Currently playing: Nox Archaist

June 27, 2012

Abandoned Places 2 - Escaping the mines!

While exploring level 4 of the dwarven mines, I was wondering why one of my mages had a huge amount of xp of over 200.000 while one of my warriors still had only about 80.000. After awhile I figured out that it was because I am always casting a firewall at my enemies as can be seen in the pictures. I get xp each time any individual caught within takes damage. That made my mage go to level 8 and is way ahead of my group right now. He has got some interesting spells by now. Unfortunately my other mage does not have any lasting area attack spells and so will be behind a few levels all the time if this continues.

During my explorations, I have had great use of the Levitate spell as it allows me to fly over preassure plates without affecting them and lessens my damage when traversing fire hexes.

I also mentioned in my last post that I hadn´t found any place to use my rope yet. Less than 30 minutes after that statement, I did find a pit I could use the ropes on to descend. I can return by using the spell Levitate and fly up through the hole.

Another thing I mentioned was the lack of more descriptions and I ran into my first puzzle shortly after as could be seen below. Actually, I did not really understand  it but by trial and error I placed four long swords in the room and it first opened up a path to a closed door, then the door itself and 2 impassable walls. One for every correctly placed longsword it seemed.

After solving this (you need to find four longswords first!), my way down to level 5 lay open. I descended. To my happy surprise new graphics greeted me. It looks pretty good actually. I remember I´ve read somewhere that they used the Amigas EHB (Extra Half-Brite) mode of 64 colors (32 colors of choice + 32 colors of darker shades from the first).

These evil monks deserves to burn
The new inhabitants greeting me this time was spell-casting monks and some type of worms. They are tougher and do more damage which means I have actually got killed a few times already when becoming surrounded by them. Good! Now the fighting challenge at least increases a bit. The fights are still easy but definetely tougher than before. The reason is mainly because you have a lot of magic points that seldom gets depleted. If they were, the combats would immediately be both tougher, longer lasting and....more tedious I believe.

I hate these worms. They are long-lived.
Level 5 was a typical dungeon of 30x30 hexes. My main approach is to map the level completely before stepping on any preassure plates or pull any levers. Then I search for hidden doors on strategical places and if I get stuck, more methodical at certain areas. I also have a spell called True Seeing that I have been received lately that for a short time shows secret walls. Almost all levels requires you to either find the correct keys or find the hidden stairs down to the next level. There where no puzzle on this level but a pit down  to level 6 was hidden behind a secret wall not easily discovered at first.

Trian my mage at level 7
I quickly descended through level 6, 7 and 8. At one or two places I had to get a hint from a walkthrough in order to find a missing secret wall, or what a specific preassure plate would do to the map when I had no other way to continue, but other than this, I managed the rest of the problems pretty well.

Ahh...a magical sword is found

At this stage my group had increased a few levels more and I had found some interesting weapons and magical items. For example I have found a few magical weapons like Sword of Mercy (increased my intelligence and wisdom by 1), Enchanted Blade (no visible effect) and Hammer of the Dwarven kind (increases my constitution by 3 and as an effect my hitpoints). Since you don´t see if you hit or what damage you do it is very hard to know which of these are better than the other. A sword I found, Sword of the lovely, actually drains you of one level as long as you wield it, and return the level back to you when unwielding it. I have no idea if the sword in itself is worth it carrying. Only trial and error will show that. 

At one place I was warned to not touch the dwarves treasure. But since I was attacked by the dwarves while entering this godforsaken mine, I didn´t care and opened all chests I found. I didn´t even notice anything bad happened so I forgot about it, until several levels later when I entered a new level and was met by this:

Oh oh....I was terrified this would mean some very negative effect for me but the only thing happening was that a trap sprung on the single hex I stood on. An electrical bolt was shot continuously at me. I moved out of the way and never noticed any more effect than this.

Typical door of the dungeon

At level 7 or 8 the graphics changed for the third time to my amusement. Also, new monsters where introduced. I call them guards and elite guards. They where not noticable harder than the previous opponents though and now both my mages had got fire wall and other area damaging spells. That meant my other spellcaster quickly could regain one or two levels. Farao my left-behind mage, now raised his level to 10 while my other mage Trian now are at level 15. I have noticed that both spellcasters receive exactly the same spells. The only thing that differs is the amount of spellpoints in each spell category. 

