Friday, October 10, 2014

Dragon Sword: Unmitigated Galt

A message on Level 5 of Galt's Home suggests an encounter that never materialized.

I had committed to playing 4 more levels at the end of the last post, and I ended up playing 6. Galt's Home turned out to be 7 levels, not the 5 I assumed. I couldn't very well quit in the middle of one of the dungeons, so I decided to press on to the end.

The dungeon naturally featured increasingly difficult levels of monsters. I logged 92 among the 7 levels, only one of which (pixies) I encountered in the previous dungeon. Each monster basically appears for two levels and then makes way for harder variants. There were a host of them capable of causing instant death, and towards the end I started to encounter more dangerous spellcasters, some with mass-damage spells. I've only found one creature that drains levels (the pit fiend), which I learned to destroy immediately in combat. Oddly, some of the creatures to make an appearance on the last level of Galt's Home include such pedestrian-sounding creatures as skeletons and zombies. 

Monster names progressively got weirder. It must have been hard to come up with hundreds of these things.

Although the frequency of the random battles seems to have slowed down, the dungeon was rendered a little more difficult by a scarcity of recharging squares. I only found one group on Levels 2 and 3. I didn't find any on Level 5. Level 6 had a bunch of single-square rechargers, but there was something weird about them. They stopped working, at least for a time, if I encountered enemies nearby. Level 7 had dozens, though, so the endgame wasn't so hard.

The first five levels offered virtually no equipment upgrades, but Levels 6 and 7 made up for that with several nice +2 and +3 items, including (for the first time) weapons. I'm beginning to doubt that armor class really does much of anything, though. Enemies seem to hit my monk, who has -40 AC, with the same regularity that they hit my first two fighters at -9 and -10. Perhaps the effects eventually hit a cap.

The navigation obstacles got more annoying as the levels progressed.  Levels 2-5 all had large dark areas. I don't mind those so much because enemies don't attack while you're in them. Spinners were quite common throughout, as were one-way passages, which often dump you into a dead end and require you to cast "Open Wall" to escape. The game is absolutely fiendish about teleportation squares. There's no warning when you're suddenly teleported, and the developers did a "good" job ensuring that the destination squares look a lot like the departure squares. Often, I wouldn't realize that I'd been teleported until I noticed my map was screwed up. Then I'd have to erase several minutes' investment in mapping and start over. This was particularly true of Level 7, which had around a dozen teleporters. I got so paranoid that I was casting "Locate" every few steps, which drained my cleric's spell points.

Level 5 had a huge dark area in the middle; I had to map by feeling my way.

On Level 4, I got a bunch of hints to a riddle that I would ultimately face on Level 5. Stepping in one square, I got a vision of Galt (described as a thief and plunderer) sitting on a mountain of treasure. He had this to say:

The first one I am not--look at me and see! I know no math, but the second is twice three. The third I leave to your own device but do not leave until you've heard my advice. The stairs are guarded by an evil man. Answer in reverse and do not play into his hand!

The text refers to the fact that the password has three separate parts. Elsewhere in the level, I got three other clues to the parts:

  • "To have no money, to have no name. The word you seek means the same."
  • "Of one word I speak, not a bit more. It is larger than five, but shorter than four."
  • "It never stops, it has no shame. Into eternity it goes, an eternal flame."

I figured out the answers without much trouble: POOR, SIX, and TIME. The problem lay in Galt's instructions to "answer in reverse." When I got to the stairway guardian on Level 5, I first tried the word order in reverse (TIME, SIX, POOR) to no avail. I then tried the letters in reverse (EMIT, XIS, ROOP), and finally both (ROOP, XIS, EMIT). Nothing worked, and I assumed that I was wrong about one of the answers. Maybe it was IMPOVERISHED or something. I quit for a while, briefly toyed with asking for a hint from Brian and Tim, but ultimately restarted and tried the words in different orders. Ultimately, it was XIS, EMIT, ROOP that allowed me to pass. This goes against the "first, second, third" order of Galt's message.

