Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Game 494: Les Chevaliers de l'An Mil (1989)

Les Chevaliers de l'An Mil
"Knights of the Year 1000"
Independently developed; published by Ubisoft
Released 1989 for Thomson computers
Date Started: 18 July 2023
Date Ended: 27 July 2023
Total Hours: 11 (not finished)
Difficulty: Medium-Hard (3.5/5)
Rating: 30
Ranking at Time of Posting: 318/508 (63%)
Some of the more interesting RPGs that I've covered have come out of France. They haven't all been great RPGs, but they certainly stand out in memory: Mandragore, Tera, Le Maitre des Ames, Drakkhen--which I'm still not sure isn't actually Japanese. New ones keep coming to light. Narwhal, The Wargaming Scribe, just alerted me earlier this year to a possible new contender for the first French RPG: Infogrames' Le Jeu des 6 Lys (1984).
Les Chevaliers de l'An Mil (1989) is another obscure entry brought to my attention by Narwhal. It is perhaps the least innovative mechanically of all the French RPGs I've experienced, basically cloning Exodus: Ultima III, but it still manages to make its mark thematically. The player controls a party of up to 5 characters, but they're not heroes; they're monsters--agents of the Gods of Chaos--seeking to release the Black Plague on the world. That plot makes the title a bit of a mystery.
Unleashing a plague doesn't seem very "knightly."
The game released only for Thomson computers (1982-1989), French PCs meant to compete with the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. So far, I've only found two games--this and Tyrann (1984)--that had releases for the Thomson, and this is the only one released solely for the Thomson. [Ed. There are alot more ports and games. I was relying on the sources that make up my master game list rather than a Thomson-specific database.] Emulating has been a bit of a pain despite an excellent site dedicated to the system and its games. Thanks to commenter Tarnyko for helping me get over a crucial hump.
The game begins by having you create a named party (I named mine "Les Ferventes") and up to five characters to add to it. Races are trolls, orcs, dark elves, and "chaos dwarfs." (I gather that the latter is a race in the Warhammer universe; I'm not sure if the dates are right for it to have influenced this game). Classes are black guard, barbarian, sorcerer, demonist (despite the name, basically a cleric), anti-paladin (black guard/demonist), and necromancer (black guard/sorcerer). Attributes are strength, constitution, size, intelligence, power, dexterity, and appearance, which I believe is the RuneQuest/Basic Roleplaying list. Based on the main attributes, you have derived attributes of hit points and spell points.
Rolling for attributes.
I created:
  • Grendel, a troll barbarian
  • Morque, an orc black guard
  • Kafka, a chaos dwarf sorcerer
  • Zalman, a dark elf demonist
You also get a random amount of money (in ecus) between 150 and 250. After character creation, you have a chance to spend ecus on armor and weapons, with the usual types of restrictions by character class. The name of the weapon also shows you its precise statistics, which I almost wish was mandated by law for other games.
A long list of weapons and their values.
Spellcasters get to spend their starting spell points on one or more spells from a list of about 20. The list of sorcerer spells, of which I could only afford the first five, is pretty mysterious, with entries that translate as "Dark Fear," "Dust Hand," and "Mystic Haze" among others. The manual is silent on spells, so I imagine you have to learn their uses through experimentation. The demonist list is a little more straightforward: "Cure Wounds," "Cure Poison," and such, though it also has some mysteries.
Sorcerer spells.
Once you settle on your party, a title card introduces the plot:
In the beginning was the balance. The balance was everything and ruled everything. It was the perfect equilibrium. Between good and evil, between law and chaos. Then came the gods, the universe, and, long after, the world and the creatures of the gods. The Gods of Law appropriated the world and populated it with strange creatures and men. The Gods of Chaos then concealed through the world vials containing a deadly disease: The Black plague. The Gods of Chaos invented their own creatures, in the appearance of men, to restore the two vials and thus destabilize the balance.
The game starts on a tiled landscape near the town of Sanctavilla. The interface uses the arrow keys to move and single-letter commands for everything else, including (A)ttack, Cast a (S)pell, (E)nter a city or dungeon, and (T)ransact. As longtime readers know, I consider "(Z)tats Clones" to be a special category of Ultima clone down to the use of the "Z" key to bring up character statistics. Chevaliers is almost a (Z)tats Clone. You actually use "J" to view a character sheet, but the "Z" key has you specify an attribute and then shows you how your characters rank with that attribute--a quick way to get a sense of who should represent the party in conversation, force a door, or pick a lock. 
Opening moments.
Towns are also pulled from the Ultima mode. They have a variety of services and NPCs who offer one-line hints. Sanctavilla had a temple, where you learn new spells, and an apothecary, where you can get healing.
Guards all say, "Get out of my sight, microbe, or I'll bust you." Others just say "hum" or "go see it next door!" (vas y voir à côté, in case I'm mistranslating that) and disappear. Some of the hints offered by other NPCs included:
  • Dungeons are full of traps.
  • Silver keys are found at the artisan's house.
Getting a hint. You do not want to try to talk to the guys to my north and east.
  • Some living dead are immaterial creatures.
  • You will find horses in the Town of Equus.
  • The prison is very well-guarded.
  • In certain towns, you will find guilds.
  • You will need a key of great value to go to the Guild of Thieves.
  • Watch out for brigands in the city.
