Currently playing: Nox Archaist

December 29, 2012

Faery Tale II - Exploring the land

After my visit at Rorkas castle I continued my exploration through the southwestern coast. See the automap below for my exploration.

The southwestern part of the continent
Here is what happened:

  • I fought dozens of battles against serpentmen, shadow warriors, serpents, dire wolves, smugglers and other denizens of this region. I have given up searching the bodies of the lesser creatures by now. I have enough gold, potions or gems than I can carry.
  • I stumbled upon a total of three caves in this region. Caves is actually quite fun to explore because they often contains valuable items like new spells (Scrolls) or magical items. In this way I found a sword of Tempest with which I replaced my Caldera sword. I also found a jade great sword which I let Philippe try out. 
  • Rock spiders in caves are tough bastards that in principal only my best fighter Julian is capable of killing. They also have a nasty habit of spitting at me from a distance.

A Rock spider takes almost 15 hits to be killed

  •  The last two caves where infested with Banshees. They are easy to kill but if you don´t take them out early they could cast powerful direct attack spells on you. In their worst moments they are accompanied by moving amoebas that resurrects and are very tough opponents. I had to run through them to grab what I wanted from that cave or we would have been overrun by them.

Plundering a body of items

Some gameplay reflections:

  1. Magic wise I have only used about 4-5 spells out of the over 20 I know of. The most important spells are healing and critical healing, followed by fireball and other direct attack spells. I haven´t bothered to use any defense like spells. There have been only one major fight (against Rorka) so I prefer to save my mana. By the way, I haven´t really figured out how the mana is working. You have spells divided into several classes, each with their own color and mana pool. I think that you increase your specific spell class by using spells from it. My green mana pool that houses the healing spells are the largest by far which indicates I am right about this.
  2. Combat in the game begins to be quite tedious at least against hordes of lesser enemies that are not dangerous. It is not possible to flee from a fight. The enemies will haunt you over the whole map so you must kill them all. 
  3. One of the major problems is the limiting carrying capacity. You can pick up several different containers, each able to hold a certain amount of stuff but you have to keep track of your total weight allowance which seems to be affected by your brawl skill. Regardless, it is always a limiting factor and my group are hardly able to carry anything more which means I have to leave much potions behind. I could choose to use lesser armour but that is not an option for me.
  4. I have yet to find an NPC that have anything important to tell me. Most common NPC:s just say ordinary stuff. There exists no sidequests in the game as far as I know. The only reason to talk to NPCs are to learn if they sell or buy stuff or if you are lucky could tell anyting about the surroundings but I have yet to see any dialogue options outside of pure bartering. Still I have been fooled several times when meeting NPC:s with special names in caves or as prisoners etc. But they have nothing whatsoever to add which confirms that this game was rushed in the end.
Smugglers guard dogs
Exploring the lighthouse

Another cave...
With some goodies
After taking a look at the overland automap and compared it to an online map of the game I found I came to the conclusion that I have spent around 1/5 of the time required if I am to cover the whole map and visit every place. Since my playing time is limited I don´t think that time will be wisely invested for me. I have the same feeling as I had when I quit Wizardry VII. Faery Tale Adventure II have something there, deep buried but it is hard to reach and requires a good amount of effort. I am satisfied with my revisit to this game and think I am qualified to review it. The review will come up in my next post.

December 24, 2012

Faery Tale II - Rorkas Castle

I knew this game was big but not until now I begin to realise exactly what efforts it will take from me if I am even remotely thinking of completing it. The gameworld is huge and spans several overland automaps in every direction. There are at least half a dozen cities I could take a coach to from my starting town Padavis and between these cities are huge landmasses of woods, rivers and mountains filled with hidden caves, ruins, castles and other sites of interest.

I have the same feeling about the game as when playing Wizardry VII. I would probably be blogging about the game for the coming three months no doubt.

Anyway, I opted for the city Karminac which costed me 400 gold crowns. It laid westward of the starting town Padavis.

