Monday, February 27, 2017

Martian Dreams: Powerless

If I can get the power going again, I'm pretty sure those are transport tubes.
A long time ago, I upset several readers by giving up on Faery Tale Adventure (1987) because it involved too much walking across empty landscapes punctuated only by meaningless combat. It might take 20-minutes in real time to get from one place to another. Well, if I judged Martian Dreams by the same standards, this would be the last entry on the game. All I seem to do in it is to walk.

As I mentioned the last time, the developers took a fairly small landscape--with no barriers, you could probably walk around the circumference of the planet in 5-7 minutes--and sliced it up with uncrossable canals and cliffs. I didn't fully realize the extent of this until I started using and annotating the game map with greater regularity. The game starts in an area (middle of the map) completely enclosed by canals, and the only way to exit is a single bridge to the east. Late in this session, I wanted to travel from Elysium (point A on the map below) to Hellas (point B). Whether I took the clockwise route or counter-clockwise route around the canals, it was about 30 minutes of real-time walking, just holding the direction key the entire time, maybe stopping to fight some plants occasionally. Ultima VI really spoiled us with the moongates and moonstone.
Click to enlarge.
To make matters worse, each of the game's quests seems to involve a lot of backtracking, either because you need some obscure tool that you left behind, or because the very nature of the quest takes a journey-and-return approach.

Yes, travel does promise to get easier. Once I get the power restored to the planet, I can extend more bridges over the canals. Once I get those canals flooded with water, I can apparently take barges. And there are some buildings that look like they offer teleportation between cities. The power is thus my primary concern.

My visit to Olympus provided me with several notes about the power and canals, including the location of what Admiral Peary thought was a power station. Before I left the city, I talked with the leader, Jack Segal (no known historical candidate) who seemed like a bit of a blowhard. He had a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince on his bedside table. I suppose this is better than Atlas Shrugged.
I don't really like this guy.
I had to cross a bridge north of Olympus and loop around the canals to get to the building described by Peary. Sure enough, there was a central building surrounded by a bunch of broadcast towers, but I couldn't access it because--you guessed it--there was no power to the door.
This is what we call a "catch-22."
Without any particular idea what to do next, I decided to skirt around the canal to the south and visit the city of Argyre, where Rasputin is rumored to be holed up, and what looked like a building north of that next to a power tower. I soon found that Argyre's gates were shut and unpenetrable:

One suspects Rasputin is up to no good.
I had better luck with the other building. It turned out to be the entrance to some kind of underground coal-fed power station. Caves branching off the man-made (or Martian-made) areas showed signs of mining for coal and iron ore. A series of conveyor belts seemed to be carrying lumps of coal to a boiler room, but one of the belts was broken.
Yes, it's an homage to Metropolis (1927), which everyone knows about and 6 people have actually seen.
In the boiler room, I ran into a robot who called himself Stoker. He spoke English, of course. He related that it was his job to carry coal from the end of the conveyor to the furnaces, but the conveyor was broken. Dibbs spoke up at this time and recommended taking the broken belt to an NPC named Trippet (no known historical candidate) in Olympus. This was one of those backtracking quests I talked about.
Taking the broken conveyor belt...

...getting it fixed by Trippet...