That last hint could be warning about two things. First, when you're talking with NPCs, money randomly disappears. I don't know whether you're paying for hints or whether it's being stolen, but either way, it gets chipped away as you walk around. Second, if you talk to certain NPCs--apparently, any of them with a certain icon--they say, "You are going to die, dog!" and attack you.
I thus got my first taste of combat, which works pretty much the same way as Ultima III and IV. You're taken to a separate screen in which you take turns with enemies, each character getting exactly one action per round. Characters can only attack in cardinal directions, no diagonals. 
My first battle.
Because you only get one move per round, combat can be a bit tedious, as it was in both of those Ultima games. I was already getting antsy in the first battle. I won it handily and automatically looted some 300 ecus from the corpses (no separate chest-opening here). Unfortunately, it's apparently a crime to bare steel in a town even in self-defense, and the town guards swarmed me the moment combat was over. They were impossible to defeat. I tried fleeing, but fleeing in this game gives the enemy a chance to instant-kill you, and then they just re-attack immediately as soon as you're out of combat. My party was soon slain.
A full character sheet.
I then discovered another unpleasant thing about Chevaliers: it uses permadeath. My party and characters were wiped from the disk. For various reasons not worth relating right now, I couldn't use the save state function of the emulator, so I had to start over from scratch. I later got the emulator working right, so from here on, I took a save state every so often.
I continued exploring the continent, which bends and twists around rivers and mountain ranges. I tried to keep the coast on my right. Monsters--which you cannot see until they attack--attacked me about every 15 steps. Monsters in this game have original names but familiar icons. "Blops" look like orcs, "talamons" like snakes, "amarons" like boars, "narogs" like lions, and "yaroons" like deer. There's some kind of beetle whose name I missed. 
I don't remember what these guys were called.
Magic is treated a bit odd. It appears that each spellcasting character has a number of spell points that he can spend like currency to acquire spells. But once he has a spell, he can cast it indefinitely--nothing limits the number of castings. That said, spells are a bit under-powered. My sorcerer's "Mystic Lightning" is mostly worthless since he misses most of the time. My demonist's "Cure Wounds" keeps us alive, but only barely. It also means that the demonist hardly ever gains any experience, since characters only gain experience when they personally kill an enemy, and the demonist is usually busy with healing.
Most of all, though, combat is boring. Every enemy party has around 8-12 enemies who start a mile away. Once in melee range, my characters miss most of the time. Even easy battles take around 10 minutes.
Getting killed by some deer.
Once I hit 100 experience points with my lead two characters, they reached Level 2, which gave them extra hit points and boosted their attack abilities.
Enemies got harder as we got further from the starting town, but I also think they got harder as my characters gained more experience. It wasn't long before we didn't find any easy "blops" anymore. I got turned away from my exploration pattern by a party of "drankoins" (look like demons), which are capable of paralysis. 
I didn't last long after this.
I found a lot of dungeons--where I couldn't do anything because I didn't yet have any torches. I found two other cities, Pititus-Pontis and Mercatem. Both sold food, which was nice because I was running low. This is clearly one of those games where you spend half of your income on food. Pititus-Pontis also had an armory and a "weapon room" where I could spend money (way more than I had) to train and improve my attack skill. Mercatem had an apothecary, an "artisan" shop selling torches and keys (keys were way too expensive for me), and a guild, where they told me, "Out of here, profaner."
Between the two cities, I learned:
  • Increase your combat skill in a weapon room.
  • Shrines are special places, well-hidden.
  • You will need magical weapons against an immaterial monster.
  • Thanks to horses, you will avoid many encounters.
  • If you get too close to monsters, they will attack you.
  • A guild is used by spellcasters to learn new ones.
  • You can hire a thief at the thieves' guild.
  • Magical arms are in coffers. 
  • The corridors of the dungeons are barred with portcullises and doors.
  • The vials are very well hidden and well guarded.
I keep wanting to translate "fioles" as "beans."
  • Certain plaques provide you with valuable information.
  • You will find lots of curious people in the prison. 
I also found a couple of "sanctuaries," but when I tried to enter them, I got the same, "Out of here, profaner" line. The manual mentions sanctuaries and suggests they have a special interface. I'm not sure how I enter them. Maybe I have to find something that disguises my monstrous nature.
That's racist.
With a few torches in hand, I tried a few dungeons. They break the Ultima mold by being top-down instead of first-person. I couldn't get far in any of them. Some of them had incorporeal enemies, like ghosts, for which I need to find magic weapons. In others, the enemies were just too hard. I did explore enough to see that pressure plates, secret doors, and switches might be a part of the dungeon experience. 
A pressure plate closed off the way to the exit.
