Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Knights of Legend: Questing by Numbers

The party prepares to fight a group of extras from the "Thriller" video.

After the last posting, which left me in the city of Olanthen, I decided to circle the map in a counter-clockwise direction and see what I encountered. I soon found myself in a depressed city called Poitle's Lock, where I completed two quests: the recovery of a wand needed to defeat a sea serpent from some skeletons, and the recovery of an heirloom that was stolen by some thugs in a heist.

The wand/skeleton quest was ridiculous. I found myself in a series of caves in which I had to travel single file. This would have made combat difficult, but it turned out combat wasn't necessary; the skeletons started falling down dead on their own, and they kept at it--most of them on parts of the map nowhere near me--until they were all gone. I never had to strike a blow. I have no idea what was causing that; my best guess is that the game loaded them up with so much equipment, they got exhausted trying to move and just collapsed.

Always nice when they kill themselves!

So that was a freebie. The second quest was a little harder. I had to travel a long way from Poitle's Lock to the center of a forest, where it took a while to find the thugs' fortress. The fortress was huge, and the battle took three hours as I explored every corner of the map trying to find and kill all eight of them. Once I found them, though, they were easy to kill. I've only had a couple authentically difficult combats in the game. They're just really long.

The quest system in Knights of Legend is extremely repetitive. Since I don't have a lot else to tell you tonight, I thought I'd walk you through a little pictorial montage of the process used by essentially every quest in the game.

Step 1: Get a hint from one NPC that another has a quest.

In this case, I needed to complete the serpent wand quest first.

Step 2: Ask the quest NPC about the relevant keyword and accept the quest when he asks "will you do this?" No matter what the quest, it will involve the retrieval of some item.

I was going to make a Ghosbusters joke about his profession before I looked it up and found that a "lockkeeper" is an authentic profession, referring to someone in charge of a lock on a waterway.

Step 3: Ask around town until someone tells you where the enemies are located.

Step 4: Head out into the wilderness and consult the game map to help narrow down where to search for the enemy base.

The outdoor areas are pretty. I wish there was more to do in them.
That's where I need to go.

Step 5: Probably fight a random battle or two on the way.

Damn it.

Step 6: Reach the general area of the enemy base, and wander around until you happen to step on the right pixel. Probably fight another random combat or two in the meantime.

This is an annoyingly large forest.

Step 7: When you finally find the enemy base, choose to "partake" of the combat.

Step 8: Count the number of enemies on the initial encounter screen. You want to know how many you have left to track down at any given point during the combat.

I've yet to fight a combat in which there was more than one type of enemy. Perhaps they don't exist.

Step 9: When combat begins, try to figure out where you are vis-a-vis the enemies. This might involve a little scouting.

My party fans out.

Step 10: Find a good ambush point and lead all the convenient enemies to it. (By the way, the icon used for the enemies is the same no matter what type of enemy you're facing.)

That's more step.

Step 11: When the enemies get so far away from the ambush point that it becomes annoying to track them down and lead them back, send your party out into the field to hunt them down instead.

Step 12: Optional. You might find the quest item in a building while you're exploring the combat map. You could take it and flee, but you'd lose out on the experience and gold from the battle.

All quest items are represented as swords.

Step 13: Enjoy the victory screen when you finally track down and defeat everyone.

Step 14: Distribute the spoils of war--including the quest item--to your party. You need to try to be equitable with this: because there's no way to trade gold from one character to another, ensuring that everyone has something to sell is really the only way to ensure everyone gets paid.

Step 15: Head back to the city where you got the quest, but don't forget to hit a few random combats along the way!!

Step 16: Heave a sigh of relief when the city gates are finally in view.

This is a nice shot. You can definitely see the locks of Poitle Lock.

Step 17: Turn in your item and collect your reward, if any.

He gave me a "Coat of Courage." I thought I was pretty brave already.

Step 18: Sell all the excess junk you picked up.

Step 19: Go to an abbey and heal any wounds that you received during the combat. If you're lucky, it won't eat up too much of the gold you made.

Step 20: Enjoy the new icon on your awards screen.

Nine down, something like 15 to go.

Step 21: For god's sake, save your party, whatever it costs.

Only in a CRPG is a hotel bill bigger than a hospital bill.

