Thursday, October 27, 2016

Game 232: Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight (1991)

Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight
Mindscape (developer and publisher)
Released in 1991 for Amiga, 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 19 October 2016
Date Ended: 22 October 2016
Total Hours: 9
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 32
Ranking at Time of Posting: 141/230 (57%)
Raking at Game #453: 304/453 (67%)

Moonstone took me a long time to get up and running, but once I did I had fun with it. It's an interesting fusion of light strategy, light action, and light RPG. A session can easily take 3-6 hours, and there's no saving. There won't be many more such "single session" RPGs on the list.

I ended up vacillating between the DOS and Amiga versions. I'm on an extended road trip, and I left my controller at home (which probably wouldn't have worked anyway), so I needed some way to emulate the joystick-only requirement on the keyboard. After a lot of effort setting up the diagonal controls, the Amiga turned out to be the only platform on which I could fully emulate the joystick. However, I had trouble with video and screen captures with WinUAE. For some reason, every time I try to take video, it just makes a 0KB .avi file but doesn't actually record anything. It also puts huge thick black borders around every static screen capture and saves them as bitmaps (yes, I know I can edit both, but that's a pain). Because so much in this game is rapid and difficult to capture with my usual Amiga screenshot method (Windows 10's clipping tool), I used DOSBox for some screen shots and all video. The drawback with the DOS version was that I couldn't figure out how to emulate diagonal controls on the joystick, so I didn't have my full set of combat actions.
How most of my early combats ended.
Action-oriented combat is the most important feature of Moonstone. It's relentless, hard, confusing, and increases in difficulty throughout the game. It's the type of mechanic that I absolutely suck at, and I had to spend about 90 minutes reloading a save state at the first combat I tried before I felt I finally had the controls...well, not "mastered," but at least "learned." I soon discovered that every enemy type requires a different approach to combat, so even the lessons of that long practice session didn't carry me through the entire game.
"Character creation" is really just selecting a color.
On the surface, combat seems easy. When you aren't holding down the "fire" button, the joystick moves you around the screen. When you are holding it down, it executes various attack and defense moves--one for each of the 8 points of the joystick. Sounds easy, but the problem is that the combat options associated with each direction aren't necessarily intuitive, and they also swap sides depending on which way the character is facing. So when you're facing right, upper-left throws daggers, straight up executes a powerful overhand attack, upper-right does an upward thrust, left does a backward thrust, right does a swing, lower-left is a block, straight down is a special block that counters enemies' special attacks, and lower-right is a lunge. Turn and face left, and the top and bottom options are the same but everything else reverses.
Battling some spear-wielding jackass.
Someone with better dexterity could figure it out, but I spent most of my practice sessions just bumbling around. It didn't get easier until I decided to just focus on movement and one or two attacks (primarily swings and overhead chops) that I could rely on. Enemies rarely stay far enough away to throw daggers and upward thrusts only work in a few places anyway.

Let's back up to the story. "The Druids sent their best knights to Stonehenge," the opening scenes of Moonstone tell us, "so they may be dubbed into the Quest for the MOONSTONE." I'm trying and failing to come up with a sentence of similar length that's even more guaranteed to send historians into fits of apoplexy. "When George Washington signed up to fight Nazis in the Boer War, he called upon every strategy he learned during the Crusades" might fit the bill. But it soon turns out that the "druids" and "Stonehenge" of Moonstone aren't meant to be in Britain. The terrain doesn't even come close to matching, and the closest cities are called "Highwood" and, oddly, "Waterdeep."
Visiting "Waterdeep," some distance from the Sword Coast.
Every thousand years, the manual tells us, the warriors of the realm have a special opportunity to win a "gift of ultimate power" from the gods. Fighting through "horrible demons of immense power and strength," the warrior must recover a Moonstone from the Valley of the Gods, then race to Stonehenge and present it to Danu, "the great Moon God."

The game supports up to 4 players. If playing alone, as I did, the other 3 players are computer-controlled. Each player explores the map in turn, trying to find 4 keys that will allow him to access the Valley of the Gods at the center of the map. There, if he defeats the Guardian, he'll be rewarded with a Moonstone. He takes the Moonstone back to Stonehenge to win the game.

