Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Defender of Boston: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

The closing screen suggests that I was more a Defender of Beverly.
Defender of Boston: The Rock Island Mystery
United States
Independently developed and published as shareware
Released in 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 26 October 2020
Date Ended: 23 November 2020
Total Hours: 22
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 41
Ranking at Time of Posting: 334/392 (85%)
Defender of Boston is an adventure/survival horror game with an RPG-like character creation process. Independently developed, it is amateurish in everything except its plot, which is sure to delight some players and frustrate others to the brink of insanity. Based on the tabletop Call of Cthulhu RPG, the game casts the player as a representative of the Faunus Foundation, arrived on a Massachusetts island in 1920 to investigate the disappearance of a colleague. The player soon discovers that not all is right on the island, and he helps its residents fend off aliens, sea monsters, and trans-dimensional monstrosities alike. The interface will deter all but the most dedicated players, although even it has moments of brilliance. Defender is not for the casual player, but persistent ones will be rewarded.
In eleven years, I don't think I have been more relieved at a winning screen than the one for Defender of Boston. It is the most original amateur game that I've ever played. It is so rough around the edges that most players will immediately dismiss it, but I'm glad I didn't. Winning the game honestly felt like overcoming something that was sincerely trying to either kill me or drive me mad.
My previous entries on the game under-emphasized some of the more important elements of gameplay, partly because it's not a style of game that I usually encounter, and partly because those elements don't become fully revealed until later. Defender has a surprisingly robust survival game buried beneath its adventure and RPG trappings. You don't quite sense this in the early hours, when you're picking up plentiful ears of corn and fending off wild dogs with a stick. As the game goes along, however, food becomes more and more scarce, all the island's animals turn against you, and you suffer frostbite as you desperately move from place to place. Late in one of my attempts, I had to fashion a fishing pole and go fishing--fending off hostile elk and lighting sticks on fire to stay warm--just to avoid dying of hunger. Thirst is a lesser issue since most houses have running water. Lots of things you might eat can make you sick, however, for which you need to use the game's crafting system to prepare a stomach-cleansing tonic.
Fishing in less-than-ideal circumstances.
Enemies become essentially unfightable. Deep Ones come out not only at night but linger during the day. Just looking at them drives you mad, until you find a special pair of crystal glasses. Moose, bears, bobcats, and even a lion attack as you try to get around. One swipe from some of these creatures is enough to break a bone. You find yourself trying to run away from them, but it's easy to get stuck in mires and bogs in this game. Every nightmare you've ever had where you tried to run but seemed to be stuck in molasses comes back to you in this game.
I ended up fielding several characters. My original Chester got hopelessly screwed up, partly because I didn't realize how the game's saving system works. Technically, you only have one save file, and it's overwritten when you die; permadeath was the author's intention. To avoid this, I got in the habit of killing the emulator when death was near and reloading from my last save. The problem is that the game continually saves inventory and time data independently from the character file. This started to cause all kinds of issues with missing inventory, plus the game started to insist that my character had been active for a negative number of days. It was night for 96 straight hours, something that I assumed was part of the plot. I eventually had to abandon the character and instead of killing the emulator, back up all of the save files periodically. For my winning character, though, I only had to restore a couple of times.
The hardest part of Defender of Boston is figuring out exactly what you're supposed to do, and then doing those things in the proper time and place. The best part is that you can figure these things out by carefully examining the clues. The "story" is fragmented among dozens of NPC dialogues, journals, other writings, and even cave paintings. Even though I "solved" it, I think I missed large chunks of it. There were locations and clues I never quite figured out, and NPCs I never met. These factors plus a randomization of equipment for each new character makes the game eminently replayable even if you think you know the solution.
A cave painting depicts the island and some of its landmarks. I'm not sure what it's telling me.
By the end of the game, you realize that although a lot of things are happening on Rock Island, they're not all interrelated. It's possible that I don't have this 100% correct, but I think the alien plot is the "main" plot; a lot of the rest are just side-quests that go along with the setting. The mystery that kicks off the game--the disappearance of Fred Black--is solved relatively quickly. An alien spacecraft crashed on the island on 13 July 1920, summoning a trio of men-in-black, who took over a farmhouse and imprisoned a recovered alien. Fred Black started snooping around and found an artifact that the MIBs were looking for. To get rid of Black while avoiding blood on their own hands, the MIBs sent a fake letter from Black to some bootleggers on the south side of the island, threatening to report their activities to the FBI. The mob killed Black and his wife and burned down their house, allowing the MIBs to swoop in and recover the artifact. Come to think of it, though, I never did learn definitively what happened to Fred Black. He was seen being marched away from his house, and I don't think I ever found his body.
An alien crash-landing is just another Tuesday for Rock Island, where walking horrors called Deep Ones emerge from the seas and swamps every night to attack anyone outdoors. A clash of titans in 1902 resulted in the deaths of most of the people on the island, as both a couple of old diaries and cemetery markers attest. This is a setting steeped in lore.
Uri's journal tells of the events of 1902.

