Sunday, March 24, 2013

Game 94: Knights of Legend (1989)

Knights of Legend
Origin Systems (developer and publisher)
Released 1989 for DOS, Apple II, Commodore 64
Date Started: 24 March 2013
Knights of Legend has already delivered a gameplaying experience I haven't felt since I played Wizard's Crown almost three years ago: party-creation angst. Most games have a standard selection of races and classes, similar enough to each other that you don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to fill your six slots. Even though I hadn't played Might & Magic, Ultima III, The Bard's Tale in ages--or Sentinel Worlds and Star Command at all--I was still able to create parties in less than an hour.

Knights of Legend, however, left me practically paralyzed with indecision for most of the day. Unlike most games where classes are available to all or most races and sexes, in this game, race and sex determine the available classes. For your 6 party members, you choose from 12 human male classes, 4 human female classes, 6 elven classes (males and females are the same), 8 dwarven classes (only males available), and 3 Kelden classes (also only males). That's 33 choices. It takes 34 pages of the 157-page manual just to describe them all. And the descriptions aren't just straightforward run-downs of attributes, strengths, and weaknesses ("the barbarian is a strong fighter skilled in heavy armor and two-handed weapons, but not magic"); no, it's all couched in terms of some old codger's recollections in a bar.

The "Dark Guard": one of the more interesting-sounding classes in the game.

There are tables with average statistics, weapon proficiencies, and such later on, but it still took me forever to get through it and put together what seems like a decent party.

Knights of Legend takes place in Ashtalarea, a duchy of the kingdom of Sondar. Ashtalarea is a peninsula, separated from the rest of the kingdom by a mountain range. It is a relatively generic high-fantasy region of men and dwarves and elves fighting orcs and goblins and ogres, with each conforming to the standard Tolkien mold. There is one original race: the Kelders, peaceful winged humanoids who live in the mountains but have recently been moving into the cities of men.

The plot revolves around a sorcerer named Pildar who lives in a "Dark Tower" on an island in a lake. About 60 years prior to the game, he raised an army of orcs, trolls, ogres, and evil men and sent them to pillage and slay the cities and villages of men, elves, and dwarves. Eventually, the duke's forces, led by a legendary knight named Seggallion, were victorious. Pildar retreated to his tower. Years went by. As the game begins, Pildar has become active again. Duke Fuquan has left his seat of Brettle for a dukes' council and has gone missing. Seggallion is nowhere to be found.

The land of Ashtalarea. The game starts in the far center-east.
When I read "Seggallion," something clicked, and I searched through my notes of past Ultima games. Sure enough, "Lord Seggallion" was a retired pirate captain who lived on the island of Farthing, south of Jhelom. I got a spyglass from him. That doesn't seem much like this guy, but the Codex of Ultima Wisdom indicates that he shows up again in Ultima VI and is clearly the same character as in Knights of Legend, having accidentally traveled to Britannia via moongate. I almost wish I hadn't read that spoiler.

The manual, I should say, is slightly heartbreaking. It opens with a page titled "The Making of Knights of Legend," which describes how four friends spent six years developing the game and its complex combat system before they were able, through an old buddy who worked at Origin Systems, to attract the attention of Richard Garriott. The combat system is so meticulously planned, the land and its denizens so thoroughly and carefully described in the pages, you can just tell it was a labor of love for the developers. Right on the first page of the manual proper, it glows that "once you've explored Ashtalarea, separate Knights of Legend modules will take you to the nearby lands of Salynn, Barnidor, Tsadith, and Astrikan." Of course, we know now that the game flopped, none of those other modules were ever made, and Ashtalarea was never heard from again.

Creating my first character

Back to the characters. Each class has an "average" score in each of 7 attributes: strength, quickness, size, health, foresight, charisma, and intellect (all on a scale of 0 to 100). These come together in various ways to determine three other statistics: health, balance, endurance, and "body points." It became reasonably clear from reading the materials that I'd want a couple of tanks, a couple of ranged fighters, at least one scout, and at least one mage. I came up with the list below--but I've just gotten started, so I welcome comments. Everyone got a four-letter name because that's as many as you see on the game screen. [Edit: Apparently, the manual is wrong and you can have five letters.]

