Monday, September 6, 2021

Shadows of Darkness: Won!

I didn't just want to be a hero. I wanted to be a True Hero.
As I had suspected, I was most of the way to a "win" when I closed the last time. I only had to figure out a couple more things, and after that most of the rest was scripted. That doesn't mean it was fast.
My primary problem was getting the "Aura" spell to work. I eventually looked up spoilers and saw that heroes with no spellcasting ability receive a special amulet from the gypsies instead of the spell. Maybe that works better. With the spell, every time I entered a wraith's square, it instantly drained me fully. Sometimes I could engage it in combat before the scripted death screen, but with no health, I didn't last long.
I got this message a lot.
Since everything else in the game seemed timed appropriately, and since I was using GOG's usually-accurate configuration, I got hung up on the idea that the problem was poor spellcasting ability. I spent days casting "Aura" repeatedly, resting, and casting again, hoping to improve that ability. This process swiftly improved my skill with "Aura" specifically, but my "Magic" ability increased with maddening lethargy.
Because magic depletes fast and regenerates slow, this grinding gave me a lot of time to explore, re-explore, and re-re-explore every corner of the map. Some highlights:
  • Dr. Cranium just got creepier and creepier every time I visited. There was a not-too-subtle implication that he would be having sex with his reanimated corpse.
  • Punny Bones gave one final performance at the inn. I didn't think his jokes were any funnier than they were when he supposedly had no sense of humor. Oddly, the gnome had a few passages clearly voiced by John Rhys-Davies rather than his regular actor.
  • As the end of the game neared, I started hearing a lot about Silmaria, the setting of the fifth and last Quest for Glory title. Cranium said that it has an Academy of Science. Punny Bones described it as a warm place.
Quit your day job.
  • You can talk to the scarecrow outside of town.
I'm not saying there's a lot of reason to.
  • At some point, I realized I had the "Glide" spell. I'm not sure where I got that. It makes crossing water easier; I can only think to use it in the swamps.
  • I returned to the monastery and burned the dark grimoire. The fire spread and ended up burning the entire monastery down. For several days afterwards, NPCs commented on the arson in dialogue, noting that I was seen at the scene.
  • The necrotaurs at the castle gate always kill you if you climb over the gate. But eventually you get strong enough to force the gate open, at which point you can defeat them one at a time in combat and from there walk to the front door of the castle. You don't get points for this, however, while you do get them for using the secret crypt passage. 
The gate open, the necrotaurs dead, I can now walk to the castle.
  • Two more tarot readings from Magda elaborated on the histories, presents, and futures of both Katrina and Erana. Katrina, she said, has great power and self-confidence but has been shaped by tragedy. She is currently falling in love with someone (me, duh), which runs contrary to her goals. Erana, meanwhile, had to give up her freedom to contain the Dark One in the past. I will determine her fate.
  • My hesitant courtship with Katrina continued with her tentatively asking me to do her a favor, but never telling me what the favor was.
I'm insulted! Does she say this to everyone, or do I have a notably low skill in something?
  • Erana's face started appearing in the dreams I had when I fell asleep in her garden or by her staff. The dreams started to indicate that, like Katrina, she's carrying a torch for the hero. Ultimately, they started to depict the beginnings of the ritual that would free Erana's soul from the Dark One's clutches. I'm not sure I reached the end of the sequence. 
  • The castle has a few secrets I didn't find last time. There's a room where you get attacked by a wraith, and a couple of chests you can force open for gold and a healing potion. If you oil the door to the main hall before opening it, you can hear an argument between Ad Avis and Katrina. Ad Avis was warning her about me, but she was saying that she wants me to "act from [my] own free will, and not be some puppet whose strings [she] holds." Ad Avis vowed to have his revenge on both me and Katrina.
That's good to hear. I was worried she might put me under some kind of geas.
  • It's amazing how a single word makes all the difference in the staying power of a family motto.
I guess it's time for the War of the Solstice, then.
  • During these adventures, I became cognizant of how often in this game you're waiting for night to fall. So much can only be accomplished at night, including killing the wraiths, talking to the domovoi, rendezvousing with Katrina, and breaking into the castle. I spent half the days sleeping.
At last, I had to face the fact that grinding "Aura" wasn't doing any good. I took the advice of commenters and cranked down the CPU cycles, and they went down far before I noticed any affect on gameplay. At that point, the wraiths' draining effect slowed enough that I could get to their barrows and initiate combat before my health was half gone. They were still pretty hard. "Frostbite" did nothing against them. Their magic attacks made it very hard to approach (even at a low clock speed, enemies attack too fast for me to jump or parry effectively), and they were able to knock me back if I got too close. I could generally only kill one per night.
The wraiths had insane treasure. The first one I killed had a jeweled tiara, 6 gold crowns, and 40 kopeks. The second had 38 crowns and 75 kopeks. The third had 150 crowns. I never even finished spending the 30 crowns I found in Erana's Garden; this money was all superfluous.
I'm a paladin. All swords are supposed to be magical.
The third wraith also had a magic paladin sword and a scroll with the Heart Ritual. When I returned to town, Piotyr's ghost appeared again and explained that the sword was his. After Erana was trapped fighting the Dark One, Piotyr was overcome with guilt. Abandoning his wife, he began a quest for the six ritual scrolls so that he could open the way to the Dark One and free Erana. Unfortunately, the wraith killed him before he got very far in his quest. He asked me to return his sword to Dmitri, his grandson, and "let his grief be ended." I tried giving the sword to Dmitri the next day. He thanked me for it but didn't actually take it. Afterwards, the next time Piotyr appeared, he asked me to "unleash the darkness so that Erana's spirit might be free." Note how both the sequence of dreams and Piotyr's tale give the hero an excuse for using the rituals later in the game. If you're not paying attention during these passages, you might wonder exactly what he thinks he's doing at the endgame.