The interface has been a bit of a nightmare. Part of it is the Thomson itself, part of it the game. If I'm reading the keyboard (and the emulator behavior) right, it's set up so that the default is that you have to hit SHIFT while selecting a number key on the top row (it also has a numberpad, but as I've groused about, my laptop doesn't). It also doesn't seem to have a BACKSPACE key. I mean, that's crazy--it must--but nothing on my own keyboard seems to emulate it. Even if it does, the game itself doesn't seem to recognize any form of "escape." If you talk to a shop owner and decide you don't want anything, it can be hard to get out of the interface. For all of these reasons, I often flub entering commands. The game is particularly unforgiving of errors, and I usually lose my turn when I make them. It also has a time limit of just a couple of seconds for entering commands, after which it says "too late" and moves on to the next character or enemy. The emulator is capable of remapping keys, but I didn't discover that until the end of this session and can't figure out how to deal with the SHIFT problem anyway.
I don't know how far I'll get with Chevaliers. By now, the fundamental experience that it offers has gotten pretty old, and the whole point of games like Ambermoon is that they do it much better. Antepenult may be the last time I was willing to travel all over a large iconographic game world stringing together one-line hints, and that game had much faster combat. I recognize, however, that if this was 1989, and I was a Thomson owner, I would be erecting a statue to author Laurent Freres for finally giving me what other kids had on their C64s. 
Any connection?
Before I wrap up, I wonder if my French-speaking readers might be able to help with a bit of a mystery surrounding the game's name. Googling it produces results related to the game but also lots of results related to what I take to be an archaeological project and exhibit on Lake Paladru in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France. I can't determine the date that the find was named. Do you think the game's name is a coincidence, or was it likely influenced by the archaeological find (a la Skara Brae, for instance)?
Time so far: 4 hours
I played the game for roughly another 5 hours after posting this.
The only spoiler I've been able to find online for the game is a world map, and I decided that I don't mind using it. It depicts a square world of around 120 x 120 tiles. Given the shapes of the islands at the edges, I suspect it wraps. The large central continent is the only landmass that you can explore at the beginning. To explore the northern portion, you have to make your way all the way to the east and the north via a thin strip of land. There are 10 dungeons and 4 cities on this continent, not including the two island locations that I cannot yet reach. 
The game world, with the towns I've discovered annotated.
The economy is brutal. You need money for weapon and armor upgrades and healing, but you're constantly spending it to replenish food. When I reached the city of Navilium (the only one I didn't explore above), I found a new financial goal: A boat, which costs 500 gold pieces.
During my explorations, Kafka finally hit Level 2 and got a bunch of spell points. There's a mage's guild in Mercatem, so I went there and upgraded my attack spell to "Fireball," which does a lot more damage than "Mystic Lightning." Zalman, as reported above, took forever to reach Level 2. Grendel plowed on through to Level 5. Levels came every 100 experience points for the first 4, but when Grendel hit 500 experience points, he didn't get Level 6.
More lore from Navilium:
  • Any act of hostility in a city is severely reprimanded.
  • Prehensio is an island facing a delta.
  • One finds chests at the bottom of dungeons.
  • You have no chance of accessing a vial if you are not the most powerful.
  • You will need 2 types of key to open  doors or portcullises.
  • Volaris is very different from all other cities.
I assume it's because of the thieves.
  • Pay attention to boat prices.
  • Ruins are filled with the living dead.
  • Near chests you will often find gems.
  • The paladins are there to keep the city in order
Some miscellaneous things about the game:
  • Dungeons seem interesting, with various doors, pressure plates, messages, keys, and traps. But there are so many enemies that cause status effects (primarily poison and paralysis) that I don't think there's any way to effectively explore them until your demonist gains a few levels and you have spells that cure those conditions.
A dungeon room with doors and pressure plates.
  • As torches run out in dungeons, the screen goes dark. You don't usually see this in a tiled, iconographic game. It even affects the combat screen. I assume if it goes out, you end up fighting enemies in pitch blackness.
Ghouls paralyze me in the darkness.
  • The lack of any "escape" key (at least that I can find) drives me crazy. There are menus that you can't back out of unless you make a selection. If I sidle up to an armory and speak to the proprietor, as far as I can tell, the only way to get out of the menus without actually buying something is to try to buy something you can't afford, at which point the game says, "Impossible!" and returns you to the prompt. I've literally hit every key.
  • NPCs can spawn in towns so that they're blocking access to the counters. Since NPCs never move, the only way to "fix" this is to leave town and hope they spawn elsewhere.
Games like this ought to come with a "shove" command.
  • You can talk to enemies in combat. Sometimes they agree to end combat with no further hostilities. When this happens, you gain 5 experience points.  
Kafka prepares to cast a fireball.
Despite the exceedingly boring combat, I decided I had to play the game long enough to get a boat. I sat  near Navilium and grinded and grinded, watching my money slowly increase, annoyed to occasionally have to spend it on food. The enemies got harder and harder, and I had to reload a lot. When my purse finally topped 1,000, I triumphantly entered Navilium, walked up to the boat counter, and plunked down the money for a boat. The store took the money and then . . . nothing. There's no boat--not in the city, despite an obvious dock where you'd think one would appear, nor outside. 
I don't know whether this is a bug or whether I'm missing some game mechanic. If I can't figure it out, I'm going to have to turn this entry into a BRIEF until some help comes along.
Time so far: 9 hours