A secondary goal during the player's exploration is to amass an inventory of magic items, experience, and gold, the latter of which he may use in the two towns to purchase equipment upgrades.
I and the other knights explore the map as a dragon swoops around menacingly.
Most of the exploration is done at a series of about 20 "lairs" that dot the map. Each has one or more monsters defending a chest, which may contain a combination of gold, magic items, and keys. As the knights acquire these items, the other knights might attack them hoping to acquire their spoils. Each knight starts with 5 lives and loses 1 life for each lost combat. Lives can be restored by paying healers in cities and by sacrificing magic items to Danu at Stonehenge. If you fall below 3 lives, you can get a couple more by returning to your "home village" (your starting location), but you can only do this three times.
After conquering one of the "lairs," I find one of the keys to the Valley of the Gods.
Playing with other human players would be an entirely different experience than playing with computer-controlled knights. The AI of the computer-controlled characters is pretty stupid. They basically just swarm the human player until you defeat them in enough combats that they lose their lives and die permanently, leaving little graves on the game map. They never return home to heal, nor visit towns to spend their money.

The role-playing elements of Moonstone are light but reasonably satisfying. You get 1 experience point for clearing a lair, 3 experience points for killing the dragon (below), and 3 for defeating the Guardian in the Valley of the Gods. Every time you amass 3 points, you can spend them on 1 point of strength (increases combat damage), endurance (increases movement per round), and constitution (increases hit points). Each of these attributes starts at 1 and might end the game at 3 or 4. Apparently, if you have 4 human players in the game, it only takes 1 experience point to increase an attribute, which again creates a very different game, with some players ending with minimal strength but a huge hit point reservoir and others favoring the opposite.
Raising my constitution with some of my experience. I've collected a few inventory items, including a claymore, a suit of chainmail, a healing potion, a Talisman of the Wyrm, and a key.
About half the ruins contain gold, which can be spent on healing and equipment upgrades, although the only one that you'd want to buy in a single-player game is "battle armor," since you can loot daggers from slain knights and you ultimately find a sword--the Sword of Sharpness--better than anything the shops sell. Other magic items include a Gem of Seeing, which lets you look in lairs and see what treasures they have, a Ring of Protection, and Talismans of the Wyrm, each of which halves the damage done to the character by the dragon.

There are a handful of delightfully devious items that, again, would only make sense in a game against other human players. Scrolls of Protection, for instance, allow you to avoid other players' attacks against you. A Scroll of Acquisition allows you to steal one item from any other player anywhere on the map. Scrolls of the Wyrm direct the dragon to attack another knight. Adding a twist, each of these items can be cursed. Thus, a player who accidentally reads a cursed Scroll of Protection will find that all the battle controls are backwards, and a cursed Scroll of the Wyrm naturally has the dragon attack the player who uses it.
In Waterdeep, you can supposedly donate your gold to Mythral the Mystic for a "chance" to increase your attributes. There's also a chance that visiting him will lower your attributes. I don't know what was going on with my game, but every time I visited Mythral, no matter how much I donated, my stats went down.
This cost me 100 gold pieces.
The game has a few other twists. After about half a dozen turns, a dragon appears and starts circling the map. If he passes over any knight, there's a chance he'll attack. In a game with other players, I'm not sure if I'd want the dragon attack or not. Chances of victory are low, but you do get 3 experience points and several magic items. The dragon breathes fire in combat, and it took me a long time to realize that the key to defeating him is to get under his head, so his fire goes over yours, and swipe at his neck from a close position.
There's also a mage's tower in the upper-right quadrant where the wizard Math might give you a magic item, or some gold, or an attribute increase, or might turn you into a toad for a few rounds.
One of the few special locations in the game.
But back to combat. The computer-controlled knights are pretty pathetic, so for a single player, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to defeat the other monsters in the game. Each has a different approach to regular attacks and special attacks. As a general strategy, darting north or south on the combat map, then executing an attack just in time for your opponent to walk into it, then darting away, works against almost everyone but takes a lot of patience.

Most lairs generally have more than one enemy. Towards the end, you might face upwards of a dozen. About mid-way through the game, they start attacking you 2 or 3 at a time, too. I don't know if the increased difficulty and numbers are based on how many lairs you've already cleared or on increases in your attributes, but either way the endgame combats are much, much harder.