...and returning it.
I walked to Trippet, got him to repair the belt, and brought it back. It was no effort to re-install it on the conveyor, but the system didn't immediately start up. After more discussions with Stoker, it seemed that I would need to prime the furnaces first. This took me a while because I didn't realize that the true "furnaces" were along a northern wall; I thought I had to put coal directly into the boilers. There was also some confusion about how to use the shovel to move the coal. Eventually, I figured it out. After I put a few shovels-full in the furnaces, a big lump of coal made its way to Stoker, and a cut scene showed him taking over.
The plant starts to operate on its own.
A couple of automatic doors opened in the complex, and I found a huge supply of Oxium. It may in fact be unlimited--every time I "use" a hopper, it produces 20 blobs--which will be useful when I return to Buffalo Bill for ammunition.
So much for the economy.
I figured my troubles were over, but the next door I tried to open on the surface indicated that it was still closed for lack of power, so clearly it isn't reaching the entire planet. I returned to the power station on the other side of the wall, but there the towers seemed alive and crackling. Stoker had suggested that a cable might be damaged somewhere, so perhaps that's what I'm looking for.
Power leaps from tower to tower in the restored station.
Unsure what to do next, I decided to try to visit the other cities, starting with Elysium, where Percival Lowell's party had reportedly gone mad. As I discovered, they weren't mad, just possessed. When the explorers--including Mark Twain, Wyatt Earp, George Washington Carver, Georges Méliès, H. G. Wells, Charles Lewis Tiffay, Vladmir Lenin--discovered the Dream Machine in Elyisum, they found the consciousnesses of Martians already within it. Those Martian consciousnesses replaced the humans', which remain stuck in the Dream Machine. The Martian-humans, going by Martian names like "Xichak" and "Sisik," refer to humans as "worms," although not necessarily in an insulting way.
My discussions with the NPCs in Elysium, plus a scroll I'd found in the power station, filled in most of the backstory of the game. Mars used to host a peaceful and prosperous society of plant-based life living in cities called "groves." Martians were grown from seedlings planted in the compost of their deceased forebears, allowing them to absorb the knowledge and experiences of previous Martians as they grew. Their own creation myths stressed the importance of the lushness and fertility of the planet, so as they developed technology, they tried to put as much of it underground as possible. Those structures that had to be built on the surface, they tried to make unobtrusive.
A scroll fills in a bit of the story.
Eventually, a tyrant named Raxachk came to power in Argyre and decided to become the "agrarian" (a high political position) for the entire planet. He created a plague that killed seedlings and threatened to unleash it unless the rest of the planet bowed to his will. Everyone laughed at him, so he released the plague and everyone died. A few Martians used their Dream Machines to trap their consciousnesses as their physical bodies died, and they remained there until humans showed up and started using the machines.
A Martian inhabiting the body of Charles Lewis (i.e., "Breakfast at") Tiffany describes Raxachk.
The Martians in Elysium assure us that their possession of human bodies is all temporary. They're hoping to re-grow new seedlings (assuming the plague is gone) and transfer their consciousnesses into new plants. The Martians in Hellas apparently think it's blasphemous to occupy human bodies and have refused, leading to animosity between the two settlements. I was on my way to Hellas when I got killed by some cacti or something. I hadn't saved in a while and I didn't feel like walking all that way again, so I closed the session. My attempts to win the entire game in 3 days using save states didn't work, but the regular save seems to be okay for now.

Anyway, it's clear that I'm going to have to help the Elysium Martians with fertilizer and water as part of the quest. But to get into certain buildings, I need the power back on, so we're back to that. I'll be happy to take a light hint as I check out Wizard's Lair.

Two notes:
  • I've been picking berries wherever I find them, but I haven't needed ESP again yet. There are at least three colors, although I can't tell two of them apart. One of them makes me sick; another reveals what's behind walls and closed doors.
A berry lets me see through this wall.
  • If the Avatar dies, he resurrects back at the capsule thanks to the ministrations of Dr. Blood. But he loses 1,000 experience points in the process, so I reload when I die.
I admit the story is a little more coherent than I expected, but the whole thing is still pretty silly. I almost wish the game would end with "it was all a dream" rather than shoehorn this nonsense into the Ultima canon.

