Currently playing: 7 mages, Drive to Moscow, Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

December 18, 2014

Lords of Xulima - Their view on food and resting in RPGs

I want to share a very interesting post about how resting, healing and food is implemented in CRPG traditionally and which approach has been used and why in "Lords of Xulima". Personally I find the system used to be very good. It requires planning on part of the player when to actually rest and also to secure that you have reserves left to endure your way back to replenish them. Combined with skills such as hunting this is a very good approach. The advantage is that you will never run the risk of being interrupted in your resting by random encounters but your food supply is also consumed while you are moving and dependent on terrain factors.

December 15, 2014

Risen 3 - A true disappointment



Since Dragon Age Inquisition requires a quadcore processor I had to find another game to play this autumn. I bought Risen 3 for a good price and started up playing some weeks ago. I have ploughed around 12 hours into the game and I thought I should share my opinion of it.


I loved the first Risen. It was more like a game in a medieval setting. It was quite challenging and the balance and system felt fresh. It was a much better game from the developers of Gothic 3 than what Gothic - Acrania was. The gameplay was solid and both graphics and sound good. It was therefore not surprising that I looked forward to Risen 2.

Risen 2 turned out to be a disappointment though. There was quite a good gameplay system at its core but it was let down of poor voice acting, inmature dialogues and a caribbean setting. Still I played it to the bitter end and I enjoyed it, although never as good as Risen 1.

August 2014 was the release date for Risen 3. Has it become any better ?

No not at all. On the contrary it is even more dumbed down with horrible dialogues filled with curses everywhere and with the poorest voice acting of a main character I have ever encountered. The game is really horrible in that respect. I feel like a child when reading the simple dialogues. This game is meant for youngsters. Fem moments in the game is serious or eerie in any way. I cannot believe the developers are going this was. Sales must have fallen steadily since Risen 1 ? Their aim at a new generation seems to be a failure. 


The graphics is nothing to write home about. In par with the previous installment. Sure there are some nice views and environments but that´s all. The game feels empty. There is no reward for exploring even though you can practically go anywhere you like with few exceptions. When you find remote chests up in a ravine, mountain or whatever you expect some of them to contain valuable or important items like good weapons, armours or magical items. Not so here. They contain mostly mundane items which could be bought from any trader. There is no reward for exploring which for me is essential in any game roleplaying game.


Combat, while working, is tedious and quite boring. There are anmials and monsters to fight almost everywhere and unless you spend a lot of skill points into melee combat or get betters weapons somehow (which is hard) you will have quite long fights to dispose of even the simplest of enemies. Oh, and they almost always only drops food. There is no loot to talk about. They are just obstacles on your ways to or from something. My character is a melee-fighter so I haven´t used magic and only seldom ranged weapons so far in the game.


The gameworld is quite huge though. There are several Islands and each of them covers a lot of places and terrains. There are literally hundreds of quests. Many of them boring sidequests like fetching or delivering items. Like "Will you deliver this engaging ring to my fiance at this island ?"
Money is hard to get and you need it to pay your skill trainers. The problem is that there are so few weapons/armours in the game that it is hard to find any upgrades.

I am really worried about the turn Risen 3 has taken. The inmature dialogues are are appalling and the poor voice acting destroys any feeling of immersion. Either the developers change their course or let this be the last installment. They have destroyed a good original concept (I loved the Gothic series). Even the poor Gothic IV Arcania had better voiceacting and dialogues and that is not to say little.

Despite all this, there is still quite a solid skill/attribute/glory gathering engine in the bottom and monsters and environments are quite well-done. You can find teleporterstones (just like in Gothic 3) to use at teleporters which will help you travel quickly around the island you are at.

This game is only recommended if there are no other games out there or if you could get it heavily discounted.

I have just recently bought Lords of Xulima and I am totally hooked by that game. I strongly recommend that if you want a more true CRPG experience and not a casual action-RPG that Risen 3 offers. I will return to Lords of Xulima in a separate post. 

December 11, 2014

Lords of Xulima, balancing and autoscaling

I have just bought Lords of Xulima, a kickstarter funded old-school RPG which I am certain I will return to in a future posting. I was reading the developers blog about balancing in non-linear games and autoscaling and found it very good. Since it represents my view of the subject as well I recommend reading it here.

The developers vision

Lords of Xulima was born from the dreams of developers who have been playing countless RPGs from the beginning of the genre. One day we asked ourselves:
"What would make the ideal RPG for us?"
In Lords of Xulima, we have set out to make a challenging, turn-based RPG in the vein of the old school classics. We're making a game filled with character development, puzzles and often difficult strategic combat. Our goal is to create an immersive environment and a challenging combat system; how you choose to play it will be entirely up to you.



Features



  • More than 60 hours of true role playing experience.
  • Create your party with up to six characters, choosing between 9 classes and more than 100 unique skills. Customize your companions for the best of both worlds: A story-driven, active main character and a party which suits your favorite playstyle!
  • Strategic turn-based combat in first person view: Battle more than 100 enemies with unique skills and powers. 16+ Epic bosses to test your mettle
  • A vast continent to explore, with different environments and climates: You are free to go anywhere you want from the beginning of the game, but take care; the lands of Xulima are extremely dangerous.
  • More than 30 dungeons: Castles, towers and temples await for you to discover their secrets.
  • The depth and challenge of old school RPG classics, but with a modern, intuitive interface. Non-linear progress, rewarding strategic play, various layers of character development & compelling story.
  • Enchanting hand-drawn 2D graphics for landscapes and maps, mixed with 3D, pre-rendered models to bring smooth animations for characters and creatures.
  • Available for Windows, MAC and Linux.
  • Languages: English, Spanish.

