Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fate: Killing Time

Hey, around here we call it the "Lake of the Ozarks," bub.
We've all experienced it in games like Skyrim, Dragon Age, and Fallout 4: a long stretch of time between quests where we focus on something nebulous, like "character development." We sort through junk on the workbench, smelt our accumulated ore, circle around our NPC friends to see if they have anything new, run around to a few shops, get a little bit of training...and suddenly it's time to go to bed, and you realize you've accomplished nothing in terms of the game's plot.

Contrast this with the stark efficiency of the "between quest" time in games like Wizardry or Pool of Radiance, where you return to the town (or town level) and very methodically go through the same 5-minute routine: heal, rest, level up, identify and sell equipment, get the next quest, get back on the road. 

Fate is the first game in my chronology to really support this kind of aimless dithering. Perhaps the two Might & Magic titles came closest. There have been games in which you might grind between quests, of course, which is a bit different but nonetheless a step along the way. In the 20 hours I've played since the last posting, I've accomplished almost nothing in terms of the game's actual plot except to make myself feel that I'm in a better position to pursue it.

It's probably a time for a recap of Fate's plot, so here it is: Winwood, a record store owner in the "real" world, has been sucked into the land of Fate for reasons unknown by an evil mage named Thardan. Having managed to evade Thardan's forces on the night of his arrival, he has assembled a party of adventurers and embarked on solving the mysteries of the plot. Before he could do anything else, he needed to get the "Cavetrain" system operating throughout the land, as the place he appeared was cut off from the rest of the world except by train. Thardan had apparently deliberately sabotaged it to prevent Winwood from leaving the beginning area.

Once the rest of the world opened up, Winwood explored and found a variety of mysteries. Chief among them is the city of Cassida, where the population is absurdly rude to visitors--a situation that seems to have something to do with a statue in the center of the town. In the city of Valvice, Winwood's party heard of a mage named Mandrag who had arrived fleeing Thardan's forces and had disappeared in the grottos beneath the city. Winwood managed to find and free Mandrag, who revealed that he was on a quest to find "Bergerac's Heart."
Mandrag's quest comes into context.
After that, most of the NPC dialogue centered on lands across the sea: a "Forbidden Zone" erected by Thardan and a city called Katloch. As I closed the last post, I had saved enough money to purchase a ship and hit the waves.

This is where the trouble started. I didn't think I was quite ready to try my luck on the high seas. I had barely mapped the mainland. My characters where horribly under-developed, some with as many as 35 upgrades waiting to be allocated. I also had been advised by commenters to periodically re-visit the altar in the Alarian Vaults. I felt I could do better on weapons for some of my characters, and I wanted to check out the various smithies. Finally, I didn't think I had exhausted the hint threads on the Forbidden Zone and Katloch.
Sure, you're sorry.
My first step was therefore to head back to Larvin and the vaults. Around this time, Zardas posted an exhaustive list of improvable skills and the places that improve them most. I should have probably condemned that as spoilers, but it did save me from wasting my improvement slots. Seeing that most of the best guilds were in places I've yet to explore, I decided to use the Guild of Masters in Larvin to bring everyone's "skill" attribute to 99 (Larvin is the best location to train that attribute) and then worry about the other attributes later.

It took me a while to get there because visiting that guild means traveling through several teleporters and a catacombs maze. When I arrived, I soon found out that progression in attributes is capped by character race and class. I had expected to spend half or more of my upgrades here, but each character ended up spending only 10-12 slots before they maxed in the ability. Lowest was my human enchantress, who stopped at 45. Highest (oddly) was my Laurin banshee, who went all the way to 99. This is particularly cool because she has a "greater melee" weapon called a "Vixhammer" that can hit every creature on the combat screen. 
Dichara takes out an entire company of mages by herself.
I spent a lot of time trying to get NPCs to train my characters. Unfortunately, I found a plethora of them who would train intelligence and wisdom, which aren't really that important, and hardly any who would train dexterity, which I really need (several of my characters are still in the teens). I went back to the altar and got a few attribute upgrades there. Before long, my overburdened characters leveled up, and their new encumbrance calculations put them back in the green again.