Time so far: 14 hours
Reload count: 5


This is a long shot, but if anyone has or knows where to get a game manual for Les Templiers d'Orven (Loricels, 1986), I would greatly appreciate it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Game 243: The Wizard of Tallyron (1986)

The Wizard of Tallyron
United Kingdom
Star Dreams Software (developer); Future Publishing (publisher)
Printed in the April 1986 Computer & Video Games magazine as code for the ZX Spectrum
Date Started: 19 February 2017
Date Ended: 20 February 2017
Total Hours: 4
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 14
Ranking at Time of Posting: 24/242 (10%)

This one is going to be clinical and short. Just enough to document its existence. I tried and failed to find some angle that would make it interesting. I can't even do my usual bit where I make fun of the ZX Spectrum and Spectrum owners, since this isn't exactly a conventional commercial title. It's a type-in game printed across 6 pages of the April 1986 Computer & Video Games issue, and offered for sale for £2.50 in the same issue, in case you didn't feel like typing a few hundred lines of code.
The typing begins--or is circumvented with a clip-out coupon.
As is usual in such cases, the magazine's backstory offers far more text than occurs in the actual game. The Kingdom of Tallyron used to be safe. Hundreds of years ago, some wizards had given the king a Mace of Internal Power, which somehow kept the dark forces at bay. But now one of the Council of Evil has stolen the Mace and taken it to the Island of Lost, allowing evil forces to spill into the kingdom. You play a wizard's acolyte sent, along with two fighter companions, to the island to find the Mace.
Exploring the perimeter of the Island of Lost.
The Island of Lost is a roughly 12 x 12 grid with five cities, a castle, and some terrain features like mountains and forests. (The cities and the castle are just menu locations.) As you move across the landscape, the game gives evocative names to your squares, like the Great Forest, the Mountains of Sunset, the Marshes of Dawning, and the Plains of Mere. Enemies like wolves, orcs, trolls, balrogs, skeletons, zombies, and snakes appear randomly, and you deal with them via weapons or spells.
The totality of the game world.
Character creation is just a name. The game starts in the village of Tautree with the wizard and two companions named Karl and Marc. The party has 300 gold pieces and no experience. Karl and Marc being warriors, they can equip swords and mail and get several upgrades during the game as you can afford it. The main character can wield a dagger and wear a heavy cloak, and that's about it.
Purchasing some initial armor.
The core mechanic of The Wizard of Tallyron comes in managing 6 spell slots. A "Guild of Magicians" in each city offers one or two spells from a list of 8: heal, stun, fear, sleep, kill, dispel, protection, and lightning ball. Each spell has a four-letter code word that has to be invoked in its casting; for instance, heal is "SOTH" and lightning ball is "BOOM." Some spells are initially unavailable but become available as the character gains experience. Spells are free, and by selecting them in towns, the main character loads up his slots for outdoor exploration.
Acquiring spells in a village.
The interface is simple enough. The 3 x 3 exploration window shows the only "graphics" that the game offers. At any given time, the screen displays all of your options. When you run into enemies--never more than two in a single party--you can fight or run. If you fight, the main character can attack with his weapon or cast a spell, but Karl and Marc just attack. Individual combats are rarely deadly, but a string of several can wipe your hit points fast. Fortunately, no game square is more than 5 moves from a town, where you can pay for healing.
Fighting some trolls.
A rare death message.
The game keeps track of experience points, although there is otherwise no overt character improvement or leveling. There doesn't really need to be, since every enemy is defeatable by the starting characters. As such, the game only barely qualifies as an RPG in the first place. The appearance of "Level 2" spells--dispel, lightning ball, and kill--seems to be tied to some experience point threshold.
Checking my equipment status after defeating a balrog.
There are a few special one-time enemies, including a giant crab and a manticore. You get "pieces of metal" from these combats. Once you purchase a third piece from a hermit in the woods, the three pieces come together in a key.
Perhaps the only "special encounter" in the game.
For a while, I couldn't figure out what to do next. A location in the southwest called the Castle of Fear clearly existed for a reason, but there were no options there. Finally, after trying a number of options and nearly publishing this entry as a loss, I tried casting "Dispel" while standing on the castle. It worked. A message said that a door appeared, and using the key on the door brought me to a final confrontation with a Black Knight guarding the Mace.
Do you suppose they meant to say "eternal" power?
He was no more difficult than the average orc or troll, and he died with one "Lightning Ball" and a couple of melee attacks. I got the screen below, and that was the end of the game. 
On a GIMLET, The Wizard of Tallyron earns a 14, with the highest rating in "economy" (healing eats up a lot of gold, and there are suits of armor to strive for), but it suffers from a lack of character development and NPCs. 

