Thursday, June 10, 2021

Abandoned Places 2: A Small World After All

"Claw monkeys" attack me in the game's wilderness.
I don't know if Abandoned Places 2 is going to score very high on the GIMLET, but it's been a nice, relaxing game for this week, a perfect companion to the spring breeze blowing through my window. It offers a nice contrast to both Might and Magic and the writing-heavy work that I have to do this summer.
We left off as I was entering Level 3 of the starting dungeon. This one was a bit easier to map than the first, featuring lots of long corridors and big rooms. It was conceived as a set of tombs, and stepping on squares in front of the tomb doors usually offered some information about the resident of the tomb. Examples:
  • You see a note written in gold above the entrance: "Here sleeps Marcus the Mage. We hope he will rest in peace, for his and your sake."
  • Difgabos mightily defended the city when it was under attack by twelve hundred trolls. The warlord made them flee with only one hundred warriors."
  • You stand before the tomb of Lord Vezil, who founded and built the city from nothing. He is rumored to be buried with his favorite jewelry.
"For his sake and yours" would have been so much better.
I thought the names might be references to the backstory of the first game, but I couldn't find them anywhere in there. Nor are they the names of the first game's heroes.
Enemies were just more skeletons and armored skeletons, same as the first level, when my characters were Level 1 instead of Level 4. There was one large room in which we had to fight about 20 of them, but even that wasn't too difficult as long as I kept up on healing. My necromancer got "Cure Serious Wounds" at some point, which made that easier.
The party encounters an anti-magic zone.
The dungeon's puzzle did more to kill me than the enemies. There was a long corridor where I kept having to deliberately walk through fire squares because the regular squares were "slick" and kept pushing me back. I don't have any "Walk on Fire" or "Resist Fire" spell yet. Even worse was a room that slid us into a group of fire squares, each of which had a slider pushing us to a different square. In my panic to get out of the room, I kept running headlong into walls. This area produced the only party death so far in the game. On a reload, I had to act quickly to open a door from within the fire and then step out of it.
There were more chests on this level than the first, many of them with things like gems, jewelry, and statuettes. I think these are probably just for resale. My characters finished getting suits of armor on this level, plus a few helms and boots to go around. 
Finding the first quest object.
Ultimately, we had to find two keys to open two successive doors. They led into a chamber with a final treasure chest, which contained the Elixir of Health. We took it back to the wounded Master on the first floor.
A follower takes the elixir from you and pours it into the mouth of the Master. The Master opens his eyes and says, "Thank you for not letting me die after finishing my mission. Now go to the old Southern Dwarf Mines and seek the ancient magic shield called 'Dobelal.' I know little on this artifact, but some say the dwarfs knew it well. But be cautions with them! It is said that Pendugmalhe took control over the strongest dwarven army, too. Maybe Pendugmalhe found the Dobelal, but he can't destroy it without the ancient sword Kuhalk and the powers of his strongest creatures summoned upon the artifacts. I doubt he can get them all to curse the weapons, but who knows . . . . We had better find at least one of the artifacts to make sure he can't finish his crazy plan. Your journey will not be easy, but hopefully Kuhalk and I will give all the help we can. Now go."
The way out of the dungeon was unblocked. I had expected that we would emerge into a top-down overworld, like in the first game, so imagine my surprise when instead we found ourselves in a three-dimensional outdoor area. Imagine my further surprise when it turned out that the area was on fire, and the party started taking massive damage. Even if you're ready for it, you can barely get out of the fire before you die, and I wasn't ready at all. It took me a couple of reloads. No explanation is given for this forest fire that mysteriously never spreads nor diminishes.
This doesn't seem fair.
The forested area was 30 x 30, just like dungeon levels. (I just realized now that there were only two dungeon levels, and that the small "second level" actually fits within the blank space left over on the "first.") It was less interesting to map because there were no puzzles or treasures, just a lot of trees, water, and occasional combats with bears and giants. The graphics are quite nice, though, with particularly good detail in the trees.
Giants attack as I explore their area.
I ultimately found my way to a city on the edge of the map. It was just a menu town with buttons for an armorer, a tavern where you can find a jewelry merchant, a food shop, and a magic shop. I sold all the excess that I had dragged from the dungeon, but even then, my gold wasn't enough to buy anything interesting.