The manual lists 5 monster types--troggs, ratmen, mudmen, baloks, and trolls--but I swear I faced more than that, and I can't quite reconcile any of the creatures on the screen with the descriptions in the manual. "Mudmen" are the most obvious--they're tall bastards who swing tree branches at you and have a much greater reach than you do, making it hard to hit them first.
Is this a trogg, a balok, or a troll? No idea.
But there are some undead-looking things that I can't match with any of the descriptions. As you kill one, a new one immediately comes erupting from the ground and kills you in one hit if you don't dart out of the way.
Does this look like anything in that list of foes?
In the upper-left quadrant, there are some boar-like creatures that gallop back and forth across the combat screen. You have to make a quick attack the moment you see them at the edge of the screen, or they'll bowl you over before your strike finishes executing. Then there are these spearmen, who might make my "most annoying enemies" list in a more consequential game. Their reach is far longer than yours, but they dart too quickly to catch them with daggers. If you face one on either side, they can catch you in a neverending succession of rapid thrusts, and you have no choice but to watch and die.
Two spear dudes skewer me.
One highlight of combat, particularly for the 1991 player, is the "gore" setting, which ensures that every character death is accompanied by copious on-screen blood loss, dismemberment, and decapitation. Knights in combat always execute a decapitating coup de grâce on their defeated challengers. Almost every review or summary of the game mentions this aspect, but honestly it's pretty tame compared to what we're accustomed to in 2016.
My character is beheaded by another knight.
A few other notes:

  • The game mentions wandering "Black Knights" that you have to watch for, but I never encountered any, or didn't know what they were when I did.
  • This is the first game I can remember to offer hints on loading screens.
  • There's a gambling game in cities, but I lost every time I played.
It's well-animated, anyway.
  • Each knight can visit each "lair" only once, after which it disappears from the map. Sometimes, you fight an exhausting battle at a lair only to find that another knight has already been there and claimed the treasure.
  • The game features nice animation in the opening and closing screens. But if you can perceive a difference between the Amiga and DOS versions of these screens, I think you're making it up.
  • DOSBox either had problems emulating the sound, or the sound for the DOS version was just awful. But I didn't really experience the Amiga sound because I was mostly playing the game during a time when I had people around me and I was supposed to be working, so I had the sound off.
  • Technically, I guess there are multiple "Moonstones" that you can obtain in the Valley of the Gods, and you need to wait until yours corresponds with the right phase of the moon (shown between turns) before you enter Stonehenge to win the game. In a multi-player game, this would give other players a chance to defeat your character while you wait. In a single-player game, everything else on the map is probably dead by then, so you just end up passing a few turns until the moon aligns.
If I have the "new moon" Moonstone, I have a lot of waiting to do.
It took me about 5 false starts to finally win the game, even against the pathetic computer AI. Once I had the four keys, I went to the Valley of the Gods, where the Guardian--a whirling genie-like creature, was probably the easiest enemy in the game. (At that point, I had been used to fighting 3 creatures at once and 15 creatures total.)
It killed me here, but only because I stopped to take a screenshot.
After defeating the Guardian, I returned to Stonehenge with the Moonstone and got the endgame. "You have completed the quest," the end titles informed me, before taking me to the "ceremony of the Moonstone." In said ceremony, my warrior stood triumphant on a platform in the middle of Stonehenge while scantily-clad girls danced around him.
Then a portal opened up in the heavens...
...and my knight was sucked up into the night sky to become a constellation. I'm not sure how much of a "reward" that is. But the game deserves credit for a series of victory screens more interesting and complex than the typical RPG that takes dozens of hours.
I suspect this would actually kind of suck.
As I said, I had fun with the game once I got the hang of combat. The process of exploring the ruins and finding items is satisfying and relatively quick, and character improvements from both equipment and attributes is immediately noticeable in combat. (Without the extra enemies towards the end, the game would be far too easy.) Let's see how it does on a GIMLET:
  • 2 points for a fairly minimal game world.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. Creation is nothing special--you just select a name and a color--but as above, development is swift and satisfying.
  • 2 points for a couple of NPCs who help you out, but there's no interaction.
This guy just barely qualifies as an NPC.
  • 3 points for foes that act differently depending on type, forcing you to adapt. Alas, no role-playing encounters, but it's not that sort of game.
  • 3 points for an action-oriented combat that nonetheless makes you think and plan.
A "mudman" waits for me to recover.
  • 3 points for a decent set of equipment.
Purchasing items in town.
  • 4 points for an economy that never loses value (you always need to heal, if nothing else)
  • 2 points for a main quest.
The game's final screen.
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are fun, and what I heard of the sound in the Amiga version was serviceable, but I have no patience for joystick-only interfaces.
  • 6 points for gameplay. The game is meant to be replayed, and offers a slightly different game depending on what knight you choose (each knight has a different starting area). It's brisk and fun, and offers a satisfying challenge in its difficulty.

