Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Ambermoon: Night of the Living Dead

For translated writing, this isn't bad at all.
I looked over my first four--no, good lord, five--entries on Ambermoon and decided it was time for some serious progress. I'm in a world of like a dozen islands, and I haven't gotten out of the first city yet. Ambermoon has some good things about it, but I don't want to be playing it all year.
I had ended my last session after failing to find anything interesting from open exploration. The next logical thing to do was use my hard-won tools to clear the rubble in grandfather's basement and see what he wanted me to collect. Before I did, I checked in on grandfather--he had nothing new to say--and made one more circuit around the house to ensure I hadn't missed anything. There was still a locked chest in his room that a pick wouldn't open, though I wasted my last one trying. I did find a painting on the wall that becomes a permanent part of the interface and tells you whether it's night or day (it existed in the first game, too), though it's obviated by the clock.
Part of the basement dungeon.
Down in the basement, I used the pickaxe on the rubble (the shovel and crowbar never did anything, and I'm not sure why I needed them). The game said that I cleared the rocks, but just as I did:
You hear a long scream of pain. It seems to come from far far away, just audible through the tons of rock and earth above your head. Shortly after the scream dies away, you believe you hear sighs of relief, sighs from someone who has reached the end of a long journey. A journey full of suffering.
Wow, that was grim. We returned upstairs, and sure enough, grandfather was not only dead but his body was already gone. Father Anthony met us at his bedroom door and chastised us for not being there.
What kind of jackass says something like this to a grieving granddaughter?
I know it's just a little RPG dialogue, but let's parse this a bit, shall we?
  • "Just when your grandfather needed you so much." I could see why he might want me there, but how exactly did he need me? Could I have stopped him from dying?
  • "You were not there." No, I was doing exactly what he told me to do.
  • "Has gone into Bala's realms alone." I think he still would have gone alone even if I'd been there. Or did you imagine that I'd kill myself?
  • "I looked everywhere and called your name as loud as I could." Was that the "scream?" If not, what made my grandfather scream as he died? Did you "assist" him in some way? I'm going to be watching you, "Father" Anthony.
Anthony told us that grandfather left a key, which he put on the table in Qamara's bedroom. He said he'd be at the temple in Spannenberg and left after encouraging us to visit grandfather's grave. We collected the key and used it to open the chest in grandfather's bedroom. It had an iron ring and grandfather's "last will." The will bequeathed all his goods and the house and land to me. It also mentioned the secret door behind the fireplace that I had discovered ages ago.
I would have been insulted if he'd left his worldly goods and house to anyone else.
Back down in the basement, the cleared way led to a ladder downward. It brought me to a two-level dungeon full of spiders and cave lizards, neither of which posed any threat. The two levels were interconnected by four ladders. Each ladder led to a different, closed-off section of the second level, and somewhere in each section was a lever. I had to pull all four levers to open a portal on the first level, which in turn led to a boss battle and a treasure chest.
That seems simple enough, but it took hours. My explorations were confused by finding a locked chest for which I had no more picks. I ended up leaving the dungeon, going back to Spannenberg, visiting the thieves' guild, and buying more picks--all to open a chest that turned out to contain a little food, a couple of torches, a suit of leather, a short sword, and a horned helm, most of which I ended up abandoning.
I spent half an afternoon just trying to get this damned door open.
Anyway, I got muddled by the unintended break and forgot where I was. Ultimately, at least one of four things is true:
  1. I initially missed one of the levers.
  2. I found all of the levers but accidentally hit one twice.
  3. I did them all right, but leaving the dungeon caused one or more of them to reset.
  4. Opening the portals relies on hitting some but not all of the levers, or otherwise relies on hitting the levers in different combinations.
The end result is I ended up visiting each lever about eight times, trying all kinds of different combinations of right and left before I finally found the sequence to open the portals. I very nearly gave up, but it takes so goddamned long to navigate dungeons in this game that I didn't want to have to go through it again.