  • If you want to learn more, see CPRG Addicts tryout here.

    December 6, 2014

    Legend of Grimrock II - Rated


    A few weeks ago I completed Legend of Grimrock II. It held to the very end and is one of the best games in its genre. It is even better than the first installment because of its variety.

    It is not a roleplaying game but rather a realtime-action roleplaying game which derive from Dungeon Master in the 80s. You will never meet any NPC and there is no shop or economy. But what it offers is a truly amazing immersion and experience.

    I won´t give it a full review here since there are already so many high quality ones out there but what I like is the excellent difficulty balance regarding puzzles and combat. You really feel the progression after completing puzzles or obstacles and if you get stuck you could usually try to enter other areas and then return. There are probably hundreds of minor and major problems to overcome that is not combat oriented. 90% of them I managed to solve of my own. I have left some unsolved but the one I have got totally stuck one that are mandatory in completing the game I had to check out. Despite this I feel very comfortable knowing that I solved almost all of them on my own. A far better ratio than was the case with the first game to me which I found was harder (or I have got used to the type of problems).

    I thought it was a little easier to get hold of food in this sequel than in the first. There is a huge river where you could find a lot of food and there are a few places where enemies are spawned that generates food. Despite this, there where seldom ample amounts of food so I had to be careful.

    Combat is quite varied and while the traditional run-around-your-foe works for the most part here the enemies have their own attack speeds and abilities. Fire elementals was quite a nuiscance since they are fast and could only be killed by a distance with spells. The Air elementals was very tough until I discovered they could be killed with dispel spell and so on. There are a few major boss encounters. Most of them was not too hard but not too easy either. A perfect balance.

    The graphics are suberb in the game and the environments beautiful. Most monsters are very well done as well. Music and sound effects are top notch. I have already included the main theme on my youtube playlist (including the excellen credits/ending theme). It reminds me much of the main theme of Game of Thrones.

    If you are used to easy progress games with instant rewards, look somewhere else. This game rewards patience and problem solving, preservation of limited supplies and persistence. 

    I am already looking forward to a sequel. Meanwhile I suppose there are self-made scenarios out there. 

    Since I lack a quadcore processor I have had to skip Dragon Age Inquisition for now and instead bought Risen 3 which I am currently occupied with.

    My minireview - without going into details - is as follows.


    Section
    Rating
    Gameworld & Story
    1.5
    Economy
    1
    NPC & Interactions
    1
    Monsters, tactics & combat system
    3
    Magic system
    3
    Character generation & development
    2.5
    Map design
    4.5
    Manual
    3
    Graphics, Sound and Interface
    4
    Summary CRPG value
    23.5


    Gameplay
    5

    November 29, 2014

    Blade of Darkness - Revisited

    Having just completed Legend of Grimrock II I thought I would give the game Blade of Darkness a chance which I bought at www.gog.com some time ago.

    The game is best described as an action roleplaying game and was released in 2001. The major problem I have with this game is that it is very hard to run in a problem free way. By trial and error you have to choose amongst different types of graphical drivers and resolutions and also sound drivers. After much trouble the only way I found the game to run in was in OpenGL. The next problem is that there is no mouse pointer in the game at all. I don´t know if that is intended or not but for me that makes the game extremely hard to navigate. 

    I tried out the tutorial but it crashed one time and every time I switch to the desktop (to read the manual shortcut key commands) the game bugs out. So I never fully completed the tutorial which guide you through movement (running, jumping, sneaking etc) through to pickup up and use objects etc.


    Anyway, when starting the game you choose from four different type of characters, each with their own starting abilities. I chose Tukaram which has good attack values, medium life points and has a specialty in two-handed axes and swords.


    I had big problems navigating the character in a smooth way and when I finally reached some sort of fort or castle in the beginning I was attacked by goblinoid figures. Even though this game seems to excel in hand-to-hand combat and fighting in general with a lot of combos etc I had it very hard to use it against my foes, often missing my attacks. I did not give up however and tried to force myself into the game for another 30 minutes during which I leveled up three times, each time getting more hitpoints.

    There are a lot of items to smash and grab along the way. Potions, new weapons and shields etc. But the inventory system and all the shortcut commands makes it a hassle. I had huge trouble to find out how to drop items. I met some skeletons and moved into the fortress in the mountain but I just found it quite dull. The graphics was probably ok back in 2001 but looks quite boring and only gray to me. The soundeffects however are still quite good though.

    In the end I convinced myself that due to the bad steering and handling of the character I won´t play this game. I have read quite good reviews of this game so this might be an unpolished game if you have the patience, but with Risen 3 on the way to me in a few days this is just a waste of time right now.

    November 17, 2014

    Legend of Grimrock 2 - Highly recommended

    LEGEND OF GRIMROCK 2

    If anyone thought I had abandoned this blog I am back to prove you wrong. No, the reason spells "Legend of Grimrock 2". One of the best RPGs I´ve played in its genre. They succeeded in doing the sequel even better than the first with outdoor environments and with much more freedom of movement. 


    If you get stuck you often have other areas to explore. The puzzles are of perfect difficulty. Not too hard (although there are some I´ll admit) and not too easy either. The perfect balance which let you get that feeling of accomplishment when you solve them. Combat is fun and hold your nerves and food is easier to get hold to than I remember from the first game and still you have to manage your food supplies very carefully. If you like games like Dungeon Master, Black Crypt, Eye of the Beholder or Crystal Dragon you would definetely like this game. The graphics are excellent the music theme a masterpiece and the soundeffects add to the immersion and atmosphere. I am already looking forward to another sequel and right now I am struggling in the Pyramids.


    My rating for this game is 5 out of 5. 


