Currently playing: Nox Archaist

December 26, 2013

Black Crypt - Revisited

If there is one dungeon crawler that has stuck into my memory from the Amiga golden ages, it is a game called Black Crypt. It was developed by Raven Software. A pure Amiga only company and this was their first game. The benefit of developing for the Amiga first made it possible to really use the hardware capabilities of the machine. And it shows in this game. It uses the Amigas Extra-Half-Brite (EHB) mode that allows 64 colors simultaneously on the screen at once. 32 unique colors and 32 colors half the brightness of the first. The game had splendid graphics, was fast and full of special effects. It is a true Dungeon Master clone just like Crystal Dragon was but this is game is technically superior.

These are the guys behind the game
I played through the whole game in 1992 during a few weeks or months when it was released but have no detailed memories at all from the game. Actually I don´t know how I did complete the game at all until I for my revisit here saw the manual for the game and sees that it contains all the maps with locations of items and buttons properly displayed. 

 I love the listing of features that a game of that time had. Black Crypt boasts of:
  • Unique monsters ambush, roam, hunt and hide
  • 64 colour extra-half-brite graphics
  • 12 dungeons, 20 levels including special underwater level
  • Over 50 fully animated spells and effects
  • Digitized sound effects and musical score

I have found the game with a setup that uses a harddrive in WinUae so the loading times of the game will be very quick. I have no intention of completing this huge game. This is only a short dive down to one of the finest dungeon crawlers from the Amiga time. The background is so cliché: 

Estoroth Paingiver, a powerful cleric was banished from your country of Astera for unspeakable acts. One year later he returned with an army of demons and other undead creatures to beat Astera into submission. This time, four guilds united and four men managed to banish Estoroth to another dimension.But now it seems to be slowly opening so four new champions must venture down and retrieve four magical weapons and seal him away forever.

I clearly remember the title screens music for the game. If it´s one thing that doesn´t grow old so fast when revisiting Amiga games, it is the good quality sound. 

You start the game with four adventurers and your only options is to allocate attribute points to them. You are stuck with four separate classes. Warrior, Priest, Druid and Mage. You can select their portrait but that is about all. The attributes are strength, wisdom,  intelligence, dexterity and constitution. Even though the manual is easy to read it says nothing about how these attributes affects the gameplay. That´s unfortunate but nothing to do about.

You start the game in the first dungeon. It takes a while to get used to the controls and interface. I had to remap the keys in WinUae to be able to play on the keyboard in a convenient way. The game uses some - in my view - illogical way to attack and access a character sheet. I am yet not used to it. You have three bars. Hitpoints, water and food and the last two gradually degrades pretty quickly over time and especially so when you are resting to regain hitpoint or memorize spells. 

The first two levels is actually pretty hard. Not because of tough combats but because of food draining and quite a number of buttons to find, effects to look for, secret doors to discover etc. All this takes time and you can easily run out of food before you have solved it and then you will be dead. You are totally dependant on your wizards spell "Wizards eye" that gives you an automap but it does not update automatically when things changes on the map like in Crystal Dragon. If you press a button and hear a grinding or sliding noise, you have no idea where this action might have taken place in the whole level. If you are lucky it is very near but otherwise you have to revisit the whole level in search of something different. 

Either remove them with a spell or endure the pain to cross them
Raising in levels occurs suddenly when you´ve got enough XP from fights. Your hitpoints is increased by a random number that could vary quite a lot. I haven´t seen the attributes being affected yet. Spells are not gained by level but by aquiring spellbooks. Certain spells will be more powerful the higher level you have though.

Anyway, the goal in the start will be clear pretty quick. Just down below at level 2, easily within reach of where you start you will come across a huge two headed ogre. He is impossible to kill but some scrolls I found indicate that he could be defeated using the ogreblade. On the other hand, a scroll warned me of using the ogreblade as it would slowly drain my life force away. In order to get past the Ogre I had to look for the ogresword. It took me quite some time amongst teleporters and magical walls. The last ones had to be dispelled by finding a dispel scroll. You also have to travel up and down between the first and second level in order to finally get the ogresword. When you have killed the ogre a previously closed door will allow you access to an area filled with items and stairs leading down to level 3.

