Thursday, April 11, 2013

Knights of Legend: Who's the Monster?

To this band of heroes, it's all about the money.

If you haven't been following the comments, UbAh has me obsessed with the idea that in Knights of Legend, my party is actually evil. The evidence is as follows:

1. I frequently get quests to invade the homes of people described as "bandits" and "ruffians" and such, but half the time it's to recover some object that they just possess--as in, it's theirs, not something they've stolen from anyone. Sometimes the quest is explicitly to wipe them out and bring back some cherished possession as a trophy.

2. The missions involve prowling through their fortresses, barging into buildings and rooms, and mercilessly killing every last one of them.

3. If I fail and they defeat me, they don't kill me. They just loot me for my equipment and leave me alive--a courtesy that I don't extend to them.

Note that I'm only winded, not dead.

To this, we must add a fourth exhibit. After some training, I decided it was time to visit the arena and level up. The arena consists of one-on-one combat with some hapless monster while people watch and place bets. My opponent has no chance of getting out of the arena alive, whereas if I lose--you guessed it--I only lose my equipment.

This game is taking its toll on my conscience.

After my last posting, JasonL clued me in to the existence of a fourth quest in Brettle. Apparently, I missed some obscure dialogue with the mayor when I first visited, and he never repeated it. It was to him that I needed to give an intialism of the various guild passwords to get a quest to recover the Sword of Truth (I knew Terry Goodkind didn't make that up on his own), which had been stolen by some goblins. Or, more likely, the mayor sold it to the goblins, and now he wanted me to slaughter them and get it back so he could keep the gold.

Whatever the case, I asked around and found out that the goblins were hiding out on the south coast. The terrified little creatures were cowering in caves carved into the mountainside, and the resulting mission took a long time, as I slowly lured them out to face ambushes outside.

One-by-one, they chased my scouts from their caves and ran into a phalanx of fighters.

When I was done, the mayor apparently decided he couldn't look at the blood-stained artifact I had recovered, and he let me keep it. It's better than the standard greatsword, and I gave it to Moro, who has greatsword skill.

With nothing else to do in Brettle, I headed up the north road to the arena, but I was turned away. I was puzzled for a bit, since the elf trainer had explicitly told me to visit. Then I remembered that was before the ettins defeated me, and I never re-visited the trainer after I reloaded. Thus, I moved on to the next city upon the coast, called Htron.

Encountering a city on the road.

This is the third city I've visited, and it wasn't much different from the others. Each city has a variety of shops, some semi-colorful characters, and a castle. Each city seems to have one NPC with something to offer on Pildar (the putative villain in the game, though for all I know he's trying to bring democracy to Ashtalarea). In Htron, it was a hermit named Sam, and I thought I'd transcribe my dialogue with him to give you a sense of NPC interaction in the game.

All shop owners, inkeepers, bartenders, stablers, wizards, trainers, and other characters are also NPCs with whom you can have conversations. There are some NPCs who seem to have no purpose other than to talk. They're all in buildings--no one roams around outdoors in the towns--and when you first enter, you choose the party member who's going to represent your group.

My characters all have charisma scores, but as far as I can tell, this doesn't affect NPC interaction. The only thing that does is race and class; some NPCs will simply refuse to talk to you if they don't like your occupation or creed. Sometimes, they'll have slightly different greetings for men and women or for different classes, but these don't seem to affect the overall dialogue.

He probably doesn't support the E.R.A., either.

You can begin by choosing the "listen" icon to ask them for news or comments. Between that and the greetings they give you when you enter, you can usually pick out a keyword or two to ask about with the "talk" icon. Even if you can't, almost everyone responds to PILDAR, SEGGALLION, and the name of other NPCs in their cities.

When I visited Sam, the game introduced me with a little description and opening dialogue:

You see a large, old tree on the edge of the woods. It has a wide crack near the base. Out of the crack a strange old Elf appears. He looks at you, and smiles oddly.

"Eh, do you have the patience to sit on roots and talk with me of recent events? Which one needs help?"

I selected Coll, the Duke's Highwayman.

"What a strong one! Do you know the secret of the glowing blue blade? I know it not. What can I do for you?"

When I chose to "listen" to him, I got:

"It seems a strange thing, I'm sure, to see an Elf this far north. Yes, very strange."

