Sunday, April 7, 2013

Knights of Legend: Hardly worth the BOTHR

So this didn't go very well.

Knights of Legend has prompted me to come up with an original concept that I'm calling the Bolingbroke Outcomes-to-Hours Ratio, or BOTHR. (Okay, technically, it might not be an original concept; I didn't bother to Google the synonyms.) The statistic is the number of hours you have to invest in a game before you get some kind of achievement, such as the next plot point, the end of a chapter, the completion of a quest, the attainment of some reward, or literally any shot in the arm that wants to make you keep playing the game.

I'm willing to be generous about what we call an "outcome." Gaining a level or finding a good weapon or armor upgrade qualifies, as does identifying a piece of unknown equipment or getting a scrap of intelligence. NetHack has a deceptively high BOTHR. Although you might have to invest thousands of hours to actually win the game, you can be certain that almost every level is going to give you some kind of reward.

The theoretical lower limit of the scale is 0, though you'd only actually have a 0 if there were no achievements at all. The DND series of games comes close: no way to win, and limited character development. Truly addictive games have a relatively high BOTHR of somewhere in the 2-4 range, which would represent an achievement for every 15-30 minutes of gameplay. This is why a game like Skyrim can be so addictive, because you're always on the verge of completing another quest, getting another perk, or forging a better weapon. When the BOTHR gets less than 1 (a score of 0.5 would mean some outcome every two hours), the game gets rather tedious.

Knights of Legend's BOTHR is one of the lowest I've ever seen. I've had random combats with six trolls in which it's taken me 15 or 20 minutes to kill each foe. It's taken me a week of playing at least an hour a day just to solve a quest. Everything takes forever in this game. Most of it I've covered in other postings, but just to recap:

  • When you first start the game and choose to "play," you select the lead character. Then, for every other character, you have to click the "party" icon, say yes, you want to load the character from the hard disk, scroll to the right character, and add him to the party. There's no way to save a party as a party. If you accidentally add people in the wrong order, you either have to save the character back to the disk (which costs gold) or just kill the game and restart. (There might be some way to rearrange party members that I just haven't found yet, though. Comments welcome.)
  • Moving a bit of equipment from a character's storage to his active weapon or to another character is a series of at least eight clicks with some annoying pauses in between.
  • There's no way to transfer gold from one character to another. If you want to buy equipment for one character and he doesn't have the gold, you have to have another character buy it and go through a lengthy transfer process. If the character without enough gold needs training or healing, you're screwed unless you want to have another character buy an item, give it to the character who needs gold, and have him sell it--but you lose some money during this process.
  • Conversation, otherwise a strength in the game, is rendered needlessly difficult because the game returns you to the main menu after every response. That means you have to click the "talk" icon in between every keyword.
  • Finding quest locations can be hard. In some cases, you're only given general areas, like the name of a forest, and you have to wander around--dealing with random combats on the way--to find the entrance to the quest-related battle.

The "Walbar" seems to be a cross between a walrus and an orc.
  • In combat, you have to move the party extremely slowly across the combat map. Telling a character to move one space to the north in a round involves at least six clicks to plan it, and then multiple clicks in a separate "execution" phase.
  • Finding enemies on the quest-based combat map can be extremely time-consuming. They don't come to you. They often hide in buildings and alleyways, and you've got to search them exhaustively to "clear" a map.

My party has dispersed to individually move around the map, hunting for the last enemy.

  • Even with a foe right next to you, combat can take a long time. The tactics of the game are such that you almost never want to simply repeat what you did in the last round (you want to see if you can assess the enemy's plan), so for each round, you have to set the type of attack, the area of attack, and the type of defense for every character, then confirm it, then execute it.
  • Even moving through the wilderness terrain is full of annoying pauses as the game switches images for the type of terrain, changes from day to night, and forces you to camp.

The staggering thing is that just a few obvious design changes could have made a lot of this bother go away, and the player would be left to enjoy a challenging game with unique and enjoyable combat tactics and an interesting (if repetitive) expedition-and-return quest system.