I arrived somewhere in the outskirts of the city and was almost immediately attacked by orcs even tough the townsfolk where all around me. The orcs never attacked the civilians and it didn´t seem I would get any help from the guards either.

I explored the outskirts of this town until I stumbled upon a huge walled city spanning dozens of screens from east to west and north to south. When I found the entrance I thought I was safe but here they came again. A group of orcs attacked and it was I who had to fought them off. Anyway, after exploring this town for well over an hour I wondered if I would have the patience for this game because the scrolling and moving speed is so extremely slow. You really need patience. But I didn´t wan´t to quit too soon. At least not until I have found any, just any, clue of what I have to do to win this game. At least that would give me a purpose and I don´t have to run around randomly in the wilderness in search of caves and other places of interests that just detracts from the main quest.

I was hoping to meet someone important here but noone seems to care

In one of the stone buildings within the walled city I found stairs that led down to an underground complex that connected different parts of the city as well as hiding some sinister creatures like mad mages, torture rooms, venomous snakes and rats.

This crazy mage proteced his hideout by attacking me with spells on first sight
I found a lot of different stairs that led upwards to different places within the city. They all eventually resulted in good lootings. As said in my previous post, you could loot everything you see in the game and no one will bother. Most items are mundane objects, potions, scrolls, books and lesser weapons laying around.

I also found the mercenaries guild and the sorcerer guild. I was hoping to be given some sort of mission but alas - this is not Oblivion -, they didn´t say one word except offering me training or buying things. Training by the way is extremely expensive if you already are somewhat proficient. Skills increase by using them and it takes it gradually becomes harder and harder to attain new levels.

Here and there the NPC:s do drop hints about background story or important persons. But it is more like rumours and you have to make up the puzzle of your own if you are to keep track of everything you hear. I don´t have that type of comittment in my gaming to write down everything, unless a clear major goal exists.

Another hour passed and I felt I was finished with this city. I had two clues with me. First, in the south there is a town that are besieged by pirates and in the area there are treasures to be found. Secondly, there are this Rorka ruler or whatever he is. I have heard enough things of him to either declare him evil or at least a major NPC to visit. The problem is that I don´t know where he could be found.

Talking with a merchant

I started to wander in a south, southwest direction, mainly keeping us close to the coast - I prefer to be methodological in my explorations. After having stumbled upon some bandits I was overjoyed of finding a huge castle west of the city. I was attacked by Shadow Warriors outside that was pretty tough but beatable. On the roof of the castle I saw several skeletons keeping guard. I decided to enter.

The castle was called Rorkas castle and consisted of three levels. One above and one below. It housed very irritating magic-bolt-throwing imps and a lot of skeletons. It was a strange complex because in the lower levels pulsated red gridlines of energy through the complex. They where all connected to some sort of magical device that shot bolts at us. We run through it down to the basement where a lot of different creatures was held behind bars. By removing a certain stone there, we unwillingly set loose all these creatures and had to fight our way back upstairs.

In the center of this place where Rorka himself and he very confidently told me that he would kill me and offer my heart to appease the lord of the halls of the dead. By letting my weaker brothers run away I confronted him with Julian (the red guy) and after a tough fight with some healing potions used, I killed Rorka and got a key and some items.

Why are all the evil guys always bragging about our imminent defeat ?

What irritates me is that in the room where Rorka was found there was this place of center where Rorkas heart sat. I couldn´t take it, destroy it or find any other means of aquiring it which frustrated me but I had to leave it there and move on. I was sure I had accomplished something important in the game but I have no clue of what other than that Rorka was an evil guy affiliated with Sariloth.

So how do I get hold of his heart ?
Not entirely satisfied we left the castle and continued our explorations in the southwestern part of the area. We fought countless of battles with Shadow Warriors which where met in increasing numbers. They also regenerate and always come back in one way or another. After wandering around for at least an hour we found a noname cave that we entered.