At this point, there wasn't much to do but rescue Tanya from the castle. There were a couple portends as to how the episode would play out. Tanya's mother had a dream about the girl in which she said I should visit Erana's Staff. Magda the gypsy had a vision that the staff would guard the town until someone cast the "Destiny" spell and sacrificed his life for someone he loved.
Maybe learn whatever trick Katrina uses.
At the castle, I ran through the same dialogue as before with Tanya and Toby, but this time I presented Tanya with her lost doll, Vana. I had options to tell her that her parents miss her and that "Erana's Staff . . . can make Tanya back into a real little girl again." At Toby's guttural promptings, I had to explain that the staff would require some kind of sacrifice, and the beast understood.
The game automatically cut to the town square, where it said I cast the "Ritual of Release" to free the staff. I didn't even know I had that spell. The staff hovered out of the stone and spoke to Toby, noting his authentic love for the child. In his grunts and growls, he indicated that he was willing to sacrifice himself. Before Tanya could protest, the staff sucked away his life force and cured Tanya's vampirism.
Toby saves Tanya.
The next day, I was hero to the town, particularly to the innkeepers. 
This is gushing emotion if you're from Mordavia.
A final note from Katrina asking her to meet her by the castle gates triggered the long endgame. When I approached the castle, I found not Katrina but Ad Avis. There were some amusing dialogue options, including "Say Hello" and "Apologize for Killing Ad Avis." They all let to Ad Avis ranting and gloating, capturing me, and tossing me into the castle dungeon, fettered by rusty chains and "taunted" by the nearby presence of a hammer and stake.
Ad Avis is voiced competently by Jeff Bennett, but I would have given a 10-point GIMLET bonus for Maurice LaMarche doing his "Brain" voice.
It was a setup--made all the clearer when the chains broke with virtually no effort and the two goons guarding the door talked openly of a secret door in the iron maiden. I took the hammer and stake, went through the secret door, and found myself in Katrina's room. Katrina was asleep in her coffin.
This is one of those situations in which it was clear what I was not supposed to do. Killing Katrina would fulfill Ad Avis's wildest dreams, freeing him from her control. But I had to see what happened, so I did so anyway. "You never thought killing a vampire would be anywhere near this easy," the game said, just before Ad Avis showed up and turned me to ash with some kind of dragon's breath spell.
Whether it's a drink or a spell, "Dragon's Breath" has not been kind to me.
So I reloaded and woke up Katrina. She was furious that I had freed Tanya, and she threw me back in the dungeon. Clad in black leather, she amused herself whipping me for a while, then offered me a deal: If I helped her obtain the five Dark One rituals, she wouldn't turn me into a vampire. She also outlined her evil plan, which was to bring the Dark One into the world so that the world would know eternal night, and she'd never have to spend the day helpless in her coffin again.
That doesn't seem very heroic.
She cast a geas on me (which she pronounced "gee-ass" rather than the more standard "gesh"), charged me with finding the five ritual scrolls, and tossed me out the front door of the castle. This was a bit ironic, as all she had to do was search my backpack to find all five scrolls. Frankly, I think it would be hard to reach this point in the game without finding most of them, although next time I'll definitely try. I'm curious whether the "geas" has any impact on the game.
I was able to just turn around and walk right back into the castle. Katrina acknowledged that I had the rituals, and action moved to the Dark One's cave, which she opened with a spell as I and Ad Avis looked on. She then sent me in alone, saying that I would need to get the final ritual from the "high priest" before I could begin casting them.
Katrina opens the cave--as she must have done when I first arrived.
The "high priest" was a tentacled blob on the floor of the cavern I had originally used a rope to cross. It looked a bit like the "centaurs" of Fallout 3. I threw some knives and rocks and "Frostbite" spells at it from the ledge above before using my rope and grapnel to climb down and hack away its remaining hit points. A diary on its body indicated that it was some mutated version of the last Borgov.
The last traditional combat in the game.
Beyond the chasm was the second room of the game, the "heart" of the slumbering beast, with four "sphincter" exits leading to other locations. The one on the far right, leading back to the "skeleton" room in which the game started, was pulsating. I ultimately had to enter all four rooms in turn, solving minor puzzles within, activating the altars with the Dark One sigil, and reading the respective rituals. 
Are you sure you know what you're doing?
The skeleton room just required me to light two torches before reading the ritual. A cage of bones closed around me afterwards, but I was able to just break out of them.
To navigate the blood room, I had to walk along some narrow paths and leap across a few gaps. After I read the ritual, the blood got out of control and had to be temporarily staunched with a rock so I could escape. This was the first of many times during this endgame section that solving a puzzle meant interpreting very small graphics in what I felt was an unintuitive way. I solved it by basically clicking around on everything.
The solution to this puzzle required me to intuit that the stalagmite two platforms above is interactable and collapsible.
This problem is best illustrated in the breath room, which featured a stone organ crafted to look like a hexapod. I could blow into each of the tentacles to produce a tone. The text of the ritual indicated that I should blow the tentacles in order of rightmost, leftmost, center, and high. The problem is that the organ takes up only a small part of the screen. Amid the tangle of curled tentacles, it's hard to tell how many there are, let alone what positions they occupy. This is doubly true with the character standing in front of them holding a torch. I had to save after every "correct" blow to avoid having to start over repeatedly.
Can you see anything on that contraption?
Once the ritual was done, air started whooshing through the chamber from the trachea on the far wall. My character got whipped around and couldn't walk back to the exit. Again, it was a bunch of clicking around that solved the puzzle, allowing the hero to grab a plant and pull himself out of the wind tunnel.
The hero is blown to and fro.
The sense ritual began by stripping the hero of his senses. As I navigated the dark, silent void, the senses slowly came back to me, ending with sight. Other than that, no big deal.
