Currently playing: Nox Archaist

July 30, 2012

Ishar 2 - Won!

In my last session I was just about to return to the snowisland to try to overcome the vertigo my group felt at a certain place. Therefore, in the city, I bought all ingredients needed to brew five anti-vertigo potions. One of the unique ingredients was of course the hard to get Edelweiss flower and there where only five of them in the game.

Of course! I thought. This must be an important potion for the game so I was almost convinced I was on the right track. I did however only have three flowers but I knew where to find the last two. I returned to Jon´s island and searched for the last two flowers. They where guarded by the dreadful harpies and this time they possessed two of my characters to hit my partymembers. Since I could not cure them and there are no temples that offer those cures, I had to reload the battle several times. But in the end there where still at least one party member getting cursed. I found out that it had nothing to do with the harpies but of the place the harpies inhabited. It was by pure coincident I checked my magicians spells and found a spell called remove curse. It worked!

Now I had all ingredients needed for the potions so I returned to the spot where my group refused to go on and brew one potion for each and everyone of them. I was relieved to see it worked. I continued to map this new area and eventually I found another relic.

My knight with his evening tunic on

I was glad I did find it but I still had no way of continuing my quest. It was then I remembered a hint I got from a tavern that I shouldn´t forget to wear my suits to visit the club blue velvet in the evening. In the city there are a place in which you could buy an evening tunic for 8.000 gc. I bought it to all my characters and we entered the blue velvet at night. We where thrown in jail again by the guards so that solution didn´t work.

At this point I had to look for a hint in a walkthrough and found out that I did the correct thing but I would also have to wear one of my found pendants. I am so tired of these puzzles by now. The pendants have no names indicating anything about their use so wearing one together with the evening tunics doesn´t make sense. But it worked. And this was a breakthrough because I found an old man there that gave me the map for the last and fifth island....the fortress itself!

This man is truly a hero, he gave me a new island to explore
Before I left there I had to check out in a walkthrough where the cul-de-sac of the four towers where in the city. It was there I would meet a person at night for some information. When I found the place I waited until 2 in the morning and a shadowy figure emerged in an alley. He requested 20.000 gold. I was not sure for what but paid him and got a relic from him. I now had five relics with which I don´t really know what to do. But there was this place in the mountains where there where five pillars and the relics could be put upon them so I sailed there and used all my five relics. Nothing happened! I don´t know if they must be in any particular order or not but I took back my relics and headed for the last island.

All my hard-to-get relics for nothing!

The last island took me right into the fortress in which I suspect the last confrontation will take place. I noticed that the difficulty was challenging right from the start. I met a tough opponent which had the ability to turn my group against each other. The only way to beat that foe was a newly discovered spell that freezes the opponent. That battle did not come without losses however. My mage Bormost died and I had to resurrect him with a spell. That goes with a price because his XP is reset to zero which means it will take forever to return him back where he was but I thought it was well worth the effort if this was the last place.

After the battle I had to return to town to rest and eat. When I returned I did not make many more moves until a Red dragon stopped my way. I used the exactly same tactic against him and after a tough fight he was dead. I continued through the corridors and soon met skeletons in hordes that depleted my energy and mana and made my progress very slow while I mapped the place. I had to return back to the city again. This time I bought enough ingredients to make 10 potions of restore mana. I had never tried them out before but as it would turn out I regret I hadn´t used them earlier in the game.   

He looks far more dangerous than he is
With every return trip back to the fortress the major opponents where permanently gone but the skeletons still harassed me. I killed their mage leader and behind him a secret wall lead me to a lever that opened my only door forward in the complex. Behind that door I soon found the stairs leading to another level. Before too long I met a knight that blocked my path. He was tough but if I froze him as before I could kill him and I did. My mana was drained but by using a potion on my mage all mana was restored and I could continue hurling fireballs.
Too bad all the different, good looking baddies only appear once in the end

We moved through corridors that where filled with groups of mummies. Those are tough bastards that are able to inflict heavy injuries on you, or at least that was what I thought initially because it seems that when I fight them half of my group actually fights inbetween ourselves so those mummies are a nuiscance.

My solution for them after trying out different tactics was to throw fireballs at them and then use the spell change of timescale. I discovered this spell too late in the game, and didn´t use it until at this last level. It stops time in the middle of combat or anywhere and let´s you rest, both gaining physical as well as psychic energy. That gave me more mana to throw more fireballs and that was how I used it to move further into the complex.

In order to save my strength I begun to avoid fights and run from them unless it was absolutely neccessary. Since time in the game depletes my physical energy I often do recon patrols to map out the area ahead before going in with my real save. In that way, I optimise my gameplay and preserve the strength of the group as long as possible.
Some things of important in this fortress level
  • I found a room with a fountain but I didn´t see any effect when using it and could not use any items on it. I moved on.
  • There is a lever in the western part that must be pulled to open up a portcullis in the eastern part.
  • There is nothing of importance on the level except 10.000 gold and some arrows.

