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

December 2, 2016

My favourite CRPG Music list


While I can still whistle a few subtunes from my first experience of Bard´s Tale on my Commodore 64 in 1988 it did not have good music in the way I meant it.  It has some classical catchy tunes that you had to listen to for hours while travelling the dungeons and had your bard songs active. Then there are music you appreciate because it is atmospheric but not very good to listen at actively.

Today - working as a programmer - I have a lot of good old game music to listen too both from Youtube and Spotify. Many of the are purely RPG related. The last couple of years have seen the indie rpg market explode and there are a lot of good music in these games as well. I am thinking about Legend of Grimrock 1 and 2, Lords of Xulima etc but this list is only for game is for the pre year 2000 games.

This list comes in no order whatsoever. It is impossible for me to determine a winner. I hope you like these tunes as well and if you have found something new you didn´t know about. Congratulations!



Ishar 2 - All subtunes are good but this is one of the best


Abandoned Places - There are several good tunes. This is just one of them.



The Faery Tale Adventure - All the songs are great



Betrayal at Krondor - The whole album is good




                          Planescape Torment - Also listen to this beautiful Deionarras Theme







Eye of the Beholder - Then listen to this clear remix



Ultima Underworld - The whole album has many good, atmospheric tunes.


Blade of Destiny - The whole album is good.












Best CRPG game music ?

CRPG MUSIC

The music in the old classical roleplaying computer games are often overlooked. I have always appreciated the ones that really have good music but too often they don´t get the attention they deserve. I have a lot of good themes playing in my earphones while working so why not share those ? That will be for another post though, now I would like to know which are your favourites and why ?

November 29, 2016

Ruzar - The life stone - Review

Next dungeon crawler up is the indie game Ruzar - the life stone, a game which also pays homage to the original dungeon master. It is very similar to my last game The Deep Path: Labyrinth of Andokost (TDP:LoA) even tough there are some major changes.

First off, in this game you play one character that you will create by spending your starting points between the attributes. There are are a skill tree in the game for a path of warrior, rogue and wizard so you might want to spend your points on the attributes most likely to resemble your playstyle of these three classes. You are free to specialise or spread these points though.

The main story is presented during the start of the game but never after that. In these kind of games the story gives you just a reason for being where you are. The game style is the same regardless. Fight your way through each level and foe blocking your path, plunder and loot everything you can and become as powerful as possible. 

Very good autoamp

The shopkeeper give you some sidequests
You start out in the mountains but will eventually enter the temple, sanctuary, mines and caves. Each of them contains several levels and their own graphical style. The whole games is full of the small kind of puzzles we´ve become accustomed to, like pits that needs to be closed, buttons and levers that either opens secret doors, reveals treasures, closes pits or bring forth teleporters. There are larger doors here and there which requires specific kind of keys to advance. Those are often buried deep in the hardest parts of the game behind traps and puzzles or carried by tough monsters.

Since I just a few weeks before played TDP_LoA I cannot but compare the games. Both have their own style and there are several things that differs between the games worth mentioning:

For example:

  • You have merchants where you can buy better equipment (weapons, shields, armour, magical items, spells and the like) which makes this game more varied.
  • Instead of continously regenerating as in TDP:LoA you must either heal with potions, spells or by lit a campfire and stand nearby. You need to find the campfire first and then you need to have a torch ready.
  • You could store items in a storage section and upgrade the number of items you could store there by paying more money.
  • All items have weight and your attribute Endurance control how much you could carry before you are gradually slowed. This is one of the best implementations I have seen of overloading in these kind of games. Instead of giving you penalties of fighting you move more slowly and it comes in gradual steps. If you are too heavy loaded you could forget to accomplish your square dance and barely manages enter fights without heavy losses, since you will be too slow to attack and retreat before the enemy attacks.
  • Automap is here. Hurrah!
  • Skill tree which give you some variety and replayability even though it is very streamlined within a class.
  • Coolness of weapons. With knives you attack faster but inflicts lesser damage, with two handed weapons you attack slower but inflict a lot of damage.
  • Special binding stones that allows you to teleport back and forth without having to travel through each level.
  • Some sidequests to give you more XP. Delivered by a few NPC.

