Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Darklands: Apocalypse Averted!

Any god that teleports me directly from a winning combat to the nearest pub is a god I'm happy to worship.
After defeating the Templar's fortress, there was only one major quest left in the game: assaulting the temple of Baphomet and foiling his plans for the apocalypse. This was not as hard as I expected. I found the Templar fortress considerably more difficult.

I had found Baphomet's fortress ages ago while exploring south of Salzburg, so it was no extra effort to travel there again, dealing with the usual encounters along the way. When I got to Salzburg, I sold the rest of my looted equipment and stocked up on additional potions even though I still had plenty left from the Templar expedition. I also restocked my ammunition. I kept the first three characters armed with handguns, but I gave the artifact Hubert's Bow to Bianca along with a bunch of arrows. I kept everyone in plate armor, overloaded though they were, based on the reasoning from my last entry.
Arriving in the castle entailed combat against some large lumbering beasts.
We were attacked by some demons upon entry--I failed to get their names--but they didn't last long. The fortress consisted of a very large room which spawned seven hallways on its north end. Each led to a door. The ones on the right refused to open at first, so I tackled them from left to right. Each offered a different challenge aspected to one of the seven plagues, and in each I had to recover a "key."

Door #1 led to a cavern of fire and brimstone. We prayed to a saint and he protected us, mostly, from the heat. Once we made it through the chamber, we recovered a seed.
 I don't know how much damage we would have taken without knowledge of this saint.
Door #2 offered a lake of fire that we had to wade or swim across. Again, a saint protected us from most damage. On the other side, in the wreckage of a boat, we found a chained woman. She related that we were in the Last Castle of the Apocalypse, founded by Templars a century earlier after they were expelled from France. They brought the "embryo" of the demon Baphomet with them and allied with the witch cult to fuel the demon with power. She gave us a globe full of water with a trout, which she said was one of the keys, and then produced a book containing the rest of the seals, which she soon destroyed.
An unnamed maiden gives us the scoop.
Door #3 led to a large room in which we were pelted by potions from alchemists. We killed them with missile weapons and then slowly threaded our way through a maze full of traps. At the end, we found a chunk of wormwood in which a vial of honey had been embedded.
Avoiding traps on the way to this area's key.
Door #4 started us in an area of darkness. It brightened as we entered, and we found ourselves in a maze of corridors in which groups of undead attacked us in melee combat. They weren't very hard. In the center of the maze, we found a glowing lantern.

Door #5 led us to an area that was like Door #4 but with buzzing swarms of insects rather than undead. We ultimately found a room in which a skeletal horseman sat astride a withered steed. He asked what we would give him to avert a famine. There was an option to pray to a saint, which I took, and the saint said to consider that "not everyone dies from a famine equally--who is the least subject to it?" I then had options to sacrifice our souls, our lives, or our wealth to the horseman. Based on the saint's clue, I chose wealth, using the logic that wealthy people don't die from famine as surely as poor people. The horseman gave me a balance and disappeared.
The party contends with Inflation, one of the four horsemen of the Secular Apocalypse.
Door #6 opened to a huge army of lancers mounted on "goblin-beasts." There was another saint option, but I didn't know any saints that would help. That left me with options only to challenge one of the lancers to single combat or to attack them all. I chose the single combat. The game didn't show the combat but just resolved it with a text screen, saying that Maximian defeated the demons' champion and won the Sword of War but was so wounded that his strength and endurance were halved--permanently. That's pretty brutal. I tried several reloads and that was actually the best outcome; if I fought all the demons, everyone suffered permanent damage to their statistics. Maybe knowing the right saint would have prevented it.
Maximian basically sacrifices himself for the quest.
Door #7 opened to a maze with walls of fire and traps all over the floor. I just had the party push through the traps and heal up at the end. I was impatient by this point, and a little annoyed about what the game did to Maximian.