I'll try to summarize the rest of the plot, but understand that some events are triggered by the player and some on their own, and I'd only be able to sort them all out through multiple replays. I spent most of the first few days just gathering items and clues, doing as little as possible to influence other events on the island. My winning character didn't kill the MIBs or free the alien and recover the artifact until much later. In fact, I spent a lot of days just resting inside of my house so I could see events as they unfolded naturally. One thing I did do, however, was show the MIBs' mission journal to the mob boss, causing him to scream, "Why da nerve! Doze guys are gonna pay!"
On the night of the third day, the game said that I heard the cries of troubled animals. The next day, a lot of the smaller wildlife on the island was gone. I was never sure what this was about or what triggered it. I think this coincided with the other animals on the island turning hostile.
Day 5 opened with gunshots in the distance that continued all day. This seems to have been the mob taking action against the MIBs, because when I later visited the MIB farm, they were all dead. About this time, a couple new conversation options became available for all the island's NPCs: "Strange Dreams" and "Odd Animals."
A mob war that I instigated rages in the distance.
On Day 6, there was a droning sound in the background and everything was filtered through a red hue. On Day 7, bad weather started--rain, then torrential rain, then freezing cold. My first couple of characters took continual damage despite having what sounded like warm outerwear. I had my third character pick up every coat, hat, and blanket that he came across, and some combination seemed to do the trick. "The Storm" becomes a dialogue option at some point, and Scotty claims that the Deep Ones caused it to hinder the aliens' efforts to find their artifact. Scotty may be an alien himself, incidentally. I was never clear on that point. Equally unclear was the use of a "scalar altogenerator," which you have to power by climbing a lighthouse, blasting the door to the roof with a bomb, and plugging into a solar generator. This item also seems to summon a storm for a few days, but afterwards the weather seems a lot calmer.
I thought I was already wearing heavy clothes.
As the days progress, you get dialogue options for a "Light in the Sky" and an "Odd Glow in the Sky," neither of which I actually noticed. During one of these options, Scotty gives you a device to call the aliens. He tells you to use it in the stone circle near his house after you've discovered their "pod." By this, he seems to mean the artifact; I don't know why he's calling it a "pod." Anyway, this took me a long time to solve. I don't think the device he gives you shows up in your inventory until the moment at which you have to use it. I got it confused with a "hormonic emi sender" and didn't understand why the aliens weren't showing up.
In the meantime, you learn from NPCs that Dice wants to see you because he's getting strange transmissions over his radio. If you return to his house and listen to the transmission, a thick voice tells you a sequence of colors that corresponds with the buttons on the artifact. If you enter the sequence, the game--and the world--ends instantly. This is apparently a trick by the Deep Ones to get you to destroy the world.
Oh. A "frog-like tone to the voice." Sure. That makes sense.
I eventually figured out the right way to summon the aliens. They kidnapped me, took the artifact, and dumped me back on the island, some distance from where I summoned them.
Having all these people standing around just makes it weirder.
At this point, you've technically solved the main quest. The next quest has to do with Nygol, the sentient black ooze buried beneath a seal in Bob's dungeon. (The chamber, incidentally, has the remains of an adventurer with a leather jacket, fedora, and whip.) Bob's father, Uri, apparently figured out how to trap it there, first by summoning an extra-dimensional being called Cthaga. It's up to you to replicate Uri's success, but there's no point in doing so unless the creature is freed first. I think one of the MIBs does this if you don't; otherwise, you might do it just by poking around the area and thinking, "I wonder what happens if you lift this seal."
Yeah, damn those . . . "pinkboys."
What happens is that a constant menacing drone appears in the background, and you get a new dialogue option for "Bizarre Events." Bob blames the release of Nygol on the MIBs even if you did it. The solution seems to be to climb to the top of the stone tower on Bob's property and read the "Ob Pisro Roll Yam" scroll, which summons Cthaga. The cure here might be worse than the disease. For the rest of the game, no matter how long I tried to wait it out, every time I looked at the sky, the game told me:

A bright cloud of flame wanders about the sky. You hear a deep sound as an eldritch heaviness presses down on you. Your mind feels a blanket of dread creeping over the countryside. You feel you MUST HIDE. The SKY seems to be ALIVE and possesses a hideous unearthly intelligence.
But Cthaga's scrutiny at least seems to drive Nygol back underground. You can't replace the seal--Nygol comes out and kills you if you try--but you can drop a bomb in the chamber and detonate it, bringing down tons of rock and dirt, which is apparently enough to trap Nygol permanently. You get thousands of points for doing this even if he hasn't been released yet, which means that a quick character can prevent the need for summoning Cthaga in the first place.
Bombs solve everything.
If there's a way to get rid of Cthaga, I don't know what it is. Out of ideas, I used the radio in Dice's house to summon a Foundation plane. The Foundation said the plane would land north of me at Green Lake. It took hours of gameplay for me to figure out what to do next. I wasn't sure if the voice meant at the lake itself or on an airstrip nearby, so I kept going back and forth between them--getting attacked the entire time by all kinds of things--and not finding anything. I circled the shores of the lake several times. It turns out that the plane doesn't arrive for about 12 hours, and then it lands in the middle of the lake. You have to swim out to it. Once you're there, it appears as a "landmark," and you can fly away.
Get me out of this nightmare!