Finally, I chose to "talk." These keywords produced the indicated dialogue:

ELF: "Come now, you couldn't tell me by my features? Perhaps you thought I was a Dwarf, no?"
DWARF: "Yes, small guys with a most obnoxious smell, and even a more repellent demeanor."
SEGGALLION: "Yes, I knew him. I believe it was three years ago now, why?"
PILDAR: "Him I knew as well. Although I can say I regretted that meeting! What a 'Stod ah tee'!"
STOD: "That is an Elven word for scum. Anyway, I just realized you are of use to me. I've been doing some research into what makes the dead come back to life. If I could figure this out, it might help us defeat Pildar! I've read that reanimation is controlled by an elixir made of Parth oil. Find me some of this oil, and I will reward you well!"

All NPCs have a stock response if you ask about something they're not specifically programmed to answer. In the case of Sam, it was: "Ah!! My book on Cliff Trolls! I've been looking for this for years!" And if you ask about a keyword known to another NPC in the city, you'll get, "I heard [other NPC] talking about that!" It was from this that I knew to ask Yommel more about the Parth Oil and thus get the location of the brigands.

You can see the Ultima influence on this approach to NPCs and dialogue, but it's not quite the same. That NPCs are only found in buildings gives a certain artificial quality to the interactions. Since the only gameplay mechanic outside of cities is fighting combats, most of what you hear from NPCs is window dressing, not intelligence that you'll actually use in the field. Contrast this to, say, Ultima V, where NPCs gave you coordinates for key items, mantras to use at the shrines, passwords to get into dungeons, and other things that you could use while adventuring. Nonetheless, I still like the way NPCs fill you in as to aspects of the land's history, and it's too bad more games of the era didn't use a similar approach.

I used the trainer in Htron to increase my ability with the warhammer and the mace. The city also produced two quests: the recovery of a lost crown for a Kelder named Biblik, and finding some "Parth Oil" for Sam the Hermit. Further investigations about town indicates that the crown is in a keep along the Tegal River and the oil is in a fortress off Berthand's Bay on the far south coast. Note that neither of these items were stolen or anything. The crown was lost and some "brigands" just happen to possess the Parth Oil. I still apparently have to kill everyone to get the items.

I wanted to return to the elf bow trainer, so after I visited him for the second time, I hit the brigands nearby with the Parth Oil.

The "fearsome creatures of my quest" are the cast of Zorro: The Gay Blade.

It was the most difficult battle I've faced yet, aside from the first combat where I didn't know what I was doing and lost. Two of my fighters were unconscious by the time I killed the last brigand. Their AI was much more sophisticated than previous enemies. They refused to be drawn into ambushes, preferred to hang back and shoot me with arrows, and weren't too proud to flee into the corners of their fortress when the battle turned against them. It didn't help them, though.

By this time, four of my characters had been instructed to visit the arena to level up, so that was my next stop after I returned to Brettle to sell excess equipment and save. The arena is an interesting experience. Each character fights one-on-one with a suitable enemy in a completely open area where there aren't many tactics to use. It was hardest for my archers. Both of them fought long combats against walbars in which they had to lead their opponents around the yard while shooting arrows into their anticipated squares of movement.

Just the message you want to get when you only have 20 arrows per combat. Note my own party member watching the gruesome match from the stands to my north.

In both cases, I ran out of arrows before killing my foe, but fortunately I'd knocked down their health enough that I could just run around until they keeled over from blood loss.

The poor creature, unable to comprehend why he's been enslaved and thrown into this pit, finally collapses before he's even had a chance to take a swing at my swift, cowardly archer.

The interesting thing is that each character not fighting can bet on the outcome of the duel, up to 99 gold pieces. You can bet on your friend to win or lose. Theoretically, this means could make almost 500 gold pieces per duel by throwing the match, and I'm not sure what the consequences of this would be if I first stripped the fighting character of equipment.
When I returned to Htron and gave Sam his oil, he told me to ask the pirates about Nobjor's Treasure. I'm not sure what this means yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out by asking around.

I think I'd actually prefer gold or magic.

Some miscellaneous observations:

1. I've only been on a fraction of them,but all quests seem to follow a similar pattern: get the quest, ask around town for keywords to narrow down the location, wipe out the enemy, retrieve an item, return it, and get a little symbol in the "awards" screen for each participating character.

2. The ambush strategy seems the most viable way to win most battles, but it tends to make already-long combats excruciatingly long.