The Heart Ritual was the final one that I read, in the central chamber. The beast's heart started pumping, and then . . . I had no idea what to do. I had to look up a hint to learn that the way forward was to use my rope and grapnel to climb through the passage above the heart. That didn't look to me like a valid exit, and even if it was, I still don't see anything the grapnel could have snagged.
Would you try to climb up there?
The endgame took place in a weird "synapse" chamber above the heart. Katrina, Ad Avis, and I each stood on separate "nodes" (I'm not sure what the right word is). Katrina ordered me to finish the Essence Ritual, and I did so to her delight.
Suddenly, Ad Avis cast a spell at my node, causing me to fall. An outraged Katrina blasted him with her own spell, which somehow "shattered the bonds that bound [him]." The two vampires exchanged a few spells as Katrina mocked Ad Avis for his comparatively weaker power as both a spellcaster and a vampire.
The two vampires fight as I struggle ignominiously to my feet.
"But my dear Katrina," Ad Avis said, "I do not need to cast spells at you to destroy you. I intend only to destroy my enemy, the one you seem so fond of. Care to watch him die?"
"No!" Katrina howled. "I will not let him die!" Ad Avis began work on the "Dragon's Breath" spell as Katrina teleported herself between the spell and me. Somehow, Avoozl was attracted by the spell's energies. His tentacle yanked Katrina into his dark dimension, and she was gone. "Now Katrina will have all the darkness she so desired," Ad Avis gloated.
I finally stood up and had only a moment to take action. Figuring this was the place to use Erana's Staff, I grabbed it from my backpack and it somehow turned into a spear. Ad Avis laughed and invited me to throw it. "I will easily deflect it, then I'll finish with you at my leisure." At this point, any delay or hesitancy caused Ad Avis to explain his plans to feed on the defenseless villagers. He then finished killing me and Avoozl erupted from the mountain, ending the game.
I think a high "Communication" skill should have sold this.
The solution was to tell the Ultimate Joke learned from Punny Bones and then impale Ad Avis with the spear when he was laughing uncontrollably. 
Comedy, m&$*@#$%#r!
The spear then reformed as a staff and floated back to my hand telling me to release Erana from imprisonment. I touched the staff to the crystal in the room. For the first time in the series, I saw Erana.
You walk in honor and righteousness. This day you have freed the Land of Mordavia from great evil. May you always hold high the way of the Paladin. You have freed me from my imprisonment by the Dark One. I have driven Avoozl back to its own dimension forever. Your magic is of great power to have overcome the evil which was in this place. It seems we shared a dream once. You gave me hope while I was trapped in the darkness. You held me in your arms and showed me your love. I cannot hold you now, nor can we kiss. I am only a spirit, a ghost. It will take more magic than I have ever known before we shall ever be together again. I can only thank you for everything you have done. I shall love you forever. Farewell.
Would it be cruel to tell her that I only think of her as a friend?
Once again, the hero ended the game in a party surrounded by the various NPCs he met. "The King" (otherwise never named or referred to) appointed Dmitri the new Boyar and gave him Castle Borgov. The swamp is drying up. One by one, the NPCs recounted my exploits.
Oh, I think Dmitri would have done the right thing regardless.
Then Erasmus and Fenrus crashed into the party via crystal ball, announced that a hero is needed in Silmaria, and teleported me before I had a chance to object.
At least this time, I got to enjoy the town's appreciation for two weeks.
Somehow, I achieved 500 out of 500 points. This is the first time in the series that I got all the points my first time. I would have thought I'd missed something. As I ended the game, only one statistic ("Climbing") made the game's maximum of 400. "Weapon Use" got to 320, "Strength" to 351, "Vitality" to 301, and "Honor" to 323. Everything else is at a value that could have been achieved in Wages of War. I'm particularly bothered that I never got my flaming sword back. I did as many honorable things as I could.
My endgame statistics.
I didn't mind the ending of the game mechanically, but I didn't like some of the thematic issues. First, I question whether my paladin would bring the world that close to the possibility of destruction just to free Erana--and not really "free" her at that. I mean, it's not like he had a plan for defeating Katrina and Ad Avis just before the ritual was complete. It just happened to work out that way. That was a big risk. 
Second, I thought that Katrina's declaration of love was a little cringey on her part. She barely knows me. We've met a few times at night for a couple minutes each time. I'm not even sure all those meetings were necessary.
I don't know if I could love a woman with that hair.
I wish the hero had been more of an active agent in certain parts of the story. Take Tanya's healing, for instance. It would have been nice if I'd had the chance to sacrifice myself for the girl, or at least offer. I could see the staff rejecting the sacrifice, saying I'm needed here to stop the Dark One, leaving Toby to step in. At the end, I would have enjoyed a chance to sabotage the ritual rather than willingly participate in it.
But the only thing that really upsets me is the Ultimate Joke. The Quest for Glory games have featured plenty of humor, including a lot of the silly, slapstick humor that I often deride, but I've generally groaned and suffered it. Some people never get tired of characters slipping on banana peels. But when slipping on a banana peel is an actual plot point--a strategy used by the hero to overcome the villain--I think it goes too far. I feel like there must have been some character-specific options that could have achieved the same ending. Or at least make it clear that the Ultimate Joke is really a spell (doesn't Dungeons & Dragons have some kind of "Uncontrollable Laughter" spell?) and not an actual joke.
"Tell Ad Avis you love him" should have been an option.
Let's end on a positive. I do love the bittersweet ending. The hero earns the love of two women--and not just women, but the ultimate Betty and Veronica. But he loses them both. I find Katrina's story particularly tragic for reasons that I'll cover in my final entry but that you can probably guess. Different interpretations in that character led to some drama in the Bolingbroke household when Irene and I played Quest for Glory V in the mid-1990s.
That seems kind of demanding.
We're going to stick with this one for at least a couple more entries, as I want to check out the thief's experience and probably the wizard's.