The boss battle was heralded by a large spider web. I tore through it, and the game warned: "The cave starts to tremble slightly, as if something very old and very large were awakening from an eternal sleep." The "something" was an enormous spider, I think called "Gargantuan," which attacked us with four smaller spiders. The battle wasn't hard. I blasted Gargantuan with a fireball from Firebrand, and he died in one hit. The other spiders poisoned Egil, but after combat, I just gave him a potion.
Too bad that "Fireball" isn't an area-effect spell in this game.
I noticed during the battle that some of the spiders were unable to hit me because of a "magical aura." This persisted in later combats. I think it's likely to do with the iron ring, although when I took it to the sage to identify it, he didn't note any unusual properties. [Ed. I was wrong. Identifying the ring does show that it ha a magical armor rating of 1. It was just kind of obscure.] I can't think of anything else that would have done it.
Egil didn't have one of these rings.
When the spiders were dead, there was another wall of rubble to clear. The game said that we found a badly damaged chest behind the wall. "Its lefthand side is completely crushed and it does not look as if much of its contents have survived." We had to pick the lock--thanks, grandpa--and found it jammed with his old stuff. I recognized some of the names and realized that the items are the major artifacts that I found in Amberstar. Specifically:
  • Quartz crystal. I found it in Jonathan's laboratory and needed it to open one of the passages in the dwarven Swampstation.
  • Crystal ball (broken). I don't remember this and couldn't find a mention of it in my notes.
  • Compass (broken). The interface addition from the first game. It probably duplicates the one I already bought.
  • Locater device (broken). This was found in the Gralswamp and it adds an interface element that shows current coordinates. Priceless.
  • Clock. It wasn't broken, so I tried to use it, and the game told me it just did the same thing as the clock I already had.
  • Magical disk (broken). A very handy travel device akin to a magic carpet. I won it in the pharaoh's tomb.
Why couldn't grandpa have kept this chest in his bedroom?
  • Windpearl. The specific term didn't appear in Amberstar, but I assume that these are the pieces of the Wind Necklace, which allowed teleportation through the windgate network. This is the second one I've found in this game.
  • Pearl chain. Probably the chain that holds the pearls.
As you can see, many of the items are broken. Some of them are quite useful, or at least were useful in the previous game, and I hope there's a way to repair them.
The chest also had a long sword, a large shield, a suit of plate armor, a steel helmet, and 17 spell scrolls of 12 types. I really didn't have room for it all. I had to abandon a lot of junk, consolidate potions, dump some food, and do some shuffling to accommodate what seemed like the important things--principally the artifacts and scrolls. 
I made my way back up to grandfather's--ahem, my--house and stashed most of my finds in my bedroom containers. Some of the spell scrolls that we'd found were tagged as being usable by an adventurer, so I had us camp while I tried to learn some of the scrolls. It went okay. I learned "Magical Torch" and "Magical Weapon" on the first try. I failed to learn "Magical Shield" and the scroll was destroyed. I had two "Light" scrolls, destroyed one, and learned the other. I'll have to figure out the difference between "Light" and "Magical Torch."
Memorizing a spell in camp.
I returned to Spannenberg and did a few things. First, we visited Father Anthony at the healer's and asked him about the antidote to swamp fever. He said we'd have to do three things for him to prepare the cure: go to the Tower of the Alchemist and ask for an empty phial; go to the swamp east of the tower and get a swamp lily; and find the Spring of Life behind a locked door in the mountains to the east. His directions suggested that it was the same locked door I found last time. He gave me the key.
I visited the cemetery and found grandfather's grave--a plain cross. The game emphasized my grief at not being by his side when he died, but then I heard his gentle voice: "Do not blame yourself, Qamara. It was not your fault! Try to find the grave of Shandra and use his piece of amber!" I called out in response, but there was no more.
There aren't a lot of games that do as good a job integrating the chosen character name into the game's text.
Finally, it occurred to me that the "wishing coin" I'd found in the bandits' hideout might be the secret to unlocking the magic of the town's well. Sure enough, when I tossed it into the well, red mists came racing out of the well, surrounded the party, and increased our strength by two points.
You know you're an RPG player when your first reaction to enhanced strength is, "Yay! I can carry more!"