I talked before about how the limited ability to save makes it difficult to play the game in manageable chunks of time. This has happened before. I remember several nights in which I sent Irene to bed alone because I needed to play long enough to return to the inn and save in Might & Magic, but Knights of Legend beats any other game I've ever played. On Tuesday, I thought I'd get some playing done in the morning before a noon meeting. I started at around 09:00, and by 11:30, when I really needed to leave for the meeting, I was so close to the end of the combat (I thought) that I didn't want to sacrifice all that playing time by closing my computer (and thus killing DOSBox). I ended up being 40 minutes late to my meeting and I still ended up having to kill the game.

Consequently, I did what I should have done ages ago: I set up my older laptop in my office to use it for Knights of Legend exclusively. I can leave DOSBox and the game running constantly on it. That allowed me to invest more time, in smaller chunks, on Friday and Saturday. The only alternative I could see was to find a version of DOSBox that uses save states (I've heard they exist, in varying levels of stability), but I just know I'd end up abusing it, not just for this game but for many others. I am thus going to choose to remain ignorant about save-state versions of DOSBox.

The quest to retrieve the witch's magic quill from some ghouls took forever. The only clue I had as to their location was in a forest south of Brettle, which describes most of the land south of Brettle. I wandered around for a long time, despairing that I'd have to search every forested square, fighting off random combats every 10 steps. I finally got sick of all the random combats, and I started fleeing from every one, losing all my weapons, just so I could find the ghouls, reload, and journey to them for "real."

Seriously? For a random combat?

At length, I found an elf living in a tree who provided training in different bows, and somewhere west of him I found the ghouls' camp. On my first visit, I had been so weakened from random combats that I lost fairly quickly. I reloaded, revisited, and won on the second visit. It took about two hours. There were a lot of ghouls scattered about the map in inconvenient places. Finding the last one was about 30 minutes by itself.

Each map so far has provided an obvious place for my party to stage an ambush--provided I'm willing to expend the time necessary to lead each enemy back to it.

Returning triumphant to Brettle--fighting two random combats on the way--I presented the quill to the witch and got the password for her guild.

Determined to limit the random combats--or at least to only fight them when I felt like it--I had everyone buy horses at the stables. I had this idea that purchasing horses allows you to flee from every random combat. I soon found out that it only gives you the option to try to flee, but it fails about half the time--at least with the "draft horses" I purchased. I assume the chances increase with better breeds.
"Attempt" is the key word here.
At that point, I didn't think there was anything left to do in Brettle--I had solved all three of the quests--so I decided to head out to another town. First, I returned to the elf living in the tree and had him train my two archers about 10 points on their bow skills. At that point, he told me to progress any more, I'd have to go to "the arena." The manual mentions that, "to progress through the ranks, characters must periodically prove their worth by fighting in the arena." Unfortunately, neither the game nor the manual tells me where the arena is, and I don't see it on the map.
Increasing my longbow abilities.

I didn't have any strong opinion about where to go next, so I decided to head to the closest city: Shellernoon, which is notable for being just across the lake from the Dark Tower of the evil sorcerer Pildar. Shellernoon is a walled city with a couple of odd shops that sell items whose purpose is unclear to me.
What the hell am I supposed to do with any of this stuff?

The lord of Shellernoon, Norgan, is a milquetoast who spends his days hiding in his castle with fake guards on the walls.

The ruler of the largest city in the kingdom.

Neither he nor the rest of the townsfolk had anything for me in the way of quests, nor did the weapons trainer specialize in any of the weapons I was already proficient in--which was partly a good thing, because they refused to train my Dark Guard.

Aedd faced prejudice wherever he went.

Conversations referred me back to a bridge that I crossed on the way to get to Shellernoon. It turns out that each of the four corners of the bridge hold inhabited houses, and it was in one of these that I got a quest to destroy a band of ettins on Sheller Ridge.