That gives us a final score of 32, which isn't too bad, particularly given that it's not really a classic RPG. Morever, it's the first British game to break the "weirdness" barrier that I talked about in my entry on Heavy on the Magick--although we have to note that the Brits still don't show any signs of understanding classic RPG conventions.
At least the tagline is accurate.
I had a feeling that our friends at the perpetually annoying Amiga Power would love this one. After all, it has virtually no RPG elements and spends nearly its entire wad on graphics and sound. So I was surprised to see reviewer Neil West rating it only a 73/100, basically saying that its not quite enough of an action game and not quite enough of an RPG. Overall, Moonstone was pretty controversial among reviewers, with ratings from a low of 48 (Power Play) to a high of 100 (Top Secret). American magazines tended to overlook this one.
An interview on a fan site credits Todd Prescott with the game's concept. He indicates he was inspired by "a combination of D&D and the board games Talisman and The Dark Tower." He approached a colleague, Rob Anderson, and Anderson handled most of the programming. For combat, the pair was heavily influenced by the action game Barbarian (1987). Prescott indicates that the game never had a U.S. release because Toys R Us thought it was too violent. The limited release unfortunately sank plans for a Moonstone 2. This was Prescott's only game; Anderson went on to a longer career at Mindscape, Electronic Arts, and Sega (among others), and currently lists himself as an independent video game developer. None are RPGs, so we won't be encountering him again.

Moonstone seems to have a lot of retro-fan love these days, and I understand why. It's not going to be part of my soul or anything, but it was a fun way to kill a couple of days in a hotel room. Let's see if the same can be said of another Mindscape title, Knightmare.


Alas, Fer & Flamme continues to give me trouble. A kind commenter sent along the French manual, which allowed me to advance through character creation. The problem is, when I get to the end of the creation process, the game insists on saving the party to disk. I insert a blank disk, give the party a name, and hit the "$" key as prompted, and then get this:
Unless there's an obvious workaround I'm missing, this game might not be playable after all.


  1. Well you certainly fared better then I did when I was twelve playing this for the first time and yes indeed all that gore was just so awesome back then. :D

  2. "a combination of D&D and the board games Talisman and The Dark Tower."

    That makes sense; I kept recognizing elements of Talisman in the description. It seems more skill-based where Talisman is more based on chance, which is appropriate for their respective mediums, I think.

    1. I'll say the same for the elements from Dark Tower. Travel the land, find the keys, visit your home city before the final battle... This actually seems like a pretty fun game.

    2. I've never heard of this game before, but I think my friends and I would have enjoyed this a lot had it gotten released in the US, especially if things are randomized at the start of each new game.

      I'm guessing the multiplayer is local only given a 1992 release, but if it was networked I think I'd get people to try it today.

    3. Until doom any multiplayer that wasn't local or some sort of BBS game was pretty much unheard of since internet for general population wasn't available until -96

      If you had a non local mp it was with a direct serial port only.

    4. Makes sense. I was just wondering because Master of Magic (1994) had network play patched in later, but that was more of an oddity I think

    5. That is the infamous MoM Multiplayer Shell. It worked but kind of sucked because you couldn't play two humans against each other on the tactical map. The computer would play the defending human's forces, which as you might imagine resulted in the attacking player almost always winning. I suppose you could play with strategic combat enabled, but nobody ever did. Seravy investigated strategic combat thoroughly and found a lot of oddities.

    6. And I immediately thought of Barbarian / Death Sword / Axe of Rage when I heard the description of the combat controls. Budokan by Electronic Arts worked similarly too, as did Metal Mutant by Silmarils.

  3. I love this game but, at the same time, i hate it a lot :D By the way, im big fan for this blog although this is my first comment xD. Thx for all these memories and sorry for my english :D

    1. I know how you feel. I'm beginning to feel that way about Fate.

      I'm glad you commented. It gets to be a big echo chamber if we just hear from the same small group over and over.

  4. Playing this for endless hours against my best friend (of roughly equal videogame skill) is one of my fonder teenage memories.

    1. In some ways, I'm sorry I didn't get to experience it with another player. I think it would be a very different game.

    2. What about asking your girlfriend Irene for a session, Chet?

    3. Multiplayer was awesome, I can tell. It was of few hotseat multiplayer games available when I was young and it was better than pen and paper rpgs. Not really, but it was really good.

  5. The constellation ending seems more in line with Greek myth. Also, would knights gamble while in full armour?

    1. Rangerous the SecondOctober 28, 2016 at 12:57 AM

      That armour can come in handy at times... as in, who ya callin a cheater?

    2. "Someone here is cheating, I'm not saying who, but one more time and I'll smack his armored ass..."

  6. Moonstone is best experienced with some friends on a nice evening.

    Especially the final showdown between the players for the final battle with the ghost is funny. Because the final battle needs all other knights (AI-controlled or not) to be killed first.