Boarding the plane at the end. Note all of the NPCs still hanging around me.
The final map is interesting. I don't know if it's Tim Wisseman's invention or whether it's derived from the Cthulhu materials. It shows Rock Island quite far northeast of Boston, off the coast of Cape Ann. Along the way is the real-life city of Lynn and a place labeled "Arkham," which I'm guessing is a fictionalized version of the old State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers. (The hospital also appears fictionalized in Fallout 4 as the Parsons State Insane Asylum.) I lived and worked in the areas for years and even looked at an apartment there after they converted the complex to residences in the 2000s.
Rock Island could be Great Misery Island or Bakers Island in Salem Harbor. Great Misery Island had a fire that burned most of the inhabited part of the island down in 1920.
In a GIMLET, I award the game:
  • 7 points for the game world. Creepy, atmospheric, and highly-original, Defender checks nearly all my boxes in this category, including the way the setting progresses over time and responds to the player's actions. I don't know how much to credit to Wisseman and how much to credit to Cthulhu, but I'm not sure I care.
The game serves as an exemplar of epistolary fiction.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. I don't believe there is any development. Skills do not seem to increase as you use them in the game. If they do, it's so subtle as to be unnoticeable. But creation is a relatively memorable process, and the skills you choose during creation make a big difference in how you approach puzzle-solving, dialogue, and combat. I would warn that at least three bars in "First Aid" and "Chemistry" seem to be necessary to get anywhere in the game.
  • 5 points for NPC interaction. There are a couple dozen NPCs wandering the island, each with their own motivations and backstories, some (inexplicably) hostile. Finding and talking with them is absolutely necessary for moving forward. Unfortunately, there are no real "dialogue options," nor can you even get NPCs to repeat anything already said. The "give" mechanic is under-utilized; it would have been great if NPCs would have commented on mysterious equipment.
Some of the later dialogue options. The fact that it's dark adds to the creepiness of the dialogue.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. It gets these from a combination of puzzle and survival aspects.
  • 4 points for magic and combat. I'm being a little generous here, but I think there are probably angles to combat that I didn't explore. Against most enemies, I typically emptied my .45 and then swing away with a shovel. But you can craft and throw bombs and spears, fight hand-to-hand (with appropriate skill), and I think maybe even use some of the weirder pieces of equipment. 
  • 5 points for equipment. It's not a standard RPG set, but there's still a long and interesting list of items to find and craft. Water and bird droppings turn into saltpeter which helps make a detonator, which combined with fuses and explosives make a bomb. Unravel a shirt to make string, combine it with a stick and a twist of iron wire (itself crafted from barbed wire), and you have a fishing pole. Use it at a lake and cook the resulting fish with a mess kit to make dinner. Great stuff.
  • 0 points for no economy.
  • 4 points for a main quest, several side-quests, and perhaps even different options for solving those quests.
An alternate ending from a character who never gave the artifact back to the aliens. But the mission was still a "complete success!"
  • 3 point for graphics, sound, and interface. It gets a couple points for some innovative sound effects like driving rain and crashes of waves near the ocean, plus creepy monster sounds at night. The interface is a mixed bag of too-much-clicking with occasional keyboard backups but also some interesting interface elements like a map and the "targeting" system in combat. As for graphics, part of me wants to say the low quality contributes somewhat to the atmosphere, but mostly they're just bad.
  • 6 points for gameplay. Non-linear, highly replayable, and reasonably well-paced, the game suffers only from being a bit obtuse. I honestly don't know if that was intentional or part of the mystery.
That gives us a final score of 41, a pretty high score for an independent title that looks like this. While that's well in my "recommended" territory, it's hard for me to actually recommend it. It's not much of a classic RPG, for one thing, and it only rewards very patient gameplay. The spelling errors are tough to forgive; like someone speaking with a stutter or a lisp, they often occlude elements of genius in world-building and lore. (Wisseman admits he's always had a problem with spelling and grammar.) The game is mostly forgotten online, but check out some of the message boards and YouTube videos that mention it; those who give it a try inevitably become fascinated with it.
The author, Tim Wisseman, strikes me as almost as interesting as his game. Still living high in the Sierra Nevadas where he grew up, he operates a workshop that makes "magic props." (You can see his gallery here.) He says he wrote Defender over a long, cold winter when his regular job as a logger was in its off-season. He expected that he would "make it big in the shareware world with this game," but he only ever got about 10 shareware registrations. (I was happy to make it 11 last week.) Fortunately, his next game, VGA Planets (1993), "made it big--really big." In fact, it's still being played. (Wisseman gave away the source code several years ago.) He's also the author of a long-running multiplayer Star Trek game called MTREK (1985). He still occasionally programs for his business, but he says he is "glad to be out of the gaming business--it was soul-crushing."
I'm glad I was able to take part in giving Defender of Boston a bit more life. I'm not sure I solved anywhere near every quest on the island or got anywhere near the highest potential score. For instance, I never figured out the use of the Geiger Counter, except that it goes off in the presence of a glowing rock you find at the Williams farm. Never found a use for that rock, either. Other equipment that went unused includes a "p vortex inductor," the "hormonic emi sender," an "extorneutronic gun," and a couple of coils. If there's any way to clear the island of Deep Ones, I never found it. I never quite figured out what the vampiric owls were all about. There are message boards online that talk about shipwreck survivors I never met and fairies I never saw. I may have only scratched the surface of Rock Island. I dare you to visit and fill in some of these gaps.

