Friday, February 16, 2018

Legend of Blacksilver: Games within Games

I don't see the bag.
Blacksilver has continued along the path I outlined in the first entry: it is a larger, more polished, fully-featured version of the standard Dougherty template. This is probably the final year that such a game would have been looked on favorably by the RPG community; I suspect it would have seemed quaint and under-developed after Ultima V and Pool of Radiance.

The plot continues in the "treasure hunt" manner that I mentioned last time. I ended my first session having found a red garnet, a crystal ring, and a grail with an owl on it in the dungeon known as Island Caverns. The grail was the artifact sought by the "seer" in the Owl Temple. He gave me 5 extra points of strength when I returned it.
Your "life's destiny" is for someone else to bring you an item? That's pretty lame.
The crystal ring allowed me to approach the "empath" in the temples and to buy elixirs that restore 150 hit points. These enabled longer, more dangerous dungeon explorations. You can hold a maximum of 30, which seems like plenty.

The red garnet could get me into several exhibits in the Archives. I chose "Storming Gear" because a prisoner's hint indicated Seravol's orb was in Mantrek's Citadel and when I tried to enter the citadel, there was a message indicating that I needed special gear to open the drawbridge.
Mantrek doesn't seem like a nice guy.
In Mantrek's Citadel, the game reverted to the usual Dougherty plot by which the player has to massacre dozens of castle guards. It appears that only in the king's castle can you open chests with impunity. Here, I had to find a couple of keys that opened the way into further areas. I wasn't sure if I was being good or evil, since Mantrek doesn't figure into the backstory and the game doesn't really give much indication about who he is or what his motivations are.
Swarmed by guards as I make my way through the castle.
His people weren't very loyal, I can tell you. His wizard simply sold me the orb, although he also reduced my strength to 7. It went back up to 15 when I drank a healing elixir--the value it was at before I turned in the grail to the seer. Meanwhile, his jester gave me a quest to recover a lute.
He did warn me.
Back in the castle, Seravol gratefully took the orb but didn't advance me or give me any new information, so I returned to the Archives to spend some gems I'd picked up since the last trip. Viewing the "Game of Honor" exhibit allowed me to play a game called "Trist" in the Owl Temple--more in a bit. "Mountains" gave me climbing gear necessary to cross mountains. "The Wealthy" just gave me gold.

Visiting the exhibits must have triggered something because I soon got a message that "Seravol wants to see you," and when I returned, he promoted me to "Adventurer" and gave me 5 endurance points. Then the prince asked to see me and gave me a quest to recover the king's staff, which was stolen when he was kidnapped.
I was an "adventurer" the moment I drew breath, Seravol.
At this point, the only accessible place that I hadn't explored was Taragas's Mines, across some mountains that I could now climb. After grinding and gambling a bit for gold, which I spent on elixirs and spells, I descended. The mines were six small levels with the usual monsters, chests, traps, and urns. The monsters hit harder and took less damage than in the Island Caverns, so I relied much more on spells. I came out with an amethyst gem and the jester's gold lute.

The amethyst gem got me access to the "Etherium" exhibit in the Archives, which allowed me to go through a rite of passage to learn more advanced spells.
Everybody thinks he's ready.
Something in my exploits flipped a switch, and the town of Ridgeport allowed me to buy a boat. Unfortunately, Ridgeport is only on a lake, not the ocean, but the boat gave me access to the Hawk Temple, where I got another artifact quest and was able to play another minigame to improve my endurance.
Sailing my new boat to Hawk Temple.
Giving the lute to the jester got me a password to the second level of the castle. After a few dozen more guards were dead at my feet, I confronted Mantrek in his throne room. He agreed to give me the staff if I spared his life, which was a nice boon since I didn't even know he had the staff.
He disappeared after giving me his staff. I still don't understand his story.
Elsewhere in the castle, a tattoo artist offered to give me a tattoo of a dove, a turtle, or a hawk. I declined for the time being. Then some elf took a bunch of my money and gave me a little test. These were the questions:
  • Would you rather rescue a royal princess or an elven baby?
  • Would you rather slay a marauding dragon or an incompetent baron?
  • Would you rather give money to a hungry thief or a thirsty drunkard?
If I answer the second one, I'll just end up keeping the money.
The "correct" answers, which got me a signet ring, were "baby," "baron," and "thief." The elf provided his reasoning, starting with "a baby needs a champion; a princess has many." That seems like an awfully big assumption to make. The baby might have 12 brawny older brothers, whereas the princess might have been sold into slavery by her own family to make way for her more pliable younger sister. There's also a utilitarian argument that infant mortality being what it is in medieval societies, saving someone who has already survived infancy is likely to produce greater long-term results.

