Currently playing: Icewind Dale 2, Demonicum

July 28, 2013

Two year anniversary and next games thought of

This is the 2 year anniversal for my blog. 15 games has been reviewed and a few others revisited. The number of pageviews has increased to over 60.000 but there are certain spam sites that help up these figures tremendously so I don´t trust the statistics entirely. 

The number of comments last year has rised from 217 to 373 and my articles from 86 to 133.

My visitors are coming mainly from US, Germany, UK and Sweden and Firefox is by far the most popular reader. 7-8 % of the readers use their mobile phones or tablets.

I am still inclined to visit both old commercial CRPGs and new indie RPGs with heavy influence from CRPGs. I believe the indie developers need as much exposure as they can get.

So my next games up are either Swords & Sorcery - Underworld or Dark Disciples 2. I don´t know yet what it will be since I still have to complete Dragon Age 2 first.

Dark Disciples 1 - Review




Game reviewed: Dark Disciples
Designed by: DodgySoft
Created by: Laurens Lafebre
Released: 2004
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 8/10
Est. Playing time: 20 hours
Freeware

This game was really a hidden gem. I have played it every day since I first started at first opportunity. My interest in the game held all the way to the end. Very few games keep my interests all the way through, often becoming a chore to complete.


Gameworld & Story
The gameworld are pretty big with at least 5 major regions, each containing several maps and lots of underground places. The maps are all regular but subterranean levels could be very irregular, although never larger than the standard mapsize. The world is filled a wide a variety of climate regions like forests, swamps, lakes, rivers, snow landscapes, mountains, deserts etc. The gameworld are well populated with interesting places and npcs. You never feel you are travelling vast empty spaces.

I like the mainstory. It is simple, yet quite original. You have a debt to pay for your dead father, otherwise you and your mother will be executed. First you have to build up strength to be able to reach the capital. There you first have gain experience enough to be able to undertake the missions Saradin will send you to. For each mission, your debt will be reduced. There is no other way to complete the game other than complete the missions.

Rating: 2.5

Economy
Economy is very well balanced in the game. At least until the last module. It was there I begun to feel I was slowly becoming rich. But on the other hand I have really tried not to buy a lot of potions which would have drained my economy.

Merchants will gradually improve their stocks depending on where you are in the game. But each and everyone will always have the same amount of stock. Except for the beginning, all good weapons, armours and rings are found in the game rather than bought. It is a little pity you don´t have really expensive items you could long for at the shops.

You mostly increase your money by finding gold but you could also sell off items for 1/10th of its value. That takes valuable inventory space though and for me only a small part of my fortune came from selling items. All the way through I felt I just had enough money to survive but never enough to feel indifferent of it.

There are quite many items in the game. There are easily at least 30 weapons, a few dozen armours and several levels of helms, gauntlets and boots. Add to that a lot of different rings and magical wands.

Rating: 3.5

NPC & Interactions
All NPCs are stationary. They never walk around like monsters do for example. You initiate dialogue by going into them. You mostly have several dialogue options and the scripts are well written and mostly logial and realistic. What and how you say something could either be solved by reinitiating dialouge or does not have any longrun effect.

Rating: 2

Monster, tactics & combat system
There are quite a number of different monsters and foes in this game. Each region has its own fauna. Most monsters take up one square just as yourself but there are some that are 2 or 4 squares as well. You could use that to your advantage by fleeing through small corridors or using the furniture to navigate away from them. When they spot you (as soon as you spot them) they will move towards you in the shortest possible way. It is possible to run from them even  if they are only one square from you if you navigate around some objects.

Monsters don´t have any morale and so fights to the death. Ranged attacks are not supported in the game unless you count using magic and wands. Monsters do have special attacks that could cause fire, acid, cold or electical damage though, as well as poisioning and disease. If you get hurt enough you could also sustain an injury which makes you even more vulnerable and powerless.

The combat system is extremely simple. Your attributes and weapons totally decides your chances to hit and what damage are inflicted. During fights you could always use items like potions from your pack without loosing your turn. That is very important to make use of since you can only rest and heal yourself back in a town or safe have - oftan far away from where you are. Fortunately moving in this game is very quickly and lessens the frustration to get back to heal and then return. Monsters still have their earlier injuries when you return and that is one way of slowly taking down harder enemies. The other way is to buy enough for healing potions but they will be quite expensive for at least the first half of the game when you seldom have more than 2.000 gold to spend.