Addendum: here's what happens if you radio for the plane without fulfilling any of your objectives:


  1. I'm tempted to try this game myself now. I hadn't even heard about it before you blogged about it.

    It sounds a bit like a MacGyver type would do better than one of Lovecraft's anemic academics.

  2. Impressive. From what I read, few people persevered in this game, and fewer still finished it.

    I have to say that I am a bit surprised by your score :
    - 7 points for Game World for the only Lovecraftian game you have played so far, which seems pretty handcrafted with every person named, which items of lore everywhere that you can read, with "passage of time" (I don't think more than 2-3 other games had the plot progress by just "waiting") all amounting to a coherentish "whole" ? 7 is a good a grade of course, but this game seems above and beyond.
    - Similarly, 4 only for quests when you seem to "create" your own quests (instead of an NPC telling you what to do), when it looks like there are very different way to solve quests, with heavy choices and consequences (killing the MIB ? Rating them out ? Ignoring them ?)

    - On the other hand, you gave 4 to "combat", when as we read about it you have mostly ran away and maybe shoot a few roundsinto this or that enemy - and it is clearly not what the game is about. Keep in mind you gave 4 to Buck Rogers.

    First time I am really surprised by your grades.

    1. I don't really like to get into discussions of individual GIMLET scores because it encourages more people to demand justification. I did say I was being generous on the combat, but my coverage above explains why it's more than just "ran away and maybe shoot a few rounds." There are multiple modes of combat, success at which depends largely upon skills that I didn't prioritize, involving processes as complex as making fire bombs and tossing them at enemies. You can also do things like fire warning shots, use smoke bombs (though I admit I'm not sure how), and scare enemies with firecrackers. I didn't have time to exhaustively explore all of these things, but I admire the variety.

      I don't rate games by comparing them to each other. I rate them by stacking up the specific criteria that I outlined for each category.

    2. One edition of the CoC game says somewhere that if you have to engage in gun play or fisticuffs too often, you're in the wrong genre.

    3. It sure seems like there is some pretty impressive programming going on in this game. This developer is obviously not a gui kind of guy, but he implemented a lot of cool mechanics. And a pretty good story too. Maybe he should have made it a roguelike.

  3. Shaking my head at how bizarre this one was compared to what we normally get to read about on this blog.

    Chet, what happened to the extra detail on the portraits? You indicated you were saving that for the last entry. https://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2020/11/defender-of-boston-not-lovely-but-crafty.html?showComment=1605633698724#c6595762742430777612

    1. You're right. I didn't find a place for that. He said:


      All the pictures and artwork for the game game were made by myself and brother using a paint program that I wrote myself in BASIC. The pictures were saved as binary images that BASIC could PUT on the screen by loading them from the hard drive

      They were hand drawn (using a mouse) images based on famous pictures of the time.. We had to click each pixel into the computer one at a time. It was madness.

      The pictures were based on famous actors of the time. Your blog is very correct on who you think they are.

    2. Brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘digitised’.

    3. But what about the ones you weren't sure of? Like row 2 and 3?

    4. He was referring to commenters when he said "your blog is very correct." Granted, there was some confusion in the comments, but I didn't think it was important enough to press him.

    5. Thanks for taking the time anyway.

  4. Sounds like a game I can admire for its originality, but will never really be tempted to play. Besides the interface, it sounds more like a very strange adventure game than any kind of RPG.

  5. I fixed the name...
    Carrie Bradshaw says: Those animal cries seem to be growing closer all the time. Have you heard the awful moaning?

    ...just hilarious!