The designated lead character.

  • Coll, a human male "Duke's Highwayman." The class seemed like the standard "knight errant" type, good with heavy armor and weapons.
  • Hela, a human female "Ghor Tigress." One of a legendary race of female warriors from a matriarchal society. Struck me as a good balance between strength and speed.
  • Aedd, a human male "Dark Guard." The Dark Guards were servants of the evil wizard Sildar before seeing the error of their ways. Now shunned by most of the inhabitants of the land, they work towards redemption. The stats for this class seem average, but I liked the idea of this kind of character.
  • Moro, a Kelden male "Far Seeker." A winged race that lives in the mountains, the Kelden have three varieties. The "Cliff Guards" seemed like warriors; the "Rock Rangers" more like scouts; and the one I chose somewhere in between.
  • Onia, an elf female of the "Melod" clan. A wild race known for music and dancing. Decent stats put her in the ranged fighter or scout category.
  • Yder, an elf male of the "Pyar" clan. A breed of "rogue elves" known for their intermingling with humans. The best intelligence that I could find.

The proud but, for the moment, pantsless party.

If you look at the statistics tables in the book, you might think that my choices above are a bit off, but it didn't take me long to see that the book's assessment of average statistics was way off. The Pyar elf, for instance, is supposed to have an average intelligence of 66, but in my rolls, I never got anything less than an 85, and I got more than 100 twice. Similar, the Duke's Highwayman is supposed to have an average strength of 66, but I never got anything less than a 78 and ended up with an 85. The number "66" shows up so often in the manual, in fact, my hypothesis is that someone stuck it in there as placeholders and forgot to change them to the actual values.

I eschewed dwarves on Petrus's recommendation, the rationale being they cannot ride horses, apparently making wilderness travel a lot more complicated.

The game allows you to painstakingly change your icon.

I should mention that the game comes with a portrait editor, allowing you to customize each character, pixel by pixel. This seemed like a lot of work, but I might play with it later.

This is what we call a "bad sign."

With the characters created, I started to explore the city of Brettle, home of Duke Fuquan, whose butler told me that he's been off to the dukes' council for a while, and he's starting to get worried. There are two weapons shops, a bow shop, an armor shop, two inns, a temple, a stable, a tavern, a training barracks, and a wizard's tower in town, along with several houses.

Wandering the town.

I was pleased to see that the game, like 2400 A.D., adopts the traditional Ultima approach to dialogue, where you type keywords. Sometimes, those keywords will become apparent from the NPC's introductory statements; sometimes, you'll get fed those words by other NPCs. They don't respond to NAME, HEALTH, and JOB, but almost everyone has something to say about "duke," "Seggallion," or "Pildar." As in the Ultima games, four letters (SEGG, PILD) seems like enough to prompt the response. None of The Magic Candle's nonsense where asking about THE LAST UNICORN gives you a different response than LAST UNICORN.

A response to my asking about PILD. "Innocent until proven guilty" is apparently not a key concept here.

The dialogue ties neatly to itself and the lore presented in the manual. For instance, the manual describes how, during the War of Darkness, Seggallion made one blunder when he was convinced to lead his army's strength into a valley, leaving a small, elite unit called the Old Guard to hold Shellar Ridge. Once the enemy saw Seggallion leave, they swarmed the ridge, slew most of the forces, but left the members of the Old Guard alive, chopping off their hands. Exploring the town, I ran into two NPCs who referred to "Seggallion's folly" and also a man named Stephen of Craymore, clearly a member of the Old Guard, who had no hands. He was happy to talk a little about Shellar Ridge.

Asking a knight about a past battle.
The interface is a bit annoying, though. With the exception of selecting characters, which can be done with the number keys, everything is done by clicking on icons. What's more, you need two clicks to execute each command: one to select the icon, and the other to actually DO it. There are no keyboard shortcuts the way that Tangled Tales, which used a similar interface, offered. Talking involves clicking twice on the "mouth" icon, typing the keyword, hitting ENTER, reading the text, clicking on the "Continue" icon, and then, if you have more to ask, double-clicking on the mouth again.