  1. "She cast a geas on me (which she pronounced "gee-ass" rather than the more standard "gesh")
    I must admit, that's the first time I'm hearing "gesh" is more standard. According to OED, it's pronounced /gas/, with a palatized hard "g" (

    Quick bemused googling revealed the following:

    It is impossible to reconcile the spelling “geas” and the pronunciation /geSH/; the iron rule of Irish spelling is that a lenited final consonant (/SH/ is the lenited form of /s/) is preceded by i, and /geSH/ would have to be spelled “geis.” (Similarly, the plural geasa could not be pronounced /ˈgeSHə/ but would have to be /g’asə/.) As it turns out, the Wikipedia entry is under that spelling (which I’m pretty sure I’d never seen before), and it says “The Scottish Gaelic spelling ‘geas’ is also common.” So that explains that: the spelling is from Scottish Gaelic (where it would be pronounced /g’as/, with palatal g, presumably altered by analogy with the plural), and the pronunciation is from Irish geis; it’s parallel to colonel, where the spelling is from French and the pronunciation from Spanish coronel. However, it is physically impossible for me to look at the spelling “geas” and think “/geSH/,” so I am going to adopt the spelling “geis” — assuming /geSH/ is in fact the accepted pronunciation. Is it? (I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone say it.)

    1. For what it's worth, I learned the word from Piers Anthony's Geis of the Gargoyle (with that spelling) and a pronunciation of "gaysh" (long a sound).

    2. That's strange. The actual OED website (not Lexico) has:

      Pronunciation: /ɡɛʃ/, /ɡeɪʃ/, /ɡiːʃ/

      That is, "gesh", "gaysh", "geesh", as the only alternative pronunciations. I've never heard of "gas" before.

