Currently playing: Nox Archaist

August 28, 2013

Dark Disciples 2 - Huge gameworld

If anyone thought I was on the lazy side regarding Dark Disciples 2, you might reconsider. I have played for many more hours and dwelved deep into the game. Or at least, that is what it has felt. In the city I completed all four modules - each of them different scenarios spanning many maps, dungeons and puzzles to solve and they where all very well scripted. I really liked them.

To cross this chasm I had to put seeds in the bowl to grow out the bridge

Any of the four modules could be taken on in any order but there where recommended levels for each one. I took them in order. The second order was about the corruption of the westwood. An evil prescence had turned the once peaceful forest into a dangerous place. Now I had the chance to find the roots to this evil and restore the forest to its former state. I travelled to a remote village to help the mayor get rid of the evil that was about to surround the village totally. The setting was perfect. It was rather heavy on puzzles and I did not solve all of them but enough to complete it.

The last module was about to get rid of the pirates that blockade Durwich but also to stop an inquisition force of their witchhunt which had gone well over board. When the pirate threat finally was removed I could continue in my search for my brother by going to the Frontier Lands.

Unfortunately we never got there. The destination port was destroyed by invading huge creatures destroying the lands. It was like armageddon let loose. I had to go for a smaller fishing settlement instead and there my adventures continued. I had to retrieve old relics amongst the ruins now hold by orcs and I had to visit a port infested with dark shadows and rescue the few inhabitants still alive, hiding as they where in the sewers. All this and more eventually led me to the Enda people. A sage from them had visited me in a dream long ago and told that I had to look up the sage to be able to look for my brother and all that he had now awaken with his endeavours.

I was told that I had to look up another sage hidden deep down a long valley to get information about my brother. The valley was a maze but rather quickly I found a way to travel to another part of the valley that was inhabited by dinosaurs and a cannibal village. I found the sage´s village there but the sage had been captured by the cannibals so not only did I have to rescue him and do some smaller tasks for the friendly tribe but I also was given the task to blow up the whole cannibal camp.

Solving this pirate puzzle was one of the hardest parts and didn´t give me anything

When I was finally able to talk with the sage about my lost brother he gave me a map and an orb and said I had to travel to a certain region. I entered the Giant´s Halls in search of my brother. The game is hard. At several places my progress are hindered, often by passages I cannot enter but which obviously could be opened one way or another. I had to turn to the walkthrough to figure out how to light up orbs that would open passageway for me and also at one place I had to eat a crazy mushroom I´ve found to see a hidden exit. Things which I would never figure out on my own.

Anyway, deep down I finally found my brother. Beside him was a lone meditating man that prayed for my brother so that he would still be himself. He and his friends had been searching for a long lost treausure and when touching it where slowly possessed by other entities. Now his friends had dispersed for other lands to destroy just for lust and himself was contained only because of the meditating man. The only chance to free them from their possession and save the land was to gather the soul essence from his friends and bring them back to his brother. I would have to kill them. Each of them seems to be living in different parts of the world which I believe is separated scenarios.

These are really hard to kill until I found out that
you could bypass them with Enda´s amulet

I headed for the Kintara region and embarked in a city with an architecture much like medieval japan. Now I have to find one of my brothers friend...

Regarding the combat system, I can now say that ranged weapons are overpowered. As long as you have enough stock of arrows/bolts you can take out any enemies from a distance and when they get close you could run away. Sooner or later you have outrunned them and can begin to shoot again. This makes combat in this sequel much easier than in the first.

Arrows can only be bought in Durwhich and you have to have enough inventory space for them (the magic bag is a must). Certain enemies like shadows and other ghostlike creatures can only be hurt from special weapons which are hard to find. They cannot be shot at. 

The challenge instead is to solve the puzzles or find specific items. The included walkthrough is very general for the later stages of the game and does not have solutions for all problems. Fortunately there is a built in items editor to be used in emergency if you want to summon an item you lack. I had to use it once since I couldn´t solve the chess puzzle below the cannibals village. I am pretty sure that puzzle would reveal stairs leading further down where I was hopint to find another vampire skull. I already had one and needed two since they seemed to be used like keys for some pillars. Instead of getting totally stuck in this game and leave it be, I had to cheat this item and be able to progress.