In a weapon shop. The icons at the bottom of the screen are, in order: leave the shop, check out my character portrait, listen to what Endle has to say; ask Endle a question, look at the items he has for sale, sell items I already possess, and forge an item with an ingot (which I don't have yet).

In my "The Perfect CRPG: Difficulty" posting, I talked about how there should be some difficulty or cost associated with saving the game. I praised series like Might & Magic, in which you can only save in limited locations and wondered aloud whether there were any games that forced you to pay something--gold or experience--to save the game.

I should be careful what I wish for. Knights of Legend introduces both of these features: you can only save at inns, and each character has to fork over 50 to 100 gold pieces for the privilege. Now this would have been delightfully difficult except Origin had to go and screw it up. The particular character you want to save has to be the one with the gold in his possession, and there's no way to trade gold between characters! Isn't that the most absurd nonsense? I got myself into a situation where one of my characters bought so much armor, he didn't have enough gold to rest and save. Fortunately, new armor sells for its original purchase price, so I got around it by having one character buy some armor, give it to the broke character, and have him sell it. Even with this work-around, saving is expensive enough that I'm definitely not going to be doing it willy-nilly.

All of my characters started with weapons--some of them with both a melee weapon and a bow--but they were all naked, so my first order of business was to purchase some armor. I haven't worked it all out yet, but this isn't a game where you can just purchase the armor with the best protection as soon as you can afford it. It's much more complicated. Every suit of armor has an associated weight, and if the bearer isn't up to carrying that much weight, strength-wise, it quickly exhausts him in combat. For both that reason and for economic ones, I outfitted my fighters in medium-strength "cuirbolli" and my two elves in lightweight leather.

Purchasing armor.

You buy separate items of armor for head, body, legs, hands, and feet, and you have separate equipment slots for a necklace or pendant, ring, belt, and six pockets. Adding yet another factor, for optimum weight distribution, each piece of armor must be "fitted" to the character--a process that costs another 10-20% on top of the purchase price of the item. Lots of logistics in this game.

Reviewing my highwayman's equipment. There aren't many "paper doll" games around just yet; before this one, I can only recall Drakkhen and Galdregon's Domain.
Wandering around Brettle and talking with the various NPCs, I soon found myself the recipient of three separate quests:

1. Some bandits have stolen the Guild of Knights' standard and have taken it to their fortress north of the city.

2. Some ghouls stole a magic quill from a witch named Hegissa and fled into the forest to the south.

3. Some "ruffians" broke into the home of Stephanie, stole a gavel, and took it to the woods of Tantowyn. The gavel is an "ancient symbol of the Aldermen's Guild." Everything has a guild around here.

All seem relatively straightforward, and I've decided to tackle the bandits first, since a) from the description, they're relatively close; and b) they're not ghouls.

Pildar seems to get blamed for everything that goes wrong around here.

I don't have enough money left for horses, so we're walking right now.

Soon, my friend.

There's a lot of things I'm still confused about--I'm saving a full reading of the manual for when I'm a little more familiar with the game--but I'm looking forward to checking out the storied combat system, which has prompted various reviewers to different hyperbolic extremes. Of the two reviews on MobyGames, one contains the phrase "best role-playing game I've ever played" and the other is titled "Gaming hell." By next time, I should have a sense of how I feel.


  1. Cuirbolli is leather armor. It was popular in Runequest due to its superior protection/weight ratio and the fact that you could wear it under metal armor.

    That is one long halberd they're carrying - takes two people to hold it! I also like the Sears Craftsman hammer the fellow next to them is carrying.

  2. Very memorable game from my early teenage years. Looking forward to your adventures.

    Gobble gobble

    PS Great blog. Love the detail.

  3. I have heard of this game, but somehow, I have never played it or seen it until now. I'm looking forward to seeing your take on it.

  4. Why did Magnum PI try to sell you a horse?

  5. I'm leaning more towards "Gaming Hell". The game had so many troublesom features that it was more of a chore than a joy to play.

    Never made past my 3rd city and I didn't even miss it.