One of the interchangeable cities . . .
. . . and its armory.
When I left the city, I was confused to find myself in an area that didn't match my map. I soon realized that each city has two exits, and that these cities serve as bridges between outdoor maps. Ultimately, I found four outdoor maps, each 30 x 30, connected by four cities. (Three of the cities are perfectly aligned between the maps, but for some reason the one that connects the northeast quadrant and the southeast quadrant enters in one column and exits another.) The cities seem interchangeable. They have no names, and all the shops sell the same things.
Within the four areas, I've found three dungeons on three different maps, including the one I emerged from. I probably need to take a swing around the southwest quadrant to make sure I didn't miss anything, as the map has no purpose otherwise.
The four 30 x 30 maps, stitched together.
I think the outdoor areas might respawn, as a few times I encountered enemies in areas I thought I had cleared. They also might just wander around a lot. If they respawn, it should provide some opportunities for grinding if it turns out to be necessary. Then again, since you get points for successfully casting spells, I could "grind" by just having the spellcasters cast "Create Food" all day.
Speaking of food, the mechanic is about as annoying as I expected it was going to be after the first entry. Food depletes at a rate of one unit per minute, real time, so if I get a character up to 60, I don't have to worry about him for an hour. But casting of "Create Food" can create something worth anywhere from 2 units to 20. I usually have to cast it about 10 times to get a character's statistic over 50. I also think it's amusing from a realism perspective that characters don't complain about hunger until they're so hungry they're literally taking physical damage from it.
I popped into the northwest dungeon, but the mages I met at the bottom of the stairs were way too tough for my party, and the place didn't look very much like a dwarven mine. 
I was here far too early.
In the southeast dungeon, on the other hand, I was greeted by a dwarf immediately on entering. "So you are the Heroes of the Crypt. We have been looking forward to meeting you. Though most of us are forced to hide in tunnels and caves, we will try to help you if possible."
The mines feature some fun graphics--one of the game's strengths--along with numerous attacking dwarves. I guess these must have been corrupted by Pendugmalhe. The first level had a small area behind a secret door where my characters took constant damage, and a number of teleporters that dumped us into this area. There were at least two anti-magic zones, something that continually worries me since my party is so magic-heavy. One of these was in an area full of water and fire, so I couldn't cast "Levitate" or any healing spells. I just had to plow through them and hope for the best. 
Instead of always just showing wall textures, occasionally you get something like this.
As I entered one room, I got a message from some dwarves: "We have come to wish you good luck. But don't you dare touch our treasures!" I really hope they just meant in that one room (where there was one chest), as I opened chests liberally throughout the dungeon.
Other than that anti-magic zone, the party composition has really been working out. My fighter is the deadweight, currently running about 40,000 experience. My voider, in contrast, has almost 100,000. (That's only a single level difference, though.) He got "Fire Storm" a while back, which damages enemies in both columns, and he's likely to continue earning the lion's share of experience until the other two casters get something comparable. 
The spell system is more sophisticated than I originally gave it credit for. Each spellcaster has three status bars, indicating their mana pools in the three different spell spheres: cosmos, elemental, and necromancy. Each spell uses a different combination of these mana pools, as indicated in the spellbook. "Magic Missile" is pure cosmos, but "Sleep" requires a little of each. "Fire Area" is a lot of elemental and a little cosmos.
There are 48 total spells in the game, spread across eight levels, and I think each spellcaster can learn all of them, but each class learns them in a different order, and each class has a different capability for casting them. So while my voider might eventually get "Cure Serious Wounds," he'll only be able to cast a third of them as the necromancer, who has more spell points specific to that spell.
Regardless of the allocation, it feels like the game was a bit generous with spell points, or perhaps the speed of the regeneration of those points. I have not so far had any character run out of points in combat, and they usually fully regenerate before the next combat.
So far, I have 17 of the 18 spells that make up the first three levels. Since I don't have a lot else to report, I thought I'd offer my notes on them. The sphere given is the one that requires the most mana.