According to a fortune teller, I have completed around 25 % of the game right now even though I had played for over 20 hours and crossed dozens of maps and dungeons. This game really is huge and it is still as fun. I now know I prefer this bird-perspective instead of the classical Bard´s Tale view when playing. Or it might just be because there are no random encounters in this game...

To be continued...

August 17, 2013

Eschalon III Teaser

The first teaser of the soon to be released Eschalon III has just been released. It is looking good in my opinion and is a must buy since I loved the first two games. It will be released this autumn 2013.

August 14, 2013

Dark Disciples 2 - Revisited

Game revisited: Dark Disciples 2
Designed by: DodgySoft
Released: 2008
Formats: Pc
Availability: Freeware

Admittedly, this is not the perfect way of using my sparse gaming time. But I couldn´t resist starting up on Dark Disciples 2 while still playing Sword and Sorcery Underworld. This is what happens when I have a chore consisting of boring grinding in Sword and Sorcery. Anyway, careful readers will already know that I played through the first game just one month ago. I won´t go into the same detail of the gaming system here but highlight more the differences and what areas has been improved upon.

The game is still freeware and was developed several years after the first one but they are very much alike. You play in the same game world but with no connections at all back to what has happened previously. You start out by creating your character and get 10 attribute points to spend on the same attributes as before.

The major difference is that this time you have separated skills belonging to a specific attribute. The skill level could never exceed the max value of your attribute. For example, there is a skill called critical hits which relies on strength. If your strength attribute is 4 you will never be allowed to increase your critical hit skill with more than four points.

The interface is more userfriendly with popup boxes available when rightclicking

Another major difference is the implementation of ranged weapons like bows and crossbows. Excellent. I really missed out being a mage last time because of the ranged capabilities those had. But beware, your enemies can also use ranged weapons. The magic system is also different. You will need to put skill points into a skill called gemlore. By using a gemstone you could cast a specific spell. The more points you have in the skill the more effective the spell will be. Gemlore skill relies on your perception skill and for my new character I opted to go for some magic capabilities and put skillpoints into the gemlore skill. 

Other skills worth mentioning are stealth, disarm traps, pick locks, dual weapons, prayer and curse skill. Prayer, Curse and Gemlore allows you to cast spells by different means.

The game starts out with you being captive by pirates and imprisoned on an island to be used as labor in a salt mine. Your first task is to find any means to escape. What strikes me immediately is the more detailed environments compared with the predecessor. The automap is now fullscreen and shows both your coordinates and where any npcs are.

Context popup windows are available with the right mouse button

The game still offers its flexible approach to solving problems. I found several ways to escape and at least two ways of leaving the island. I could either find a way to climb over the fence and then sneak on board a ship and hide until it will leave or I could sneak down into the mines and find an exit. I explored every option before deciding that the mine way would give me more experience points and found equipment.

When I managed to escape I started just outside the city of Durwich. My explorations in the city yielded a lot of sidequests and spanned over the temple district, residential area, academic district, harbour, riverside, merchants area and more. I helped the mages guild to clear out an experimental area where they stuffed beasts from magical experiments and I looked up runaway criminals that had escaped the city jail. I also helped the thieves guild clear out an old smugglers tunnel and other small tasks for different persons. All helped me to eventually raise to level 4. 

My main objective was however to tell the news to my brother. When I found his house he was not there but had left behind a letter stating that he had left for the Frontier Lands. He had found some sort of item and knew he was being tracked down, so he left the city. I have yet to find a way to take me there.

The city council from which you could take on larger quests
Instead I went to the city council. There are four large modules you could apply for with different recommendation of levels. I choosed the first one for level 3 to 5 which was about clearing out a cultist nest below a lighthouse. The story around this cult was very interesting and the map layout and puzzles intriguing. I had a lot of fun with this part and eventually succeeded in hunting down the five renegade wizards.

For me ranged weapons are essential. You could pick off targets at a distance without risk of being hurt. I have only met a few archers so most of the time my enemies are already weakened when they go melee with me if they even survive reaching me. I have therefore spent skill points into the targeteer skill. I suppose this is only valid now in the beginning because it feels very powerful right now. It also seems you could use any wand in this game since intellect is no longer an attribute and the spell system is totally new. 