A choice of quests again open to us, we decided to try the orcs to the west again. It didn't go any better than the previous time. The orcs are almost completely unable to damage Qamara, thanks to that magical aura, but they took Egil apart in a few rounds. Qamara, for her part, hardly ever hits the orcs, either. After a dozen rounds in which we did virtually no damage to each other, I declared a stalemate and reloaded. I suppose I could pay for more training, but I'd like to save some points to develop skills other than just attacking and parrying. Ah, damn it. I just realized that "Parrying" must refer to the specific act of parrying in combat and not defense in general. I never use that option and have probably been wasting skill points on it.
Based on the experience with the orcs, I decide to try Father Anthony's quest. He gave me relatively specific instructions: "You must go northwest through the desert and then follow the river to the west." Right away, I run into problems, though. You can't go northwest through the desert from Spannenberg because the desert north of Spannenberg is already on its western shore. You have to nudge east a bit, even. I interpreted the instructions as exiting the desert in its northwestern corner. From there I had no trouble finding a river just as it entered some mountains. I should note that the game animates the little currents that a flowering river makes when it encounters rocks.
It took some Googling, but apparently these are called "riffles."
I rounded the mountains and found a door, which I thought was promising, but it was locked. Picking it didn't work, and there was no opportunity to talk to give Father Anthony's name. I kept exploring the area and soon ran into something that looked much more like a "tower."
Yep, that'll do it.
We entered, and I sighed to find myself in a standard 3D dungeon. (That's definitely going to be a theme: Resenting the game when it chose the 3D interface instead of a top-down interface for a particular area.) Both the map and a nearby sign confirmed that I was in the "Tower of the Alchemist." After a quick battle with some giant spiders, a magic mouth asked, "Who sent you?" ANTHONY, I replied, and it let us move forward.
These magic mouths are perhaps the most iconic thing about the Amber series.
Qamara hit Level 11 in another battle with giant spiders. In fact, there were giant spiders everywhere, patrolling corridors with signs that said "Alchemist Library" and "Alchemist Accessories," both "closed for personal reasons." Doors in these areas were bolted, with the suggestion that I "return later." We made our way to the second floor, through another succession of dilapidated rooms, and found a half-elf mage named Nelvin just hanging out in a corner. He said he was an apprentice of Trasric--one of my companions in Amberstar--who died about a year ago. Trasric apparently gave him a Sphere of Opening that would open the old Tower of Black Magic. Nelvin is looking to join a party that will help him find the tower. We invite him into the party and he accepts.
Those of us with the exact same face have to stick together.
Nelvin is a Level 4 half-elf mage. He comes with a sling, a dagger, a robe, a hat, leather shoes, the sphere, a few potions of healing and spell point restoration. He knows elvish, dwarvish, and gnomish languages. His existing spells are "Magical Projectile," "Sleep," "Mudsling," "Rockfall," and "Winddevil," all of which I'm going to have to learn by trial and error.
We found nothing else on the small level, which confused us, so I made another round and found another NPC that I'd missed while reeling through the room the first time. ("Reeling" is really the only option you have with this interface.) The man was a Level 15 alchemist named--wait for it--"Alkem." The first thing he said was, "I'm sorry, but until I have my ring back, the library and shop will remain closed." I questioned him. He said he lost the ring in the "partially-collapsed crypt east of here"--almost certainly the door I previously encountered. Alkem accidentally woke some undead while picking mushrooms, and he dropped the ring in his haste to get out. He gave us the key, intuiting that we're the sorts of people who solve these kinds of quests. He didn't have anything to say about keywords related to the antidote, so I assume I'll buy the phial in the shop once it's open again.
The crypt door opened up into a dungeon with large rooms and wide halls, well-lit with enormous candles. There were burial yards to either side of the main chamber, each with a party of skeletons to defeat. I tried to use the battles to test Nelvin's spells, but he kept failing trying to cast them. Each of the two burial yards had a cross that was out of alignment with the others--Nelvin pointed this out in the first one. Straightening them caused another door to reveal itself in the main chamber.
The graphics in this dungeon were decent, suggesting ornamentation like stained glass windows.
The door led north into a small room with another northern door. Halfway through the room, the party spun 180 degrees. I believe that's a first--a spinner in a non-tiled game. (There were a couple more later. I might have missed some, since spinning 180 degrees is indistinguishable from the careening that accompanies most of my regular movement in this interface.) The next room had another northern door and buttons on the east and west walls. These buttons revealed east and west doors back in the spinner room.