When going through the portcullis we met yet another type of monster. I don´t really know what to call them but they sure did not look friendly with their huge maces. They inflicted heavy amounts of damage on me and fighting them with my ordinary weapons would only get me a Pyrrhys victory, so I used the fireballs tactics at them and it worked like a charm. After that, I healed up using the change of timescale and moved on.

I found another closed door but it turned out I had to step on a preassure plate in a room full of traps in order to open it. After that part I eventually met a mage of some sort. He spoke but said nothing of importance, just that he´d made it. Made what I wonder ? I didn´t understand.

 He could not be fought and he would not accept any of my items so I just moved on.

What the hell is he talking about ?

I begun to become really excited to finish this game now and rushed on without mapping but was stopped by a door with a huge ear on it. What the hell is that !? It couldn´t be opened by magic or force and I had no keys. I started to use my items on it and tried out the parrot I bought before. Apparently a parrot must speak through the ear to let the door open. This must be the most ridiculous challenge yet in this game. There is absolutely no logic in it. Well, at least I figured it out by myself and stepped through.

The most silly solution yet!
I still had one unused rat and monkey in my inventory. I wonder where I could have used them.
This is the void when you cast change of timescale
I moved through a corridor that opened up into a large hall. And there he was....Shandar himself...or rather I thought so. The nameless shadow just stood there. He could actually be anyone because he didn´t speak or anything. But he sure did attack me! He died at my hands in my first attempt. I threw fireballs at him and when my mana was drained I brew a potion to restore it to full strength and repeated that action. Three times I emptied my mana reserves with fireballs at him and managed to stay alive during his feeble attempts to hurt or immobilise me. I was quite dissappointed but at the same time glad I did it defeat him!

Why does he not say anything ?

Shandar was now dead and I was met by the same image as in the introduction but with a slow shadow emerging from the right side of the screen. I suppose that should remind me of a continuation in Ishar 3 but that won´t happen anytime soon. First I need a rest from this gaming system.

Look out for my review in my next post.

July 25, 2012

Ishar 2 - Challenging puzzles

In my last post I told you about the new island Jon´s Island that I´ve found. My new goal was naturally to check out that island but I had to prepare myself since it was a snowladen mountainious region. I bought five fur coats for 5.000 gold each to all my members, rested, ate and returned to the island. It had three harbours and I choosed to work from the northeastern one first.

I removed my heavy armours and put on the fur cloaks. Immediately the cold stopped inflicting injuries on me. Now, I grabbed my graphpaper and begun to map out this part of the island. For most parts you walk alongside the mountain cliffs but find passages leading into the mountain from time to time. When walking alongside the cliff you run the risk of slipping and falling off, menaing a certain death. I suppose you might prevent that if you buy ropes for the group but I found that it only happens if you try to step out into nothingness so I choosed the careful approach instead.

Dawn is approaching
On this part of the island all my search eventually come down to the Edelweiss flower. I found five of them in total. However, to reach them I had to fight through groups of dwarves guarding the passages. They where not really hard though, but it still took me one return trip to the city to rest before I could finish this part of the island. The flowers are important ingredients in potions you could brew. But at this time I had yet to find the cauldron to use for it. At one point my party refused to go further because they got giddy. This is the only place on the island in which they reacted that way so I´m not surprised if I have to return to this part later on.

After all my challenges you give in for giddiness !?

The second time I returned to the island I choosed the northwestern harbour. This part of the island was inhabited with harpies. They where not many but very hard. I noticed that they could possess a character into attacking the party and that this condition did not end after some time. Since I had no remedy for such a condition, I reloaded prior to the combat to make another try. This time, more successful.

There where three important places found. The most rewarding one was a living sword (+20). It was guarded by some creatures. At another place I came to what seems like a row of pillars and nothing else. I could not do anything with them but started to experimenting with my items. The only item that would be set on such a pillar was my relic I found with the Golem on the first island. But nothing happens so I suppose I need more relics or this was just a red herring.

I met a floating old man at one place. I could not speak to him, nor did he react to spells or any item I tried to use on him. Hmm. I noticed where he was and moved on.

This holy man is allegedly a "turbulent priest"

The last part of the island - with the southern harbour - contained two important things. First I killed some sort of beast and got its horn. I don´t know what to do with the horn though. Perhaps an ingredient. The other thing that did cheer me up was when I found the cauldron to brew potions with. 

The only cauldron in the game, used to brew potions
Now that I had explored the whole island I had found some important items but no clue on how to go on or what to do from here. After resting in town, I decided to return to the tombs because there was one last door there that I could not figure out how to open. I went there and tried two of my keys, one being the key I stole from the monk at the sacrifice. But nothing worked. I returned back to town to think.