    However, I think you are being too kind. I suggest you substract point or two for the bugs, even though it is shareware. I think it is not difficult to understand why there were only 10 subscriptions. Poor Tim. At least VGA Planets (strategy game) sold well, I remember managing group orders for it myself.

    1. There weren't really any bugs, but I did consider some reduction for the spelling. There's a weird way in which the poor spelling and grammar actually enhance the other-worldliness of the setting.

    2. I'm pretty sure the UI could have a negative score, giving it zero points is way too generous.

    3. There are things I grew to like about it, such as the targeting/loading system in combat and the auto map. Other elements, like the searching and inventory systems, don't work like other RPGs, but I didn't necessarily think they were BAD.

  6. I have to say, i can't for the life of me imagine how to practically play this game... The Screenshots have me stumped.

    1. This is definitely a game for which static screenshots don't do it justice.

    2. Of course they don't, it's even more confounding in action.

  7. >Great Misery Island had a fire that burned most of the inhabited part of the island down in 1920.

    Great Misery Island is sure a fitting name for it's place...

  8. If I remember correctly, you can actually leave without sealing the pit, but you get a bad ending as a result.

  9. If nothing else, this definately seems like a pre-Resident Evil survival horror game, and seeing games that predate a genre being codified is always interesting just to see the ideas that never ended up becoming a core part of the genre for one reason or another

    1. Arguably, The Legacy would also qualify as such.

    2. I feel like an argument can also be made for System Shock, although that's not coming up for a while and I haven't played too much of it specifically because it was more of a survival horror than I was expecting

    3. The unique character of that game comes from the combination of RPG, investigation and survival.
      System Shock 1 is not a RPG, System Shock 2 (or Neo-Scavenger below) is not that much into investigation, the Council is not survival :).

      I think Silmaris's "Deus" (aka : Robinson Requiem 2) is the only game that has RPG, investigation and survival, but I haven't played it much so I may be wrong.

    4. Project Firestart on the C64 is considered a survival horror game. There are a few others from the eighties too.

    5. One notable game from the 80's combining survival horror with RPG elements is Capcom's Sweet Home for Famicom/NES. Loosely based on the similarly-named Japanese horror movie, it is nowadays best known as a spiritual predecessor of the original Resident Evil, which reportedly began development as actual remake of Sweet Home.

      While the actual RPG elements of Sweet Home are fairly simple (fortunately without excessive grinding), it has genuinely interesting puzzles and memorable moments and in my opinion is one of the best Famicom/NES games I have played.

      While Sweet Home wasn't officially released outside Japan (and probably would have been heavily censored due to Nintendo of America's policies ruining much of the story and atmosphere), it has actually two different fan translations:



      Of course, I wouldn't mind, if CRPG Addict decided to give it a try at some point. ;)

    6. It's also based on a movie of the same name, which hasn't even achieved the cult status of the NES game as far as I know. I didn't even know it was based on a film until I was looking for a gameplay clip recently.

  10. Independent horror games make for some of the best CRPG Addict posts.

    The silliest one for me may be Don't Go Alone for its chemical formula "spells" that would kill the users in real life, the mansion as big as multiple hangars, and the concept of monsters only scaring the "heroes" as they shoot at them with bazookas.

    Whatever happened to the follower NPCs in Defender of Boston? I don't see anything about them in this post.

    Permadeath combined with fixed content makes it sound like Defender of Boston is a terrible game to play legitimately, if fun to read about.

  11. If levelling up of skills followed the rules of the CoC tabletop RPG, then it would be a slow process and possibly not much noticed.
    It goes a bit like this:
    - If you succeed a skill roll with a really good roll, you get a chance to improve that skill (typically at the end of the story arc, but in a crpg it could happen immediately).
    - You roll against your skill again and must fail the roll to be able to increase it. That makes it more difficult to improve your skills with higher scores
    - Finally, you roll again to find out how much you increased the skill by.
    Quite realistic in real life terms, but it may be frustrating in a crpg environment, where you want to see your character get stronger. Alas, that is not very common for the short-lived CoC investigators.