Since I have found no means by which to travel to the frontier lands by ship I suppose that will be available later on in the game or I have missed something in the city. I know pirates have blocked the trade so they must probably first be dealt with in some way. I therefore have just started on module 2. I know it sounds very game technical but it is in fact major missions commissioned by the city council with great rewards.

This game still gives you some puzzles to solve,
like moving the carts over the preassure plates without getting them stuck

I like this game very much. It is improved on all aspects compared to Dark Disciples 1. Mostly by including ranged combat and allowing any character to use magic wands. Also there are more skills and a new system of handling magic which seems good, although I haven´t used any yet. The graphics are more detailed and the music is still done by Bjorn Lynne.

I must not forget to mention that it is as fast as the previous version. No installation is needed. Movement is extremely quick and the GUI improved. That is one of its strongest but more subtle points of this game. It is so easy to get into and quick and easy to play. You are not hindered by tedious random combats, since that doesn´t exist.

This cave entrance must be explored

Oh, and another thing. I spent a long time looking for a trainer in the city when I thought I ought to raise a level until I found out that you do it by yourself on your character sheet. When you level up you must immediately spend an attribute point but could save skill points since you need to find trainers for them.

And while I´m at it. It is not possible to be chased through an area and leave and the return to have the enemies return to their original position. Enemy positions are remembered so it is a little more difficult this time around. 

I will definitely continue playing this game and can warmly recommend it. That this game is freeware is beyond my understanding. 

August 11, 2013

Sword and Sorcery Underworld - Grinding phase

Last time I decided to begin clearing out the barracks. I thought I already had done so but returned to the map part called Barracks once again. I didn´t know what to do except that there was one single dark hex that I hand´t stepped into yet. I know from my constant reloadings that this hex was empty but still I walked there just to make the whole map visible. Voila! That was the solution for clearing out the barracks. Pure coincidence I found that out. 

Spells that are highlighted are applicable in combat
My best spell by far is Electric Chain that hurts four enemies at once.
Note that another 18 foes are waiting to enter the fray
Another quest was to find a hat for a pirate in the starting town. I returned back to the catacombs map to clear out the burial grounds. It was much easier this time when I was at level 5. I could quickfight every combat without problem. The Catacombs also houses enemies that for the most part drops magical runes. Not only did I find the hat but also resupplied myself with magical runes. Two bonuses at once. When returning the hat I got 1.000 gold. I wasn´t that impressed since I´ve already had over 14.000 gold at this time. I wonder if you get any XP for doing quests ?

Even though fighting older and weaker enemies I was finally able to raise to level 6 with my knight, archer and rogue. My only lasting quest was to help the dwarf king with a rebellion. I prepared myself with full stock of magical runes before entering the rebellion square. The fight was not as hard as I first imagined thanks to my sorcerer that constantly blew away the enemy fighters from melee while the other one cast Electric Chain all the time.

This quelling let me fulfill my quests for the dwarven king which was very satisfied. I returned to the alchemist with the good news. I had both won time by clearing out the barracks and also got the support from the dwarven king. Now the alchemist told me he was working on a very important potion to help combat my enemies. Now I understood that the real enemy is the demon Amahaaru and his minor ally in the catacombs are the necromancer called Sylstrilis.

My new mission from the alchemist was to gather two ingredients. One that I could get from undead and one from deep water underground. I headed for the catacombs since I knew it contained hordes of undead and after a few random fights I found it. I then headed to the underwater lake which I guessed was the place I would get the last ingredient from.

That was easier said that done though. Even though I walked around the whole lake I never found it. I tried to rest several days on the same place without getting it. In my frustration I found out that there where two islands in the middle and I used the spell jump on them and eventually helped some elves kill some elder vampires hiding at another place. But even that didn´t get me the ingredient. It was then I had to check for the solution online and it turned out that a special fish has this item from time to time but in order to fight this fish I have to use levitate to go out on the actual water squares. I couldn´t figure that out by myself but after having fought the fish for at least four times it finally dropped my last ingredient. Now I headed back to the alchemist that gave me a potion I should use on a darkness spot to weaken the necromancer. I  had  found such a darkness spot before so I walked there and used the potion prior to entering. That gave me a very though fight with over 30+ enemies which I could by no means defeat and so I had to reload. 