After that, I hit the wilderness. I don't really know why. I already knew that I wasn't going to map the whole thing. I guess maybe I thought I'd meet some NPCs on the road and kill a few birds with one stone. My inability to tear myself away from mapping, however futile, occupied most of my time during this session. I also discovered that I hadn't finished mapping Fainvil, so I had to finish that.
My map of the world, which I'm going to stop working on any minute now.
I did learn some key things about the world. First, I had assumed that the "overseas" portion would take place on a completely different map, but now that I've traced the southeast coast of the mainland, I'm not so sure. There's plenty of room to fit some islands in there. 

Second, it's clear that rivers and forests slice up the geography more acutely than in the starting area. On the map above, you can see an entire river whose path I traced while I was just looking for a way to cross it. All the mapping I did of the forests in the middle-eastern side happened when I was looking to cut straight through to the west, but I got caught up in a kind-of forest maze. Lesson learned: stick to the roads.

Finally, the days of finding random treasure in the wilderness seem to be over. The starting area had all kinds of useful weapons and armor stuck into niches in the mountains and forests, but I haven't discovered a single thing in the bigger portion of the world.

Of course, I killed a lot of people, rats, and snakes during these explorations. I've long passed the point in which wilderness encounters--even dozens of mages--are any kind of threat to me. Reflecting this relative ease, I only leveled up once or twice per character.
An optimistic single wizard tries to rob me.
My explorations did lead me to the extra intelligence that I needed, particularly once I found a beggar on the road north of Cassida. Between him and wandering mages, I learned that the people of Cassida used to be friendly when they were ruled by the wise mage Bergerac. Thardan, fearing the growing power of the city, turned Bergerac to stone (he's the statue in the center of town) and made off with his heart. As part of this curse, the hearts of the people of Cassida turned to metaphorical "stone." Anyway, Mandrag's quest to find "Bergerac's heart" now makes more sense.

Clearly, I'm going to have to solve this quest and get Bergerac to join my party, as it's said that only a Cassidan mage can pierce Thardan's "Forbidden Zone." Some NPC had told me to seek out a druid at Sorion Lake for more information, so after I'd finished my coastal mapping, I started using gems to find lakes. After one false trail led me to "Moron Lake" (top screenshot), I eventually found the right one. 
How do I get to the little island without a bridge?
The druid was wandering around an island in the center. He said that a Cassidan mage could break the sphere surrounding the Forbidden Zone, but he would also need the "legendary Moonwand." So now I have two quests: find Bergerac's heart, and find this Moonwand. I probably need to make sure there aren't any more dialogues related to these items before I cast off in the ship I've since re-named Lucky Lady.
An old druid gives some advice.
Other notes:

  • My party is fighting a constant war with rain. Ever since I got the "Elemental" school spell "Rainzap," I've been casting it whenever it starts raining. Inevitably, it only lasts about 20 minutes before the downpour starts again. Most of my banshee's spellcasting is going into this one spell.
  • Speaking of banshees, the ones in the wilderness used to talk with me on occasion, but for some reason during this exploration session, all they want to do is attack. Even "gral wizards" and "black wizards" are occasionally up for some conversation.
That's not very ladylike.
  • Like Valvice, Fainvil is full of pirates and corsairs. It makes sense in Valvice, because it sits on the coast, but Faivil is pretty far inland, with only a little trickle of a river. It's hard to imagine pirate ships coming so far upriver.
  • The game has featured some scantily-clad women so far, but no overt nudity--until it arrived randomly on this password request screen. It doesn't get more gratuitous than this; there's no particular reason for a woman to even be on this screen. No, I don't mind it, but as a kid it wouldn't have done anything for me but increase the chances that my mother would walk in the room at the wrong time and send me to Bible Camp for the summer.
Ready for some good news? I dislocated my kneecap! (Put down sand in your driveways, my friends.) That means work and travel are canceled for a couple of weeks, and you know what's going to take its place.