The reasoning on the dragon vs. the baron is that the dragon only causes problems for a small area while thousands might suffer under "the mistakes of a baron." That's great, but he's only described as being "incompetent," not evil. You'd have to be a fervent Benthamite to justify killing him just because he makes mistakes.

The final rationale--"a hungry thief has stopped stealing, unlike a thirsty drunk"--is also flawed. A thief who stops stealing hasn't necessarily reformed; he may just find all immediate targets to be too difficult or risky. The "thirsty drunk" might be looking for apple juice. So all in all, it was a nice idea, but maybe the questions needed a little more detail.
The game prompts you with hints if your progress lags.
Back at the castle, Seravol promoted me to "warrior" (improving my dexterity and intelligence) and the prince gave me 5 silver coins and 2 emeralds. He then told that his father had been located in the "Marthbane Tunnels." The map shows that dungeon over in the land of Maelbane, so clearly I'm going to need a ship capable of an ocean voyage.
I guess it's not "good" if you like running things.
Although I don't like character development occurring at plot intervals, I admit it's been steady and rewarding. Every promotion increases the character's maximum hit points and the number of hit points restored by an elixir. As time passes, new weapons slowly become available: I've gone from club to flail to broad axe, and I'm starting to see swords.
Wandering "monsters" sometimes sell you goods.
One thing that Blacksilver does better than its predecessors is to make attribute boosts cumulative rather than having one override the others. In Questron, for instance, you could spend a lot of time boosting dexterity via the minigame, but then it just got hard-coded to 40 after solving a quest. Here, as you rise in rank, your attribute bonuses get added to whatever you've already accomplished, making the minigames seem like less of a waste of time.

I find the minigames the highlight of Blacksilver. You could have authentic fun just playing them without worrying about the "surrounding" game, as I often did with "Arcomage" in Might and Magic VII or any of the card or dice games in Red Dead Redemption. In addition to fully-programmed casino blackjack and "heigh-loagh," each of the cathedrals offers a game to improve your skills. At the Eagle Temple, it's that skeet-shooting game, and it boosts dexterity. The Owl Temple offers a fantastically strategic game called "Trist," in the Mancala family, involving groups of stones moved around a wooden board. You have to visit the "Game of Honor" exhibit in the Archives before you can play it; winning improves intelligence.
A fun take on an African/Middle-Eastern game.
In the Hawk Temple, you can indulge in a more action-oriented game called "Hard Rock Melee" in which you run from side to side trying to collect falling coins while dodging rocks and blades. You have to deposit coins into a treasure chest to get points for the round. The game lasts 5 rounds of a couple minutes each, but the game ends if you get hit by 5 rocks or a blade. If you score high enough, you improve endurance. I don't know yet if there are any other temples with minigames that improve strength and charisma.
Dodging items raining from the sky in "Hard Rock Melee."
There have been some welcome new changes to the spell system. I think having to buy spells individually is a bit primitive, but Blacksilver adds a new twist by assigning a skill level to each spell. After you've drunk the Etherium, you can improve your levels by spending silver coins at any of the temples.
My relative skill levels for each of the spells.
There are 9 spells. "Tongue of Flame" and "Lightning Bolt" are your basic offensive spells. "Glow Tip" and "Armor Enchant" are new to this game, and they basically add magic bonuses to your weapon and armor, respectively. The bonuses seem to deplete based on hits, not time, and the game gives you the option to automatically re-cast them once they run out.

