Currently playing: Nox Archaist

September 26, 2015

Serpent in the Staglands - Review deleted

Just this morning I was about to continue writing on my soon to be finished review of Serpent in the Staglands but my draft post was deleted and is now empty. All text gone. I have to restart from the beginning and this time it will be much shorter. Angry is just the firstname....

September 14, 2015

Serpent in the Staglands - Won!

This Sunday night the 13th of September I "suddenly" won the game Serpent in the Staglands. I felt I was making progress in my last post but didn´t know it was so much shorter than anticipated.

The merchant at merchants guild in Corem told med that the entrance to the Bloodless lied in Lumen Forten, my starting place. I went back to the blood hunters in the northwest and told them my information. They thanked me and gave me the runes that would open this portal. They also offered to me one of their companions as a follower. He had a silver sword, neccessary to hurt the bloodless so I felt I had no choice but to take him into my team. I had to sacrifica Ruxandra for that.

The corrupt merchant in Corem

I returned to Lumen Forten and found the two rune books. I drawed a rune exactly as the letter I was given by the bloodless hunters and got a vial. I already had the first vial since I somehow randomly drew the correct rune shape already in the beginning of the game. What I should do with the vials is another question because the portal opened just as well anyway. I entered and was confronted by a bloodless who arrogantly challenged me before he turned to a wolf and attacked me with his bloodless slaves.

This battle was pretty hard because it took awhile for me to understand that the wolf actually was the transformed bloodless and it could only be hurt only effectively by the silver sword. I tried to build up my team in different skill strategies until I understood that it was the silver sword that was the only decisive factor. After having killed the bloodless I exited his room to the wilderness. There I found a raft which I used to take me to land. There was no information or interesting items to gain here. I returned with my news to the bloodless hunters and they thanked me.

My fight with the bloodless

My next goal was to return to Ista Cale. The manor key I found at the lumber yard gave me access to the councelors house and in there I found a prison with a man that said he was a visiting councelor that had been taken prisoner by Octavian. The public where told that he was sick and would not see anyone. Since his cells was heavily guarded and I was attacked by sight I thought I was on the right track. I killed the guards, one at a time and got over 1.300 xp each. They are tough but the usual tactics always prevail. 

Escaping the bloodless den
The prisoner had no solution to his problem but suggested the constable might not be aware of what had happaned and might hold the keys. I returned and confronted the constable how denied any knowledge and didn´t believe me. I insinuated his knowledge of all this and he attacked me. He was easy to kill but had no keys and other surrounding NPC:s started to attacking me. I quickly returned to the prison to see if I could get more information now that I had confronted the constable. But no he just told me the same story so I reloaded.

Instead, I returned back to the prison once again because just before the prison there was a room with an attaching corridor of preassure plates. After a few steps on the plates a trap is sprung for over 200 points of damage which means instant kill. I found a way around by only walking on the plates along the wall to the southwest corner. But I could only manage one or two persons to get across that way. Then the trap sprung so I don´t know if it is random or based on number of steps or whatever. Anyway, I sent one character ahead to scout and eventually he reached the bedchamber of the counselor Octavian. There I found three interesting letters. Two from his sister Mya in the north. Octavian is undoubtedly a very mysterious and suspicous character. I also found a crank in the room which I brought with me. Then I headed back.

Traps ahead
And now the interesting part begins. Because just when I entered the bedchamber, soldiers poured into the room where my other characters where waiting. A combat ensued and fighting four guards is very difficult with only four characters. Even five so I had to reload this several times.

I tried to send several characters to the bedroom to avoid being left in the room where the guards appeared, but as I said earlier I only managed to get one character across the traps. I sent my weakest character, the mage ahead to the bedroom and let him cast spells from across the traps to the guards but that brought the guards attention to him. When the guards enter the trap everything explodes and we all die. Reload.

I took my group out of the room so I could engage the guards manually. Then I started the fight but the problem was that I could not engage them one at a time as I usual does. And with 4-5 guards at ones it was impossible to win without at several of my party members dead. I reloaded and - voila - the guards had disappeared. That is, I had already got the documens and the crank from the chamber and withdrawn my other characters and saved. This was the first time a bug actually helped me because I don´t know how I could win this fight (you need the crank to complete the game, se below).