My situation right now is:
  • I cannot open the door in the tombs and have no clue of how to do it
  • I don´t know how to use the three scales in the sewers. There must be something they do.
  • I don´t know if I have done all I should when I stole the key from the sacrifice or if there is more to do
  • There is a person in the town I should meet in the night at a special place but I don´t know where that place might be.
So since I couldn´t find a way to move on, I needed a little help. I peeked through a walkthrough to get me only a hint, not to read fully of what to do. And I found one hint. The old man I found floating at Jon´s Island, was described as a priest in the walkthrough. I was to give him a potion called Humbolg which is described as "turbulent priest" in the manual.

Actually I don´t think I could have done that connection. There is no reason why I should give a floating old man - without knowing he is a priest - a potion called "turbulent priest" which in itself does not reveal anything of its use. With challenges such as these I don´t feel too bad of cheating.
Anyway, I gathered the ingredients needed for the potion. All could be bought in the city. Then I mixed them in the cauldron and wondered. Shouldn´t I be give a new potion out of this ? I wasn´t and then I wondered if I should use the cauldron on a fire or whatever to actually brew the potion but nay, that is not the case. I brought what I had in the cauldron to the floating old man and he thanked me and gave me a map as a reward. I looked on it and saw he had pinpointed a new island for me. Great!

There is room for one more island...

Now I felt I was back in the loop again. I immediately set sail for the new island and went ashore. It turned out to be an island called Thorn´s island that was covered with trees and walkways inbetween. A typical area where you would expect wooden elves to life, except they don´t exist in this game. I started to map this place and found several interesting places.
  • A relic guarded by some sort of beast reminding me of a Chimera.
One should be careful travelling at nighttime
  • Tales told by some old men that indicates that the mayor in the city is an evil person conducting dark rituals. I have already discovered that to be true.
  • I found Zeldy, the daughter of the mayor in the town hall. She was dead but I could take a key from her.
There is certainly nothing wrong with the graphics in the game

  • An old unmoving gray man that just stood there.
After having found Zeldy, I returned to the city to let the mayor know. The key she weared opened up the town hall and in there I found an idol. Perhaps it was the idol stolen from the church ? I took the idol and showed them to the religious center. They where overjoyed and gave me a pendant.

I rested and returned to the island. The last thing of interest was a sleeping Ent. I couldn´t do anything with him but I remembered seeing a potion called Ent alarm in the manual and knowing this games´ subtle hints on things I returned to the city and got the ingredients for it and brewed a potion I offered it to the ent....and voila! He took it and woke up to give me yet another pendant. Hmm. So I have gathered a few relics, a few pendants and a few skulls by now. I wonder what to do with these.

Anyway, I was not the wiser after having completed my mapping of the whole island. I still couldn´t figure out what to do next and had to take a hint again about the old, gray man. It turned out I should use the horn I found from the beast in the snowy mountains to get the man back to flesh again. Yet another brutally bad puzzle. You cannot determine that the man is turned to stone to begin with and much less so that the horn would have anything to do with his stone-to-flesh wish. I know where I will hit this game hard on at my review.

When the man finally could speak again he told me he wanted a shield. Strange wish for a man returning from eternal death, but what the hell. I returned to the city and bought an iron shield for 6.000 gold and gave it to him. He took it and somehow bestow some sort of magic on it and returned it to me. It was said to protect me from a dragon´s fire. Would I guess that is how it all will end eventually ?

I left Thorn´s island with a sense that I had completed all my tasks there and returned back to the city. I could either go back to the mountain to try to solve the puzzle with my group refusing to go on OR I could - once and for all - try to solve the problem with the scales down in the sewers. I choosed the latter one.

After ploughing through my skeleton friends I was again standing in front of the three scales. I just had to look up that solution in a walkthrough. It was said I had to put 3.350 gold pieces in each and everyone of the scales, but it turns out it should be 3.550 gold pieces (I learned that from another  walkthrough on youtube).

That is more than what the scale with the gold originally contained which makes it even more difficult to solve this puzzle. When I put that amount of money in the three scales and returned back to the sewers, the water was now drained and the monsterns infesting it was back behind their bars again.

I explored the now drained sewers once again to find anything hidden and found a small sewerhole below water level which we stepped through. We came into a huge room that contained 10.000 gold and a throwing dagger. In the eastern part we met a group of mummies guarding a lever in the wall. I killed them and pulled the wall and moved north through a corridor. A few steps later we where all roasted by an etherical monster casting spells at us and doing huge amount of damage. My party was wiped out after just a few hits and it was impossible to hurt the creature.
I reloaded and tried out different magical spells on him but could not harm him so I reloaded again and now put all my pendants on me and voila! One of them protected me from even meeting this elemental foe. Another example of using an item you don´t know what it´s for against a monster you don´t know the name of and of course that should solve your problem.