There are no random encounters at all in the game. Once you´ve cleared an area it is cleared. That is mostly a good  thing but it also means you don´t have any place in which you can grind and get more experience. And when talking about experience points. Weak monsters don´t give you any experience at all if your combat rating is way higher than theirs.

Overall, I like the combat system. It is quick and easy, yet allows for some housekeeping of your resources. 

Rating: 2.5

Magic System
The magic in this game is very simple. You don´t learn or know spells but cast spells from scrolls you find if your intellect is high enough. In the same way you use wands until you run out of charges. There is no way to recharge an item and you will need enough mana potions to be able to use several wands with you. I found that even If I plaed a warrior type I was in the end dependet of having invested at least 15 in intellect to use the weakest wands. Some enemies just don´t take damage from melee and it helped med tremendously to use wands.

Rating: 1.5

Character generation & development
When you first create your character you have a pool of attribute points you can distribute as you wish. You also pick your alignment but I have never found any use of it.

You gain levels in this game by visiting a trainer and paying gradually more and more for each level. Each level then gives you +1 combat skill, + 2 hitpoints, mana and stamina as well as +2 attribute points you could freely choose to spend anytime you want. I found out that it was smart for me to save them until I needed them to solve a certain obstacle (climb/bash).

The effect of gaining a level is really noteworthy. I think that mostly has to do with the increase in the combat skill that are used as a comparator against enemies to determine you hitchance. The rating in which you raise a level is very balanced in the game and works very well. But that is also the only thing that has with character development to do.

I find perception to weak to invest in, even though I have had seen it find secret doors for me. That is because I try going into all walls anyway. I would suggest trying to build up your intellect to at least 15 in the middle game before raising your strengths further. It will become helpful.

The system works very well but since it is so simplistic I cannot give more than 2 out of 5 in rating.

Rating: 2

Map design
I like all maps in the game. They are done with thought and even though you know how large each map potentially is, there are areas that use only a fraction of the potential space (natural caverns for example) which means you don´t really know if you miss out something. By looking at your automap you could figure out potential places for secret doors if you believe the whole map will be used. The maps are also very varied and well thought out.

Rating: 3

Manual
The manual is well written but not very thick. It includes the most important elements of how to  play the game.

Rating: 2.5

Graphics, sound and interface
Graphics in the game is very simple with no animations at all. It reminds me of an early Ultima game. But after a few hours I have forgotten about it and are immersed in the game itself.

Soundeffects are also quite poor but functional. The highlight is the music which do have some nice, catchy tunes and are made by Bjorn Lynne.

The interface is clear, fast and functional and works very well.

Rating: 2

Gameplay
I had a lot of fun with this game. I played this game at every possibility in front of my computer from start to finish without never tire of it. It is a great first game from the developer and the best of all is that it is freeware. The sequel improve on most parts of this game and I plan to play it further on but I think I need something inbetween first.

So what is the hooking points of the game ? It is well balanced with quite tough default difficulty level which means you feel great accomplishments when you do progress. You gradually, but sparsely, get access to better weapons and equipment. You have limited gold which stays that way almost to the end which forces you to household on both your expenditures but also on how much of the potions you find you will use and when. I haven´t found any bugs in the game at all.

The game also includes a lot of puzzles and obstacles. With puzzles I mean things like riddles, secret doors, problem solving mechanisms (light beam puzzle, levers, traps etc). You could often solve problems in more than one way. It could be monsters that are too tough for you which you could lead away, kill under a grate or lock into a room. Or it could be your pure strength that allows you to bypass a puzzle by bashing a weak wall to get around it for example. I love these things.

The world is quite open and you could choose in which order you will do missions in each region but to unlock other regions you normally have to solve the hardest quest which often means you must be powerful enough. I think this system is a good compromise.

I must also say that its simplicity also add to its strength. It is so easy to get into and you never feel overwhelmed with information or boring long texts that could hinder your progress. The length of the game was just enough also. I would probably do less progress if it would be twice as big.

Rating: 4



Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2.5
Economy
3.5
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2.5
Magic system
1.5
Character generation & development
2
Map design
3
Manual
2.5
Graphics, Sound and Interface
2
Summary CRPG value
21.5


Gameplay
4



July 26, 2013

Dark Disciples 1 - Won!

