Thursday, August 28, 2014

Captive: A Long Stretch

"Ladder-scumming" fails with the quick-reacting mad scientist. Time to reload.

Captive has perhaps the highest reload count of any game I've ever played, making a hash out of my normal rules. In a less difficult game, every time one of my droids was reduced to scrap, I'd haul his pieces to the nearest shop and have him repaired. But when a game makes you do that roughly every 5 minutes, it becomes unfeasible, and death is now an occasion for reloading. Even getting whacked for more hit points than I'd like--especially if I've just finished getting repaired--is an occasion for reloading.

Captive is far more difficult than Dungeon Master, primarily because of the lack of any ability to rest and heal. In Dungeon Master, if you could get away from an active combat, you could wait for hit points and spell points to regenerate and keep making healing potions. Captive offers no such breaks. "Getting away from active combat" usually means hustling your crippled party to the dead end of a corridor where you can sit and rest as long as you like, but your bent and broken limbs won't get any better. The only time you're "safe" in Captive is when a) a store is nearby, b) a power outlet is nearby, c) you have a clear route to both, d) there are no wandering monsters in the area, and e) you have enough money to pay for repairs.

Knowing this, the game screws with these variables every chance it gets, primarily by forcing you to walk on pressure plates that seal the walls behind you. Until you find the switch that lets you back, you're in limbo, not knowing how much damage you can afford to take from each encounter. If you're unlucky enough to save when you're at 50% health and it turns out there's 10 more packs of difficult enemies between you and the switch--and none of the tricks you'd normally use to survive them--you're basically walking dead.

My characters are in really bad shape. The first two are almost dead and have all their arms disabled; the back two have plenty of health but each has one arm disabled. I really hope there's a shop behind this door somewhere.

The beginning of each base is also quite difficult, before you've found any stores or power outlets, because there's no way to get back out. Even if there was, there wouldn't be anywhere to go. Both Bases #5 (Salstee) and Base #6 (Seavy) required me to explore for over an hour before I found my first shop, right about the time I was sure I was going to have to reload a saved game from outside the base and try again.

But of all the variables, it's the money that I worry about the most. The game has a closed economy, since enemies don't respawn. I'm so paranoid about running out of money for repairs that I haven't been purchasing potentially-useful upgrades and tools. I keep envisioning a scenario in which I load up on batteries, weapons, ammo, and better droid parts, and then I hit the famous "dungeon with no money" that everyone knows about except someone playing blind.

Better droid parts are available, but I've been reluctant to spend the money.

Dungeon Master offered stair-scumming, the side-step dance, and the merciless closing doors as options for beleaguered players, but in Captive, these tricks are essentially necessary. Standing face-to-face with an enemy and trading blows simply results in a quick death, unless I'm missing some tactic somewhere.

Believe it or not, you can punch these to death, and like all other enemies, they explode into blood when killed.

Base #5 offered up a couple of new enemies, including (nonsensically) tanks, plus demons with flaming blue swords. (Again, with no names assigned to the enemies, I have to make them up.) Base #6 had smiling computer monitors somehow capable of spitting fireballs.

And they look so friendly, too.

Oh, and these trolls. I forgot where they first appeared.

But none of the previously-encountered foes held a candle to the bastards I encountered in Base #6: deadly "hovercraft" capable of blasting my characters out of existence with one shot. Not only that, they hover so high that you have to be inverted on the ceiling to hit them. They attack in pairs of two, and I must have encountered 10 pairs throughout the base. I found only one way to effectively deal with them: ladder-scumming. If I could lead them back to a ladder, I could pop down, save, invert myself, pop up, get off one or two shots, then pop back down before they could retaliate. It didn't always work; these guys react fast. I saved after every 2 or 3 successful shots, and had to reload that save frequently when they reacted too fast. This is not my idea of a fun game.

These guys kill me so fast that it took several tries to even capture a screenshot in time.

Oh, and to make matters even more fun, when the hovercrafts die, they leave landmines behind! I haven't found any way to effectively disarm them yet. I can't seem to throw things at them from a distance (rarely do I have an unobstructed hallway anyway), and fiddling them from one square away causes significant damage (though not as much as walking on them). I can avoid them by walking across the ceiling, and a couple of times, I've led other enemies to them, which is always satisfying. The shops sell mines I can buy for my own use, but they're expensive and I've been hesitating to splurge.

The hovercrafts left me a present.

Enemies can be divided basically in two ways: movement speed, and whether they have missile weapons. If an enemy is slow, I can usually lead him to a room where I can do the two-step and hit him from the sides and rear while he struggles to turn. If the enemy has no missile weapons, I can use a shooting retreat or take potshots at him from the other side of a fire or water barrier (most enemies don't cross water; so far only hovercraft have crossed fire). But enemies that are fast and have missile weapons are nightmares.