Standard guards

When reaching level 7 I wondered how many levels there could be in this complex. My inventory was now so full that I had to constantly shift items and drop less valuable ones. I was really looking forward to return to a town to sell off my stuff. The end of level 7 had a hex of fire with a message like below.

It wasn´t harder than that I put a torch down on the ground where the fire was and a wall opened up, leading to level 8. This new level took me some hours to map. At this stage I really would like to get to my goal and stop descending into the depths of the dwarven mines. I mean, how many places must there be on the overland map to visit ?

Anyway, after completing level 8 I found the entrance down to level 9. It turned out to be the last level. It contained teleporters that transported me to different areas which made my mapping more difficult. I knew I had to make my way through two locked doors behind eachother, and finding the last key was a little tricky. But I have learned that every lever needs to be pulled at some stage in order to progress. The difficult part is that some distant area could be effected by the lever and it is not that easy to go through the whole place in search of this single change. It could easily be missed.

Finally, the last door was opened and a hall with pillars met me with preassure plates, spinning hexes and so on. The hall was filled with guards and was of course an anti-magic zone. I used my hit-and-run tactic (which normally I don´t use in this game because of the slow-responsive keystrokes) and took out one guard after another. Each of them dropped a very valuable item which was not normal for ordinary guards. For example, I found Boots of fumbling , Cloak of Mind and a Club of poweroaks. Nothing of them had any visible positive effects but I was happy regardless.

Before I had even killed all the guards I stumbled to the corridor on the other side where I found the shield I was looking for. Hurrah! I was very happy to have finally reached it. I could take it and it raised one level of my character as soon as I wielded it. Then I heard the voice of Kuhalks who first gave me my mission:

My next step was to look for a tower somewhere in the north of a forest. At this time I was very eager to return to the surface. I was frankly quite tired of getting deeper and deeper down through the same types of dungeons all the time. Now I was ready for something new. 

I returned to the surface and immediately traced my way back to the nearest town. Here you could visit the blacksmith to buy or sell weapons and armour, the pub for trading in gems and the church if you want to resurrect or heal a member. It seemed I already had the best armour, plate mail, for my warriors and my weapons were magical instead of the standard ones on offer. There are no magic shop in which you could buy magical items so I sold off most of my gems and other stuff and got myself some money. Hopefully I could use them in another town.

The blacksmiths stock is very limited in all towns

When I was ready to leave I continued to explore the western part of my map and I stumbled upon another town in the edge. To my dissappointment it offered exactly the same items on stock so I left and went through the town to the other side. Now this was another huge map to explore and I was attacked by wandering giants. I quickly disposed of them and mapped the edges of the map because I had found nothing of interest in the inner domains so far. To the north I discovered another town. That was the only place of interest on the map that I´ve found. The overland maps are really scarce of interesting places.

Is this my new guide ?

This town will lead me to a new overland map in the north and I hope this one will hold the tower I am now looking for. My group are well equipped, have a lot of empty inventory slots and are very eager to find the next place in this game.

I am still enjoying the game but it reminds me a lot about the gameplay value of Crystal Dragon though this game is more varied due to the overland maps and the graphics here is better and more colorful. 

June 15, 2012

Abandoned Places 2 - In the depths

I had mapped over 80 % of the first level of the dwarven mines without having found any new stairs leading down. In the west there where a preassure plate that when stepped on, teleported the party to another location on the level. It lead to the stairs going down.

I had to refrain myself to go down since I knew I had one tricky part left of the level. In the south you could step into a room filled with water and fire hexes and three preassure plates. When you get inside you have to step on the first preassure plate and that one closes the exit for you. The only way is to continue forward and map this part. I did so and encountered a lot of dwarves defending this area. What it eventually led to was that I found three levers on the walls at different places. I pulled all of them and I still don´t know what they do. However, in the end there was a magic trap hurling bolts at me. In the end of that corridor I met a group of four dwarves attacking me. They left a gold key for me. Ok, so how do I get out ? Well it turned out that when I returned to the beginning of the strange room the exit was clear. I am not sure if it has to do with the levers or any other thing that triggered that to happen. I was glad to escape at least.