Sheller Ridge plays an interesting role in the game's lore, as the site of a crucial battle in the first war against Pildar; a battle in which the normally-clever Seggallion was outmaneuvered by the enemy. A lot of soldiers died, and a lot of people still blame him for it, calling it "Seggallion's Folly."

I found the ettins in short order, but it was clearly too soon for me to be there. They hit hard, with most of their blows rendering my limbs useless and knocking the weapons out of my hands. Thanks to my archers, I managed to kill three of them, but I can't imagine that I have a chance in hell of winning this battle until later in the game.

This was the first blow struck in the ettin combat. It also incapacitated my left arm.

So my plan for now is to scout out the other cities in the land, see if I can find this arena and some more weapons training, and find quests that are a little easier.

A few other random notes:

  • I was worried for a while that the order of the quests might be very linear, but since I found a new quest almost immediately in the first city I visited, and since it's clearly too advanced for me, I'm now thinking you can probably do them in almost any order.
  • Selling weapons recovered after each battle continues to provide far more gold than any quest rewards. I've yet to find a post-battle weapon or piece of armor that improves upon what I already have.

  • The achievement of each quest has resulted in a little award symbol on a special screen for each character. I have three symbols now, and there appears to be space for about 24. That jives with VK's spoiler that there are "20-something" quests in the game. I wonder what they were planning to do on the expansions.

  • I bought spells for a couple of characters, but casting doesn't show up as an option in combat. Anyone know why? Do I need items from the "mage things" shop to cast the spells? The manual says nothing about this.
  • The NPCs continue to be interesting--just shy of crossing the line into the "absurd" territory of Origin's previous offering, Tangled Tales.

A crotchety old man named "Chauncy Lawnwatcher" lived here.

I'm not ready to quit on the game, but there's no way I can sustain it as my only primary game--not, at least, if I want to play anything else in the next four months. So expect to see me moving on to some other games while keeping Knights of Legend on the board as I dip into it for a quest or two a week.


  1. Definitely get better horses! That should be your number one priority in order to avoid those time consuming random encounters.
    I found the game was also quite balanced and a constant challenge when I played this way.

    Getting spells that can hurt the toughest enemies is also important.

    The Arena is located in the north-east. Just north of the starting city is a small tower where a trainer lives. If you continue on the road you should eventually see the Arena a bit to the west of the road, before the road reaches the coast and turns west.

    Personally I could never have had the patience to complete this game if I didn't use the save states version of DosBox. I've only used it for this game and Might&Magic 1.

    And IIRC there were 18 quests, not 24.

    1. Thanks for the intel on the arena. I'm not sure if that's something I missed in the documentation or if I was supposed to explore and discover that on my own.

    2. Even if you get the best horses, once in a rare while, you still can't escape the monsters. In this case, have your weapons sheathed on the first round and choose the Run option. Bows don't get dropped when escaping so don't worry about those. Or you can even keep the weapons sheathed, and only draw them when you want to fight. Works every time and saves you time and aggravation.

    3. Thanks! I didn't realize bows never get dropped. "Sheathing" them is a huge pain in the neck.

  2. When you first started playing the game, it looked rather promising; I considered having a go at it myself. After reading of your experience with it, it doesn't seem to be worth the BOTHR.

  3. I think these guys took the concept of 'levelling and progression speedbumps' and rn with it fast and far into the Land of Absurdity.

  4. Has your decision to turn this into a book changed the calculus for quitting after 6 hours? In the past, I think that you might have already quit this. Are you more likely to stick with games now so you'll be able to be more authoritative in your book?

    1. That decision pre-dated my plans for the book. It essentially goes back about a year to the reader who made me feel bad for bailing on the latter two Bard's Tale games:

      Since then, the only game I'ved ended prematurely is Bloodwych.

  5. To cast spell you must be empty handed.

    That's the real reason why everyone hate the spell system.
    It's not the high gold cost to craft a decent spell; Not the category targeting system (spells targeting higher sub-category foes, works on lower rank foes of the same category); Not the fact that spending XP on spell does NOT count toward your rank progression (rank being the only way to raise your foresight)
    .. Ok.. all that does not help the spell system.
    But being empty handed definitively killed it.