    3. Whether you agree with me or not that "gesh" is the standard, I think we can all agree that "gee-ass" is wrong.

    4. @George, my bad - I thought Lexico's base was OED, when in fact it's ODE (Oxford Dictionary of English) - a different Oxford dictionary that codifies current British English usage (OED is more focused on historical usage). What's more, you can switch Lexico to US English, and get a "gesh" pronunciation.

      However, OED gives the main spelling of the word as "geis" - which, as discussed above, indeed would be pronounced in one of those three ways. ODE entry, on the other hand, is for "geas", which should be pronounce with "-ss".

    5. @Chet, within the weird Irish spelling system and given that the language has a shitload of dialects, "gee-ass" is actually a possible interpretation. I don't know if there are any dialects that actually do pronounce it that way though, but for example "geess" is an option, if google is to be trusted.

      One could also argue that Katrina, stereotypically of Eastern European portrayals, speaks with a very thick accent, suggesting an imperfect command of the language. So her mispronouncing a rare word is justified in a way.

    6. If you type "geas" in Google Translate, switch to English and use the listen button, the robot pronounces is as "hey-ass".

      In my opinion, "gee-ass" sounds more Irish. If you take in account the alternative spellings.
      From Wikipedia: "In Irish, a geas (alternatives: geis, géis, deas; plural geasa)"
      All that does't sound like "gesh" to me, especially "geasa".

    7. When it has come up in our D&D games, Lori and I (as well as other players) always pronounced "geas" as "Gay-ess" (accent on the first syllable). Any resemblance to "gay ass" is purely coincidental, and never occurred to any of us.

      Then again, for many years I pronounced "melancholy" as "mel-ANCH-oh-lee", having only seen it in written form. Well, I'd heard of the song "Melancholy Baby," but not seen the title written.

      I have never, ever heard anyone pronounce "geas" in any way remotely similar to "gesh."

    8. For most of my life, I pronounced "fiery" as "feery" and even though I know that's not correct, I prefer my version.

      As for "geas", it's been a running joke in my tabletop gaming group for years that it's pronounced differently every time. My favourite is probably "geeze" with a hard g.

    9. Chester should be right.

  2. After I have read Katrina's pre-history - it seems natural that she fell in love with the Hero.

    It is very probable that he was literally the first non-scumbag male person she ever got to know!
    With the hate of men that she developed during her life, at some age she must have decided to never let any male "under her skin", never let any come close.
    But since she had a pragmatic need to seduce "the fool", she had to get close - and, in doing so, she suddenly found him to be a decent human being, and found herself in love.

    It may be cringey, coming from adult woman - or, rather, ages-old undead female vampire - but still, for her it may be the very FIRST romantic love of her life!

    Besides, the way that she adopted Tanya hints at her longing for familial ties and meaningful connections: she is not simply "angry that you freed Tanya", she is devastated and beyond despair that the one she started having feelings for did - for all that she cares - kidnapping and sort of "killing" of her "vampire daughter".
    Well, if back-to-human-ization may be called the "killing" of a vampire...

  3. Did you try igniting the paladin sword?

    1. With what? The flint and steel? No, that doesn't work. It SHOULDN'T work, since the flame is supposed to be magical.

    2. Recollections are hazy, is it not one of the abilities you have to activate but it only works on a paladin sword?

    3. It's flaming in the battle screenshots.

    4. That didn't look like "flaming" to me. I just thought it was the magical nature of Piotyr's sword. But I suppose it might have been. For every other paladin ability I (re-)gained, I got a message saying that I had it. I never got the message about the flaming sword.

    5. According to some Internet articles, it seems the flaming sword is the only paladin ability that you have all the time. You just need Piotyr's sword to activate it. Other abiloties need to be regained, even though you had them in QFG3.

    6. All right. I guess that's the explanation, but I don't like it. My regular sword flamed in QFG3, and the ability isn't very useful if you need a special paladin sword to activate it.

    7. Rakeesh gave you his magic sword when he made you a Paladin at the end of QFG2 (or the midpoint of QFG3).

  4. I assumed you were still bound by the geas performing the rituals, which made more sense. Thinking about it, it was really just getting them for Kathrina.

    I think you got the glide spell from Dr. Cranium.

    I had the same problem with the graphics, especially the organ, but also the other segments - e.g. that the bone altar has two torch holders but only one of them still holds a torch. But I could just climb up the heart altar by clicking on it.

  5. The early days of achievements. 'Be a true hero.' I really wonder how many players managed to achieve that.

  6. In my headcanon the Ultimate Joke is a spell. In a world of magic, it seems reasonable that a gnome would be able to teach you a secret technique for magic with a purely verbal component.

    Question is, why can't you use it on everyone in the next game?