Phew! This last major mission was by far the hardest so far in the game. Not just the foes encountered but the puzzles as well. 

The last major mission module took me to a land much like our ancient Egypt with pyramids and buried pharaos and much of the mythology that comes with it. The current ruler wanted me to seek out four ankhs that was buried in different locations in his land. But I am getting ahead of myself here. 

It really started out with a long ship voyage in which I was aboard, waiting to reach the land of the pharaos. Onboard the ship I had too solve a ghost mystery, witness pirates attack, make a hard escape only to find my drifting alone in a lifeboat in the end. 



It was then help came unexpected from a seacreature that took me down to an underwater city and cast a magic spell on me so that I could breathe down there. In order to thank him for rescuing me I put myself to the councils disposition and helped them out to find out what had happend to a defected council member thought of as a traitor since he seemed to have used his knowledge to turn neutral creatures against the small community. It was an ordinary city with inns, temples and shops and with that as a base I begun to undertake not only the councils mission but other small missions as well. After a few hours I had solved it all. The alleged traitor was in fact held prisoner and was forced to reveal his secrets. That secret was used against the council. While he did reveal how to counter the effects, he preferred not to return. With the council happy of my help they allowed me to leave to the surface world again where I was stranded on an island not far from my goal.

On the island I had to solve a puzzle and then wait for a dragonrider to come by and pick me up for the rest of my journey. After some sleep she arrived and finally got me to the land of the Pharaos. The Pharao wanted me to find four ankhs that was buried at different places in his land, all protected by traps or clever obstacles.


I´ve just entered the tempel and already found a trap ahead

When leaving the palace I was approached by a spy sent from my employer that told me that I should not return the anks to the Pharao because he will betray me. Instead I should deliver them to my employer instead. 

Well, first I need to find them and so I set out to discover the entrances to them. This egyptian world spanned two overland maps and at least 4 different subterranean with several levels. I found a smith that could assemble my three parts I´ve found for a doomaxe that made 45 points of damage. I felt invincible but that soon led to some dissappointment since most foes are very strong and hard to beat here. 

I am supposed to shrink in order to get through the small passage
but I never solved how to use the device

I soon found all places and begun to explore them one at a time. Sooner or later I was stuck in each of them since there are a lot of puzzles to solve. I either need items I´ve not yet found, or know about passwords that I´ve had no clue about. One of the challenges was to solve a lightning beam puzzle by redirecting lights through different gems yielding different colors. The right color should then struck the wall section with just that color. Eventually new hidden passageways was opened but I have to admit I had to look into the hints book for this.

Here I am redirecting a lightbeam using a yellow
gemstone (diamond) to hit a yellow wall section

I also got stuck on a riddle I couldn´t solve and had to google for an answer for that one as well. I would say there are dozens of major or small puzzles one must solve and most of them I managed but I did have to cheat a bit for not getting stuck completely. At one place I had to get past four invincible creepers. They could not be damaged in any way. I had to lead them after me and trying to lock them into different rooms by closing the doors behind me. 


One of the most helpful potions in the game is the potion of dissapperance. With that you could move around 20 steps without the enemies seeing you. The potion is expensive and hard to come by and could not be bought anywhere. But it helped me pass very difficult areas. Also, I found out that I had to invest in intellect to use the less powerful magical wands. It was the only way for me to kill or hurt certain monsters. 

You could rent vaults to store some of your items if your inventory are getting full
In the last city you could not buy or find food anywhere so the only way to heal up is either to pay for healing at a temple (which will be expensive in the long run) or use a magic well I found in a pyramid. I preferred to run back to the latter one.

This part of the game was the toughest part in the game.
I had to run through all enemies or avoid them 
This last module is filled with new magical weapons. But the problem is that they only match the powerful foes you encounter here so you will never feel strong enough. The shops seldom have any good weapons to buy. Most of the good weapons and armours are found.

Here you have to use two colored gems to get a third color.
I couldn´t figure it out for myself


When I finally hold all four ankhs I was i triumph. I decided not to return them to the pharao but to my employer instead. In that way, I could travel back to Middengrave. I had completed my quest and Saradin was really pleased with my efforts and offered me to continue work for him in the future (planned as expansions to the game). I accepted but immediately returned to my mother to tell her of the good news. I achieved level 25 with my warrior when the game was over. I could still return back to any place and complete my unfinished tasks but I was content with having won the game and decided to leave it at that.