I fled the councelors house and begun to explore the western side of Ista Cale.The only reason for that was that I wanted to check out the closed house in the western part if something had changed during the recent events. On my way I passed a lighthouse that lacked its crank handle so it wasn´t hard to understand that I should put my crank there. I entered the lighthouse basement where there was a puzzle to solve. Five different levers had to pe pulled in a certain combination. I had already found aletter which said: Lighthouse: 12 or something like that. So I thought it meant I had to pull the first and the last. Of course, it wasn´t that easy and I had no other clues. After much search in the few forums that exists for this game it turned out to be lever 3,4 and 5. Then I sound could be heard and something clicked but I had no idea what it was. 

The Lighthouse puzzle with the correct levers lighted up
I left the lighthouse and continued to the mansion in the west. The entrance door was now open (so that was the effect of solving the lighthouse puzzle). I entered and now started a very tough part of the game because inside it was not possible to save the game anymore. The first room contained around 4 guards that had to be killed. When you got to the second floor it was another round of guards and the third floor ended with a locked door. To open it I had to solve a similar lever riddle in the basement.

But here it was harder because you needed three different symbols to align. The bottom one I guessed was the one which was on the entrance to this building. But the other two gave me no clue. To try out all combinations would take too much time. I had to look for some clues online. It is hard to find but somewhere I read that I should use the same signs as was above each lighthouse. I had to exit this place (I thought I was smart when I exited after killing the guards, saved and reentered, only to find all guards back to place again) just to return and look at the signs above the lighthouses. The correct

The last puzzle
When I finally succeded and cleared the area once again, I lost one of my fighters against the gurads but opted to continue through the now open door in the top. Here I met Octavian for the first time. He was my son and we talked a long time about him, his mother and sister in a very interesting and original story for the game before he in the end suggested that he could allow me to return to my godly form because he could restore the portal. In return he wanted me to sink the port city of Corem below the sea so that Octavians own city, Ista Cale would be the greates and most important trading city in the Staglands. He had great ambitions. The surprising part is that I had no chance of rejecting that offer since he tried to convince me that I was as bad as he was and counted all my misdoings and all that I had killed to reach my goal. I tried to defend myself but in the end I had to give up and accept his proposal. Directly afterwards I get attacked by my companions that I had soul binded. I was surprised at that. It ended with me having to kill two of them (they where very easy to kill so it was not their natural strength) and after that the game was saved and ended in waiting for the expansion. I very sudden and surprising ending I must say.

Now in the end I can say that I have missed a few places in the game. It was probably there I could get clues as to how to solve the lighthouse puzzles. For example, there was a tower in the bog I never revisited and a few strange places where I didn´t know what to do. But I am glad I didn´t have to do everything in order to win the game. The crucial map is to get to Lumen Yard. That´s all you need to quickly reach to the end like how this post begun.

I am looking forward to the expansion although I fear that if it is not released soon I will have all my time dedicated to another great game. In my next post comes my review of the game.

September 12, 2015

Serpent in the Staglands - Finally drawn into the plot

The last hours I have tried hard to find any clue, a red thread or anything that will take me to some sort of progress through this game. All reviews of this game has said you have to keep track of everything yourself and it is truly so. I take screenshots of the most important conversations but even I am to lazy to systematically do that or even remember what I read when I have only a few hours a week to spend on this game. 

I have travelled around the left and right side of the map and back to the leftside again to revisit most places to clear them out of bandits, outlaws or burglars that was too tough the first visit. In the city of Rumin I found the first good weapons in the game and could afford to buy one item. I also found a merchant creating supreme armour from harvesters. I met those creatures in Emerald Metalis and they where almost impossible to even scratch so I left them there at first. Before leaving Rumin I also bought a magical armour for over 1.000 emeralds. I now have at least AC 7 on my front melee fighters which means pettier foes cannot puncture my armour.