"Light" is necessary for dungeon exploration. "Teleport" seems useless to me; it just teleports you to a random location on the same dungeon level and damages your hit points at the same time. The levels aren't big enough to really require this. I guess it's useful as a last-ditch effort when a monster is about to kill you, but if you let your hit points get that low with no elixirs, it's doubtful you'll survive much longer anyway.

"Annihilate," which is very expensive, damages all nearby monsters, often killing them. "Nimble Step" helps you avoid traps, but since (X)amine does fine with that task, I don't think I'd waste money on it. "Psychic Protect" helps avoid attribute-draining attacks from monsters. I haven't encountered any that do that yet.

I'm guessing I'm about halfway done, but I'll try to handle the rest in a single entry.

Time so far: 10 hours


  1. I put a significant amount of hours in this game on emulation, I think a decade ago? Kind of mindless fun, making numbers go up, I suppose. That's why I never finished it. I enjoy the generally solid c64 art as well, so that's a plus for me but it is true in terms of design this is a more polished version of a vestigial evolution of the computer rpg.

    Sometimes I think a lot of the ideas here best metastasized in free to play mobile games more than anything stat-heavy and tactical. Oh, you unlocked the [next unequivocally best melee weapon]! Time to discard your old and now useless weapon! Content tourism.

  2. The elf is just rationalising his racism. It's an elven baby, remember?

  3. Baby.

    Would rather save a baby than an individual of indeterminate age and would rather donate my services to a person of indeterminate status than I would a member of the ruling class.


    For all we know the baron's incompetence includes his ability to extract surplus from his serfs. I'm a fan of that sort of incompetence! Besides, killing a baron just nets you a new baron. The same can't be said for dragons.


    A 'hungry thief' sounds more precariously situated than a 'thirsty drunkard'.

    1. Of course, the baron could be incompetent because he's a socialist collectivizing farms, in which case the resulting famine will kill many millions more than any dragon.

    2. Oh dear, it looks like this poor chap dropped his bait.

    3. Pfft. Yeah, like anyone's going to rise to that bait. If he really wanted to start a flame war here, he should have included a probability calculation...

    4. Oh, just having good fun riffing off of the "ruling class" "extract[ing] surplus from...serfs" in the preceding post. Kitchen, heat, et cetera.

    5. It wasn't a political statement. That's how feudalism worked.

    6. It wasn't only the surplus the ruling class extracted from the serfs! Starvation was a historical political instrument used by the feudal ruling class in periods of crisis pretty much everywhere. Gits!

    7. Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

  4. Odd that Mantrek is shown from the top down while all the other creatures and characters in the screenshots are shown from the side. I mean, of course the map is top-down, so if anything you could argue that the other character graphics should be top down as well, but since they aren't it makes Mantrek's stand out.

    Maybe Mantrek's throne tipped over and he's lying on the floor.

    He also looks like he'd be at least twice as tall as the PC if he stood up, but that's another matter...

  5. "You'd have to be a fervent Benthamite to justify killing him (the baron) just because he makes mistakes."

    Or just a guillotine enthusiast, I suppose.

  6. What happens in the fourth picture? Are two guards playing soccer in the castle?

    1. Heh. Comparing it with the picture below, I'm pretty sure that yellow circle is just a wall lamp. It does make for an amusing image, though.

  7. Does this game use the same font as the gold box games?

    1. Nope, if you compare them side-by-side there are quite a few differences.

  8. Serendipitously I decided to finally play through this game a couple of weeks ago, but I can't find the game-provided map anywhere. Where did you find it?


      That's where I find just about everything.

    2. Thanks! I didn't know about this site.


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