It was clear I have to return back here when I have become stronger. The only choice seemed to be to start grinding. It is not something I find much enjoyment it. I had to restock my magical runes and returned to the dwarf town. I spent one hour fighting different monsters and clearing out houses I hadn´t entered yet. Two bonues I got from this. The first was a few new magical weapons that was better than the ones I had and the other was combats with dragons that gave me scales. These scales could be used by the Dwarven king to give me dragon armour.

After about 1 hour I was up to level 8 with my melee fighters. The rest still needs a few thousand more XP but that will hopefully be taken care of in my next playing session.

August 7, 2013

Sword and Sorcery Underworld - Fighting my way forward

I have finally completed Dragon Age II after many, many hours. It is really a much better game than I first thought considering the pretty cold reviews it got in the beginning. Some of the voice acting is excellent and the main story is well executed. Anyway, this has nothing to do with this post other than the fact that it has left me with more gaming time to focus on this game.

After the last post I decided to buy the full version of Sword and Sorcery Underworld. Since then I´ve played for yet another 4-5 hours at least. As I´ve said before, if you like Bards Tale, Dragon Wars or Might and Magic, this game might be for you. Even though the random encounters is less frequent here they are still frequent enough so most of your time you will have to fight your way through the areas you explore and gather more experience, loot and gold in order to afford better equipment and level upgrades. Slowly you will get stronger, but so will your foes.

I know where I stand on this. Today, I am not a fan of these endless random encounters. A few hours into this post I begun to reload the game immediately when a random encounter occurred and focused instead only on the major and important combats. That works pretty well so far. Sure I miss out experience points but I also maximise my limited playing time to get the most out of the game.

There are many different opponents and they have different abilities. Some are immune to weapons that are not blessed or have so huge amount of armour that only your knight may harm them or your rogue. For many opponents the sorcerers cannot harm the enemies with their distance weapons. Some foes like elder vampires could summon other creatures to help them and some could infect diesease on you like a mummy. Yet, otherones could cause fear or cast spells. There are many different kind of attacks. I have not yet developed any kind of strategy towards particular foes. My offensive capability is totally made up by my sorcerers and the rogue. The rest is just there to soak up damage or try for lucky shots.

Right now I am at level 6 and now progress gets very slowly since I need a 5 digit number of experience to raise to the next level. Last time I had just begun to enter the catacombs. I had two quests related down there. One was to locate and alchemist and the other is to get an item for an old pirate.

As I explored the catacombs I had the opportunity to get more and more experience and could raise in levels. That made it possible to kill the dreadful mummies down there. The catacombs expanded though through new levels with different names like the Barracks, Lair, Crossroads etc. I first thought all of these was subparts of the catacombs but now understand that they are their own separate maps and that is how the game unfolds.

In the area called the Barracks I found a lot of locked doors impossible to open with my rogue. It was only after switching two huge levers these doors opened. There was nothing behind the doors but by using the search option I found items and treasure in almost every place. I could the go back to the surface and sell these items and gather more gold. 

My explorations eventually led me to the Necromancer that probably is responsible for everything eveil down here. Unfortunately I was way too weak to even consider going into combat with him. Nearby I found a sword buried in stone with an attached riddle. I haven´t solved that part yet and if I don´t I´ll have to find the solution for it.

These trolls guarded a vault that game me over 10.000 gold!!
The random encounters could differ tremendously in difficulty, therefore it is wise to reload if it seems to hard. Not only must you save your spellpoints until you really need them, I have also experienced the terrible shortage of magical runes so now I can hardly use spells until I have recovered more runes. And the only way to do that is to fight certain enemies. You cannot buy runes anywhere. My two sorcerers are by far the most important characters. At spellevel 3 they get chain lightning which affects four enemies but they also consume 6 magical runes each time when cast, as well as the spellpoints required. You could rest to recover spellpoints and wounds but not runes.