You could put items into a storage but have to pay for the room


I really like that the game plays so much faster than TDP:LoA. You move around quickly and can even navigate when showing the automap.

The interface is pretty good with the standard movement of the WASD keys. The character screens are clean and easy to understand. The sound of the game is ok and the music does not stand out and are not as good as in TDP:LoA. I do have to say though that it has strong resemblance to the music found in Legend of Grimrock.

Graphics in the game are generally good with much better framerate and animations than in TDP:Loa. But the different environments are not as clear and textures are not always as good as the single one in TDP:LoA. So comparing them a single level to each other TDP:LoA wins easily because it is much sharper and clear.

Hmm...how to get across this ?

The game is filled with puzzles and hidden items but they repeat themselves a lot. For example. Hidden items are almost always revealed by pressing a hidden button. Traps are always disarmed with putting weight on a preassure plate and you almost always have to manually fall down in every pit because they reveal new sections of the map you have to explore. Having said that, the game uses teleporters in a very good way. There is even sections of evil disorientation when you suddenly find yourself travelling backwards in a corridor if you are not observant enough. Such things was part of the old school games like Bard´s Tale.


Your character and inventory

I have never got trapped though and never found any bug except for a crash to desktop once. You only have 3 save game slots so you have to carefully choose which to replace so you always have a save when you are safe and can return home.

I opted to play a mage in the game but I found it underpowered compared to a fighter. The spells do little damage and costs much mana. Mana is only restored by drinking potions or by standing beside a campfire (of which there are few). Unless you use a staff which slowly regenerates mana but that would require you to run back and forth between fighting and retreating and it would take too much time. There are several combats in which you are totally locked up in a room or in a confined space. To run around holding a staff and wait for your mana to regenerate while the staff itself inflict around 50 % damage of a melee weapon was never my choice of play. I thought I had the best combination as a warriormage because I could still retreat and heal myself using the staff which regenerated my mana.

As a warrior you could fight as much as you want and the fights are actually too easy with the squaredance tactics so I found myself always fighting in melee. The only difficulties I had was when the space was too limited to use the squaredance tactic.

I saved most of my skill and attribute points and think I ended the game at level 21. There are three skill trees for a playing style of warrior, ranger or mage. I begun to put some points into the magical tree but spells are still too weak. You will also get a lot more good weapons when exploring than good wands. I have no idea how it is to play a ranger using ranged weapons. There are some good ranged weapons hidden in the game though.

Temple
Mines
Caves
Featurewise the game is far more developed and advanced than TDP:LoA but I found it only slightly better. Also the price tag is much higher. I found the game a little too short. There are only a few different areas with a few levels each. Together I think the number of levels are almost the same as in TDP:LoA and it took me 11 hours to complete.

I would like to see a sequel though because this game has good potential to be developed further. I would suggest the enemies gets a little faster so square dancing would not be so easy. Or that they possess more abilities like freeze or slow. You have a bestiary in the game and when you have fought enough of a given creature you will see its relative strengths and weaknesses. My hardest opponent was the moving green garbage slimes because they leave a trail of poison and have poisonous attacks which drain you quickly. Fighting several of them in confined spaces was tough.

Also, more NPC with more elaborate dialogues would enhance the game as well. There are no lore or other information found during your explorations so you quickly forget about your main quest.

Overall, this was a good dungeon crawler that comes highly recommended.

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
1
Economy
3
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
3
Magic system
3
Character generation & development
2.5
Map design
3
Manual
-
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
20.5


Gameplay
4






November 13, 2016

Ruzar - The life stone, another good dungeon crawler

Just after finishing the last dungeon crawler, I immediately started to looking for another in the same genre. After a brief research I came up with Ruzar - The life stone, a dungeon crawler released in 2015. The major difference on the surface is that you only control one character. After a couple of hours I am hooked with this game as well. It offers several features that where non-existent in The Deep Paths: Labyrinth of Andokost, like a shop where you actually buy and sell items, quests, automap, teleporter stones, cooldowns for weapons, square dancing, spells and a skill tree just to name some of the major changes. The game is more expensive so this is to be expected.