Ah, the happy end screen
Me returning to my mother to tell her the good news
In the next post I will review the game and then I will finish what little I have left in Dragon Age 2 before jumping on another game.





July 21, 2013

Dark Disciples 1 - Major progress through mainquest

Much has happened in Dark Disciples since the last post. I won´t go into any details regarding my adventures as the warrior Denvall but I will briefly tell you of how the story has evolved and my experience with the game.

When I finally became a guildmember at the warriors guild my guildmission was to clear out a bandit camp and free six prisoners. All this took place on a totally new map and was pretty straight on with many fights. 

These two traps could be traversed by putting a cart over to trigger them
One obstacle showed up and that was two traps that was so deadly that they instantly killed me. If you play a thief with high dexterity you might disarm them but as a warrior you have no skill to lean on. Here is yet another part that could be solved in another way. I found a cart I dragged into the building and pushed on the trap to trigger it. That allowed me to pass and get what valuables laid behind it.

My other lead in Middengrave was to use a captain to take me to the island my treasure map pointed at. He charged me a whopping 500 gold for the trip and I could go ashore an island that offered quite a resistance and also several obstacles. I actually didn´t made it very far. First of all, I have only found a few of several important orbs that are needed to advance in the sublevels of ancient ruins on the island. And what was worse, I could rest at the captains ship but when my food ran out I had no way to gather more food and the captain will want another 500 gold to return to the island if we leave. I had no choice but to retreat from the island without having found that much treasure at all. I´ll take on the island later on when I am more experienced.

I have to find another way in

The alcoves in the upper left requires different orbs that supposedly
could be found somewhere
When I returned to the capital I was able to gain another level and this time, the guild leader Saradin thought I was experienced enough. He had three tasks for me that needed to be done in order to get rid of my debt. Every task was handed out by his taskmaster that gave the details about the mission and also which levels was recommended.

I naturally choosed the first and easiest one. What happened was that I was sent far away to an icern kingdom with landscapes covered in snow. I had to help the ruler there with certain tasks like returning the urns of long lost kings that could be found deep within the mountains. I also had to try to find another way across the newly found cavern that appeared after an earthquake. That would decrease the trade length with neighbouring kingdoms. I have to say that I am very impressed by the missions and npc interactions in the game. The developer has done a good job in trying to be original.

This new kingdom was scary in that it was not possible to return back to Middengrave or any other places until I had completed my tasks there. Fortunately the starting locations offers all neccessary things like shops, armourers, trainers and resting rooms. Just when I left the protecting city to get out in thecold regions I immediately started to take damage for every step. This remined me of Ishar 2 and I remembered that I saw fur armour in the shop which gave very little armour. I returned to buy it and could then withstand the cold.


This region consisted of several maps both overland and underground in caves and caverns. Also, apart from the main quests here there where several minor quests that I undertook. There where a lot of problem solving. From how to pass a ghost on a bridge that required an answer to how to actually find the urns that where well hidden behind secret doors, traps or levers that needed to be pulled. I got stuck several times and in one or two occasions I had to look up the hints file that are available but most obstacles I solved by pure luck or persistence.


One strategy I take is to not spend all available skill points directly when you increase a level. This allows me to instantly upgrade an attribute when I really need it, like when I found a door that I am not strong enough to bash or a climb where I am lacking in agility. I then could put my points into theese attributes which means I often meet the requirements to do what I want directly. This was what solved many of my problems.


I eventually found all urns and found a way across the mountain. I also picked up a lot of new good weapons and armours. Since there is no random monster generator in the game (which is good), you have limited places where to rest and heal and often have to retrace several maps to safe havens. You could however save anytime, even in combat and I have used that several times to slay foes effectively without having to retreat to heal and come back again (monsters wounds are saved).

There is only one way to reach the lever


After several hours I was finished with this region and was allowed to return to Middengrave again. My debt was decreased to 80.000 gold. Mind you, I have only a few thousand gold at a time in cash and they are needed to buy healing, blessing, curing injuries, poisons and diseases as well as restocking with healing potions.