Now I had the chance to try my gold key on a door I´ve found. Behind the door was only a wall, but you could step forward into it and found yourself in one hex with secret doors both at the east and west. I searched the area as much as I could but couldn´t find anything interesting. No chest, no items, no buttons or hidden walls. I figured this was  a real waste of my gold key, so I reloaded just before using it and saved it for now. Perhaps later in the game I will return here unless this is a red herring to force me to give up an important key for nothing. This would be the cruellest of things though.

I returned to the stairs leading down, healed up, readied my weapons  and ventured forth...down to level 2.

I saw - visualised in text - hundreds of dead, tortured dwarves lying here. So this is why I was attacked ? This place has been taken over by evil forces it seems. Not that I needed that statement but it gives a small bit of understanding.

This level contained a huge room filled with spinners, preassure plates, darkness squares and teleportation squares. It was tough to map and get through it, though I eventually succeeded. The goal was to pull a lever to get a hidden passage to open up in the south. In there I eventually found a key. There where two locked doors in the beginning of the dungeon. I tried the key on the south part. It contained a room with a chest and some items and nothing more. I was lucky to find a secret door to the south that led to the stairs down to level 3. Before going for level 3 I did actually reload just prior to opening the south door, just to check what lied behind the north one. I did not find anything interesting behind the north door so the key really was needed for the south or I would get stuck. That must be a major flaw in the game. To let quest-important keys be used on more places than what they are intended for.

You see the key on the floor? It is worth anything!
Trying out the white key on the doors lock

We went down to level 3 and my group was still at level 5 or 6.

Some reflections

  • Combat is becoming quite boring. You don´t see when you hit or how much damage you are dealing. Neither can you see how much hitpoints your enemy has remaining. You might hear some different sounds when you attack with you weapons which might indicate when you hit or not. I am not sure of this. I am still attacked by dwarves and their small, green four-legged followers.
  • Food is really just a nuiscance in the game as stated before. You almost never run the risk of running out of spell points, so food creation are never any problem. Why then, do I have to replenish the group every five minutes with boring administration ? I am hoping for a greater spell in the future to replenish more food than what my level 1 spell could do.
  • I have found several rope items but never any place or situation where I have thought of it as useful. 
  • My inventory for every character is becoming full. I have no intention of returning to the outside again to sell off stuff and then return back again. At least not until I really have too. I would rather drop items before that will happen. But how knows.
  • I am now at level 4 and I wonder how many levels there could be here.
  • The levels are of different sizes. So far I have been lucky to find the exits leading down to the next level. They are always hidden though.
  • When levelling up you get hitpoints automatically but not increases in your statistics. I have not noticing that my warriors gets better in any way except for that. 
  • I am not sure if my wizards behind could attack in melee. In the Abandoned Places 1 they attacked your companion in front of them but here they do no damage to them, so I wonder if they could reach a monster or not. I don´t think so though. They just slash in the air.
  • There are no more story elements or descriptions so far. I am still not sure what to expect down here,except to find a shield somewhere. The game would gain on having more of the information screen it has showned before.
  • There are no music in the game at all, just sound effects. Compare this to the first installment which holds very good game music. 

What will the next level greet me with ?

Level three contained two stairs down to level 4, both hidden at different places. There where some secret walls that contained a much important key. Now I have two keys and a locked door and neither fits. I didn´t care though and went forth down to level 4. My hope is to complete this place in my next post...

June 6, 2012

Abandoned Places 2 - Entering the dwarven mines

This so called starter dungeon was really no beginners cave at all. It comprised three levels where the last one was actually the easiest one despite the fact that it was swarmed with skeletons guarding kings, lords and founders of the city.

One of many prominent persons buried in the depths
This level contained two locked doors one after another. They required keys that had to be found on this level. The first one was quite easy to obtain but the second one was hidden behind a secret wall that led to a small room. It was by pure chance I found that during my examination of the walls. In the last room I found a chest with a special healing potion. Since I couldn´t find any exit from this level I figured that might be the correct one needed to heal my master above.

