Currently playing: Nox Archaist

May 29, 2012

Abandoned Places - Promising but unforgiving

Just when I thought I would get stuck in my first test with my party, I managed somehow to find the last door to open. That led me to an illusionary wall with some hidden zombies. They where an easy match and after that I returned to above ground again to hopefully receive the news that I had completed my trial.

The priest was satisfied and my first real assignment was to locate the book of worlds in the library at the capital Kal Kalon due east from where I was. I was happy to get a good direction and a start of my adventure. We travelled day and night and after a few days we reached the new city.

My first real assignment

My arrival to the capital
The sage would allow me passage to the library

The librarian allowed us to search the library for the book and we gladly accepted and stepped down the stairs. New graphics met us in the library. It contained a lot of cupboards and a few chests apart from long corridors and rooms with bookcases. Most of them where filled with useful things like food, healing potions, gold and a few important keys. The amount of items spread out was real gameplay booster at this stage and I enjoyed every second of the exploration. After some time I had searched through everything I could find in the library except for one locked chests and two stairs leading downwards.

Chests could be find in some places of the library full of goodies

The library did not pose any serious problems for me to explore but when going down the stairs to the dungeons below, my problems started. I really like the puzzles and obstacles presented in the game. They are not as straight forward and easy as in Anvil of Dawn. You could find buttons or keylocks that you press or unlock but cannot see an immediate effect. Sometimes a wall has been removed, a door opened or something like that. Other times you will never really know what happened and that makes the game so hard if you get stuck.

We came across some sort of plant growing from a chestlike container that blocked our path. I tried to use every item I had found so far on the platn, including to burn it with my torch, hack at it or giving it some items or potions. I just couldn´t figure it out, until I remembered that my fighters have skills such as pull and push and of course it was pushing it I was supposed to be doing. I pushed it forward until my sides opened up, but they where blocked by spiderswebs impossible to pass.

An obstacle that took me some time to pass

Here I was stuck again, trying to burn them, hack at them and so on. The only solution was for me to throw a spider web at the same place and wait for my web to dissappear. That would make the other magical web dissappear as well. This would finally lead me forward in the dungeon. It is problem like that this game is about. The fights are not the challenge it could have been and I am glad for that because the problems is always to find a way forward.

Four enemies stand in line to meet their death

The dungeon layout was well laid out and contained several illusionary walls that contained very good items like better weapons (schimitar) and shields, together with gems, food and torches. It was really fun because you had to bypass fire lava or swim across water to get hard to reach areas. But it was always worth it. I reached a point where I couldn´t continue anymore but I still had one key left. I remembered the chest in the library and returned there and could now successfully open it. It contained more useful keys and items that let me continue in the dungeons.

After some time I finally found the last room that contained a chest with the book of worlds. Yes! I made it back to the librarian but he still told me the book was in the library so I wasn´t sure I had really got it. But after equipping the book with the same result and with nowhere else to explore, I returned back to the Abbey and there my finding was confirmed. I had found the book. 

Now I was credited as being the true heroes from the past and was sent to regain an important scroll that would be somwhere near the Steps, a mountain range. I did some shopping before leaving and begun my search eastwards using the inscanned overland map you see below.

Map of the world

But this turned out to be a showstopper. I have searched every pixel, fought many random encounters and still haven´t found anything there. I don´t know where else I could go. I am stuck in the game and unless you readers out there know where I can find the scroll I will not be able to continue my adventure for now. The red circle below indicates the area called The Steps.

The area called The Steps

And yes....I have searched the internet but not found the solution of how to find this place unfortunately. There is only one walkthrough out there and it doesn´t say how to get to the place. I really begun to like this game and would hate to stop playing it.

May 26, 2012

Abandoned Places - Revisited

I don´t think faith wants me to play Abandoned Places. I got so frustrated with the game that this revisit will probably only containing this single post.

I owned the game once for my Amiga. I don´t remember much except for two things. Firstly that the music was great and secondly because I got stuck very early in the game. I don´t think I´ve even got out from the starter dungeon because I don´t remember the overland map.

The game comes on 5 discs and I am using WinUAE to run it. Apart from the slow loading times (I have no idea how to install it on harddrive), you can only have on save per disc and you can not load a new saved game from within the game. You have to quit to get back to the main menu which takes a few minutes until you are back in the game again. That sort of patience does not exist in 2012.

Abandoned Places: A time for heroes was released in 1992 for the Amiga by one of the early east-european developers called Artgame and published by Electronic Zoo. It is a huge game  complete with manual and a large overland map. On papter, it has all the ingredients for me to be a great RPG.

Twelve heroes are trapped in stone. Now the land needs them again but the power is only enough to revive four of them back to flesh. Two warriors, one priest and one magician. The four must return to defend the land Kalynthia from the evil Bronakh. That is the short version of the story.

You select the four heroes from twelve different pregenerated characters, all with their own unique abilities. I started to write down every characteristic before I selected my four characters. The only way to do that was to start three different parties and load up the game. There is no  other way to find out their characteristics. The result of my findings could be seen here:

After carefully analysing starting health, magic points and especially starting spells, I selected my party. We started out in some sort of dungeon. Within some steps from us, three brown winged creatures approached and started to attack us within a minute. I managed to take them out one by one by casting mage bolts at them.