3. I'm beginning to wonder if there really is a "main quest" that has to do with Pildar, the missing duke Fuquan, and the missing knight Seggallion, or whether the backstory was just scenery in which to set a bunch of miscellaneous quests. Recent conversations in my comments suggest that there is an "ending" to the game, though, so perhaps the "main quest" path will become apparent soon.

4. The little screen on the left side of the wilderness map, indicating where you are and the time of day, has animated clouds. It's a cute and completely useless addition.

5. In fact, several of the screens are well composed. The game doesn't have a whit of sound, though.

A lot of work for a screen that comes up for just a second or two.

6. Standing in a doorway either makes you invincible to arrows or nearly so. My archer took out two brigands by herself without moving from this spot, as every shot fired at her went into the wall. Maybe they were just really unlucky.

Two quests in four days. I can't really say I'm flying through this game. But I am making progress, and getting a lot of TV watching done at the same time. Next time, I'll have some combat video and a full analysis of strategy and tactics for one mission.


  1. If you stand on a tree or in a doorway, each archer shooting at you will miss.

    As for the AI and the brigands - there obviously is a "meek" setting for some of the monsters which renders them to use missile weapons as much as possible, to the point of fleeing from hand to hand combat just in order to continue shooting.

    But the 20 arrows rule also applies to enemies, so with some dilligence and a quick scout, you could have lured them out as well.

    As far as the quests are concerned, there basically is a group of quests per city and they are about the same difficulty.

    1. The brigands were the first monsters that I faced in which the AI had them flee even after they had been in melee combat range. Although it was annoying, it provided a fresh tactical challenge.

      I'm not sure that what you say about trees is true. I think I have been hit with arrows while standing on them. Although it does seem to make it less likely.

    2. Actually, "flee" is not what I meant there. Plenty of enemies flee. I meant "back up and try to use their bows. "

    3. Yes, orderly retreat to switch to missile weapons is better. IIRC, orcs and goblins behave the same way.

  2. I say embrace the darkside. Don't ask questions, just blindly accept what the townsfolk say and move on. It's not like they ever display racist tendencies... oh, wait. Yeah, your guys are evil, sorry. Maybe more will be revealed in the ending, like you've been working for Pildar all along and left with a bewildering message suggesting you never questioned the townsfolk's authority. Did you even bother to parley with the 'ghouls'?

    1. oups sorry Zenic. It seems I just over-read your comment, and re-phrase it poorly thinking I was so clever.
      I'm really dumb.

    2. no worries, it's nice to know others are thinking along the same lines.

    3. Heh I was thinking about that racism and going to reply that the monsters are being wiped out for asking for equal treatment among all races, genders, and as in the case of your brigands, sexuality. Not that there is anything wrong with that (How old and tired is that meme? Forgive me.).

  3. May be your moral dilemma will drive you to the twist people hinted on the 1st of April:
    You'll meet Pildar and he'll say "I'm your father. Search your feeling, you'll know it's true".

    It never occur to me to actually bet to loose arena fight.
    I thing it's a clever way to let player not be totally blocked. You cannot die but loosing all your equipment is draining. So having a way to make some money back is nice.
    May be there is a catch, may be you cannot win more than a certain amount this way, but I doubt it.

    1. The whole betting on losing with little downside (sending in an unequipped fighter) seems like gaming the system. Strange that they'd put this in without a way to curb the behaviour.

  4. Seems like bringing democracy would be considered evil in all the fantasy milieus.

    1. Orcs have totally democratic societies! So do kobolds, werewolves, vampires, zombies, skeletons, and rats.

  5. Htron? Really? At least Werdna seemed like a plausible, pronounceable name.

    1. You know, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't even notice that until now. I was thinking that it sounded like an energy drink.

    2. You usually comment on (especially awkward) reversed names, so I figured this just slipped by.

      On a loosely related note, someone solved the problem of how to pronounce fantasy names with apostrophes:

    3. Beautiful. But following that rule would add about 30% of the length to the Wheel of Time series.

      "Egwene Al-boing-Vere! Throw me the sa-boing-angreal!"
      "I cannot! I left it with the asha-boing-men in Tel-boing-Aran-boing-Rhiod!"

