Monday, March 14, 2011

Demon's Winter: Won!

More than I enjoyed your font and color choices.

Well, if there were any towns that survived the breaking of the Shard of Spring, I couldn't find them. (Question: when the Shard of Spring is destroyed, why does it automatically become winter? Why not autumn?) Even Pirate's Cove, which was inside a dungeon, was destroyed. This meant no more leveling for my characters, even though they probably could have gone up another one or two. Fortunately, the dwarf dungeon survived, and I took my 40,000 gold pieces there and enchanted the hell out of my weapons and armor. Nothing else to do with money. With no towns to repair my ship, I fled from every combat and still barely made it.

My ranger is a little less useless.

Oh, and thank the Ancient One for hunting! Without that skill, my characters would have starved to death, with nowhere to buy food. In fact, all of this seems to make the game too hard. Have I just overlooked the one surviving town?

With nothing left to do, I headed for Malifon's volcanic isle. The island had a volcanic center, where Malifon lived, and three long "arms" sticking out from it.

From Andrew Schultz's map.

True to what the Ancient One had told me, walking around on the island produced a constant drain on my health. But I had to tough it out, travel to each of the three glyphs at the end of the arms, and cast the "uncurse" spell to open the bore.

Then came an annoying 20-30 minutes when I had to wait out the day/night cycle about six times so I could sleep, heal, and regain magic points for the end. I kept getting attacked during this period, which set me back a bit. Even when fleeing ship combats, enemies sometimes got a lucky shot, and I ended the game with my ship at 2 health.

Into the Dark Chapel I went and immediately encountered some wind dragons. This would be a good time to mention that late in the game I discovered a "reorder" option that allowed me to choose a better starting battle formation. It didn't fix the problem by which the characters were always facing the wrong way, but it did provide greater maneuverability at the initial stages of each combat.

It pays to read the game manual ahead of time.

I used the mirror taken from cathedral on a circle of light, and for reasons I don't fully understand, I was transported back in time 10 thousand years (before Shard of Spring, even!).

The creators got a lot of mileage out of this.

The game gave me another rune puzzle. A priest asked for a password that finished a sequence beginning "power, spirit, divinity..." Around the room were four sets of runes. I could figure out from the number of letters which runes represented which words and translating from those runes, I determined that the answer was VOID. This opened a passage to the center of the volcano.

Nothing like wandering around lava.

The volcano was a maze, but not a particularly difficult one. I just kept following a right-most path. There were random fights throughout, all producing heaps of experience and gold that I couldn't use. Finally, I came to a bridge where I took on two great dragons and a demon lord:

Attacking a great dragon with your awesome is that?

I next came to a Hall of Illusions where I traveled through pieces of previous dungeons in the game. There was one battle, possibly random, with elementals, but nothing overly difficult. Sensing the end was near, I started recording and found, to my surprise, it was very near. In fact, I went one step too far the first time and had an interesting death, then reloaded and won the game.

It turns out there are three endings:

1. You go too far in your wanderings, enter Malifon's chambers, and have your life snuffed out.

2. You cast the imprison spell before going into the chambers and choose, when the Ancient One offers, to become immortal, guiding Ymros for eternity ("until, in the distant future, the volcano begins to rumble").

3. You cast imprison but choose to remain mortal. The game then tells you a bit about what happens to your characters: Mathemas (paladin) becomes king of Ymros; Grendel (barbarian) spends the rest of his life fighting monsters and becomes a legend; Constans (monk) just wanders off into the mountains; Triamour (ranger) rebuilds the city of Woodhaven and retires; Clinschor (wizard) starts the quest to construct a new Shard of Spring.

I rather imagined that the end would reverse the damage Malifon caused, but nope, Ymros remains locked in winter with most of its towns destroyed and all its gods dead. What was the point of going back in time?

I must say, the ending feels a tad anticlimactic. I thought there would be one final, large battle before using the "imprison" spell, but I guess the demon lord and dragons were supposed to be the ultimate fight. My characters were in pretty good shape at the end, so apparently I was complaining needlessly earlier about the inability to level up before the endgame.

A GIMLET tomorrow and then on to a series of somewhat questionable CRPGs. By the way, if you were wondering what happened to The Bard's Tale III or BattleTech, I kicked them down later on the 1988 list. They'll come back.


  1. Congratulations with another game completed.
    Should be interesting to see the ratings.
    I've only skimmed through most of what you've writtem about Demon's Winter to avoid too many spoilers, as it sounds like a game that I will want to play some time.

  2. It's hard to tell from the way you're writing if you liked the game or not :)

    I wish I hadn't read all your postings on it though, because the game sounds really fascinating for its time and I've spoiled it for myself... though I guess it was already spoiled by the title!

    It's interesting to see some interesting experiments in the game, like the presence of a twist (though Starflight had this too), the prose itself being better than you'd expect from an 80's CRPG, some interesting choices like revealing information to Eregore, and of course multiple endings. But at the same time you've got the UI problems like facing at the start of combat that betray a time when the genre (well, the whole industry) hadn't matured. Then again, even today we're still surprised when we see good writing and choices and bad UI is part of the package deal... so maybe things haven't changed that much after all :)

  3. you do know about the font choice from the main menu right? choose alternate font, gives you the system font.. looks better.