  6. Ashtalarea looks uncannily like Selentia from Warlords III, although I suppose this predates it.

  7. I'm not sure why you'd need the mage for this game - from what I remeber, magic is pretty useless and extremely complicated, which makes it even more useless.

    1. There are useful four ways for magic:

      1. specialized for certain foes (Mist Giants)
      2. damage against all humans (buyable for only money)
      3. damage against all undead (you can buy that for money)
      4. party healing

      Basically, with enough power, you can create a one-hit kill spell against any kind of enemy, apart from legendary IIRC, these did not exist on Ashstalaea.

    2. Magic is pretty useful. But indeed pretty hard to get into, it's a new spell system never done before or even after.
      It just cost one arm to get some decent spell (but you craft them yourself!). And you're always short on money in this game.

    3. Now, my opinion on this game leans strongly towards the "gaming hell" side, so maybe I just don't get it.
      Having spells limited by race and making this only aspect unchangeable is ridiculous. Limiting the effects to attribute increases/decreases and damage/healing with no AOE and such is plain dull. Add to it the limit on the number of spells and guild system - and I just can't see how it is worth the effort to have a specialized mage character.

      Oh, and a similar (but much better) system has actually been done - in Four Crystals of Trazere / Son of the Empire series.

    4. The magic system is definitely a design flaw and something of an afterthought but is still can be somewhat useful. I generally have my archers train in magic once I have their basic skills up. It lets them heal my (human) fighters during longer battles and also still contribute long range damage after their arrows run out. The custom spells too can be very useful when you start dealing with very difficult enemy types.

      Magic definitely isn't necessary though which gives the game a much different feel from a lot of the upcoming 90's games and many of the 80's ones. It was still a transitional period where playing an RPG usually just meant playing a warrior. The idea of wizards are heroic main characters (as opposed to bearded old men in robe support characters) wasn't quite the norm then and that is kind of reflected in the magic systems of a lot of old style CRPGs, with KOL being a good example of that.

    5. Four Crystals of Trazere has most likely the best magical system ever seen in a CRPG :)

    6. Well, I'm not sure about the best - I wouldn't mind a bit more effects variety - but somewhere in the top-5 anyway ;)

    7. I can't possibly play an RPG that has a magic system and not explore it at least. Based on my first combat alone, the ability to heal sure would have been helpful.

  8. The game may have been a labour of love, but there are so many instances in the game where I felt that the designers went out of their way to annoy the players, that I'm not really sad that no sequels materialized.

    In my first attempt I went with this party:
    Dwarf Tunneler
    Kelden Cliff Guard
    Male Pyar Elf
    Female Usip Elf

    First three are melee fighters, Plainswoman is scout/archer, elves are archers/mages.

    Spent a long time rerolling to get near max stats, something I very rarely do in a CRPG.

    The Dwarf was the only one who could actually move and fight in plate armour without collapsing, and he was often last man standing in pitched battles. But since Dwarves can't use horses, party movement was too slow and they couldn't escape most random encounters.
    KoL is the only game in which I made it a rule to run from all random encounters, since they take so long time to play, the encounter design is so boring and it just isn't worth it in terms of loot and XP.

    For my second party I think I replaced the Dwarf with a second Kelden and the Highwayman with a Barbarian.

    I'm looking forward to reading about your first fight.

    1. My almost winning-party consists of six Kelder, two Cliff Guards, two Far Seekers and two of the third kind.
      All wear Chainmail with Greatswords in the beginning and the only weapon trainable to 99 after that.
      This makes the missions pretty easy, as the enemies in the quests do not scale, but the monsters in the random encounters do scale and unfairly so after the first few levels.

      I still have not beaten this game, because I miss a person to talk to somewhere.

  9. You can use arrow key and Enter to navigate the menu. It's useful cause the UI is so cumbersome.

    6 characters may hinder you, cause it seems the number of foes in random battle scale to your party. And after a few 1hour long fight you probably want to fight a bit less (Despite combat being the highlight of the game)
    Worst, the moves, one pace at the time in dungeon, will drive you crazy when you have 6 characters to move (and you probably end up letting half of them in their starting spot)

    You can try a Dwarf to see how it affect gameplay. The save system is made so, that you can trade character in and out your party.