When I opened the door on the other side of the chamber, I was confronted by a seven-headed, ten-horned dragon who offered me options to kneel or attack. Just for fun, because I had recently saved, I chose to kneel. The characters lost all their virtue and the dragon demanded Lambert, whom he tore to shreds before banishing the party from the castle.
Which head is speaking? Are they all speaking in unison?
On a reload, I did the right thing and attacked. The party had to approach the dragon across a platform with lava around the edges. The dragon shot fireballs at us, but the "Firewall" potion helped.
Walking through fireballs as we approach the dragon.
Eventually, we reached the dragon, or at least the area of the dragon. It was configured so that only one or two characters could fight in melee range, so I sent Maximian to chop at the beast with St. Olaf's axe while the rest of the party pelted it with missiles and potions. Naturally, I drank every buffing potion that would possibly help.

I accidentally took my eyes off Maximian's endurance for a few seconds, and when I looked back, he'd collapsed. I sent Lambert to finish the job, which took a few more minutes in which I had to keep the characters healed with potions.
Lambert stands on Maximian's inert form to pound away at the dragon.
Once the dragon died, we were transported outside, where we encountered the head of Baphomet. He announced that he was about to start the Apocalypse and scoffed at our promises to stop him. In a long series of subsequent text screens, Baphomet summoned six plagues, which we immediately defeated with the appropriate key. To wit:
  • Rain of ice and fire. Stopped by the seed which grew a tree that sucked up the rain.
  • Mountain of flame that will destroy all ships and fish. Defeated with the globe.
  • Comet called Wormwood, which plunges into a lake to make all water poisonous. Defeated with magic honey which counters the poison.
  • Darkness. Countered with the magic lantern.
The most sensible use of one of the "keys" in this sequence.
  • Plague of locusts. Somehow driven off by the balance.
  • Demon lancers. Vanished when we waved the Sword of War at them.
At this point, Baphomet asked if we had the key to ward off the seventh plague and we admitted we didn't. He said he'd be willing to delay releasing--and give us a boost in attributes besides--if we'd agree to go away and give him more time to perfect the Apocalypse. We said no, we'll deal with it now, and he screamed that "hope" was the final key and that says we clearly had it, he was "undone."
The old rascal tries to trick us.
A long, animated sequence followed in which the castle came crumbling down and the head of Baphomet was destroyed by lightning, after which beautiful rays of sunlight burst through the clouds.
Baphomet doesn't look much like a demon.
The party found itself at the gasthaus in Salzburg contemplating whether it was time to retire or whether we still had a few adventures in us. I was disappointed to find that there isn't really a way to "retire" the party in the game. You can retire individual members, but that's just a matter of party composition. Someone has to remain. I had hoped for a Pirates!-like summary of my accomplishments. Instead, the best I could think to do was sell my excess stuff to build my finances again, donate my relics to the local Dom . . .
Despite the prelate's promise, I got no fame for this.
. . .  and check my party status one final time:
"Legendary heroes" doesn't go far enough. After what we've been through, I'd think we'd be up for beatification.
As endings go, the defeat of Baphomet was pretty epic, drawing a lot of material from Revelations plus a sort-of slanderous mythology built up around the Knights Templar by their enemies.

I like the ability to keep playing after the main quest, though I didn't feel particularly compelled to. Nonetheless, as I was wrapping up this entry, I envisioned someone coming along and saying that I hadn't really "won" until I'd defeated a dragon, too. Thus, against their moans and protests, I roused my retired party from the inn in Salzburg and headed north, chasing rumors of a dragon in that direction.

It wasn't long before we came to the same message of a blasted landscape and a ruined village that I had included in a previous entry.
The party enters the Soviet Bloc.
Rather than march around fruitlessly, we used the "Ambush" command to set up surveillance in the area. After a message about a plundered village, we came to a scene in which the dragon swooped down to pluck a knight off his horse. The knight referred to the dragon as "Baruch ophidious." We kept our ambush, and finally we were treated to a scene of the dragon coming out of a fissure in the ground.
This game has some of the best static artwork of any RPG thus far.
We had options to pray to a saint or attack the dragon, but these just led to him flying off forever. On a reload, we waited for him to return to his lair and then approached him in the lair, where he couldn't flee as easily. We had options to "reason" with him, fight, or flee.
"Listen, we know you're supposed to bring about the apocalypse, but perhaps we could convince you not to attack innocent villages?"
Reasoning just led to combat, so either way the party found itself in battle against a fire-breathing foe. A few gulps of "Firewall" potions did much to blunt his attacks. In the ensuing combat, Maximian went down (remember, he'd had his strength and endurance halved in the Baphomet encounter), but the other three carried the day with minimal need for healing.