  1. Could the name be a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

    In French they would be called "Cavaliers" and year 1000 was belived by fanatics of the era to be when the "Apocalypse" would happen.

    Sure, the max party members number doesn't match, but consistency and French games have never been in good terms...

    1. It's worth pointing out that "people in the year 1000 believed the apocalypse would happen" is mostly a modern invention. There's also a theory that a feudal revolution happened around this time (as opposed to an evolution to a feudal society as I think is now commonly accepted). Both of these things originated (mostly) from French historians*, so maybe there's a stronger connection between the year 1000 and the apocalypse for someone in France.

      * but then I got this from a French documentary, so maybe they were just biased towards French historians

  2. There are the brpg/RQ characteristics indeed. Also the influence its seen in the weapon damage table and the magic point system (not in the spell themselves). However the hitpoints in rq are TAM+CON/2 and here are *2, I think to give more security margin to the player. Also probably the influence is from Stormbringer - the brpg game based in Moorcok's young realms - because the history with chaos gods and balance. (In RQ/Glorantha chaos exists but in a different way)

  3. Also the year 1000 is always related to the end of the world but in a non-medieval setting is not a very good name.

  4. "So far, I've only found two games--this and Tyrann (1984)--that had releases for the Thomson"

    I assume that by "games" you mean specifically CRPGs, since the website you linked lists hundreds of games for the Thomson. But even then it's not very accurate; looking through the site's list of 1000+ programs, I recognized some other CRPGs (La Trilogie du Temple d'Apshai, Mandragore, Oméga planète invisible) that clearly were ported to the Thomson.

    1. I did mean RPGs, but I was lazily relying on my own spreadsheet rather than actually looking through the list on the site. Correction appended.

  5. I had forgotten I was the one pointing you to Chevalier de l'An Mil in the first place.Thanks for the link, it is particularly neat because it is for an article I am happy with for a game that was undeservingly forgotten.

    I don't think there is that much to see in the title. "L'an Mil" is a generic name given in French historiography for the era end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century. Some common boundaries would be 924 (end of the Carolingian Empire) to 1095 (first crusade), but you could push the start to the beginning of the Capetian dynasty (987) and end it as late as 1337 (Hundred Years' War), particularly in lazy pop history.

    Then the Chevaliers (Knights) are the coolest feature of the An Mil from the point of view of a kid or a game designer. From the point of view of people leaving during the An Mil, they were probably the worst feature of that era, as the English learned the hard way after 1066.

  6. It's difficult to say if the name of the game is a reference to the history of lake Paladru: the archeological studies happened in the 70s/80s and there were already reports in 1988 (maybe earlier) about these "knights-peasants in a village from [around] year 1000" which could have been mentioned informally as "chevaliers de l'an Mil" (knights from year 1000) in the news or magazines but it seems to be more of an informal name than an official one given to these studies. It's quite possible that the devs saw that name and found it kind of catchy but I doubt it goes beyond that.

    As for chaos dwarfs, the earliest reference to them in the Warhammer universe seems to be in 1986, in a quick article in White Dwarf #78 for Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I'm not sure they were formally added to the lore before 1992 −i.e. published in a rule book. It's possible that the devs of Les Chevaliers de l'An Mil saw that issue of WD or, more likely, Games Workshop/Citadel miniatures of chaos dwarfs but it could as well be a coincidence.