I continued and soon found two new skulls and some money. One of the skulls was protected behind masses of mummies and the other one behind secret walls. So it was these skulls that where so important all the time! All of my problems with the scales to get two more skulls.
I returned back to the city to heal and rest. My group was now at level 20 and the new mage and priest at around level 14. They had got a lot of new spells since being recruited to the group. I admit I had to go for a hint again. It seems the skulls where important to open the last locked door in the tombs. I returned there and put every skull into every scale I found and that worked. The only logical explanation of this is that there where five scales (or six, I don´t remember now) and I carried at this time of the game the same amount of skulls. That´s all there is. If there at least could be some parchement or riddles you find with some clues. I wonder if anything could be put in the scales. Hmm...

If you didn´t now, I´ll tell you now. Skulls are for weighing down scales that opens doors, Clear enough ?

The door was now open. I entered to find a room filled with gold and yet another relic. Now I had three. So the relics and my pendants are what I have.

Right now I will try to find a way to continue in the snowy mountains because I have no other place to visit. I will brew potions to get rid of my giddy. I found that in the manual there are a potion called anti-vertigo. If that is not the solution the I don´t know. I´ll return in my next post of what will happen.

July 23, 2012

One year retrospective and rating system explained

One year has passed with my blog today and I thought it would be nice with a little retrospective.

First of all, thank you all readers out there. Your comments encourages me to continue with this. To date 217 comments have been made on my 86 articles and the number of page views and visitors are steadily increasing. The worst month was in october 2011 with 354 hits compared to june 2012 that was ten times as high. By far, most readers come from U.S. but then comes Germany, Sweden, Canada and Russia.

There where a few reasons I started this blog. My first computer roleplaying game was Bard´s Tale on the Commodore 64 in 1988. Up until Commodores demise in 1994 I played every RPG I could get hold of until I was forced to switch to the PC-platform that now had become the major gaming platform. Although several good modern RPGs exist, the golden period is long over.

One day in januari 2010 I found the site Freegameempire that offered preconfigured Dosbox games from the past. I begun by playing Ultima Underworld and was soon hooked and this was followed by Lands of Lore and Planescape torment. I was already back in the past.

When I discovered CRPGAddicts blog in 2010 it was with great joy I begun to read through his efforts to complete every CRPG game released. Many of them were classics I myself played as a teenager. It was then I came up with the idea of sharing my experiences and talk about the games that today for the most part are forgotten by the masses.

His inspiration led me to start my own blog about the golden oldies, although I don´t put nearly as much effort into such an overwhelming task he has set for himself. I have no intention of completing every game I try out, for the simple reason that not every CRPG are worth the effort.

When I stumble into a bad game, or one that begins to be a chore more than enjoyment, I will tell you that, review the game, and then move on. In that way, I will cover more games and be able to put the time and efforts into the really good games out there. I hate to quit games and would prefer to complete them but one has to be realistic. This hobby is just a part of a larger life and that in itself is too short to let the inability to stop playing a bad game rule.

By far the most visited and readed post is about Wizardry VII, double that of the second one about   Demon´s Winter, which was my first revisit. I am quite surprised about both of them. The latter game is really not very well known. On the other hand what is actually read and what is only links of the screenshots is hard to know. 

I´ve never actually tried to explain my rating categories for each game, so let´s go through that once and for all. What is important to understand is that the overall most important rating will always be for the gameplay section, regardless of low points in all other scores. That makes my gameranking list a little bit unreliable since it measures how well-balanced the game as a CRPG is, but undervalues how much enjoyment it gives. I could try to weigh some parts more than others though, but in the end, the ranking of the games compared to each other is not the aim in itself and so is of less importance.

The rating system goes from 1-5 with 0.5 increments. Just double the score if you wish to compare it to a 1-10 grading system.

Gameworld & Story
Here I try to rate first how much efforts has been put into the background story of the game, including how original it is and how well it conveys the story and background through the game. Many games have only the story in the manual and you see nothing of it in the games. A good example is Bard´s Tale.

It is also about how clear your objectives are in the game and wether you always know what you are doing and why and how the game supports and drive the story forward, be it by cut-scenes, narrators, npc voices or pure texts. Most SSI Goldbox games scores highly in this part, as well as for example Shadows over Riva.

Does the game include an economic system in the form of monetary management with which you could buy items or other character driven things for ? How is the balance ? Do you feel you always lack behind and need more gold ? (that is a good thing), or do you pretty quick disregard money because you have nothing to do with it anyway (this is naturally very bad). What can you do with your money and is that part of the game well structured ? 

Personally, one of the highlights is the feeling of when you are always a bit short of gold but could save up some and then have to prioritize whether you should afford that new better weapon or armour or should you instead spend the money on buying a lot of healing potions and food ? Too much gold, too early is bad for this rating, too less and too late is bad also.