This limited process unfortunately means that there's really nothing to "discover" as you explore both the world map and the combat map. There are no special encounters, no opportunities to truly role-play, no chests to open, no puzzles to solve, no lore to find outside the NPCs in towns, no combat "bosses." There are no quests that require you to do anything truly different; the game mechanics wouldn't have allowed me to actually slay the sea serpent, for instance. The quests end up being extremely repetitive, as if you were playing Skyrim but only doing Urag gro-Shub's book-fetching quests.

I've been recording all of my battles, hoping to find a real nail-biter that I can use to illustrate the details of the tactical combat--really the only good part of the game--but nothing so far has struck me as a particularly good exemplar. Perhaps next time.

On to the next one...


  1. Hi Chet. Your comment about the "lockkeeper" clearly shows nobody has gotten you hooked on Stan Rogers songs... although the Ghostbusters reference works too - great film! Anyway, check this out:

    Then try a few of the side links, such as Stan's "The Mary Ellen Carter" and see if it takes you down the rabbit hole of following Web links. :-)

    Stan was a great songwriter and performer, taken from us much too young. The flight on which he went down was one I took regularly when I was consulting in Chicago; it could have been me.

    1. Well, Corey, you somehow just got me to listen to 5+ minutes of Canadian folk music, and added a bit of knowledge to my repertoire, so thanks! I'm afraid it didn't get me hooked; folk music of any nationality has never really connected with me.

    2. I know so little Jazz, which I've been meaning to correct for the past decade or so. Who is good to start with?

    3. The Ken Burns series on Netflix. Even if you only watch the first couple of episodes, you'll get a good overview of the history and the early years, which in my opinion are the best.

      For recordings, some seminal ones include Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues"; "Singin' the Blues" by Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke; "Potato Head Blues" and "West End Blues" by Louis Armstrong. Actually, really anything by Louis Armstrong.

    4. Thanks mate, I'll get learnin'.

  2. I can see by the last image that Kal-El felt that "Julian Strongoak" was a better fit for this universe than "Clark Kent". Clearly he's keeping a low profile in Ashtalarea, otherwise he'd have retrieved it himself.

    1. Sterner Branderman also looks like someone, but I can't quite place it.

    2. I think he looks like fellow Action Comics star Slam Bradley.

    3. Henry Rollins?

  3. PetrusOctavianusMay 9, 2013 at 1:45 AM

    Heh, I remember those skeletons. Obviously none of the playtesters had the stamina, tenacity and willpower to reach that part of the game.

    The quests and encounters are truly formulaic, but surely you'll encounter something more interesting in your final quest?

    I disagree about the need to do the random encounters. I ran away from every random encounter I could and did fine.

    The Cloak of Courage is a very valuable item. I thought it would be useful in the Arena, but once again I noticed that the designers really went out of their way to annoy their players. When I didn't equip the Cloak my guy would face something that would paralyze him in fear, but once he equipped it he faced something not scary like a Hobgoblin instead. It was easy to test by using the save states version of DosBox.
    It was only one of a long series of annoyances that made me rather gloat over the fact that the game was a commercial failure.

    1. I still haven't had enough money to buy the best horses for everyone. I get caught in about 30% of random encounters.

      Until you posted this, I didn't realize what the Cloak of Courage was for. I haven't faced any enemies that cause fear yet.

    2. Cliff Trolls, Mist Giants ... one or two more.

    3. Hah! That was my first thought, too! Looks like a bug got those skeletons: I'm pretty sure they weren't supposed to get exhausted by equipment, but whatever was supposed to prevent them breaking down didn't work or wasn't even implemented.

  4. Sounds pretty dull. Move on to RoTK! I want to see you do some strategic army combat. I'd love to play the game myself but there is just too much micromanagement required, moving rice around provinces.

    1. I have a feeling he won't stick with RoTK for long. It really isn't an RPG, especially the first few in the series. The RPG elements kick in after Wall of Fire, but that is years down the road.

  5. I find the Knights of Legends posts comforting. As a kid playing Ultima VI, I ran into the books in Britania that referenced Knights of Legends and always felt like I had missed out somehow. The visuals of the game are really attractive, but I know 10-year-old me would have hated the quest repetition.

  6. I always felt like this game would have found a better home over at SSI. Maybe gotten some more attention to combat and battles if that was the core of the game.

    1. It does seem to be attempting to apply an SSI-style tactical combat dynamic on top of an Origin-style world. It's too bad it didn't work out better.


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