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

September 5, 2012

Legend of Faerghail - The Dwarven Mines

Last time I was just about to enter the dwarven mines in the west. We went below and the first thing that struck me was that I only faintly could see the contours of the mine. Ahh...of course I needed light. My sorcerer got the honour of casting a light spell and then everything was like daylight. You could also use a torch or a lantern. What I like about the latter cases is that the light gradually darkens until it is almost pitched black when it burns out.

However, before going on I will tell you a little about the combat in this game. As an example I have a fight from the wilderness. I met 5 deers. Normally they are neutral and will not attack you unless provoked so I have to draw weapons first.

Killing them will not be my most heroic act
You could meet up to three rows (ranks) of enemies at the same time with a maximum of 6 foes per rank. The tactical layout is showned in the left corner with the enemies at the top. Your own party could be set into four different ranks. The further forward you are the better attack value you get but also lesser defense. I always have my paladin and smith in the front, with my priest just behind. In the retreat rank I have my three mages. They could still use melee weapons. They don´t hit as often but are more protected which is a neccessity due to the low hitpoints they have.
When meeting creatures you are given the option to attack them, greet them, talk to them or withdraw. If you choose to withdraw you are back at the same spot as before with the group of creatures just in you vicinity (at least down in the dungeons). If you talk to them you have to choose which person will do the talking, taking into account which languages you have learnt. You could either parley about withdrawal or trade with them (obviously this only works for humanoids). I am not sure what the greeting could lead to. Perhaps that is the way to recruit a creature which is not possible in my party for the time being.
I choosed to attack them....
The round overview is very userfriendly
You get an overview of your party with their previous choosen action preselected. We could see that my mage Canthia is defending. I suppose that increases her chance of avoiding being hit while Kulzak, my smith, is casting a spell. The rest attacks. The second column indicates which rank (row) the current party members are placed in (KIL = Killing rank). The arrow point to 1, I guess 1 means which rank of the enemy you are attacking should it be several. You could press the corresponding number key for you character and immediately change the action if you regret anything.
You could now either execute the combat round by choosing Attack or make the computer calculate the full round for each individual and give you a summary. When the foes are easy to defeat I usually use Quick Combat. It will be over in 10 seconds or so. But for now I attack normally.
The initiative is determined by your dexterity. Now each individual carries out its orders as seen below. If you miss you might damage your weapon in the foes armour/skin. When you are hit your armour could be damaged as well.
When you gain levels you could hit more than once in a round
If something breaks you will be told
When each and everyone has had their action the round is over and you are given a very informative summary that tells you which succeeded/failed in their choosen action any hitpoints lost, as well as if someone has had their weapon or armour damaged. Then the combat repeats itself from the beginning. When all foes are dead you get a summary of the combat as a whole as showned below.
It shows that we got no gold, but 5 rations each for the deers. Each individual gets XP based on his performance. Characters that don´t cast spells or miss their targets gains nothing. My only loss this combat was 2 hitpoints for my healer Canthia.
Foes could run from combat and you could withdraw in the middle of combat. You will still get the XP for the damage you have dealt. That makes this combat system far more flexible than Bard´s Tale or any other similar game in my opinion. It is smooth and quick and you could use the quick combat for the lesser foes.
Back to my group in the mines....
We went ahead with the intention of finding chests to loot and new monsters that would give more XP while not being too difficult to defeat. Also, we where on the lookout for clues as to what is happening in the kingdom. As I said in my previous post, in the beginning you are very weak and must choose your fights carefully. The first level is full of dwarves, goblins and lesser animals like rats, bats and spiders.

You need all the gold you can find in order to pay for your training

The major difference in the mines apart from the wilderness is that here you are given descriptions of rooms, halls and certain places. The texts are quite elaborate and not without humour. It really adds to the atmosphere and prevent the game from feeling so empty like Bard´s Tale did.

Now, the first thing you will notice is the silhouettes of white ghosts down here. They symbolise groups of living creatures, friendly or foe. That means you always know where and when you will encounter them but they still move if you don´t so nothing is turnbased except for the combat. And if you defeat them they will be removed for as long as you remain in the same level. A perfect way of handling the constant random encounter problem in my view.
In order to save time I used my previous drawn map of the first level of the mines. Encounters are pretty frequent depending on where you go but unless you either defeat them or drop a bait they will continue to harass you if you stay around. If you withdraw from combat the same foes will still be around harassing you. I like that. The monster types are fixed for each level. You won´t encounter tougher opponents until further down in the mines.
Naturally dwarves was very frequent down here but I tried to avoid fighting them unless I had to. I was more eager to defeat goblins, orcs or other animals living down here. They don´t give much XP though but if nothing else, they give me some gold, perhaps some equipment and rations.