Shooting a pack of Go-bots across a field of fire.

The size of the bases is also getting worse. I haven't had to map yet, but they still last bloody forever. I was in Base #6 for about 8 total hours--longer than some entire games. Every time I thought I'd explored everything, I'd find some new movable wall, ladder, or switch to open a door, leading to some vast new area. Technically, you can get out of a base as soon as you find at least one probe and the generator room, but the only way to make sure you get all the gold and experience is to to fight all the monsters. I'll be happy to end the last base prematurely; until then, I need every advantage I can get.

Late in Base #6, I did finally spend about half my gold on a battery, because I was sick of having to find my way back to the infrequent power outlets to recharge. The one I bought stores enough power to fully recharge a droid four times, which should be enough to tide me over when outlets are scarce.

I cannot figure out what these are for.

In terms of navigation obstacles, Base #5 introduced a "spinner" square, but it was pretty pathetic, simply rotating me once clockwise. I think there was only one. Both Base #5 and #6 had areas with fire barriers. They also had hydrants, and at first I was sure that the purpose of the hydrants was to put out the fires. Only that didn't work; the hydrants would just flood the areas but stop at the fire barriers. So I'm left not knowing what the hydrants are for. I couldn't figure out any reason why I'd want to flood the dungeon. It just makes navigation a lot harder, since droids take damage when they walk in water, and the only way to navigate the areas safely is to walk on the ceiling (again, at a huge power drain). The bases had enough water areas on their own without my contributing to the problem.

Using a computer while upside-down to avoid the flooded floor.

Base #6 had one small "dark" area that I needed the visor to get through.

Making my way through the dark.

As I mentioned, I've been slow to upgrade weapons even when I could seriously use them. My lead characters are still using melee weapons and my two rear characters are still using magnum pistols even though I found a shop selling laser pistols some time ago. The skills went through "Rifles" and "Automatics" before offering me "Lasers," but I'm not sure I ever saw any rifles or automatics for sale. I'm not sure they'd be better for me anyway, as my characters have a skill level of 24 in handguns but are only up to 3-5 with lasers so far. If I'm not mistaken, this would maybe let me use the worst laser weapon. Is the worst laser better than the best handgun?

Speaking of skills, an anonymous commenter told me that "24 is always the highest skill requirement for the best version of a given weapon," but nonetheless, "more skill still helps." That may be true, but the experience points needed to raise any skill from 24 to 25 seems to be 35,399, whereas the highest experience cost I've encountered to raise a skill below that is only around 2,200. So I probably won't be saving up for that 25th point any time soon.

In my first post, I said that the bases were "randomly-generated." After doing some more reading on the subject, I realize this was probably misleading. Procedurally-generated is probably a better term. Every numbered base will look exactly the same for every player. But Anthony Crowther didn't map them all out; that would have been functionally impossible, since there are theoretically thousands of bases. (Apparently, the maximum number is 65,535, but some bug keeps you from going past something like 25,476. I've also read that the PC version has a bug that limits the bases to 2,816. No matter what, you'd have to be simply insane to hit those limits.) Instead, Crowther designed a map generation routine that uses the base number as a seed and generates the rest of the layout based on it.

I don't deny that it's an extremely impressive bit of programming, but it has the effect of limiting the types of puzzles that the game can provide to the player. Dungeon Master fans often talk about the game's navigation puzzles as a highlight of the game, but complex navigation puzzles can really only work in a hand-crafted dungeon. A procedurally-generated dungeon will allow for a wall that closes behind you, and a switch that later opens the wall, but not much else. Certainly nothing like the puzzles in Chaos Strikes Back where you had to herd skeletons onto four pressure plates, or the one in Dungeon Master where you had to use riddles on a scroll to identify four pieces of equipment to put into four alcoves. Thus, I would think that this aspect of the game would be disappointing even for fans of the sub-genre.

I prepare to extinguish a wall of fire with a switch. By design, any fire wall is going to have a nearby switch to disarm it.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • It took me a while to figure out how to use the dice. If you hold them in your hand while facing a combo door and right-click, the die shows you the location of the next button in the sequence. I keep finding more dice, and as far as I can tell, you only need one of them. The shopkeepers aren't interested in the excess. They don't work on the bases' front doors, where you really need them.

The die saves me from having to try up to 24 different combinations.

  • It turns out that if you accidentally leave your gold in the hands of shopkeepers, it's not only always there when you return, it will also be in the hands of any other shopkeepers you visit in the same base. I'm not sure if it will also appear with shopkeepers in the next base, but I'm going to leave a small amount when I escape Base #7 so I can test it. 
  • The "root finder" finds the front door of the base--very handy when you're trying to escape the base after planting the charges. Then, once outside the base, it guides you to your ship.