  12. Some of the Pictures Looks jpeg

    1. Oh geesh, are you trying to summon the pedantic jerk from the Rambo thread?

    2. But my mother was born before 1992 wenn jpeg was invented by Johnatan Peg who wanted a new standard of bad digitilized pictures for crpg-blogs.

    3. Jonhatan Peg is a personal hero of mine. He's a real OGG.

  13. What an interesting game after all that.

    It sounds years ahead in its complexity, but obviously suffers from that fact it was built by a one man band.

    With improved graphics and interface (and possibly a sense of character growth), it sounds like this could have been incredible!

    1. This isn't really my genre, so I'm curious: if I wanted to play a survival horror game like this, professionally done, what would be the best example?

    2. The only thing I can think of that's remotely similar is Pathologic, which I think is also a RPG in some respects. I think Darkwood is also like that, but that's heavier on the RPG than Pathologic.

    3. Pathologic was the first game that came to mind reading these entries. It's also quite obtuse (Icepick Lodge's entire ouvre is fascinating and bizarre) but very memorable.

      If you do give it a try, go ahead and just play Pathologic 2 since it's (more or less) a remake of the first game and theoretically more stable.

    4. Depending on what your idea of "professionally done" is, NEO Scavenger seems like the closest thing to this in terms of gameplay and atmosphere. It's also a one-man indie project, but it's not amateurish in any way (the dev is former Bioware employee).

    5. I also got Neo Scavenger vibes - which is on my list of ‘five games I want Chet to play’.

    6. Yeah, Neo Scavenger vibe here, though thinking about it NeoScavenger does not have the "investigation" part at all.

      On the other hand, the atmospher is very close to World of Horror, but World of Horror is all pretend and definitely NOT an investigation game at all.

    7. I suppose more recently there's that Sinking City game.

    8. Never heard of Sinking City and "Pathologic" was just a name.
      I guess I ll have to play all of these. Thanks

    9. NEO Scavenger is the best hobo simulator ever made.

    10. cataclysm DDA! not for the original survival horror question, but another response to hobo simulation (and really any kind of survival/apoc simulation). it's hard to focus on horror when you are busy crafting a city-sized death mobile with onboard kitchen and meth lab and fighting said horrors on rollerskates with a slingshot. Jarl, try it if you love NEO and havent!

    11. I haven't played Defender of Boston but based on how you've described it, it reminds me a lot of Deadly Premonition.

      That's an investigative horror game that mixes an open world style with a central plot, and like DoB it's full of... quirky design choices, some of which may not be deliberate.

      DP is not an rpg though, and it doesn't have as much depth in terms of subsystems and things to do and tinker with.

    12. After watching Twin Peaks I have a hard time giving credit to DP. Dale Cooper could fold Francis York Morgan like a pretzel without breaking a sweat.

      It is one of three games (two if you exclude The Sims) I know of where you have to shower regularly, so there's that. I also like the realistic scale of the game world, which feels a lot like my own hometown in certain areas. It's rare to see an open world that isn't the "theme park" version of reality, with all the interesting stuff right next to each other.

    13. At least DP ends when the case does, something the show could have benefitted from.

    14. Parhologic is an interesting suggestion, but it's an ultra-janky game that takes 50 hours to finish with a single character. Most of the game is spent by walking sloooowly between locations.

      It is, though, an open-world game with a creepy atmosphere and a fairly obscure plot, very much like the Addict's description of DoB.

      Deadly Premonition is somewhat similiar: weird, janky but original and intriguing.

      Most "state of the art" Survival Horrors tend to be much more linear and action-focused.

      Resident Evil, Silent Hill series, Dead Space are some of the more well known "classics" of the genre, on top of my mind, roughly based on the template set by Alone in the Dark.