These flying....suckers?..are your main foe on this level
They could paralyze the party and then they suck your life
After getting down to level 3 I read some scrolls that told me of unseen enemies and that the only way to avoid being attacked was to empty all hands of weapons. Another scroll also said not to tackle the unseen enemies until I had found an item that makes them visible. I opted to search for that item first which quickly led me down to level 4.

This level is pretty hard. There are green roofstalkers that takes a lot of hits to kill but that poisons you on attack. Since I don´t have any cure poision spell yet and scrolls are hard to come by this required almost ten reloads before I was satisfied. At the same time you are attacked by a quickly appearing grey gremlin thief that stoles an item from your hands and the dissappears. He is very hard to kill and if you are unlucky he grabs your best weapon.

Fortunately when he is eventually killed he drops all stolen weapons. But he is not alone on this level. They do appear here and there and you cannot chase them because they decide when they will appear and disappear (usually after one hit).

Tricky roofstalkers that poisons you
The level also consists of several locked doors that had to be opened in a certain order by small puzzles for each one like pulling a lever that opens up a passage with pressure plates and a locked door that eventually gets you another key and so on.

Can you spot this small button ?
I got stuck a few times and had to check the maps in the manual. I hate that but I had no choice. If this will be repeating itself too often I will rather quit playing than having to cheat but I suppose there was a reason to include them in the manual at first.

Everything runs smooth and the graphics is clean and well done. Monster look great and even though there are no music at all during gameplay there are some pretty good sound effects. You do notice that there are more colors than usual in an Amiga game.

The automap is excellent, although I would have preferred more details such as indicating where you have found buttons or levers. Now I must remember those places manually and since there are quite a lot it is easily forgotten. My tactics in games like these are always NOT to press them when I first found them. Only when I have mapped the whole level and got stuck. In that way I will more easily discover where any changes takes place.

Easily spotted if you look straight at it but not if you pass it from the side
I have already found quite a lot of items which has given me better melee weapons and armours. I have also found a crown of detection which is said to detect traps and a ring of location that automatically casts wizards eye i.e. giving me the automap for free. But it seems that effect is not permanent since after resting it never came back.

You can see the damage dealt from each weapon in combat so after some fights I hope I will be able to determine which weapon are the better one. I have just found the hopeblade and replaced the ogreblade with it, in case the ogreblade actually carries some sort of slow life draining ability. Combat is executed exactly as expected with stepping (dancing) around your enemies to make swings or take a step forward-swing-backward and let the enemy come to you. They don´t seem to travel past door gates yet so that is a barrier you could use to your advantage.

Water is just as important as food
I have just reached a place at level four where it seems I have to leave four different bags with water filled from different fountains. Since I have found only a few I suppose I have to travel back to level 1 to use the fountains up there and then get down. At least now I have got the create food spell which will make it much harder to starve. I am still dependent on water though.

The game have many different spells but I am not yet comfortable with how they are memorized. I have no idea when the time has passed so that I could cast the spell a second time. I do like that I don´t have to mix any runes like in DM or learn cryptic names like in Dark hearts of Uukrul or the Bard´s Tale series. It also took me a few hours to get used to clicking on the portraits in order to attack and right clicking on the weapons to access the inventory (it should have been just the opposite).

Update 2013-12-28

I have completed level four and returned to level three and prepared myself to take on the invisible creatures since I have got the mask of truesight. After having killed the first creature that turned visible it seems my characters cannot hit at all those creatures anymore. My hitchance seems to have dropped to a few percent at best. With those odds it is impossible for me to continue. I believe something is wrong. Therefore I have decided to not continue for now.

December 21, 2013

There will be no Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore

It is with heavy heart I can tell you that G3 Studios have cancelled the CRPG Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore. Even though the requested amount of $50.000 was almost reached the low stream of new backers have not been enough to be sure of a successful completion of the whole project. Instead of taking that risk and also risk a good reputation, G3 Studios now cancel everything and I have already got my money back.

Dire news indeed. Because what signals do that send to other developers that also want to revive a dead genre today ?

December 18, 2013

Harddrive failure and one way to recover from it

This is probably my first non game post on this blog. Regardless of what interests we cultivate on the web we are all dependent on working hardware.