Some reflections so far:

  • Combats are not that hard after all. They are much like in the predecessor. In numbers they could be a nuiscance but most of the time combats are not what is stopping you. The problems are more like spinners, hidden walls, sea of lavas or water that must be crossed or to find and use hidden preassure plates that suddenly opens up walls without a sound.
  • Food is not a problem as long as you have the create food spell, which both of my mages have. It is more of a nuiscance since you don´t find much food in the game so you could not survive with only four warriors and your spellpoints regenerates quite fast as well. This part does not feel balances so far.
  • The userinteface is simple and clean and works well. The only problem as I reported in my last post is the slow reactions to key presses in the game. It does not improve when using an emulated A1200.
  • Loading times it much, much improved. I hardly switches discs at all.
  • There are texts here and there that explains your surroundings here and there. It is not much but enough.
  • Gold still needs to be "used" in your hands before being converted to gold coins. Such a meaningless manouver.
  • There are a lot of scrolls, potions and weapons found here and there so you are rewarded for your efforts.
  • My group has levelled up to level 5 during my adventures in the starter dungeon. They increase health, hitpoints and receive new spells automatically.

When I returned with the elixir to my master he was cured and told me interesting stuff. He wished me to next go to the dwarven mines to look for an ancient shield called Dobelal. He warns me that Pendugmalhe want to destroy this artifact and it is of uttermost importance that I find the artifact to stop him from his crazy plans. So what is the plans anyway and what is the background of the game.

Pendugmahle is the creator of Bronagh, the prince of evil from the first game in the series. Now he is about to take revenge on the land of Kalynthia for the heroes who defeated Bronagh. That is the short version and the manual does nothing to get a better understanding of why the hunt for artifacts is important.

My spirit was really great when I understood I was finished with the starter dungeons and where about to enter the land above. You have no map like in AP1 but see everything in 3D just as if you where in a dungeon. When you are leaving the dungeon you start out IN A FIELD OF LAVA! That is quite cruel and I had to run for safety before the whole group would perish.

At least the fire is an obvious landmark for your starter dungeon

There are no visible roads or any other landmarks to go by and since I haven´t found any map that accompanied the original game, I had to start drawing one myself. The map is quite large and irregular and at least 30x30 hexes (the same with dungeons). After roaming around for awhile we were attacked by wandering animals, like bears. 

These bears are quite tough if they are not handled properly
After some time of exploration I was glad to find the first town in the distance. The town opens up with an image of the town where you could choose to visit a blacksmith, temple (to heal), food store or magical store. There are also exits leading to the other side of the town. I have found two towns so far and nothing that differs them apart of what I can see. Not even when I compare prices or the availability of stocks. Each town blocks small passages so when you exit on the other side of the town a new huge overland map is loaded. I have no idea how large this world is.

A town in the distance where you could sell off your loot

The blacksmith offers.....weapons.

After running around for a while I found no place of interest in the first part of the world and I choose to enter the south town to get on the other side. After all, that was the hint given to me where the dwarven mines where. After some  exploration we found the entrance to the dwarven mines.

Entrance to dwarven mines.
I was greeted with warmth and thought I would get help on my mission.

But all I have found in the tunnels is crazy dwarves that attack me ruthlessly together with some sort of a small blue four-footed animal. I don´t really know what to think. Here and there I get description of friendly dwarves but they could never be seen. 

These dwarves are not on their way to pick the mines
The level contains a lot of tricky preassure plates. Most of the time it is not obvious what they do. That goes for levers or buttons pressed in the walls. I have actually no idea what most of them do and that is so frustrating because one has to search a large area of the map to find out. Secret doors could also be found here and there together with teleporters and traps. All in all, this is a rather tough level. I have not yet found any exit that will take me further down. I have found a door that requires a key but not the key itself as of yet.

Fortunately, chests could be found with goodies here and there, but what does the preassure plate behind do ?
I am still liking the sequel very much but I am afraid I will get stuck somewhere here because there are no complete walkthrough available for this game if that happens. However, who dares wins and I will do my best.

Until next time...

June 2, 2012

Abandoned Places 2 - Revisited

So after my abrupt halt in the first installment, I started out the sequel, Abandoned Places 2. It has a larger 3d-view and better graphics. It even loads faster than the previous one. Good optimising there! It still takes one minute to save the gama and you still have to quit to reload a saved game but I can live with that.