    1. Because they've already heard it from Anne and it doesn't work on the same person twice.

    2. That would have been epic if Ad Avis had said, "I've heard it before . . . and it wasn't funny the first time."

  7. "doesn't Dungeons & Dragons have some kind of "Uncontrollable Laughter" spell?"

    Yes. Its traditional name in full is "Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter", because 1st edition AD&D was like that.

    1. A lot of the spells then were named after characters in Gygax's home game. I think that one's named after his daughter.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Tenser's Floating Disc, Bigby's Interposing Hand, Leomund's Trap, Leomund's Tiny Hut, Leomund's Secret Jar, Nystul's Magic Aura, Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer, and Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound to name a few from the 1978 AD&D PHB.
      They tended to create spells thematically for wizard characters to meet a need in their campaign. Leomund made a lot of "safe space" spells, Tenser was a mystical logistical master moving stuff around, Bigby loved great big hands

  8. I have to say that for me as well, the Katrina romance didn't really work. I'm wondering if it was intended as a plot twist that she's really a vampire, because it was pretty obvious to me early on. And I found her adoration rather abrupt, and found Johari in the previous game a more believable romance.

  9. 500 out of 500 possible points on the first try is an outstanding achievement for any Sierra Game - do you think it has to do with starting over, having a clearer picture of the general setup?

    1. I think there were two factors. First was my running around for 4-5 days unnecessarily because I thought I needed to grind "Aura." But also, looking over the actions that give points to the paladin, I just think that (in contrast to earlier games), most of them are hard to miss.

    2. Also, the earlier Sierra games have more obscure and unnecessary actions that are worth a point or two. They started avoiding that in later games, like this one.

    3. Also in the QFG games you can get points from actions from different classes.

  10. The Ultimate Joke would've been ok if it were the Thief's way of defeating Ad Avis, just not required for *all* classes. QFG generally does a good job of balancing the comedy and serious drama, but I agree that the big finale is not the place for this kind of silliness.

    1. Reminds me of The Ultimate Insult in Monkey Island 4.

      I don't remember much of that game but I think it wasn't actually an insult but some magic doodad. Way to disappoint there. If any game deserved to have it be an actual insult it's a Monkey Island game.

    2. I don't know. I feel like the thief's path should have required a more realistic deception. I'd rather the Ultimate Joke was the wizard's solution and more explicitly a magic spell.

    3. On some level, though, Ultimate Joke works as a plot element, not class-dependant solution. How do you defeat what is totally overpowering evil above you, when "inside the box" it is totally stronger than you, end-of-road? By going "outside of the box" - telling a joke, which "breaks the rules", sure, of a totally-mechanical, totally-modular roleplaying game but is actually quite reasonable thing to happen in a plot-driven, mechanic-free adventure game. If this is "going outside the box" moment for any class, then it is neither a feat of strength (for a Fighter), not a super-spell (fore a Mage), nor a super-trick (for a Thief); if it was a feat of super-strength for Fighter/super-magic for Mage/super-trick for Thief, it would be "more of the same". Ultimate Joke, on the other hand, transcends usual means the Hero uses for defeating adversity.

    4. Hmm. I didn't even remember the Ultimate Joke thing, but certainly it is an awful way to end the game. But now that I think about it, I recall this being an issue that popped up time and again in Sierra adventure games. Possibly my biggest disappointment in all adventure games I'd ever played was the ending in Police Quest 4, where after spending a game trying to follow police procedures and do things by the book, you suddenly found yourself needing to do something that seemed totally random (no spoilers, just in case).

      I do like Unknown's explanation that the Ultimate Joke works because it's outside the box for all classes - but this is also exactly the problem. Character development in RPGs is supposed to be about preparation for the final confrontation. Using a plot device to basically tell the player their efforts were irrelevant, might well work plot-wise, but it doesn't work RPG-wise.

    5. PQ4 is a horrible, horrible game.

      I cannot remember the Ultimate Joke in this one but yeah, it looks pretty much like a classic adventure puzzle. Which works if it has its Chekhov plot point clear (there have been clues dropped through the whole game about this being the only possible way to defeat a powerful evil being for example).

      In any case I remember playing QFG4 decades ago and the feeling I got is "why do people talk about it being darker". Because they are all pretty goofy.

    6. The problem with viewing the Ultimate Joke as a plot element solution is that you're not actually fighting totally overpowering evil. You're fighting Ad Avis, who is a human-born sorcerer who you've defeated before. Sure, he's powered up, but so have you. Defeating Ad Avis again should be well within the hero's competence.

    7. I'm reasonably sure that when you get the Ultimate Joke there's a whole explanation given by Punny Bones about how it will incapacitate absolutely anyone but only works once so save it for when you really really need it.

      Which, in adventure game terms, is just screaming that it's a boss battle solution. The only issue is figuring out WHICH boss battle to use it against.