Time so far: 131 hours


  1. Umm....Congratulations...I think?

  2. Sorry to hear about the kneecap, even if we CRPG Addict fans stand (sorry) to gain from it. Get better soon.

    I'm very much a persistent victim of the aimless dithering you outlined in the opening few paragraphs. Most RPGs these days have these huge open worlds now, and it's playing havoc with my attention span. Not really an issue, since I enjoy every minute spent wasting time not following the plot quests, but it feels like I progress through fewer and fewer games each year as more and more new releases pile up on the backlog.

    And I notice you've changed your ship name to one that starts with a convenient "L". And that "Katrina" was presumably the set-up for a "Katrina and the Waves" goof. Well played.

  3. Many commenters have probably said that already, but the English version of the game is a censored one. In the original German version all female NPCs were nude to some degree.

    1. Pictures from the Wikipedia entry:

  4. Well, not much to say this time. Getting the Moonwand will take quite a while and I guess it's a welcome respite from all those dungeon levels.

    "Finally, the days of finding random treasure in the wilderness seem to be over. The starting area had all kinds of useful weapons and armor stuck into niches in the mountains and forests, but I haven't discovered a single thing in the bigger portion of the world."

    You'll get plenty of upgrades once you've started exploring the sea. Almost every island has exactly one item buried or hidden -- you'll just have to dig and search every square until you find them.

    "I had assumed that the "overseas" portion would take place on a completely different map"

    Nope, everything is on the same map.

    "No, I don't mind it, but as a kid it wouldn't have done anything for me but increase the chances that my mother would walk in the room at the wrong time and send me to Bible Camp for the summer."

    Good thing you aren't playing the German version then. Check out the game's Wikipedia page for a comparison image on how much, much worse that one is. Wizardry and its bazoombas have nothing on this game.

    "I dislocated my kneecap! (Put down sand in your driveways, my friends.)"

    Insert Skyrim meme here.

    1. "I used to a gainfully employed person like you, then I took a patch of black ice to the knee."

      Eh, doesn't flow.

    2. Thing is, I don't understand the need for that nudity. Does it make the ladies better at combat? At spell-casting?
      If so, why aren't the men doing it as well? For one thing, not many men dares to fight someone with their ballsack swingin'.

    3. I'm hoping Witcher IV will star Geraldine of Rivia, whose sidequests involve picking up all manner of generously-packaged male NPCs.

    4. Kenny, perhaps you missed Eastern Promises?

      I think in general nudity in older video games follows the the free market theory of boys and bazoongas. Supply is so low when you're very young that demand is so high you're willing to accept poor facsimiles of breasts. As you grow older and experience real breasts, and as they additionally become somewhat less rare, static, pixelated representations from decades ago are much less interesting.

  5. When I start to wander aimlessly like that, it either means I'm really enjoying the game or I'm close to giving up out of boredom. I still have Skyrim installed with a save right before the end of the main quest, but haven't fired up the game in years (and I haven't finished it even once).

    I forget how increasing your attributes works exactly in this game, but I hate it when a game let's you waste finite points - especially when a new player wouldn't know that there's a better place to improve attributes just 3256 fields to the northeast.
    It makes sense that you can't train equally well everywhere, but I think it would be better to just vary the prices for training or the max level that trainers can take you to.

  6. Sorry about your kneecap, but as a reader its great to hear there's going to be more time for you to play ;)

    On a completely unrelated note, I'm a new reader and have been making my way through some of your earlier posts. I recently found out that you're colorblind, and as a UI designer I have to ask: Has there been any game that you found completely unplayable because of its inaccessibility to colorblind players?

    1. I know he doesn't normally play console-exclusive games, but if the Critic opts to play Tower of Doom on the Intellivision (to complete the Dungeons & Dragons trilogy with which he's 2/3 finished), I'm concerned that he may run into this. Color is HUGE in that game.