Attacking is done by right-clicking the hands of your characters just like any other similar game. The two front characters are the only ones that can use melee weapons and the two at the rearcould use ranged weapons or spells.

Everything is accessed through this screen only
By having a very small 3d-view area, all information neccessary could be fit into the same screen. There is no other screens or character sheets in the game. By selecting the character (a green rectangle indicates which) you could traverse through each and every ones inventory and characteristics.

You need food in order to survive. Hitpoints and Action points (for warriors) or mana for priests and mages regenerates over time. You could rest but only if you feel exhausted. The drawback is that you will consume food during the time. I choosed a priest that could create food as a starting character.

The first complex spanned over a few levels. The last part was in the underground with skeletons roaming the corridors. Keys where needed to bypass certain doors and most of them could be gained by slaining them. There where at least a few places in which you had to find a lever to pull to open up a secret passage. That part eventually led me to freedom. Or at least above ground to the overland map.

When travelling on the overland map you are presented with a totally new interface with a lot of icons symbolizing different actions you could take. For example, you could travel by walking, ride a horse or take a boat. You could post guards during your camp for the night and always use your warriors to scout ahead to minimise the chance of being surprised by monsters but for the price of slower progress.

Shortly outside the tower I found a group of horses that increase our overland speed. Since we started out on an island my only goal was to make it to the mainland. Note that we had not found a single information yet of what to do or why.

In order to do so I had to wait for a boat to dock at some part of the island and then use it to be transported. After struggling with the interface in order to move at all and to where I wanted, I finally made it to the boat and transported myself over to the mainland.

My party is waiting for the boat on the islands east coast

At the first town I arrive in, Frampton, I had the chance to go to the temple to be healed or raise a dead character. Neither was interesting for me since it would cost a lot of money and I wasn´t that injured at this stage. It was only to move on to the next city Kemlish. But it was the same thing there.

I spent the next hour travelling around the mainland, visiting new cities or places but in most cases the guards would demand money for me to enter or there where nothing to do in the cities. I even travelled to another island far to the west in hopes of entering some place or trigger some adventure hint, but to no gain.

When I got tired, I actually tried to pay the guards. I had found gold after all. But it turned out that since I hadn´t put the gold into my pouch I couldn´t use it! The only way you could put the gold into the pouch is from the view when your are in 3d-view with your party, which only happens underground. I got really, really frustrated by this. I don´t have the patience to return back to where I came from just to put a bag of gold into my pouch. I was about to give up the game by now.

Your options when you visit a church
This is part of the mainland seen
This revisit could have ended here. After a day or so I had regained new strength to let the game prove to me it is worth replaying again. I returned to the game and restored an old save game backup-disc just prior to exiting the starter dungeon. I made sure I put the gold bag into my pouch and received some golds by doing that. Then I repeated the tedious travel again from the island to the mainland and from there to the Abbey in the west. They requried money and I paid it.

Now things started to happen....

Yes! my first task
The priest told me that in order to trust us and to prove ourselves he wanted to test us by sending us to a dungeon to clear it of monsters. Now things started to get interesting. We where again in a dungeon. This time full of walking zombies, underground lakes and seas of lavas.

There is no automap in the game and I am too lazy to draw my own maps, especially in a realtime where my party needs food to survive. So i tried to memorise everything in my head and work methodically through the dungeon. It quickly turned out to be much larger than I would have anticipated and a lot harder too.

First, there are locked doors here and there as is usual. They can only be unlocked by keys you get from either killing a monster or find at some hard to reach place, like after swimming through water, or finding a secret passage by pressing a button somewhere. It is not easy to distinguish buttons and levers on the small graphical window. After 15 minutes I thought I had got stuck. I could not move on. I had checked almost every wall piece and found nothing more to go on and yet there where doors I couldn´t open. By pure luck I clicked the right brick in a wall that turned out to be loose and revealed a hidden passage for me. I was able to continue for a while. 

My first real dungeon. 

Some reflections on the game so far:
  • Movement could be done by clicking on the borders in the small 3d-view, using the GUI with arrows in the middle or by using the keys 4,5,6 on the standard numeric keyboard. It took me some hours before I discovered those keys. It was a clunky userinterface before that discovery. The problem are that there are no easy way to move backwards which stops combats from being manouverable.
  • Combats are quite easy so far but it is cumbersome to fight by clicking on the hands all the time because the icons are so small. I haven´t found any shortcuts yet for that or for using spells. To cast spells you have to click on the corresponding number in the middle to select the character and then on the spell itself. At least the spells have names to click on and not runes. I hate runes or combinations of them like in Dungeon Master II.
  • A real problem is the food issue. Even though I choosed the priest that had the Create Food spell as starting spell, I begun to starve in the second dungeon. Food is scarce to find.
  • Many buttons and levers are placd beyond fire or water areas and to reach them you will take much damage. It is not obvious what they do either. You have to look around the whole dungeon to find out if something has changed which makes my idea of skipping to map the game a very bad idea.

