Sunday, May 5, 2013

Knights of Legen...Wait for It...d.

I'd rather just be friends, okay?

This entry--for which I'll apologize at the outset--is my awkward attempt to piece together what happened in about 8-10 hours of gameplay. It's awkward because:

1. It all took place in early April. I took screenshots and sketchy notes, intending to write it all up later. Little did I know that "later" would be nearly a month later.

2. I was watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother while I was playing. I think I got through about one season per battle. The show passed the time but didn't increase my recall of the game.

When I last blogged, I had just finished a quest in the lamely-named town of Htron. For the next quest, I headed to a fortress on the Tegal River to retrieve a lost gold crown from binderaks--some kind of, I don't know, monkey-like creature.

Try to count these bastards.

Despite that they went down in a few hits, they didn't have any missile weapons, and there was an obvious place to set an ambush, they still kicked my butt the first time through. Rather than deal with the loss of all my gold, I quit, reloaded from the last inn, and returned to the fortress.

The second battle was the stuff that legends are made of. I made extensive use of an ambush point, but the binderaks were capable of moving three times per round and unfortunately caught up to the first character I was using as a scout, knocking her out early on. In the ensuing melee combats, Aedd went unconscious and Coll lost so much blood that he couldn't move more than two or three steps at a time between rest periods, so I left him behind as I moved the remaining three characters (two melee fighters and an archer) into the keep to root out the remaining binderaks.

The ambush point worked well, but the foes were tough.

Long story short, all of them died while there were two binderaks--one wounded, one fresh--still on the field. That left Coll, who had just be chilling out and resting, to rouse himself and try to finish off the last two binderaks. As I limped towards them, I had to keep stopping to rest every few steps, but when I finally encountered the first one, I got lucky and was able to time things so that it walked right into a "berserk" attack, killing it instantly. After I rested for a few rounds, I approached the second. He and Coll traded blows, and Coll was somehow able to kill him just moments before he would have passed out from blood loss. It was exhilarating--just the sort of thing that Knights of Legend fans are always trumpeting. It's the kind of feeling that's only possible in a game where you can hardly ever save, and losing a battle means losing a couple hours' investment in time. I'm not saying that I wish every game was like this, but it sure does make for a unique experience.

Back in Htron, I returned the crown to Biblik the Sage and was rewarded with a "flying cloak." I didn't understand what it did at first, but it turns out that it allows any character wearing it to fly like a Kelder. This is a fantastic addition to a scout character.

There were hints of some other quest in Htron: I was told to ask some pirates about "Nobjor's Treasure," but I didn't know where to find any pirates, so I stuck a pin in that and moved on. I picked a random city on the map and ended up in Olanth.

Map and town exploration is, to me, one of the weakest parts of Knights of Legend. It seems like it would be fun, with all of the different shops and NPCs and such. But the towns are so interchangeable, the dialogue with the NPCs so frustrating, and the various services you need (especially training) so difficult to track down that I wish the game had just put one city in the center of the map. The expedition-and-return quest system of Knights is fairly satisfying, but it would be more satisfying if everything was out of a central hub. There are a lot of towns, keeps, and hamlets--some offering vital training--that aren't even marked on the map.

Map exploration is rendered less fun because of the frequency and length of random combats. In some ways, I value them because they're one of the few ways to collect vital gold and experience, but it's frustrating to have to stop for a half-hour combat when all you're doing is beating around some brush, trying to figure out a path from one keep to another.

An epic battle with a dozen rogues in the middle of nowhere.

I didn't take very good notes on Olanth. The best I can tell you is that the characters got a quest from a woman named Belinda Goldenhair to retrieve a necklace of spun gold--which had been stolen from an alchemist by some orcs. Every quest in the game involves the retrieval of an object, regardless of whether it really makes sense in the context of the quest.

This is an extremely polite way of asking me to slaughter a bunch of sentient creatures to retrieve an item that isn't even hers.

In this case, it was doubly weird, because when I killed the orcs and retrieved the treasure, it turned out to be a "ruby choker," not a gold necklace. But Belinda took it happily enough and gave me a magic ingot for my troubles. When I took the ingot to a smith, he turned it into a magic weapon.

Again, we see how a promising gameplay element was rendered silly by ham-handed developers. The game gave me no indication of what the final weapon would actually be before asking me to name it. I was in the midst of naming it the "Awesomeator" when the game decided that was enough letters, and I ended up with a weapon called the "Awesomea." I had to actually have someone pick it up before I could tell that it was a halberd, and even then, I lack confidence that Hela's halberd offensive and defensive skills are actually working with the new weapon.