You need rations to be able to rest and recuperate and the blacksmith needs rations during the time it takes to repair your equipment. I have never, ever felt that I lack rations. It is so easy to get by if you kill some animals or other monsters. That part of the game is really not an issue. At least not here. Rations also takes valuable weight from your carrying capacity so you could exchange them to other members if you need too.
While exploring level #1 of the mines we came across furnaces, stores, dwarven blacksmiths, living rooms and a lot of other minor places. You are frequently given information of what you see. Not far from the entrance I found a shimmering ball that lied hidden in a corner. It turned out to be a crystal ball, that when used, showed an automap. You could not make any notes, nor do you see any special places marked, but you see where you are in relation to the whole level and you could scroll it with the arrow keys. It will not replace making your own maps though but will definetely help you with them. The poor thing is that if you leave the complex the crystal ball will erase your previously visited areas. Making your own maps is still mandatory in my opinion. There are no teleporters or spinners in this game so doing maps is quite easy.
Using the Crystal Ball you get a simple automap
After some time and exploration I found stairs that led down to level 2 and later on to level 3. Some reflections about my experiences in the dwarven mines:
  • In the southeast corner of Level #2 I had the opportunity to rent a spade for 20 gold. I had just prior to that found a place not far away which was collapsed with the added description that "...a pathway through it seems to be impossible". I bought the spade and returned to the collapsed place and used it there.

I was very glad I did because just a few steps behind the collapsed section I found a Shaolinstaff depicting a dragons face amongst the remains of its previous owner. Not all of my party members could use it, but one of my mages could so I gave it to him to replace his quarterstaff.

Wow! A special fighting staff.....

  • At some part in the mines I met an imprisoned creature that I had the option of releasing. When I did he told me the first interesting thing about the overall mission, "In order to kill Balaan you will need weapons and armour that bear a very special emblem." Hmm...that says quite much. I now know who to kill and what I will need. Where and why is so far unexplained but I will remember what the creature said.

  • At level 2 of the mines I found a Steelkey. It will be important to something but to what I don´t know yet. Eventually I also found a copperkey on level #4.

  • At the third level of the mines I found a room full of chests and sacks. While looking through them I found a very special item, gunpowder! This is an essential item in the game because with it you can destroy a section of wall and thereby find new ways if you get stuck or hidden places. Not just in the mines, but everywhere in the game. In fact, I think that without it, it will be difficult to solve the game. But let me return to that statement later on because right now I have no intention of using it. There is only one piece of it. I did however try it out on a few sections which had enough space to potentially hold new rooms and right in the northern wall in the room I found the gunpowder I could blow up the wall that opened up a corridor that led to half a dozen chests full of gold. Naturally, I reloaded at this stage since you only have one use for it, but it is just an example of how many potentially hidden things exists in the game.

This is one of the most important items in the game. It will be obvious later on....
Deep down at level #4 in the south part I met a creature giving me a riddle in order to proceed. I remember the answer from 20 years ago though I am not sure I figured it out myselves then, but the  answer is plough. You are then let pass to a portal in which you have to use the amulet given to you at the start of the game. That transports you back up to the first level so all this is just a shortcut.
One last note is a dwarf I met that said "Are there no greetings unto another, you ignorants!?". He seemingly waits for an answer. I have yet to figure that out.  It was around this time I noticed that my enter key didn´t work since I was playing a simulated A1200 with kickstart 3.1 on WinUae. I will return to him later on.
After having filled our pockets full of items, looting chests and fighting monsters I made it back to the inn to sell my stuff and train my characters. After about two or three visits back to the mines I was ready to enter level 3 for all of my party members. The problem was not that I lacked XP to train, but gold to pay for it! I therefore had to go back deep into the mines to plunder the chests again. Already at level two, combat begun to feel easier since my weak mages would not die as quickly.

One drawback about the game is that you could return to a complex and all chests and items will still be there on your next visit. That is not valid when you move through the levels of the same complex. Only if you exit to - say the wilderness - and then return. You could thereby cheat by running in and out to get the most valuable items several times. It is a pity that is possible but on the other hand it secures that you will never get stuck because you have lost an important item. I will return to this point when I have finished the game to really know how much it affects the challenge.

During one of my first revisits to the town I decided to get rid of my thief. He is utterly useless at this stage. He more often than not miss his opponents and fails in stalking during combat (he is discovered while creeping). I have not found an immediate need for him. The traps we have sprung upon in the mines give us damage but we could always stay and rest for awhile. There are no doors or locked chests that needs the thief. Actually I don´t think there are any locked chests at all in the game as far as I remember.

Always make sure you have one watching your sleeping comrades
So I ditched him for an Illusionist. That spellcaster has some very interesting spells later on. My thought was to put the thief on rest and then take him back later on to give him some quick level advances when I needed him. With my new female illusionist Evaine we returned to the mines a few more times to give her proper XP. When I returned to the town she was also trained to level 3.
I still have things to explore in the mines but I think we might be strong enough to visit the Dragon Temple at the south of the town. Tougher opponents means more XP and that is just what we need at level 3.
So far I am content with my group. My paladin manage to hit twice in combat now and then and my spellcasters are getting more powerful spells that affects the whole rank of an enemy party like the spell Mud that makes them move slower. The blacksmith is a must. My cleric and healer are the only ones that haven´t proved themselves yet. Perhaps when better spells gets available. The priest is so-so in melee fights.
Even though I have played this game before I am still having much fun with it. The excitement of returning to the town to train to a new level and get new spells is very, very strong. Combat is still fun when you meet tough opponents and progress are generally going fast, much because I have 75% of the maps intact. If I where to play this for the first time drawing the maps it would be even more fun.
It is with good spirits I will take my party to visit the Dragon Temple now.....

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff... I may have to play this one again soon.