Thursday, August 11, 2011

Times of Lore: A Chore

I've been seeing this screen a lot.

Times of Lore's CRPG credentials are a bit questionable. Back when I was playing (or, more accurately, trying to get out of playing) War in Middle Earth, I outlined three core characteristics that a game must have for me to consider it a CRPG.

  1. Non-puzzle-based inventories. This means that you have to be able to find and carry things that aren't necessary to solve a puzzle, like swords and potions and such. Adventure games have inventories, but the items are meant to solve puzzles, so they don't count.
  2. Character leveling and development. This refers to the accumulation of experience points, the ability to increase attributes, or other types of character improvement other than better inventories.
  3. Combat based at least partly on attribute-derived statistics. Whether you connect with your opponent, how much damage you do, whether you avoid your opponent's attack, and how much damage you take should be based on numbers attached to your attributes, not simply on your chosen weapon and on how fast you click the mouse.

There is no character leveling in Times of Lore, which is one of the things that annoys me most about it. I don't know if there are level-ups that accompany quests later on, but you get no experience rewards for destroying hordes of enemies. Much like Legacy of the Ancients and Questron II, I find myself running past them unless they're literally standing in my way.

Combat is based only on how fast you mash the ENTER key and whether you're facing the right direction when you do. I understand there are weapons improvements later, but those wouldn't be based on attribute-derived statistics. There are no attributes. You don't even get to name your character in this game.

That leaves inventories, and in this, the game barely sneaks by. As I mentioned in my first posting, you can find two scrolls and two potions that you can use when you need them, but you're limited to one of each. Not quite the robust inventory system you would hope for.

I missed the lake on my original pass, which was south of the road.

The game isn't completely irredeemable. There are a few decent elements. One is the inability to save anywhere except when you rest in an inn. I realize that to many of you, this isn't a "good" point, but I like games that force a certain level of difficulty and that really make you sweat when your hit points start to decrease. Boy, did I sweat today. Thanks to the map that TheAlmightyGuru linked me to on Tuesday, I was able to find the landmark that I needed to find the orc camp. I made six raids on the orc camp before I successfully obtained the urn containing the Foretelling Stones and lived to tell about it. Three times I died before I reached the urn; two more times, I got it but died before I got back to town. There was a lot of screaming, but screaming isn't necessarily bad--it makes the victory all the more sweet.

This felt really good for about 10 seconds.

The other aspect of the game I can tolerate is the NPC dialogue system, which feeds you new keywords with each conversation and then lets you use them in dialogue with others. The only problem is, hardly anyone ever has anything to say. As you'll see if you watch the video below, I got somewhat annoyed with a peasant who knew nothing about anything.

He's talking about the high king.

Returning to Eralan with the urn, I was rewarded with gold from the robed figure who gave me the quest. So far, I haven't found any place (other than the inn) to spend the 371 gold pieces I've amassed, but I hope that changes soon. My benefactor has directed me to the regent's palace for the next quest.

Unfortunately, six essays before victory means that I wasn't able to amass enough material for much of a posting. I did make a video of about 4 minutes of gameplay.

You see me head out of the inn, leave town, and accost a serf on the road. I get annoyed fairly quickly with his insistence that he doesn't "know anything useful," with unfortunate consequences. Moving on, I accidentally kill another peasant after accidentally mistaking him for an orc. I spend a lot of time navigating a forest maze before finally reaching the goblin camp at 03:30. After a bit of combat, I accidentally waste a scroll and then die.

You can see in the video how difficult it is to maneuver in the game. You can't move diagonally, and there's a brief pause when you change directions, meaning that you can't move very fluidly. Monsters are a bit more agile and it makes it hard to line yourself up on their vector. Most of the time I throw my dagger, I miss.

The game is serving its purpose in providing something uncomplicated I can play while on the road. I'll stick with it until I feel I can devote enough time to getting back into Sentinel Worlds.


  1. Times of Lore sounds like a game I can safely strike from my list of games to play.

    How does it compare to Faery Tale? That one I thought was mildly fun and it had a good atmosphere, and (on the Amiga) very good music.
    ToL looks a bit like Faery Tale, only duller and with poorer graphics.

  2. What about going back to Star Command instead of Sentinel Worlds? It looked like you were having some good fun with it. I started playing it, too, based on your posts, and although it has a few annoyances, I've mostly enjoyed it so far (just finished the clearing out the space pirate station mission) and have felt that "gotta get better equipment / level up" pull.

  3. The comparison to Faery Tale Aventure is quite apt. They both have the same paucity of combat options, and the same large but largely uninhabited world. But at least FTA allowed you to collect multiple items of each type, and you did gain prowess from killing enemies.

  4. Josh, despite what perception I left you, I felt relatively equal about the two games. Sometimes games just don't click. I keep telling myself that it was my mood and schedule, not the games, that were to blame. We'll see what happens when I try them again.

  5. That small window looking onto the very large map would drive me mad.

  6. Well, at least on commodore 64 we were thankful of these games to be relase on tape and not only on disc.

  7. BTW Martin Galway was responsible for the music on the C-64 version which was quite good.
    Check this out:

  8. Enjoy the challenge while it lasts, as soon as you obtain The Axe combat becomes far too easy.

  9. I hated times of lore, it was too much an arcade game.

  10. Gawd, I hated games that restricted saves! Did game developers think we had all the time in the world to do nothing but play their games?

    When I got a new game, I liked to squeeze in a little playing time whenever I could (often before work, while eating breakfast), but that meant I had to be able to save and quit whenever I wanted. I don't care what the rationale for this might be. As a practical matter, I will not play a game like that.

    And no, I don't want to fight the same battle six times, either! How boring is that? Looks like it's a good thing I missed this game!

  11. "That small window looking onto the very large map would drive me mad."

    I couldn't play the first Ultima Underworld for that very reason.

  12. It ultimately did drive me mad. Among other things. See today's posting.

    Belated, I didn't see your comment until I threw in the towel for the game. Maybe I should have tried to find the axe. On the other hand, I didn't really like the game, so I was glad for the excuse to bail.

  13. "Non-puzzle-based inventories. This means that you have to be able to find and carry things that aren't necessary to solve a puzzle, like swords and potions and such. Adventure games have inventories, but the items are meant to solve puzzles, so they don't count.

    This criterion seems odd, almost every adventure game ever made has some items that aren't used for solving a puzzle. Red herrings with no real use, or easter eggs only used for something fun.

    It sounds like what you really mean is "an RPG must have weapons and armor and stuff like that in it". But that angle is better covered by your requirement that an RPG must have stat-based combat.

  14. I don't mean it as quite the same thing, 'Nym. There are other things you find in most CRPGs--potions, scrolls, wands, rings, etc.--that don't directly affect combat stats. I get what you mean about red herrings, but the point is, in adventure games, inventory items are meant to be used in specific places to advance the game. In CRPGs, inventory items can generally be used whenever the player feels like it to improve his odds.

  15. LTRFTP, good too see you're back. Thoroughly enjoying your playthroughs and comments on the genre that has stolen (or enhanced?) so VERY many hours of my life ever since i first touched Ultima 6.


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