The device indicates the way to the exit is through this door.

According to my commenters, I still have four bases to go in the first mission; my vague understanding is that you can consider the game "won" after the first mission, since you can keep generating new ones indefinitely. At this rate, we're looking at another 30-40 hours in a game that I've sunk almost 30 into already. This is why it burns me that these Dungeon Master clones never have any kind of plot progression. All I'm asking for is a single screen at the end of each base that reveals more about why I was imprisoned, and who was behind it--a slow return of Trill's memories as the droids fight to reach him. Or maybe a dialogue option or two with the shopkeepers: something that alerts me to dangers in the next section. Anything. But none of the ones I've played--Dungeon Master, Chaos Strikes Back, Bloodwych, and Captive--can even offer the tiniest bit of story to the player. They expect players to just delight in their mechanics and let their imaginations do the rest.
This works for many players but not for me. I'm going to keep Captive on my "active" list, but I'm not going to give it more than a couple hours a week. If it takes the rest of 1990 to win, that's what will have to happen. That said, the difficulty I've been experiencing probably has a lot to do with my reluctance to spend money and try out all the weapons and tools, so I'll try to do better with that before the end.

Moving on to yet another base.


  1. I've always felt that the draw in the Dungeon Master sub-genre comes from the tension that develops from being trapped in a dangerous and unexplored area with very limited supplies, The relief and sense of accomplishment that come when you find your way back to safety can be cathartic.

    But Captive seems to offer a lot more tension than relief and almost no sense of accomplishment. I'm puzzled by the love that this game is getting from some of the other commentators. Can someone explain it to me?

    1. "The relief and sense of accomplishment that come when you find your way back to safety can be cathartic." There is absolutely something to that. It isn't my favorite aspect of gameplay, but I do recognize its appeal.

    2. "But Captive seems to offer a lot more tension than relief and almost no sense of accomplishment."

      Nonsense. Captive offers tons of that. Every section cleared is a triumph, only made more satisfying by the effort it demanded. And the game takes it easy on you at times too, typically immediately following new acquisitions, allowing you to blast previously almost insurmountable enemies away at your whim.

      Our gracious host is probably severely handicapping himself with his miserliness - the game is balanced with the assumption that the player always upgrades his droids, weapons, etc. whenever possible. Not buying improvements because you're nervous about lacking funds for repairs only ends up costing you more in the form of needing more repairs. Case in point, I don't believe I see any Shields (Dev-scape II) in your screenshots. You most definitely, definitely should have (and use) several by now. They're not just life-savers, they're money-savers too - repairing a shield is far cheaper than repairing a droid.

      Also I've posted quite a few times in these threads anonymously, so I think I'll pick a tag now. A tag that gives maximum Dexterity, Vitality and Wisdom.

    3. @MOZA:

      Wow, maybe the Addict will find out that the repairs have already cost too much and all the mobs are destroyed, meaning he'll have to start over. Maybe the thing he's trying to prevent will happen because of that!
      Still, quite a hard game someone made for his little brother.

    4. @MOZA,

      I haven't played the game. Judging from the Addict's descriptions though, the bases and puzzles aren't really differentiated enough to create the kind of tension I enjoy. The challenge also doesn't appear to scale well.

      As you point out though, this could be because the Addict isn't really upgrading his droids as the game expects.

    5. Well, I just upgraded a single droid's body parts to the highest level available and it cost me nearly all my remaining gold, so I think the solution "upgrade whenever you can" is a little simplistic. Deciding whether to buy one weapon or wait until you're skilled enough for a higher version in the same class isn't a trivial decision; I really don't think you can afford all of them.

      As for shields, I use them all the time. You don't see them in the screenshots because I'm not actually trying to win the fights in the screen shots. To take a screenshot, I have to hold down ESC for a couple of seconds to release the mouse from WinUAE, then open the snipping program and drag it across the screen. It takes a few seconds, and in that time my droids are either dead or severely diminished.

      I'll try to get the shields in future screenshots so it's a more realistic portrayal of what's happening.

    6. He doesn't need to restart the whole game. There's plenty of bases to go around. It DOES seem silly to me that Chet would rather repair than upgrade his droids (which would mean that his droids could have dispatched their enemies much faster before they could get sever damages in the first place).

      I mean, if you're already save-scumming to save on repairs, the money saved should go into upgrading rather than resting, isn't it?

    7. Just hit CTRL-F5 in DOSbox, it saves a screenshot into DOSbox's directory or any other that you specify. CTRL-ALT-F5 starts recording, CTRL-F6 stops.