NPC & Interactions
Are there NPC:s in the game that you could speak to and that promotes the story, gives missions or just add to the background or atmosphere of the game ? How can you interact with them. One sided, or can you speak to them in dialogue options ? How does it affect the game ?

Interactions means, interactions with your environment. Perhaps you find something during your explorations and are allowed different approaches to problems or obstacles, like Shadows of Riva is very good at, or perhaps you find things to manipulate and you are given several choices of how to tackle them like in Dark heart of Uukrul. A typical game with excellent score in this category could be Baldurs Gate.

Monsters, Tactics & Combat System
Here I try to rate how well your adversaries are in the game, what - and if - they use any tactics and wether the combat system is any good. With monsters it could mean the variety between them like images, size, movement rate, different attacks (poisonous, gas, slime, rust, acid/fire breathing etc) and if they employ tactics like if they try to surround you, surrender or could retreat from combat.

The Combat System rates how fun it is to go into fight mode. More detailed are often better - but not always - as long as the interface is good. Does different weapons and armour have noticeable effects ? Do you see damage dealt and is combat based on your statistics or more on your reactions ? A typical game with excellent value in this category would be SSI:s Goldbox games like Pool of Radiance while a game scoring low on this section would be Ishar 2 for example.

Magic System (earlier Magic & Spells)
Here I rate the magic system employed by the game. How many spells are there and are they varied and useful enough ? Is it easy to use and does it add something to the game ? How does it work ?

Character generation & development
This section tries to review how well the character generation in the game works. How do you generate your character(s)?, which options are you given?. What happens when you level up and how does the levelling system works? How well balanced is the character development and will you be able to start a new game and try a different route ? This is one of the most important aspects of an CRPG. Games with a high rating in this category are  Shadows over Riva or Wizardry VII.

Map design
How good are the maps of the game, both overland and underground. Are they large, small, varied, fixed squares or irregular. Built with thoughts or just random rooms, doors and corridors without any realism built in ? A game with bad map design is games that randomise the dungeons because there is no thought behind the rooms or corridors. Example of such games could be Daggerfall.

The manual of a game is all too often overlooked. Not only is the importance of the manual to describe how the game works, your goal, background information and how to use the controls (the interface), but a good manual also describes the underlying game mechanism, have tables and stats, monster encyclopedia, tips and hints, designers notes or is just very entertaining to read. For me personally a good manual is helping to build up the atmosphere and expectations of the game. An example of a good manual is for Demon´s Winter or Wizardry VII. A manual that I could find that preserves the layout as in a PDF file will automatically render a higher score instead of a pure textfile.

Graphics, Sound & Interface
Of these three categories the interface is often the most single important item in a CRPG. Without an easy to use system to control the game it doesn't matter if the graphics and sound are excellent. I try to rate graphics and sound based on what could be expected for a game of the same period and for the same format (ie Amiga vs other Amiga games etc). A game with poor graphics per se but which is clear, easy to grasp and maximise its use could get a higher score than first meets the eye. Sound is based on music and sound effects and the effective use of it. Interface is of course how easy it is to play and use without getting frustrated. It could be how the game handles your inventory, shopping, casting spells or combat commands.

This part is of course the single most important one. How much fun did I have playing the game ? Does it hook my interests 10 hours into it or does it become tedious and repetitive quickly ? Is the game too large but with to little content (read Bard´s Tale 3) or has efforts been put into making each level/dungeon etc so enriched as possible ? Do you feel part of the story, does the story advance and help keep the gaming experience top notch ?

Any suggestions of how to weight the different sections for a better rating ?

Map design
Magic system

Gameworld & Story


NPC & Interactions

Monsters, tactics and combat system
Character generation & development
Graphics, Sound & Interface


July 20, 2012

Ishar 2 - A new island

After getting back to the city from the tomb, I begun re-equipping myself again. I still had some areas umapped of the tomb. I made my way back and begun to explore the levers and closed doors I've found. I tested them one at a time and searched for the effect of each and everyone of them. The first lever opened a door that eventually led me to a crack in the wall where a mageskeleton hided. 

I like this guy´s outfit
He attacked me with spells but I killed him quite quickly. Behind him I gathered around 30.000 gold and another skull that I brought with me. Yet another lever opened up a door with some more gold and another lever. The last lever led to a continuation of the complex. After some exploration Fandhir in my group noted he felt some sort of draught, meaning there must be a hidden wall somewhere. I tried out the walls nearby and found it. This was the first secret door in the game I´ve found so far. I entered.

When you characters succedds a perception test, this might be the result
The corridors led to a spiraling square where the niches where full of gold. I gathered another 30.000 gold here. The corridor ended with a closed door. Some moments later a huge axe-wielding executioner appeared and started to attack me!

As you can see I was killed quite brutally. It was obvious I was not ready for this fight yet. I reloaded prior to meeting this guy and begun to return back to the exit. I had only strength left for one or two fights and had to try to run past the skeletons that now had spawned again. The major problem is not that I am out of hitpoints but out of stamina.