    If you want to play a RPG and only have little time, this is really a nice game to try.
    The various knight death scenes are really funny. Dragon can just eat him, by others he can be just stomped on and smashed, etc.
    RPG rules are rather simple in combat. Some attacks cause 5 points of damage, some 10. They increase with better equipment. Better equipment improves that to 20/40, if I remember correctly.
    Armor just adds hitpoints and does not reduce damage.

    The amount of enemies appearing in parallel depends solely on your total hitpoints or CON. You can have have Strength and Endurance at 20 and CON on 5 and still facing only one enemy.

    You can always return to your home if you have less than three lives and regain upto three lives.

    Moon state makes ratmen stronger / weaker (full moon = strongest, can resist twice as damage as new moon it seems). Not sure about causing more damage.

    The game also has nice easter eggs like turning you into a frog (if you visit the mage in the tower, too often in a short time).

    1. Small side node: There's color sharing between Captive and Moonstone (same company). ;-)
      The red to black-transform of eyes in Captive and monsters in Moonstone. ;-)

    2. Thanks. It's nice to hear from someone woh played the game back in the day. Sounds like it would be frightfully easy if you never increased your constitution, then.

    3. Remember that Rings of Protection and armor also add HP and can trigger the multiple opponents at once event...

    4. Unless I remember it wrong constitution increased enemies on screen by each point and other stats per 3 points.

      As in said in earlier post this was rather problem in that amiga 500 could barely handle 2 large enemies on same screen and a1200 had problem with more then 4 leading to stuttering and eventually to your death (as if 5 skeleton swamp thingies weren't your doom already).

      I also noticed Addicts power gamer approach of killing the harder enemies first and easier rat men the last in the screenshot.

    5. Yes, I remember the frame rate dropping down when fighting the blue hill giants. Also when there were a lot of ratmen on the screen.

      Especially when the knight was starting to blink because hitpoints dropped below 10, frame rate was terrible sometimes.

      Yes, there is also an increase of sequential enemies before twice or three appear at once. Some monsters don't appear twice at once at all (e.g. the swamp monsters).

      But I remember only total amount of HP of being responsible for multiple opponents at once.

      BTW: How much XP you need in order to gain a level depends on amount of human players.
      If I remember correctly, it is: For 1 or 2 human players you need 3 XP for each level gain, for 3 players it's 2 XP for each level gain and for 4 you gain a level for each single XP.

      Also AI controlled knights do visit the towns sometimes, and they buy butter equipment. But they do this only if any human players are out of range for immediate attack.
      At least I remember looting them for better armor and swords coming, very possibly, from the shops.

      Yes, killing the hard enemies first, was also the tactic I used in the past, I either chose the red or yellow knight because of this.

    6. RE: "power gamer approach." That was a complete coincidence based on where I started. Sometimes I get lucky that way.

    7. I also remember AI knights using scrolls, the game notices the player by playing the scroll cast sound effect while the knight has his turn. You don't get any information what spell was cast and alike.
      But I remember missing equipment after that and alike (black knight was using scroll of aquisition).

    8. Just another note, if I remember correctly you got 2 XP for the dragon, not 3 XP. You got only 3 XP for the final boss.

    9. Another small glimse from the past is remembering me that some monsters could cause you losing two lives at once. It was either the final boss or the dragon, if not both. Not really sure about that anymore.

    10. Final boss I believe you lose just one with the dragon.

      I mainly noted because I too sometimes left the ratmen last for a good reason and always cleared the swamp first.

  7. Wow, hints on loading screens in 1991!

    I presume that loading times were long on original hardware?

    1. The loading screens were only up for about 10 seconds, the music building up tension for the upcoming fight.

    2. The loading times on era-specific speeds weren't bad. I think cure888 is right: about 10 seconds.

  8. For moving diagonally just press both direction keys at the same time and add the attack button to attack diagonally.

    Do you have a low quality keyboard which can't handle 3 keys at the same time ?

    1. No, just a low-quality brain (didn't think of that) and low-quality fingers.

    2. For the fingers, I recommend: "Gauntlets of Ogre Power". This solves (m)any problems!

    3. For the brain, I recommand a nice letter and/or prayer to your favourite deity you believe in with you declare that you want it to spend more time on your character creation in your next reincarnation until your INT stat is matching your desired value.
      For this live try cast level three spell: "Prayer" if you are a cleric and strongly wish raising your INT.

  9. "Unless there's an obvious workaround I'm missing, this game might not be playable after all."

