Monday, May 13, 2024

Centauri Alliance: Fist of Legend

The galaxy and its travel routes.

Unable to fix my problem with the Commodore 64 version, I restarted with the Apple II version and did not have the same problem. I made a new party with the same classes but different names. After loading up at the inventory shop, I decided to head out without grinding.
The starport at Lunabase had flights to Chronum, Epsilon Indi, and Veladron II. I wasted a bunch of time visiting each system (fortunately, flights do not cost any money) and making my own galaxy map before I remembered that the game had come with a map.
One of these is real, and it's not the one I would have expected.
I could get to all of the systems except for Kappa Var, which is "off limits due to civil uprisings." A member of the High Council named Renfrew signed the order. I assume I'll have to find a way to countermand it eventually.
At the Alliance Headquarters on Omicron, I got my first mission: investigate local smuggler activity "connected with the Daynab invasion." This isn't quite what the backstory told me (assassinate a Donsai mercenary captain who has been selling secrets to the Daynabs), but I suppose it relates.
Why is this man speaking to me in sentence fragments?
I set out mapping the 16 x 16 map of Omicron VII. The headquarters, starport, armory, and medical bay are all in the same section. The rest of the map is mostly empty. Before long, I had enough experience points to level up. The game tracks experience points by counting down from the number you need for the next level, which in some ways is nice, except that if you hit 0, any further combats are wasted until you level up. Unable to find a training academy on Omicron VII, I took a shuttle back to Lunabase and leveled up there, a process I repeated several times during this session. It's rather annoying. I also settled on the system of giving each character a point in his primary skill on even levels and other useful skills on odd levels. 
My map of Omicron VII. The unused areas annoy me, but I tested for secret doors.
As I mentioned last time, one of the game's oddities is that you don't get money from regular combats (although you can find equipment that you can sell). Instead, you get a salary when you level up. I soon had enough money for combat armor for all characters. I haven't investigated different sidearms yet since the 9mm options (Berettas and Uzis) work just fine and use interchangeable ammunition. I also experimented with shield belts, which are limited use items that add to your "Shield" score every time they're used, somewhat like the "Shield" spell in The Magic Candle games. You don't lose hit points until the shield value is depleted. 
The southwest corner of Omicron has a door with a sign that says: "Trader Drake's. No public admittance. Intruders will be severely punished." Beyond it is a series of 1 x 1 rooms leading to a stairway down. I eventually took this path and found myself in a new area of different textures. As I moved forward, I tripped some kind of alarm.
That's a bit of a cliche.
Despite the warning, I didn't encounter many battles on the level. The few that I fought had slightly different enemies than in the spaceport, but not harder. Enemies in this game are original to the game, and thus you have to learn about them slowly, taking careful notes lest you confuse Sandralks and Skarvaks or Hydraens and Hydraen Lions. There are also plenty of generic androids, mercenaries, slavers, smugglers, and warriors. The most annoying enemy so far has been the Skarvak, who has the ability to summon a new creature every round, although the party gets a chance to "disbelieve" it. Hydraens and their lions are also to be avoided as they have a breath attack. 
A Skarvak creates an illusory monster.
Health does not restore automatically, and there is no way to sleep or rest in the game. If you want to heal, you either have to visit the medical bay and pay for healing, find a Healing Pill (these have been rare so far), or cast healing spells. Fortunately, psionic points do regenerate, at a rate of 1 every 30 seconds at 100% speed. I've been running at 200%, but I figure that means I fight random battles more often, so it all evens out.
The area below the Omicron spaceport had two levels. On the first, I found the aforementioned Trader Drake's, a black market shop with better stuff than spaceport armories. I bought a Balrog Blade, the best melee weapon I've found so far, and riot helmets for all my characters. I exchanged my combat armor for "Berserker Frames," which seem to be a combination of armor and shield belts; that is, they offer some inherent protection but also have a limited number of uses in which they increase your "Shield" value. I upgraded my human's Uzi to a Viking 9mm, but I left most of my other characters with Berettas because they have a range of 4 hexes to the Uzi/Viking's 2.
I love that he seems to be posing for a photo.
As I explored the mostly-empty level, I started to miss the messages scrawled on the walls in The Bard's Tale. I eventually encountered two, although described more organically (and thus realistically) here than in those early 1980s games:
  • A filing room with a stack of papers. One of them says: "This base has withstood both ALLIANCE and DAYNAB intrusion. Info code: FRACYTR." I'm not sure what to make of it. It doesn't sound like it's referring to Omicron VII, which is owned by the Alliance.
  • Scratched into the wall of a prison cell: "Captain Erkhardt, Alliance forces. Daynab clearance is Vindicate. All I could find before captured."
Moving down to the second level, we almost immediately ran across a "strange mechanoid" with the numbers on its chest. The game gave me a chance to input a number. There turned out to be five of these encounters on the level, and I'm happy to say that I got all the (fairly easy) number sequence puzzles correct. After each correct answer, the robot powered down, and I was able to take a treasure that it guarded. The sequences were:
  • 2-4-16
  • 32-16-8
  • 1-4-7
  • 10-7-4
  • 4-12-36
Who do we appreciate?
The first one could have a couple of interpretations, but I chose the correct one (each number squares the one before). The treasures that they gave up were five pieces of a hand, each labeled "Fractyr"--specifically, Fractyr Finger 1, Fractyr Finger 2, Fractyr Finger 3, Fractyr Pinky, and Fractyr Thumb.
I don't know what to make of them, but a computer on the same level gave a clue. It gave me a chance to put in a codeword, and I chose FRACTYR. "The Palm is on Andrini," it said. "The 5 fingers are currently under guard on Omicron. Sources indicate that the Fist has been damaged and cannot function at full power." It then took me a while to get out of the computer interface because it kept asking me for keywords. No key would exit the interface, and neither did obvious words like QUIT or BYE, until I finally got it with EXIT.
I'm glad there was no password protection on this computer.
I realized later that the manual mentions the "Fractyr Fist," and I just forgot. It's an artifact of an ancient race that can devastate enemy armies with "sonic blasts and crushing blows." It was "used to decisively affect the outcome of the Bernard Conflict" a couple hundred years ago, at which point it was broken and lost. "The enemy's interest in the Fist is obvious," the report concludes. "A functional artifact of its caliber would do much to aid their cause." You know what else would do a good job with sonic blasts and crushing blows? A bomb. This is one of many situations in which I feel the game forgets its genre. That I'm fighting enemies with a "Balrog Blade" is another.