Well into the game, my characters remain very poor. I still can't seem to get enough cash to buy everyone the best horses--not with healing, saving, and training sapping my gold after every expedition.

You've all been giving me various warnings about training in the comments, but I haven't done a good job synthesizing and understanding them. Basically, there are trainers for each type of weapon in the game, each of them capable of training both offense and defense with that weapon up to a certain maximum level. Sounds great on the surface, but:

1) Not all weapons have trainers in the game capable of training to anything more than a basic level. Apparently, such trainers were planned for expansions that never arrived.

2) Some trainers will only work with you if you already have a certain level with the weapon.

Would you two make up your minds?

3) Some trainers refuse to work with you if you're a certain race or class.

These caveats mean that some characters can never really advance anywhere with their chosen weapons. Right now, my big problem is Moro, my Kelder, whose favored weapon has been the greatsword. But I've yet to find a single greatsword trainer, meaning that he has almost 5000 adventure points waiting to spend. I could switch him to another weapon, but I'd need to find someone willing to a) train a Kelder; and b) train from 0 experience points with that weapon. I might switch him to an archer, since I can rarely engage an enemy with more than three melee fighters anyway.

Hela, too, has only found one halberd trainer, and she's not good enough for the trainer to work with her. I'm left hoping that there's a less picky halberd trainer somewhere else in the game.

It's for these reasons that some commenters have encouraged me to cheat--for instance, by using a hex editor to increase weapon skills when no trainers are available. I suppose you could consider this "honest" cheating if you decreased your gold and adventure points in the same hex editing session. But I'm still rejecting that avenue simply because if I do that, I won't be playing this game, as originally created and as experienced by the majority of players. I'm already divorcing myself from the original gameplay experience by using an emulator; if I add hex edits and keystroke macros to that mix, what game am I really "playing"? And for what reason?

A few final notes:

  • Every character has a "nutrition" bar, and I confess I don't understand it. You can buy food and drink at taverns and shops, but the bar seems to reset itself every time I stay in an inn anyway. Even in long expeditions away from town, I've never seen it advance more than a third of the way to the "hunger" end of the bar. It appears to be an interesting feature with flawed implementation.

I've yet to find a reason to buy any of this stuff.

  • Towns occasionally feature inns that don't cost anything to save. Unfortunately, in staying there, you run the risk of having equipment stolen. Even if it was worth it economically, it's not worth it to have to find an equipment store, purchase new stuff, and re-equip it.

"Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly..."

  • I've still done very little with magic. The healing spells I purchased have helped a little bit a few times. I haven't had enough gold to contemplate purchasing offensive spells.

At this point, confused as I am with where my characters are and what they're doing, not having really played for almost a month, I think I essentially need to start over--not in the sense of rolling new characters, but in the sense of exhaustively exploring the towns, re-talking with NPCs, cataloging trainers, and taking all the notes I need. I also might just suck it up and fight random battles until I have enough gold to buy the best horses, so I don't have to fight so many random battles.

I'm hoping that my next Knights of Legend posting is a long explanation of a tactical battle, as I promised the last time. I may dip into the next game before then.


  1. Good luck with your next expedition into the KoL.

  2. I find that you have a good amount of details in this post despite it being a month since you played (perhaps except the Olanth quest). I guess you had pretty good notes after all.

    1. I had written almost entire paragraphs about the stuff I wanted to complain about (money, training, etc.) but hardly anything about the quests and towns. I feel like I left out a quest or two somewhere.

    2. I still admire your ability to catch so many details interwoven in pleasant narrative structure. I really look forward to that book.

    3. I think getting a feel for the game overall is more important then mapping out each and every action and quest.

  3. I've always run into problems like this. I would take a hundred screenshots for my next blog post, then something would derail me for a week or two. When I come back to screenshots, I've lost the entire narrative and have to piece together what happened.

    I've never heard of Legend of the Red Dragon and I'm not going to spoil the surprise for myself. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is well-known to me, but it isn't an RPG game. Only the later renditions of series have anything approaching real RPG elements. It is a solid strategy game, though not what you are looking for.

  4. You can train Greatsword up to 30 only in Htron with Zachary Bladeshure. If he dont like Kelder you'r screwed.
    Just dont use the kelder anymore (dont load it) or make him a spellcaster (with all those adventure points.. It might be fun).

    Or you can learn some other weapon (cf. my old comment for what max you can achieve :
    ... NPC Prejudice may forbid to train at all in certain weapon)

    You can train halberd up to 45 (from 0). The trainer is not in one of the 6 main town (Ohvyqvat nybat Xeryy). "Awesomea" depend on the Halberd skill.