My next most important character is the Rogue with his assassination skill. He is far better than my knight Gormar in inflicting damage and also get the skill ambidextrious which means he can use two one handed weapons at once. My knight is far behind in damage dealt. The priest is pretty lame, lacking any good offensive spells and is poor in combat. His only strength is that he can heal and cure poision etc. My archer is slightly better but nothing to write home about. 

The spells is pretty good in the game. You get four spells per spell level and each has its strenghts so far. For example, my sorcerers get the Ascend/Descend spell which takes them back to town and then a return trip to where you left. Perfect! They also have a spell called Sonic Blast which blows your opponents back from melee distance. That could buy you important time and protect vulnerable characters if the enemy lacks distance weapons.

The alchemist seems to be the one giving me new directions

I was told by the alchemist to clear out the barracks (where I came from) and then to warn the dwarves about the demons threat. Very near, I found the entrance to the dwarves which consisted of new town in the game. Here I could train and find shops, temples and whatever I needed. The combats here was quite difficult though so I avoided most by reloading when exploring. It was here I run out of all my magical runes as well.

The dwarven town
The dwarven king wants help as well
After having found the dwarves king, he said he would want help to quell a rebellion hidden somewhere in the city. That is too tough for me right now so I am heading down to clear out the barracks instead and gather more magical runes.

My current quests
I am still enjoying the game although I think there is too much combat. The game is definetely not easy. Almost each fight at this stage is quite hard which means that after two or three fights at the most you have to rest or return to town which makes progress a little slow.

The automap for the area "Crossroads"

August 2, 2013

Sword and Sorcery Underworld - Revisited

I´ve decided to make a sneak peek at Sword and Sorcery Underworld Gold demo version. The full game costs $9.95 and if I find the demo good I will buy the full version. 

I had never heard of this game until my request came up for Indie RPGs. I am glad I did because Dark Disciples turned out to be a real gem and while I still want to play the sequel, I am also aware I might get tired of the much the same concept for another month or so. Then this game was suggested and fortunately it had a demo version available. So let´s see if it is any good.

The game is developed by just one person and reminds very much of Bard´s tale and Might and Magic in the way it plays and looks. The graphics is dated but far better than in Dark Disciplines.

The short background for now goes something liket this: The world is in chaos. Mysterious creatures has appeared and created chaos. Refugees have fled to fortified towns and food is scarce. In the middle of this six adventurers decides to do something about it. That´s about it.

You create a party of six characters from a few classes and races. Classes consists of Knight, Archer, Priest, Thief, Sorcerer and Paladin while the races are human, elf, dwarf and gnome. Each class has some unique skills that you will aquire later on like stun or berzerk.

The races don´t seem to affect the starting statistics at all but have one unique ability. Humans have a relative immunity to mind influencing spells and Gnomes are given +30% to thievery for example.

Character sheet

Since this is an old-school RPG you can roll your statistics how many times you like. I like this but also get stuck in such a process for hours before I am finished. I rolled up a party from each class but switched the Paladin for another Sorcerer.

When I had assembled my party we started out in a tavern in the starting town. The game supports mouse but shortcuts is the easiest way to navigate. You could run the game in windowed or fullscreen 1024*768 mode. Even tough I run on the fastest gameplay settings, every movement step in the gameworld is still lagging a bit. 

I have no idea if time is passing if I am standing still or only if I am moving a step but random encounters do occur when moving around as well as there are fixed encounters. They play out in much the same way as expected in a game very Bard´s tale like. More of that later.

In the beginning your quest log shows you only one quest and that is to reach level 2 with your party. After a few hours I did but never got any information about that I had reached my goal. The quest just dissappeared without any notification. Strange. I would have prefered to have been notified of a quest being completed.

Here and there illustrations adds to the atmosphere of the game to tell of certain events or to add flavour to an NPC you meet. What immediately strikes me is that random encounters is far less frequent than in - say - Dragon Wars or Bard´s Tale 3 and that is a very good thing. Nothing can turn away my interest faster today than constant, tedious random combat that´s only there to slow you down in a game that tries to hide its small size.

What I was really impressed with is the automap. Not only is it easy to use and follow - always visible in the upper right - but when you view the entire map, locations are automatically numbered with a short description for the place. You never need to remember where certain locations are on the map. Great!