As we entered the eastern room, Nelvin made a comment about the symmetry of the gravestones in the room. He wasn't wrong--there was a square-topped one in the center and two round-topped ones on either side. I wouldn't have thought anything of it. Touching the center one caused a "gentle tone" to play. The same symmetry existed on the other side of a wall, with the pattern reversed, and again pressing the center stone caused a tone to play. I'm not sure what the tones accomplished in the end, but I assume they made doors available that weren't there before.
Maybe Nelvin should have been a monk.
Zombies attacked as we continued to explore. They're tougher than skeletons because they have a "Poison" spell (and I'm low on potions) and start each combat with a shortbow and a few arrows. They attacked Nelvin a lot, who has a lower armor class than the other two. I had plenty of healing potions, but my supply dwindled dramatically. Nelvin ran out of slingstones, and I didn't think it was prudent to have him attack in melee range with a dagger, so mostly he did nothing.
There were a couple of coffins in the middle of the room. Nelvin warned us about disturbing them, saying that he had a "bad feeling," but hey, we're looking for a lost object here. One had nothing but bones. The other disgorged a ghoul. About this time, I remembered that I had that "Holy Horn." It turns out that it casts "Dispel Undead," and the ghoul died in one use. I'm glad we didn't waste it back at the cemetery in Spannenberg. I became particularly glad in later chambers, where it became clear that the horn plus Nelvin's occasionally-successful spells were the only hope we had of defeating the ghouls. Our weapons simply didn't connect often enough.
Calm down, Lovecraft. It's just a ghoul.
The western room was a mirror of the eastern one. Again, there were two sets of three headstones; again, the center one in each set made a chime; again, a party of zombies attacked. The one difference was that Nelvin noted a secret door in the north wall--I'm not sure why it's always Nelvin who notices these things--which led to a chest containing a "Gala's Staff," several spell point potions, and 1,289 gold. Gala's Staff, alas, can only be wielded by a paladin or healer. I checked and found a mirrored secret area back in the eastern room, this one containing a chest with another Holy Horn, several healing and "Cure Poison" potions, and scrolls of "Holy Word" and "Destroy Undead." These are also only usable by a paladin, thief, or healer, and I wonder if there was some healer or paladin NPC on the island that I've missed.
I'm glad we brought you along.
Wow, this is getting pretty long. Okay, there were a bunch more buttons and switches in various rooms, and I just hit them all. Experience has taught me that there are two types of games when it comes to buttons and switches. The first has a simple cause-effect mechanism. Every button does something that you want it to do, like unlock a door or open a passage. When you see a button, you press it. The second, more complicated type of game is best embodied by Dungeon Master, where different combinations of buttons and switches might have different effects, not all of them positive. You want to map everything before touching one, then study its effects carefully. I'm working under the assumption that Ambermoon is the first type of game. In this case, it worked out. The buttons and switches made doors appear and activated teleporters that took me ultimately to the boss battle.
It would have been nice if Alkem had at least hinted at the need to solve mechanical puzzles.
Banshees replaced ghouls as the toughest opponents. They cast spells, and I found that I had no chance against them without using the Holy Horn. This bothered me because while you get the experience from undead slain with the Holy Horn, you don't get their gold or items. The ghouls had been dropping chain shirts and flails and a few dozen gold pieces. I've passed the point where I'm bothering to pick up regular items for resale (perhaps that's a bad idea), but I still would have liked the gold. I have no idea what the banshees carried; I destroyed them all with horns.
The spell effect for this is great. A column of light appears and sucks them from the battlefield.
Eventually, I entered the final room, where I found Alkem's ring on the floor.
He couldn't have dropped it right next to the main entrance.
This caused a lich lord to come popping out of his sarcophagus and attack alongside two ghouls and a banshee. I assumed he had some good items, being a boss, so I didn't want to destroy him with Holy Horns, so I had Qamara and Nelvin use the horns on the ghouls and banshee while Egil blasted the lich lord with fireballs from Firebrand. It took three rounds to kill him, during which the lord nearly killed my characters with spells like "Thunderbolt" and "Winddevil."
When he died, he dropped a Lich's Crown, a Mage's Robe, and a magical Throwing Sickle, all of which mages can use, so all of which I gave to Nelvin.