    Hunger (according to the manual) was suppose to hinder your fight ability. You were supposed to find food automatically in the wilderness. You were supposed to find more food during spring and summer than winter. Some class was supposed to be better hunter. Some food were better than other to replenish your hunger meter... On the paper it's awesome. In the game it does nothing. KoL is the game of missed opportunity.

    BtW you just experienced the first ever crafting system in a crpg with this "Ingot" (no?)

    1. Yes, Zachary won't train Kelder. But he also doesn't appear to train on the greatsword. At least, when one of my other characters pays him to train, "greatsword" isn't one of the options.

      Your previous comment was very helpful, but as I mentioned, I'm having more difficulty with minimums than maximums right now. I've just got to carefully catalogue everything. I haven't read your ROT13, but I'm glad to know there's another halberd trainer somewhere.

      Yes, I guess it was sort-of a "crafting" system. There have been previous games that allowed me to add bonuses to weapons, but this is the first that allows the creation of a weapon from scratch. But since it's basically just training the ingot or a defined weapon (no choices but the name), it's not much of a crafting system.

    2. I suppose you wanted me to confront my own fanboyism.

      "Zachary (..) doesn't appear to train on the greatsword"

      I had to make a character and go all the way up to Htron. I spend 30 min, knowing how to use the shortcut (> and < and numpad primarily), and fleeing some hard fight. My lone Usip managed to win once again a Giant. I made it to Htron:

      Zachary DO train Greatsword :

      The max in my comment are from a trainer who start training at 0 skill (except for Elven Bow , the min is 15 skill). You just have to find the right trainer but if it's listed, he exist. But I did not take NPC racial prejudice into account.

      Yeah calling "crafting" the Ingot quest is a bit of a stretch. But it could have been the 1st real crafting if you had to choose between a hilt and a wood stick to build a sword or the halberd. Once again a missed opportunity.

    3. I think technically Ultima IV's spell mixing can qualify as the first crafting in RPGs.

    4. Sorry you had to go through all that trouble, Nathan. I figured out the discrepancy: there are two trainers in Htron. I was thinking "Zachary" was the other one.

      VK, true. We should have specified weapon crafting.

  5. "Awesomea" eh? Sounds like Butter's robot.

  6. You _could_ start over, or you could acknowledge that it'd take up three game's worth of time to finish something that you have given a fairly comprehensive evaluation of already.

    You've given us the highs and lows. Do we really need to see the end of the game that badly?

    It was a different matter with the Bard's Tale games, as the mana regen thing actually compromised your experience of the game. I don't think this is a similar situation.

    1. I'd suggest he abandons the game if it becomes too hard to progress and there are no trainers to use. Although this is a game that ideally should lend itself to be really replayable, the tediousness of the interface and the long battles make it a really tough decision to start over.

    2. It is taking longer than usual to complete this game. I am enjoying the review as much as anyone, I think, but it could very well be a good time to move on.

      I certainly do think that the whole training issue is moot. The first people to play this game when it came out also did had no access to the trainers meant for future episodes. In this sense it is not a "broken" game by any means.

      I have definitely enjoyed this review, having heard so much about the potential of this game in random posts/forums but never anything with detailed descriptions such as what is in the Addict's posts. I think this would have been a wonderful game back when your selection of RPG's was next to nil and no-one had dreamed yet of something like Baldur's Gate or Skyrim. What a pain in the butt it must have been back then, however, with the usual 1-2 min long load times and several disk swaps.

      Seeing Legend of the Red Dragon on your list made me pine for the days of the BBS a little bit. I remember me and my buddy eagerly anticipating our next turn in LoRD (You only get one turn/24 hrs). One turn consists of anywhere between 25-45 not so random battles, a trip to the inn to talk with the bartender, buying the next set of weapons/armor and slaughtering 2-3 other players. Then, the next day, (depending on what time the Sysop has it set to become a new "game day"), repeat this process. Don't get me wrong, its a very fun 5 minute a day distraction, but it is not a true crpg (Even though it probably meets most of your set criteria).

      It did give me the urge to try it out once again. Luckily there are still people running the game over a telnet app on your web browser, so I was able to get my fix in. I remember logging in to the local BBS here with my dads computer. The BBS was named "The Challenger" and it was my first experience with anything of that nature. I think this was before what the internet became what it is now. The Challenger had several games you could play. They were all in the same vein as LoRD, but some cost money to access. LoRD, however, was free.