Either way, there wasn't anything else to do in the dungeons, and I was at 0 needed experience, so I headed back up to the surface, fleeing from as many battles as I could along the way.

Back at the starport, the Alliance headquarters didn't acknowledge that I'd done or found anything. I was hoping they'd take the five pieces off my hands so I wouldn't have to clutter my inventory with them. Every character only gets 8 spaces, so these pieces are taking up 10% of my available space.
I guess I'm off to Andrini next. I had hoped to get further with the game this session, but it's a bit slow-going, particularly with the battles, and I had a busy week. I think I might forgo manual mapping in the future and just take screenshots of the automap, perhaps with a few annotations.
Time so far: 5 hours
Playing out of: Still duty. This game would be acceptable as one's only game for a while, but it doesn't offer much in comparison to its peers.


  1. I love it! All characters are appropriately Centauri... now we just need a god mode where you can play a party of Vorlons. All named Kosh of course.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousMay 13, 2024 at 2:16 PM

      Yes, I love it!

      (Was it ever established whether the Centauri could see the Vorlons? I recall that Londo claimed to have seen nothing... Anyway, these days I fear the Centauri may be worshiping a different, darker sort of god!)

    2. I think that Londo specifically couldn't see Kosh because he was in league with the Shadows at that time in the series, not because he was Centauri. I have to go back and watch, but I think Vir could see Kosh and Londo knew something was there, but did not see the angelic being of light the others saw.

    3. Vir wasn't in the garden in The Fall of Night; we don't know what he would've seen. To my recollection, this thread was never further addressed in B5. The dialog in the show and JMS's comments strongly *suggest* that no Centauri could see a Vorlon when they were projecting their perception filters, because the Centauri were never visited by the Vorlons in that way and have no referent to apply there.

