Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Legend of Faerghail: Hidden Valley

The world around Thyn.

It must be interesting and frustrating to live in a tile-based world. Every 10-foot-square area is completely discrete; it cannot contain more than one thing at once. If a tree is in the square, you can't be in the square. If another person is in the square, you must interact with that person. Creating an impenetrable border around a kingdom is simply a matter of planting a tree every 10 feet.

The corresponding map from the book.
There's nothing round in such a world. All buildings have sharp angles, and of course their sizes must be in multiples of 10 feet. On the plus side, urban planning would be easier.

There's no mincing or striding in our tile world. Every time you move, no matter what direction, it's 10 feet. If the denizens of the world ever heard of Zeno's Paradox, they'd be like, "whaaat?" To cross a 30-foot room, you just have to take two steps. Case closed.

All right, so I'm padding a bit. I've invested about five hours into this game since I last blogged about it, and all I've managed to accomplish is to map the outer world of Thyn, which features the following locations:

1. A "dwarven mine" with two entrances.

2. Six taverns.

You can "pickpocket" in taverns, but I always get caught.

3. A woodkeeper at an entrance to a castle. He asks me a riddle about a vampire and mithril but lets me pass regardless--in fact, there doesn't seem to be any way to "answer" him even if you had the answer.

Get him to trip over it?

4. A derelict castle.

5. A selection of springs that heal wounds.

6. A graveyard where elven dead are buried.

7. A "high priestess" hanging out in a forest clearing.

8. A "Temple of the Savants."

9. A sword in a stone that reads "He who pulls this sword from the stone will never take a seat on England's throne." I don't know if this is a joke or some actual plot device. Probably the former, since "England" shouldn't exist in this world. Then again, the game continually tells me that I'm in the "Valley of Faerghail" instead of "Thyn," so I think it's confused about geography overall.

10. Near one building, a elven warrior riddles me with the names of the relatives of someone named Findal. I found Findal buried in the graveyard and tried all the other names on the gravestones for every possible relative, but the elven warrior just tells me that I'm wrong no matter what.

This left three locations to go: the dwarven mines, the derelict castle, and the Temple of the Savants. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to get to the neighboring land of Cyldane. I suspect it's through the dwarven mines, since a map in the manual has my current area as "wilderness map - east," suggesting that there's a separate "wilderness map - west" on the other side of the western forest, and the dwarven mines entrances are on the west. In that case, I have to congratulate the Count of Thyn for his little hidden pocket of the world, impenetrable on all sides except for the mine exits.

As I painstakingly mapped every tree and wall in the wilderness, I engaged in sporadic combats with various beasts and humanoid enemies. There are aspects I like about the combat system, such as memorizing the last position and actions used, which encourages you to tweak your strategy rather than start from scratch with every new enemy and round.

What do you suppose it means that I "unknowingly" meet the trolls?

What I don't like is that combat is horrifically deadly at these early levels, and there simply isn't enough money to keep resurrecting slain characters. I have to either replace them or reload. After a few hours trying to be honest and replacing them, I ultimately caved to reloading every time a character dies.

This is what happens when everyone dies.

Leading to this sarcastic scene.

Fortunately, this doesn't happen as often since I've discovered that fleeing combat has, as far as I can tell, a 100% success rate.

The way the game distributes experience points--based on the number of successful actions each combat round--means that it'll be a long time before some of my characters level up. Complicating matter is the fact that Siegurd, my NPC companion, does so well in combat that he takes far more experience than anyone else. I'd dump him, but I think he's the only thing keeping me alive.

One of my characters, Chalke the Healer, has negative experience points. I don't know if this is a bug or if she's just been spectacularly unsuccessful in combat.

It's like those players that get into the negative dollar values on Jeopardy. You just know they're never going to recover.

Food is a much more dangerous enemy than any of the monsters. Game time passes whether you make a move or not, at a rate of 1 hour game time for every 4-5 seconds real time, and every 106 seconds (24 hours in-game), my characters munch up 6 rations. To replenish them, I have to purchase them in one of the inns, and they've been taking almost everything I earn from combats. I'm nowhere near getting the 1,500 gold pieces needed to raise even one of  my characters to Level 2. Occasionally, I'll get some rations from a combat, though I don't know if this is because they were carrying them or because the game assumes I'm slicing up their bodies.

Though most of the time it does no good...

...other parties occasionally respond to "greeting" them. I was hoping this would lead to some dialogue options or such, but so far I haven't found any way to productively interact with them.