    Reaching the end game can be pretty easy once you find a certain artifact (But you might found it near the very end)
    Horses, sheathed weapon and fleeing also help speeding the game by avoiding all the unnecessary random encounter.

    May be increasing the frame rate in dosbox (F8 or F7) can help with all the small latency between click.

    In KoL just finding an enemy on the quest map should count as 1 achievement for the BOTHR scale... Apparently you can find some in less than 30 min.. Killing one is some recompense in itself.. So You're easily into the 2-4 BOTHR range :]

    1. Thanks for solving the mystery. That does seriously suck. Though I most need healing towards the end of the battle, when my archers are out of arrows anyway, so it might kind-of work out.

  6. There is one more quest in Brettle with a quite decent reward. Once you have the 3 words given as rewards from the first three quests, you need to talk to someone else in town who told you to come back when you were more worthy, and he will give a fourth quest.

    I think it was already mentioned above but spell casting requires you to drop your weapon. Pretty unfortunate since you can't just sheath your bow like you can a melee weapon.

    1. Thanks, Jason. I see that now, from the mayor. I would have missed that entirely.

  7. If you need another game, you could always play more Nethack. ;)

    Despite what people say about old games being better, UI is one of those areas they are clearly worse in. The rise of consoles has harmed things a bit, but damn if the best UIs of today aren't a thousand times better then the best UIs of the 80s.

    1. Ugh. I've been playing plenty of NetHack, trust me. I've been waiting to post again until I actually see the Wizard of Yendor. No luck yet.

    2. I've been occasionally playing the version of Nethack you're playing. In the mid-game, it is clearly harder than later versions. The main thing that makes it harder is the lack of the Gnomish Mines (which means you need to keep going downward in the main dungeon, with progressively harder monsters). Also, I think the random packs of monsters that spawn are slightly larger, especially the killer bees. The horrible bag interface makes the game harder also, by deterring you from using a bag to protect your scrolls/potions.

      I don't want to deter you from continuing to play that version, but be aware that the next major release is far better and also slightly easier.

    3. It's too bad you can't find a version of Moria 4.7 which was released 1987ish. This was the other major branch (other than Nethack) of the roguelike genre in that era.

      You should play Moria before Angband in 1992 (if you need to keep both in that year). Moria was the inspiration for Angband, and Angband adds more content. Thus, you will see the evolution of the roguelike branches more clearly by playing Moria first.

    4. I actually think he missed the window to fully appreciate the additions Moria added to the genre. I think it will always be easier to track evolution and innovations when going chronologically rather than backtracking.

      Granted Nethack is a different branch of the tree but it is 4 years newer than Moria was when it came out. Due to this I think it may impact our dear addicts view of what Moria brought to the table.

      On a related note, someone win the lottery and pay me to do a chronological walk through of roguelikes already. Or maybe I should do a kickstarter for it!

  8. Chester I noticed Romance of the Three Kingdoms as your game. It isn't RPG - its Koei turn-based historical grand strategy game. Since 1985. there are 12 games in series made for different game platforms.

    Also there were more games in past with same engine like Nobunaga's Ambition series and Genghis Khan series.

    From Mobygames:


    Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a turn-based strategy game that focuses on:

    Top-down political map strategy-type gameplay, where the player control provinces and their natural resources; managing armies and their generals; conducting plots and schemes between the player between or with rival kingdoms. The KOEI-type strategy game familiarizes generals with individual portraits as well as unique character skills and statistics. Individual biographies may also be available partially or completely in the game manual or in game documentation;

    Top-down perspective turn-based style combat, where the player position armies led by selected generals against attacking or defending opponents. Romance of the Three Kingdoms III later introduced personal combat (duels) where generals can challenge other generals in hand-to-hand combat, which results may vary from capture to death.

    Also I noticed L'Empereur game in your masterlist that made in same historical strategy style by Koei.

    Those Koei games are great but they aren't CRPGs.

