Currently playing: The incredible adventures of Van Helsing, Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession

April 22, 2017

Ravenloft - Strahd´s Possession - Trying to like it

I continued my quest in them game Strahd´s Possession. I found the village Bovaria. It turned out to be quite large with many, many houses to search. I thought I could just do them systematically but the awkward interface and the terrible graphics in fullscreen mode made it easy to miss exploring some building. Therefore I used the automap which is fully acceptable and you can also make notes on it. I put a X-sign on every house explored and marked places of certain interests.

There are day/night cycles in the game and especially at night the streets are more dangerous. I was attacked by several brigands/thieves which I had to fight off. Fortunately you could rest quite liberally except when in immediate danger. I must tell you that the combat system is really awkward. It plays out in realtime but the steering is terrible which makes it hard to turn around to face the enemies when they also tries to circle you. The combat is a click fest. At least you get information if you miss or hit and what damage you inflict or receive but other than that it is slow and cumbersome. Enemies don´t reveal their health status so you have no idea which in a group have already injured. Also, my figher turns out to be the worst member of the group. He hardly hit but receives most of the damage. The only way effective way to fight is to use my mages magic missiles and my priests flame blade. Since you also don´t get any loot or any visible experience points (I am sure I get it. I would just like to see it like a reward) fightning feels quite unneccessary. It is just a hinder. Enemies seems to wander around by random until they see you and then swarm you. We are all starting on level 6 so any immediate level ups are also not on the table at this stage.

Ok, apart from the boring fights, what happened in the town ?

    Map from the old Paladin
  • I met an old Paladin that had lost his amulet of faith and couldn´t live or die with that shame. He gave me a map where I would find a tree stump and asked me to take a pick from him and dig just west of the tree. There I would find a key leading down to the catacombs under the village. Somewhere there lies the amulet. 

I did all of this and it was quite interesting. The underground catacombs was pretty large filled with fireball traps, living walls and its evil denizens. I could only fight them with magic because my melee weapons did only 1 or 2 points of damage. I had to rest and rememorize my spells a lot down here. Eventually I found two important keys that unlocked some doors. Behind this I found the amulet. I was very lucky because one of the keys was hidden in a room only accessible through an illusionary wall which I just stumbled into. They are very hard to spot with this bad graphics at the fullscreen resolution. It took me 1,5 hour to go through this catacomb.

The automaps for the game are quite good

When I returned to the Paladin he opened a room with my reward. A Paladins sword and some armour. None of them was any better than my starting equipment so I got very dissappointed. I don´t know if they have some special properties or are magical which I cannot detect but the descriptions of their damage or or my armour class was not affected at all.

What lies ahead of me is to explore the rest of the houses. It would take a few hours because I have only begun to explore a few of them. I have decided to take help from an online site with the town already mapped out just to save some time.

Right now I struggle with giving up this game because I don´t feel any progression with my characters, weapons or anything and the interface is really terrible. It is slow and clumsy. To use a potion or an item I have to go to the inventory, select the item put it in my hand and then return to the main screen and press the hand. Still, the free roaming movement in the 3D-world is slow by using the numeric keypad on my keyboard.

Inside a building in the village

The music is very simple but it tries to be atmospheric. I found the music in Ultima Underworld much better. The game's strongest part is the interactions with NPC:s and that your partymembers actually comment things they see from time to time. That is a very good thing and not very common. It reminds me of Realms of Arkania and games like Blade of Destiny and Shadows over Riva. This is probably Strahd´s possessions strongest part right now.

I probably did a mistake by visiting the jeweller in the village. I had already been warned in a comment of my first post but never understood that it was this encounter until it was too late. The jeweller was an undead that demanded that I would slain his murderer who stole things from him a long time ago. This murderer could be found in the cemetary and is now some sort of undead lord. Until I have fulfilled my promise my soul are now possessed by the jeweler. I didn´t acutally find out until an hour or two later when I checked the status of my paladin. He was possessed it said. But I never understood what it meant......Until just some moments later when the ghost of the jeweller haunted me impatiently and said the undead lord still lives and he demanded me to go there or he would squeeze the life out of me. It was then I understood I had some sort of time limit before my Paladin would be lost.