    I wish your cover of the game will incite someone somewhere to create a proper remake. This game worth a kickstarter much more than Torment, or Ultima.
    Not because it's a great game, but because it could be an awesome game with minor tweak, and because it never was properly finished!

    1. Yes, arrow key navigation is much faster and preferable.

    2. The arrow keys only seem to help when it comes to specifying a target. They don't switch among menu options, which is what I'd really like them to do. Thus, ENTER is only useful if the default option happens to be the one that you want.

      Nathan, I agree with you that a remake, with some easier combat options, would be a good idea. See my next posting for thoughts on that.

  10. Combat is *S*L*O*W*. And you spend a lot of time chasing or finding the last enemy. Some enemies are virtually unbeatable (anything with * Troll and * Giant). Magic was too expensive and you couldn't really use it. etc..etc... Abusing the save-load was as I recall the only option not to run out of money.

    I loved it back when I bought it, even though I never could finish it (I was stuck somewhere near the end).

    Must be the fact you could go on a quest to a hideout.

    The fact you had to type dialog options was great. I still also like the magic formula composition although I haven't seen a single other game use a similar system (e.g. with a power suffix).

    I remember one guy in my party had a huge club he could swing only twice before he collapsed from fatigue. So when the first swing missed, he could either rest or sacrifice himself. :-)

    Someone should start an open version of it and fix all the issues it has, would still be great today.

  11. Anyone know if these folks wandered over to Microprose after this game? I've never played KoL, but damn if this doesn't sound like a less fun version of Darklands.

    1. The only stuff in common with Darkland is the paperdoll inventory screen. Combat, magic, world navigation, quests, setting, character creation, etc are all very different in those two game.

      But, now that you said it, yes the inventory screen with those old timber-framing house from Germany remind a lot the one in Darklands. I liked both those game, but they really have nothing in common.

    2. Darklands has real time combat, though :)

    3. The length of combat seems to be one of the main complaints about KoL. If I were the designer, RT combat would seem to be an obvious solution to maintain the scale of combat while increasing the pace.

      Also, Darklands isn't technically real time, it just looks like it ;) I believe it is considered "Continuous Turn-based".

    4. Oh man KoL could never work in real time or faux real time. This is the sort of game where you give highly specialized instructions to each party member every round. The solution to keeping the combats shorter would have to be to up the lethality of strikes, really (and many, many GUI changes). It'd make for a harder game but that's better than a boring game.

  12. KoL is a could-have-been-great game that was never finished :( Was supposed to be an opus... ohwell. I think the further you get in this game the more unfinished it becomes...

  13. I tried so hard to love this game. Some of the best EGA art ever, I think. Origin at the tme had a specific individual whose style I can spot and he's getting better with each game he works on. He'll flourish even more with in VGA, Wing Commander era.

    The combat system of this game is complex and would appeal to certain types of numbercrunching rpg enthusiasts. I grew bored of the random battles here, never got to any quest location.

    Chet, if you do play this extensively, if you want the sprites of your characters altered (perhaps give a pair of pants to Hela, or whatever else) do tell.

    1. The same artist is probably why I got some Ultima VI flashbacks when looking at the screenshots. That and the Segallion hilarity, I remember him from U6 but did not remember the moongate stuff.

    2. What I'd like to be able to alter is the in-combat icons, which don't have enough contrast for me to tell them from the background. The character portraits don't really interest me much. But thanks for the offer!

  14. As others have mentioned KOL was released pretty much in an unfinished state and never got any of the promised add-ons. It was much loved by pen&paper/tabletop wargame players (my friends and I finished it multiple times) but the sheer amount of design flaws make it a love it or hate it deal. The tactical combat offered so much that had never been seen before (and even since) but it was also the reason many people hate the game.

    Speaking from experience the game does require a ton of trial, error and restarts. There is a lot of dead end development you never know about until you are half-way through the game which can be very frustrating. I'd like to give some tips based on stuff that new players should know to avoid some of these frustrations. Of course I will try to avoid any spoilers.