I will return with more information about my progress in this game and my views on it but I feel that so far it delivers. It contains puzzles, preassure plates, traps and all you expect from this game. 

I created a mage like character spending my attribute points purely on intelligence (to boost spell damage and the amount of spell slots you can have), Spirit (to increase my mana) and constitution (to get more health points every level). I am playing on normal difficulty and so far the fights are a littel on the easy side because of the square dance tactics. Monsters do however have different abilities and speeds so this might change.

I am at level 6 and have saved my attribute points (except for increasing endurance to carry more items) and skill points. I always do that until I know where and when I really will need them. As you are all aware many games are not equally balanced between different classes and playstyles.



Take a look at the trailer and read some info below from the developer:

Ruzar - The Life Stone is a first-person, grid-based dungeon crawler inspired from the famous Dungeon Master Series.

Being a big fan of this genre since it came out (1987), I always wanted to create my version with my own flavor. Two years ago I decided I should try it, It has been a long and fastidious process, but here it comes. I hope the community will enjoy it!
One of the major element I wanted to change is the number of character you play. Instead of having the four classic characters, I wanted to have only one! I wanted a deeper conection with the main character so by focusing on it, it was easier to develop a skill system that was more elaborated than the most common dungeon crawlers in the genre. I also wanted to create a different spell system, more similar to the classic rpg game genre.

Here are some new gameplay element you can find in Ruzar - The Life Stone.
  • A Storage System to be able to store your items you want to keep
  • An Economy where you can buy and sell items
  • A binding stone system to help you travel through the dungeons
  • A Quest system



November 12, 2016

Review: The Deep Paths: Labyrinth Of Andokost

The last couple of years have seen a tremendous increase in indie developers tackling the CRPG nische market. After completing The Quest I was looking for another RPG to sink my teeth in. First I tried Paper Sorcerer but never got hooked by it. It was by pure accident I found this game on steam for only $7 dollars to be released very soon.

The Deep Paths: Labyrinth of Andokost is a dungeon master clone with a four party assemble trying to solve a mystery below a city. The game is developed by only one person but still manage to achieve well respected graphics and sound. The game is far from as polished as Legend of Grimrock but still manages to hold on its own and the price tag is really attractive.

It reminds me very much of Crystal Dragon and Black Crypt for the Amiga. Not the least because of the colour palette used which is light brown. The game is extremely simple, yet functional with only three classes (Warriors, Rogue, Wizard). You are allowed to re-roll your attributes as much as you dare to and then the game begins. The four attributes wither helps to increase your damage output, armour class, mana or health.


While the game is realtime in the way that monsters move even if you are stationary it turns to turn-based during combat which allows everyone - including monsters - to attack before you can move or attack the next round. This means it effectively kills the hit-and-run tactics used in these sort of games. You could still sneak around and hit the nemies from behind for backstabbing damage though but the enemy is always given one retaliatory attack. 


One thing you do not have to think about here is food. No one will starve to death. No one even permanently dies unless all characters dies in a fight. Unconscious characters will return to life after a brief period of rest, even in the middle of fights and regenerates health and mana slowly over time.


There are no spells but simple wands to use for your mages and ranged weapons for the rogue which is also necessary to open chests. Apart from that anyone can enter melee combat but I believe the front row has a greater chance of hitting. Weapons and armours are not found frequently. There are not a lot of items lying around. Most of the times you find arrows, pick-axes or ingredients to brew mana and health potions. But apart from that there is not much loot but I find it acceptable because there are also games that have som many items that you barely notice the effects when equipping them which also degrades the enjoyment of finding them. 

The levels are quite small but there are no automap available, unless you find a map which often are hidden. I think that is good compromise because today there is just no patience to begin drawing maps with pen and paper again. It seems there exists a map on every level but it is often hidden behind a puzzle or hidden door.


Sometimes you will find objects or trigger other events which will lead to dialogues between your party. They help to build on the story and adds a littel variety. Every level contains some sort of challenge to get through which mostly requires you to find the keys necessary to progress. Those keys are either hidden or lies behind rooms full of traps, skulls shooting magical missiles or huge monsters guarding them. I find the so called puzzles to be relatively easy. Only once I got really stuck when I had to find out a combination of clicking four buttons. My only strategy was by pure force of going through all combinations. That is not fun, only frustrating. If at least there would be a riddle or some sort of hint to help you.