    8. Umm press print screen -> open any art program like paint and crtl + V, voilá you have a screen shot ...

      It's not like you actually need a program for a screenshots in windows.

    9. Jesus Christ. I love the assumptions that I'm so dumb I can't take screen shots. Anonymous, I'm not using DOSBox. I'm playing the Amiga version. If I use the built-in screen-capture utility, it takes a .bmp and names it inconveniently.

      Petri, your suggestion captures the emulator title bar and buttons. All I want is the game screen.

      SOME benefit of the doubt would be nice for a change.

    10. Print screen works perfectly fine on my end with WinUAE, can't say why it doesn't work for you ie. no title screens etc. just the game screen.
      Tested on both full and windowed modes with a few different games.

      .bmp is uncompressed bitmap file similar to .raw from a digital camera and it kind of makes sense with these old games made of blocky bitmap graphics as .jpg creates a boatload of artefacts in low resolution images.

    11. Addict: "Well, I just upgraded a single droid's body parts to the highest level available and it cost me nearly all my remaining gold, so I think the solution "upgrade whenever you can" is a little simplistic. Deciding whether to buy one weapon or wait until you're skilled enough for a higher version in the same class isn't a trivial decision; I really don't think you can afford all of them."

      Well, obviously you have to make tradeoffs and plan your expenses (something I've understood you enjoy in games), you can't buy everything - but you really should have more goodies at your disposal than you appear to have. At the stage of the game you're at, I had equipped all my droids with rifles and automatics, and instead of hopeless "ladderscum or die"-matches, my fights with the hovercrafts were frenetic dances of death with both sides filling the air with lead while circle-strafing each other at lightning speed. It was exhilarating, not frustrating.

      I really wish I could point you directly to a shop that sells what you need, but this was many years ago.

      "As for shields, I use them all the time."

      Very good. I trust you've noticed that multiple shields stack with each other. At the stage of the game you're at, I was carrying three shields and kept them simultaneously active against the hovercrafts. This, along with superior droid bodies, allowed me to survive multiple hits from them ("multiple" as in "about three" - they are hard-hitting SOBs).

      For acquisitions, I recommend offense over defense, and defense over utility. The battery you spent half your cash on was a bit wasteful purchase - I would have recommended the budget option of buying multiple extra chests and pre-charging them (heavier, but does the job). With the price of the battery you probably could have armed your entire team with firearms.

      Daniel: "I haven't played the game."

      Well, I hope you realize your opinions on it don't count for much then.

      Judging from the Addict's descriptions though, the bases and puzzles aren't really differentiated enough to create the kind of tension I enjoy.

      Puzzles I'll give, since the game doesn't really have any beyond "find the password, flip the switch, push the wall" level (and I too wish it did, but can't get everything I suppose), but I'm going to make the claim that the bases have a remarkable degree of character to them, far beyond what you'd expect from procedurally generated content. Their structure varies radically. In some bases you start next to the generator room, in some bases they're hidden in the furthest corner, behind a secret wall, seven ladders and three elevators away. And obviously the choice of enemies radically alters the tone - I knew in advance that base six with its massive shopless stretch in the beginning and those lovely little hovercrafts would have the Addict pulling hair, and felt the same giddiness I do when somebody meets the Capra Demon the first time. This wouldn't be possible if the bases were indistinguishable.

      "The challenge also doesn't appear to scale well."

      I must protest - Captive has one of the best difficulty curves I've seen in games: a sawtooth where the player repeatedly goes from underdog to briefly dominant and back to underdog again. Of course, this presupposes a steady acquisition of new shiny death-toys. A player determined to save his money for retirement is a player who is permanently stuck in the "underdog" phase, not experiencing the satisfaction of meeting previously tough enemies while wielding new guns and finding out you can absolutely massacre them now.

    12. @MOZA

      You'll notice I haven't actually offered any opinions on the game, only my perception of how the game is playing based on the Addict's posts. I asked for a counterbalancing point of view from the pro-Captive community, and you've made a fairly convincing case.

      Is there any way that the Addict can go back and grind (not on dinosaurs) to make money for upgrading droids?

    13. Well no harm done then. I'm unabashedly a fan of the game (fan of most DM clones actually - I just really like the genre), and while I acknowledge there's a gaping hole where story and puzzles should be, what actually is in the game is super well done.* Captive's filled with innovative ideas, and the straight gunplay action can be immensely satisfying.

      *) In my opinion.

      "Is there any way that the Addict can go back and grind (not on dinosaurs) to make money for upgrading droids?"

      If you're asking if there's a way to replay bases, the answer is no. You blow them up, after all. Only way to grind is dinosaurs, and that's kind of a desperation option, as the gains are small.

      (Side note: having the recharger device makes it possible to grind on random planets indefinitely without running out of electricity - this is where the sleep mode becomes handy. It's still a huge fuss though, and not really worth it.)