    October 23, 2014

    Icewind Dale - Review

    Game reviewed: Icewind Dale Complete
    Version: ?
    Created byBlack Isle Studios
    Released: 2000
    Formats: Pc
    Difficulty: 5/10
    Est. Playing time: 35+ hours
    Price$10

    I had no choice but to go online to search for a solution of how to kill the shopkeeper and his sentry guards. I tried to use invisibility on my mages and thief and let the fighters take on the shopkeeper but the sentry guards still attacked the invisible characters and they soon died. I also had trouble finding out among the shopkeeper mirror images which was the real one.

    I eventually succeeded far above my expectation by using I hint I found online. I cast Cloudkill on the throne where the shopkeeper starts out and himself and all his duplicates died instantly. And thereafter all of the sentry guards. Too easy.

    This combat was the hardest in the game

    The success only allowed me to climb further up in the tower and the next encounter was with the evil one himself that transformed himself into a great demon. Two iron golemes helped him out. This combat was also really tough.

    First of all, the demon cast dispel magic so you cannot enter the combat prepared. Then the iron golems go for your weakest characters and the demon himself has the ability to use huge amounts of fire based attacks against you. After five failed attempts I managed well enough and with only three surviving characters I killed the demon and everything came to an end. After the the ending game sequence and credits I was back at the main menu again.


    With the game ended, I wondered how I could access the expansion Hearts of Winter. It turned out I could choose the single player game from the main menu and start from there. Fortunately all my dead characters was resurrected and we started out with the same level of experience although most of our equipment was gone. Right now I will not continue the expansion but leave it for the future. 

    Here goes my review of the game.

    Gameworld & Story
    The story of the game is very straightforward. The village of Kuldahar asks for help since many strange things have happened lately. The nearest settlement of Easthaven forms an expedition under its leader Hrothgar and sets out to reach Kuldahar. Soon the whole expedition perish in an avalance and only your characters survive. When arriving into Kuldahar the elder druid tells of what strange thing have befallen the village and its surroundings. The player is aked to examine the reports and find the source behind them which eventually leads to the mission to aquire the Heart of Stone. When finally aquired, the druid is found dead but with his last words he tells of the only person able to interpret the stones power, the elven person called Larren.

    The search for Larren takes the group through an enourmous elven complex with hard battles until Larren himself is found and can help and direct the players where to look....those two last places is also where the end lies.

    The gameworld consists of a dozen regions with several levels and maps. They are only reachable in a linear way one after another. Except for chests or drawers there is nothing to interact with in the gameworld. The maps are graphically well made in 2D but it is obvious that even in 2000 this was an old graphical engine.

    The only problem with the story I have is that there is no twists, no gray-zones, you never have to make any decisions. All actions that require attacking is always the right decision. That is a pity. The only interesting parts of the story is when you meet the different bosses or leaders. Their dialogues are very entertaining but between them you very seldom initiate any dialogues.

    Rating: 2

    Economy
    In the beginning, I think the price level in the few shops that exists seemed reasonable. They are not exorbitant but feels fully achievable. At least in all cases regarding non-magical items. When it comes to magic items, they are incredibly expensive in relation to their effects. It's rare you can afford a magic item in the store that you have not already found  equivalent of where you are in the adventure. It is a pity that it should be so, and equally a shame that it is exactly the same set available every time in the store. Moreover, it is generally very few places in the game you can buy equipment and it's basically only in Kuldahar with a few exceptions.

    At the end of the game, I came up to over 75,000 gold and could have bought almost any object, but then I already had got hold of many good magical items. I am not more than doubtfully pleased with how this system works in the game.

    In summary, the economy only works well for the first third of the game then it becomes pretty irrelevant.

    Rating: 2

    NPC & Interactions
    I had hoped for more here. After all, already Black Isles Planescape Torment and Baldurs Gate was filled with NPC:s and dialogues with many roleplaying opportunities. But Icewind Dale seems very conservative in comparison. As some of my readers have stated this is a more direct, traditionally hack´n slash part of the AD&D series. There is basically only at two points you are given some lengthier dialogue options. When you meet the bosses of your opponents or when you get new assignments back at the base (village). Inbetween you could plough through room after room or hall after hall filled with monsters but with few possibility to communicate  with them.

    Compared to older games, Icewind Dale still has a few surprise dialogues here and there but I had expected more and this could very well be the weak link in this respect in Black Isles list of RPGs built around the infinity engine.

    The NPC:s themselves are well portrayed though with excellent dialogue scripting most of the time and many of them have voiceacting which is pretty good, although noone is near Irenicus of Baldurs Gate II.

    The only interactions you have with the environement is when you find and disarm traps, pick locks or open containers of different sorts.

    Rating 2

    Monsters, tactics and combat system
    Combat is based on the AD&D rules. That means that in theory there are a lot of parameters involved. I won´t go into detail of the system here but if you have played any previous AD&D game like the old SSI games you will know what I am talking about. THACO, AC (Armour Class), proficiency in weapon skills are just a few parameters deciding how easy you will hit or be hit. Your attributes like dexterity and strength also affects combat but more importantly is what type of class you have choosen since fighters receive much more bonus and more attacks per round than, say mages.

    The problem don´t lie in the theoretical underlying system. It lies in the graphical implementation of the game where you cannot use the environment to any large degree. Often your tactics is about minimising your hit area by fighting from a doorway and let your fighters hold the front so your mages and thieves could cast spells and fire ranged weapons from behind. Often that is all you need but in the end it becomes quite boring. There is no line of sight for ranged weapons. They could shoot across any obstacle in the room except for walls. I felt the cramped spaces in the game restricted the potential for tactical placement.

    It was a long time ago I played Temple of Elemental evil (2003). But I would say that game allowed you better tactical opportunities.