What would YOU have done ?

I had to google this part up and it was obvious this is one the worst things you could do early on in the game. It is way too hard to fulfill that quest at this stage so my paladin is lost. I thought about quitting the game right here but decided to do one more try by reloading an old save and avoid this jeweller for now. I am glad I did because the game started to grow on me afterwards.

My next exploration in the village was the mansion and the village mayor. He was obviously a puppet for Strahd himself (the ruler of this land) and told me that Strahd had invited me and gave me an introduction letter. In the room he already had an elven guest and after we had spoke for awhile I recruited her to my group. It turned out she was a mage as well. I have no clue wether experience points is divided between the parytmembers or not so until that is confirmed, the more the better. 

After I had explored the mansion and picked up some scrolls in the library I was ready to accept the invitation to visit Strahd Zarovich. Now a cutscene took over showing the carriage taking me to Strahds castle. This is a nice touch in the game and all texts are spoken as well which adds much to the atmosphere.

Suddenly I was inside the gates at the castle. I could not explore it since guards where everwhere. The only way forward was to the dining hall where I med Strahd Zarovich for the first time. He was polite and told me in no uncertain terms that there is no way to leave these lands. However there was rumoured to exists some teleporters which he wanted me to investigate in the caves west of Barovia village and since he hadn´t the time himself and trusted us he gave us a key to enter those.

Then he invited us to a splendid dinner with the best wine of the country before letting the driverless carriage return us to the village. And here I was again. At least with a clear goal again. Now things started to get more interesting and I decided to head for the caves so we left the village through the western gate and entered a wilderness. We where immediately attacked by skeleton bats but this time I found that the easiest thing to fight anything in the game is to just clicking on them and all available weapons will attack in their order of readiness. Now the combats actually was managable and I could get rid of dozens of skeleton bats withouth much trouble.

The only interesting place in the wilderness was a house with a mage that had made it to his permanent residence. He was interested in joining us but since I already had my party at full strength I declined. Instead I found the entrance to the caves to the west but also a new NPC woman who was also in search of those caverns. She could also join us but I refused this time as well and decided to enter the caves with the key Strahd had given us. 

This underground cavern turned out to be huge and hard to navigate. Not only because it was filled will teleporters and disorienting squares but it was also filled of skeletons. Those where, however, easily disposed of but before I entered the main area yet another NPC showed up. A strong warrior who I decided to replace my first multiclass fighter/thief/mage aquaintance. If not only because I now didn´t have as much strugge in combat as before when I had to rely almost solely on magic. He was a fighter at level 7 and quite competent so he is with me for the time being.

Death comes often in this game
Attacking skeleton

I have to say that I end this post with a better understanding and a more positive view of the game than after my last post. Combat is more managable now and the story have developed. I also love the cutscenes and the dialogues with the NPC:s and from the group members. Those texts are really well written, like reading a fantasy book. 

This cave however is hard to navigate and all teleporters are not activated or functional while othere require keys. I haven´t found a single key yet and I have searched everywhere. My worst nightmare is if there are illusionary walls here because frankly, in a free roaming, slow moving game like this it would take ages to search the walls and that is just too boring and tedious with the little time I have to spare. I might look up a map of this place to help me out if I don´t find anything soon.

I would imagine that at the time in 1994 this game would be a really good RPG. Too bad the graphics is not coming to its best to be played in fullscreen. I sometimes play it in a very small window just to try to understand what I actually see on the screen.

I was very near to quit this game when I found out about the irreversible possession you get from the jeweller ghost. I had no motivation to reload an old save game. I even let my possessed character be killed in order to use a scroll of raise dead to see if I could get rid of the possession but with no success. Anyway, I am glad I did give it another chance so I could progress a little more in the story. Let´s see if the labyrinths and dungeons of the game will be the irritating part that will destory my progress.....


April 19, 2017

Revisited: Ravenloft - Strahd's Possession

GOG recently had a sale of old SSI games and I couldn´t resist buying a dozen old titles. Among them was Ravenloft: Strahds Possession. A game from 1994 which I had never played. At that time I still had my Amiga 1200 and so I missed out these great RPG titles that where released for the PC platform in the beginning of the 1990s.