      Still, I don't think the Addict is irrevocably screwed in any way. As long as he can survive fights, he can replenish his money and can catch up the next time he finds a weapon upgrade. The thing he really needs the most at this point is better weapons. Best defense is a good offense, as they say. I have no idea how he managed to miss every shop that sells rifles and automatics - granted, some of them are hidden behind secret walls and such, but an experienced RPG player should have no trouble with those.

    14. Petri--no idea why I was so annoyed over something so trivial. Probably because I was up at 04:30 after wasting 6 straight hours on Captive.

      You are correct that as long as you don't have something else open that's captured the key, ALT-PRNTSCR does not capture the window borders in WinUAE. Nonetheless, the process of then pasting it into some other application and saving the shot does not significantly improve the speed over my solution, which automatically saves in .png format to my chosen directory.

      While I was looking at options, though, I did find a couple of handy WinUAE settings that aren't enabled by default. There's an option to use the middle mouse button to immediately release the captured mouse, thus avoiding having to hold down ESC for a couple seconds. There's also an option to pause emulation when the emulator loses the focus. Between the two, I think I've solved the problem of not being able to take a screenshot while in active combat.

    15. MOZA, I probably didn't miss the SHOPS. I was several bases in before I realized that each shop sold different inventory items, so I probably just missed the particular shop that sold those weapons (In the last base I was in, there was only one). It's moot now that I have shops selling laser weapons, right?

    16. Yeah, you can probably just upgrade directly to lasers and skip the intermediate tiers without much trouble (they do have some interesting/useful properties though: most rifles "aim high" and allow you to gun down flying enemies without the Anti-Grav, while the best automatic fires a three-bullet spray in front of you, hitting enemies regardless of their horizontal placement). Your points spent on those skills won't be wasted either, since you'll soon start finding disposable versions of them. Lasers should outclass all earlier weapons in raw per-shot damage, but I can't tell if jumping directly to them causes trouble with ammo or such, as I went through the planned weapon progression myself.

      So, by all means go for it.

    17. "Petri--no idea why I was so annoyed over something so trivial. Probably because I was up at 04:30 after wasting 6 straight hours on Captive."

      I take that as an apology and no I wasn't really offended, so all good.

      Anyway I was going to mention that 'freeze' feature you found on your own.
      Also alt + tab releases the mouse as default.
      Personally I've found that freezing feature quite handy on occasions when I get an urgent phone call in a middle of action.

      I also had a vague memory of being able to save WinUAE screenshots in more sensible fashion but that might be VICE or some other emulator that I'm remembering.

  2. Is it better to stretch something unpleasant out for weeks or to just get it all DONE with in one fell swack? I dunno. I would have bailed on this AGES ago- I cannot do ANY of the DM type games. Brain won't work that way.

    Thank you for your hard work, "Chet".

    1. "One fell swack" of 30 hours? I wish I had that kind of free time.

      No, I'd rather stretch it. I tend to loathe myself when I play a game I don't even like for multiple hours at a stretch.

    2. I don't blame you. I'm also selfishly interested in seeing you get to Silver Blades, one I played a lot. I was a Mac gamer and didn't have access to many of the ones on your list, so I really relish the moments when you get to one I know. Silver Blades seems to get a lot of hate in the comments, but I remember playing it through a few times, though not since high school. I'm curious now if it was really that bad and I just didn't notice or care, or if it just wasn't as good in comparison to the others, like Azure Bonds, which I think I remember replaying more.

    3. I think Silver Blades has a reputation as a "monty haul" campaign, which Throne of Bhaal also seems to suffer from. But I gather it's a common problem with high-level AD&D games.

      I actually bought a copy of the 2nd Edition "High Level Campaigns" Dungeon Master's guidebook awhile ago. Though I've yet to read the whole thing, I glanced through it and it suggests having the player characters retire out of the active game via running a city or something, kind of like Lord Nasher of Neverwinter.

      For really high-level characters the book bluntly recommends God-hood.

    4. High level D&D games were always hard to run. It seems like most people moved onto other games once they passed the level 8-14 sweet spot. At that point you got followers, a base, and were generally pushed towards a different style of game focusing more on politics and management, but I don't remember anyone ever really doing that. More recent editions seem to have dropped that entirely.

      You just up the numbers, kill bigger gods, and get increasingly ridiculous loot. Sadly, CRPG designers tend towards that school of dungeon mastering. "Hey, this guy had a sword worth more than the kingdom." "+3? Eh, it's not even worth taking with us."

    5. I am just impressed that you are sticking with it after 30+ hours! When games become too much like work (drudgery, no longer fun), I quit and move on to something else.