The huge complex in the east is the city, Rorkas castle is seen in the west
The cave was inhabited by serpent men and a lot of poisonous spiders that managed to kill the weak brother Kevin several times before I decided that Julian would take care of the fights alone. The cave was quite small but offered us some very good items. The best one being a crown that when wielded divides damages received by 3.

Treasure could be seen lying around!!!

 We also found two new spells like fireball and incinerate. They where given to my mage Kevin.

Kevins spells are listed in the right part
There is much to like about the game. The freedom of movement in the world, the search for better equipment, weapons, armour, magical items and gold. But likewise its major drawback is the aforementioned slow movement and the fact that the brothers almost always get in the way of each other, either by blocking the path or refusing to getting up or down of stairs. Add to that the awkward communication interface and
the half second of delay when clicking the mouse both for  purposes of movement and for the interface windows. The game really tries your patience.

Despite having played for another 5 hours since my last post I have still no real clue of what to do next other than to continue to explore the world. I really want to like this game and will at least give it a few hours more before deciding if its time to wrap this game up with a review.

December 15, 2012

Faery Tale II - Without direction

The background story in this game goes something like this. There was a huge fight between Order and Chaos and the land Farr was severely punished in the fight. The evil seems to be on the winning side. Three steads return  to another dimension to get help from the three brothers to clear up this mess. They arrive and take the brothers with them but when landing in the square of the town Padavis the steads gets stoned by the evil lord and turns to a statue. Now it is up to the brothers to try to help this broken land. 

That´s about it. I have no idea of what I should do or where I should go. I like the freedom of moving around but after my 8 hours or so put into the game when writing this I would like to have a hint of where to go or what to do. Well, I suppose I will have to keep playing to find out.

My wandering around the areas east of the starting town Padavis continued. Several times I was attacked by goblins. They helped build up my characters and occasionally gave me some better equipment or gold. For example, they helped me greatly in getting the first line of armours like hide shields or soft leather gauntlets. They also gave us our first longswords in bronze but that metal is inferior to potmetal. But how do I know which is better between a bronze longsword or a potmetal shortsword ? You never see the damage dealt to enemies so this is hard to judge.

Most of the seven skills in the game increase during combat. Most common is that you vitality increases, followed by swordcraft (if you use swords),brawn (strength), agility (ability to dodge) and shield. That happens quite frequently and you really notice the difference in fights with the same monster types after awhile. I think that system works pretty ok but you have to make sure all brothers participate in combat or magic or else the first brother Julian, will be much stronger than the other two. 

After having following the eastern path for quite some time we stumbled upon Castle Jovanc. It was huge on the outside and curious as I am we entered. The entrance hall hid a skeleton that lunged forward to stop our progress. He was quite tough but we managed to kill him. The adjoining rooms gave us some potions but the main entrance door where full of skeletons behind and after having tried once and been killed quickly, I reloaded. Instead I continued east, past the castle.

Entrance to castle Jovanc
My plan was to follow the outlines of the coast to have something to navigate by. Since the automap shows unexploread areas as massive black, I have to explore each part of the map throughly in order not to miss anything. I met some sea snakes and later on Hobgoblins that where all too difficult to defeat. I had to return to the town to make out a new plan.

Exploring the eastern lands
Now when I have had time to analyse the combat in more detail I can tell you how it works. Each character has an aggressive indicator which must be active in order for the character to engage in fights. Each character also has a binding icon indicating whether they will stay close to the active character or not. If both the agressive icon and the binding icon is set to off and you control the active character directly, then the other two brothers will try to avoid fights at all costs and even flee outside of the screen if attacked. If they are unbinded but set to aggressive they will fight whatever target there is nearby regardless of where the active character is.

So far I keep all brothers tight to my active character (banded) and all set to agressive when combat is about to begin. But I have seen the benefit of letting a brother flee - if he is very low on hit points - or not to attack with him in the first place.