    1. I appreciate the thoughts. "It's quite possible that the devs saw that name and found it kind of catchy" is kind of what I was thinking.

    2. Chaos Dwarfs were added to the core Warhammer ruleset in '87 with the release of Ravening Hordes, as part of the Chaos Army list. The models from '86 also appeared in 1988's Citadel Combat Cards which were widely produced (and was my first exposure to the notion of a 'chaos dwarf'). It's a pretty good chance that a European gamer from 1989 would have come across them.

  7. This page seems to say excavations were done from 1972 and gives a little bit more on the history


  8. Just a quick note that the shift + number key thing is a standard "feature" of the AZERTY keyboard layout used in France until this day.

    1. Is it really so much more common to need !@#$%^&* than the numbers? Or do French users just get in the habit of using the numberpad for all digits?

    2. We need the é, the è and the à routinely yes. They are on the same keys as the 2, the 7 and the 0 respectively.

      I think we do SHIFT+2 just as automatically as you probably do it for capital letters, and CAPS LOCK works for numbers just as well if we need to type a lot of them in a row.

    3. Ah. The CAPS LOCK key does NOT work that way in the emulator. It would be a big help if it did.

    4. I've always used a number pad, and I don't get the current trend of keyboards with fewer and fewer keys.
      At any rate, you could always purchase a little numpad for these occasions. Even wireless ones can be had for cheap.

    5. There's something annoying about the external one not being in a fixed place. Maybe if I glue it down . . .

  9. I was gently amused to see the currency being "ecu" as they was the original name of the single European currency (The European Currency Unit).

    1. ECU as "European Currency Unit" is a backronym on an old French currency called Écu

      It's also partially why it got rejected and renamed Euro - the other reason being that in other languages the spelling of "European Currency Unit" would change, thus not only nullifying the backronym, but also create a nightmare in terms of shortening the currency's name.

  10. The game sounded interesting until you described the combat. That's pretty much the worst kind of combat system. :-(

    1. Turn-based combat that takes you to a separate screen isn't inherently bad, but it's relatively boring with so few options. If the game offers missile weapons, it should go a little faster (as it did in Ultima IV).

    2. I'd guess the weapons O through T from the shop list are missile weapons: they are too expensive for their damage range, they have a special tag (which could also mean 'magic') and - taking a guess here - are named "thrown dagger", "bow" etc.

    3. Looks like "Throwing dagger," "boomerang," "Javelin," "throwing axe," "bow" (OK I looked that one up), and "arbalest" aka big crossbow.

  11. I was gently amused to see the currency being "ecu" as they was the original name of the single European currency (The European Currency Unit). It was used since 1979 (predating this game) but was never an actual currency with coins and such.

    1. Écu is also a kind of medieval French coin; I suspect ECU was named with a reference to that, not the other way around.

    2. I remember reading a long time ago that the ECU denomination was a British proposal (standing for "European Currency Unit", as mentioned by Andrew above), and that they were fully expecting the French to object. But, much to the Brits' surprise, it was gladly accepted by the French as to them it seemed like a throwback to their own old medieval coin.
      Don't quote me on that, though, as this is probably just a legend. A fairly amusing one, but a legend nonetheless.

    3. I half-believe that legend myself, Lurker. I once had a slightly surreal conversation with a French-speaker who genuinely thought that the currency was the "ecu" and I had to explain European Currency Units to him. It's entirely possible that he walked away from the conversation thinking "Hah! We really got one over on the English this time."

  12. sanctuaries [...] I'm not sure how I enter them. Maybe I have to find something that disguises my monstrous nature.

    In France, religions are legally treated like associations or clubs. Maybe you need some sort of membership to enter the sanctuary.

  13. Interesting, it always seems to be the European developers who try to make games where you play as the monsters, though I guess I'm just basing it off this and that one Motelsoft game. I wonder why?

    1. From the top of my head:

      In the JRPG "Last Armageddon" (by BrainGrey, 1988) you play a group of monsters that roam a post-apocalyptic world.

    2. There's also Natuk by Tom Proudfoot, where you play a group of orcs, goblins and ogres. It even has good combat.

    3. Don't forget Wizardry 4, or more modern games inspired by it such as Paper Sorcerer, Iratus or Demon Lord Reincarnation.

    4. And Dungeon Keeper by British developer Bullfrog.

  14. Regarding the weapon damage chart, I've never understood why so many early crpgs hide this information from the player. Weapon damage tables and full spell descriptions are available to the player in the earliest D&D books (granted in OD&D all weapons do d6 damage). Why deny the player such essential knowledge? It's the one thing that drives me crazy about early Might and Magic.