      That said, I have only very rarely finished an RPG to the very end. Not even, sadly, Baldur's Gate.

    6. No D&D player I've ever met would accept retirement as a valid character-ending option. You came home with your shield or on it, and if it was "with" then you went right back out again and looked for something bigger.

    7. (That's because they're the sort of guys who play D&D, but whatever, I don't want to get into that.)

      If you had the kind of DM who took a "Chinese menu" approach to the various rulesets (Basic/Expert/etc. vs. Advanced, plus other crap, like all the miniatures rules), you could keep playing past level 36 and become "Immortal".

      If you had the kind of DM who did things like use Rolemaster's critical hit tables (which were written by sadists and sociopaths), or who installed thrones in the dungeon that, like the Siege Perilous, disintegrated you and ate your soul if you sat in it (no saving throw, no resurrection, nothing) ...

      Then the problems of 37th-level affluence were not on your list of concerns.

    8. I ran a High Level Campaign previously with my group as well. To become an immortal, they all had to give up every single one of their "earthly" possessions and transcend into an astral being- powerful but very fragile and their only source of food/powers comes from the number of believers they can get/convert.

      It was pretty sweet. Very fun when there are players being deified with differing pantheons trying to snatch followers from each other.

    9. I feel that the Birthright game setting was designed as the "next step" for players. You reached level 15? Off to Cerilia you go!

      I love the Birthright setting and wish Sierra had done better with the video game. Like Ravenloft, it just seems like a game world that had a failure to thrive.

    10. So did I, man! The adverts of them in Dragon Magazine was so goddamn awesome! You could go adventuring ala Might & Magic 6 style, rule the Kingdom like Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, and go to war like Sword of Aragon.

      As it turns out, I guess the game just wasn't big enough to contain that much awesomeness. When technology is finally able to handle shit like this, nobody (except Koei with their Dynasty Warriors: Empires expansions which comes the closest) have dared to touch this revolutionary idea with a million foot pole.

  3. On Mobygames in description of this game is said: "You can also buy a variety of chips, which allow the droids to see in darkness, invert the gravity or simple to shield a little period of time"

    Invert gravity should help to cross fire and water squares probably. Shield should help to cross mines on floor. I played this game long time ago (2001) but not finished it. But I liked it, so after I bought original box version (for Amiga) recently. I think, that this game is mostly about atmosphere, sci-fi, about upgrades your droids and developing them. If You don´t enjoy this aspects enought, you will be bored, lost in dungeon and doing same things again and again. Its for gamers, who like upgrading, dungeon crawling and enjoy it. Captive is good game for this. There are more terrible games with upgrading and absolutelly nothing in other aspects and have incomprehensible legend status (Diablo for example:-). Captive is true legend for me.

    1. Yes, I have those and have covered them in previous postings. The shield helps a little. Inverting gravity does not help cross fire.

    2. Have You Fire Shield? It should help crossing fire.

    3. No, the fire shield still doesn't allow you to cross fire. It just protects against fire-based damage, like the fireballs that the smiley-faced monitors shoot.


    Nice guide to Captive, not solution, only description of various things, items, skills etc. It make your playing easier, when you will know purpose of items.

  5. Hydrant: "Some encounters are unable to move in water. You can open and close the fire hydrants by touching the wheel on top of it which will fill the room with water. It will also miraculously restore light to tiles that shut your vision when you step in them.

    Be careful though because your droids get damaged when they get in contact with water. Make sure you are in a safe spot (a ladder going down, a door frame or a grate) or have the Anti-Grav Dev-Scape activated to walk on the ceiling.

    Although it would have been fun, water does not extinguish fire!"

    1. If that's all it does, I still don't see the purpose. Dealing with the consequences of a flooded area (always having to walk on the ceiling, constantly looking for power outlets to recharge) far outweighs the benefits of "trapping" monsters.

  6. This game really wants your attention. It does not want to played on the side.
    That thing you don't know what it's for looks like a valve. Does it flood a room?
    Well, you're almost done with the Dungeon Master clones, just the Bloodwych data disk, Captive II, The Eye of the Beholder series, The Lands of Lore series (though they're more fleshed out), Black Crypt, Knightmare, Hired Guns, Legend of Grimrock, and those I've missed.

    1. EotB seems pretty palateable in light of this game.

    2. At the very least you've missed Event Horizon/Dreamforge games (The Summoning, Mezoberranzan, Ravenloft, Anvil of Dawn) and Trazere series - although these do innovate a lot on the DM formula.