I like the game but it is very hard. The major problem right now is to find a way out of this dungeon at all. The second problem is to keep the food level on an acceptable level because when you start to starve you loose hit points. I returned to the daylight again and the priest reported that there are still monsters alive that must be killed before I have completed my task. I had to get down there again. At least I knew I could get out from there to fill my food supply. The problem is that there is nothing to buy at this place.

Future will tell wether I could endure the long loading times. The worst problem is that to reload a game you have to exit to main menu first which takes at least 1-2 minutes of floppy changes. I don´t have that kind of patience right now so I might just leave this game here....or not. I´ll decide later. It sure does have potential, I just don´t want to look into walkthroughs too often. Then it is better not to play the game at all.

May 22, 2012

Anvil of Dawn - Review

Anvil of Dawn has finally been completed. When I was young I kept track of how many hours I´ve played a certain game. I don´t know why but I´ve always liked statistics. In fact, I have a list with all books that i´ve read since 1989, full with ratings, number of pages, average reading pages a year etc. Today I still keep the list updated but more as a fun thing. I don´t wan´t to break my system.

Anyway, I would guess I´ve played for around 25-30 hours. Here comes the review and in the end I will compare it with similar games.

Gameworld & Story
The story is straight on and set in the opening sequence of the game. An evil warlord with the help of seemingly unlimited magical energy has begun to conquer the peaceful land of Tempest. He is brutal, cruel and very efficient and lead his minions to victory after victory. Nothing seem to be able to stop him. The last attempt is made by a group of selected adventurers that might succeed where so many others have failed: To find a weak spot in the Warlord to exploit. Something might just have been discovered regarding this and your are sent by the court magician behind the lines to get more information from the mage at Dark Lantern.

The game then begins and you are on your own. From then on the story is simple and the game very linear. You never need to know what you are actually doing. There are no choices you have to make. No dilemmas, morale decision or grayzones regarding your loyalties along the way. Everything is black & white.

The only thing I really miss is the lack of narratives, texts or interactions with more NPCs that give more flesh to the background and what is happening. As it is now, only a very few mission critical NPC:s might tell you something and here and there you can find some parchements that add to the story. If they would just put some more efforts into that part the game would feel more immersive and story driven.  As it is now, they are all too few to keep you thinking of what you are actually doing. You just go from one complex to the other and clears them out. If you are lucky you stumble upon a parchment that adds some background information of what has happened.
The game could - and should - have elaborated more on this part.

Rating: 2

This one is easy. There are no currency and no shops in the game so the economy doesn´t exist at all.
In the beginning I missed a shop to trade in for better weapons and armours but then I recognised there where no currency so....

Rating: 1

NPC & Interactions
NPC:s are very rare in this game. They appear here and there. Sometimes even in the overland map.

The dialogues are often short and quite frankly, a little bit naive. One thing which is a bit disappointing is that you will never, ever in the game (except for the endscene) have any choice in answering. You just click on words popping up that leads the dialogue forward. That is somewhat boring when you keep in mind that this game is made in 1995. If you think you can roleplay your character in any way. Forget it. To its defense though, that goes for most other dungeon crawlers.
Anyway, the meeting of any NPC is a highlight since they have digitized voices and add to the atmosphere. The voice acting - however - is not much to write home about. I can´t give it 1 since a game without any NPC interactions should get 1 (like Crystal Dragon).

Rating : 1.5

Monsters & Tactics
There are a lot of different monsters in the game and most of them are depicted in the manual together with descriptions. They are, for the most part, well designed and original. So far so good.

The problem is the lack of tactics used. Monsters never follow you around unless you are within a few hexes away. You could therefore always run away from your enemies if you wish.

Though you might be outnumbered, monsters does not try to surround you. It is more of a coincidence - like a lack of space for them to move - that makes you surrounded.

They never, ever retreats. Ok, this is very seldom in other games as well. They are quite slow so they are easily outrunned or outmanouvered. There are some that are a bit faster and more agile but the standard tactic of rushing forward, slash and retreat before they retaliates usually works for any monster.

The only exception if for those that hurl spells or other mundane objects. Other than that, all monsters attack at first sight when you come within a few hexes. They never try to circumvent you.

In the end you cannot compare the difficulty in battling monsters in Anvil of Dawn with Dungeon Master, Black Crypt, Crystal Dragon, Eye of the Beholder or Legend of Grimrock. The latter games are much harder.

The summary of all this is that combat quickly gets very repetitive and quite frankly...boring. There are no major bosses or end fights in Anvil of Dawn that makes up for this.

Having said all that, the game still delivers true hack´n slash combat without much thought. It works but is not very delicate. The only reason for you to actually kill them is that some of them drops keys that you must have in order to proceed. They don´t carry any loot.

Rating: 2

Map Design
The maps varies in size. Most new complexes are of normal size with a few reaching large sizes. With large I mean at least 75*75 squares but maps are not always squareformed. I just wanted to indicate the size. They also span several levels up or down. There are frequent use of teleporters to connect different parts of maps in a single level as to make convenient shortcuts for you to use. I have yet to find any useless preassure plate or red herring that does nothing. I am quite satisfied with the maps as they are.