Since it was a long time I revisited a real old-school RPG I thought this could be the moment for a comeback. I have no experience of the Ravenloft world at all. But it seems based on the AD&D rules of which I am very familiar with. 

The game begins with an introduction of a king that is robbed of an amulet and me and a companion are sent after the fleeing thief. But before that I have to create the two characters which is played out by a gypsie giving me cards with choices of gender, race and class. I can then reroll my stats until I am satisfied but to my astonishment I could also edit them to set any value I like. That seems very strange and it feels strange to spend time re-rolling (one of the traits we old gamers have) when I just could cheat. I will try to re-roll the best results I could get and I chooses a warrior and a priest. 

Character generation

I created a human figher and a human priest. I rerolled for 10 minutes until I got satisfied with the results. It turns out you start at level 6 already. That was a dissappointment because this is the first in the Ravenloft series and it will take them to raise a level. 

Now, we started just outside a wood and in the far distance we could see the thief. First I checked that all my weapons and armours were properly weared and the we run to the thief and a fight begun which we won quite easily. He dropped a few items, amongst them the amulet but also a parchment.

 The parchment suggested that the amulet was vital in order to defeat the vampire Strahd that seems to live in the castle Ravenloft. Just after reading this a mist formed around us and we were suddenly brought to another part of the world. There we could never leave the boundaries of the mist so we had to explore the way forward and soon came to small walled compound. In there we found another document but also a ladder leading down to an underground cellar. It was empy of denizens and we found a few healing potions and an armour. I never found any hidden passages so we had to return above again and leave this walled place. It was then we where attacked by worgs. 

The mist that surrounded us in the woods

Fights are done in realtime and I have to click on the weapons as quickly as they regain their coolness period. It was not too hard to kill a single worg but this place was full of them and also of goblinlike creatures which was very hard to kill. I had to reload at least once until switched tactic and decided to run through all encounters. That led us to some remain that we plundered of a few healing potions before coming to a walled maze of plants. Here I was overtaken by three brigands which I only hardly defeated before saving the game once again.

Exploring the underground cellar

Thank god there is an automap in the game
 The forested area I was in was called a road according to the sign. I explored this road southward and after having fighted some other bats, brigands and worgs - and rested in between. I came to some sort of fort or castle with double doors impossible to open. I had to explore the surroundings which was a forest but nothing of interst laid there. I returned to explore north and was ambushed by three brigands. After a tough fight where I was about to die the survivor yielded to me.

I let him go because i had so little health left and he told me how to get to their camp. When he was gone I continued my exploration northward. I had still to find any items. I have the same weapons and gold as in the start so it seems it will be hard to get items in this game. The creatures does not give you any loot, neither can you see their health bars when fightning.

After awhile I found a man who told med that Strahd is a good leader and that he is no king. He also sells a potion with which I could pass the inpenetrable mists at the borders. He would stay at a village farther north if I ever got the golds required. At least I had a goal. To reach the village and find out more. On my way there I walked upon a woman who clearly was only interested in gold or how to get it. I thought she was a thief first and after some conversation I recruited her to my group so we are three now. It turned out she was a thief/warrior/mage. Any help at this stage is good help. 

I reached the village and it turned out to bee quite large. I begun to explore house by house since  I didn´t find any visible inhabitants. I could enter any building but I never met anyone who wanted to speka to me. Meanwhile this background music is playing its horror themes in my earphones. The quality is what could be expected from this time but at least there are digitized voices of the NPC:s which is a nice touch. 

 I don´t know what to make of this game so far. I cannot say I am overwhelmed by the game, its graphics or interface (which is a bit clumsy to say the least). But I have read only good reviews of this game so I will give it a chance. What I do like is that you r characters are commenting on things seen or happening which adds to the story and atmosphere. I have no sense of progressiong right now. Since I am already at level 6 it feels quite unneccessary to combat these random encounters since I would need so much experience points to gain a level and they never carry any loot anyway.

Let´s see how this game evolved during the next hours....