The next big assigment was to send me after a woman named Mitra that had stolen some very important document from the guildmaster. She was last seen in a swamp region heading for the Flayer Temple. In this very hard module, you could return to Middengrave anytime you choose. The region is a swamp region with rivers and woods. Here I found humanoid remains and my first contacts with future technology. I normally don´t like such tecnology mix in RPGs (like in Might and Magic) but here it reminded me of the modern time UFO phenomena which belongs to  one of my greatest interests.



By helping the village elder to get rid of a visiting priest trying to convert his followers by foul means I was guided to the temple of Flayers. It was full of zombies, hard-to-kill spectres and other foes. The temple complex spanned several levels and I was about to give up in the end. I lacked the final ingredients in order to get to Mitra. I had literally fought myselves through devils to reach this point but was totally stuck and no help could be found on the internet.


I decided to give it another go by first returning to Middengrave and search all merchants stocks. Perhaps they had my lacking ingredients ? That was hopeless. Then I decided to go back to the swamp and search every possible way of having overlooked a secret door on the half dozen maps it spans. I found out some other things and even completed some quests I`ve forgotten about but no ingredients could be found. I could even enter an alien base found in the swamp and trigger what seems like an nuclear explosion. That didnt help in anyway (reload was in place).

I had great problems solving these symbols but got help from a forums stating
that the circle counted as 1 and since I´ve found meaningless numbers
 I could set the symbols and enter the alien base.

I finally found the secret door very close to where I got stuck and was so happy because I didn´t want to give up on this game. With the missing ingredients I could perform a ritual and open a door that led me to Mitra. I killed her and searched her compartments where I could  retrieve the documents. I returned back to Middengrave in triumph.

The secret door is below the door to the southeast.
Ahh...I just should have followed the bloodtracks.

I hate these levers. One never knows what will be affected and where
So now I am back in Middengrave again. My next task will be to sign up for the last major mission and hopefully I will be free of my debt.

Dark Disciples reminds about Eschalon but is much more simple. Yet it allows for much freedom of exploration  and are so far perfectly balanced regarding to the difficulty. 

July 13, 2013

Dark Disciples 1 - Middengrave the capital

Last time in Dark Disciples, I had just arrived at the capital Middengrave. This was the first city in the game so far. It consisted of a lot of different places to visit. From libraries and museums to inns, trainers and guilds. My first challenge was to actually enter the city. For that I needed a pass. This was not very hard to obtain though, costing me 10 gold. Before I actually entered the city I found a secret passage leading into it through the walls. 

Perhaps I was lucky in that because just prior to entering the city I was approached by a man offering me to smuggle in some goods to a companinon residing in one of the citys inns. Naturally, when I had entered the secret passage I immediately headed for that inn to get rid of my illegal goods. It gave me well needed 120 gold.

A typical small task to perform

Always when entering cities in RPGs I explore them throughly and methodically. Going from each building to the next, careful not to miss anything. I went ahead with just this approach here. It took me at least an hour because the city spanned at least three full maps. Here I could try to join the temple, mage guild and warriors guild and I eventually applied for the warriors guild as the first one. In order to be accepted I had to fight through five arena fights that gradually got harder and with several opponents at once. I had to return to the arena at least twice after having increased in level.



But I must not forget about why I am here, so I looked up the guildmaster Saradin and told him I cannot possibly pay 100.000 gold that my father owned him. He couldn´t care less and wanted more or less to kill me on the spot. I just barely had a chance to suggest to him that I could work for him in order to repay him this debt and he actually accepted that. But he said that I should return when I have become more experienced. This rather easy way of solving that problem surprised me in the story. I thought I would be forced to to something immediately. Not so however.



I did not have much to do in the city after this but I had gained one more level and felt I should go back to the firestone ruins to take on the lower levels. At this stage, level 5, I can defeat lesser mummies but my weapon cannot hurt ordinary mummies or zombie mages.

The game really offers different ways in solving problems. For example, if you come to a door you could either bash it (which requires a certain amount of strength), pick the locks (you must have enough dexterity) or perhaps using a key you have found. The first two could be accomplished when you gain a level if you put your points into the appropriate skill. Sooner or later you meet the requirements.

This is the games quest log

To get the key for a door might be very troublesome. In the firestone ruins there was a locked door in the south I´ve forgot about. Even though I had increased one level I could still not bash it BUT I remember I met a thief nearby before. By going back to him again I could use his skills and pay him 200 gold to pick the locks. OR, as in my case. I opened up a room to a dangerous mummy, led it out and returned to the room and snatched the plague key still with the mummy chasing me. If you are not careful you will get cornered and killed by the monsters but sometimes running past them just to plunder what they guard is very rewarding. I really like the different approaches to solve problems.