They are not random. There are certain areas clearly representing barracks, court halls and similar things.  But since the graphical layout and variance is so small most rooms and places just looks the same. You never get any verbal or audible descriptions of rooms or areas that might compensate for this and that would add to the atmosphere of the game.

The automap in the game is probably the best one I´ve ever seen. It shows everything you would ever want to know and even updates in realtime if you press a preassure plate and hear a door opening. Just check the automap to see which door was affected. You could also traverse previously visited places in the map and make notes of your own.

Rating: 2.5

Character generation and development
One of the most fun and important parts of a true RPG is the character generation and development. In the beginning you choose from four different characters with pre-allocated attribute points. There is nothing else that differs from them. If you are not satisfied you could create your own character as I did and put the attribute points where you want them instead. The attributes are strength, agility, power and stamina. There are no skills in the game except weapons and magic.

Each time you use a weapon or cast magic spells counts toward your next skill increase. You can see on red bars how far you are to reach the next level. At each new level you have the choice of putting one point into either a melee skill group like slash, thrust, hack or ranged. Or if it was an increase in your magical prowess it allows you to put one point in any of the magical schools. You will never be able to choose spells. You must find all somewhere in the game. Increasing you skillpoints is very satisfying but skill increases only triggers when you get above ground to the overland map.

You never get more hitpoints or magic points since there are no levels in this game. You have to find certain items to use for that. You also never increase your attributes unless you find the right items like amulets.

In summary. Character development in this game is weak even compared to similar games. 

[Rating: 1.5 - does not count towards end score]

The manual of the game is very good. It explaines everything in a pedagogic way and in a fun manner. It that kind of manual that draws you to the game when you read it and which is very lacking in todays games. It contains drawings of many beasts and description of all spells. Check the manual here.

[Rating: 4 - does not count towards end score]

Graphics, Sound and Interface
Graphics in the game is simple but functional. Monster are well drawn although the animations suffer some. That is very common in this era though. All new complexes looks different but there are not much variation between them. For example. There are always the same kind of doors and chests used. Miscellaneous items and furniture are very rare to see. You never find loose items laying around. Most rooms and places are empty 99 % of the time. Everything worthwile lies in chests or containers.

The graphics in the overland map was impressive in 1995, pre-rendered as it was. It hasn´t aged well though. It works but adds nothing when going back to the game today.

The music in this game is made up of midi sound. The main theme is quite good albeit simple in my dosbox version. The rest of the themes is nothing to write home about. Perhaps it is my DosBox setup that makes it so. I am not impressed. I even like the music in Ultima Underworld better. The voice sound is quite good though. Every monster has some sound or voice attached to it. Most of them adds to the atmosphere quite well. There are no ambient sounds in the dungeons whatsoever. The only sound effects is from your weapons and spells and monsters dying.

The Interface in the game are good and easy to use and understand.  Everything is accessible through your character sheet. It is simple and elegant and I give it above average rating. When attacking you could either click on the monster or on the weaponhand itself (which I prefer). All spells are visible on the mainscreen with their symbols and you just click on them to cast them.

Rating: 3

Now to the most important part. If gameplay isn´t any good, nothing can help a game regardless of perfect character generation, story, graphics or sound.

So is Anvil of Dawn worth playing today ? Yes, definetely. Especially if you wan´t a more casual dungeon crawler with focus more on hack´n slash and loot gathering and less about pure survival and optimising your character. I enjoyed it for what it is.
From the start I got hooked by the simple, straightforward story. You start out with nothing. There is no need to read the manual. Just move on and you will be told what to do. You begin by gathering better weapons and armours. Building up your supplies of healing potions and mana leaves. You will find ample supplies of those and of special items that are preloaded with single spells. I had huge amounts of them in the end of the game. As a RPG veteran I knew I had to save them for when they are really needed. They never where... 
The game is quite easy. The tricky part is to solve some of the puzzles in the later levels. But other than that it is just to search through every place. Almost all puzzles are logical. I have to give credits for that. This game is a perfect casual introduction into the genre to people not used to number crunching and statistics. That being said, I had to check in a walkthrough a few times to solve my particular problem but far from as often as its more hardcore competitors.
There is some layer of sadnes over the story which adds to the atmosphere of the game. It feels quite epic at times but most times you spend in separate dungeons that have no connections with each other. You could go back to previously visited areas if you have forgot something. Ah, by the way. Monsters never spawn in this game.

The most crucial part is that it seems you might reach the end without having gathered all the ingredients. You will then probably have no idea of where to look but at least you could go back. And a good thing is that you could use your automap and go back through all maps in the game to look for areas you haven´t explored or overlooked.

The game is very linear. Not until midgame you are given the opportunity to choose between which places to go. From midgame somewhere the game begun to feel very repetitive. You practically repeat every pattern again in every new place. There is no variation to speak of. The only difference is the monsters or puzzles to solve. It the end I only wanted to finish it. Still, when this game arrived it competed with Stonekeep, another excellent game which will win the comparison in my view because of a much stronger story and narrative. Anvil of Dawns strength lies in the simplicity and linearity of the game. You wan´t to proceed in order to find better items and move on to new complexes to explore.