When I got back to the city I bought the most expensive armour I could found, an armour of chaos (+12). I ate and slept and returned to the tomb again. This time to explore the northern part. After fighting through the starting skeletons once again I got to a dead end. But this end was guarded by some sort of magician. He attacked and I fought ferociously back at him and soon killed him. Another secret door could be found in his den that eventually led to the sewers.

This was obviously a new sort of complex. At this time I had used more than half of my stamina and psychic points and therefore it was time for me to return to the city once again. Well there I bought yet another of the best armour to one of my warriors and replaced my fire sword (+12) with another magic sword (+15). I was also not satisfied with my archer. I have never used him in combat. Not since he defeated the goblin leader at the first island.Using bows and arrows in this game comes with a drawback that I don´t appreciate. When you press the attack button of the bow, the mouse pointer changes to an arrow that you manuall have to select a target fore. Menawhile, neither of your other party members could attack. It ain´t worth the extra time in my opinion.

So I wanted to replace him. What I will miss most is that he had advanced to level 14 and probably gained a lot of vitality points, but that couldn´t be helped if he was not adding more to my group.

I replaced him with a mage and also got rid of my existing priest for another priest. The new priest had four spells even though he was only half the level of my existing priest. Somehow you don´t always get new spells automatically when levelling up. So with two new members, my team spirit actually raised from around 19 to 33. I am not sure what effect that has on the game other than that a higer number is better.

A leverl in the complex, Not very difficult to discover

My grinding companions approach, except that I get the grinding benefit

Our first task was to return to the first island and meet the Golem for the third time. I found him at the same place, took the skull cube and he materialised in front of me. The combat begun and this time I attacked him with full strength and healed up my weakest fighter Manatar when he needed it. Soon the Golem perished and we rejoiced! Not that I know what I will do with the skullcube anyway. I was a bit interested - and worried - what happens to partymembers you dismiss so I figured I would see if they returned to their old tavern or was permanently removed from the game.

Unfortunately they where not to be found at the tavern where they where originally recruited, so that means one have to be careful when dismissing (or assassinating) party members. I have no idea when I will need some special character like a thief for example.

The village back at the first island
Since I did not have any good clues or hints of what to do I returned to the tomb and entered the sewers. At some places I found a strange creature behind bars but couldn´t interact with it in any way.

I eventually stepped out from the sewers into a small room with three weighing-plates. One of them had some gold on it and the other two was empty. Every one moved when being weighed down. Hmm. So what should I do with these ? And what do I want to happen ? Well, since this was my last room in the complex I had nowhere else to go so I hoped naturally that a wall would be removed or whatever to allow me to continue.
What am I supposed to do ?
  • I counted the money that laid in one of them and split it in three and put it in all three weights. 
  • I took all my money and divided in on the three scales. I though they perhaps needed a certain weight. 
  • I took the same amount of money as was in the single scale and put in on the other tow. 
I don´t know which of these combinations it was but on one occassion I got back to the sewers and found the creatures gone from the bars, but they turned up in the water instead and attacked me! They where not overly hard and left nothing of value. I inspected the bars but could do nothing about them. This was one effect of playing around with the scales but I am not sure if it has been done correctly.

I returned back to the city again and this time I thought I would revisit the places I´ve already been at. That was a good move because at the temple I found out that the idol had been stolen. Not that I know what to do about it but it indicated that time or other events in the game had triggered this.

Back at the library I got hold of some receipt of potion names and what they do. The manual contains information about the ingredients needed but I haven´t found a cauldron to brew them in, yet.

I searched the whole town after guards I´ve might have missed and found a guard giant or guard captain in the eastern part that I forgot about. I killed him and behind him was the entrance to the tavern Blue Velvet. When I entered I was surrounded with guards and taken prisoner. 

Where they expecting me ?
I had no choice and was sent to prison - wherever that where - behind bars. There was a lock on the door but nothing in the cell and we kept all our equipment and weapons. I tried most things on the lock without success. There is a skill in the game called lock-picking. I thought I would need a thief in order to break free. This is one of the  moments in which you could get stuck forever if you save at the prison. I reloaded prior to entering the tavern but returned to recruit a thief just as a test. Well back in the prison I just stood there as dumb as before. How do I use the skill ? I could not break free in any way.

At this point I actually checked a walkthrough - and I was glad I did. In order to break free I would have to buy a certain bird from the zoo called thieving magpie or something like that. I reloaded, bought that bird and was back in prison again. I released the bird which flew away and returned shortly after with a key in its beak. What the hell!? Not the most logical and intuitive way of solving this problem. But it allowed me to continue.

The prisoner cell
Just a few steps outside my prison cell I discovered a cults' nest. They where conducting a sacrifice. I could do nothing except I could steal a key from one of the participants. I returned back from there only to return back to the cell areas. So how do I get out of there ?