The game is credited to four developers: Mike Turner, Lin Turner, Paul Jefferies, and Justin Middleton; Middleton amusingly takes the credit for "graphics." The Turners owned Sussex-based Star Dreams software and published a series of forgotten adventure game titles during the 1980s.

In the August 1986 issue, the same team offered code for Tallyron II. The backstory here is that the main character is now the court wizard to the king, and he hears of a magic bell (called, for some reason, a "hare") that can negate the power of the Mace. Again taking Karl and Marc, he enters the dungeon of Woldcrest in search of the bell.
The opening screen lays it out.
Tallyron II is a first-person wireframe dungeon crawler in which the player maps corridors, climbs ladders, and opens chests. It uses the same combat system as its predecessor and has no monster portraits. The main character has six different spells at the outset of the game. There is no town and no healers, so all characters must be healed by potions that you find in the dungeon itself, and spells are replenished by finding scrolls. I had intended to combine my explorations of that game with my account of the first one, but when I fired it up, I saw that the game drops any pretense of tracking experience. No character development means no RPG, and I was thus spared playing it to the end. If you feel cheated, I can tell you that the end occurs when the party discovers the bell, climbs back to the surface, and gets a message that, "You take the Crystal Hare of Wold to the Tower of the Moon, where the Keeper disables it forever."
Tallyron II looks a bit like Wizardry, but it's not.

We haven't had many type-in games on this blog. I think that The Wizard's Castle (1980), Quest 1 (1981), and The Valley (1982) might be the only previous ones, and they were published quite a bit earlier, with nothing that I know of in the intervening 5 years. Of course, magazines like C&VG offered several type-in programs every month. This raises the question as to whether there aren't many type-in RPGs or whether these four are the only ones catalogued. In any event, while not a masterpiece, The Wizard of Tallyron did offer a welcome break from the exasperating Martian Dreams.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rebooting: Martian Dreams (1991)

My characters, who wouldn't survive on the red planet, pick berries, which wouldn't grow there.
At some point in her childhood, Irene became a fan of The Brave Little Toaster, a 1987 film about inanimate objects who become animated when their owner isn't around and show unwavering loyalty to him despite the fact that they're almost certainly destined for a dumpster. (How they didn't sue the makers of Toy Story is a mystery to me.) I didn't care for the film, so I didn't much care when, some years after we met, she discovered that the film had a sequel. I only remember that she was watching it in the living room one weekend afternoon while I was messing around on my computer--probably playing an RPG. I got up at some point to get a snack and, walking past the living room, I heard the unforgettable line, "Me--a little toaster--the Supreme Commander of Mars! Wow!"

For years, without even knowing the context, I held up that one line, heard in isolation, as the prime example of the most absurd plot point that could ever exist. That was before I rescued from a Martian cave a man named Cooter McGee, who was hiding from Rasputin, and got, as a reward, a map to some rocks that release oxygen when you chew them.
There's a dialogue suggestion that we might not even be on "real" Mars. I don't know how this is going to play out, but I'm willing to bet it will be stupid.
I hate this game. I hate it beyond its faults. I hate it while recognizing that it's not objectively bad. I continue to like the Ultima VI engine. I just hate what they've done with it here. I like talking to NPCs by keyword, but I hate these NPCs. I like the combat system, but I hate the actual combats against these stupid, meaningless foes.