None of the options except "withdrawal" actually does anything.

Morale, which starts at "good" after a night's rest, slowly declines as my party moves around, eventually reaching the point that they'll refuse to take another step. I learned the hard way that if they rest without rations, morale doesn't go back up, meaning it's possible to get yourself stuck, with no rations to feed your characters, and the characters refusing to walk so you can go get some more.

One thing that differentiates this game from The Bard's Tale is that as you move around the world, you can actually see the enemies moving around the area, too. They don't always make a beeline for your party; sometimes you have to walk into them if you want to force an encounter. And oddly, all enemies look like ghosts or phantoms until you actually encounter them.

This turned out to be bears.

I decided to try the castle next. The moment I entered, the game took a level up in its language skills:

I'll let you know how it goes. I'm nearing my six-hour mark, and so far the game isn't doing anything for me. This is just the sort of game I would have quit back in 2010, when I was just starting with my blog, and didn't have an unbroken string of "won" games going back over a year. I'm at least willing to give it a little bit longer to see if the plot develops into anything worthy.

I'm far enough into it that I'm not eager to switch to a different platform even if the Amiga version is better (among other things, it has music and sound, which the DOS version doesn't). But if you want a take on the Amiga version, Saintus covered it last year on his "CRPG Revisiting old classics" blog. I haven't read his posts yet, but I look forward to seeing his take when I've finished with the game.


  1. It might be worth trying an emulated version (Amiga?) to see if it's easier, perhaps the DOS version is buggy or being affected by DOSbox. It doesn't sound like it should be that hard, and the negative experience is quite odd.

    1. The "negative experience points" is a bug imho. It's happened to me as well. This type of games (Bards Tale, M&M, Wizardry) is my favourite but I had to give up on this game. Somehow it is broken in many ways. The successor, Fate: Gates of Dawn is a much better game.

      Lord Hienmitey

    2. My first guess would be that healers get neg experience from hitting things. Maybe I'm giving the game too much credit.

      It'd be a bit silly if leveling Chalke involved repeatedly hitting and healing a lone Orc.

  2. I think the negative XP gained is from characters who fumbles spells or hits. Regarding fleeing, yes it is always successful and you don´t actually have to fight anywhere, except then you will never raise in levels either. But it will definetely help you keeping alive in the early stages of the game so you must flee from tougher opponents at this stage.

    Saintus from

    1. One would imagine that the act of fumbling spells or attacks would product many intense learning experiences

    2. I agree with Raifield. I strongly dislike games that levy XP and/or level penalties on players, because there is no logic to it and it isn't fun. It's already bad enough that many CRPGs require you to succeed at something (as opposed to just attempting it) in order to be rewarded with experience or skill points or whatever.

  3. To help remedy some of the problems with rations, is to pick fights with animals and flee other enemies. They often give you a lot of rations after combat. Also, you can fight just a few rounds in any combat and then flee in the middle without problems and yet gain any experience points. This is good against tougher opponents whom you get a lot of XP from. Take a few swings at them and then flee.

    This game is one of my all time favourites, so I would like you to continue with it to fully appreciate it. The key is to run from tougher opponents until you have reached level 2 or 3.

    1. For the life of me, I don't see what you see in it, but I'll keep going.

  4. Replies
    1. Oh, right, that's the mouse cursor. At first I thought in the dialogue options image that tree creature was carrying a whimsically undersized battle axe.

  5. I've not played this game but what does "withdrawal" do? Sounds pretty lewd... XD

    1. That´s the same as fleeing from combat

    2. Hmm... I think they're trying to emulate Wizardry's feature on talking with any sentient creatures (NPCs and monsters alike; a feature that Persona/Digital Devil Saga/Shin Megami Tensei also uses later) but if Withdrawal's the only option available, it seems like the developers were lazy or had a deadline to catch.

      I wonder when publishers start encroaching their authority over production rights of the developers.

  6. I wonder is "Endalin" as the name of the dead elf intended as a joke? Endalin = End of line... GEDDIT?

  7. Deathlord, for the C64 and Apple, has a similar annoying experience system as I recall - instead of XP being shared (as it should ALWAYS be in any RPG, C or otherwise), you don't get XP from combat unless that character lands the killing blow. Good luck levelling your spellcasters...

    1. The spellcasters in LoF will get XP every time they cast a spell (even if they don´t hit the enemies). I Think every spell cast gives 50 xp. Then with Group targeting damage spells the spellcasters could get a lot of XP. So I don´t think the system is inbalanced.