Superb automap
So what about combat then ? Well, it is turnbased just like in the Bard´s Tale series and you have about the same commands to use. You could switch orders, fight in melee, shoot distance weapons, cast a spell, wait etc. There are also some commands like shove that I haven´t tried yet. Initiative order depends on the speed attribute of all combatants. The thief could sneak into the shadows for one turn and the next execute an assassination attempt which does tremendous damage.

Thank god that Magic is a little more user friendly than in - say Bard´s Tale 3. You get a list with all your spells per spell level and just choose the spell you want with a shortcut. You can also get ingame description of what every spell does inside actual combat. Thanks! That´s something that I have lacked for these types of games. Even Devil Whiskey didn´t have it.

After a few hours into the game the combat begun to feel tedious. Especially since descending down to the catacombs. It was then I discovered there is a sort of fast combat mode you could activate that lets every partymember attack the first monster by melee or ranged weapon without using any magic. For combats you expect to win anyway this is a good way to increase the speed of the game. 

After combat you get experience points. Equal for each participant. You also often get some gold and if you are lucky you could find an item or two and runes for sorcerer to use. Runes are used to cast sorcerer spells. It´s like a commodity that you must have. The priests have something called holy water instead. They get it by transforming ordinary water by a spell to holy water. In this starting town I have access to two wells so that have never been any problem.

So apart from available spell points - which are regained by sleeping or using items - you need these commodities as well.

In the starting city you have a temple (to cure you of poison, disease etc) and a shop where you could buy ordinary starting weapons and armour as well as some specially imported items. Here you could also sell your loot. All items could be examined to give more information about them. One really good thing about the game is that it actually states how much damage a weapons does, what effect a certain item has or how much armour a piece of iron give you. I lacked that in Dragon Wars.

If you have played Bard´s Tale, you know that the starting dungeon
is accessed through the cellar of a tavern
You have the possibility to use search. I have only used it once for success when I felt it could be of use. I suppose you run the risk of random encounters when you do or I would have used it on every square.

When it is time to raise a level you have to pay gold and then your are presented with a random number of increase for each of your statistics. It does seem to value your primary attribute depending on your class but otherwise it feels very random. So random in fact that I of course reloaded several times for each character that was about to level up just to get a good roll. It´s not one or two points of increase we are talking about here. You could raise as much as the starting rolls gave you so they seem important enough.

This is my Knight levelling up

Accessing partymembers are done by pressing the keys 1-6. From there you see the character sheet and could trade or use items. What I like is that you have values for how much damage you do in melee and ranged combat. It makes it easy to compare equipping different weapons. You can have up to 9 items equipped and 9 items in your pack. 

Character sheet
There is a shortcut command you could use to see the status of your party. It easily shows you if any member is diseased, dead etc and how much remaining spellpoints there is. Very convenient.

Just when I was halfthrough the catacombs and found some lost children that was returned to their mother, I was ready to level up once again. My party was now level 3 but when I tried to level up again I was informed this was the end of the demo.

I think my few hours with the game has given me all the possibilities to try to review if its worth to buy the full version or not. I can recommend you to try to download the demo here

My only complaints so far is regarding some parts of the interface. At some places (like character sheet and rolling up characters) attributes are shown in different orders. Some shortcuts are not intuitive to use and at certain places I would like to stay on the same place in the gui. For example, when entering describe mode in a shop I wan´t to be able to continue using describe after having read about one item. Now I have to repeat the process to enter the describe mode again. And at other places I feel that there is too many keystrokes involved in doing stuff. But that are minor things overall.

I would also like the fastest gameplay speed to be even faster. You cannot steprun quick in any way. I am also afraid I might get tired of the fights eventually. The random encounter frequency is just about right now but if it is even increased a little more, I will be turned off. I would rather fight fewer but harder fights.

That being said, I think this seems to be a good game and well worth its money. The price is just about right. When first released it was twice the sum which I believe is too much. In Sweden you barely get a glass of wine in a pub for the same amount of money so its not much compared to that. Is it better than the original games that you could get for free today ? I don´t know yet. I´ll have to continue playing.

A sequel is already under development with improvements taken from all feedback.