    First of all most weapons are not useful long term. There are only a few upgrades/magic items and many weapons lack high level skill trainers (they were supposed to be added later). In general only a few of the low damage weapons are worth investing in, and that's only because there are some potentially decent upgrades or high level trainers available. In no particular order the weapons I would recommend are (in no particular order) maces, greatswords, clubs, halberds, elf bows, scimitars, and war mauls. Against higher level creatures the other weapons are of limited value.

    All regular weapons though have their own specific skill which is capped depending on the trainers available. Although they are limited in type, there are some special/upgraded weapons in the game. In general if a special weapon uses the same equipment graphics then it also shares the same skill.

    All characters need to be capable of winning a one on one fight in order to level up/keep increasing their weapon skills. Keep this in mind if you are trying to develop archers/mages.

    Mages can be useful but are not really necessary. If you want to develop one then avoid joining an order at first. Orders allow you to customize and build your own spells but joining one will lock you out from buying spells at other orders. Before joining an order making sure you have already visited all the other ones and have all the shop spells you want.

    Balancing encumbrance and fatigue is very important. Heavier armour, weapons and characters do and resist more damage, and can throw their weight around more but this weight also dramatically affects fatigue. Mages and scouts especially need to keep their weight low but even melee fighters need to find a good balance in order to prevent passing out in the middle of a big fight.

    Although 6 characters can be a pain on long indoor quests, it is always better to develop a full party. 6 characters make bug hunts quicker and there are plenty of legendary creatures who can one shot you with a lucky hit so you always want to make sure you have enough backup.

    Having a small quick scout character who can sprint around the battlefield without gaining any fatigue can really help save a lot of time when it comes to hunting down off-screen enemies.

    1. Thanks for all the tips, Benjo. I don't fully understand the weapon issue, though, but I'll return to your comment when I get into training more.

  15. I have read so much that is diametrically opposed I need to actually read what you, the great Addict, thinks of it. Is it actually in the middle, averaged, or is it, at the same time, the greatest game ever AND the worst game ever made?

    Gadflies need to know.

  16. Never heard about the game. I read an old review of it, but it says the battles are too slow and never ever play the C64 version.

    Do exist some internet pages like kultpower, only with english magazines ?

    1. There is for Amiga magazines and for Computer Gaming World.
      I'm sure there are others as well.

  17. Great blog (as always)

    Lord Hienmitey

  18. Ah, I remember this game well, by which I mean remember spending many an hour creating and outfitting characters, but I don't remember ever actually winning a combat.

    1. Hah, that matches my recollection.

  19. I wonder if Chet's first random encounter will be like one of my first ones:
    "This game gives a whole new meaning to tedious. I just spent two hours battling 8 Goblins. I don't know what Goblins are made of in this game, but they can move around in some of the heaviest armour without getting tired, they can hit my scout with 90 Quickness before she runs away from melee, and they are difficult to hit.
    With only my Dwarf left standing, thanks to his plate mail, the other two fighters down (one to exhaustion) and all three archers out of arrows, I had to use hit and run tactics while my dwarf got some rest. When there was finally one goblin left, I couldn't find the bugger and he couldn't find me. So an hour was spent walking across a big featureless battleground with no visible borders looking for a bloody goblin to kill, before I gave up."

    It was about this time I decided to create a new party, ditch the dwarf, get horses ASAP, run from any random encounter and use a DosBox version with save states function.

    1. If memory serves me, you told this story on another blog. And I will reply the same thing I said a few years back:

      Only in this game can you tell about your fight and it just sound real and awesome: The last standing plate dwarf; Kelder striking from the sky before falling down by exhaustion; Elves killing opponent with every arrow before lacking any ammunition and having to resort to punching and head-butting skeletons, etc...

      Part of this, is due to the simple fact that you cannot die in KoL. It's simple, but it give an incentive to continue a fight no matter what, as long you have one guy standing (even if he has no arm left!). And it make for pretty awesome stories (the dwarf head butting is way to victory against Giant).
      While, in any other crpg, once you loose a dude you pretty much just reload (resurrection isnt cheap)

      But the battle system (exhaustion, balance, damage location, ..) also participate to give this epic feel and gruesome stories. Your archer and wizard wont stand a single strike, while your fighters will endure the worst punishment for hours. Glass canon, and Rock tank, not stupidly by design but by the laws of the gameplay : You can build a tank with spell, or a wizard with ton of armor, they will probably perform poorly.