So this is what happens behind the town mayors innocent facade
When I passed the corridor the second time one of my party members said he felt a draught and I knew there where a hidden door somewhere. When I found it and stepped through I was out on the streets again. But this time I had to fight through a dozen guards to get out. I was lucky to have the strength left for that. Another spot in which you could get stuck if you don´t have an old save game. Anyway after breaking free I returned back to heal up and ponder what to do next.

Right now I lack any clear directions. I know there must be something more to the prisoner incident and the club blue velvet. Was it all just to allow me to get the key ? And what should I use that for ? I revisited the temple and the town hall (which now is closed at daytime...hmm) but that yielded nothing.

I decided to return to the first island to pay 10.000 gold for the magician who said something about an eagle showing the way. I had already bought all animals there is after my last experience in the prison so I already had an eagle with me. I paid him and then released my eagle who flew away. It turned up that the eagle discovered another island for me to visit. Perfect! Just what I needed. Somewhere else to go. 

I went there quickly just to discover that it is a snowy mountain region with three separate harbours to dock at. However, I also noticed while being there that my health was drained every three seconds or so.

I suspect I have to protect myself from the cold in some way and then remembered a tavern where I heard rumours of what was needed for an expedition. Furs was mentioned there, so I returned back to the city once again. This time to prepare myself with some equipment before leaving for the new island again.

Before ending this session. Do I like the game ? Well, it certainly has its strength but the lack of a clear mission and the non-linearity, together with the rather challenging difficulties make it a mixed feeling. It is easy to get stuck in the game and the clues and hints are very few. But let me return to that when the time comes to judge this game. 

Time to move on to explore the new island....

July 13, 2012

Ishar 2 - The city of grinding

I arrived at Zach´s Island in the middle of the night just outside the town in the harbour area. I had no choice but to enter. A quick look at the automap showed quite a large town.

I am at the white dot in upper left
The game uses day/night cycles and at night most establishments are closed. So I had either to find a teavern to sleep at or wait out the time. I explored the town and saw several signs here and there of places I must visit at day. Once again, it is unfortunate you cannot label anything on the map and I am too lazy to draw a copy of the map.

After a few minutes some shady figures emerged and attacked my party. It was obvious these were not as easy as the goblins on the first island. I killed them but was severely wounded. They didn´t left anything to pay up for it neither. If at least they would have left some gold to help me regain the lost strength. I continued my exploration for a tavern but was soon attacked once again. This time I was not so lucky though and my party was killed.

The towns welcoming comitteé
I reloaded to after the last fight and took another route. Soon I found a tavern. We both ate and slept there but had to pay 2.000 gold for it. We stepped out on the streets again and now it was late in the day. I was irritated to have slept through most of the day without any means of altering the sleeping time. Now I had to make the best for the light that would still shine the streets. I found a blacksmith and bought the most expensive melee weapon he had, a schimitar giving me +8 instead of + 4 that my short sword are labelled as. I thought I would need it in coming fights. The rest of the money, around 12.000 gold was to be saved for when and what I need when I know I need it. 

The night replaced the day and I found myself straggling around the dangerous streets once again. I found what seemed like a town council and decided to wait out the night just outside this building. When day approached I entered and met the commander-in-chief of this city. He wanted me to bring little Zeldy back to him If I find her.

I was quite surprised when stepping out. It was night again! The time does count inside buildings and I took a pause there. But I can´t see any evidence of the group having lost any physical stamina because of that. I think it only drains during fights. When your stamina reaches zero you don´t have the strength to swing a sword anymore so that is very important to keep an eye on.

I continued my exploration of the city, working my way from north to the east of the map.
  • I found a temple but nothing I could obviously do in there
  • An alley full of city guards that attacked me when entering. I retreated, naturally.
  • Two more bandits blocking my way. I defeated them but the injuries I took will be more expensives that the 1.000 gold they left behind. From now on, I will not engage in such fights If I can avoid it. Better to find another route.
  • I entered a square with a stone statue and a man playing on his mandoline. I handed the man a few golds and he spoke something about 5 snowy stones. I didn´t find out what to do with the statue.
  • Close to the square was a library in which I found a piece of map to another island. Good, this will make a good escape route. Perhaps it is meant that the city is the base for your explorations of the world ?
Map to the next island. Great!
After awhile I was almost out of physical stamina which meant I could soon not defend myself and I hadn´t found a tavern for awhile. I begun to backtrack my steps but was attacked by thugs at the same places as before. Either they respawn or are random. In any event, this is very dangerous because I could get trapped in an area without having any chance of escaping due to lack of stamina. I would then have to return to an older saved game.