    Its nice to have alternate endings, not a lot of games give you much between killing the bad guy or being killed by the bad guy.

    definitly this game was a year too late on the scene to compete with the rest of 1988 (wasteland, ultima v, pool of radiance). a year earlier and it would have kicked ass...

    and certainly not much if anything came after it making such large use of quest items and puzzles, what it lacked was ability to split the party up and travel independantly (ie: wasteland, magic candle etc).

    it was def, an out of house production which is a bit of a shame. some more inhouse talent could have made things a lot richer.

    I also missed having a lot of side quests, that would have enriched the game, using much more of the large world and towns etc.

  4. Wow, they really hid that font choice option, didn't they? I mean, right there on the main screen--who would have noticed it?

    That should be a special topics posting in the future: really obvious stuff that you overlooked until the end.

    1. No. My list of potential special topics postings is several dozen items long.

    2. I feel your pain. Over on my blog SV-POW! we have 239 draft posts waiting to be finished.

      Well, if I've learned one thing about blogging, it's that it only really works if you're writing what you want to write. So you should definitely do that! But for what it's worth, I do enjoy the Special Topics posts.

  5. I think it was cute that Grendel "walked off alone to fight the monsters...and he still lives on in legend."

    Alas, I will not see those victory screens myself, since I chose my Paladin to become "god". If only that no good, useless bastard of an Ancient One had told me that he needed Shamen [sic] skill and not Priest skill, then my game would not have been ruined. I naturally assumed The Ancient Ones were civilized, not barbarians.
    So now the only one of my characters with enough skill points to learn the Shaman skill is my Barbarian, but he doesn't have enough spell points to cast the God Rune spells.
    Petrus is not amused! :-(

  6. Are you saying you aren't able to win? I could swear I gave God Runs to my paladin, too. Huh. This is the time when you want to use a hex editor.

  7. Yes, I thought I wasn't able to complete it, but after some testing it seems that any character can cast the spell, even without converting to Ancient. Saintus' blog "Revisiting old classics" also suggests that it is possible to complete it despite apparantly screwing up.

  8. Yay! Finally completed this game myself.
    In case you are wondering what happens to a Thief character at the end of the game:

    Of all the games you've covered so far that I have played, this is the only one I can see myself replaying, trying different class/race combinations and making more out of the dwarves' workshop. And see if it is actually possible to eventually get better than a +1 item after combat...

  9. Congratulations! I'm glad you liked it a little more than I did. I couldn't see replaying just to get the different stories, but I appreciate the screenshot. Now I want to know what happens to visionaries and illusionists.

  10. Two things I get from this post, first, I find it different and a little unsatisfying that no matter what you do Malfion is going to escape in the future, its just if you're mortal you won't be around to see it. I would have liked it if after the volcano rumbling it said you went off on a wuest to reseal him again.

    Second point, something I never noticed before but you got me to think about talking about how SSI named this game. The elder scrolls games are all named after places, but the expansions are named after the plot of the expansion, except for shivering isles, not sure if it's significant but it made me stop and think.

    1. On your 2nd point, I have absolutely no comment other than to suggest not thinking about Elder Scrolls naming conventions.

      On your 1st point, yeah, that's supposedly the gist of the next sequel. I believe there should be another 2 more games based on this universe that will have the seasons "Autumn" and "Summer" in their names respectively.

      I wonder what would happen to Visionaries, Clerics & Sorcerors.

  11. This was, as you say, an "out of house" production. My basement to be exact. When playing through it I found summoning and possession to be the most fun. Great combo with a wizard because they can block out or distract monsters, keeping them grouped for your area of effect spells. Play it on an Apple ][ emulator. The IBM conversion was ugly and came out later. Apple ][ had better colors, random encounters, changable font (although I thought IBM had that too?). Sorry the gods didn't hear you - I managed to get lucky a few times - and they can do awesome things for you.

    I thought it had several unique elements for its time: control over the power that goes into spells, an enchanting system with lots of options, skill system that doesn't hardcode specific talents for each class but allows you to step out of bounds for one or two if you really want to, skills that are more binary so you really notice when you get them instead of increasing a skill from 37 to 42 or whatever, a twist where the appearance of the whole world changes, being able to take control of enemies in combat (possession and summoning), a tactical combat board (but one that doesn't feel like a wargame), and a bad guy at the end that you imprison but don't kill. Oh, and demonic poetry!

    Kenny guessed it: I planned 2 more in the series - "Summer Knights" and "Fall of Ymros". I think it tapped out what an Apple ][ could do, but sticking to IBM it could have addressed the stuff in the comments here: more interesting stuff in the world, more side quests, better graphics and music, etc.

    1. Hi, Craig. Thanks so much for commenting. I hope that it was obvious that this one entry was part of a longer series. As of a few months ago, Demon's Winter rated better than about 90% of the near-500 games I've played since starting this blog. I wish I'd covered it better, but in the early years of the blog, I wasn't as thorough as I am now. I called out a few of the unique aspects of the game but not all of them.

      I gather from your comment that you wrote it independently and then shopped it to SSI, which suprises me because the combat system of both DW and SoS fit perfectly in the evolution of SSI games from the Wizard's Crown series to the Gold Box series. Were you influenced by Wizard's Crown at all? Did SSI have any input into game development, or did you bring it to them completed?

    2. Would be great if he shows up again to reply. He also already commented on his other game, Shard of Spring, last year in September.


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