Battling the dragon as he sends a fireball into our midst.
In victory, we looted some of his treasure, which admittedly put my party in a better retirement situation, as they had come out of the Baphomet temple famous but completely broke, thanks to Pestilence taking all the wealth they hadn't spent on potions.
Now, I assume I can say that I've won the game. If anyone has any final requests or feels there's anything else I should investigate, feel free to speak up; otherwise, I'll post the GIMLET and final thoughts in a few days.

Final time: 65 hours


  1. Fantastic! Darklands ranks among the games I loved back in the day but never came close to finishing. I'd dig deep into it for a while, then not pick it up again for long enough to forget what the heck I was doing and how to do it. Great to vicariously experience the game through your write-ups.

  2. Excellent log of your journey. Darklands was a first in so many ways. It combined open world, sandbox concepts, with the demanding "git gud" approach to combat. Its never been copied or bested in these area, IMO. The true historical elements are also rare for the genre

    1. Thats my comment. Sorry for the anonymous/unknown. FYI - the same publisher released "Midwinter" around the same time. Its another totally underrated, ahead-of-its-time open world game.

  3. The only loose end I'm curious about is if you let Baphomet delay. In this game I can't imagine it being an outright game over, but it'll probably suck.

    1. Yes, I'm intrigued by that too.

    2. He gives you 50 florins, 20 reputation points in every city, and raises every attribute except Charisma of each character by five. Then you get teleported to a random city. That's all, there are no negative consequences.

      But the Citadel and the Fortress Monastery will be moved to a new location and you'll have to do the whole questline, starting with the Sabbath, to find them again. The same thing actually happens when you do win, you can do them as many times as you wish.

      There are only five possible locations, so it's not hard to find them again. They are, in ROT13:

      1. Ubpuxöavt, F bs Fnymohet
      2. FrrJvaxry, F bs Cerffohet
      3. Ibtryforet, J bs Shyqn
      4. Grhsryfgrva, F bs Töeyvgm
      5. Gnsrysvpugr, AR bs Tenm

      The citadel shares this site rotation with the Fortress Monastery, which appears at location #4, after its original site NW of Flensburg is destroyed. In theory the party can keep the main quest going indefinitely by conquering these sites alternately. But if one of the structures attempts to move onto the current site of the other, it vanishes and you get a dead man walking scenario.

    3. I recently ran through the ending several times, took the bribe and beefed up my strength and endurance to 63. I was attempting to beef every character to 99 strength and endurance. However it looks like the Monastery is cycling at the same spot as the end quest. Is there anyway to fix this, or will the end quest no longer be available to me?

      Looks like I should have done the monastery each time before the end quest to avoid this.

  4. Nope, that was all, you've encountered pretty much all the content that made it into the final game. I'd say it's a bit light, even for the era. But there's evidence for quite a lot of cut or planned content in the game files:

    * A whole system of cities having rebellions, feuds and wars was cut. You could take either side and perform various quests (blackmail, assassination, propaganda, etc.) to obtain the support of important characters like guild owners, bankers and the nobility, then finally take the city in a decisive battle once you had enough support. The Hussite rebellions are also referenced.
    * Possibly a character generator? There's a menu about looking for various character archetypes.
    * Cities had additional places planned, including the city barracks (weapons training), an imperial mint, a hospice (healing), a whorehouse, a poorhouse, jewelers, herbalists and surgeon-barbers.
    * Options to travel to France, Russia, Poland, the Skagerrak passage to the North Sea, etc., likely planned for future expansions.
    * A quest about meeting and escorting an imperial messenger. He gets increasingly impatient and may leave if too much time has passed, but the reward is a good horse for every character.
    * If none of your characters had enough Read & Write skill, you couldn't read the posted notices. It was possible to ask for help during the daytime, but not at night.
    * The opportunity to show off your martial, religious or alchemical skills to the local lord. Possibly for reputation gains?