Ok, so first I had to create a party of four. This time there is no restrictions that keep you from having two fighters, a priest and a mage. The system is a different in that there are several pregenerated characters in the classes fighters and mages. Mages have three different schools indicating wether their spells will be more strong in healing, offensive or a combination of both. With that, they got rid of the priest class. 

You have 100 ability points which you could distribute on Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity and Constitution. Ratings below 6 gives you penalties and above 13 gives you bonuses. Each bonus step costs much more from your pool of ability points than non-bonus steps. I created two fighters with 15 in both strength and dexterity and two mages, one in healing (necromancy) and one in offensive spells (elemental). 

What I first noticed when starting was of course the new GUI. The gaming area is larger and the graphics better but after finding the movement keys I discovered it was very slow in responding to my keystrokes. That is the single most irritating thing for now and forces me to often double press keys. I have tried to beef up the  configuration a little to amend that withot having Guru Meditations, but so far with no success.

In your starting room you will be given your first orientation. The master has fallen to the ground and his followers urge you to find a healing potion for him before they will allow you to leave the place.

They´ve added some atmospheric texts in the sequel
After meeting my first opponents in the dungeon we start out with I can only say that, combats is harder here. I have died several times in the first dungeon so far which is inabited by two kind of skeletons. Standard ones and the armoured ones. The latter could be tough when they come in numbers.

Your most common foe in the beginning
 Levelling is done automatically. You don´t have to visit a place above ground and pay money anymore. That´s neat. Food is still an issue however. I haven´t found any piece of food yet so I am a little worried about surviving right now. I also have no create food spell.

Death is something to get used to

The joy of findig a chest is as rewarding as ever

I wonder if I need to return to this spot later on

Suddenly in my adventuring in the dugneon I started to get damage on every character without any enemies seen. Deep down in the characteristics I found out that there are food in this game as well! I hadn´t found or seen anything yet related to food so I didn´t think about it too much.

Keep track of your food 
When you are starving the death is not far away. You have a few minutes until the party is dead - at best! What saved me was that I by coincident saw that one of my mages had the create food spell. He had achieved it during his last level up. It saved this game so I could continue.

Nothing gets me happier than a chest!

Now the question is...this dungeon is not too easy to complete. I had to start mapping the area since I cannot find any way forward. There are illusionary walls and hidden buttons as well as some really good hidden treasure found here. But where is the healing potion?

Fire besides Water, how is that possible ?
When I had mapped the whole level I still couldn´t find any place I hadn´t visited before. Now the tedious part of searching every wall for hidden buttons or illusions started. I did almost give up but found a hint that led me to search a special area where I found an illusionary wall. It led me to stairs leading down. Hurray!

The second level contained yet another puzzle. Not only did I have to find a secret wall but in order to progress but I had to put weapons on a preassure plate to let another illusionary wall behind the first one become active. The new area revelad the first locked door so far but no key had been found up until now so I looked around for other paths. One path led me to a chest in the end with some topaz, a mace and burning oil. It even contained hidden teleporters that took me back to level 1 again without notice. That is cruel, because it takes time until you realise you´re back on an already visited level and it will destroy the map you are drawing.

The game is rewarding in its own right but it is not for the casual gamer. The constant food problem could be solved when you get the right spell at level 2 but all hidden walls and buttons could be very, very hard to find. The walls have patterns that are different for several sections so it really takes time to find a button.

However, right now I am just about to enter level 3.

June 1, 2012

Moving on to the sequel

I am forced to stop playing Abandoned Places since I cannot solve my problem of not finding anything in the mountain region known as The Steps. I have looked through the few walkthroughs that exists to see if there are anything special that needs to be done to get there but I can´t find anything special. This is the first game that I very much regret having to leave since I did really begin to enjoy the game. But alas, my time is limited and there are countless of other gems out there waiting for my attention.

However, I will move on to the sequel Abandoned Places 2, released only for the Amiga platform in 1993. It is today released as a free game and could be found here. I really recommend reading the attached readme file for some background information regarding the first game and the game industry at that time.  

If someone out there ever could help me with my problem in Abandoned Places, then let me know and I might continue with my party. I feel that I could not rate A.P. fair with my 10 hours or so invested in it at this stage and so will let it be where it is.

For anyone looking to try out Abandoned Places, here is the manual and walkthrough.