    4. Just as well. I found the first few Wheel of Time books good, but then they became a tedious fantasy soap opera.

    5. Haha, that's exactly how I felt, banshee

    6. I've tried to read that series 3 times and never got past the second book. Obviously, it doesn't appeal to everyone.

      I also have read 6 of the first 7 books in Chet's favorite series, Malazan: The Book of the Fallen, only to get totally bogged down early in book 8. The early books, though, are incredible (even the first one, which no one who reads the series should skip over).

    7. For me, there were undoubtedly moments of tedium in WoT, but I stuck with it, and I thought Brandon Sanderson's first two books after taking over were a joy. Unfortunately, the final book (just published in January) left me feeling flat. The writing was great, but I felt that the plot threads of the previous 13 books were leading up to some major twists and a jaw-dropping finale, and nothing like that happened.

    8. I think I stopped reading at about the eight book. I had grown increasingly tired of the slow tempo and the (as I recally it) one or two types of female characters in the series. That said, I partially stopped because I simply didn't have the next in the series and at that point couldn't be bothered to pick up the next one.

      I don't want to be too harsh on the series though. I had a lot of fun along the way as well, and I hugely enjoyed the first one.

    9. Actually, I'm pretty sure there is a way to pronounce apostrophe. I don't know what it is, but I recall reading it.

    10. Depends on the language. Which sounds like a cop-out but its true, the ' is different in Arabic than from Khoisan than from Hawaiian than from Macedonian.

      But for fantasy languages where they just throw em in there, because it looks cool, without actually explaining the sound or even thinking about how it would sounds, then boing is a fitting response to that kind of silliness.

  6. Now I am interested in the ending of the game! Not enough to play it, I couldn't do that hat with the forever combat and all (I could never figure out Wizard's Crown, for Pildar's sake!). But certainly enough to avidly read your posts. Man, what if there IS a twist and it IS that you are evil and no one has ever known it because in all these decades no one has ever finished the game??

    1. Unfortunately, I know that's not the case, because a bunch of people already told me that the ending sucks, and that would be AWESOME.

    2. Unless they mean it sucks because they didn't see it coming and there's no way out of being the bad guy... okay, that's a stretch.

    3. I dunno, I have finished every rpg on earth, but have not this game.

      Lord Hienmitey

    4. Why do designers go for the boring ending that has been done a million times instead of one like the "evil" twist suggested here. Seems like Starflight is the rare game of this or any period with a cool Twilight Zone type twist.

    5. Because making us evil makes me want to stab you. I been trying to play a good party the whole game, making up things in my head about how evil the bandits are, etc, and then DUDE, you are EVIL! HAHAHAHA and you didn't even know it? BAWAWAWAWA makes me want to find you and kick you in the balls. Repeatedly.

    6. In that case you wouldn't necessarily be evil more than suckers who fell for the manipulations of evil people. I guess that is to close to reality as most people who do evil in the world have been convinced that they are doing good.

    7. It is still a sucker punch of an ending.

    8. This brings up something I find fascinating about human nature and the entertainment/escapes we prefer.

      All evidence suggest that no one thinks they themselves are evil, they always think they are doing the right thing in the circumstance. Yet we tend to gravitate to stories (games, books, and movies) that have clear good and evil so there is no feeling of guilt for rooting that the good guys kill the bad guys or at least not feeling all that bad when the bad guys die.

      I think this is the same thing that allows people to make divisions in their minds between "us" and "them" once someone stops being an us and starts being a them it becomes easy to stop empathizing and rationalizing actions against them that you would never do to one of us. This is the phenomena that propaganda attempts to exploit, so do hate preachers, political parties, and old school military indoctrination.

      I think this simple trick of the mind is what causes such things as mob mentality, crazed sports fans committing violence they would never otherwise contemplate, and other cases of people having lapses of character and doing acts that nothing in their history suggest they would do. Looking at peoples bad behavior on the internet is probably also due to difficulty being able to connect and making everyone online one step away from being a them.

      I also am developing a theory that it is this combined with an inability to connect with others so everyone else is identified as a "them" that explains psychopathic and sociopathic (same thing we just have two words for it depending on how we want to feel about the subject of the word) behavior.

      Now this is not me suggesting that this mental division of people always leads to negative behavior. It is this division that helps us identify with family and take necessary measures to protect them. We may indeed be wired to need these divisions to simplify things enough to be able to make choices instead of being paralyzed by the fear of hurting others.

      The important thing is to recognize when your mind is making these divisions and keep it in check. I think us wanting our stories to be simple and fill the need of this good and evil fantasy can help us process the complications of real life and make choices that are not based on us vs them thinking.