Level 1
  • "Magic Missile" (cosmos) and "Meteor Swarm" ("elemental") are both missile spells that only hit the column of monsters on the same side of the caster. They were good when they were all I had.
  • "Light" (elemental) does what it suggests, but most of the dungeon squares are already lit. You only need it in special dark squares, and there haven't been enough of those that I've even noticed how long the spell lasts. Duplicated by torches.
  • "Create Food" (elemental) is absolutely essential, as above.
  • "Sleep" (necromancy) is a bit wasted, unless it works on undead, which I didn't try. The first living enemies you meet are too advanced for it; you need to upgrade to "Dream" (Level 3).
  • "Cure Light Wounds" (elemental) was invaluable until replaced at the third level.
Level 2
  • "Power Bolt" (cosmos) and "Globe of Air" (elemental) replace the Level 1 missile spells.
  • "Create Fire" (cosmos) is another offensive spell that creates a temporary fire square. It's replicated by burning oil.
  • "Levitate" (elemental) is necessary to get over water squares.
  • "Create Potion" (necromancy) is a weird one. It seems to create a Potion of Healing 75% of the time and a flask of burning oil 25%. I suppose it could be useful if I found a large anti-magic area.
  • "Cure Serious Wounds" (necromancy) is a better healing spell.
Level 3
  • "Fire Storm" (elemental) is a better damage spell and effects everyone in front of you, not just the column that lines up with the caster.
  • "Fire Area" (elemental) is like "Create Fire," but it creates a two-square ring of fire around the party, burning everyone who's even vaguely aware of the party's presence. Awesome.
  • "Wall of Illusion" (elemental) puts a temporary illusory wall in front of the party. It might be useful if I was trying to get away to regroup and heal.
  • "Dream" (necromancy) is a more powerful sleep spell. "Sleep" in this game is really just "freeze."
  • "Body Heal" (necromancy) is a more powerful healing spell.
Freezing a couple of dwarves with "Dream."
Getting back to the dwarven mines, the first two levels have not really expanded the game's bag of tricks. There are lots of secret doors, buttons, pressure plates, teleporters, spinners, and corridors with spells whizzing by. Trying to approach the game without mapping would be a nightmare, but when you're making careful maps, none of this is terribly bothersome. Back in the original Abandoned Places, I noted that in the early levels, there was no complexity to buttons or pressure plates. When you saw one, you almost always wanted to activate it. (That sometimes makes it hard to map, however, as you can't always be sure what button opened what area.) Later in the game, it got more complicated. A button might open one door but close another. This game seems to be repeating the pattern, or at least the fist half of it. So far, there's no mystery to buttons or plates. If you see one, you press it, because it's going to open a passage that's otherwise closed. This generally means that I can solve puzzles in the order I encounter them. In a more serious Dungeon Master game, I would map everything I could without touching anything so I could be sure exactly what effect everything had.
As I got to Level 2 of the mines, there were three messages in quick succession:
  • You hear a voice saying, "You may freely go now. Do not push your luck, before its too late!"
  • The voice is getting angrier. "Leave now, rats."
  • Hundreds of dwarves are ahead, dead and tortured.
Not that I wanted to see such a thing, but it's too bad we're not in the era in which such things could be depicted visually.
The only way to go (other than locked doors) took me into a huge room called the "Room of Chaos." Here, every single one of the game's tricks was on display in a huge 13 x 15 room. My map below shows three teleporters with one destination (the 1s), numerous spinners, a couple of which are also dark squares, two slider loops, and a bunch of traps. I'm not really sure what the point of the room is. Other than a small pile of gold in the middle of one of the slider loops, there wasn't much to find except the exit. I'm not sure if I missed something.
The aptly-named "Chaos Room."
That I took the time to list and describe every spell means that I've hit that point that I always hit in Dungeon Master-style games, where there's not much left to say but still a lot of game left to play. Mapping those four outdoor areas, for instance, took about six hours but only provided me enough content for a few paragraphs. If this were Might and Magic, those same 3,600 squares would comprise 14 map areas--more than half of the outdoor game world--and there would have been enough content in there to blog about for weeks. One of these days, it would be interesting to see a hybrid of the two approaches--something with the real-time combat and puzzles of Dungeon Master and the density of content of Might and Magic. If anyone knows of such a game, please share.
Time so far: 13 hours