    2. What's frustrating about XP not being shared is that it forces you to artificially micro-micromanage the combat. And in such a way that totally breaks the fourth wall.

      Just imagine the situation as if you were really there.

      Your party creeps along the castle passageway as quietly as possible. As you approach a T-section, your cleric, Godric, clumsily bangs his mace against the wall. As you look back at him and his goofy, sheepish grimace, the warcry of a dozen orcs suddenly breaks the silence. A winnable, but nonetheless deadly battle erupts. As you fight merely for your survival, the party's leader, a paladin, keeps shouting, "Let Godric take the killing blow! He needs the experience!" You do your best to dodge the orcs' razor sharp axes and Godric swings over and over again in futility, looking more likely to bash his own skull in than one of the orcs.

      Now imagine if it worked that way in real life. Let's say, on the battlefield in WW2. Come to think of it... isn't this a German game? Maybe that's why they lost. ;^)

    3. It's not quite as bad in this game as I made it sound. The game awards experience for successful actions in any combat round, including spellcasting and attacks that only damage (though not defense), not necessarily the killing blow.

    4. Wasteland was bad at this; ONLY killing got you XP. Giving XP for each action sounds much more sensible and can be done well: As I recall Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance did it pretty well.

    5. While there's a lot I like the Exile games from Spiderweb Software, that's one thing that bothers me about them, too. Every character gets experience when a foe is defeated in combat, but the character who lands the killing blow gets a much larger share. Which means keeping the characters leveling at about the same rate does indeed require a certain measure of micromanagement to ensure that the characters who are lagging behind get a chance to kill off some monsters on their own. (This is made slightly less annoying by the fact that buffing spells like "Bless" are really powerful, and cumulative... slap a few Blesses on a weak character, and suddenly he's a killing machine, albeit only for a short time.)

      I don't know if the same holds for the more recent Avernum series that are essentially remakes of the Exile games; I haven't played them yet.

  8. Yes to live in a tile based world would be a joy! You should name your chracters Achillies and Tortoise. You give a good description of the game and its mechanics. Victory is not always necessary. This is, however, only my view.

  9. This game sure looks and sounds like Bard's Tale plus extra annoyances (rations management, uneven or negative experience). But I hope you stick it out a little while longer at least.

    Does your healer get exp for successfully casting heal spells? Can she power level by endlessly spamming healing spells in every combat, not just when somebody needs healing?

    1. She could, but I'd have to rest a lot more frequently to replenish spell points.

  10. Anybody can try this out:
    Started a new party with a healer. She had 100 xp.
    In combat she hit once, she got 7 xp = 107 xp.
    He cast the cure light wounds spell because a party member was injured, the casting was succesful. She had after that -4843 xp.
    So is this not a program bug?

    1. Of course it's a program bug. Even if the game took away experience for failed actions (which it doesn't), I still wouldn't have amassed anything near -9491. I haven't fought that many combats. I was being deliberately obtuse above.

      But here's something I just found out: as far as the game is concerned, the experience must be in absolute values, because she can level up--multiple times.

    2. Sounds like an exploit. Better stop healing. ;)

    3. Reminds me of a bug I hit once in Pool of Radiance: I have no idea how it happened, but suddenly all my party members had -32,768 experience points and each had the maximum amount of jewelry, gems, and coins that they could carry.

      Guess an integer rolled over on me somewhere. Was never able to reproduce the bug.

    4. I hit a similar bug in PoR: As my party was leaving one of the areas (the library, perhaps?) it was attacked by a specter. Being a D&D nerd, I knew the monster would drain two levels with each hit, so I sent my highest-level character, a 3rd-level cleric, to keep it occupied in melee while the other characters pelted it with ranged weapons.

      Eventually, my cleric took two hits and died from the level drain. Fortunately, the rest of the party was able to finish off the undead without suffering further losses. Upon returning to Phlan, I raised the cleric from the dead, hoping the game would restore my -1st-level character to full fighting strength.

      Lo and behold, she became a 255th level cleric/magic-user with 255 hit points! It was awesome!

      Until I leveled her up.


    5. Haha! I imagine your character was a lot more disappointed than you are!

      Clerimagicka: I am a living goddess walking amongst men! Able to take lives and give them back at will!
      *Level up*
      Clerimagicka: I am a - WTF?!?!

    6. That happened to me, but being 10 years old at the time, I was afraid the character would actually turn into a spectre and attack my party (as would be expected from the rulebooks), not realizing there was no way they could program all that in in that era. So I reloaded.