    9. TL;DR:

      Real peoples motives are scary and complicated, and scary complicated. Games help us process this.

    10. The real world sucks: Look at this week. There has been a bombing in Boston, an explosion in Texas, and then a shooting at MIT (also Boston). Sometimes you want to escape to a world where you can do something to make the world suck less, and not only that, KNOW you are making the world suck less.

      And then people are going "Wouldn't it be great if we pulled a fast one on them, and showed at the end of the game that you are the bad guy?"
      I'm sick of all these modern games going "Heroes are boring. Lets me EVERYTHING gritty and amoral"

      Fuck it, let me be a goddamn knight in shining armour.

    11. The choice typically offered in games is "angel" or "jerkface".

      Will you:

      A) Save her puppy.
      B) Eat her puppy and tell her how delicious it was while pointing and laughing.

      You chose B)

      Carth says: "You know, that wasn't a very nice thing to do."

    12. In a rather (okay, COMPLETELY) odd console RPG published in the last couple years called Nier, they do tackle this sort of issue.

      Apologies for spoilers, but as it's not on the list, nor is it going to be, I don't think it's a big deal.

      Nier is notable for several things. One is for having a protagonist that's fairly ugly. Another is the companion dressed up in lingerie who has a figure from a teenage boy's dreams, who also happens to be hermaphrodite. But the last, and most important to the discussion, is the fact that the game is intended to be finished multiple times.

      As you complete the game the first time, you get a glimpse into the world's bizarre hsitory, and your protagonist saves his daughter (and the world) from an ancient plan gone awry.

      But through the rest of your playthroughs, you actually start to see things from the side of the monsters, discovering in a Soylent Green-esque twist that they're actually people, and from their view you and your team are a bunch of genocidal maniacs.

    13. That does sound fascinating. If Irene is interested, I might check it out.

    14. It's funny, as one of the other games played later throws in a surprise "You're the creator of evil" at the end, and it wasn't particularly satisfying. Though in that case there wasn't anything at all leading up to that revelation, even less than what you guys pulled out of this one.

    15. I agree with UbAh (almost 2 years later because... just... because, I guess).

      Countless interviews with various serial killers (including mass murderers, suicide cult leaders and mentally disturbed madmen arrested on their shooting sprees) on their motives show that they all believe in their head that:
      a) they are getting rid of a certain evil/unclean demographic (it's okay, I'm killing bad people/teen bullies/ladies of the night/noisy kids & etc.)
      b) they are doing it for a higher religious purpose (i.e. God told them so, Satan told them NOT to do so, Santa Claus will give them a present next X'mas if they killed a hundred guys this year & etc.)
      c) they are sending those people to a better place than Earth.

      The real world can be pretty terrifying. Makes NetHack a lot easier in comparison. At least I will know that shopkeep will only trade with me and not cut out my kidney as I lay in a seedy motel bathtub filled with ice.

    16. I dunno. When shopping at Coles I don't get killed by a mimic.

      I think it's hard for someone to consider themselves 'evil' almost by definition. Given that it's a value judgment, and the best measure of a person's values is their behaviour, if a person does something, they almost always have a justification.

  7. Hi CRPG addict. I want to entice you to try cheating a little. Cheating is warranted here because you can't increase your weapons skills beyond a certain point, and can't be trained by the Amazon trainer and Rhunholland. This walkthru for KoL has extensive descriptions on how to hack the game data:
    It's worth experimenting for one of the weapons skills, at least, such as the Greatsword for example.

    1. I appreciate the thought, but you didn't successfully convince me. Using a hex editor is pretty much uber-cheating in my book. If the game doesn't support leveling in certain weapons, that's bad game design, but I feel like I have to just live with it.

  8. Ah well, I tried. Without being able to continuing leveling up for one weapon, you'll have trouble with later wilderness encounters, because monsters seem to increase in level as time progresses (or maybe as the player characters' level progress). That's when magic can be useful to make one-shot kills. The quest monsters, however, don't increase with time, so they don't get much harder.
    Btw, I'm sure you've encountered Binderaks. The weapons they drop may be useful...
    I'm the same person registered as "Unknown" who posted about the sheathing and bows, btw. I couldn't get the log-in right, and lost what I typed too :/

    1. I do see the point, especially now that I'm experiencing all the vagaries of the underdeveloped training system.


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