Combat in the game is turnbased. That´s why the triangular square shows atop the leader to indicate he needs another target or cannot reach his target. But by holding the left mouse button down on the enemy my active character will attack it as long and fast as it is able. The computer controls the other ones at the same time and they will attack the nearest target.

Combat works when you get the grips of it but it could be hard to have a good overview of all the brothers at once. Everytime you shift brother or do something with the inventory some time passes for the enemy to move. If anyone is outside the screen you cannot scroll the screen in anyway the only solution is to shift to that character. That is a cumbersome interface used.

Anyway, after having tried to sell some stuff in Padavis we headed south and after much exploring came upon a goblin village. There where a lot of goblins guarding it *surprise, surprise!*. I think we killed at least a dozen before we came upon the entrance.

The result of our slaughter
The goblin village contained an underground level which we explored. I got some new weapon upgrades like steel Greatswords and a lot of healing potions. This village turned out to give us a lot of more skill increases and I felt we where much stronger when we returned back to town.

A typical dungeon of the game

After the goblin raid I thought the better armour and weapons we now got could be enough to take on the castle again. I went back and we forced ourselves into the castle, slaying ordinary skeletons without much problems but the skeleton warriors was much tougher. I often had to use tactics like opening a door and fight in the door frame and when being badly hurt, close the door and heal up and try again. That didn´t work everywhere though but enough for us to clear most of the ground level and the upstair level. We found a lot of potions and other stuff. There is quite many ordinary items in the game you could take but I am not sure if everything has a meaning.

There where a little ghost boy running around in the castle. He didn´t attack me but did not speak to me either. I found a toy which I gave to him and he gave me a staff of life as a gift. It was hard and took me quite some time to clear most of the castle. My last action in the castle was to kill some sort of undead leader. He left the sword Cauldera which I gave to Julian and it does tremendous of damage compared to my previous weapons.

Looting my vanquished foes

My toughest opponend left me the best weapon so far
I left the castle and continued eastward. I fought countless of small random encounters. I eventually decided to begin to turn back. It was then I found a road and I thought that I perhaps should follow the road for the first time and so I did. It just ended after a while but it turned out there was a cave close to it. Yes! My first cave! We eagerly entered.

Caves could hide almost anything

This complex consisted of several dungeon floors filled with dwarves, spiders and later on in the depths by giants and flying small dragon hatchlets. I did manage to fight them all and it gave me valuable increases in all my skills as well as vitality (my hitpoints). We found huge amounts of gold on the dwarves corpses, getting our pooled gold to several thousand coins. 

I was delighted to find some dragonskin boots for all of my three brothers and much better weapons and armours as well. In the end I also found some rare spell scrolls. I have elected Kevin to be my spellcaster in the group so all new spells goes to him. He is my healer and since I have been using healing quite a lot his spellcraft skill has increased, giving me even more spellpoints.

The last level had me fight Giants!
After returning from the cave I felt rich and I felt very strong with my group. We had much better armour and weapons and where stronger in general. It was time to retreat back to town to sell of some jewellery and plan our next move.
Passing this lava stream took us to better item.
It was then I found our next cave. It was much smaller and inhabited by goblins but they where easily disposed of. I found an offensive spell and much food in the cave but other than that, nothing. When leaving the cave we stumbled upon a peddlar which I traded some items with. Amongst other things I sold him my found gemstones and got several thousand gold in return.

The goblins cave
Getting rich trading with the peddlar
When coming back to town I immediately headed for the coaches. I wanted to travel somewhere else and begin my adventure or find clues about it. I choosed a town lying straight north of me. I hope I will find some menaing with our existence in these lands there.

December 8, 2012

Faery Tale Adventure 2 - Halls of the dead - Revisited

Like a prey, I have kept my eyes on this game for several years. A few times I have tried to snatch it  but everytime I have quickly lost the grip because I never got the sound to work, lacked the manual or whatever. The interests emanates of course from the fact that the original FaeryTale Adventure ranks as one of my best RPG experiences ever and that game alone was the fact that I wanted to buy an Amiga 500. While my revisit to the original faery tale adventure turned out to be a dissappointment today, it nevertheless wasn´t in 1989.