During all these battles, Nelvin made Level 5, Egil made Level 7, and Qamara made Level 12.
When do I get that second attack?
A few other observations:
  • I haven't been talking about it as it happens, but weapon breakage is bull****. I've been reloading most of the time it happens. It feels cheesy, but I would have lost Firebrand seven or eight times by now otherwise.
  • Apparently, enemies can enter the party's two rows at the bottom of the screen.
That's a bandit to my left. My world is upended. I have no idea how combat works now.
  • You can initiate dialogue with characters even after they're in the party. I'm not sure if they ever say anything new beyond their initial dialogue, though. 
  • Enemies always seem to go first in combat. Is that a level thing, an attribute thing, or just the way of the world?
You've heard me complain for five entries in a row how much I hate the 3D movement interface. I'm going to do it again, exhaustively, and then shut up about it. I took some time to analyze it in more detail. There are two major problems. First, the window offers an insufficient peripheral view. Threading your way through tight corridors is like navigating an 18-wheeler through the streets of Paris with the side windows covered. It's easy to miss doors and entire passages to your right or left. When you round a corner, you have to paradoxically turn and back up at the same time to ensure that you see any items, doors, or passages immediately around the corner. If that doesn't make sense, I'll draw a diagram.
The second major problem is the movement itself. There are actually four different ways to move, each with their own strengths and, most important, weaknesses.
  • Click the mouse within the exploration window. As you move the mouse cursor around the exploration window, it changes to show turning, strafing, moving, and turning about. You can left-click at any of those times to execute the action and even blend them together, such that clicking halfway between forward movement and right turn has you move forward as you turn. This is essentially the fastest way to move. Maybe it works for some people, but I can't get the mouse positioning right, so I go careening through rooms like a drunkard, often going an unintended direction or missing major items on the way. Yes, you can right-click to turn without moving, but I don't find it easy to switch between right and left mouse buttons, and more importantly, you turn so comically fast that it's impossible to do so with any kind of precision.
  • Use the arrow keys. The arrow keys let you move forward and backward and turn left and right. They're the best way to get any kind of precision in your movement, but for some reason there's an annoying pause between every key press and the associated movement, and then the movement itself is half the speed of the mouse in the exploration window. You also don't have strafing options with the arrow keys.
If this movement system could somehow be coalesced into a person, and that person was the final boss fight in Elden Ring, I would reinstall the game and find some way to win it just so I could kill this movement system.
  • Click on the GTFO cluster. If you switch from action icons to movement icons in the lower right, you can click on them or click and hold to move. The buttons are discrete, so there's no "careening," but movement is about as fast as if you click in the exploration window. This is perhaps the best option except that moving in an RPG by clicking on buttons on the screen is antithetical to my very soul.
  • Use the numberpad to replicate the buttons in the GTFO cluster. This seems like the obvious solution to my problem, doesn't it? It would be, except that the creators managed to screw it up. When you hold down a button on the number pad, it doesn't act as if you're clicking on the associated icon and holding it down. Instead, it acts as if you're single-clicking that icon repeatedly. You thus move in a slow, stuttering fashion that's even more cumbersome than the arrow keys.
One final option is available via the emulator: Use the arrow keys after setting the emulator to "warp" mode. This removes the stutter and makes it faster than clicking in the exploration window (clicking in the window in "warp" mode is utter chaos). But this also accelerates time, which has an impact on things like how often you have to rest and how long your torches and "Light" spells last. 
Thus, when playing the 3D parts of Ambermoon, I'm always struggling to find the least awful option out of four awful options. Thankfully, the issue is moot during top-down exploration or when exploring a town with fast travel waypoints.