    As far as monsters AI go they are not very smart. More often than not they queue up to be slaughtered although there is some sort of morale check when they start running away. You still have to hunt them down to the bitter end though to end the fight. Some of your opponents do however target your weakest characters which often pose a serious threat.

    Monsters are varied and all have different types of strengths and weaknesses but since most of the game is like a plough moving forward with combat after combat I don´t care much.

    Rating: 3

    Magic System
    The magical system used follows the AD&D rules. There are six levels of spells and there are several different magical schools. You memorise spells for your mages. The higher character levels you attain, the more spells could be learned at once at every spell level. Priests also memorize spells in a similar way but are given spells when they rise a level. A mage must aquire the spells by finding a scroll to scribe or buy it from a merchant.

    The system works well and spells differs in casting time, range and durations. Even though there are quite many spells, I ended up to use the same spells over and over again. I do admit there are different playingstyles to be applied here though. The systems works quite good in the end.

    Rating: 3.5

    Character generation & development
    Character generation allows you to roll up your attributes in the old fashioned way. You choose a race, class and any starting proficiencys in weapons. There are no non-combat skills except of the thieving skills. Each class develops individually according to its class table advancement that are listed in the manual. It affects hitpoints gained, thaco bonus and number of attacks per round per level. The different classes differs quite much and you could also have multiple classes for humans.

    I was however quite dissappointed with the limited character advancement opportunities that arised. I could choose new weapon proficiencies now and then but that was all. You are not given any attribute points to spend, nor are there any skills. So the development of characters was quite limited, the most important thing was to be getting new hitpoints and better to hit bonus. Overall ok but nothing special.

    Regarding development, the majority of magical weapons you will find are either swords or daggers. If you have choosen flails or staves your have very few good options.

    Rating: 3

    Map design
    Maps are pretty well laid out. There are complexes that spans both vertically in serveral levels and horizontally. Each new map has its own atmosphere. I think they where pretty well laid out overall.

    Rating: 3.5

    Manual
    The manual is huge and contains all information you would like and need. This is how old proper manuals should look like. As a reflection, when Rome Total War II was released last year it was never shipped with a manual (not surprisingly) but the online version the game uses was slow and very hard to find information in. You either drown in the information or don´t find what you need. And you also have to be online.

    Rating: 4

    Graphics, sound and Interface
    Graphics in the game are quite ok even tough it is only 640*480. That is the games major drawback in my opinion. The 2D-rendered backgrounds are quite ok as well as animations. Despite the few system resources this game should be using it can be slow at times. But that has to do with bad drivers rather than anything else.

    Soundeffects in the game is ok, voice acting is pretty good and when you hear the music it is good  (done by the excellent Jeremy Soule) but often the music is very ambient in the background and never do any appearance worth remembering. I prefer a good, strong lead theme of some sort but the score in Icewind Dale is quite anonymous. Voice acting was excellent thought for the adversaries I met even though I had preferred more.

    Interface wise the system works quite well. It is easy to navigate, waypoint finding is quite ok and the interface is quite easy to navigate and use. I did miss a few keyboard shortcuts but overall I have nothing to complain about.

    Rating: 3

    Gameplay
    As with most games I revisit my spirit is the the best in the beginning. Everything is new and you feel very excited to begin exploring. Icewind Dale was no exception to that. After some hours though the feeling had cooled off somewhat and the middle of the game was quite boring and tedious to traverse. Many hard combats room after room with few surprises or alternatives available made it a chore. What kept me going was the hunt for experience points and level rise, new items and the easy gameplay mode. You never have to use your brain to move forward in this game.

    Some combat and bosses was interesting and challenging but the difficulty overall was quite uneven. In the end I found some combats to be quite hard but through the game many of the boss encounters was a disappointment.

    I never felt I had very good weapons or armours and seldom noticed the effect of them.

    Baldurs Gate was a much better game storywise and also regarding environments. Icewind Dale is not bad but it is a disappointment when compared to Baldurs Gate which also had great and strong music. I also liked Temple of Elemental Evil better than this game. Revisiting Icewind dale today is not really worth it unless you really have to play through all Biowares games.

    That being said. It is not a bad game. I just believe it to be the weakest part. I might consider trying Icewind Dale II in the future but right now Legende of Grimrock 2 screams for my attention.

    Rating: 3

    Section
    Rating
    Gameworld & Story
    2
    Economy
    2
    NPC & Interactions
    2
    Monsters, tactics & combat system
    3
    Magic system
    3.5
    Character generation & development
    3
    Map design
    3
    Manual
    3.5
    Graphics, Sound and Interface
    3
    Summary CRPG value
    25


    Gameplay
    3


    The musician Jeremy Soule is very famous in the RPG industry. While I don´t rank Icewind Dale to his best works, it is still very well made. Here is the full soundtrack of IceWind Dale.



    October 11, 2014

    Icewind dale - Nearing the end

    My now pretty experienced group was reequipping in the village before going to explore Dorn´s Keep. That means I am to sell off all potions I have no use for. I almost never use potions anyway and end up selling or dropping them if I am out of space. A habit inherited from the hard old-school RPGs I suppose.

    I also always resupply my stocks of arrows and bolts for my thief and the two mages. Their combined strength are enough to seriously wound any foe at a range. 

    Then I am always visiting the blacksmith and carefully examine every magical weapon to find out which is the better one before selling anything. That means to check the damage dealt, THACO bonus, any special effects and weapon speed and also taking into account my proficiency with that weapon type. Unfortunately you have to add upp all numbers by yourself since there is no help in the GUI that shows how much total damage you can deal. 

    Last but not least, a visit to the local magician allows me to buy spells I am in need of. 90% of the spells are found during the adventure but you can buy more powerful spells if you have enough gold.