      That being said, once you went through two or three hours-long epic fight, you dont want any other.

    2. yep that is something that has always stayed with me about KOL since I originally played it in the early 90's; I can still remember so many of the epic battles. There is something about fighting your way through a tough gruelling battle and having 1 or 2 characters finally pull out the win for you that makes them so satisfying and memorable. As a kid we would all be swapping battle stories when we met up as school and the thing is that they would actually be interesting to listen to.

      As much as I love the gold box and black isle AD&D games, the individual battles often blend together and are not amazingly memorable. They are still very fun but the difference is with KOL it just feels there is more going on in individual turns and you really feel involved at times. It is a feeling I've only felt in a few other games, all of them being turn based tactical games (namely jagged alliance, x-com, TOEE and so on).

    3. Heh, Nathan Pym is reading the infamous RPG Codex? That's where I posted my story originally.

      I agree on the epicness of the combat in KoL. I think it's the only game I played where it actually felt natural for my fighters to not nec'ly wear the heavist armour, and for my scouts/archers/mages to wear little or no armour, without using some artificial class system.
      To bad the magic system is so boring (no buffing or area effect spells for example) and the encounter design so ultra boring.
      I'd like to see more games use the armour and encumbrance/stamina systems, and the ability to predict enemy moves, though.

    4. But there is buffing?
      Enhance Endurance of Humans!

      Increase Quickness of Kelder!

  20. Battles actually don't take too long once you understand how everything works. The last time I had played the game was during a retro-phase I went through about 6-7 years ago. However once I saw it was the next CRPG addict game I decided to give it another run through. I played it for about 8 hours over the weekend and I've managed to get through the first four quests and more than a dozen random encounters in that time. A random encounter typically only takes me 5-10 minutes to get through. Quests take around an hour or less.

    Goblins are actually pretty lightly armored and equipped, and can be taken down quickly once you get familiar with their basic tactics. Their main annoyance in their tendency to run and use missile weapons, which exploits the fact that the "PC" basically cheats at times. What I mean is that NPCs don't follow the same rules as the PCs in terms of equipment and can get away with constantly switching between melee and ranged combat turn-in turn-out.

    Making sure your characters are not over-equipped and are using good weapons with appropriate skills goes a long way in making the battles a lot more fun. Dwarves actually have a fairly strong advantage in that they have high strength/endurance combined with a low size, meaning their armour weighs less and they can actually handle heavy armour. That makes them (and other classes like Brettle Regulars) good as front line tanks/damage soakers while your archers and big barbarian types deal out the quick deaths. The AI loves a soft target and a scout with high quickness running in and out of combat can be a good distraction too. If a scout is getting caught doing this then it may be that their encumbrance is slowing them down and their armour is too heavy. As a rule if any character is fatiguing doing the basic actions for their role (except mages) then likely their armor/weapons are too heavy for them. As real medieval soldiers had to do sometimes it is better to go light on less commonly struck areas of the body in order to save weight overall.

    It's also worth-noting that you can always sheath your weapons and flee the battle if you want to end a long quest early. This can be useful on quests where you have found the item but don't want to waste time hunting down the final enemies. You won't gain the xp/gold but you can easily make that up via some random encounter farming.

    However I fear I am I already talking way too much about tactics here. As much as I want to blurt things out I should probably refrain as to avoid spoilers.

  21. I actually have a pretty clear memory of this game, though I haven't played it.

    Back in the 90s, the local pirates distributed compilations of older games on CDs labeled Games###. This one was either on Games004 or Games006, since I only ever had those two.

    I remember liking the name of the game (I discovered my love for RPGs and Fantasy around that time), but not being able to start it up, mostly due to not knowing my way around a computer yet. I remember having to do something with autoexec.bat, but not knowing what exactly, or not being able to figure out the right combination of values.

    I'm especially looking forward to future postings about this one.