    1. The two explanations that always come up are:

      1. In "real life," you wouldn't know exact weapon values, either, never mind that RPGs have always been about managing favorable and unfavorable statistics, nor that those statistics are simply an abstraction for things that a person WOULD know in real life.

      2. Not knowing forces the player to observe how much damage he's doing, record the values, and figure out the best weapon by comparing one to the other, never mind that even the people who make this argument have never done it and always look up the exact values on a spoiler site.

    2. Even though I'm mocking both arguments, I wouldn't mind if a game came up with a clever way to tie this kind of knowledge to, say, skill progression. For instance, if in Fallout 3, you had to achieve a threshold in the "Small Guns" skill to see the exact damage that a pistol does.

    3. Isn't it what item identification mechanic more or less supposed to do?

    4. Hidden equipment statistics and only awarding experience to the character that makes the final killing attack are both ideas that I guess seem sophisticated on first impression. But go a little deeper and they usually lead to poor play experiences.

      Massive data collection and analysis, or just helpless surrender to dumb luck. Or instead of simulating ruthless life and death combat, micromanage your party so that the kills are evenly distributed.

      I get why someone might think it's a neat idea at first, but after all the hours that go into making a game it's suprising that these mechanics don't get weeded out.

      On the other hand, I'm not sure there are inherently bad mechanics, you just need to understand how they work and then build the game around them. That would be an interesting subject for a game jam: take a notoriously hated mechanic and make a fun game around it.

    5. It also was far from uncommon for the "hidden information" to be included in the manual or other documents included with the game.

    6. Yeah, in a world before hover over tooltips and when you're working with limited system resources, not to mention a 30 column by 20 row text display or similar it makes that things like weapon and armour statistics ended up in the manual. That doesn't excuse games where it's not in the manual and you had to buy the strategy guide though, boo!

    7. It is definitely problematic when experience is only awarded to the player that makes the kill when some classes do most of the melee too.

    8. "That would be an interesting subject for a game jam: take a notoriously hated mechanic and make a fun game around it." I love it. First challenge: Fun escort missions.

    9. Easy enough: make the escortee undying.
      I mean, he should be able to die, suprising you the first time. But then either via Deus ex machina or perhaps the NPC himself having some supernatural ability, he'd resurrect himself and/or the whole party. He could then either tease you in humorous manner or perhaps explain that the escort mision was a non-win scenario. Or perhaps pull something like a Groundhog Day with the party failing the escort mission every day, as long as you keep it silly or fun for the player.

    10. Fun escort missions has been done. The Last Of Us, Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 4 are highly acclaimed games that consist largely of an extended escort.

    11. I know that some tabletop gamemasters discourage players from looking at the charts, on exactly the basis that the characters should not be acting on knowledge of the mechanics of the system like that. I've even heard of gamemasters vetoing a player's strategy on the basis that their character isn't clever enough to have figured it out. (Never heard of the opposite - a GM saying "Okay Tom, I know you haven't figured it out, but your bard rolled a nat 20 on his int check, so he knows that the answer is to fill the 3-gallon bucket from the 5-gallon bucket so that there's 2 left")

    12. I'm such a mechanically bad p&p RPG player that one of my DMs regularly let's me make checks to have an excuse to tell me combat stuff that should be obvious to my character (and me...)

    13. "Isn't it what item identification mechanic more or less supposed to do?" If it's well-integrated the game, I don't mind handling it this way any more than I mind Ambermoon requiring you to find a compass before you see it in the interface.

    14. Regarding fun escort missions, I suggest the classic puzzle game Lemmings.

    15. "First challenge: Fun escort missions."

      Ico, The Last Guardian, and The Last of Us! Not only fun but emotionally engaging. Those examples suggest that escorting an NPC is only fun when the entire game is designed around it, though.

  15. French native speakers might know better, but to me, "Vas-y voir à côté." basically means "Get out of here!" / "Go somewhere else!".

    Funny how the title page of a game titled "Knights..," just shows a horse without rider (while the box shows knights / a knight, but no horse).

    1. I took French in school, but am thirty years out of practice, so caveat emptor with my opinion here.

      I would translate the literal words in that sentence as "go there look next door". The vas-y construction is slang, and roughly means telling someone to move, with where being specified afterward.

      I would translate the whole phrase as "move along", maybe with 'there's nothing to see here' if the game was trying for a humorous tone. That last bit is entirely made up, however. "Move along!", I believe, captures the essence of what they're saying.

    2. It's short for "vas voir à côté/ailleurs si j'y suis!" (Go next door/somewhere else see if I'm there!), basically a more verbose and rude version of "Buzz off!"