You can check each NPC:s stats before hiring them

It was then that I begun to change tactic. I had been at almost the whole town except for areas with a lot of town guards that attacks when I approach. I begun by spending almost all money except a few thousand for food and rest, on a fire sword which gave me +12 !?. I suppose that is much better than my short sword at +4. I immeditately noticed a slight improvement in the fights. I had yet to find any task in this town except for the strange rumours I´ve heard. One of them was to meet a man at night at four towers square. How should I know where that is ?

Anyway, I run around the city in search of bandits. My intention was to gather more gold and be able to buy better equipment. After one hour doing so I got a little frustrated about all the different shops in the city. The automap does not list them and it is impossible to remember where they all are when you need them. So I had no choice but to copy the automap, enlarge it in a document and start putting numbers on each shop. I then visited every armoursmith and miscellanous shop to list their items and prices in a table. In that way I knew where everything of importance was in the city.

Myself with new armour, helm, shield and magical sword
My next task was to methodically build up my money to be able to afford more expensive equipment. I soon found the perfect place to hunt for thugs. And yes, they do respawn. You just have to go less than 10 hex from them and then return again. There could be one or two of them but they are always there. I started to grind. After a few hours I was up to level 11 with my main character and the others at level 10. I got enough money to buy a magic sword, two plate armours, two heavy shields and two heavy helmets. For every advance of equipment I took less and less damage from the thugs and they where killed quicker. This in turn led to more money since I needed to rest less often. 

This is the most expensive equipment to be found
Some reflections of the game so far:
  • Combat is just about clicking on your weapons. There are some pauses that depends on the weapon used. Foes sometimes could leave gold behind but I have never found equipment so far.
  • Combat drains your physical stamina which could best be regained by eating, either at a tavern or by bringing food. When your stamina is zero you can´t attack and if you get stuck in that condition you are inevitably dead. 
  • You could use ranged weapons like bow and arrows but 20 arrows cost 500 gold and does little damage so for me right now it is a little bit too expensive. I would rather buy a better bow for now.
  • To regain hitpoints and spellpoints you need to sleep. Sleeping is expensive and costs around1.200 gold for the whole group.
  • You level up automatically without any notice and without you being part of the process. I haven´t seen my statistics rise at all. Though I am quite sure my vitality is increasing. Other than that, I don´t know what positive effects a level up will bring.
  • My mage does not get new spells when level up so I don´t know how to improve him.
  • You have no list with tasks or missions, but then again, I haven´t found any either.
  • Upgrading items like armour and weapons do really make a difference in fights. Very good and it feels like an accomplishment when you can buy better equipment. Unfortunately I have found no way of selling items so my advice is to buy the most expensive things you could afford every time, to make it last longer. Better one good weapon than three light armours for example.
  • As I have probably said before there are day and night cycles. All shops are closed at night. Some events only unfold at nights I believe but I haven´t found any as of yet.
After my grinding and mapping of the town which took some hours I felt I was ready to try something new. Why not begin by returning to the first island to try to defeat the Golem again ? I did so and this time I could actually injure him but in this fight you could not retreat so despite two attempts I was still killed by him in the end. He must have several hundred hitpoints. He is too strong for me still, but at least I know I can defeat him. I just have to buy even better equipment. I reloaded and took the boat again but not to the city but to the new island and found myself in some sort of catacombs.

I begun to explore this and soon met a group of skeletons. Eager to try out my new group I attacked and they where not that hard after all. Unfortunately they did not leave any gold but I continued. It was soon apparant that this complex had a lot of corridors and there where no automap. I run the risk of getting lost but wanted to go further into the complex. After searching around I found a skull and two throwing daggers and a few closed doors. I eventually also found several levers that I did not pull. Even a spear trap caught me by surprise in my exploration. But what brought most enjoyment was when I found a pile of 10.000 gold lying there.

After 10 minutes into this complex I realised I had to start mapping this place and begun to backtrack my steps to my boat again. 

What I didn´t like was that all skeletons already killed in my exploration was back again at their original positions. If I would have been just a little weaker when returning I might have got trapped. You could try to evade them but that is not alwasy possible. I do not like having to fight the same battles over and over again. I must be really strong then to plough myself through this complex and be strong enough to return as well. 

What should I do with this skull ?
When I came back into the town again I took on another 3-4 battles with the thugs and then had almost 50.000 gold. I bought an Axe of Chaos for 25.000 gold giving me +25. That is the best weapon I´ve found in any shop so far in the game. It is slow to attack with but does tremendous damage. Well, that is to say I´ve seen it score 22 points on a single hit. After that I thought I should try the townguards once again and this time I killed all 9 of them. But there where nothing behind them! I felt cheated. My last thought was that it was night now and perhaps something will turn up in the day. But nay. Well, at least the battle got me more experienced. I was now at level 12.

I looked for other places with city guards and found a place just on the back of the towns bank. I killed them all and ended up robbing the bank of 100.000 gold! A tremendous amount of money that will come to great use equipping me with the best the town has to offer.

I think my next task is to return to the island and start map it throughly....