  22. When I played this game, I'm sure I could fit five letters in there.

    1. Here's a screencap for evidence.

    2. Yes, the manual is wrong.

    3. Thanks for the correction. Not enough for me to go back to the beginning, but I'll edit the posting.

  23. I remember Seagallion from Ultima VI. He was missing his own world.

  24. 4.5 years ago, a guy called Pix was also blogging about his playthrough on this game and included screenshots of the game's documentations as well.

  25. Dwarves CAN ride horses - they just can't buy them at the stable in the starting town due to the prejudice system. They can buy them in other town's stables, and they can definitely ride them.

    Dwarves have a pretty serious advantage in being able to wear the heaviest armor in the game and so being able to resist massive amounts of damage without getting fatigued. However, without a particular unique item equipped they can't sprint at all, so that also might make a difference.

    All in all I would recommend swapping someone out for a heavily armored dwarf - it makes a big difference in staying power because they are so hardy - but not if you are too far into the game at this point.

    1. Damned, I wish I had known that.
      Sorry if I have passed along wrong info, but it sounded logical that dwarves, being so short, could not ride warhorses.

    2. Yeah it's pretty ambiguous. When you try to buy a horse for a dwarf in the first town, the stable master actually says something to the effect that dwarves are too short to ride, so it looks like a global game rule, especially since the prejudice thing is so unique. I actually thought dwarves couldn't ride either until I found the stable in Shellernoon.

    3. That's a bit of a revelation. I'll have to look more closely at the dwarf classes now.

  26. I was reading keyboard reviews (I can't afford a gaming PC, but that doesn't stop me window shopping!) and it came to mind when I read your post. $130 is probably way out of your price range, but the macro system of this keyboard would be ideal for you, since you could program in each game when you play it, and add your own keyboard shortcuts: (See the screenshot halfway down)

    DOSBOX would work fine, as you can have it click the mouse on a certain spot on screen, so just always put your dosbox window in the same place and bam, every game has keyboard shortcuts.

  27. I think the fun of having a weird character creation system like this with so many vague classes is just to make a party that sounds like it will work and then if it sucks just start over and make a new one. That's more of a fun way than to worry for hours about OCD min/maxing.

  28. This is one of my favorite CRPGs from my youth, behind PoR and Darklands only, probably. I played it at age 16 or 17 on a C-64 and devoted many, many hours to it. I think I restarted probably more than 10 times though, as others have mentioned you learn things many hours in that you didn't know when you created your party. Definitely one of my favorite CRPG combat systems, loved the depth. I was so let down when I got as far as I could go and realized the rest of the story was intended to be continued in the next release/expansion, and that it would not be forthcoming. Loved the party screen and the ability to alter your icon, and was so heartbroken that the Design Your Own Coat of Arms also would never be usable without an expansion. I loved this game.

  29. Darklands is going to blow your mind with character creation! :) Do you age your character further to gain a specialty, or suffer the ill effects of aging? What profession do you choose? Which stats do you now raise, based on that chosen profession's opportunities? What new professions are opened up by that chosen profession?

    I'm telling you, if you love character creation as much as you claim here, you are in for a real treat once you get to Darklands!

    1. I'm not sure I ever claimed to "love character creation." I just talked about it a lot because it was all I did for an entire day and I would have had nothing to blog about otherwise.

      There are aspects of it that I LIKE, of course, and Darklands sounds like it offers some tough choices.

  30. Fair enough; I guess I should at least say this with respect to Darklands -- I think you will have a lot to blog about with the character creation process. It won't stop there, either....particularly since you are playing the RPGs roughly in order of release. Even now, I don't know of a game that is similar in character creation or gameplay (although I've heard Elder Scrolls got some of its inspiration from Darklands, and in a very loose sense I can see some commonality in some areas).

    1. The MegaTraveller games have a similar character generation. The first of the two games were released in 1990, so it's not that far off.

    2. Very interesting; thank you PetrusOctavianus! I haven't played those games, will have to check them out.

      If you have played Darklands, how does the rest compare?

  31. "As in the Ultima games, four letters (SEGG, PILD) seems like enough to prompt the response."

    This made me chuckle a bit, since the word "segg" means "ass" in Hungarian.


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