  1. "Create potion" seems to be designed to abuse the fast mana regen you mentioned.

  2. One of these days, it would be interesting to see a hybrid of the two approaches--something with the real-time combat and puzzles of Dungeon Master and the density of content of Might and Magic. If anyone knows of such a game, please share.
    Several games qualify to different extents. Lands of Lore has a lot more plot and NPC encounters than a typical DM-style game, but the trade-off is it being very linear and I've never found its puzzles terribly interesting. Anvil of Dawn is more open and has much better puzzles than LoL, but also less dense, somewhere in-between M&M and DM plot densities. If you don't equate content with plot and lore and consider complex setpiece puzzles part of the latter, then Legend of Grimrock 2 qualifies as well, but that's a long way off.

    If this were Might and Magic, those same 3,600 squares would comprise 14 map areas--more than half of the outdoor game world--and there would have been enough content in there to blog about for weeks.
    I would also say that TB games have different scale from RT games since combat typically takes much longer. It takes more time to traverse the same space in TB than in RT, thus the gameworlds of RT games generally tend to be bigger. For example, Wizardry 7 is one of the longest-played games on your list, but it has nowhere near the space of, for example, Skyrim.

    1. As I recall, both Lands of Lore nor Anvil of Dawn have a few any special encounters on the map (usually when an NPC appears and gives you some lore) but that's more on the level of Eye Of The Beholder 2, and nowhere near the many many little quests you get in Might&Magic.

      Of course, it's a quality vs quantity issue; almost always in M&M it's a generic non-recurring NPC that makes a lame joke and asks for some mcguffin that you'll find in some random spot.

    2. Anvil of Dawn has quite a few Adventure-style inventory-based puzzles, which function similarly to M&M's fetch quests (but IMO are more engaging since you have to use your brain a bit). Lands of Lore has some of those too, though in smaller amounts - but it also has a few role-playing encounters that offer alternative solutions through skillchecks.
      But I was also referring to both games having very defined geography, with each map having its theme and lore, rather than just generic wilderness like in Abandoned Places.

    3. I think 'Lands of Lore' is the game you're looking for, Chet.

    4. Right. I think these are three different things: (1) button/lever puzzles as in EOB, that may involve items but it's generally obvious which item it is, you just have to find it; (2) inventory puzzles as in adventure games, where it is not obvious which item needs to be used; and (3) NPCs that request to be given a particular item, like in M&M.

      Although there is some overlap, of course. I do agree that LOL and AOD have very defined (and beautifully drawn) geography.

    5. I was thinking of Vaporum the other day (I keep eyeing that prequel that just came out) and it's one of the few DM clones to have a heavier lore aspect, albeit in an epistolary sense with found journal entries and audio logs. Helped establish and expand that world a little more, since the game's relatively small otherwise.

      I think the right answer is Grimrock 2 though. The format of that game with all its McGuffins means there's always a lot to do in any given region.