    The obvious workaround is to format the blank disk, as it comes unformatted.

    Not sure if it's an emulation issue or the version I've found is some sort of beta, but this game appears spectacularly badly programmed. Many commands have no error checking whatsoever, if you do something it doesn't like, it crashes to the BASIC prompt. For example, it gives you the option to go ahead with fewer than five members, but then almost every command crashes instantly. If you mistype the party name, crash. If you insert the wrong disk, crash. (Not so different from contemporary Ubisoft titles then.)

    Anyway, I hope that manual is good, as the interface looks like a convoluted, unintuitive mess. I honestly wouldn't mind if you skipped this one as unplayable.

    1. It creates an unformatted disk? What good is that? Argh.

    2. Multiple disk formats are often possible, and some programs just wrote straight to the disk without needing any formatting at all. (In my experience these were mostly financial programs that wanted the data to be "secure".)

  10. About Fer & Flamme, it seems you didn't format your blank disk after creating it. I don't know which Amstrad CPC emulator you use, but personally I use WinAPE, and in its "File/Drive A:" submenu, you've got the "New Blank Disc..." option to create a new blank disc, and the "Format Disc Image..." option to format it.

    Also, I guess you're not prompted to hit the '$' key in the game, but the 'S' one. This character graphics is deceiving...

    I tried to create my own party and the process was really awkward :
    - I launched the game from game disc 1, and at the main menu, I selected option [1] ;
    - I answered 'n' for "no" at the first question "Avez vous deja cree un ficher de personnage ?" ;
    - I created my team, then I was presented the page with the message

    "Pour sauvegarder vos personnages
    1 :changer de disquette
    2 :donnez un nom à votre fichier
    3 :appuyez sur '$'
    Appuyer sur une touche pour continuer"

    - on this page, I pressed a key to continue ;
    - when prompted, I typed the name of my character file, with letters only. When I finished, I pressed "Enter" ;
    - when I got the message "Appuyer sur '$' pour sauvegarder", I inserted my formated blank disk then hit 'S' ;
    - when the message "Voulez vous jouer au jeu o/n" appeared, I inserted game disc 1 then typed 'o' for "yes" ;
    - when I was back to the main menu, I selected once again option [1] ;
    - I answered 'o' for "yes" at the first question "Avez vous deja cree un ficher de personnage ?" ;
    - then I typed the name of my previously created character file and pressed "Enter" ;
    - then I inserted my save disc, which was my former formated blank disc ;
    - when prompted, I pressed 'S' to transfer my character file to the game ;
    - when the message "METTEZ la disquette MASTER (face 1)" appeared, I inserted again game disc 1 then I pressed 'S' ;
    - back again to the main menu, I selected option [3], which finally started the game with my team. Note that from this point, game disc 1 was inscribed with my team. You may need a fresh game disc 1 if you want to create a new team...

    For saving the game, you should consider using the "Save/Load Snapshot" option of your emulator, as I don't trust at all the in game saving option.

    Good luck with this game if you ever decide to go on with it.

    1. Obligatory:

      1. Awesome! Thanks so much for your help!

      2. Gah! People, stop helping me play this game that I'd obviously rather have an excuse to skip!

  11. I think there is an AD&D spell to help make this game go away - something like the 4th level spell "Exorcise"!

    Still very much enjoying reading my way through years of your fantastic blog and living vicariously through your adventures!

    I've even bought Starflight and some of the Ultima games from GOG to play around with... good times for all!

    1. Starflight is one of my favorite games of all time. Chet's recent mention of it inspired me to go back and compare a bunch of the different ports, as I was mostly familiar with the PC EGA version that I own.

  12. Sounds like the sort of game I would have absolutely loved back in the era, when I used to consume most new games with a friend in the same room. And at the same time a game I'd have absolutely no reason to ever play today.

  13. I remember Moonstone quite quickly became a post-sale cult game among the Amiga community, but I've always ascribed it to the depiction of violence than to its objective qualities as a game (though it wasn't common at all to see an action RPG run on something other than a console back then).

    Most of the staff had previously worked on an equally graphic action game called Technocop... guess they had a penchant for gore!

  14. As an archaeologist in Britain who twitches any time a druid pops up in a game, I have to say I really enjoyed your "When George Washington signed up to fight Nazis in the Boer War, he called upon every strategy he learned during the Crusades" comparison.

  15. On a sidenote, Moonstone is one of the most expensive Amiga (and Atari ST as well, I believe) games for collectors. It should be at least €200+ for a boxed copy.