      Playing a round right now, loving it. Good times :)

      Ryan G

    3. I appreciate everyone's comments. I personally want to finish the game, so you're going to have to suffer through some more entries before the end. But I'll probably play other games in between, like I did tonight.

    4. I remember the version of LoRD I played had an underworld, so you'd play until your actions were nearly used up, get killed to play through the land of the dead in hopes of finding a crystal of resurrection, which revived your character with full actions. The only downside to this was if you didn't find a crystal you started the next day in the land of the dead. You could only hope to find one crystal per day.

      In fact, the version I played was Legend of the Green Dragon. In fact, it's the first link in google and still active it seems. It's a remake of LoRD. I hope you don't mind the link Chet:

    5. @CRPG Addict

      For the record: I did not advocate abandoning the game right now. Just if it becomes impossible to continue because you can't train your characters and thus have to start over in order to win the game.

  7. This game seems more like a descent into actual Hell than an actual "Game". I say bend it over a bench with no lube and bu- Well, let me say instead, to hell with this game. On to the next!

  8. I know this game is taking forever... But I am interested to read more of your thoughts about it. I hope you continue with it a little longer.

  9. Your comment about what a silly name "Htron" is just made be realize (for the first time in 24 years) that it's "North" spelled backwards. Which is fitting given its position on the map.

    1. I wish I could say I noticed that, but a reader in a previous entry had to point that out. I felt like a bit of an idiot.

  10. In some games getting to a trainer to learn just the basics of a certain skill is delibarately placed in a later area. So yea I would avoid messing about haxxing it unless it was an obvious game bug or plain stupid design plan. Greatswords and halberds are both large weapons (in most games doing more damage than most other weapons) so some sytems often want your fighters to 'graduate' first with longswords and such.

  11. "I'd rather just be friends, okay?"

    You sir won my first Monday morning laugh!

  12. Been following this blog for a couple years now and really love reading about the old rpgs i've played through out the years. Answering the question on Legend of the Red Dragon, it's a BBS door game. I hope to have my BBS back up this week after a long hiatus and of course it will be on there with about 200 other games. Chet please keep this up, I love your writing style as this blog is very engaging and fun.

    1. If you know a lot about LoRD, feel free to write offline. It looks like technically it can still be played, but I couldn't get the DOS executables provided by the site to run, and I guess I really don't understand the whole genre. It appeared to me that there was no way for me, now, to play the game as it existed in 1989.

    2. Honestly the game wouldn't be that great to play single player. Back in the day it was always about having multiple people to play against. Worrying even though you bought a room from the inn and settled in for the night, someone could still payoff the innkeeper and bust into your room and challenge you.

  13. Mediocre game, but your comments still make it a nice treat to read. It seems to be a case of great design and poor development, but I am just reading your comment; I have not played the game myself.

    I can relate to sense of drama and emotional rush in desparate combat. Wizardry VII has been giving me plenty of recent. I have had at least two or three battles with characters dead and only one ressurection potion avaliable. I admit having to save scum sometimes, much to my shame. I am going to try and follow your lead and use the save less and less and see what happens.

    Thanks again for a great blog.

    1. Thanks. A bad game doesn't necessarily make a bad blog entry; in fact, sometimes the opposite is true.

  14. I would like you to keep at this game Chet, I find reading your journeys through unusual, flawed, or just outright bad games just as entertaining as your journeys through the good ones. It gives us all a good reminder of what makes good games good, at the very least, and as you are now taking a more historical approach to things you may well be the only reference for some of these games!

    1. Don't worry; I plan to finish this one, even if I have to intersperse other games with the KoL postings--as I just did.

  15. Sorry, I just had to say it: The character in the equipment screen looks like Robo-Streisand (and that's not even the first South Park reference in this thread!).
    Your screens with the trainers refusing to train gives me the idea of an RPG world in which basically every NPC is hostile to the character. People hate you, merchants don't trade with you, barkeepers don't serve you and so on... Maybe they don't like you because you're the hundreth group of wanna be-heroes to come into town and the people have become annoyed. That could be a quite immersive setting...

    1. South Park? What the hell is that? Never heard of it.

  16. I wonder if the reason it didn't warn you about Awesomea's premature christening was that, back in 1989, everyone using DOS would naturally assume that an 8-character naming convention was a universal law as immutable as entropy.

  17. I haven't read ahead yet, but I just wanted to say I'm really glad you stuck this game out. I've never played it, but I remember starting longingly at screenshots of it in the Origin catalog that came in my copy of Ultima V so it still gives me a twinge of nostalgia.


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