My supreme Bearded Axe. 20 % chance of making an enemy flee!
From a merchant in Rumin I agreed to take a special shipment to the besieged town of Lev up in the far north. I was heading there and explored the northwestern parts of the map. That quickly turned out to be a fast retreat back to the southwest. The forests where filled with ice spiders, ice imps and other creatures almost impossible to kill. The only foes I could kill was the ice spiders one at a time. Random encounters in this game is extremely hard. You cannot save and often meet half a dozen foes of the toughest sort.

However, with my party upgraded I returned to take out the wanted wheelwrighter in Lebez. I had tried to take him and his two followers on the road to death before without any success but this time I used my old tactics of retreating back to the city guards to help take him out. He didn´t have any unique items but I got 500 emeralds from the constable. 

I also returned to the western port of Ista Cale but I found nothing to do there. I have found a few very strange places in the game where I know I must do something I just don´t know what. For example in a woodland area filled with witches I found a cave with some cauldrons in the end with runic symbols. I have no clue what to do there.

I searched around the southwest part of the map again without much success so I returned with my stronger team to Emerald Metalis to try to take on the harvesters. Now was the time to develop my magician. I spent an hour increasing and trying out different spells against the harvester. The problem is that they often go for your weakest partymember and that is usually the mage. And I found out that the mage is the only one in my party that could hurt the harvesters. They move underground and during that time it is impossible to target them with attacks or spells. I have to wait for them to make their attack and become visible. This made everything harder but in the end I choose to spend 6 skillpoints in the spell heat metal. It will both burn the target and make it drop their weapons after awhile. I also had very good use of my magical axe because when an enemy flees it will eventually stop when the map ends and do nothing. My mage can then take the enemy out with his spells.

This way I killed a few harvesters and got their scale. I also found a cave behind them that led me underground to a royal daughter called Ruxandra. I replaced one of my team members with her. She was a mage and specialised into morphing into a wold. As such she does adequate damage and is part of my melee force since then.

Ruxandra, my latest companion

With the scales I could get back to Rumin to forge myself two very good armours that I gave to my melee fighters. Now we returned to explore the eastern part around Emerald Metalis. It was about here I begun to feel that I was actually making some progress. First off, I found a new place filled with spirits. Those are very hard to kill but now I begun to spend my saved attribute points for my fighters into strength to deal more damage. One single spirit gave a tremendous amount of experience points at over 900xp.

Killing spirits raised my levels in no time

Since there was a lot on the map and I had to releoad several time (spawning new spirits) I could use this as a grinding map which eventually helped me to raise three levels. I was now at level 9. The map (which name I have forgot) had two interesting places. First a statue to the god Necholai where I expect to do something, unclear what. The other place is a fairy glade. I found out using woodwise that a trapped fairy was inside. I tried out several spells without success but eventually found the answer in a forum to use the grade 2 orb spell. With that I rescued the fairy althtough it was already dead. Now I got three strange alternatives. I could leave the faery, bury it or eat it. I tried all of them (yes I reloaded) and the first two didn´t do anything but by eating it I was able to choose a party member for a gift. I have yet to see what that gift is since no statistics has been change as far as I know.

I now begun to search every single tile in the northeastern parts and found some sort of tower. But you start the map in the middle of a bog with leeches sucking the life out of you and with an attack of three monsters. Even though I reloaded a few times some of my party members always got killed (there is not resurrection in the game). I left the place to return to the city of Rumin and there I found boots that would protect me from the leeches. The only problem is that there were only four boots and I needed five. I returned to the tower but the guy missing his boots got killed so I paused this place and saved it for another day.

I travelled westward past the city of Rumin. My goal was to try to reach the besieged town of Lev. If I could avoid the difficult random encounters everything would be good. After several attempts I managed to get to the city without being attacked. The city was filled with soldiers but no merchants or other person of interests except for the captain. I was to deliver the spice I got in Rumin before. That was my ticket to talk to the captain Mya and now the main story finally started.

It turned out she recognised me as the god I was and that her brother Octavian would like to see me. It seemed they where my enemies but also said Octavian was the only one holding my key to return home again. I have no choice but to seek him out. Mya hinted that Octavian might be found in Fuldea Mare at the lumber yards or at Isla Cale where he is the counselor. At least I now knew who to seek. I left the city and searched the northwestern parts until I found the Lumber yard. 