      Of course, if you managed to get here without having the Ultimate Joke in the first place, you would be baffled.

    8. I realised reading at Unknown's post that it may be the approach you have to the game: some of you guys approach the Ultimate Joke on a narrative or storyline way, while Whiner and I for example look at it in terms of game mechanics.

    9. The final boss battle has always been an adventure style puzzle in QfG games (I haven't played V yet), so that didn't look out of place for me. Clicking on yourself with the mouth to tell a joke was a bit unintuitive, though. I kept looking for ways to hit him indirectly, maybe because of QfG II.

    10. @Buck: it's actually not. Both in QFG2 and QFG3, the final boss is defeated with your specific class abilities. In QFG1, the pre-final boss (Toro) is also defeated with your class abilities, everything after that is, as you call it, an adventure style puzzle.

    11. There are variations depending on your class as to how you actually 'entice' Ad Avis into being sucked into Erana's Staff - most notably the Wizard end has a bug where you cannot er-fhzzba Rena'f Fgnss naq nf fhpu pna'g npghnyyl raq gur tnzr (ROT13'd in case anyone is playing along as a wizard). The entirety of Avoozl's caves have differing puzzles the whole way through depending on class also.

      I do hope that Chet plays through as the Thief. The Thieves Guildmaster is definitely worth a talking to (even if it is a little difficult to find your way there raw from memory - it'd probably be easier if you started as one instead of during another playthrough as the location of the Guild is likely hard to think of as a 'new' location unless you're really paying attention).

      QFG5 is more Diablo than QFG. It has puzzles and pizzas, but you're doing a lot of clicking on enemies with your weapon equipped. The end battle does have some adventure-based mechanics, but for the most part you're just clicking on the enemy until it dies, with the only class-based difference being the weapon or spell you're using on them.

  11. I've come to the opinion lately that a lot of video game romances aren't very good. It seems very rare that there's any chemistry or growth in scenes between the partners; they announce their love at the end of the story just because that's what people are trained to expect as a sort of "reward."

    1. Particularly when it is a small part of a larger narrative, requiring that much effort on the player's part is going to greatly detract from the core gameplay that the player is looking for.

      Meanwhile, it would require great skill and investment from the developer to actually pull it off.

      Much simpler to accept it as a very limited form and headcanon that the player character is doing a lot more than you see offscreen.

    2. I find that my tolerance for romances boils down to how much I identify with the character. In QFG, despite some of my language above, I don't really see the hero as "me," and so I don't mind the creators putting him into a romance, forced or otherwise. In games where I feel a stronger sense of character identification, I'm likely to skip the romance unless there's a character who would attract me in real life.

      Incidentally, I totally buy that this guy would fall head-over-heels for Katrina. It's the reverse I have more trouble with.

    3. I believe Katrina is literally the only female character in this game in the hero's age range, so that's not really saying much, is it?

    4. The "identify with a character" factor can also be a big factor in the "headcanon" thing I mentioned. I pretty much never identify with the characters I am playing, even in TTRPGs. So it is easier to think of them doing things when the player is not controlling them.

    5. Video game romances are not very good, for a very good reason - they're incredibly difficult to pull off. In a non-interactive medium such as a book or a film, it's comparatively easy to convince the audience that Character A is attracted to Character B. But in a game, where the player *is* Character A, the challenge is to convince the player to be attracted to Character B, or at least to like this character sufficiently to justify to themselves why their character is attracted (there's that headcanon thing again).

      Sadly, most RPGs respond to this challenge by saying very firmly - let's just not bother. It's rare for RPG romance to actually be about romance - usually, it comes down to the player doing a cold calculation about which romance option provides them the most preferable benefits.

    6. To me CRPGs and computer games in general are partly about doing things I can't or won't do in real life, like killing for XP, sneaking around and stealing and killing, and be an armchair general that don't shirk from genocide.
      I don't think I'll ever understand why people want romances in games (and I don't think most of them "can't" in real life). Or why people are getting all excited about "waifus" and pixelated smut, when there's a whole internet full of porn with real girls.
      Or the ability to bake bread and manipulate hundreds of items in Ultima VII. Some things are just better and/or more useful in real life.

    7. More often than not, RPG romances make me cringe, but the good ones are fun, and romance in games can be touching in the same way romance in movies can be (lots of movie romances are also terrible, of course).

      I like fixing problems in RPGs. That’s the fantasy element for me. I can walk up to someone, ask what their biggest issue is, and solve it for them, just like that. It’s much harder in real life!

    8. I agree with Tristan to some degree. Romances don't make me cringe "more often than not," but they occasionally make me cringe. When they don't, it's largely because the characters are interesting or sympathetic. Human relationships are the focal point of most (or at least an awful lot) of art, film, and literature, and I don't see why computer games should be any different.