Most of all, I hate what the game has done to my favorite game mechanic: open exploration. There's nothing I like more than being cast adrift into an open game world, where I can explore the landscape and visit ruins in essentially any order, learning neat things about the history and lore of the setting. Martian Dreams offers that gameplay but perverts it by ensuring that anything I find is going to be stupid. Every ruin is going to fill in the backstory of a Mars with a breathable atmosphere that dozens of people have visited after being shot out of a cannon. Every NPC is going to be some VIP from the Victorian Age with no depth or wit to his characterization beyond the initial, "Hey! It's Marie Curie!" or "Hey! It's Buffalo Bill Cody!"
Hey! I led her to come up with the name "radium"!
Somehow, I've let over a year elapse since my last attempts to play Martian Dreams. The reasons for this were partly thematic (i.e., my reaction above) but mostly technical. The issues with saving and crashing really bothered me. I don't mind working around bugs when I can clearly define them, but when the solution is ambiguous ("don't save near the equator"), it just creates a paranoia throughout my entire gameplay. Especially in this case, where the consequences are both dire and not immediately clear: you can never save the game again, and it continually crashes after you successfully save the game twice.

I downloaded a DOSBox version with save states and found that it works reliably as long as I don't close the session in which the save states are created. If I do that, all bets are off. So I waited until I knew I was going to be home for a three-day stretch on President's Day weekend and determined to finish the game in one go. I'll quickly recap the beginning of the game below, but please refer to my first and second entries for a full discussion of the silly backstory, how I feel about what the games did to the "avatar" concept, and the initial game moments.
Restoring power to Mars is clearly going to be part of the plot.
If you'll recall from the backstory, the Avatar and Dr. Spector (from Savage Empire) have followed clues given by a disguised alien to travel back in time to 1895 to Nikola Tesla's lab. Two years prior, a malfunctioning "space cannon" had sent a group of dignitaries to Mars from the Chicago World's Fair. Realizing that history will forever be altered if Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt et. al. remain on Mars, Dr. Spector conceives a rescue mission involving the Avatar, the journalist Nellie Bly, Sigmund Freud, Tesla, a cowboy named Dallas Garrett, and a doctor named C. L. Blood, whose full Wikipedia article has been the best thing to come out of my playing this game.
Sigmund Freud offers an interesting character-creation mechanism.
I created a new character and went through Dr. Freud's pscychoanalytical character creation again, choosing responses that made me a male character with decent strength. As before, the game started in the rescue mission capsule with Nellie Bly and Dr. Spector in my party. I loaded up on cold-weather gear, guns, and tools for everyone (though as we'll see, not enough), pried my way outside, and headed for the wreckage of the crashed 1893 expedition.
There, as before, I encountered a Lt. Dibbs, who had been commander of the ceremonial guard at the British pavilion. Dibbs gave me the rundown of how the previous dignitaries had fractured and dispersed. Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane set up a trading outpost. Percival Lowell's group settled in the Martian city of Elysium and used something called a Dream Machine until they went mad and started believing they were Martians.
This is later confirmed by another NPC.
A group led by someone named Jack Segal (no idea on the historical analogue) settled at Olympus and began constructing another space cannon to return to Earth. They refuse to allow anyone "contaminated" by the Dream Machine into their compound. Finally, Grigori Rasputin led a group to the Martian city of Argyre to investigate dangerous Martian technology.

I took the party, now with Lt. Dibbs, to Buffalo Bill's outpost and got Cody's quest to rescue Cooter McGee, a prospector who has been supplying the outpost with Oxium. Oxium is a sponge-like rock that releases oxygen when chewed. It both serves as a currency and prevents your characters from suffering attribute drains associated with oxygen deprivation.

This was as far as I had made it in 2015. Every time I tried to visit McGee's place, the game crashed at a specific place along the way. The bug seemed to be associated with the general saving bugs. Since I was saving only by save-state this time, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when the party passed the same area with no problem. By using the sextant and following the coordinates given by Cody, I found McGee's cave without too much trouble.