    3. Dreamforge also did Anvil of Dawn in a similar style.

      Furthermore, Black Crypt for the Amiga is a clear standout, but there's a lot of them on that computer like Crystal Dragon, Abandoned Places 1 and 2, Ishar trilogy, Dungeons of Avalon 1 and 2, Evil's Doom

    4. There are many great dungeon crawlers and RPGs, hard to list them all. For Example all Gold box Games, Ultima games, Might and Magic games, Wizardry Games, Amberstar, Ambermoon, Albion, Fate- Gates of Dawn, Ultima Underworld 1, 2, ROA trilogy: Blade of Destiny, Star Trail, Riva, Shadowlands, Shadowworlds, Magic Candle serie etc.

    5. And you can find 60 Amiga RPGs at It's a-w-e-s-o-m-e .

    6. I really wouldn't describe The Summoning as being particularly like Dungeon Master. For starters, it's a single character isometric game instead of a first person party-based game, which is a rather significant difference. It's a definite classic, though, and I was absolutely obsessed with it as a child.

    7. The Summoning isn't a DM clone, but it was certainly heavily influenced by it. It has the same gameplay focus: navigational puzzles and resource management under heavy stress. I'd describe it as DM meets Ultima.

    8. I'd actually describe it as Legend Of Zelda meets... I dunno, any Single-Character RPG. I vaguely remember having to heave sacks of stuff around.

  7. I started playing this game again when I saw you were playing it.

    Are you using the electric bolts from the power outlet to attack monsters?
    They seem to be absolutely essential.

    If I face off against a group of monsters without using the power outlet I die pretty quickly as you describe here.

    1. Yes, I'm using electric bolts when there's a power source nearby. I agree that they're absolutely necessary in the ealry game, though magnums seem to out-class them later on. I still use the power bolts when I want to save on ammunition, though.

    2. Zapping enemies with electricity is a useful trick for early game, but the damage output is quickly outpaced by just about any real weapon.

  8. Do lasers, perhaps, recharge instead of needing ammunition? That would make them advantageous, even if they are less powerful...

    1. No, lasers require $1000 laser packs that have 20 shots each. They're quite expensive.

  9. Fire hydrants not putting out fires is the disappointment I mentioned in an earlier post's comments. It seemed so obvious they were meant for that, yet water has no effect on fire.

    Water does have an effect on ynaqzvarf though. Namely, it qvfnoyrf gurz. It also has a use in bottlenecking nonfloating monsters - they're reluctant to step on water.

    Addict: "Is the worst laser better than the best handgun?"

    Yes. By far. Also by now you should have found several shops that sell rifles and automatics. I'm not sure how you've missed them, it's quite important to have them by now. The "hovercrafts", delightful bastards that they are (they're kind of Captive's "gloves are off now" moment, similar to meeting your first beholders in EOB2), are balanced to be challenging to a party that has everything that's possible to have by now. You seem to have markedly less than that in terms of weapons and supplies, and I'm not sure if it's because you can't find the shops that sell the good stuff (shops are nonrandom, so they definitely should be there) or because you refuse to buy it. Please outfit yourself properly, Captive is plenty hard enough without handicaps.

    About story: I agree that Captive could and should have done more on that front. It would have been a trivial expense in man-hours and resources to, for example, put more of those "Notes from Ratt" into the game, turn him into a character. Maybe add other types of brief text documents, just doing something as simple as this could have done wonders. Lack of puzzles is similarly disappointing, though understandable given the procedural generation. Still, I think Captive's merits far outweigh its flaws - it was widely heralded as the only DM clone that approached the level of the original until EOB1 came out.

    (Side note: Crowther later made another DM clone, Knightmare, using the same engine but discarding the algorithmic approach in favor of four large hand-made dungeons. That game has actual puzzles and even talking NPCs. It's also much, much harder than Captive, possibly the most difficult DM clone that exists.)

  10. About the procedurally created bases: it's interesting to compare them to the levels of the other DM clone that did such, SSI's Dungeon Hack from 1993 (envisioned and marketed as a roguelike that uses the Eye of Beholder engine). Despite predating DH by several years and having a one-man dev team, Captive does a much better job at making the bases feel different from each other. Dungeon Hack has really only one kind of floorplan, a zigzagging maze that covers every part of a single square floor, and it becomes repetitive almost instantly. Captive's mazes feel planned, even though they are not.

    1. Yes, I remember Dungeon Hack as really boring and repetetive. It only had the most basic riddles, meaning locks and keys. But even that didn't work properly, sometimes there only was an empty room behind the locked door. Also there only 2 kind of monsters on any given level.

      That was a shame, I really wanted to like it.

    2. There's actually one rare exception to the level design in Dungeon Hack - once every dungeon, you'll get one level that's nothing but corrdiors, inhabited by minotaurs, which is kind of cute. I don't recall any other variations though.