  11. In this game the planck distance is ten feet.
    There are no people or animals, just ten feet cubed blobs of living matter.

    1. Or everything is encased in a 10 cubic feet field of invisible and impenetrable energy.

      The same could be said about top-down RPGs as well.

      Ultima: Wow! There's like 3 chests packed with goodies just beside that barkeep!
      Segallion: Milord, we cannot reach them beyond this bar top.
      Ultima: But- it's like- only 4 feet high!
      Iolo: What dost thou meanest, this "high" thing, milord?
      Ultima: Seriously, can't I just climb over it?
      Shamino: Thou must have meant "Klimb". Thou mayest only use said ability on stairs and ladders... er... forsooth.

  12. LoF has about the same place in my heart as Dragon Wars, meaning I grew up on them and loved them to death, despite never finishing either. DW had a crippling translation error, here I just failed - not mapping in this game is a disadvantage, to be sure.

    Sadly, aside from remembering the castle as absolutely huge and confusing, the only other memory is abusing the system - I distinctly recall playing a high 80s or even 90s melee level character, which would be the only one alive and caught in the castle. He was nigh indestructable, but could not escape... Don't quite remember how I managed to get that char so high, but I think outside I kept making new companions for him and only kept him alive (also sold all equipment to outfit and train him etc). I would start new games then occasionally, and could still select the strong one from the tavern, getting a better and better start over time until I managed to keep my group alive for longer.

    I should be very sad if you don't finish this game, but I certainly understand it's limited appeal. Ah, to be so young again as to make pure grinding a pleasure once more!

    1. Same thing could be said about Pong as well. I played hours of it each day with my neighbors.

      I have fond memories of it. But to relive it? No, thanks. XD

  13. The elf riddling you about his relatives is a copy protection measure. There's a family tree in the manual where you have to pick the right name from.

    1. Oh, duh. Thanks. That page in the manual is titled "The World of Faerghail," and there's no text describing what the tree is supposed to be about, so I just passed it by when I read it.

  14. Hi there, great blog, I hope to go through more of it to try to find this game I remember as a kid. It was maybe EGA era, definitely color. Me and a friend believe the name of it was something like "Destiny". It was a north/east/south/west/look kind of game. I don't remember a ton about it, except that we really enjoyed it, and never completed it because it was corrupted when we got to the end. One of the striking images I have is a green venus fly-trap like creature, with eyes on stalks. As you fought it and did damage, you would lop eyes off, and ichor would ooze out. (These were still images if I believe). I remember something about a fountain and gems at the bottom of it as well (yeah, real specific I know!). I believe the end involved orcs and a throne or a crown, but it's getting real hazy at this time. If you have any recollection of this game, I'd love to hear about it, to prove me and my childhood friend are not having group hallucinations, and to maybe track it down and play again.

    1. If you don't get an answer here, two other places you can try and or if that fails, (Very high success rate, but $5 membership fee to ask questions)

  15. Regarding the options "Trade" and "Recruiting" in the encounters. Trade can be done with neutral NPCs and humanoids like dwarves and elves. Regarding recruiting I don´t remember but think you need neutral foes of some sort. I have vague memories of having some sort of monsters joining for awhile.

  16. So, I thought you lot might like to know about this:

    At 02:00AM PST, Nov 21st Desert Bus for Hope will be doing a silent auction for "Signed Ultima - the Ultimate Collector's Guide (Platinum edition)"

    This is the complete guide to the immersive online sandbox game Ultima, and it is signed by its creator, Stephen Edmond. This is number 21 of just 25 Platinum Edition copies created, printed in full colour and contained by a hand-stitched leather binder. Also included is a colour copy of the 2012 Addendum.

    A description from the original project site reads, "This mammoth 800 page tribute to the Ultima series contains highly detailed information and pictures for 502 main releases, 275 books & collectibles, and 143 miscellaneous items. A grand total of 920 items from 23 countries across 6 continents! In addition to all the regular item entries you will find comprehensive variation guides for each game. Essentially they provide side-by-side comparisons that illustrate the differences between different maps, boxes, books, discs, etc. There’s even a little “history & lore” in there for flavoring. EVERY Ultima game is covered in exhaustive detail."

    Oh, and all money raised from that auction goes to the charity Child's Play. (Which is why I'm not counting it as a commercial endeavour)

    They are also giving away two of these during the course of the marathon:

  17. The fathers name is Findail... loved this game back in the day.


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