Combat is overall relatively easy but tedious. There is no strategy involved at all. Just pure strength where you try to get in more hits than you receive. You could always run away and as long as you can get far away the monsters will stop chasing you. The best tactic is to use a 2x2 area and move around each creature to attack them from behind to receive backstabbing damage. 




Mages are very underpowered with only weak wands. There is no difference in cooling down times of any weapons or magical wands used so you should always choose the one which inflicts the most damage. Therefore mages are worthless. They have no spells or any advantages over other classes. Their poison wand vastly underpowered and not better thant the rogues bow. At least the rogue is necessary in order to open chests. If I where to replay this I would use 3 warriors and 1 rogue.

Despite those minor drawbacks I had great fun playing this game. It reminded me of old good times and the game was bugfree for me. I also love the loading screens which have sampled the sound of an amiga discdrive loading. The title music to the game is very catching and good and I found myself listening to it a lot by itself.

The game also lacks any manual. I won´t say it was necessary. Much of the information is explained by tooltips but a short manual is always appreciated and it helps potential buyers to get a good overview of what the game offers.

 I highly recommend this game for anyone who loves a dungeon crawler.



Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2
Economy
1
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2
Magic system
1
Character generation & development
1.5
Map design
3
Manual
-
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
15


Gameplay
3.5





October 6, 2016

The Quest - Review

When I am lucky I stumble across indie RPGs that I have never heard of that turns out to be real gems. A few weeks ago when browsed around I found a game called The Quest that was available at Steam for $9.99. The reviews was very positive and by looking at the screenshots I was hooked directly. After reading a little about the game I decided to buy it and have now been playing it for over 38 hours.

Have they succeeded ? Yes! For its maegre money they deliver a game with CRPG elements that we all have learned to love. A large non-linear gameworld filled with plains, woods, mountains, seas and underground places. The game is filled with a lot of different monsters and adversaries. Skills and attributes to improve when levelling, lots of items, automap, questlog etc.

You play yourself, an agent sent out by the king to find out what has happened to a local governor that mysteriously has disappeared from an island. When you start you will have to find information about the governor and there are a lot of rumours going around. You soon find out you have to reach certain places far away from where you start and in order to do so you will have to be well-trained and ready. This means you have to take on sidequests to earn money to be able to afford better weapons and armours and gaining experience points by slaying monsters so you can upgrade your skills. Eventually you will be able to travel farther and farther away from your starting town and begin to explore the vast lands. The game is large. The island is built up of up to 100 areas, all which have their own names and are of the same sizes. I haven´t counted them but they are at least 40x40 hexes each which means the game world is built up of over 100.000 squares. Yes you move in a tile-based movement so no free roaming here and no jumping.

You begin the game by creating your character out of a few races and then choose a profession. The profession includes a subset of all the skills for which you will only pay one skill point to increase. All other skills will cost 2 skill points per level. You could also opt to create your own character fully, which I choosed. There are around 20 skills and some attributes on which they are based like strength, endurance, dexterity, personality, intelligence etc. I choosed a battlemage but changed some of the preselected skills.

You have different starting positions in the game world depending on your choosen profession but I suspect all end up in around the same area. But it is a nice touch. I for example, started out in an underground cave and had to fight bats and rats while slashing some cobwebs that blocked my way.

After getting out and equipped myself with the very few items I started with, like a dagger I managed to find a village not far from the cave. In the village I heard my first rumours about the governor and the sickness and also a little history.


I spent the first few hours trying to get some experience by doing some small sidequests around the area, gathering all loot I could find and sold it in the town in order to upgrade my weapons and armour. Most of my money was spent for food which is needed to rest and heal. You move around the overland in a tile-based movement in realtime but when an enemy come close enough it switch to a turn-based combat. All fights are to the death and you cannot run away. Not even if you lure the enemies back to town will any guard step in and help you. This means you should be careful in which fights you get into. 


During combat you could drink a potion, cast a spell, read a scroll, move or attack your opponent. Combat is quite static but will require you to use some tactics especially for tougher opponents. A maximum of two opponents could confront you on each side which means you sometimes have to navigate to places where you will fight as few as possible at once.