    3. Though it doesn't really affect interpretation or meaning, I'm not sure whether the sentence should be parsed as « Vas-y voir à côté » or rather « Va y voir à côté ». The latter seems more plausible to me. (Assuming the transcription given in the blog post, with the euphonic S but lacking the trait d'union, is verbatim, there must be a typo one way or the other.)

  16. Pretty neat to see a game where you play the bad guys.

    As stated in a previous comment, the title is probably about the apocalypse (plague, knight of apocalypse, year 1000 fear). I'm french and never heard about the archeological site about "chevalier paysan de l'an mil" , and live in southwestern France. I doubt someone in 1989 , before internet , could know about it. Unless they lived right at the site , may be.

    I tried an emulated version of the game. The need to press "Shift" for number has nothing to do with french keyboard. It is very peculiar , and very annoying. No idea where that system come from .

    Sanctuaire: According to the manual, it allow to raise your caracteristique for a lot of ecu. You need a gem for every character in your party to be allowed inside. Gem are found in dungeon.

    According to the manual, getting a thief seems helpfull to survive dungeon

    1. I need to ass, that the manual seems to detail each spell roughly (thoses for damage, those for healing, only one anti poison, one anti paralysis, protection spell, "mane" for food, but only when you are under 10 food...)
      To note the spell "Bannissement" kill every enemy, BUT you lose 1 Pouvoir point permanently.. so dont experiment too much with this one.

  17. Unrelated comment here: do you have any plans for a special number 500 game?

    1. Maybe instead of yet another CRPG, Chet could play something relevant to one of his other addictions. I'm not aware of any games about either vodka gimlets or jazz music, but there are some about Arthurian legends. Infocom's Arthur would be an obvious choice, or perhaps Once and Future (see https://ifdb.org/viewgame?id=vlsvsfinckq930o5 for details) for a more substantial undertaking.

    2. I don't know. I was thinking about it, but honestly, I'd almost rather I didn't have any pressure to make Game 500 "meaningful" in some way. I suppose Krondor would be an obvious choice.

    3. Obvious and safe choice. Would make a lot of people happy (me included).

      Another reason to consider, Krondor is also a long game, so this puts some rest time between Serpent Isle and Krondor.

    4. The backstory of Once and Future nee "Avalon" would certainly make it befitting an anniversary post on someone's very-long-running blog, but it's well outside the domain of this particular one.

    5. Yeah, I was counting and it did look like 500 is not on the list yet to appear, but whatever you choose would be nice

    6. If you do Krondor with no 500, that will leave a long list of games that are not as well known for a good reason at the end of 1993. These are always fun to read about, but maybe you'll also want to save up a few that are fun playing.

    7. Chet is in no danger of running out of 1993 games that are fun to play anytime soon. Basically saying that the rest of 1993 isn't good is a very ignorant thing to say.

      Something as grand as 500 should be a little bit looser than your typical title, and despite Chet being unlikely to consider it, picking out something from a later year would get my vote. Of course that runs into the problems Chet previously had whenever he tried to play a game from the future.
      I note that looking at the current upcoming list (assuming another console game between now and then), the 500th game will be The Shadow of Yserbius, which would be a pretty fitting title, if likely to disappoint some people.

    8. Part of me feels that the most on-blog thing for me to do is just keep plodding through the list as if there's nothing particularly special about #500.

    9. It might be getting too far ahead, but that would be a *fantastic* excuse to drop out of pure CRPGing for a game and fire up 1995's Chrono Trigger, one of the finest games ever done in any genre.

    10. If you have any upcoming Amiga 500 game, that could be suitable.

    11. Fokus on 1000#. :)

    12. I think part of you chafes at anything inhibiting your autonomy. Maybe your left elbow?

    13. AlphabeticalAnonymousJuly 29, 2023 at 8:30 PM

      Krondor is interesting and certainly better than the average 1993 game (there's so much dross...!) but I don't know that it's amazing enough to warrant focusing on it for #500.

    14. If ever there was an excuse to skip ahead chronologically to play something more modern, #500 would be it.

      Or it might be amusing to skip ahead just one year - the numbering works out so you could play two Arenas in a row. I'd been looking forward to it on the upcoming games list, until the year sunk in.

    15. Meant to post that to the current thread, not the one it linked to, crud.

  18. Something that might help you translate manual pages is Google Keep. Take a screenshot of each page of the manual, upload it as a note in Google Keep, and then use the "extract image text" option and feed it through a translator.

  19. >Drakkhen--which I'm still not sure isn't actually Japanese.

    Sorry if this is just a joke that went over my head, but even the Japanese wikipedia page for Drakkhen says it was developed in France in 1989 and then ported to the Japanese FM TOWNS computer in 1990.