Cody had also given me some berries and said something about needing them to access McGee's cave. Thus, even though it didn't seem to make sense, I turned to them when I reached an uncrossable chasm with a board on the other side. It turns out that the berries, which I guess are blue, convey ESP and allow you to move objects from a distance. I'm not sure how long they last, but I was able to move the plank across the chasm and enter McGee's residence.
Maybe there was a better way to say that I've acquired ESP?
I looted his crates and boxes for ammo and such, and searched around until I found a couple of notes. One indicated that McGee was being harassed by Rasputin for information on the location of Oxium lodes. The other was a note from Rasputin telling McGee to meet him at a cave "in the middle of the Coprates Chasma" and bring his Oxium map. The official game map had the location of the chasma; it was basically an extension of the network of chasms I was already in.
Rasputin's note.
This would be a good time to talk about navigating the game. After this session, I realized I would have to bring the official game map into something like Paint and start annotating it, because it shows neither coordinates nor the locations of key geographical features like bridges. The landscape, which allows you to walk around the entire circumference of a planet more than half the size of ours, is bisected by chasms ("chasmata" in geo-speak), canals, and other geographic features that can make navigation a nightmare. You might be at 20N 140E and have to go to 25N 150E but end up walking for hours until you find the right combinations of bridges and chasma entrances to get there. The game world is more like a maze than an open world. That isn't necessarily a complaint; it actually adds a dimension of puzzle-solving to the game once you realize what's happening and what you need to do to solve it.
To get to the north end of this screenshot, I first have to find my way out of this chasm.
More annoying than the navigation are the enemies that you encounter along the way. They seem both more numerous and more persistent than their counterparts in either Ultima VI and Savage Empire. In those games, if I didn't want to fight, I could usually just walk away. Not here. Once a "creeping cactus" or "sextelleger" has you in his sights, he follows you relentlessly until you give up and turn and fight. Enemies often attack in large swarms that overwhelm the party, and I found myself doing something in this game that I rarely did in either of its predecessors: reloading.
Fighting off a group of "creeping cacti," which use similar animations as slimes in Ultima VI.
Because of all the combats, my ammunition has depleted quickly and I've resorted to equipping half the party with melee weapons. Much like they do in the previous games, characters have a way of accidentally hitting each other with their shots, too. I also have the same problem seen in the other games where characters just stand around in combat and don't act at all, although it's not consistent. (And yes, I have adjusted their combat actions in their profiles.)

The only upside to all the combat has been fairly rapid character development. In contrast to Savage Empire, where everyone started at Level 6 and maybe leveled up once during the game, in this game plenty of NPCs start at Level 1 or 2. The Avatar starts at Level 4. Almost every time I sleep, someone levels up. This is accompanied by a dream in which the character sees an obelisk and can touch it with a sword, heart, or book, corresponding to a 1-point bump in strength, dexterity, or intelligence. (Although there are no spells in this game, intelligence is apparently important for using some weapons and the duration of the berry-conferred telekinesis.) This same mechanism was done with animals in Savage Empire.
Nellie levels up. I'm still not sure why the heart/love is associated with dexterity.
Leveling up occurs during sleeping, which you do frequently because an insulated tent (found among the opening supplies) is the only way to get out of the cold. Once 18:00 falls, characters without sufficient protection start taking damage from the cold. A few hours later, almost everyone does (I haven't been able to figure out the exact combination of clothing I need to keep warm). So you have to stop and sleep until dawn just to survive. I don't know what my companions back in the capsule are doing.
Girls are always freezing.
Anyway, back to the plot. I found McGee in the cave in Coprates Chasma after fighting some Martian critters and moving a barricade of boxes. McGee related that he'd found a mother lode of Oxium, but it was behind some kind of powered door and there's no electricity running on Mars any more. He suggested that Thomas Edison, living at Olympus, might be able to help get the power running again. He gave me directions to where he'd buried the map to the mother lode and then headed back to his own cave.
Finding Cooter.
During the conversation, he mentioned three explorers who have been planting marker flags around the planet. Their names are Sherman, Yellin, and Duprey. You know where this is going.