  12. Quest for Glory paladins specifically need a magic paladin's sword to ignite into flames -- you start out with a flaming sword in QfG III because Rakeesh gave you his sword "Soulforge" at the end of QfG II.

    1. I could be wrong, but I'm 99% sure that you give Soulforge BACK to Rakeesh at the end of QFG II and it's your own (formerly regular) sword that suddenly bursts into flame once you cross the threshold in QFG III.

    2. Also, the flaming sword in this game is blue, which might make it not stand out for you. If you look closely at the blade in the "high priest" battle screenshot above, the blade is flaming -- you're using Piotyr's sword.

    3. Rakeesh lends you Soulforge for a bit in II but takes it back after you use it. But if you become a Paladin in II he gives it to you permanently in the ending. You have a screenshot of it here:

      If I recall correctly, if you become a Paladin in III there's a little ceremony where you get paladin-ized and given your sword.

    4. Yep. Soulforge ends up back in Rakeesh's hands after you lose it at the end of III, and it's not needed anymore after recovering Piotyr's sword.

  13. What's worse is the joke thing feels like it could be a Monty Python reference

    1. Someone mentioned that already.

    2. They must have followed the instructional film "How Not to Be Seen" because I'm not finding any mentions of it, unless it was on a previous entry?

  14. What did you have to drop the cycles down to to get the game to work right? And if anyone has played this through SCUMMVM instead of DOSBOX, is the Aura problem present there as well?

    1. The wraiths worked okay at 10% of maximum. GOG has it configured to display cycles in percentages rather than raw numbers the way DOSBox does by default. I'm sure there's a key to switch between them, but I'm not sure what it is. Yes, I realize I could look it up faster than it took to type this sentence. I'm spectacularly lazy sometimes.

    2. I think the key is Ctrl-F11 and Ctrl-F12 to change number of cycles. Thanks for the info. I'll try to keep it in mind when I play it.

    3. The real key is to use an emulator that replicates period-accurate CPU clock speeds (e. g. PCem) instead of relying on DOSBox's arbitrary "cycles", but that doesn't seem to be a popular opinion here.

    4. PCem is much more complicated to set up, requires a much beefier computer, and is kind of a pain to put files on.

      It IS much easier to set a target system (it runs about 10% high a lot of the time, but that isn't too big a deal), with the question being if that is worthwile compared to DOSBOX's simplicity.

    5. It's true that system requirements shoot up once you're in the Win9x era, but 386-class and 486-class machines hardly call for a high-end PC. And DiskExplorer 1.69e makes file transfer a cinch.

      I will admit that the advantages of being able to set a target system are much more visible for games that originally ran on XT-class or 286-class machines, since DOSBox tends to run those at turbo speed, but it's not as if it wasn't still a problem in the early 90s. And nothing says Chet won't dig up some obscure mid-80s Ultima clone that happens to be best on an XT.

    6. I love PCem, but it's not trivial to get running and, as of recently, it's been abandoned, so support isn't available either.

      Having said that, I have seven virtual machines in PCem, being able to play Win9x games again is great, but compatibility isn't 100%, unfortunately.

  15. If you don't have all of the rituals and you don't rush back to the castle, Magda gives you a new reading that explains where to find all the rituals and foreshadows the endgame. Curiously she always seems to get confused and says that I already found the rituals that I haven't gotten yet...

    The most obvious problem with QFG IV getting rushed is the bugs; some of those are exacerbated by modern systems, but it sounds like there were enough back in the day. But now when I look back I see that there are some serious pacing problems too. There is too much to do at night! The game requires you to sleep in the inn regularly in order to talk to the Domovoi and get messages, but you also need to talk to Piotyr, and talk to Katrina, and if you don't get all of Erana's dreams you are missing out on a fair bit of context. Realistically you need more time to hit all of those things than you do to solve the game.

    The early 90s are my gaming golden age though, when some of them started trying to tell some stories with actual psychological depth and conflict. They may have missed more often than they hit, but they were trying to get beyond just defeating a cackling bad guy. Katrina's story has an obvious tragic note to it, but even Ad Avis has a venomous misogyny that was established back in QFGII.

  16. In regards to performing the rituals, it's been a little while, but as I recall, Baba Yaga mentions that in addition to summoning Avoozl, the rituals could also be used by a powerful wizard (Erana) to banish Avoozl. And I think the final conversation with Piytor has him mention that going along with the ritual scheme could be used to banish Avoozl once and for all. I can't remember the exact details of it.

    1. I'll look more carefully as I go through it a second time.

  17. Where is the next post? We are used to be spoiled with posts this year.

    1. He's a teacher of some sort, so we can probably expect to be less spoiled than we were in the summer break.

    2. I don't like less spoiled but we have to live with it...

    3. There has been an update but you might have missed it. The upcoming list has changed.

    4. The spoiled update addict


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