    And some funny bits:

    * The "fetch an item" quests are in files called $MCGUF00.MSG.
    * "You have somehow called a card that has been deleted. Something is very wrong. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200."
    * "This is text message 01, a necessary evil."
    * "You have met up with some horrible monster dredged from the slime churning in the bottom of Arnold and Sandy's depraved synapses. What will you do?"

    Oh, and if you'd like to interview Arnold Hendrick, one of the developers, he's active on Steam as Yasha.

    1. In reference to your first point, I was lamenting in my draft for the summary & rating that the game didn't fully use its setting by allowing the player to participate in factional disputes, like in Pirates!.

  5. Darklands is my favorite game ever. I know of its flaws, but I still love it.
    It's strange you fought only one dragon. I've met a fair share in the past (half a dozen, maybe), and with high Virtue and Speak Latin I was able to reason with them. I won't spoil you of the outcome (unless you ask me), but it's another wall of text, as usual.

    1. I'm not going to experience it, so please do tell us what happens when you successfully reason with a dragon.

    2. The dragon is convinced the Apocalypse is far, so he returns to sleep for a hundred (thousand?) years.
      And there's much rejoice as the party members leave the beast's lair.
      Or something like that.

    3. So where's the wall of text? There was supposed to be a wall of text here. The game files suggest several different quests the dragon may send you on, but I'm not sure if they were implemented.

    4. Hey, I don't recall the exact words... Just assume the game is way more verbose than I was. ;-)

    5. It's interesting that you can talk your way out of the fight with enough skill, though "Maximian the Dragondiplomat" doesn't sound as epic as "Maximian the Dragonslayer."

    6. Besides: you never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon.

  6. The horseman that carries scales is Famine. I presume the symbol of Famine equates to taking all the food away from the locust horde, thus defeating it.

  7. Strange how they didn't use the goat's head for Baphomet, which he is usually depicted with. They ran with a lot of true medieval concepts and mythological elements, but some of them were changed enough I would call them fantasy.

    1. The sabbat goat image of Baphomet you're talking about was created by Eliphas Levi in the 19th century, so if that had been used in the game, it would have been anachronistic. "Baphomet" was supposedly how the French knights said "Mohammed" - the "Satanism" that the Templars were accused of was adopting some Islamic thinking into their system.

  8. "The party enters the Soviet Bloc."

    Funny... in that I never realized how painful snarfing hot coffee actually is!

  9. "Which head is speaking? Are they all speaking in unison?"

    Maybe they each speak only one word at a time, but timed perfectly to result in fluent speech. It sounds both silly and pretty awesome in my head.

  10. Excellent stuff! Given that I'll probably never get around to playing Darklands properly myself, I'm more grateful than ever for your efforts (and, above all, your ability to describe your efforts in such an entertaining way). In case you didn't have time to look through comments under your earlier entries, thanks again, too, for visiting Thorn and Bromberg for me.

    Fun bit of trivia regarding your comment about beatification - in the medieval context, it would have been far more likely that your characters would have become accepted as saints straight away. Today, the process of beatification and sainthood is very stringent, requiring, above all, miracles that cannot be dismissed by other explanations. For example, someone who prayed for a prospective saint's intercession, and recovered from some medical problem in a manner that defies medical explanation. The institution of the devil's advocate is there to ensure that nothing is accepted at face value (although one gets the impression the devil's advocate is not always as stringent - some recent canonisations have been kinda controversial).

    By contrast, in medieval times, these matters were more likely to be handled at a local level, by a bishop rather than by Rome, and as such, the proof requirements could be either far less stringent, or, by contrast, near impossible. At the same time, however, it was *kind of* accepted that the people could also beatify or canonise someone - if someone was regarded as saintly, often the people would naturally start treating them as a saint after they died, and in many cases, the hierarchical Church would, after some time (maybe a century or two) accept this person as an official saint.