    6. Legend of Grimrock 2 certainly does have a high density of uniqueness and memorability - but very little plot or story. I loved it to death, but it's definitely for those who love the *gameplay* of this genre, more than the *roleplaying*.

    7. I, on the other hand, would b3 really happy if the Dungeon Master clones switched their combat to M&M style turn based instead. It's actually faster than real time (just look how fast combat is in Xeen!) and it's less hectic.

      I really don't get the appeal of real time combat in blobbers. In an isometric RPG like Baldur's Gate, it makes the game feel like an RTS. In an action RPG like Ultima Underworld, Elder Scrolls, or Gothic it makes for exciting action combat that requires some player skill, like timing your blocks or circlestrafing your enemies.

      In a blobber it just means you have to click on the attack button of all your characters in a hectic way, and do the step-dance to avoid enemy attacks. Meh.

    8. Real-time combat is one of the key attractions of the subgenre for me. A dungeon that's moving while I'm standing still, and where danger can approach from any direction, combined with that visceral feeling of real-time combat, is definitely a core attraction.

      When I see blobbers with turn-based combat I'm more inclined to go "Sigh - well, it had better be tactically deep AND have a great story".

    9. Real time combat makes for different tactics than turn based, and it makes sense in games like DM and its sequel CSB, where you can use closing doors against enemies, for example.
      But it makes little sense in virtually all other (those that I have played) real time blobbers, which have more primitive physics and no interactions with the dungeon environment, and JarlFrank has a point in that they could just as well have been turn based. But then I think combat in MM 3-5 is so simplistic that it could just as well have been real time.

      Anyway, I think GregT must be one of the few who plays RTBs for the combat. At least it's my impression that for must players, including me, the attraction is the exploration and puzzle solving, and for some (like me) the map making.

    10. While I'm not a fan of RT combat, many of the puzzle mechanics in DM-style games wouldn't work in TB - like outrunning a fireball or charting your way through a field of pit traps. It would either be impossible or too easy. Vaporum has an interesting middle ground with its autopause mode, but I hate that game for making pit traps instakill you.

  3. "Maybe Pendugmalhe found the Dobelal, but he can't destroy it without the ancient sword Kuhalk"

    I try not to be too harsh on RPG writing but sometimes when I see stuff like this it does make it hard to care about the story.

    1. The devs of this game are Hungarian though - so English isn't their fist language. And from what I know of Hungarian phonetics, these names make a lot more sense in its context.

      Besides, it's a DM clone. You're not supposed to care about story in those anyway.

    2. "Possibly Sploppebobbe found the Gnurlignarl, but he can't destroy it without the ancient axe Dazrazvnafo". Yes, writing lore is easy!

    3. Just for context, actual Hungarian myths have gods with names like Boldogasszony, Szélkirály or Csodaszarvas. That a fictional name sounds weird in English doesn't necessarily mean it's random.

    4. I'm sure they do. But according to google: Pendugmalhe, Dobelal, and Kuhalk ARE random gibberish made up for this game.

    5. It may sound like random gibberish to you, but it may have good vibe in Hungarian, even if it does not mean anything, eg Castamir or Eärnur are made-up names in the background LOTR lore, but it does not sound ridiculous to an English audience.

    6. It MIGHT have a good vibe in Hungarian. But let's face it, it probably doesn't.

    7. I can confirm that it's random gibberish in Hungarian as well, and all sound weird.

    8. stepped pyramidsJune 11, 2021 at 4:22 PM

      I don't think any cool names would really make "some guy wants to destroy one magical artifact but can't without another magical artifact" particularly compelling writing.

    9. yeah as stepped pyramids says, it's not the words themselves that are the issue, there's just not a lot to make me care, it's just something to point you to the next dungeon/set of combat encounters etc..

      "you're not supposed to care about story" is always my problem with this sort of game, if the story isn't compelling, then why would I bother playing this one over the dozens of other similar ones?