A long entry, but I finally feel like I made a dent in the game. Perhaps it's time to do the same for Serpent Isle.

Time so far: 23 hours


  1. I thought the sage just cast identify on your items. If so, your iron ring should now have an eye icon on its stats page - when you click on it, you see the magical properties of the item. If not, I'm not sure what the sage does. Some items have magical protection and if it's higher than the magic level of the weapon, the weapon can't do any damage. It's one of the magical properties that can't be checked by looking at the changes to the character sheet.

    Good thing you got the lich crown, although I think the lich lord can't actually be killed with the horn.

    The strength increase at the well is actually by a random value (like a lot of things in this game).

    I decided to play along using the Ambermoon.net remake. This won't help you, but it allows movement with the WASD cluster and works very well. In the original, I'd stick to the mouse. I remember I had problems with it at first, too, but eventually got good enough.

    Weapon breakage is very annoying and a reload for me, too. I think it stopped happening with more powerful weapons, hope that's not just the remake. It should be relatively true to the original, though I noticed I got my second attack at level 12 and you didn't.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 13, 2023 at 2:53 PM

      Yes, the Ambermoon.net version is absolutely the one to play for anyone but a purist or an historian. Still the same early-90's aesthetic but with a lot of more modern interface improvements.

    2. I also played the port and I can't recommend it enough to those wanting to try the game.

      I didn't experience any of the frustrations related to movement Chet is having, but otherwise the content seems to be faithful to the original.

    3. Buck, you're correct about the way "identify" works. It adds an eye icon to the item that you can click on to see further attributes. Now that I look at it again, I see that it says "M-B-A: 1." I must have overlooked that because I didn't realize what it meant. I was looking for things listed under "Attribute" or "Skill."

  2. According to the manual, speed governs action sequence. I think Nelvil (I've played this game 1.5 times and I've always read Melvin) is pretty fast, he should act early and before a lot of monsters.

    The manual lists all spells (pretty much at the end: https://retro-commodore.eu/files/downloads/amigamanuals-xiik.net/Games/Ambermoon%20-%20Manual-DE.pdf). It's not very precise, but you can see that magical torch does the same as light and is more expensive, so it's probably just a stronger version. It also lists area effect versions of fireball.

    Finally: nice monk reference. I also found straightening the crosses very satisfying.

    1. Seconded about the manual. Even if the descriptions of the spells are very terse (and of couse the names are in German) they should at least be useful to understand how those with a similar effect stack against each other.

    2. That annex seems to be the only important part missing in the English translation of the manual. It contains the list of spells with their required spell points, spell learning points and effects each.

      If there are issues with running the PDF version of it through a translator, there is also a text version of the German manual e.g. here which you could use for this.

    3. Busca warned me about the German-only annex months ago, but I forgot with the long break in between.

    4. I realized only now when you just finished the game there is an English version of the spell list annex on this webpage. Might still be useful for other future (non-German-speaking) players.

    5. Yeah, so I found that, but readers should be aware that that page translates spell names differently than the English version of the game does.

  3. (That's definitely going to be a theme: Resenting the game when it chose the 3D interface instead of a top-down interface for a particular area.)


    ("Reeling" is really the only option you have with this interface.)

    Right, right.

    (There were a couple more later. I might have missed some, since spinning 180 degrees is indistinguishable from the careening that accompanies most of my regular movement in this interface.)

    I'm starting to see a pattern here ;)

  4. On the other hand, another well-written and very interesting article about a rather obscure game. I enjoy these longer posts, congrats on your progress so far.

    1. Not sure Ambermoon can be considered "obscure". It was quite well known in Europe, even knowing not that many people played it because of the language barrier

    2. It is really a unique case, as Ambermoon came out in the sunset years of the Amiga, but the platform was still very much relevant in Europe, and the game was basically a AAA release for it.

      Even people outside of German-speaking countries that read Amiga or computer games magazines (not only PC) probably had heard of it, as the expectation was of a general release.

      I remember reading a glowing review of it in an Italian game magazine ...

    3. I kind of remember it as the last great RPG for the Amiga while it was still relevant. German reviews were stellar.

  5. I bought Amberstar recently for PC, might have to get round to playing it so I can then follow up with an emulated Ambermoon, as it does sound a lot of fun from your entries.

  6. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 13, 2023 at 2:55 PM

    Congratulations on making some more serious progress. Though you're being too hard on your earlier entries -- clearing the bandit camp certainly also counted as progress.