    I have now gathered over 50.000 gold so I can buy some expensive magical weapons but I don´t find them better than the ones I have already found so the store is not that important in the game and I am beginning to find it quite limited since the stock never gets updated. It´s the same magical weapons/armours all the time.

    When we where finished we set out for Dorn´s Deep.

    Dorn´s Deep was a dwarven, underground complex consisting of both natural and dwarven made caverns and hallways. It was a huge complex divided by several large areas, each of which we must progress. Each with it´s own enemies and obstacles.



    At this time my group was probably at around level 8 or 9 and I felt we could handle most of the dangers thrown at us without too much difficulty. At least when we where able to rest after every fight. In general there is only at a few places where you cannot rest but that is often solved by going back to a previous level and rest there. This means that I have never felt the need to use my potions. 

    In this complex I found out that it seemed there was six major lieutenants to the dark lord, each one ruling over his own part. After having killed the first one I got his badge. I suspected I had to find all of them and gather all the badges and it was exactly that which later turned out to be my goal.



    The dwarven halls thrown me my first puzzle in this game. The table below consists of several different symbols. In the next room I found a floor with the circle depicted. When I entered the circle all hell broke loose in the form of traps. The only way to solve this puzzle was to enter the circle from different angles and only step on the symbols that was on the table in the previous room. 




    In the end I had to destroy a very powerful undead lich. The only way to destroy him was to get the key to the room where his urn was placed. That in itself was difficult enough. As long as I didn´t get the urn I could fight the lich and his minions over and over again and he would respawn everytime after a certain amount of time.

    As always when the combat are a bit tougher I use haste on my group. That is an extremely powerful spell since it not only makes us move faster but attack twice as many times per round. I could quickly destroy my enemies before they have the time to unleash really powerful spells.



    Regarding the thief, I use him for scouting and sneaking sometimes and to bring forth hordes of summoned creatures to attack the enemy before they see me but most of the time he points out where my mages could throw fireballs and icerains. I have only once used him for backstabbing. I don´t find that ability useful enough. Instead he use his bow most of the time and protect the mages.

    After having completed the whole Dorn´s Deep I found myself in a place called Wyrms tooth. It felt like a continuation but this time I was back above ground on a frozen plain and had to fight ice giants and elementals. This was quite a large place in itself and I rescued a lot of slaves and got much needed experience points so we all reached to level 10 or so.

    I had to admit that the variety of the graphics, levels and monsters turned out to the better after the elven part of the game. It felt more refreshing to go around here even though there where as much combats as before.

    I quckly entered both chapter five and chapter six...





    ...and without going into any details I finally killed all major lieutenants and found all the six badges. They where needed in front of a stair to be but into the ground to allow the stair to open up for me. By climbing the stairs I finally met the one evil that lied behind all of it. But that I had thought before as well, only to be let down.

    He throwed in a tough fight by summoning huge amounts of minions to fight for him but by using haste and go only for the evil priest I could take him down before being killed myself and then all goes black and I find myself back in the first town of Easthaven. Only now, something is very wrong with the small settlement. It is covered with ice. No humans are to be seen anywhere and cyclops are patrolling. And I thought I had completed the game.....hmm...

    The problem here was that I could not rest my party. I was injured by the last fight and also had to fight a dozen cyclops. Fortunately I only had to meet them two at a time at most. It turned out all the humans had been gathered on an island in the center of the town. I managed to free them and the priest among them told me that the evil behind this had broken into the church but he knew of a way in despite the permanent ice that covered each building.


    We entered the church but had to look for another way into the deeper part of the church by searching the tower. Fortunately it was possible to rest here.

    After climbin the staris to the tower I stumbled upon one of the hardest fights yet. The shopkeeper himself was there, mocking me. He had obviously been placed into charge of this village and was proud of it. Everything was planned he said. The expedition was only a diversion to weaken Easthaven and allow the evil himself to build up forces here. The avalance was carried out by the frost giants to stop the expedition and so on.

    I felt I was very near the end now. A fight broke out and the whole room was spawning with creatures while lightning bolts where triggered and moving around the room endlessly. I had no chance to keep my mages out of harms way and they died one after another. I played out this combat several times without winning.

    I must find another tactic....

    I expect my next post to be the last post in the game.

    September 28, 2014

    Icewind Dale - The elven tragedy

    I persevered since my last post and was eventually rewarded. But before going ahead of things let me tell you what happened in Dragons´Eye.

    I had just moved through several levels with lizards and trolls in my search of the heartstone gem when my next level was met by friendly priests who said they lived secluded from the world happenings above. They invited me to rest and even buy spells. There where a few locked doors there but no way out of this complex. I don´t like to steal from friendly characters but I had no choice but to see where these locked doors led. It turned out I stumbled straight into a cults' sacrificial ceremony and the whole appearance was a facade. They where all evil cultists praying to whomever their dark master is. 
    The "friendly" priest had no idea what I was talking about

    This level was quite hard since the priests are spellcasters and the tougher serpents that was responsible for the ritual where very good archers. After many hit-and-run fights with rests in between I was able to eliminate this whole sect and could advance into the mountain.

    This is what happens when you get in my way
    I have lost count of the order of the many levels of this complex but the final level was one of the hardest. It was full of traps that I at first was not able to spot, even with my thief (yes, finding traps hasn´t been my priority when levelling). After having taken serious damage every single time I was passing this level without even reaching my destination and after having spent dozens of antidote potions I was fed up with this. I had to find a new tactic.

    Fortunately my priestess could help me since she possess a spell called "Find traps". With her at the front my party followed into her steps while she discovered all the nasty traps that where. It took longer time but it was worth it and I quicksaved at each small successful passage.