I recently discovered that my storage disc (not system disc) with photos, videos, games etc had trouble showing itself in my windows explorer. Or if it was shown I had trouble accessing it because Everything froze or it soon disappeared from my Explorer window. A typical indication of a possible harddrive malfunction.
Something was obviously wrong and my latest backups was...*coughing*....8 months old so I ran the risk of loosing the most valuable things I have on my computer. And no, it is not my old CRPG savegames or games in general but the personal photos, videos, mails and documents.
This will surely happen to everyone sooner or later and I spent all my spare time the last week just to troubleshoot this issue. Here is what I did and what happened and finally how I solved it. Hopefully it will help someone out there with similar problems.
  1. My second SATA Harddrive showed signs of beginning to break down.
  2. I tried to use Windows 7 built in checkdisc on it to scan it for errors but it eventually froze the whole system.
  3. I downloaded some harddrive software to look for the harddrives built in S.M.A.R.T health status.Three values that where red so something was really wrong.
  4. Since I couldn´t fix any problems with checkdisk, I thought I would move the SATA controller from the harddrive to another port to see if it was any error with my motherboard sata controller. I restarted the computer and now I couldn´t boot into windows from my main system disc instead.
Now, this had turned into a MAJOR problem.
When booting the computer I just got a grub rescue prompt. The system disc was earlier used as a Linux disc Before I installed Windows 7 on it. My Windows 7 boot partition seemed to have disappeared.
I tried to use the windows 7 rescue mode by booting up from the dvd but it didn´t find my partition and therefore couldn´t repair it.
I choosed to go to the command prompt and tried to use commands like:
bootrec.exe /FixMbr
bootrec.exe /FixBoot
I restarted and now the grub rescue prompt was gone but replaced with "bootmgr missing" or "System disc not found". I don´t remember exactly.
What I did  to finally fix it was to use the Diskpart command and make the first partion the active one with following these instructions:

Use Diskpart command to make a Windows or Linux drive Active

How to make a partition Active using a Windows installation CD/DVD
  1. Bootup from full Windows 7 DVD/USB
  2. Select Repair your computer at the Install now screen.
    Click No if asked to Repair and Restart.
    Click Cancel if it looks for a Disk Image.
  3. Now in System Recovery Options,
    click the Command Prompt option.
    Press ENTER after you type in each of these commands which are not case-sensitive:
    • DISKPART     (to open the partition utility)
    • LIST DISK     (disk number(s) will be shown)
    • SELECT DISK n     (where n is the number of the disk - probably 0)
    • LIST PARTITION     (partition number(s) will be shown)
    • SELECT PARTITION n     (where n is the number of the Primary partition you wish to make Active)
    • ACTIVE     (the selected partition on the selected disk will be made Active)
    • EXIT     (to exit DiskPart)
    • EXIT     (to exit the Command Prompt)
  4. Restart computer.
This is what finally got my system OS disk back to its original state.
I was now able to try to find the error for my storage disc. I borrowed a third part harddrive adapter that plugs in any harddrive of 2.5/3.5 and connects it via USB Cable. From there it showed up in my device manager and I could access my harddrive, first to use checkdisc that repaired it and then to backup the drive. After the backup I checked the SMART status and all was green again. I now put it back into my computer but used another SATA channel and everything has worked fine since then.
All this trouble gave me a lot of headache though and I cannot understand why modern motherboards of today don´t include such small utility programs that could repair or fix partitions problems or damaged bootsectors etc. I am also disappointed that the repair utility in the windows 7 boot disc wasn´t able to fix my problem. I had to manually use diskpart. 
Ah, and by the way. I now let Backup Maker do my backups regularly once again :-)

December 11, 2013

Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore plan B released!

Failing to reach the monetary goal in Kickstarter, the new RPG Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore takes another approach. Instead of securing funding for the whole game at once, G3 Studios have decided to release the game in parts. The advantage of that is that they will require much less money to finish one part instead of all six at once. That makes it more realistic to get funding in steps. The different pledge levels are almost identical to what was seen at kickstarter.

The goal now is to reach $50.000 to secure funds to finish the first part of the game and they have already secured $34.000 of those. I will also make a pledge because I believe in the game and have trust in Guido Henkel and his team. No credit card will be charged if they don´t reach their targeted figure.

This is good news because I think this new approach could be more successful. 

December 4, 2013

Eschalon III release date set!

At last it is official. Basilisk games will release the third part of the Eschalon saga the
14th of February 2014. I have been waiting for this game a few years now. This is good news indeed. If you haven´t tried out the previous games I strongly suggest you do that if you like a single player RPG with turn-based combat and a range of skills and statistics to determine things instead of fast mouse clicking.