Level 6 was an enormous maze with spinners, teleporters, and ultimately no purpose. The stairway to Level 7 is mere steps from the entry to Level 6, and there was nothing important to find elsewhere on the level.

A lot of mapping for little purpose.

Some previous messages had suggested that spellcasters would lose their power on Level 7, but actually the reverse was true: the level had so many recharging squares that I never had to worry for a minute about spell points.

The level featured multiple iterations of the same 3 x 3 room, including 7 pairs of them connected by 3-square corridors. It was in one such room that I encountered Galt and his allies.

The dungeon's final battle.

I guess Galt himself was immune to magic, but his allies sure weren't, so I blasted them away with "Ice Storm" and concentrated my fighter's attacks on him. He died disappointingly fast and left an "ebony dagger" behind. An early message in Perion's Place had said, "A dark wand, an ebony dagger, ring of mithral, staff of stone, golden armor, slayer of dragons…" I found the wand in Perion's Place and the dagger here; I assume the other artifacts are found in subsequent dungeons.

In addition to Galt, Level 7 also had one important square: the one that told me the password to the next dungeon. It turned out to be BOOM.

Accessing the third dungeon.

I used the "Teleport" spell in combat to get myself back to Level 1 and out of the dungeon. In consequent level-ups, my cleric and mage both got Level 6 spells--the final spell level. Most important among them is "Summon Deamon." My summoned familiars and dogs stopped serving as anything but cannon fodder a long time ago; it'll be nice to have a more powerful ally in the front ranks.

I've had to name about 200 familiars and dogs. I'm out of good ideas.

Before wrapping up, I stopped by the entrance to the next dungeon, gave the password, and peaked in. I guess the developers hit a nadir of creativity when naming this one.

A few final notes:

  • At some point in the dungeon--I forgot where--I found a bronze key. I never found a door for it in Galt's Home, so I assume it must open something somewhere else. It doesn't work on the locked door in town.
  • I realized belatedly that "Cure Pet" not only heals the pet but also cures all conditions. I was dumping my poor familiar or wolf every time he got poisoned, slept, or paralyzed because the regular versions of "cure" spells don't work on him.
  • The bug that makes the "game over" screen come up randomly in combat has gotten worse. It now also frequently comes up on squares where you'd normally get a message or encounter. This necessitates reloading from the last save. This wouldn't be a big deal, since you can save anywhere, except that spells don't remain active when you reload. For every reload, I have to waste points casting "Light," "Armor," and "Compass" again.

That's 12/30 levels completed. Each level takes a reliable 2 hours, so we're looking at at least another 36 hours in the game, which seems a little excessive. I don't think anyone can say I didn't give it a fair chance. I'll spend a little time playing with my new spells and offer a GIMLET.


In list news, I've knocked Moria down a few pegs. I have a lot of notes and material, but for whatever reason, I find the process of compiling it exhausting.


  1. All in all, about what you'd expect from a couple of programming students who banged out a shareware title in their spare time.

    In the coming years, these sorts of programs are going to explode in number. There are thousands of CDs just packed to their full 700Mb capacity with nothing but shareware games. I suggest a new criteria, that games must have had a commercial release. Otherwise poorly-planned, buggy, crippled, excessively long games will take over.

    1. I disagree. These CDs mostly contain the same games over and over again and the number of shareware/public domain crpgs is not very high.

    2. I remember prowling the BBSs looking for shareware CRPGs (I was out of them to play and I had no money) and being very disappointed.

      The only ones I remember finding and enjoying were Castle of the Winds and Ancients 1: Death Watch.

      (The latter doesn't seem to be on The Master List.

    3. Ancients 1 and Ancients 2 are fun in a throwback sort of way. I played the first game to death on a 386SX way back in the day.

      The two games were published by Epic MegaGames and according to Mobygames Ancients 1 was their first publication before developing and publishing ZZT.