    2. I have not found any game completely unplayable, but I have found:

      1. Some extremely difficult puzzles involving red/green or purple/blue distinctions.

      2. An overall inabilty to discern what's happening on the screen in some games, especially when forests and foliage are involved. Camouflage works really well on me.

      Some recent game I bought--Battlefield 1, mabye--offers graphics corrections depending on types of colorblidness. I wish this was more common.

    3. As someone who is also colour blind I found the "detective mode" bits of Witcher 3 a major pain, that is until I realised that they actually have a "colour blind" mode in the settings that changed the glowing red scents and footprints to blue.

  7. This game sounded incredibly overblown and tedious. Now I'm somehow enthralled by descriptions of this huge adventure. I suppose it's partially because for a reader it's such compressed experience. I can only imagine the amounts of work. Thank you for this and I hope to see the end of this game!

  8. Hope the knee gets better, but enjoy the stasis in the meantime. Your comment about the 5 minute turnaround in Wizardry and Pool of Radiance struck home. I got into that rut many times and so trying to go longer before returning to town became a mini quest goal for me.

  9. Oh yes, the Moonwand - another Major quest as you will see, when you realize the condition of this item.

    I give you one good Hint - be 100% sure to explore the absolutely most South-Eastern corner of the Worldmap (by the ship).

  10. Maybe the way the Passout spell works is by conjuring that image in front of the enemies? ...yeah, I got nothin'.

  11. I for one love the way your map is shaping up! I can't imagine the effort that it is taking to make it, but seeing it fill out has been very helpful in my visualizing your progress in this game.

  12. Sorry to hear about your knee.

    That bit about playing a bunch but not advancing the plot at all reminds me of a thing Extra Credits talked about in their JRPG vs Western RPG episode. ( ), namely abnegation. Basically, as I recall, a relaxing state where you know the mechanics, and you can play the game without a lot of stress or effort. So for me when I'm on the bus home and mechanically catch a few Pokemon in Gold, or wander around exploring every corridor of a dungeon in Golden Sun, Skyrim or FFVII.

  13. Can I just end the blog here? I think this final level of Knightmare is going to kill me.

    1. I'd rather you end your play and skip to the next game, but of course you already know you can do that, so I simply offer my sympathies.

      Seriously, though, you're not allowed to end this blog until I get to see how you write up Baldur's Gate. (At which point I'll say you're not allowed to end until I see how you write up Skyrim.)

    2. Don't throw in the towel. That will only make more laundry for you.

    3. Can't wait to hear your take on Bard's Tale IV and Tyranny.

      Seriously though, Baldur's Gate will be great, but I can't wait for his take on Fallout and Fallout 2 since Chet hasn't played those.

    4. Personally I'm waiting for Ultima VII.

      But I can't believe after sticking out hundreds of nonsense hours of Fate that it's a second-rate Dungeon Master clone that's kicking your ass, Chet...

    5. I'm hanging out for the Addict to hit 1992, so many good games that year. Hang in there Chet!!!

    6. Even if it does kill you, just challenge Death to beat you in CRPG combat using equal sides and the Goldbox engine and you'll become immortal.

    7. Well, you said you were quitting come mid-January anyway, what with being put out on your ear.

      All kidding aside though, Knightmare isn't that bad. I'm happy to have played it, but I won't be playing it again. Crush it!

      I wish you would play until you had seen all you wanted and move on rather than slog through games you aren't enjoying to chalk up a 'Win'. Your writing is more fun when you are enjoying, for me at least.

    8. Ultima VIII as worst game is a big call when the very same franchise also offers Ultima Ascension.

    9. To me, U8 is the worst because it made me stop playing any future Ultimas (U9 included) ever. Had U9 came before U8 (which it couldn't since, y'know, it's a sequel), I may think differently but no. U8 did what U9 couldn't do to me; i.e. killed my interest in the Ultima franchise.

    10. Ultima VIII would make a 'worst sequels' list, because we evaluate sequels against their predecessors (See also M&M 8 and HoMM IV).

      It wouldn't make a 'worst games' list, because if were just called 'Pagan' and had references to Ultima removed, people would remember it as an interesting sandbox RPG with a few really irritating sections.