This is the lord Gladimere himself. Master of the Firestone ruins.

Deep down in the ruins and behind the locked door I eventually found a way to lower a bridge over an underground stream and got across to the other side. Here I met zombie mages which I couldn´t hurt whatsoever so I left them in their rooms. I also got to a temple which prevented my access through an invisible force. A sign outside said that only the sick and dying will be blessed. To enter I had to drink from a poisonous well and then I could enter this undead temple. It is such challenges that exists here and there. Sometimes there are preassure plates that you have to press down by moving carts over them. Those carts requires thought in how you move them because you could only push them from one side and often you have small spaces to move in and run the risk of getting the cart stuck against a wall.


This was  a secret room with the lord buried. Unfortunately it was already plundered

Fortunately, exiting and reentering a level restores the positions of the carts. Monsters does not respawn though. As long as they are a few steps away from you they will follow you indefinetely but if they get stuck you could run away from them eventually.

I won´t go into details about my other adventures in the city but some highlights of my adventures has included:

  • The city cemetary had been overtaken by undead and the priest want´s me to find out what has happened. My explorations turns out that an evil relic is drawing the souls back from the dead up to the living again. By finding this relic I was able to solve the problem. The cemetary was swarmed with zombies, wraiths, skeletons and other creepies. It consisted of several levels including some puzzles that was very rewarding. Really well done complex.
  • A serial killer had fled the prison and I had to hunt him down. He hide outside the city in a cave and was quite an opponent to kill.
  • In order to be part of a religious faith I had to perform a special task on top of a mountain. I can go there whenever I want. The fun part of this quest is that as soon as I had got it and was about to leave the temple I was mysteriously teleported to another place in which another priestess told me that the temple leader Tristan - from which I got the quest - had been possessed by an evil demon and that I should not perform the quest as I have been told. I have now to decided at place if I should destroy the altar on top of the mountain or pray at it. In order to reach the altar I had to perform three tasks for a sageman. I tried out both endings to the quest and the correct way is to destroy the altar because it was really an evil entity controlling it and the highpriest Tristan. There was no reward in items or experience if I would have followed highpriest Tristans pilgrimage.
  • One of the first quests I got in the town from the council was to infiltrate a fort overtaken by ogres. I have to get in and down to the sublevels to flood the place somehow. This complex is pretty big with some puzzles to solve. At one place I found a library where I had to solve four riddles in a row in order to learn about some runes. I don´t know yet how I should use the runes but I am happy I solved the riddles. I found one out of three places where I could flood the place. But I cannot progress from here since there are some riddles that has to be answered.
This library threw riddles at me

I also finally got enlisted into the warriors guild by killing the final monster which was a hydra. It was much easier than expected. As a reward a got a +1 strength and can now receive missions from the warrior guild.



Before I end this entry, I want to tell you that the music in the game is by Bjorn Lynne. He is formerly known as Dr.Awesome when he did music for the norwegian broup Crusaders on the Amiga demoscene. Anyway. Some of the tunes are really good and fits well into the game.

It is lovely to find stuff
Here my perception has found a secret door in the south
Ok, this pretty well ends this entry. I now have two major tasks ahead of me. One is the warriors guild task of killing some bandits and the other one is to hire a ship to follow a treasure map I´ve found. More of that in my next post.

I have now raised to level 10 and bought the best equipment I could found. Unfortunately one cannot be a mage and a warrior at the same time because using wands or scrolls costs many points invested in intellect and then you will have lesser strength and far poorer weapons to use.Mi






















July 9, 2013

Dark Disciples 1 - Revisited


Game revisited: Dark Disciples I
Designed by: DodgySoft
Released: 2004
Formats: Pc
Availability: Freeware


Thanks to Anthony_Xue in my previous post I was suggested to try out the Dark Disciples games from http://www.dodgysoft.com. It is a freeware game and developed in Microsoft Visual C++. The last update was delivered in 2006 but the game seems to have been released in 2004. There is also a sequel, not surprisingly called Dark Disciples 2. I prefer to try out the first one though. 

The manual - which is a good read by the way - states that the influence is heavily taken from Rogue. I have never played Rogue so for me this game will be judged totally on its own.