  4. Small world indeed. For example, you ALWAYS meet Mr.Orc.

  5. "I also think it's amusing from a realism perspective that characters don't complain about hunger until they're so hungry they're literally taking physical damage from it."

    Ah, the days of yore, tough folk, when men were men and so were the women. These sorts of games are palate cleansers for me. Sometimes I want a dense, interesting plot; sometimes, a slash-fest. But, my favourite time-killers tend towards the middle-ground: dungeon crawlers with a dash of lore and silly, but fun, puzzles.

  6. Oh man the "Room of Chaos" would make me rage quit. That looks like the kind of dungeon a sadistic DM creates just to torture their players. Why did developers in this era believe that frustration equals fun? At least Xeen rewards you for slogging through its difficult parts.

    1. It hasn't really gone away, sadly, that "frustration = fun" design ethos.

    2. For a certain kind of player, which happened to be the most reliable target audience for this genre for a very long time, surmounting a frustrating but fair obstacle of that sort is immensely satisfying.

      Of equal importance, such an obstacle can go a long way toward masking the limitations of an engine. Dungeon Master clones have a very limited means of interacting with the environment, and anything that maximizes the engagement allowed within those limits is worthwhile.

    3. PetrusOctavianusJune 11, 2021 at 1:35 AM

      Why do people climb Mount Everest when they can just walk up Himmelbjerget instead?

    4. It's not frustration, it's challenge. It feels good to have a tough puzzle and use your brain to solve it.

      It's just that today, the oldschool kind of challenge gamer has been largely pushed out of the industry. Video games are larger than Hollywood! So the interactive movie and "press X to win" sort of game are favored by this new kind of gamer. They are quickly bored and anger easily.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Tell that to the Dark Souls players.

    7. Yes, I think the oldschool kind of gamer is still there and actually is large in size, it is just that the audience broadened so in relative size it is maybe less people, and we see a lot more casual games than in the past.

      In all genre, there has been difficult but successful games where the initial experience is frustrating : Dark Souls as above for RPG, the Crusader Kings licence, RimWorld or Frostpunk for management, Baba is YOu for puzzle, ...

    8. I think Harland is talking about a different kind of difficulty than the kind exhibited by Dark Souls. He's referring specifically to puzzles that require perception, intelligence, and creativity. There are plenty of games today that are hard because of either probabilities or manual dexterity (and most games at least have a setting that can MAKE them hard in those things), but few modern games are hard in the way that Dungeon Master is hard, where you have to pay careful attention, make maps, and experiment.

      I was gratified at first when both of the latest Assassin's Creeds offered the ability to turn off quest markers. I had to laugh when I realized they simply replaced markers telling you exactly where to go with text telling you exactly where to go. I want to play a game again in which I have to uses clues and logic to find things. Morrowind is the last I can remember.

    9. There's a lot of crazy hard puzzle games out there, they just tend to be pure puzzle mechanics rather than an interesting hybrid of RPG and puzzles like DM. Personally I don't care for DM style games, but I can see their appeal.

    10. I don't believe that challenge = frustration. I play almost zero new games and I don't own a console so I do not belong in the new gamer category. I do however value exploration, problem solving, inventory puzzles, hard tactical combat etc. Stepping on a teleporter that launches me back to the start of a dungeon? That just seems like a cheap shot, and it better offer some reward.

      I regularly DM 1st edition ad&d and those rules can be brutal but I'm careful to give my players rewards after I put them through the ringer. They love hard combats and mysterious puzzles but I've found that tedious mapping and "gotcha" traps quickly ruined the fun. Again, I think Might & Magic shines here as an example of how to fill a dungeon with atmosphere and interactivity as opposed to confusing tricks. Just my opinion.

    11. I think "frustration" and "challenge" are really the same things depending on how you feel about the nature of the challenge. If I don't fundamentally like what I'm doing--action games come to mind--I'm frustrated by obstacles. If I do, I'm challenged by them.