    I don´t have to tell you the combats was hard and tedious. I could make one large battle per resting session of my group and had to travel back up two levels in order to rest.

    Anyway, below is my.....fifth attempt ? to battle the last and final boss in the complex. I am now ready behind the spotted traps and put forward my thief to open the right door to bring about the conversation and then retreating back out again. I have summoned a few zombies and my mages are ready to cast fireballs and icestorms at the door entrance where I expect the boss and his minions to appear.

    Hold........Hold!........

    Let the fireworks begin!.....

    When half of the enemy force was killed at the entrance and the rest hurt I went into melee combat, but not before casting haste on my fighters. With that ability we where able to defeat the major evil in this part of the world and received a whopping 40.000 xp.





    I was of course eager to plunder the locked containers at this level. That turned out to be a more frustrating endeavour than expected. Even though I have increased my thief´s skill in open locks to over 110 I was not able to open them. Fortunately one of my mages had the spell knock but that meant I had to retreat back two levels to memorise them and rest and then repeat this procedure for 2 times until all locks was opened up. Add to that my problem with the traps at the level and you can imagine my patience was being tested.

    Having two encouraging comments on my last blog I did however press on and was eventually rewarded not only by completing the whole complex of Dragon´s Eye but I also got hold of the heartstone gem. I was now heading back home to my village Kuldahar, only to be greeted with an invasion of orcs into the village. I had to fight my way through to the druid Arundel.


    Having finally reached the safe haven again where I looked forward to sell all my stuff, get some gold and upgrade my party I was stunned by the fact that Arundel was in fact evil himself. He congratulated me to have killed one of his adversaries and then he humbled me and teleported away but not before telling me that the real Arundel lied dying in the floor above. 

    I met him and with his last breath he told me to take the heartstone gem to the elven fortress of the severed hand. Only there would I find a person able to use the stone. I am not sure if Arundel was just recently duplicated or if he has been misleading me for a longer time but hopefully this was the only time I hadn´t met the real Arundel. Unfortunately he died of his wounds and I was again left to my own.



    We cleaned up the village of the rest of the orcs roaming about and reequipped ourselves in the shops. As before I could just dream of buying a good magical weapon but at least I have over 7000 gold now after having sold of some magical items found.

    We headed to the new fortress of the elven Severed Hand and entered the third chapter. I had just to enter to realise nothing was normal here. It was full of dangerous dark goblins. I had to battle my way upwards through the stairs for several levels until I reached an area with elven ghosts. Fallen warriors in the defense of the fortress. In the desperate fight against the evil their leader Larren had tried to cast a powerful protection spell but something went wrong and the few survivors was exposed to even more cruelty. I now had to stop all of this in order to reach my goal.






    As before all the levels was indoors in cramped areas with fight after fight. At least I could rest when I needed to but it is becoming a chore. We´ll see how long I will let this game continue before giving it my final ratings.

    I have always preferred the first person view instead of the 2D-isometric approach seen in this and other similar games. For me personally partybased games like Wizardry 8 or realtime partybased games like Legend of Grimrock always give me better immersion into the gameworld. Even in combat. 

    One might argue that Icewind Dale´s perspective should give me better tactical disposition during combat. And that might be true in a few instances. But I would say that the tactical combat was way better in the old AD&D SSI games then. Here it could be hard to make up a line in battle since the characters sometimes tries to get around to get a swing to a foe so they are harder to control. 

    Even so, I do use the environment as best as I can to my advantage but it is always the same kind of tactic. I fight from the door entrances where the enemy can´t surround us easily and where my mages could throw in fireballs and icestorms into the room before engaging in melee combat. But that is about as tactical as it gets. 

    Most combats could be solved with this approach and right after you rest and restore your spells and hitpoints and are ready for the next one. In a few places I have had some trouble winning without any characters death and there I have had to try out different kind of tactics. But 90% of the time I only use the direct attack spells like Magic Missile, Chromatic Orb, Fireball, Icestorm and haste. Haste has proven to be one of my favourites since it doubles the number of melee strikes I can make. The drawback is that we are fatigued afterwards but I always rest and restore the group so that have never been any problem so far. 




    Slowly I progressed through the enormous elven tower in search for Larren, the only one that could help me use the heartstone gem. Unfortunately he was the one that failed with the protection spell and seems to have gone mad. I eventually found out I had to collect four pieces that could be used to restore a machine that was requested by one of the few elves that hadn´t lost his mind here.

    What had happend was that almost all elven defenders had become ghosts and had their souls stolen. They where the ones that attacked me but a very few had retained their minds even as ghosts and gave me valuable information. I eventually found Larren himself and he was unable to communicate with me until I had restored a machinery.

    When he spoke he gave me interesting and valuable background information. I have to add that the voice acting in the game is very good even though it is only used on very special NPC:s.







     Anyway, Larren by using the heartstone gem was able to locate the source of evil that troubled the north to a place called Dorn´s Deep. It is to this place I am now heading....

    September 21, 2014

    Legend of Grimrock II - Release Date

    Legend of Grimrock II will be released 15th of October!!!


    My next game is set....Just look at this trailer:



    Key Features:
    • Explore the wilderness and the dungeons of Isle of Nex: walk in ancient forests riddled with mysterious magical statues, fight the denizens of poison fuming swamps, dive in the Forgotten River in search of treasure, uncover secrets hidden deep below…
    • More than 20 hours of pure blooded dungeon crawling gameplay with grid-based movement and thousands of squares filled with hidden switches, pressure plates, secret doors, riddles, deadly traps and more.
    • Cast spells with runes, craft potions and bombs, fight murderous monsters with a large variety of melee-, ranged and thrown weapons, as well as firearms.
    • Create a party of four characters and customize them with 7 character classes, 5 races, and numerous skills and traits. Collect experience to hone their skills and discover improved equipment and magical artefacts.
    • 42 different kind of monsters including 30 new foes unique to Isle of Nex.
    • Play custom adventures created by others or make your own with Dungeon Editor.
    • More depth, variety and open ended exploration than in Legend of Grimrock 1. Enhanced AI, spell casting, puzzle mechanics and skill systems.