This turned out to be a map full of combats. First I had to fight roaming creatures and then I got to a bridge with a locked door on the other side which I could not pass. I had missed a cave in the wilderness. By transforming the whole team to bats we could enter it and finally emerged inside the lumber yard. It was a place full of slaves, slavers and soldiers. I had to kill everyone there in tough battles but which eventually made me raise to level 10. In the end even a portal with crawlers pouring out threatened to run over the lumber yard. But I managed to kill the crawlers. They are extremely dangerous. They have low hitpoints but inflicts 40-50 points of damage when they hit. 

At this map I upgraded my fighters to a grade 3 skill that gives me part of the damage dealt back as healing. I found that skill very useful and it kept me alive longer. I only had to invest one point in it and it is used automatically (every fighting skill is used automatically as long as it is shown on your quickbar which holds three skills at a time). 

The interesting part of this map was to reach the captain. When he was killed he left a key with which I could open one of the locked doors in the small community. Behind it I found some very interesting papers and a manor key. I am not sure where it leads to but I suspect to Isla Cale.

Three mages in lumber yard protected the locked door
 I left the lumber yard and my goal was to go south to Isla Cale or Corem but on the way I stopped by Isla Cale camp that I had left unexplored the last time I was there. It was full of ice imps and ice spiders. Both types takes time to kill and I had to take them out one at a time as always. But eventually I cleared them and reached a camp of blood hunters. They where hunting the bloodless ones. Some sort of demigods. I got much valuable information from them. One mortal who have know how to reach the bloodless ones live in Corem. He is a merchant at the merchants guild. I was told to check him out and extract information in any way possible and then return up here with that.
At the same map I found a strange pillar with runes I translated to Tonrek when checking the manual. I have no clue where to use that information yet though.

So I left them and travelled down to Corem, confronted the man who confessed when I revealed what I knew about him. He told me that the entrance to his chambers is in Lumen Forten. I was told to use the blood book on the second floor. The correct runes will force a black blood to drip. Two vials are required to open the portal. He did not know what runes should be used. I had the possibility to kill him but I kept my word of keeping him alive. 

Before I leave for Isla Cale - for it is there I think I should go now I would like to take on another fight which I remember I left because of its difficulty. It is a bounty on a man that hides in an inn with his companions. You have to fight everyone at once which maked it hard at first (then I was at level 5). 

I feel things are going in the right direction now. I have made great progress storywise and developed my characters pretty well since last time. 

Time to get back to the game!

September 6, 2015

Serpent in the Staglands - Searching for a cause

My quest continues, although I am not still sure what I should do since I have no strong plot to follow yet. My main concern have been to stay alive and slowly improve my abilities so that I can tackle the outlaws around my starting position.

To do that I travelled south. First to the city of Corem and then to a port in the far west. They varied in size and I was down in the dock district and even visited a brothel. There you could hire two girls that wants to be rescued and are willing to join your team. Unfortunately I had already filled my slot of five adventurers at that time. It soon turned out that there are a lot of hirelings you could take on everywhere in the world. You never know in advance their level or statistics but some of them try to impress you with their skills. Some wants money and others have a short term goal.

In most towns there are shopkeepers (blacksmiths, fletchers etc) where you could sell and buy better equipment or fill your stock of arrows or bolts. I now use one of my partymembers as a ranged attacker with a bow or crossbow and one as a magician. The other three is melee fighters. You have a limited inventory so it is often I have to find a merchant to sell something. The good thing is that each item you leave on the ground will still be there when you return.

This is my first lead in the mainstory 

The first time in Colem I just explored the area and then left. By walking around through the wilderness and occasionally fighting ambushes I slowly gained more experience points. I felt very vulnerable and had to retreat from most fights until I found an NPC who actually had both high hitpoints, good attributes and skillpoints spent into melee fightning. With his help and with the few emeralds I´ve got I gradually raised to level 3.