    4. Ignoring games which never had a commercial release as a blanket rule would be a bad bad idea. Nethack has been freeware for most of its existance. ADOM, Dwarf Fortress, Zangband, all games which are more famous than many commercially released games. Most of the awful cd-filler games (normally arkanoid clones and stuff anyway)have thankfully disappeared into the mists of time. I think a good indicator is if a game is not mentioned much anywhere, it was probably not worth remembering.

    5. Just like to say that neither of us were programming students. We were both math/physics double majors. So, it's not like we knew what we were doing :)

    6. After thinking about it, I think I may have come up with a method of trimming shareware lists that wouldn't be too much of a problem. If a given game is clearly a clone of a commercial game, that game may be skipped if the game it is copying is on the list. If the game being copied is not on the list, the game remains on the list, but the original game may be substituted in its place.

      (Of course, the Addict is free to do whatever he wants, this is intended as a way of filtering out junk without providing too open an excuse.)

    7. I'm going to keep things the way they are unless the number of shareware titles becomes overwhelming in any given year. I think Boroth is on track: if it made the major game databases in 2014, it's probably worth playing.

    8. I had one of those Shareware CDs! It came with like a 700 page book describing them. Was a lot of fun to read, even if I couldn't get most of them running. I think that was where I got Castle of the Winds and Moraff's World from. (I hope I can catch up in time for you to play those! Waking up at crazy hours while in Eastern/central Europe due to basically no blinds is helping.)

      Anyway, from my reading of old lists, Lazy Game Reviews, etc, there seems to be a lot of overlap on those CDs. Also, most of them weren't RPGs. As I said, Castle of the Winds, Moraff's World were the two RPGs I was able to get running off of mine, and I think it had Demos for some one with Tower in the name, Ultima Underworld and Menzoboranzan. OH! And one where the main gameplay mechanic was transforming into monsters to fight. So, I don't think you are going to be flooded: Most of the CD was taken up with the Doom demo, iWADs (A mod to let you kill barney!), FPS and platfomers.

  2. "I guess the developers hit a nadir of creativity when naming this one."

    We could not say it in a nicer way. :)

  3. Replies
    1. I guess "Dungeon Uranus" was just a bit out of their reach somehow.

    2. They probably meant Shi (pronounced as 'shy') Thole.

  4. Yes, but were you eaten by a grue?

  5. The "Game Over" bug makes the "winnability" of this one questionable.

    1. The bug comes along once maybe very 10-15 minutes of gameplay, and it disappears if you reload and do the same thing again. Very annoying, but not game-breaking.

  6. I see that Wizardry III is on the list again. Are you going to make another go at it, like you did with Wiz 2?

    1. Yes. I had thought about sneaking it in, but it'll take me a while, so might as well make it official.

  7. I am considering playing Wizardry I (when the Addict is on III but whatever). I have heard that the DOS version of 1/2/3 has a nearly game-breaking bug where leveling up can reduce your stats more often that it should. Can anyone confirm this? If I play the Apple ][ version, will that work better?

    I know the Addict successfully beat the DOS versions, but I am not quite as tenacious as he is.

    1. It is not a game-breaking bug, it is a feature. You can see it in the recently released Elminage Gothic as well. Elminage is a faithful Wizardry clone.

    2. Whether bug or feature, it's certainly not game-breaking. Joe, as long as you allow yourself to back up your saves, you'll find the game challenging but not overwhelmingly so, even if it occasionally lowers your scores.

  8. I've heard that the PC versions have the bug where your stats are as likely to go up as they are to go down but I've never heard anyone confirm it using proof. You can try the Apple II versions but they use the older version of the Wizardry engine, where the wireframe dungeon takes up no more than 1/8 of the screen and everything is generally really slow. I played it a bit on an Apple II emulator and lost interest after a few hours. Can't recall whether my guys' stats went down when they levelled up though.

    1. I was bored today so I decided to check out the differences between the DOS and Apple II versions. I used a DOS and Apple II emulator to play each respective version.

      I played both and leveled up some characters to see what stats went up or down. With the DOS version I started with level 1 characters and with the Apple II version I used the characters that I previously made.