This game was released the same year as Dungeon Master II (DM2). DM2 is harder and more unforgiving. Although DM2 it is a smaller game in size it has harder puzzles. But it also has much worse interface. Graphics wise DM2 has more attention to details and ambient sound. I would say that as a pure dungeon crawler DM2 is the better game. It lacks the smooth gameplay which makes it so easy to throw away hour after hour into Anvil of Dawn though.

Crystal Dragon is much harder both in puzzles and combat than this game. You also need to keep track of your food in that game. You don´t need to worry about it here.

Rating: 3

Total rating: 20.5

Helpful links:

May 18, 2012

Anvil of Dawn - Won!

After the last post I felt I was near the end and so rushed forward. In front of me I stumbled upon the Quagmire complex that appeared from nowhere to block my path. The complex was full of enemies and took several hours to clean up. As usual I had to solve the usual obstacles of teleporters, preassure plates and keys in order to progress on this level. There where some important locations and items on this level which Í´ve found.
  • First and foremost, I met an elemental to which I could not communicate at all in the beginning. Not until after having completed the whole complex did I return to find out that I could speak to her. Proably through some of the items I did find on this level. She also teached me a spell and was clearly belonging to the good side.

The elemental at Quagmire complex

  • Behind a corridor with spiketraps - but circumvented through illusionary walls - and enemies that blocked my path, I found a sword fastened by two hands. The sword could speak and it was obvious it hated theWarlord and his minions. Speaking mouths on the wall told me that I would have to pay with gold to get the sword released. On the right side I put 3 gold coins and to the left I put 6 coins. The sword was then released and eager to join me. The sword did 3d12 damage (I now throwed away my greatsword) and also gave + 2 power. Nice!

Probably the best sword in the game
  • There where also a special kind of tree in a large hall that I knew something was to be done with but I wasn´t sure what it was. I could try to put things into it but before I did that I swung my sword at it and a tree branch got loose so I picked it up. It seemed important. I went on.

The strange tree
At this time of the game I was hugely overloaded. For periods I carried over 300 kg. But one needs to if you are to have enough stones to carry around to press preassure plates if you do not want to use your rare magic cubes. The picture below is my character at the time. The inventory is full of items stacked on each other. The sacks and chests seen contains even more items.

My character sheet

Part of the Quagmire. Red icons = dead monsters
After having completed the Quagmire I was able to get out. But there was no way to go. I tried out several of my special items and found some sort of summoning horn that worked by letting me ride on some sort of horse-beast across to the mountain in the horizon.

This is my carrier being summoned
I was now at a place called the Warlords tower. It was a very tricky level. Not only had I to get the right kind of colored keys in different places in order to proceed - that is quite common -  but there was a lot of blinking pits (they appear and dissappear at intervalls) and preassure plates.

This place was filled fire dragons with spell casting abilities. Annoying. My tactic was to close in as fast as I could in order to freeze them and then slash them with my newly found sword. My spear wasn´t needed anymore with this new good sword.

The warlords pets

I took all the stairs to the top of the tower and came to a room filled with moving stones and guarded by at least three fire dragons that hurled spells from long corridors. Add to that spikes at several places in the floor and my choice was to just rush forward. I don´t regret it but what I met was the lord Castellan himself. One of the warlords generals I suppose.

The evil general was about to kill a prisoner when I interrupted him. I challenged him for a close combat fight and he was actually surprisingly easy to defeat in melee combat. I was somewhat dissappointed. Behind his place was a room with a chest that contained the Dark Slag I had been looking for. It was the pure magic that the Warlords draws his power from. When I took it I got posioned and could not get rid of it. Besides, it was supposed to be contained in some sort of chest that I didn´t have yet. Had I missed something ?

I am just about to use a magic cube to build a stoneblock to press the plate

I reloaded prior to opening the chest and returned to the ground below. I had been everywhere I could and still I had at least one door where I missed the keys. I eventually found the key amongst the remainings of a slained guard that I had missed. The door led me to the Fire Mountains, a fully new complex! Ah...perhasp I needed to find the smith the Black Gnarl to make me the chest ?

This complex var quite hard. A lot of blinking pits and teleporters that had to be entered and reentered in a particular order to progress forward. I eventually learned that I needed four iron marks to proceed to the inner parts of this complex. Boy, where they hard to find ? I was about to give up because I had looked everywhere and only found two. I had one pit which I couldn´t pass. I needed to check for a solution on this and was reminded that I some time ago learned a spell in which I could float. So I used the spell and floated past the pit. That led me to two other iron marks and some other fine items in the end. Actually, I found another very good sword that could do triple damage on a solid hit. Too bad these kind of items appear on the last level.

Minions in Fire Mountains

Typical tree-hand-beast of the Fire Mountain
By accident I fell down in some pits to the level below. Not only does it injure me but it is so hot down there that in seconds I was about to die. The room I fell into contained a lot of items from dead adventurers and amongst other things I found a new necklace. Later on I found a sigil of fire protection that helped me resist the heat below.