    12. That is reasonable. I suppose the punishing, trap-laden dungeon is just one aspect of old school design I don't enjoy. If Rooms of Chaos were filled with NPCs and well written text description I would gladly map 'till the cows come home. I just wish more crpg designers had been influenced by Caverns of Thracia instead of Tomb of Horrors.

    13. I enjoy a good challenge, be it a mental one or a physical one (I guess that means I like to be... mentally challenged. Ha, ha). Tough platformers and oldschool FPS games are just as much up my alley as difficult tactical games, wargames, adventure games with tricky puzzles, etc.

      When it gets frustrating for me is when a challenge doesn't take much creativity or skill to surmount, but merely an investment of time. There's a lot of roguelites these days with an upgrade mechanic that lets you permanently improve your future characters after your current one dies. But they're often designed in a way that you have to grind playthroughs in order to get enough upgrade points to even stand a chance in the lategame challenges. And of course, there have always been badly designed RPGs that require you to slog through dozens of samey random encounters just to scrounge up enough experience to be able to defeat the next boss, who is mathematically impossible to beat unless you grind, even if you use perfect tactics.

      That's the kind of "difficulty" that frustrates me. Because all it asks of you is time investment, and I don't derive any enjoyment from repeatedly grinding the same encounters over and over again.

    14. Once again, difficulty is *almost entirely illusory* and is a function of game design, not objective challenge.

      There are four kinds of difficulty:
      (a) Is your body and brain physically capable of doing this? Not everyone has the reflexes and neurodivergence necessary to play at the highest levels of some games.
      (b) Have you learned the necessary skill or knowledge? The skill only exists in the context of the game, so if you haven't learned it, that's a failure of the game in teaching it, not a failure of you.
      (c) Have you spent the necessary time? Whether this is time to practice, or time to grind, some games simply require more time investment, and overcoming the "challenge" requires investing that time.
      (d) Are you lucky? Success requires a result on a random number generator, and succeeding is less likely, or impossible, without that result.

      Games that feel "fun difficult" are not necessarily more difficult than other games - they have simply designed a better loop of teaching skills, testing skills, and rewarding success. Guitar Hero, for example, requires a very high level of physical skill and precision - but it teaches it very well, and rewards it well. It feels "fun difficult". Dark Souls requires you to learn skills - but gives a good environment to develop those skills, with clear feedback, and has a low reliance on luck once they're mastered, so it feels "fun difficult". Whereas you could make a game that just requires you to roll 3d10 until you get three zeroes at once - it's "difficult", but not "fun difficult". Or a game that requires you to demonstrate amazing precision and reflexes - but doesn't tell you what it wants, or give you feedback when you get it wrong. Difficult, but not "fun difficult".

      Or, by contrast, Portal, which is actually *very easy*, and has a very high rate of players actually completing it, and yet you feel like a genius every time you solve a puzzle because the game design is exceptional.

    15. I think its pretty simplistic to argue that a game like Dark Souls doesn't require perception, intelligence, and creativity. If anything, I'd argue trying to defeat a tough enemy there using a new strategy or unusual character build requires much more of all three than a puzzle room with a bunch of spinners and teleporters, which has a single solution that can be pieced together via trial and error.

  7. I tend to continue playing a particular game because I want to happen next in the story, which I think is why I can never finish DM clones (or roguelikes.) I enjoy the core gameplay, but I feel like I've experienced all of the game by level 3 or 4, and the next hours of gameplay will just be more of the same but harder. Even a rudimentary "You've finished this level, on to the next one" sort of story advancement would greatly increase my enjoyment.

    1. I agree somewhat, but I also think there's no reason that a DM clone COULDN'T tell a good story. EotB2 gets close.

  8. Theron's quest for the PC Engine is a DM version (by FTL) with this kind of story (M&M style I suppose) progression. The catch is that only the main characters stats carry over, so it makes sense to use him most of the time.


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4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.