After starting up the game (no installation is required!) you are taken to the main menu where you can see a map of the world and you could look at the library which lists some macial glyphs. 



After having read the manual (the game does not allow alt-tab to windows back and forth) I started out to create a new character. First you select a gender and then your alignment. You are then given 12 attribute points to spend on your attributes which consists of strength, stamina, agility, dexterity, perception and intellect. All attributes starts at 5. 




There are no classes or skills in the game. I created a warrior style character and increased strength, stamina, agility and perception. Perception allows you to detect traps and secret doors automatically. 

The story is a little different to what we are used to. Your father was a rich merchant - albeit not entirely lawful - but after several years he managed to get a gambling debt of 100.000 gold. That is a huge amount of gold and he knew he couldn´t repay that. Turning to alcoholism he eventually took his own life. You and your mother are then asked to pay his debt but decides to flee the city and hide. Now you have been found and given one year to repay the full amount or you will both be killed. With no other option than to try to raise the money somehow and hope to plead in front of the guildmaster you set out from your home.

The game starts with you right outside your home and with your mother nearby. She tells you to take your fathers belongings (amongst them a leather armour) and give you a small cache of 80 gold she has saved. Then you are on your own. I naturally immediately tried to explore my neighbourhood and entered the nearest house. It took me less than one minute to get into combat with rats which slained me despite my best efforts. I was quite surprised about this early and simple death but then I remembered that I had forgot to get my fathers belongings so I fought without armour or weapon. I reloaded and this time I was much more careful. 


Sweet mother, I promise I will return with the money or at least die trying


The graphic is very simple but clear and movement are done by the arrow keys and the game is veryt quick to respond. This is something I gradually come to like about this game more and more. The right part of the screen shows your health, stamina and mana as well as food, gold and armour rating. Everytime you sleep to regain lost hitpoints, stamina and mana you loose some food. Fortunately your mother has unlimited food supplies as long as you return back to her. For a long time in the game your own house is the only place to rest in.

Your attributes, current level and experience points could also be seen in the right window. Here you could choose to display an automap but I have never used it.

Now, after having grabbed all items my father left behind of which the leather armour and hand axe was the most important, I returned to the neighbours house to enter my first combat in the game. Everything is turnbased which means that if you don´t move the keyboard, nothing will happen. Just like in the Eschalon games. One step for you yields one action for your enemies. Combat is very easily taken care of by hitting the direction of the foe to strike. You either miss or hit and inflict damage. I killed the two rats for only some minor injury and explored the house.

This is the place to be in the starting area

I moved around the entire map which has a fixed size. Sooner or later you reach its boundaries that either lead to another part of the world or is impassable. On this first place I met a druid that wanted me to gather some ingredients if I was interested in getting some free potions and an archelogist that wanted me to find a certain scroll hidden somewhere in the ruins in the east. Apart from that a few other minor tasks could be found like locating missing people.


In the middle of the world I found a merchant that sold a few items and a trainer that allows me to gain levels if I have enough experience points (and gold). Since I had very few gold coins in the beginning I only bought rope (for climbing). Just in case...



When I explored the regions around the major roads I found some entrances that led to some caves. In one or two of them I found the ingredients I was looking for. In another one I found another druid that apart from offereing basic healing also could remove disease, poision and injuries. Fortunately that was something I have not had any experience with yet.


This shrine with its altar is crucial to find early on
Some caves was inhabited with two trolls that ruthlessly killed me the few times I tried to take them on. If you are lucky you could sneak past your enemies and loot a place without getting into close combat and certain death but it is not easy. It just shows you don´t have to kill everything you see. 

Killing monsters does not give you any gold or items. Such things always exists in chests, hidden caches or on tables. You don´t event get much experience points killing one. Sometimes only 1 xp. 

The caves I found could come in any size and with several levels. Even offering NPCs here and there. If there is something that marks this game it is that it is heavy on text and dialogue. You could choose your answers and talk to most neutral humans/monsters you meet unless they attack you first.






After one hour I was ready to leave my starting map and headed west to a farming place. Here I helped a young girl found her pet spider which I found by accidently crush a barrel in the south. I was extremely lucky because in a tree which looks like any other tree I found a secret stash with a magical ring. Gradually I got more and more experience and gold and could train to level 2. You get a fixed amount of health points, mana points and stamina. But the most important stat increase is to combat. It is a relative number used in fights to compare your abilities with your foes. The higher the number the better chance you have to make a successful strike. Strength add to the damage dealt as well as depending on the type of weapon used. Each weapon clearly tells how much damage it deals which is great. I eventually found better armour that increased my armour value. That absorbs some of the damage dealt to me. 