Combat is quick which compensates the lack of tactical finesse. You get experience points almost only for killing enemies and few - if any - for solving quests which is a bit disappointing. The environment and graphics of the game is quite good. It is clear and functional. You have a few environemental effects like rain or thunders, night and day which affect things like ability to rest or opening hours in the towns.


The game is really fun and captures the feeling of trying to reach the next level in order to receive the attribute points and skill points to spend. You also get some "free" upgrades of the two most used skills since last levelling which is a nice feature. 

There are quite many items in the world and weapons and armours are divided into light and heavy stuff which requires its corresponding skill. The advantage of the heavy stuff is that they do the best damage and protects the most but at the cost of being so heavy you hardly have room for other inventory stuff. On the other hand you would surely focus as a fighter then and have to put points into strength which increase your carrying capacity.


As a battlemage I had light armours and weapons and relied mostly of magic in the first hand. I had to spend a fortune on healing and mana potions which meant I had to pick up everything I could find to sell for money. Especially in the later part of the game when you need dozens of full mana potions just in order to take on a few tough enemies.





Magic is divied into magical schools, each with its corresponding skill. Each group have half a dozen spells or more which you need to buy, or find in books to scribe in order to use. You could also find a lot of scrolls and wands in the game. The more skill points invested into a magical school the better the effect wether it is direct damage, healing effects or enchantment capabilities.

Yes, you could enchant items and add a lot of different abilites to them like increasing attribute points or fortifying skills. Actually, I first felt powerful in the latter half of the game when I first started to enchant my items and gave every singe item a fortify armour value which made me into a tank. I could then stand there in melee combat and cast spells at my enemy.

There are a few very good and powerful items scattered around in the world which you get from quests but you could also find good items in the market. Each town has a different set of stock which replenishes after a few days.




This game reminds me a bit of the Might and Magic series and if you remember you had spells like town portal, mark and recall. Yupp! They are all here as well. Very convenient and powerful. 

It took me over 20 hours to even start on the main quest in the game. It wasn´t obvious for me in the beginning what I should do but it became clearer when I went to the east part of the island. Then I begun to focus on following the mainquest and finally brought it to an end. The game is quite tough. It will reward patience and you have to avoid certain dangers and come back later when you got better. I love such systems.

A little puzzle where you have to shoot the lever to activate it

Even tough I felt quite powerful in the end I never felt I was invincible in any way. Even wandering creatures on the east side of the island always pestered me and drained my supply of mana or degraded my equipment. Yupp, you have repair skills and your weapons and armours could eventually become broken and gradually decrease the combat or armour value on the way.

You always have access to a pretty good automap in which you could make notes and a quest diary which lists all active quests. There are no helper arrows or markers though so you have to remember what is being said and use the short quest description.

There are a lot of sidequests in the game and I think most of them are pretty good. The dialogues are quite good and you are given several options to answer. It is not as advanced as in the Baldurs Gate but better than what is expected for these kind of games.

Most of the skills in the game are very useful but others can be managed without by using scrolls. For example lockpick and disarm. I never found out the use of stealth or persuasion. I think those skills are pretty weak. The spell (or if you prefer to buy it in the town) Enchant is very powerful and was a must for me to keep up with the tough opposition.











 In the end I liked this game very much. It loads extremely quick and is very accessible to play. It just about the right size and rewards a carefully character build. Since I am always a careful person I save up many skill and attribute points until I really need to spend them which meant I had a few points left when completing the game at level 15. There were some really tough fights - particularly in the end of the game. I won´t spoil anything to mention them but my advice is to use the environment to your advantage and try to lure enemies to come to you through small passageways. Especially if you are outnumbered. It also required some thinking with different strategies in order to beat certain opponents. I had to use both wands and potions in huge amounts in order to win. Things are not getting easier than opponents that could inflict diseases on you which renders you almost helpless. Fortunately there is a full alchemy part of the game where you can find ingredients everywhere and brew your own potions by trial and error or by reading books. Very helpful to get rid of warrt or plague for example. 