    > I checked in on grandfather--he had nothing new to say
    I took even longer than you to clear the rubble, and I felt a bit guilty that my grandfather kept hanging on to life while disappointedly watching me fail to fulfill his one, last request. And yes, I was also quite suspicious of Father Anthony (who was never anywhere to be found until Grandfather dies).

    > Too bad that "Fireball" isn't an area-effect spell in this game.
    You'll get area-effect spells, never fear.

    > I hope there's a way to repair them.
    Since previous commenters have already mentioned it: yes, there is a way.

    > I'm working under the assumption that Ambermoon is the first type of game.
    Correct! With the occasional exception, e.g. disturbing the coffin that disgorged a ghoul.

    > Enemies always seem to go first in combat.
    I believe this is an attribute thing. One of the next NPCs that you can recruit has very high initiative and often goes first; I think it's determined by dexterity, but I don't quite remember.

  7. "Maybe Nelvin should have been a monk."

    This was subtle but clever.

  8. Elves and half elves in D&D sometimes get bonuses to detect things like secret doors, so maybe that's carried through into Ambermoon and explains why Nelvin (no relation) is so good at it.

    1. There is a search skill and Nelvin probably has the most points there. Trasric was also decent in searching in Amberstar, so quite probable. That would also mean that search is actually used in Ambermoon for flavour texts. In Amberstar, there was only a single hidden key.

    2. I like to think his name is short for "N(ot quite) elvin."

  9. "In fact, there were giant spiders everywhere, patrolling corridors with signs that said "Alchemist Library" and "Alchemist Accessories," "

    When I first started to read that sentence, I conjured up the image of a multitude of parading spiders holding signs in some kind of rally (the thousand leg march?).

    But since the signs didn't say things like "Stop slaying spiders!", "Make nets, not war." or the like, I quickly realized my mistake, all the more when reading the rest of the sentence.

    1. Edits: "it" conjured and "make webs, not war".

    2. I had the same thought, picketing spiders...

  10. It's so long I have played this that I mainly remember the awful movement. I decided to go with the mouse. I don't think it added anything to the game, since the dungeons were still tilebased. It was probably required to distinguish the look from Amberstar and even more the by then ancient Dungeon Master. But it was a misdirection only to claim the modern 3D.

    I was reloading very liberally, but felt redoing a combat was a fair price. Combat and reloading were also awful. Everything else was great and easily held the game together, but I never built as much memories as with Amberstar.

    1. I never thought I'd ache for quick, crisp tiled movement the way I do in Ambermoon dungeons.

    2. These were the early days of freeform 3D movement (as basic as it looks today, it was a real technical achievement at the time, especially on the Amiga), it is kind of understandable many developers had not mastered it yet; I suspect Chet will experience similar issues in Betrayal at Krondor.

      The way the Ultima Underworld games nailed this kind of controls almost on first try is really impressive.

    3. Well, not that early. Doom was released on the same year as Ambermoon, 1993, which means that there were already quite a few Catacomb Abyss or Wolfenstein 3D clones out there. Ultima Underworld was released some years back, Legends of Valour comes from 1992... Thalion were just not good at this 3D interface thing, as Albion would later confirm.

    4. I find seeing the monsters and being able to rush past some of them a big plus. Albion also had some nice environment /movement based puzzles using the 3D environment (I don't remember if there were any in Ambermoon). I prefered the quick, tile based movement of Amberstar, but then a lot of the dungeons were unneccesarily large.

    5. Not that early, since by now a ton of games, even on the Amiga had done freeform 3D. Granted, this sort of thing was still a bit rare for RPGs, since most developers weren't as interested in pushing that kind of technology like simulation games did.

    6. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 17, 2023 at 11:21 AM

      @Vince - what did you mean about Betrayal at Krondor? I played through that for the first time a few months back, and I didn't experience anything like the problems we've been hearing about here with Ambermoon.

  11. Thalion make excelent gfx

    1. They absolutely did. Lionheart is arresting on its beauty.

  12. I was going to check the whirlpool in my playthrough, but I think I forgot.

    The banshees like to cast Irritate on me a lot. They were only carrying standard chain mail and weapons. I ended up using the Holy Horns on them a few times once I saw there was nothing special... oh yeah, and also because they kept going after Nelvin, and killed him at least once. Poor guy.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

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?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

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.