    1. Incidentally it looks like the FM TOWNS version was released on CD-ROM and had well-known voice actors.

    2. I understand that refers to a doubt Chet had when covering it back in 2012 - see the paragraph about "Drakkhen's development history" here.

      However, that was over ten years ago and today both Wikipedia and mobygames say it was created by Infogrames and just (translated and) released by Data East in North America (under the 'Draconian' label) - which is also reflected in the manual of the North-American version (at the so often helpful Museum of Computer and Games History): "© lnfogrames 1989. United States and Canadian Copyright Data East USA, Inc. Manufactured by Draconian under license from lnfogrames. Draconian is a trademark of Data East USA, Inc.".

    3. I was mostly kidding, but there are a lot of weird things about the game's development history. It doesn't play like any other French game, whereas it does have some passing similarities to some Japanese games of the period. There aren't a lot of examples in the era of a western developer going to a Japanese distributor, particularly for a release in a western country. Its sequel was developed entirely in Japan. So I have to wonder if the original game had some Japanese DNA that didn't make it to the official credits list.

    4. This piqued my curiosity, so I did some quick searches. Didn"t find anything to prove or disprove any kind of 'Japanese DNA', guess you'd have to ask the people involved. But I stumbled on a couple other tidbits I found interesting.

      Drakkhen was supposed to be the first of a series of games under the title "Gary Gygax presents..." with him apparently contributing some conceptual work (story, gameplay mechanics). Infogrames had set up this cooperation through François Marcela-Froideval (author of the extensive backstory novella in the Drakkhen manual) who worked with GG several years at TSR and co-wrote two AD&D rule books with him. There are several articles (in French) from July 1989 about it, e.g. here and here.

      Not sure why that fell apart - this contemporary French Drakkhen review says it appears Gygax had too much other work while two others (one in French, one in English) claim (or maybe just reported Infogrames had said) he at least still helped with writing the scenario.

      A cute little detail: When night falls in Drakkhen, the stars you see are not random. According to two articles (in French), probably relaying information from the developer team, they correspond to the sky of (the French city of) Troyes on a nice July night.

      Why did Infogrames publish it through Data East USA, Inc.? I don't know, but it seems the latter was an established company in the US by then and their new 'Draconian' label for fantasy-related games might just have been a good match at the time - several other Infogrames games like Kult (released in the US as Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess), Full Metal Planet, North & South or Alpha Waves (PC version called Continuum in North America) were also published through Data East in the US (according to mobygames).

      As for the sequel, originally a Drakkhen 2 was already announced by Infogrames in 1990 for the following spring and in development there through 1991 (now scheduled for an early 1992 release), see e.g. the detailed 'work in progress' reports with pictures in the French magazine Génération 4, numbers 35, 38 and 41. Infogrames foresaw to create several sequels with just a single player character, each focussing on one member of your original party and the respective person's destiny after the end of the first game - the first one being the warrior and that game designed rather as an "action-adventure" with "more combat, in a beat 'em up fashion". Besides PC and Amiga, also FM Towns and Super Famicom (SNES) versions were envisaged.

      These characteristics might explain how, after that project was cancelled, Super Drakkhen (Dragon View in North America), released in 1994, ended up being a SNES game with a single hero featuring side-scrolling combat next to a 3 D overworld.
      I'd guess it was implemented by Kotobuki because they had already done the SNES version of the original game.

  20. "If I can't figure it out, I'm going to have to turn this entry into a BRIEF until some help comes along."

    Why would you *have* to turn this into a BRIEF? To quote your FAQ, "I call an entry a BRIEF when I'm rejecting a game as an RPG, or when I can't play it more than a couple of hours because of a technical reason." I don't see any reason why this game would fail to satisfy your CRPG definition, and by now it would be quite a stretch to claim that it fits the second criterion. (I think the original idea was to give you a way to work around your "6 hours minimum" rule, but after playing for 9 hours that's clearly not an issue.)

  21. Only just now noticed the Addendum - is there a way to know when you edit an existing article (other than checking it, of course), especially with such larger addendums?

    "There's no boat--not in the city, despite an obvious dock where you'd think one would appear, nor outside."

    The manual says the boat you buy should be anchored outside the city. Have you checked the surroundings in both directions along the coast?

    If for whatever reason / bug it does indeed not show up, maybe just try walking a few coastal tiles on each side of the city and pressing "B" (for boarding/leaving a boat according to the manual) each time?

  22. In a video about this game by 'Le Fétiche Micro' that is no longer online, he had pointed out that Ubisoft used the exact same image for this game's box cover art as they did in an ad for another game of theirs released in the same year, Iron Lord, which in in turn obviously had a picture of Charlton Heston from the movie El Cid as its "inspiration", see e.g. here and here.

    Other times and limited markets, I guess... .


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