    But I mentioned death: well, that's the catch. Your characters couldn't very well be beatified or canonised while alive, and no heroic act is enough to give them a guarantee of beatification later, because potentially, they could go and spoil everything for themselves even in the last minute of their lives. You see, the state of beatitude and sainthood is simply the Church's way of declaring that for this particular person, we're absolutely certain that they've been saved, and are in heaven. In the case of sainthood, it's additionally a recognition that this person is really, really worth following as an exemplar of some sort (not always of a perfectly lived life - st. Augustine converted relatively late in his life, but he's certainly an exemplar of a strong conversion).

    Non-Catholics (and, actually, probably most Catholics, too - people tend to be pretty ignorant of their professed theology, sadly) are often under the impression that beatification or sainthood are just kind of, like, medals or something. But it comes down to salvation. Hence the requirement for a recognised miracle - the only way we can be sure that someone is in heaven, is if we see that asking this person to intercede with God through prayer results in that prayer being answered.

    And that concludes our Catholic Theology 101 for today. Again, many thanks for your continued slog through all these RPGs. I should note also: I typically lack the time to comment on, or even read in detail your entries on RPGs that I wasn't personally interested in, but that doesn't mean, obviously, that I don't appreciate your crazy-amazing obsession with going through all of them.

    1. And then there was fun stuff like popular saints, who the church didn't really agree with but people still venerated, like Saint Guinefort, a sainted dog in France. The people in that area kept visiting the dog's grave until the 20th century, while the church in Rome kept shaking its head about it.

    2. Well, that was an interesting tutorial. Thanks!

      To expand on it, I had assumed that most Catholic saints were "made" during the Middle Ages and the pace must be slowing down. Not at all! There have been over 100 new saints since 1900, more than most previous centuries.

  11. That's the first dragon I've encountered that has (half) a Hebrew name.

  12. This game constantly impresses me with its attention to detail. Even the dragon from Revelation has 7 heads and 10 horns.

    1. You're right, though I always preferred wyverns :p

  13. Reading your posts, I've got the impression that the game that drew the most on this one is Elder Scrolls : Dagerfall, who has a gigantic game world full of quests, dungeons, cities and guilds unrelated to a main quest that only is a small part of the whole. What do you think about it?

    1. I haven't played Daggerfall, so it's hard to comment on any specific relationship. But my understanding is that the cities are pretty generic and much of the landscape and its quests procedurally-generated, so in that sense there is perhaps a Darklands influence. I'm researching more about the game's legacy now for the final entry.

    2. I don't know how much you'd want revealed before getting there, but I'd say Daggerfall's appearance of scale and depth are... misleading, at best.

  14. Hi. Ive just found your page and already im a fan of yours :) was fun to read something about the old crpgs from my youth. But one question:

    do u play some rpgs with walkthrough?

    Caus i can remember some of them were pretty hard... Like elvira 2 for example. I can remember it very well and it was terrible and frustrating caus there were so many "dead-ends". It was possible to get stuck and to start over and over again.

    Cheers from Austria,

    1. Hi, Peter. Welcome to the blog!

      I never play "with" a walkthrough, but I will occasionally allow myself to consult one (though I prefer the official hint book, if I can find it, since it seems more era-authentic) if I'm completely stuck and can't proceed without a hint. I almost always mention it in the entry when I've looked up a hint.

  15. While you're right that everyone attacking the lancers results in all of them taking permanent strength damage, you didn't mention that they all take a decent amount less damage than if you just send one person against them, which is arguably a better outcome if you're going to keep playing. You also could have killed the final boss easier with missile weapons, as between those and firewalls, he pretty much can't do anything to you

    1. He didn't seem to be taking much damage from my guns, and they take so long to load, that I didn't have the patience to wait for missile weapons even if it was possible.

    2. Right, you were using guns instead of bows. I can definately see why you'd do it the hard way then. The main advantage of missile weapons plus firewall is that you can split your party so the dragon can only aim at one at a time, while the firewalls make sure he can only deal a few points of damage at a time

  16. I'd say explore a less fortunate party shortly. Get thrown into jail, try to escape, face the judge at least once. And maybe surrender a few fights and see what happens.