      Amnesia, Alien Isolation and Outlast are part of a more recent subgenre where the protagonist has no fighting chance and mostly hides, runs and try to outwit whatever is chasing him.

    15. I'm glad I can rely on the commenters, as usual. This game does indeed seem ahead of its time, and closely matches Pathologic by thematic and horror advenutre elements (it was the game that came to mind reading these entries) and NEO Scavenger by mechanics (the need to craft and manage resources for survival, and the frantic desperation of the combat). Both slightly obscure and hard-to-start-with games that reward perseverance. Really enjoyed these entries, always love to read about undiscovered diamonds in the rough.

  14. Even though the game seems to be name-dropping Cthulhu Mythos elements left and right, the way the content is presented (at least the way you described it) sounds quite unique even among Lovecraft games. I love the island and weather state changes.

  15. Fascinating game. Kind of wish it could be dug up and revamped with a friendlier interface.

  16. Excellent series of posts on a truly unusual game. Thanks very much for the fun reading!

  17. This game is truly one of the most successful Lovecraftian games, since it drives the player as mad as the character! ;)

    Whether intentional or not, that's a great achievement.

    1. Yeah, reading your posts I can picture the madness creeping in...the crazy text from the game really draws my attention to every typo you made....
      What a fantastic find, despite all of the problems it sound like a fun game. I also thought about NeoScavenger...great examples of games that have a good core concept. Despite limited interfaces and graphics they can still be a lot of fun to play. In fact the crazy interface seems to enhance Defender’s madness, in a similar way to NeoScavenger’s lack of direction,

  18. So in the midst of a pile of organic fertilizer and 741 Ultima clones, sometimes one can find a pearl. Not a beautiful one, but an interesting one nonetheless. Thanks for covering this.

  19. Arkham is most probably a reference to a city being a part Lovecraft's mythos setting:

  20. "Winning the game honestly felt like overcoming something that was sincerely trying to either kill me or drive me mad."

    Without reading any further, this sounds like the most successful attempt at creating a lovecraftian game you could hope for. But how much of it was due to intentional design choices and how much due to a wierdly fitting result of all the games shortcomings and quirks?

  21. I'm not aware of references to the Rock Island locale in any of the official tabletop Call of Cthulhu material, so I would guess that the setting is a Tim Wisseman original.

    That said, Arkham is a town from Lovecraft's stories and features quite prominently -- as you'd expect -- in the tabletop game. The reference here is almost certainly to that, placing Rock Island somewhere in Arkham County most likely.

    Although I doubt they exist any more, I would love to see Wisseman's design notes for the game, so we could see all the details and secrets of the setting. The game seems to have fallen down in terms of presentation, but it remains quite compelling, even viewing it second hand through your playthrough.

  22. I don't know if the in-game text ever made it clear, but Deep Ones are fish/frog-like creatures that live in undersea cities like Y'ha-nthlei. Lovecraft's text always has characters being disturbed by how literally fishy their voices sound. That's why the game described a voice as having a "frog-like tone."

    Arkham is indeed an invention of Lovecraft; it's one of several fictional towns that are supposed to be in northern Massachusetts along the equally fictional Miskatonic River, I believe.

  23. Here is one map of "Lovecraft Country", I believe based on the tabletop game's version of the locale. There is some debate over where Arkham is supposed to be located, but this is one of the more popular interpretations.

  24. Much of the summary of this game reminded me of the classic Morrowind creepypasta "Jvk1166z.esp", which can be read here:


  25. I was thinking ab it, and the "hormonic emi sender" sounds like a badly typoed "harmonic EM sender", which makes it sound like a radio. Maybe the thing doesn't even have anything to do with the aliens, and is instead related to something to do with the Deep Ones?

    Blindly guessing here.

  26. I don´t think it matters anymore, but now in youtube there is a video of the game in which the player purposely started without any talking skill or lockpicking because those were easier to train, so stats do rise in the game


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