      In the Apple II version I leveled up my characters a total of 12 times (approx twice per character). When you level up your characters you get a certain number of stat changes (a stat either goes up or down by 1). When I leveled up 6 of the 12 times, there were 3 stat changes. 3 of the 12 level ups were 4 stat changes, and the remaining 3 had 5 stat changes. Of these 45 total stat changes, 5 of them were negative (i.e. the stat went down). The rest were positive. So 11% of stat changes were negative in the Apple 2 version.

      In the DOS version, I leveled up my guys 18 times (about 3x per character). In this version, when you leveled up I had the same 3, 4 or 5 stat changes as before, but also encountered 1 stat change or 6 stat changes.

      1 stat change: 1x
      2 stat changes: 0x
      3 stat changes: 4x
      4 stat changes: 4x
      5 stat changes: 5x
      6 stat changes: 4x

      And of those 78 total stat changes, 27 were negative for about a 1/3 shot.

      So yes it does appear that the DOS version has a higher frequency of negative stat changes, about 3x higher, at least in the small sample size I used.

      Also, in the Apple II version, when you surprise the monsters, you CAN use spells, but you can't in the DOS version.

      And I also felt that my characters tended to get more HP on level ups in the Apple II version, though that might've just been due to the small sample size.

      And another difference is that in the Apple II version you have to rest in the inn to restore spells, while in the DOS version your spells are instantly restored just by going into town.

      Then there are the engine changes. The DOS version is faster, a bit more user friendly, better graphics, had the pool gold command (I don't think the Apple II version does. To pool gold you have to go into the dungeon and manually trade gold amongst your party members). And I also felt that the monster encounters were a bit more difficult on the DOS version.

    2. Hmm. So now the question is which of those experiences is "authentic"-- or both?

      The Apple version was the first one, released in 1981. Do you know when it came out for DOS? Wikipedia seems to say 1984 (after the second and third games were released), but that hardly seems right. Do you know?

      It seems as if the DOS version is an upgrade and so that modified distribution was intentional. Perhaps "evil", given that we know that the author(s) liked to make damned hard games, but intentional. Quite difficult to know now.

    3. Thanks for doing all that testing, Steve. I didn't realize there were so many differences between the Apple II and DOS versions.

    4. I find these old Wizardry games fascinating, even though they have the wireframe graphics, high difficulty, 90% empty spaces in the dungeons, etc. One fun thing to do is to "role-play" while playing the game. I pretend that it's 1981 and I'm playing it on an Apple II and this is my first RPG ever. It makes it a lot more fun...and bearable since playing Wiz1 means playing basically every other RPG that's been released in the last 30 years.

      I don't know about "authenticity" since I don't know the motivations for the balance changes. I would say the Apple II is easier due to the stat boosts and makes it less tough to change character classes. But you really have to get used to how slow and clunky it is. But once you make that mental adjustment it's the same thing. The Apple II versions of Wiz1 and 2 used the old engine and they upgraded to the DOS engine for Wiz 3, 4 and 5.

      This is a fascinating website about the history of Wizardry, Ultima and other PC games.

      Also of note is that a lot of the commenters are old school gamers who played Wizardry back in the day and they said everyone backed up their characters, save scummed, etc. and the permadeath rules were harsh even back in the day.

    5. I recently completed Wiz 1 for the fist time myself. It wasn't _that_ hard, and with the exception of backing up the disk image right before confronting Werdna and googling what items did, I played it 100% Iron Man. I defeated Werdna on second try, and before meeting him I only had one party death.

      The two first Might&Magic games are more difficult IMO, since any individual battle is potentially more deadly and there's no way to ressurrect a whole party, while in the Wiz games you can go far by playing cautiously and carefully.

    6. On second though, I recall you could resurrect your party in MM2 at least.

    7. I played MM2 years ago without a walkthrough. I thought it was really, really fun and not too hard once you only level up your guys in Atlantium (I guess I used a walkthrough to figure that out). It's surprising how they kept up the MM formula in all the games through 7 (that I played). I remember getting the same feeling with Ultima V. That game has aged really well. I don't feel that MM1 has aged well though, maybe because of no auto-map and there's less "stuff" to do than in MM2. And contrary to my gushing of Wizardry 1 above, the game does get tedious once your characters stop leveling up quickly and you have to just grind to make them able to survive the Werdna battle.