After having unlocked all four doors with my iron marks I made it to level 2 of the Fire Mountains. That level was quite easy and I quickly made it to the dwarven smith Black Gnarl. He took the ingredients for me and crafted me a chest while singing. quite a good song actually. One of the few surprising highlights. Great. He handed me the chest. Yes! Now I would be able to contain the Dark Slag so I returned to the tower and retrieved the Dark Slag and put it into the container. Now what ?

The dwarven smith Black Gnarl

Book found in the Fire Mountain

In the warlords tower I found another exit that led me to the overland map again. I walked across the ice. I felt the end nearing and rushed forward.

I met some sort of Golem that blocked my way. His arms had been removed and he requested help to restore them. I used the spell to repair things and he was happy with that. He requested the words of opening and since I had found them on a scroll somewhere I repeated them. He then let me in. Now would I be able to destroy this thing ?

No! Arghh!! Yet another complex met my eyes.
This complex was small but difficult. In the middle was a mainhall but with invisible walls so you couldn´t move wherever you liked. You had to find some way around the invisible walls, press some preassure plates, find two illusionary walls in the north and south.

To the north you had to retrieve a chalice and in the south you had to move some boulder into a preassure plate to remove some invisble walls in the mainhall. There were a special puzzle with twelve plates that hindered my way for a while. By listeing to the mouths about pressing half a day, I put stones from 12 to 18 and for every hour a new wall section was removed and let me forward until I came upon a teleporter.

Toughest foe so far
This level hold the toughest monster so far. Just look at it above and you will understand why. The good thing is that they are stationary. The bad thing is that they either are places in a way that would not allow you to use ranged weapons or they are surrounded by anti-magic zones which renders your casting abilities useless. After dying a few times in melee combat I switched tactic. I checked where the anti-magic zone begun and just prior to entering it I cast stoneskinn on me and the attacked the beast. He couldn´t even hurt me. Probably because Earth spells is one of the spell categories I had prioritized.
My skill sheet at the end
After an hour in this complex and with a little help in a walkthrough at one or two occasions I finally found my way forward to kill the last enemy. I now had the chalice and a closed door. I used the chalice on a hole beside the door and the gate was opened before me. I entered. Now I was overland again. But this time I came in front of my real antagonist all the time. The evil warlord himself.
Of course he mocked me, even when I told him that I had the Dark Slag. He offered me a position at his side to be general over his troops. Tempted as it could have been in other circumstances I had bled to much to reach this stage and declined of course. Besides, who would avenge my companions I´ve met along the way and all promises I´ve made to allies during this adventure ?

I was prepared for an end battle when quitting the dialogue but nothing happened. Hmm. There was nothing to do. Nowhere to go except into a big light crater beside him. I went forward and fell down into it. Taking with me the Dark Slag to be destroyed with me. A terrible end but an end that saved the world. In the afterwords noone really knew what happened or which of the five adventurers it was that succeeded since none of them came back. But I did finish the game!

Actually, it didn´t feel very good to be dying like that. But it did add to the epic feel of everything.

The Warlord himself. Bow or be bowed.
After some ending sequences I got a page with my score of the game.
My score at the end
In my next post I will review this game.

May 15, 2012

Anvil of Dawn - Nearing the end

I entered the Land of roots, a level built from a large tree it seemed. This complex clearly showed that the difficulty of the game was rising slightly. Not that the enemies themselves were any harder than before. They mostly consisted of poisonous creatures of different kinds. The difficulty lies in the amounts of teleporters and preassure plates that are required to be bypassed and solved before progressing or getting important items. I mapped the whole first level until I took the stairs above to level 2. I had to fight my way through very small levels until reaching the top of the tree. There I met some sort of tree creature that told me I should try help to heal the tree roots of this tree. In return the tree would stretch itself to allow me to cross the chasm on the overland map. I agreed of course and was given a special healing staff that increased my healing spell with 100 %.

The only problem with the thing was that I had already found several roots while mapping out level 1 but didn´t understand what to do with them them. Now I had to backstep my way to all those places. Luckily I had taken notes of the places I´ve found beforehand but I didn´t know how many roots to find. I am not sure I did find all hidden places on the first level but I did heal 6 or 7 roots. I did not get any message or anything that told me the tree was completely healed.

Meanwhile, I met some sort of mage in the tree complex who not only teached me a new spell but also spoke about the Amber Dragon in this place. Not knowing what a dragon would have to to with the whole thing I eventually had to look for it when I didn´t have any more places to search. The dragon just came through an opening in the rocks and left some amber behind. I picked some up but they soon dissappeared but I did find an ember container to and put some new amber inside there. I have no clue what to do with it but suspect this is yet another part of the demons ingredients.

The small dragon
 Anyway before leaving this place I had the uncomfortable feeling of not having completed the request of the tree but I just didn´t find any more roots to heal. Besides, I did got the amber which seemed important. I left the complex. I returned back through the underground city and the barrier and headed up for the mountains. There I encountered a crucified a soldier and found a secret place behind a waterfall. The waterfall was the residence of a mage that gave me another spell. 