    1. I'd argue that that the two Uncharted Waters games are RPGs. It does fit the Addict's requirements he outlined in "What is a CRPG?".

      Only the later RoTK games can be (possibly) defined as CRPGs, I think it was the seventh one that was very focused on character development.

    2. I haven't played Uncharted Waters but from Youtube gameplay I noticed that first two games are similar like Pirates!

      According to wikipedia:

      Uncharted Waters (大航海時代 Dai-kōkai jidai?, lit. Age of Discovery) is a popular Japanese video game series produced by Koei as part of its Rekoeition games. In East Asia, the series has a large cult following, but has not received much recognition outside the region. The series has been compared to Sid Meier's Pirates! in gameplay and theme. It is a simulation and role-playing video game series dealing with sailing and trading.
      In the games, the player takes up the role of a captain (also called commodore in some translations) and manages a seagoing fleet to participate in trades, privateering, treasure hunting, exploration, and plain piracy. Even though the series is largely open-ended, there is still a loose plot which requires the player to follow certain paths, and deviating from these paths may stall the progress of the story.

    3. The main MobyGames page for the game calls it a "strategy/RPG game." They must have at one point classified it as an RPG in the "genre" category, or it wouldn't have made my list to begin with. I feel honor-bound to at least check it out for a few minutes.

    4. I've discounted them as RPGs, but that's not to say they won't hold your interest. As Raifield said, the later titles start to offer some character progression and inventory management, although I believe it started in the sixth game.

      On the topic at hand, I'm enjoying the posts, but from what others have said, I don't see the game evolving into anything but a dreary slog.

  9. You need a certain amount of random combat, until you increase a couple of levels.

    What else you need:

    - Best horses for everyone
    - always have your weapons sheathed

    This means you can attempt to ride away and if that fails, you can always flee

    btw: the ride attempt texts never change, and there are actually two helpful ones and one neutral.

    1. Yes, the random combats are actually contributing quite well to my adventure points and gold. I just want to fight them when *I* want to fight them and not when I'm returning, battered, from the latest mission.

  10. This game sounds horribly tedious and frustrating, yet I still want to play it after reading your posts. I'm not sure what this says about me. Perhaps I really am just a sucker for punishment!

    1. I wrote what I wanted to convey, then. The game is horribly tedious and frustrating, and yet I still want to play it after writing my posts.

  11. It's odd that closing your laptop kills Dosbox, I've never seen that happen.

    I used a Dosbox front end on my Macbook (Boxer) for a while, until I got a cheap old Linux netbook solely for running old dos games on.

    On either laptop, suspending does nothing bad to dosbox, and I've kept it running for a week or more at a time. Maybe there is a configuration issue, or maybe something Windows-specific, with your laptop?

    1. I meant to ask if that happens with anyone else. Essentially, DOSBox freezes and crashes when anything happens to cause the display to "reset" (I'm not sure if that's the correct word), including opening and closing the cover, connecting or disconnecting an external monitor, or even when some other program wants to grab admin privileges in Windows 7 and the alert causes the rest of the monitor to fade out. It happens on both of my laptops. I do have the latest version.

    2. that's probably an issue with your output= setting in dosbox.conf.

      try different values (opengl, openglnb, ddraw) instead of the default (surface) and see if the issue persists.

      possible values

    3. Yep, that was it. The default actually works fine. I had changed it to "overlay" some time ago so I could scale the window. It doesn't crash if I reset it to "surface." Thanks! Big problem solved.

  12. It's not a spoiler since there's essentially no plot to spoil ;)

  13. Hello CRPGAddict!

    Long time reader / never comments here. This time i got something to say :)

    About the save problem, you could use a Virtual Machine for your Dosbox. This way you could just pause the VM and that should not affect Dosbox.

    Other than that: KEEP IT UP! Love your Blog! <3 <3 <3
    Brings back so many memories :)


  14. We had finally done it! After years of planning and effort we had finally achieved the means of our salvation! We had the Quill, the cursed quill the cruel witch used to turn us into ghouls for daring to suggest that we resist the extortions from her guild.