I don´t know for which time in the order but I returned to Lumen village and tried to beat the burglars in a house there. I had fought that battle at least a half dozen times before. This time though I retreated back to the constable that entered the fight on my side and after heavy fighting I won and got both equipment and well needed experience points. I then reequipped my group as best as I could and started to hunt down the outlaws and bandits in the Lumen wilderness. By being very careful I could sneak up and only engage a few of them at a time. After timeconsuming fights I eventually killed them and got some very good equipment. Especially since having found the guarddeserters that hide down there. They had very good armour and shields which helped me further to destroy the remaining bandits in the area. The feeling of being able to prevail after hard work is tremendous and I was soon up to level 5.

The circles are areas of interest. The others are empty or unexplored

Combat in the game is very straightforward. Each partymember is designed its target and then they attack until the combat is over or until you retreat. You can put your party into a passive or aggressive AI mode. The later makes your party members attack the nearest enemy. They will fight using their characteristics of which the most important are attack speed, hit chance, dodge chance, weapon damage and armour class. Traditional parts. You get a short description of each members action result in the left pane. How much damage is dealt or if they manage to penetrate the armour of its opponent etc.

Combat works ok but you have limited tactical control. Enemies fights until killed except for a very few enemies that I saw failed some sort of moral check and fled. They will hunt you until they get to to you so it is impossible to flee. The tactics I use is to slowly get close to a group of enemies to only alert the first one to go after you. Another tactic could be to withdraw a heavily wounded character and let the opponent follow him around while the rest of the group try to land a hit on him. Yet another tactic is to engage an enemy from range with magic or missiles. I have even managed to attack with spells without the target even realising it. But that must be a bug. Either way, combat is pretty hard and it has taken me great patience to build up my strength to defeat even half of the encounters I have met. There are still random encounters in parts of the map which is impossible for me to win at this stage.

Exploring a cave in the woods

I have yet to spend any single skill points into combat. All skills affect very marginally your combat statistics. For example, you might want to put skill points into rapid fire as a ranged fighter. But for each skill point you decresae your attack speed very marginally but sacrifice up to 1 point of damage in return. I am not sure if it is worth investing say 5 skill points into such a skill if I get one more free shot in 7 tries but where every hit risks doing several points less in damage. So having not found any obvious good place to spend the few hard earned skill points, I still wait until I must use them before allocating them.

Magic works a bit differently than what we are used to in these games. There are no mana whatsoever. Most spells will continously be cast on a target until you cancel them. The effect comes after several "procs" of seconds. For example healing gives a healing boost say every 10 second if it is cast on one of your members during combat. That is long enough time for you to get killed so it is not as advantageous as it first seems. Also, you cannot move or do anything else while casting which makes your spellcasting members vulnerable to attacks.On the other hand it works well over time and is good at buffing your party or attacking an enemy if the spellcaster is protected by the rest of your group.

In magic I have the same problem of not having spent a single skill point. I wait by evaluating what skills to go for. You have to put points into strength and dexterity in order to reach grade 2 for melee skills and in occult and intelligence for grade 2 magic skills.

I said earlier I had trouble finding the mainquest. But I remember saving a screenshot with a text that said Erlein where going to the city of Corlem. I returned there for my second visit. This time I searched every place carefully and talked once again to everyone, I found nothing. Except to be blocked entrance at the shipping guild. I know remember the information that Erlein was to go there and was found dead so I forced my way in. There where at least a dozen guards there swarming over me. But my curiosity was rewarded when I found the body of Erlein in the docks. He had some documents on him but neither of them gave me any clear indications of what to do next. I left the city and started exploring the northeasterna parts. 

I helped a town get rid of nearby witches and smuggled contraband to get some money. I also explored woods and farmsteads, fought huge spiders and in general explored as much as I could. I went to Emerald metalis and helped the counselor there to deliver a peace gift to the natives. I could not do anything else there so I continued my exploration and got to the city of Rumin in the north. There are some kind of war raging in the land and refugees are coming. But since I only get fragments of the story from time to time and there is no journal, I forgot about much of what I have learned.

Infiltrating the guild in Corem

Anyway, I am still having fun with the game and will continue to explore the world in my hunt for the mainstory and also to get better. I have over 2.000 gold right now but cannot find any merchant that stocks good enough items to spend them on. I hope I will find someone soon.