  2. Sonic blasts are famously very effective in space.

    1. Lol. Also, the balrog famously wields a blade.

    2. In space, no one can hear you blast (unless it's Star Wars).

    3. I didn't even think of that! Maybe you can use the sonar from Wing Commander (the film) to find your enemy too.

  3. Best kung fu movie I've ever seen - nice shout out Chestron!

  4. AlphabeticalAnonymousMay 13, 2024 at 2:16 PM

    When I saw the 'galaxy map' as the first image in this post, I couldn't scroll past until I'd figured which location names are currently-valid names, and which not... only to find that the very next figure caption referred to the same issue! Though maybe Kevner's World, Port Minkar, and Gamma Base are already out there, just waiting to be appropriately named.

    Re. "disbelieving" summoned monsters: this reminded me of the recent play-throughs of "Chaos" by the Wargaming Scribe and Data-Driven Gamer -- the game has a very similar mechanic. Or is this specific terminology more frequent in gaming circles than I'm aware of?

    1. It's part of the illusion rules in DnD (I believe it goes back to at least AD&D 1e), which given its omnipresence I'm pretty sure would have to be the original source for all of these uses of the mechanic.

    2. I was thinking the same thing

    3. It was a thing in Bards Tale.

    4. And in Wizardry, although you had to choose it deliberately, whereas here it happens automatically.

  5. I think you miss the most obvious part with the Fist description: it was obviously much more complex than the way it was used during the war, but nobody figured out what else it could do, because it vanished off the market:

    >The power of the Fist was never truly measured. As a combat device, it was incredible, vanquishing thousands with sonic blasts and crushing blows. Built into the palm and wrist guard was a high-level computer matrix and energy network. It other abilities remain unknown.

  6. Regarding bombs: some SciFi universe restrict the use of nuclear weapons either through chain reaction suppressors (or, in some cases, chain reaction catalysts), or advanced shields that work on high energy particles. It is also not uncommon to have things that work specifically on beam weapons (as alluded in the manual, which refers to non-energy missions), and things that work specifically on essentially bullets, leaving a niche for stuff like vibroblades, nanoblades, zero thickness force fields, plasma cutters, and other stuff that is your typical sword in anything but name.

    Generally, a trifecta of damage types like "blade/energy/projectile", similar to the description of Duro-fabric suit, is your typical way of balancing sci-fi combat, just like "elemental magic" became a staple of fantasy settings.

  7. "I love that he seems to be posing for a photo." That's totally CCTV, he's posing for his own security camera.

  8. "As a combat device, it was incredible, vanquishing thousands with sonic blasts and crushing blows. Built into the palm and wrist guard..."
    Looks like "Dune" 1984 reference to me.

    1. Seems to be lots of SF and Fantasy references in this game, like Kappa Var (Poul Anderson's "Cappen Varra"?) and Donsai (Gordon Dickson's "Dorsai"?).

    2. Drake might be a reference to David Drake and, this one's a stretch the Hydraens to the Hydrans from Starfleet Battles.

    3. @Morpheus:
      That might not be a stretch considering Starfleet Battles plays on a hex map (at least the TT version does).

    4. An enormous number of TT games used a hex map. That's not really support for anything.

  9. "No key would exit the interface, and neither did obvious words like QUIT or BYE, until I finally got it with EXIT."

    Ah, they've added a Vim simulator to this game!

  10. I am amused that you ended playing a minor Bard's Tales derivative before playing BT2, but this one is probably more fun - and better to read it about. I liked it.

    "I think I might forgo manual mapping in the future and just take screenshots of the automap, perhaps with a few annotations.
    The situation is dire!

  11. The blah corridors and wonky fighting on the hex field is what did it for me. I didn't even get off the first map and it was just the map when fighting was neat and then the whole novelty wore off. Then it was, like i said, blah. Not bad, just very milquetoast in presentation and approach, in my opinion.

  12. Why on earth has every letter on the Atari screen orange and blue shades?

    1. Side effect of the way the hi-res graphics worked on the Apple II.


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