Front cover of Faery Tale II

In 1997, when this sequel was released I totally missed it. I suppose it wasn´t very well marketed and I know today that the company behind it, The dreamers guild, went out of business while making this game and had to release it quickly in order to release it at all.

I had never heard of that developer at the time but they do have some games in their record and a few of the more famous ones are  the train simulator A-train, and the mac version of the adventure Legends of Kyrandia. Fortunately David Joiner (alias Talin), the original creator of the Faery tale Adventure, was part of the production of this sequel which I hope will be felt while playing it.

Back cover

This game is quite hard to get by if you want the CD-version which include the music tracks and voices.  In my revisit I am trying out the CD-version.

Julian, Phillipe and Kevin is back again to rescue the world

The game doesn´t allow for characters to be generated. The three brothers Julian, Philippe and Kevin are back from the first game and once again they together must solve the challenges ahead in this one. They have been teleported to this new realm and have to save this kingdom from the evil that threatens.

The brothers are teleported to this square in the start
You control one of them at a time and the others will follow, or you could split them and send them away to different directions. They have their differences regarding starting skills and characteristics but more of that later.

We start the game just outside an inn in a square with three stoned steads. Since the manual recommends to check out the tavern and innkeeper we went there first. It was a large two storey inn with several rooms and NPC:s. I talked with everyone and it is here I note the difference from similar games. You use icons with mental ideas that represents standard topics to initiate a dialogue with. It could be a simple greeting to to topics such as potions, magic items, weapons, armours or shops. You have to click on the icon and then on the NPC on the screen to ask of the specific topic. I have so far not seen any dialogue choices.

What makes it even worse is that the NPC:s don´t neccessarily give all information at once so you have to repeat the process until they start to repeat themselves. This system is extremely cumbersome and there are no keyboard shortcuts to make it work faster. That is my first impression.

Lore is found in books and scolls that litters the starting town
Every NPC speaks with voice if you play the CD-version and that is a nice effect for a game from 1997. The music is a very simple tune much inferior to the amiga version of the first Faery tale.

Inn the Tavern I also found a board of notices where I could read about rumours and tips and hints about local dealers. I decided I should explore the town Paravis before venturing out in the countryside.

Here and there you find scrolls or books that give you more information about the land, legends, myths and concrete information about potions for example. I now know that dark blue potions and light blue potions are different strengths of healing. But personally I am too impatient to read several pages of information about legends. I never do that in Morrowind, Oblivion or Skyrim either.

Almost every house have either a potion, scroll or other item to take and there is no risk with burglary or stealing, even if it is done just in front of the owner. In this way I quickly built up a supply of potions, scrolls and lore. I soon reached my carrying limit and had to prioritize what to bring with me.

The game, just like its predecessor, features day and night cycles but I am not sure if that have any effect since you could disable that feature in the options menu.

During my night stroll in the starting town I came about this man
During my exploration in the night in the southern part of the town a man comes running towards me and with his last breath tells me that he and his family has been attacked by goblins east of the town. He collapses on the ground and dies. At least I have some clear indication of where to go now when leaving the town.

There are a few shops in town: a general store, a temple, blacksmith and a peddlar. They all have something to sell or buy. The interface for buying things is quite clumsy. Look at the image below.

You don´t see the price of the item until you select and ask about it. If you then reject the deal you have to start over by choosing the shop idea and palce it on the NPC to initiate the buying dialogue again.  Also take a look at the icons in the right section below the image of the brain. It is the different ideas that I could select and then choose to apply to an NPC in the main window. The brain is divided into three colors. The other two are skills and spells. Neither of my brothers start with any spells and the skills seems fixed at being swordcraft, shieldcraft, bludgeon, spellcraft, agility, brawn and archery.