  16. "A Hard Day's Knight" is the title of one of my wife's many trashy romance novels. It is a bit of a shock to see the same title used here.

    1. Well, as puns go, it ain't super-clever. Not surprising to see it used in different contexts.

    2. It's kind of stupid here, since it suggests a certain whimsy or humor that the game doesn't have.

    3. Funny, always thought it was a wink to Beatles song: "A Hard Day's Night".

    4. So did I. In fact, I even thought the game itself was a "serious" tribute to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, especially the killer rabbit and the Black Knight ("It's just a flesh wound!").

  17. The big blue guy with the club you called mudman was actually a troll, mudmen are the monsters which drag you down into the the mud. The computer-controlled opponents are called Black Knights.

    1. Oh! Thanks for clearing that up. I wonder why I was so sure that the blue guys were mudmen. That makes more sense.

  18. Sound not working? Have you tried tweaking your DOSBOX sound settings? I know it supports a ton of sound cards (OK, like, 5). Here is a video that talks about them all and has some advice. Note: This includes some sneaky ways to turn off music but not sound effects. It seems some games used PC Speaker for one, and Soundblaster for the other, so by turning off one of them.... Also some games would only do sound effects, not music, with certain sound cards.

    1. Just disable OPL2/3 emulation in order to disable music if using SB cards.
      Best way to experience music with dosbox is getting an MPU emulator to work and use MPU-401 as music card in DOS game settings.
      If you want only have music, but no sound effects, choosing Adlib as emulated soundcard is the easist way (sometimes sfx will redirect its output to PC speaker, but you can disable this emulation in dosbox).
      Most games allow you to configure music and SFX anyway, so just choose None in the soundcard setup for music/SFX if you don't want it.

    2. I personally use the soundfont PC51f.sf2 (64 MB) for General MIDI emulation with timidity, which is available from open source repositories.

      The experience is very close to original SB AWE32/64 cards. Choose General MIDI (MPU-401) in the game settings for music and SB16 for the speech/sound effects and you're ready to go off!

    3. The latter approach also allows you to disable music the easy way: Just don't start the timidity server before starting dosbox.

    4. These all sounds like things Chet should try. I wonder if there are any games that specifically support some of the more obscure soundcards, like the Gravis Ultrasound or whatnot.

    5. The Gravis Ultrasound was far more popular for arcade and action games. I've never played a RPG that supported the card. A true Roland MT-32 would be a glorious Christmas gift for the Addict though.

    6. Yeah, only games released near the end of the DOS era had GUS support, like Elder Scrolls: Arena or later SSI games such as Dark Sun. For most games you had to rely on the MegaEM and SBOS emulators. Needed some fiddling but it worked out most of the time.

    7. Are there any RPGs that sound better with OPL2 than OPL3? In the ADG video he notes OP3 isn't 100% backwards compatible.

    8. Also what about Tandy/PCjr sound? Any rpgs use that? Gameblaster?

      As a note- Soundblaster16 support isn't perfect in DOSBOX, so if a game plays without sound, try changing sb16 to an older card. Some games also have trouble with the default "mpu401" setting, so if there is no sound try that set to UART or none

    9. Why would you want a soundfont that sounds like an AWE, when the majority of General Midi soundtracks were geared towards the Roland SC-55?

    10. From watching ADG videos, it seems that was more in the later part. Sound support on a lot of earlier or smaller shareware titles seems to be 'Whatever the developer had access to', so you see a lot of eclectic stuff in shareware titles.

      Also, I grew up a little after this era. I played some of them, but my formative years would be the late 90s, when everyone was using CD audio and overly compressed music tracks. So the idea of the games graphics and sounds changing depending on what setting you use, and you can tweak it to sound how you want is really cool to me.

  19. Played this a lot in high school, mid to early 90s. IT teacher thought it was gross. We got caught playing it on a library computer and teacher demanded to know what it was,

    "It's...A map!", I said,
    "Of...Stonehenge!" says my mate.
    We still laugh about it.

    Also you can get some handy stun locks against the Dragon, takes him down in no time.

    1. "Do you see this nice red flying bird flying over the map, mister teacher?"

    2. Name of the bird: Tyranthraxussaurus.
      Has the abilities of coming back again and again. Loves warm pools and fire!

    3. BTW: Had a similar experience in school.

      In germany, my english teacher was noticing me not listening, because I was reading the Ultima VI monsters and spells manual in english.
      She confiscated the book, noticing it was in english, which made her happy. After school hour, we had a nice discussion about Ultima. She didn't know of any RPGs, but talking about spells and monsters with a regular teacher was really buzzing.