I found his map, and based on the canal configuration around it, it seems to correspond to an area in the northeast section of the game map.
The next obvious step seemed to be to head to Olympus and speak to Edison. Dibbs knew the coordinates of the city, but when I arrived, the gate guard, Nathaniel, refused to let us inside unless we could get a voucher from three people who could certify that we weren't insane (i.e., not affected by a Dream Machine). Dibbs suggested the trio of explorers mentioned by McGee, and Nathaniel agreed. Nathaniel indicated that they were last seen headed to Syrtis Major and he gave me the coordinates.

Getting to the location took longer than most of the game I'd played already, thanks to the navigation issues described above. On the plus side, I ended up in some random chasm with a bunch of Oxium geodes (you have to smash them with a hammer to get Oxium) and significantly increased my supply.
Arriving at Syrtis Mons, I found "Dr. David Yellin," a geologist, who told me that the trio was looking for iron for Jack Segal's space cannon when his companions, Major Greg Duprey (a former U.S. cavalryman who fought Indians until he met one) and Richard Sherman (an explorer), became trapped in a cave-in. These NPCs are, of course, stand-ins for Britannia's Iolo, Dupre, and Shamino. They even use the same base portraits. This recurring trio also had doppelgangers (never fully explained) in Savage Empire, and as in that game, the characters react to their Britannian names.
Sure it is.
To free Duprey and Sherman, I had to assemble a drill, which first required a wrench. There had been a wrench among the supplies back at the capsule, but I had declined to take it, so with a groan, I hauled my party back to the capsule, got the wrench, and found my way back to Yellin. I put the drill together and shoved it into the nearby cave, moving it along tracks until we reached the cave-in. A few uses of the drill cleared the way.
This game is turning into more of an adventure game than an RPG.
Sherman joined my party and all three of them were happy to sign my voucher. I returned to Nathaniel with it and gained entry to Olympus.

I leave you in that city, having spoken to Marie Curie, the actress Sarah Bernhardt (who has turned to painting in her new circumstances), and Theodore Roosevelt, who believes Rasputin sabotaged the cannon in 1893 and caused its premature discharge. Thomas Edison said that he thinks that power on Mars is broadcast from a series of towers controlled from a central location. The irony vis-a-vis Tesla is not lost on him.
Unfortunately, Roosevelt won't join me.
There are some ruins under the city with gears and control panels and whatnot that I haven't explored yet. Some comments from Admiral Peary suggest that I might have to melt the ice caps and re-flood the canals at some point. A man named Legrande Coulliard is preventing access to the Dream Machine in Olympus, but he'll let me in if I can find his brother, who was lost exploring Olympus mine. I've yet to see or speak to Jack Segal. There was too much to keep track of at this point, and I took a break.
I have a feeling there's going to be some exhausting puzzle behind this.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • The game has a pretty jaunty soundtrack, credited to Dana Glover, Tom Hollingshead, and George "The Fat Man" Sanger. It's lost on me because I don't like in-game music, but I recognize its quality.
  • Even with the CPU cranked, gameplay becomes maddeningly slow and stuttering when monsters are near.
  • I continue to like the inventory system in this engine, both in terms of the types of equipment slots the characters have and the way inventory items work with each other. Lighting a lamp involves filling it with oil and then using a match or tinder box on it, for instance. Shovels and hammers are important tools. You don't often see this kind of complexity outside of roguelikes.
  • Unlike its predecessors, Martian Dreams has no food system.
Nothing I've described throughout this entry suggests a game that I should hate, but I still do. The engine remains solid, but I don't care anything about this story. It was already done in Space: 1889 and it's not done cleverly in either game. Wandering through the caves of Martian Dreams just made me wish I was playing Ultima VI again. Oh, I'll finish the damned thing because it's an Ultima game, but I'm not going to be happy about it.

Time so far: 8 hours (includes 2015 entries)
Reload count: 4