    September 19, 2014

    Icewind Dale - like wading through mud

    My adventure in Icewind Dale has continued for several more hours. My party has now reached level 7 and I am beginning to access third and fourth level mage spells which includes the popular fireball. Unfortunately the town´s magician is not selling any level 3 or 4 spells so the only spells I know is the ones I have found.


    When you find a scroll and is of adequate level you can try to scribe it into your spellbook. The success is dependable on you intelligence so it could fail and the scroll is lost forever. Once copied the spell itself is removed but is now accessible for you to memorize when you are resting your party.

    Anyway after having looked around the whole of Vale of Shadows I still didn´t know the source of the evil. I returned to the druid Arundel in village Kuldahar to report my findings. He said that the only thing that would help us is to find the Heartstone Gem, a scrying stone that could help us find this source of evil. 

    He suggested I might seek the Heartstone in the Temple of the Forgotten god and marked that place on my overland map. I went there and not surprisingly the place had been overrun by evil forces that had killed all the priests and temple guards. By wading through hordes of monsters and combats I finally reached the place where the heartstone should have been....except it had been removed. 



    My only clue was a green potion I found on a priest and when I returned back to Kuldahar and told the druid about my experience he examined the green potion and concluded it could only have been coming from the Dragon's Eye. This initiated chapter two of the game.



    So now I got another place to visit and this place consisted of several large levels with reptiles and shamans that made my progress quite slow. Fortunately it is quick to use quicksave and quickreload because I had to rest many times here. There are half a dozen levels that gradually gets more difficult. On the last levels you couldn´t even rest which means I have to return two levels back just to rest. That takes huge amounts of time since I have to do that after every other fight. Needless to say there are fights in almost every room so it becomes abit tedious.



    A few reflections of the game so far:
    • It is very linear. So far I haven´t even been able to choose from two different areas to visit. The drawback of strict linearity is that the items you find just barely makes you keep up with the stiffening opposition. There are no shortcuts to get you good weapons or magical items unless you find them on your path.
    • The game is filled with combats after combats after combats. *Sigh*. When repeating the same type of encounter over and over again with not much variety it tends to get rather boring. The only thing that helps up the progress is the few NPC encounters and dialogues with the minions of evil or finding good equipment.
    • There where a few very tough fights in Dragon´s Eye. Here I met trolls that refused to die unless you torch them up in order to die. I had to use fireballs to kill them off or throwing flamable potions on them. If you don´t have access to any of that you have to flee in order to rest and memorize fireball. Also, those trolls was often followed by several spellcasting priests. They where extremely difficult because they always cast Hold Person on my fighters and the trolls hack them to pieces after that. After almost 10 tries I eventually managed to take down the priests first and then retreat to heal and get back to finish the trolls. 
    • My priests "Turn undead" almost never works against the undead I am facing. This ability is so far pretty worthless.
    • My thief has yet to succeed in backstabbing anyone. It seems that as soon as I order him to attack when he is sneaking he immediately gets visible and lose the edge.
    • The last levels of Dragon´s Eye is filled with very dangerous traps that either poisions you or freezes you. I have lost half my inventory of antidote potions in just one single level.
    • The prices of magical items in the Kuldahar village is ridiculous. Certain items costs several tens of thousands of gold each and the few I can afford with my 4.000 gold cash is never as good as the ones I have already found.

    • The story so far is way beyound Baldurs Gate as far as I remembered. This feels like a very ordinary story. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by it further into the game.





    The game is testing my patience right now. I want to complete Dragons´s Eye and see what happens next before making any decisions on my continuation of this game.



    September 7, 2014

    Icewind Dale - Revisited



    When Baldurs Gate arrived in 1998 I thought it was one of the best - if not the best - RPG I had ever played. It set a new standard with its in depth story and detailed gameworld. Where dialogue choices where available at every interaction with NPC:s. The voice acting was supreme the music was excellent. In short Baldurs Gate is one of the finest games ever released.

    When Icewind Dale was released just a few years later (2000) I had already moved on to other games or slightly tired of the huge adventures in Baldurs Gate 2. Soon it was forgotten in the history of RPGs. Until this summer when I had more time than usual for myself but almost no game to play. At that time I managed to buy Icewind Dale complete for a few dollars at gamersgate and started up just a week ago.

    Icewind Dale complete consists of the add-on adventures Heart of Winter and Trials of the luremaster.

    The manual is over 150 pages! When did you see such a behemoth last time ? I was confident in my old school skills of the AD&D system so I didn´t read the whole manual to start. I quickly glanced over the statistical tables for each race, class and attributes to decide my group of six.

    After one hour of rolling up my party I come up with 1 warven and 1 human fighter, 1 elven thief, 1 human priest and 2 elven magicians. You can choose specialisation for the mages but I abstained.

    We started our adventure at a tavern in the cold outpost of Easthaven far up in the mountains. Just when we ordered the first round of ale, a man introduced himself as Hrothgar, the one who decides in this outpost. He welcomed us and said that after we have had a quick glance around the village, we should go and visit him. He had something he wanted to discuss with us.

    I immediately took my group out to explore the outpost and talked to every citizen I could find. Most where ordinary citizens with not much to tell but since this is a Bioware game there is a lot of dialogues with many of them and I learned a lot about the town and rumours. People was worried. Strange things had happened around the area. I also helped a drunkard to get his last bottle of wine and a shopkeeper to get rid of a wolf in his home.