      I think the repetitiveness of procedural mazes - or anything generated randomly - is an inherent problem and probably one that can't ever be fully overcome. *All* games with random set ups are kind of fascinating at first, then almost instantly flip over to dull-as-dish-water once you've played for long enough to get an insight to have the mechanics of the random generation works.


    3. Many roguelikes have predefined rooms or levels for exactly that reason. Captive and Dungeon Hack could have done the same.

  11. Those "hovercraft" look like they were inspired by the "spinners" (hover-capable police cruisers) from Blade Runner.

    What's the turning radius on those giblet-blossom tanks?

    This game looks like it had a serious lack of quality control. I blame the publisher. The only other Mindscape game I've played was Legions, a terrible Win 3.1 knockoff of Civilization. That game was ridiculously easy to cheese, due to pathetic AI and some ill-considered design choices (which take too long to get into here, but they're doozies, trust me).

    The sad thing here is that Legions was made *after* Mindscape had bought the venerable Strategic Simulations, Inc. (good old SSI). That's even worse than Infogrames (of Drakkhen fame!) buying Atari.

    1. "This game looks like it had a serious lack of quality control." Oh, I wouldn't say that at all. I apologize if that's the impression I've given. I think it's impressively-programmed and everything works the way it's intended. I just don't like this particular type of CRPG.

    2. If it's not buggy, that's good (Antony Crowther was a well-regarded programmer; no relation to William, of Colossal Cave Adventure fame).

      But it does seem to me that there are a lot of design weaknesses and "WTF" moments when the verisimilitude is wrecked. That's what I meant.

  12. I don't think any DM-clone really got it. DM had unique and handcrafted puzzles far in the three-digits (if you don't believe, just count) and that's why it could pull off feature- and storyless corridors. Many of those puzzles don't stop you for more than a few seconds (like "this is my prisoner, let him suffer"), but that's not the point of them. The point is to add variety and a sense of achievement. The level system of DM also helped in that regard, because you get levels basically all the time.

    You might think a story would be able to do the same, but actually that doesn't work (or never was done right, whatever) as EoB and Lands of Lore will show. The idea surely was to add a motivation to roam dungeons, but the result was the opposite. Puzzles are far less and both games require ridicolous amounts of backtracking, which is the opposite of having fun.

    I put all my hope in Black Crypt, I have never played that before due to the lack of an Amiga. I might play along when it's due.

    Also, I think skipping Black Crypt: Data Disk is okay. It's not the kind of progress that CSB offered over DM and looks like a huge timesink.

    1. Just reread this and found a critical error: I meant "skip Bloodwych: Data Disk"! Huge difference!

    2. When I had an A500 I had the game Black Crypt. In the manual to the game, they actually gave you all the maps to every dungeon, every level. Why? Oh my GOD, it's trap inside trap inside puzzle inside trap inside puzzle. I could never get any distance at all in it- a friend of mine beat it in ONE NIGHT, while high on LSD, because he is a lunatic like that.

    3. Yes, I'm going to merge that with the original Bloodwych, consistent with my policy of regarding games as "expansions" if they require an original game.

  13. So I have been playing 1984's "Flight from the Dark", the first of the Lone Wolf games that were posted here for the Spectrum. It's sort of an interesting combination of game book and cRPG and may be worth a look, though whether or not to play the sequels would be a good question. You can play a version of it online here, though without the ability to save and I am not sure they have both disks emulated or if you would get stuck half-way through:

    The game plays a bit like a game book with a brief text description and then different options. For example, in the first screen you can choose one of two paths or enter the forest. Whenever you enter combat, you go to a simple combat interface where you can move forward or back, use "mindblast" to attack the enemy, and have three different attack commands for chopping, slashing, etc. Apparently if you use "slash" with a weapon like a spear, it does little damage, etc. The combat interface is pretty nifty with an animated graphic should your character that changes based on equipped weapon. It's also used for brief "animated" cutscenes without combat.

    It has inventory, a combat skill and endurance stat, the manual implies that it has a hidden stat for how well your mindblast works based on how much you practice it, and you can pick up multiple weapons. (Though I only found an axe and a sword so far, plus fighting barehanded.)

    So it is sort of like a cRPG with no overworld, exploration just being based on menu options.

    If anyone does want to play, the manual is here:

    Someone played it on Youtube as well:

    The Spectrum had a strange keyboard and seems to work differently depending on the emulators. (MESS, for example, I had to press SHIFT-P to get a quote character because that is where it is on the Spectrum keyboard, but the main ascii letters are in the same places.)

    Press "9" to select an option, press "1" to rotate through your options per screen. Press "0" to see your inventory. That confused the heck out of me.

    Fun stuff!

    1. Try this:

  14. About the skills above 24, eh, I misremembered. My mistake. Apparently only Robotics can be raised above 24.


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