    Our celebrations were short lived however as we ran back to the supposed safety of our hideout to try and discover a way to reverse this curse and regain some place in society, we overheard chilling news. The witch had put out a contract with the gang of thugs, Bollinbroke's Bullies, who had been quickly making a name for themselves as sellswords to the corrupt and powerful.

    We ran as fast as we could to our base in hopes that its location would remain hidden. Splitting up to pack up our remaining valuables in preparation for the journey far away from this vile land as pitiful defeated refuges, we strayed to long. I heard the screams first and turned as if in slow motion to peer out the window of my hut. I wish I had not because I witnessed as they cut through young Bobby, a lad of only 18 before the curse.

    The world seemed frozen and tight as my fear threatened to overwhelm me. Rooted on the spot I watched as they killed my friends and only family these past long years. Mercilessly hunting each down surrounding them three sometimes four to one and beating every man woman and child to death. Finally they turned in the direction of my hiding place, and the spell of fear that had transfixed me was broken. Finding myself in command of my own legs once more I fled to this my hiding place and probably final resting place where they will leave my unburied corpse.

    Oh Gods I think I hear footsteps approaching!

    I leave you now as I prepare to vainly attempt to defend myself against this band of well trained killers. I know I have no hope of living but I refuse to lay down and wait for them to slit my throat. If you find this message abandon these lands for they are ruled by evil guilds and policed by band of bullies and murderers!

    1. You certainly have a talent.

      I was thinking along these lines while playing Skyrim the other day, creeping through some abandoned fortress, listening to some bandits talking idly to themselves. One of them was making plans to get off skooma. One was regretting never going to college. Another was lamenting a lost love. They weren't actively attacking a caravan or anything. And what did I do? I slaughtered all of them, mostly by slicing their throats from behind. What kind of hero am I?

    2. Dunno about the talent but I enjoy the praise. On the downside I cursed the no editing comments (lack of)feature immediately after I sent it and saw some things I would have liked to touch up.

      What sparked this train of thought was how you describe the combat working. You have to hunt down every enemy in order to gang up on them and kill them, often times spending considerable effort in the hunt. It brings to mind some merciless group kicking in doors and burning the village in order to kill everyone and leave no survivors. Not to mention the revelation made earlier, that when you get defeated they just take your weapons while you kill them the first time they become to wounded or exhausted to defend themselves.

    3. See, this is why I don't do the sneaky thing. I walk in the front door, and if you don't attack me, I don't attack you.

      They always shoot first. Then I light them on fire and laugh as they burn.

    4. So if some armed guy walked in your front door how would you react?

    5. "I'm sorry, but your princess is in another castle. Also, all the containers here only contain cups and spoons."

    6. UbAh: In Skyrim I wouldn't bat an eye. Everyone goes armed!

      In real life? Hide in the basement and call the cops.

      I should note: They don't wait for you to go inside their fort. I just walk past it and they rain arrows down from the battlements and come charging out the front door. If they were really innocent bystanders wouldn't they just, you know, close and lock the doors, like the ones at Helgard (Though they also attack you outside the walls, even if you don't go near the front door)

  15. I just noticed your caption about the guy who sells weird stuff. If I remember correctly, he did actually sell some useful protective equipment like capes and gauntlets. I never found any use for any of his other stuff though.

  16. Interesting that the witch says "Dum'ak" and the room goes dark. I think "dumak" is the word Raistlin Majere says in the Dragonlance novels to extinguish the light from his staff. I'm assuming that influenced the writers on this game.

  17. The game designers obviously loved playing RPGs. They must have collected tons of ideas and tried to implement them all at once. And they loved playing them so much, they believed others would enjoy playing them as well, for hours and hours and hours... Too bad, there's a gem in there... It would have been very interesting to hear from these delevopers.
    By the way, in Fallout, you can also end up being "stuck" in combat mode because you can't find that one hidden enemy. But at least it's possible to flee.


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