    Arnold Hendrick did an extensive Q&A on Steam two years ago which contains a lot of interesting background information:

    1. Yeah, that thread is insane. It's supplying about 3/4 of the material for my wrap-up post.

  17. How did no one post this yet!?!

  18. Congratulations on beating Darklands Chet! Sounds like you had a ton of fun.
    Looking forward to your score on Darklands although from your comments I figure it will easily make your top 10 (or even top 5) crps and deservingly so

  19. Congrats for your victory!

    It was fun to read your adventures in Darklands. I played it a lot in 90's and another round about five years ago. I think the game has aged well, my only complaint in second round was quite tiresome mine quests. Menu-driven cities work like a charm, for example. I think also the saints (instead of same old fireballs every other RPG has) is quite refreshing approach. I hope there would be more RPGs like this...

    From my first playthrough I remember how frustrating and sometimes funny it was when my characters were dragon slaying heroes and still get kicked out from alchemists/monasteries etc. because no-one was good enough Latin speaker.

    Waiting for GIMLET now!

  20. Thank you so much for your blog - I only found it a couple of months ago, and am glad that I caught you just as you were playing one of my favorites. I installed my copy to play along as you were, and actually finished the main quest this time, my party of do-gooders traveling from city to city, killing evil men and selling their gear in order to study religion.

    It made me seek out another Microprose quasi-RPG that came out in '97 - Magic the Gathering. Look into it, the single-player quest mode is similar to Darklands with the overland travel between menu cities (not as detailed), dungeons, and random encounters. It might meet your criteria with a little lateral thinking, and since you considered Wizard Warz an RPG, this one's worth a quick peek.

    It's got hit point progression that you level up through completing quests, and can lose if enemies capture a city which gave you a hit point increase. If you consider the cards you use to form your decks as skills then that fits your second criteria, and it also includes an inventory of gems that can be used to perform "World Magic" spells you can purchase from certain cities. You get a real sense of leveling up as you find and buy spells to make your decks more powerful and streamlined, and finally gain enough hit points to attack the evil wizards' castles.

    1. I remember that! As I recall the MtG quest mode was super buggy on release. It's too bad they never tried that again.

    2. They fixed the bugs and it's a playable game. Very good, too. Quest around the land building your deck and fighting enemies with different decks. Played for ante, of course, because that was how we rolled back then. 4th edition, with all the old broken cards. There is also a hacked version with modern cards. Search for Shandalar and you'll find the forum that supports the game today.

    3. The Digital Antiquarian recently published two articles on Magic: The Gathering. The first is about the genesis of the card game, the second about its first computerized versions, focusing on the CRPG(-style) single-player campaign in Shandalar - designed inter alia by none other than Sid Meier (the article says his name was scrubbed from the credits because he had left MicroProse before the game was finished).

      It includes instructions on how to set up the vintage version on modern systems, though there might be easier ways (see the comments). And as Harland mentions, searching for "Shandalar" (with e.g. "Microprose") should bring up the forum and other helpful pages.

      According to Wikipedia, "Adventure and role-playing elements are present, including inventory, gold, towns, dungeons, random battles, and character progression in the form of new abilities and a higher life point total." So if someone wants Chet to have a look at it, you'd have to see if you can (also) get it "officially" qualified as RPG there or on mobygames before he reaches 1997.

    4. The hacked version Harland mentions was my fault, FWIW.

      I very vaguely recall the initial release of the quest mode was superior to the post-expansion (Spells of the Ancients/Duels of the Planeswalkers) version in some ways. In particular, you could only get the Power Nine from dungeons; after the expansions, you could find them randomly after humdrum battles, for sale in towns, and so on. It was one of the first things I fixed. I wasn't ever able to find a version without the expansions already installed that I was able to get working.

      I've never considered it an rpg, and I think it fits Chet's criteria even more poorly than mine. The abilities are inventory-based, your max life is determined solely by how many cities you control, and while there is an economy of sorts, it's even more broken than the Gold Box ones we like to make fun of 'round here.


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