Actually I never found the chasm and I believe I should have kept looking in the immediate vicinity of the elder tree. As it was now I headed straight into the Gorge Keep, a place that still haunts my bones when I think about it. It was like a large fortress that blocked my way forward.

Right after entering into the mainhall I was assaulted by at least 10 goblin riders. With the fear of being surrounded and unable to move I just tried to run through them. I managed to squeeze myself out in the north section. This section was divided into about 10 segments, each had to be passed and was blocked either by traps, foes, disorientation squares, or rolling blocks of stones. I pressed forward and finally made it to the end. I thought I had just run through the keep, but the portcullis and gate wasn´t opened. Argh, I have to find a way to open the door which meant I had to return to the large hall with all the goblin riders and try to find another exit.

I returned back and found other escape route that led eastward and I had to fight three Goblin riders in a row when entering. The good thing was that all the goblinriders in the hall didn´t follow me. I quickly discovered the importance of my magical spear. I first freeze the goblin rider then throw the spear on it. If I am lucky the rider is killed in one hit. If not, I just repeat. At most they can take 2 or 3 hits from the spear before dying. The spear was really my saviour in this complex and by fighting in corridors with one goblin rider at a time I felt victory coming. At least on the battlefield.

One of my favourite creatures in the game

Management by fear, eh ?

While searching the east side of the complex I came upon a cell with a man frozen into an ice cube. I had no way to communicate, let alone save him in any way. I tried all my fire-based spells first and the the ordinary spells without much effect. I had no special item that I could think of could affect this situation.

I continued and finally found the room with the door that seemed to lead to the place where you could open the gate. I still lacked the key to that room though and had to return to the west side of the complex. All the time I had to fight through hordes of goblin riders and ordinary soldiers but perseverance kept me above the waterline. After having cleared the place I did not find the final key. The only thing unanswered was the man in the icecube. I had to check for a solution here. The solution was to put down some amber I´ve found on this level on the floor beside the ice cube. It then begun to melt. I had already tried to use the amber but on the cube itself to no effect. This is a kind of problem solving that I hate. You use the correct item in the correct place but the game only allows you to use it in one specific way.

Anyway, I managed to get out of this place soon after and I rushed forward into the unknown. I begun to get the feeling of nearing the end and final solution to all of this when I entered the Titan caves.

Entrance to the Titan Caves

The Titan caves
This new complex contained a lot of puzzles. The main problem of this 3-level complex was that a man had been enlarged so much that he blocks the way and spans three levels in height. In the first puzzle I had to put blocks into four separate preassure plats that enabled four teleporters to be visible. Each teleporter led me to small separate areas with a preassure plate. I had not enough items to press the four preassure plates down but I could use four stone blocks by moving them into the teleporters to the small rooms and from there move them on the preassure plates.

That opened up a way to meet the enlarged man in the first place. However, in order to shrink him again, I had to use a dispel magic cube. The problem was that the zone in which I am standing is an anti-magic zone so this doesn´t work. I have to solve the rest of the complex to find a lever that inactivites the anti-magic zone and then I could dispel the magic and pass him.

One of my favourite figures in the game
Another favourite foe that slaps you with its long tongue
This formula is at use for the next two levels as well. Find the other sections of the man protruding from the floor or ceiling and find a way to remove the anti-magic zone. After a few hours I managed to solve this complex but at least in one place I was not able to open up certain doors. However, after I had finished I was able to travel outside to the other side once again. 

You often need to collect certain keys to be used at these places

My journey in the overland took me to the next place called The Quagmire but more of that in my next post which I hope will be the final one.

May 12, 2012

Anvil of Dawn - The end of the beginning

When I entered the Temple of Moon, little did I know that what would first greet me was a speaking quill. In order to communicate I had to search for empty parchments. It then wrote me the story of how all the monks had been slained by the Warlord and his forces before moving on to other targets. The halls where filled with tormented souls of former monks that haunted me in my search of this place. Not that I did know what to search for anyway, but I don't leave any place or room unfinished.

Well, If I am paying attention I might know what to look for in general terms. The demon told me in the riddles. But since the game is so linear I think I will get the items one after another anyway.

This is how a tormented soul looks, all heads scream at once. If you´re wondering what the blue stripe is it is my freeze spell being unleashed.
The first level was not very big but full of teleporters. They often led to places with valuable items but I haven't found a better weapon than my greatsword yet. Amongst the magical items I have,  I currently use a chain that gives me +1 strength. I could switch it for a +2 power chain but I need my strength for melee damage and to be able to carry more items. I have been heavily overloaded for the past areas and I don´t feel like I would drop all my valuable items on the spot.

Since I am a mage I put almost nothing in strength. The result is that while I could carry around 80 kg, I am overloaded with 180 kg of stuff right now. That means I am encumbered and get tired very fast which means a drop in my agility and strength. It also prevents me from regenerating as quickly. But I have found so much valuable items that I want to save for when I really, really need it. Dozens of magical potions, wands and other stuff. Anyway, let´s go on.

Unfortunately there is no way to increase your attributes other than to find some items that does that. Your experience with spells and/or weapons only give you skill points to put in those areas.

When finding a stair leading to level 2 I found a speaking mouth that seemed to give away the solution to a coming obstacle. 

