumes you are indeed able to do so instead of getting your ass kicked... .

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  7. This game is another awful example of Anglos using and abusing food names to name "ethnic" characters. "Sushiana" - so edgy! Must need an Italian named Alfredo Linguini to boot.

    If I ever get to write an RPG, should put a Midwesterner there named Turducken McRibs for greater justice.

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