  20. Heh. I love the stories that end with an ascension to a higher plane. Repo Man was always my favorite in that regard.

  21. Y'know, I've not seen many pornos with titles that are more explicit than this game's.

    1. I just edited the post title because I realized that the official game title doesn't have an apostrophe. That makes even less sense.

    2. Oh cut some slack for the poor devs will you ?
      You've probably noticed by now that mastery of english language is not the first priority for most (or even for native english) game developers. ;)

  22. Moonstone is one of the few games I ever completed without any cheat or help on Amiga, and even found it so hard! :D

    I used to play it with my brother too, and it was hilarious to prey on each other or watch the other knight getting flambèe by the dragon. I still love to play it once in a while on Winuae.

    But still I missed completely some things I read here in the comments, like the difficulty increasing with HPs etc, thanks for this post! :)

  23. I ran across this blog while looking for some Moonstone info as I started replaying it recently after what was probably a 25 year hiatus. I quite enjoyed your review, and learned some things I had no idea - such as, what is that snakey talisman about.

    Moonstone was a big title in continental Europe when I was in early teens and we all loved playing it. Interesting to find it's virtually unknown in the States.

  24. As Mairosu said above, I agree, I am new to your forum and loved it.
    This was one of my favourite games in my early teens and I was an avid, long time Amiga gamer (I still keep my old mags and some boxes).

    I just got a raspberry pi 3 for the Amiga games and this being on it was one of the reasons!

  25. Great article, a few inaccuracies but I will forgive them haha. Check out and for all of the info, screens and discussion about the game that you'll ever need - as well as news of a remake!

  26. All I remember about this game was it was almost incompletable. If I killed the Dragon, it tended to crash. If I killed the Guardian, it tended to crash.

    However, using the stat glitch sometimes dropped the keys or even a Moonstone or for into a knight's inventory, allowing a win that way.

  27. It's a CRIME to not have sound on in this game. No other game has quite as interesting and immersive sound world, and especially the musics are golden (Amiga version).

    I haven't played DOS version much, but I SERIOUSLY recommend you play this in the wee hours of the night with full sound with a friend or two. It's just so atmospheric.

    There's, for example, a very 'mystical' sounding 'resonance' that is created by two notes being slightly off with each other, that just sounds unique and amazingly mystical. The intro chanting and music oozes atmosphere, and even the loading screen music keeps you on your toes. It really feels like some higher force is giving you advice, when you read those texts while the music plays.

    Please do yourself a favour and grant yourself the luxury of experiencing this game at its best.

    Also, just get a USB Pro Competition joystick, it's not that hard.. :)

  28. Forgot to add, I also recommend using a REAL Amiga with actual CRT television for full atmosphere and effect.

  29. Excepting adaptations of board games like Monopoly, I think this might be the first example of a "party game"--a competitive multiplayer game that somewhat resembles the play experience of a board game.

    The most prominent examples of this genre are the Mario Party series, although "party game" isn't a very strict genre definition and can easily include games like Guitar Hero or Wii Sports.

  30. In the interviews on the page linked by Chet in the post above, (co-)creator Rob Anderson also mentioned as inspirations for the artwork Looney Tunes, Monty Python, Terry Gilliam films, Conan the Barbarian comics, John Buscema (Marvel comic artist) and Lord of the Rings painter Alan Lee, among others. When the game was released on gog in 2021, he named Battle Chess and Defender of the Crown as influences as well, besides the „over-the-top humor and gory battles of Monty Python and the Holy Grail“.

    According to another interview with Anderson, on the German Retro gaming podcast Stay Forever in 2020, „Todd was the RPG part of Moonstone“ while he combined art and combat, both having played a lot of D&D together, with Prescott often being the Dungeon Master.

    Mindscape is listed as developer, making this a UK game in Chet’s list, but Anderson stated in 2017: „The game was actually developed in Toronto, Canada with my team (shout out to Todd, Kevin, and Dennis) and not at Mindscape. Mindscape was the publisher of the game, and a couple of the Mindscape people contributed to development (another shout out to Steve, Richard, and David) back when it was getting wrapped up. Primarily it was myself and a couple of others that put it together in Toronto.“

    This is reiterated in the Stay Forever interview, where he mentions he did development work as independent company calling himself ‚Anderson Game Studios‘ while Mindscape „didn’t get more involved until there was a lot more substance in the game and then they started helping out with packaging and music – they did the audio“.

    1. I definitely think that's enough to change the country attribution to "Canada."

    2. Hell yes, another Canadian CRPG.


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