According to the manual they could be rised while using them or by finding a teacher.

In the town, there are certain houses that have stairs either leading up or down as seen below. They could contain some rats you could practice slaying. There are no experience points in the game but you will automatically increase in any of your skills by using them. From time to time your vitality (health) will also increase. Probably as a result of fighting. That also means there are no levels. Just like in the first game. The more you fight the better you eventually become.

Searching cellars could be rewarding
In town I examined every shop, what items where available and checked the prices to get a general idea of how rich I was with my around 50 gold crowns. It turned out I could hardly afford anything worthwhile.

In front of the shopkeeper

Weapons/Armours comes in different qualities defined by its metal

I am about to ask this child what it know about magic spells

If you could afford 500 gold you could be trained
When I felt I was finished with the city I decided to go north because I spotted a graveyard through the outer walls and saw a zombie there.  I entered the cemetary and was attacked by three zombies. The first time one of the brothers died during the fight so I had to reload (I have no idea if I could resurrect him in the temple). The next time I stopped to eat some food and drank a blue potion before engaging with the third zombie and this time things went better. I was still hurt after the fight though but it seems food or blue potions is what gets you back in health again. I plundered the corpses to find some much needed gold and decided to leave the graveyard and head south.

You could loot your victims

While in town I read in a book in the moontemple about a tower or ruins south of the town in which the legend says a magical venom sword is hidden. I felt quite intent on finding out where it was despite the fact that the legend told of a demon guarding it.

My exploration south of the town took me through densed woods, occasionally split by a river and small roads. In a few places I had to fight goblins but as long as they where 2 or 3 at most I could handle them even though I died a few times.

I will return in a later post about the combat which is very simple albeit a little hard to grasp from an interface perspective. It feels I just try to click on the enemies and the A.I guide my other brothers in doing the same but I am not sure it is effective. Very often the game pauses during combat with a white triangular marking above my leading character. That means its turn based and when the leader lacks any new directions or actions the game pauses. I find this a cumbersome right now and hope I get used to it later on.

Fortunately you have access to an automap in the beginning of the game which gives a pretty nice overview of a large area as could be seen below. The only problem with it is that I can not make any notes which I think will be invaluable later on when I have to remember where I have found special places or people (note: It seems the game itself places small infonotes about important places).

The automap is pretty

Right now my goal is to search south and east of the town. In the east the poor man that died before my feet told me that he and his family was attacked by goblins and in the south because I want to find the ruins where the magical sword is hidden.

I think I´ve fought goblins in at least five occasions now and I have noticed that occassionally my vitality increases as well as my skills in brawl and/or swordcraft. So I am gradually getting stronger. I returned to the town to buy all three of us bronze breastplates and that did much to improve our defenses.

I have a good feeling about the game. I really want to like it because of my fond memories from Faery Tale Adventure. But I must say that the there are several things that are really obstructive.

  • The NPC dialogue system is a pain to use. The NPCs wanders around and might leave the screen before you could click on it with a new idea. Forcing you to run after NPC:s to have the time to try out all ideas on them.
  • Combat is hard to get control of. You only command one brother at a time and the others follow. To let all three attack the same enemy is very hard if there are many and the game often freezes with this triangular shape over its head indicating my leading characters lack of direction.
  • Movement in the game are on the border of being too slow. The brothers walks slowly and you have to manually guiding them through all obstacles indoors to move ahead of things which makes picking up items and descending/ascending stairs difficult at times. I have tried to fix this by increasing CPU cycles in Dosbox but to no effect.
The responsiveness of the the original Faery Tale that was released for the Amiga 10 years before was much more smoother. Despite these things, there still is the huge gaming world outside of the starting town and you could walk anywhere you like. The exploration lust is there, the great feeling of aquiring more gold and better items also. The right kind of ingredients are in place. So I will keep playing this and see where it leads.