    We started out with 500 goldcrowns and I used most of these to buy my two warriors armour and weapons that was fit for their chosen proficiencies. The whole group started out with one quarterstaff each and that is a weapon I have never chosen as a specialty. 

    Hrothgar wants me to take part in an expedition to investigate problem in the south

    Just south of the outpost across a bridge I first stumbled upon my first opponents. A group of goblins equipped both with melee and ranged weapons. They attacked me and now it was time to revive my old knowledge of the AD&D combat system. Everything plays out in realtime but you can pause the combat at any time issuing orders if you want to since the combat is divided into rounds.

    What is good is that you have the text window just below the mainscreen and you will get info about everything related to the combat. Who is attacking whom and how much damage that is delivered or received. You can also switch on detailed statistics to see your dice rolls. Very good to really understand the combat system but for me the overview information is enough.

    Normally I never split up my force by attacking several targets but instead take them down one at a time. My magicians was held back and occasionally I used their weak combat skills to throw their only memorized magic missile into the fight. Later on I equipped them with darts doing a meagre 1d4 in damage.

    I eventually killed all goblins even though I probably had to reload once since one of my member was killed and I had no intention of reviving him for a fortune of gold at the temple. In the beginning I looted all items I could to be able to sell them back at the shop for a few gold crowns. Eventually I was able to equip the rest of my group with armors and weapons.



    One of the first major tasks was to help Easthavens leader Hrothgar with investigating the disappearance of a caravan for the outpost. We immediately prepared and went eastward and came up to some caves that was filled with orcs. They are stronger than goblins but still manageable for my team. Here and there I found some chests filled with some good items like my first potions or the occasional magical scroll. 

    There was one particular combat that consisted of several orcs and an ogre that I had some problems with defeating. After 3-4 deaths my solution was to drag them to me. Kill the first of them and then retreat from the cave. I was then able to rest my team and save and could go back right in again. They where still waiting inside at the entrance. That´s good. But the tactics used also meant I could take them down piece for piece. The cleansing of the cave gave me valuable experience points and we all raised to level 2 fairly quickly. I also found the remains of the caravan and was able to report back to Hrothgar to be given even more xp.

    The whole expedition was killed but we survived

    After having exhausted all sidequests in Easthaven I was ready to join the expedition. A voice begun to speak about the hard marsch of the expedition. It became trapped when giants blocked the passage in the mountains and hurled boulders down upon us. Many died - inclusive Hrothgar - and only my group eventually survived and managed to reach Kuldahar. But not before we had to clear out an entire map with filled with goblins fortified in towers and mills. 



    We finally reached the small village Kuldahar that we where sent to help but now we looked more like refugees. At least I was glad to find a shop where we could sell all of our loot - bows and weapons looted from the goblins. They didn´t bring in much money so it was hardly worth it. Magical items costs several thousand of golds and I have not reached one thousand yet.

    The wise man in the village was the druid Arundel. He was sorry to hear our sad story since he is desperately pleading for help. Malovent forces in the valley are on the move. It is not secure to leave the village anymore and many people have been snatched away never to be found again. Arundel guess the source of the evil could be found in the valley of shadows and want us to explore and find out more about this. Since he is a druid, he can feel the whole natural balance becoming disturbed by this new threat.



    Before leaving we explored the whole village. It is complete with magical shops, inn, tavern, smith and whatever you need. A good place to have as your base.

    When I was ready to leave we went to the valley of shadows. It was a snowy place in the mountains guarded by both giants and undead creatures. Small caves and alcoves was spread out everywhere. Inside I had to fight hordes of skeletons and zombies and the occasional ghoul. Most of these combats was pretty easy and we gained much needed experience points. Enough that most of us could reach level 4.

    When you level up you are given a random roll to your hit points and at some levels you are given proficiency points to spend on weapon categories. The thief get points to spend between open locks, stealth, pick locket and disarm trap. I put most of my points into open locks and stealth. I have yet to use stealth to my advantage. I hope to succeed in backstabbing soon.

    There is a gameplay option to allow for maximum roll of hitpoints at level-up but I don´t have it checked. Instead I plague myself by reloading until I am content with the roll. It´s practically cheating just as bad but it reminds me of how you do it in the old-school RPG genre which is part of my background.


    In the valley I soon found a few keys. They where important to enter an inner sanctum. There I met an arrogant undead creature named Mythos that denied me further investigation. He wasn´t all out evil and said he had nothing to do with what happens in this valley but since he refused me to investigate further we had no choice but to discuss it with steel in hands. 

    He was pretty weak despite his supporting minions but he didn´t have any good items on him either. Instead the few magical item´s I´ve found is mostly coming from locked chests. They have brought me short bow + 1, mace + 1, longsword +1, warhammer + 1. Those are really needed because I have met undead that can´t be injured my normal weapons.

    My mages are still pretty useless in combat. At level four I could cast two magic missiles before running out of offensive capabilities. I am waiting for my first level 3 spell. Luckily, resting is not that hard in this game. 90% of the time you could rest without random encounters.


    One of my trusted fighters




    So far I like this game. The story is straight forward, the dialogues are well written. The most interesting NPC encounter has been with the evil undead Mythos that guarded the inner sanctum and an unfriendly inn keeper who illegally had taken over the establishment when the former owner mysteriously disappeared. But that´s another story.

    One more thing to add, only major NPC:s have voice acting accompanied to the dialogue. The others have text only. I don´t remember how Baldurs Gate had it.

    I need this kind of slow, turnbased game right now so Icewind dale fits perfectly. We´ll see how long I can keep up with this before I tire of the concept.