This was my ending character sheet
I had a lot of unused skill points in reserve

 The game is fully recommended:


Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2
Economy
3
NPC & Interactions
2.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
3
Magic system
2
Character generation & development
3
Map design
3
Manual
3
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
24.5


Gameplay
4



















September 11, 2016

Stonekeep - The mines and the Throggi Temple

I am still playing Stonekeep even though it is over a month since my first post. I have now become more used to the clumsy interface and begun to understand more about using different objects. For example, early on I found the Thera orb. If you put it in front of you on the ground it gives you a small map of the current area and reveals any invisible doors. Because the inventory is so clumsy I only use this on special spots on the map where I suspect I might have missed something. I don´t remember that I even discovered the use of this orb on my first playthrough in 1995. There is also another orb I found that heals you but it has limited amount of uses. I don´t know if it regenerates over time. You have access to an automap in the game where you can put your notes so there is no need to draw any maps.

There orb in action

Anyway my progress has taken me through the sewers. First I had to explore them when they where flooded. Then I had to drain them with cylinders that I found down there. After that I needed to explore them again in search of hidden objects and to find the invisible walls that lead me on.

After the sewers I came to the Sharga Mines, filled with the goblinoid creatures called Sharga in this game. Those levels was quite interesting to explore. Smaller and larger Shargas and a huge two-headed giant was among its inhabitants. I had become dependent of the few healing fountains there was but it was tedious to run back and forth after almost every fight. I needed to save the healing roots I got from the slained Shargas when I really needed them. Somewhere around here I found my first magical wand and runes. I found a fireball rune and a healing rune and also a magical circle that replenished the mana in the staff. With its use I could prolong my expeditions and became dependent of the mana circle instead of the healing fountain. Later on I would find more powerful staffs which had more mana and for a while I only used the fireballs in combat.


Farlis brother is released from captivity

Eventually I would find other NPC:s. Farlis brother and others and when I was in the temple of Throggi I had at least three NPC:s. You cannot control them, you cannot see their stats or inventory but you could change their weapons and armour but since you don´t see the effect of it, it is hard to know if you actually improve them or not by re-equipping them. They seem to add somewhat to the fights but since you never see the enemys health it is impossible to judge if their hits is as powerful as yours. The good thing is that if they die you could always heal them with the staff.

At this stage, I encountered several traps and progress required finding invisible passageways or hidden objects. Still the reward of opening new chests or finding special items is great but the enemies becomes tougher as well. At one time I only used ranged weapons like a crossbow. They inflict heavy damage and you can shoot them through doors where enemies normally don´t follow you. At least not if you found them on the other side in the first place. After each fight you have to pick up all your arrows or darts once again. This takes time and makes progress slow.


In the temple of Throggi - my last level - I met shamans that used magic at me for the first time. I mainly used fireballs against them and when my mana was out I attacked them in melee. The guards on this level had a special ability of putting up their shields to protect them from ranged attacks so I only used magical attacks against them.

I am sure I have missed several hidden places or items but as long as I can progress I am satisfied. The opposition is tough but balanced. It never feels too hard and never too easy. As long as I have access to my mana circles I feel safe. If an enemy is too tough you can run away, heal up and then come back to fight him. I think he has not regenerated any health. There is very little in the form of writing or story. At some places you have plaques to read before certain rooms telling you it is a storeroom or whatever. Other than that the only interesting story is when you meet monsters who speak to you with digitized voices.



Due to some sort of bug I never saw Wahooka and could never give him any precious stones to get hints until somewhere in the Sharga mines. But his advice was worthless anywayand and since then I haven´t seen him anymore.

My biggest complaint about the game lies in its interface and specifically the inventory which consists of a scrollable pergament on the right side of the screen. By slowly scrolling it up or down you can find your items. It takes a lot of time and often you have to shift weapons so this is tedious. At some parts the passage is caved in and you need a pick to remove it. Such moments only add to the frustration of the game. Another thing is that no items is presented with name only by graphics and it is not easy to see what it is. The only way to know what you have found for certain is to use your journal which lists all items found.

But apart from the slow interface in general I find the game entertaining and rewarding so far. I still think the game holds pretty well against the competition at the time like Anvil of Dawn or Dungeon Master 2. But more of that later on.