    11. And those irritating sections were made *much* easier by the post-release patch, which I'm sure most people never got. The big feature it had, in addition to big-fixes, is that it allowed targeted jumping, so you didn't have to find out and remember the exact sequence of movements to put you in place to complete the jumping puzzles.

      Other than that, I actually rather liked it, but yes, it's not very Ultima like (and I had skipped Ultima 7, so it probably didn't seem like quite as much a departure).

      As you alluded to, Ultima 8 gets a lot of hate because it's a very poor Ultima, but as an RPG in its own right it's not half-bad in my opinion.

  14. Well, your game-of-life has companions with romance option, you recently acquired a new stronghold, has realistic, limb specific injury options, weather... what more do you want? Retirement? Nah... :) Though I am sure noone will mind if you treat it as an optional, skippable side quest :)

  15. I sometimes find the downtime a drag - I get stuck on the 'new town' part of the typical progression of quests/exploration > new town > quests/exploration.

  16. Rangerous the SecondDecember 11, 2016 at 9:29 PM

    I’m really not looking forward to your completion of Fate – Gates of Dawn. It's very sad that once again, those of us who follow in your footsteps (only more slowly) will be left mostly to ourselves once move on.

    This blogging platform graces comments of your contemporary blogs with interest and discussion, but the historical playthroughs are old news, lost in obscurity, like “the loneliness of the long distance runner.”

    The sidebar linking to the 15 most recent comments are an improvement, but on a site that easily generates more than 15 comments in a short time, still compares unfavorably to platforms that encourage and support dynamic discussions across topics. On boards such as Spice Works, you are able to easily read, enjoy, and perhaps even respond to any comment since your last visit and beyond, in topics of interest. Of course, on your blog, the topics are the games.

    Although unrelated to your purpose, it’s a bit of a shame that commenters can’t share screen shots and content, as well.

    None of that detracts from what brings us all here: your fun, insightful, and humorous coverage as you play through the long dead content.

    If discussion forums were better supported, would that make a whit of difference to your success? I don’t know, but it might marginally improve many users’ enjoyment and participation.

    Of course, every new thing comes at a cost, and I expect that most readers would rather enjoy reading your blog than see you invest time exploring and learning about alternative platforms.

    …which makes this post a little foolish, or futile, or both, and pretty much pegs me as a glass half-empty kind of guy.

    Anyway, keep up the great work! And please, don’t rush headlong to the end of Fate! This is one of the few contemporary English language blogs with an active discussion group. Once you’ve discovered it for us, and we’ve begun the long slog through it, it sure gets lonely once everyone else has moved along without us…

  17. Rangerous the SecondDecember 11, 2016 at 9:56 PM

    I've been playing Fate with a bugged English version.

    Initially I tried to start Fate with a two-disk ADF file, but was unable to get it to work under WinUAE.

    The WHDload file has been working well for me, except that encounter discussions can lead to memory corruption and a crash.

    This happens at Encounter/talk/ask for/self

    Usually this proceed more or less as follows:
    ‘I would be pleased, if you could tell me something about yourself!’
    Click Mouse to Continue
    ‘I’m a Hunter, 34 years old and very skilled in battle!’
    ‘Could you tell me something more?’
    ‘I can but I won’t!’

    But often enough, instead of this reasonable completion, it leads to a memory corruption and a delay of minutes before I regain control of the machine. Once I regain control, sometimes character data is overwritten, Winwood becomes something like ‘!&*&#^Syr,’ and soon the game crashes completely. As a result, I’ve learned to avoid the Encounter/talk/ask for/self option. This is a bit of a shame, because this is the place where prospective recruits explain their special abilities.

    I’ve tried to work around it by downloading the abime Psygore English v1.6 WHDload, but on install it complains of inaccessible discs, so for now I’m living with v1.0, which doesn’t seem to have any other problems.

    1. I had the same issue with text corruption, and I believe it was popping up after using Amiga savestates instead of proper ingame saves.


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