In this complex I found five gold talons and two iron items. All where put into doors to let me continue on the last third level of this complex.

The end of this level was to reach the Lady seen below. I had earlier found some an item called sipher of tears and it was by accident I found out that I should use it on her to gather her tears. That is one of the essential items to move on.

On my way to find another exit in the temple, I stumbled upon a mortally wounded female warrior. She asked about the other female companion before she unfortunately died. I could do nothing for her. The only exit from this place led right ahead to the City of Dead. 

Not until now did I actually feel the growing difficulty of the game. The city of dead was filled with floating skeletons able to fire arrows at you from long distances. In order to get to them you had to take at least one hit and if you got stuck in long corridors with skeletons both in front and in the back, then you had a tough time to survive. This was the first time I used up a lot of my symbols to be sacrificed at the spell and health altar that litters most complexes. 

Ok, you want to go melee with your bow ?

It took me some hours to clean this place. The first level was quite straight forward but the small levels underneath, accessible by four or five different stairs from above contained more advanced puzzles. For example, a place filled with teleporters and preassure plates eventually led me to find a shard of ruby but it took me both time and effort to solve it. Not because it was logically hard but all preassure plates requires different amount of preassure to be pressed on. If you don´t want to go around with a sack of stones (and you don´t because it will encumber you), your only alternative is to use specific magical cubes that materialises above a preassure plate to press it down. But you have to use them only on rare occassions because they are hard to find and you really want to save them for places that is really important.

Watch out! This monster could poison you

I came upon a tomb belonging to a prince. His spirit told me to release his lady that was kept from him by an  evil spirit. Probably below somewhere because I had not encountered any yet. In return he would let me have his armour. I had the option to capture his soul and I had found three soul houses in the temple of the moon so I was tempted to use them but decided to save them until later.

The good prince

That turned out to be a good idea because below I found the evil spirit and I could - with good conscience - trap his soul instead which removed him and allowed me to free the trapped lady. She in turn could be trapped in a soul house but I let her free instead to return to the prince. I also returned to the prince who thanked me and allowed me access to his armour. I did try to trap his soul also and though he wasn´t too happy about it he sacrificed himself for the better good. The armour was really good, giving 50% damage reduction but it weighed 80 kg (my current armour weighs 12kg). I had to leave that armour behind overloaded as I´m already are.

Evil spirit
Another place that was tough was the fire-based creatures seen below. I couldn´t use me freeze spell on them and they hurled fireballs on me so I took a lot of damage and healing potions in order to survive them. They inhabited an old throne room full of items. Most of them where quite useless though except of the ones laying in front of the empty throne.

Annoying fire creature in the throne room

The only exit from the City of Dead took me to the overland map where I met another of the four adventurers that set out from the castle before me. She was the companion the dying woman told about. Her hope was long lost but I convinced her to avenge her friend and she got new strength. She offered me another seal/disc she had found. There where noplace to go on this side so I backtracked through the temple again and back to the overland map. 

Now, there where containers for the discs spread out in the land and I put my discs into them. I think I had five or six discs. When all was set a circle of stones lit up and allowed me transportation to a new place called Sanctuary. It looked strange and different from all other places so far.

Teleporters litters the place

This place was filled with teleporters and my irritating enemy - the Juggler! He jumps around casting skull spells at me together with the annoying tivoli sound accompanied. Add to that, some sort of yellow ninja creature on this level and it took some of my resources of healing potions and mana leaves to survive this place. 

The sanctuary was only one level but had a lot of subsections accessible through teleporters from the entrance. I went through each and every one and there where small puzzles here and there. In the end, most teleporters led to chests filled with some sort of Dragon Icon. In the end I had six or so icons and nowhere to go except through a locked door in the entrance hallway. In order to open it, I had to put every dragon icon into nisches in the walls.

I put the dragon icons here in order to open a sealed door

After that the door opened and allowed me two ways to choose from. The right way led to the important part. A room of trees and one who spoke. He gave me the item Beam of immortal clay and told me that all the ingredients must be forged together to build the container I need for the Dark Slag. The Dark Slag is the name of the Warlords magic pool ha has been given by the dark god. To forge my container I had to seek out the Black Gnarl in the dwarven mountains.

The other way I could choose had to be opened by a dragon key I found. Inside where three difficult yellow ninja types but it also had two chests, one which contained a very powerful spear named Steelripper that when thrown do 4d40 in damage (compare that with my greatsword of 2d8). So it was well worth the effort.

From here I could only return to the overland map. I could either search for another place to go or return back to the elder tree that could be reached by the north exit from the Underground City. I got to the Elder Tree. It had a drawbridge that was not lowered. I tried out several of my special items to no effect. I walked around it a little and found a boulder that blocked my path. I used my trumphet of earth and the boulder moved away, allowing water to pour in and spin a wheelhouse. That in turn lowered the drawbridge. I entered and now I am in the entrance of the land of roots.

At least now It feels I am coming somewhere. I would say I must be at least half through this game by now. Although Anvil of Dawn is very repetitive it is also extremely accessible and because of that my intention is to finish this game.