    8. So, I started a party in Wizardry DOS version and have been keeping track of stat changes. I've leveled up nine times since I started with 18 total losses and 21 gains. That is a slight forward progression, but no where near what Steve saw. You can't make much progress like this!

      As far as the game itself is concerned, it is pretty fun but the costs of resurrecting characters is crazy. To resurrect my thief is 1200 gold when I've been lucky to be able to scrounge 500 gold ONCE to revive someone. So I start a new Thief but he's so weak that he's useless and dies immediately. And this is still on the first level of the maze.

      Mapping seems to be quite difficult with a small number of DUMAPIC spells and a few secret door/teleporters around and a large dark area that I do not know what to do with-- while I seems to be in the same space, I end up overwriting parts of my map that are filled in so must be more teleporters someplace. I eventually found my way back into a part of the level that I knew and escaped (sans Thief, again) but wow.

      Very rough game.

    9. Because I Iron Man all RPGs, some are basically impossible for me to get into. Realistically I should save scum the first couple hours till I know what the basic pitfalls are. Both M&Ms I've played (1&3) were simply too lethal.

  9. On an unrelated note, I was sifting through the Master List and noticed a couple candidates for deletion.

    Ring Cycle (1996) is a pure adventure game - no stats, inventory puzzle only, and so on.

    King of Dragon Pass (1999) is awesome, but it's not a RPG - it's a management game with some adventure elements. There's a couple of Let's Play on the LPArchive that you can look at if you need more info.

    Progress Quest (2002) is a joke application that makes fun of the endless grinding of MMOs by automating everything. It's not a game in any way.

    Dominions 2: The Ascension Wars (2003) is a pure turn-by-turn strategy game (of the "you control thousand of units" variety).

    1. Long time before I get to any of these, but thanks. When the near, I'll find this comment in my old e-mail and consider them for deletion.

    2. A few others from 1991:
      Drachen von Laas: actually a Magnetic Scrolls style adventure.
      Cadaver: The Payoff: well, just like Cadaver, as it is only a "Data Disk" (one would say DLC nowadays, I guess ;) )
      Obitus: although quite interesting in a few parts (perspective, smooth scrolling dungeons ala lands of lore), no character progression whatsoever.

    3. Jones In The Fast Lane is on your list for 1991, but is nothing more than a game in the vein of Life or Monopoly. It's a board game.

      The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Katt is, IIRC, a pure adventure game.

      Both are from 1991

      On the flipside, Princess Maker 2 (1993) did receive a PC (DOS) release, and while it never received a commercial English release, it was officially translated, and that translation is easily acquired. It's credentials as an RPG are somewhat iffy, but it is worth a look, at least. (Note that, despite the way a lot of indexes have it posted, there is no real sexual content in the game.)

    4. Yeah, but Jones In The Fast Lane has:
      1) Character advancement
      2) Items that are not meant to solve puzzles
      3) Working economy
      4) Combat based on attr- okay, screw it. I am stretching it out too much. This is just a digital Game Of Life. Fun, but not an RPG.

    5. Actually, I'd like to see Progress Quest left on the list. Technically it doesn't fit, but given that it would take Chet 10 minutes and would amuse him, I'd like to see it written up. It could be our first 0 on the GIMLET scale. ;)

    6. It'll be good for a joke post if nothing else.

    7. The Fallout Shelter mobile game has a progress quest element to it. When you send your dwellers to the wasteland they basically engage in progress quest until you recall them back to the vault.

    8. Chet, maybe you can start Progress Quest now until the year that it is supposed to be evaluated.

      It'd be interesting as an experiment to see what a stupid thing like this could turn up with after running for almost a decade.

    9. You know, we should have all lied and said it was a super great RPG that he had to play, to see his reaction when he first posted about it.

  10. Pete is a great name for a demon if he does what this song says...


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