The character sheet.
The manual states that the games contains several puzzles and several solutions to problems. I had yet to find anything to apply that statement on until I found a magician out in the Farmlands. He offered me to solve a problem by building two pyramids in green and red. Normally I am not too fond of these things but seeing as it was not mandatory to fulfil some major quest I tried it and actually solved it pretty quickly. It gave me a valuable item in return. 




After having finished everything I could in the farmlands by doing some other small tasks to gain more gold and experience points I returned to my starting place and headed north. This housed some sort of temple but I was forced to give a password to enter which I had no clue about so I returned from this area. But not before I had rescued a goblin from some knights in a cave.

I now headed east instead and got close to the ruins the archaelogist talked about. This turned out to be a pretty hard and big complex to take on. First there was no obvious way in. The main doors was shut but there was a room with levers or vials that could be set to different colors. I found out the sequence by reading a script on a stone not far from there. 



It gave clues in which order the colors should be set. Voila! the main entrance could be open. But before I solved that I had already taken the backdoor to enter by gradually fighting my way in through the ruins amongst skeletons and bats. I had died a lot of times and returned dozens of times to my house to rest after my fights and each time I came a little further into the ruins and temple. 

Unless your perception is very high you cannot be sure that you might risk missing secret doors. To be safe I usually try out the walls indoors at places where I think there might be a chance a door could exists. Of course, most of the time that yields nothing but I have been lucky to stumble upon a secret door by this tactic and usually they hide very valuable items like better weapons or armours or even magical weapons. So it is well worth trying. 

In the firestone ruins below I have just located a secret door by chance....




Nothing is more rewarding than to open a chest

I think I spent a few hours trying to make progress in the ruins. It consisted of both upper levels and lower levels. The upper levels eventually led me to a lever that opened up the backside portcullis and allowed me to pass the ruins for a new area.

The lower levels hide an old temple which only could be entered by using a disc I received from the Imps farther to the east after helping them with some quests. The lower levels are filled with very dangerous mummies that for me are impossible to kill at my current level 5. They are also infested with other creatures that could poison you which means you loose one hitpoint every step unless an antidote is used. And they are scarce. All of this forced me to return all the way back to my house to rest and heal and return. And repeat that sequence several times in order to take out one or two more enemies every time. It was tiresome but it really was worth the effort since I got better and better items all along the way. 



As I said in the beginning. My main mission is to get to Middengrave to try to plead with the guildmaster about the debt. The problem is that the coachmen for that route has dissappeared. My explorations found out that they where held as prisoners amongst the Imps. The only way to free them was to let a circus owner release his three imprisoned circus imps and give them back to the imps. 


To get here, I had to use a raft across a lake

In return I was getting the three coachmen. After much trouble they eventually returned to their ordinary occupation of transporting people and I could take a coach to the capital. 

Thse knights are looking for an escaped goblin that I rescued

Through a secret door I found out that the tavernkeeper
aren´t as legal as he claims at first

Now at level 5, with a lot of gathered items (but nowhere to sell it so far) I am ready to tackle any challenges met in the capital. I hope there will be some place to sell surplus items and a new shop with new inventory to spend my gold.

Before I forget, I have to mention magic in the game. To use scrolls or wands which you find occasionally, you have to have enough points invested into intellect. I haven´t and so haven´t tried any magic at all so far. Amongst the more useful scrolls are a beacon and teleport scroll that surely would save a lot of time. 

My inventory is getting full
Underground lakes could be found. Note the trap my perception skill discovered as a cross

There are hidden things in the game and hard to reach areas. Two very valuable places I´ve found is magical fountains that permanently increase your attributes. They are very well concealed.

I like the character progression so far. I do notice that I slowly becomes stronger for every level gained (by increased combat attribute) and by finding better equipment. Make no mistake, this game is not easy! I have died dozens of times and had to give up on certain places until I´ve got stronger. Just like a good CRPG should be I think.


These blackwidows dies at a single stroke if I hit but are dangerous

Until next time.....I found an interesting interview with the author that could be read here.