I admit I started playing Le Maitre des Ames with the idea that I would probably just put in the six hours, collect the bonus points for trying out a non-English game, and then move on. I was almost relieved when it seemed technical problems would keep me from playing. But with those problems solved and thus no excuse, I pushed forward, and I'll be damned if Le Maitre des Ames doesn't have a real charm about it. It contains several elements that I'm finding for the first time in a first-person CRPG; it's somewhat of an evolution from Dungeon Master on the way to Ultima Underworld.
Let's cover some of the ways this game distinguishes itself from its predecessors:
- Each room has its own character: different furniture, different wall-hangings, and a different look to the doors.
- The game (or, at least, this first level) is arranged in a logical manner. There's a dining room next to the kitchen, for instance, and an armory next to the barracks.
- Monsters are in logical places for logical reasons. Orc guards patrol passages, rats hang out in storerooms, a cook is working in a kitchen, and an exhausted fighter rests in a bedroom.
- You can talk to almost all sentient creatures (not the rats, obviously). Most have interesting things to say.
- You can pick up a lot of the things in the rooms. Unfortunately (see below), I don't know what many of them are.
- The game is full of secret doors activated with switches and chains on the walls.
- There are messages all over the walls. Some help me, some taunt me. Some I'm having trouble translating; one seems to say "Nothing will die, but you have to start somewhere." My favorite: "Your passage, only the dust will remember."
- You can split your party and have them explore separately. I found this out when it happened accidentally: one of my characters fell through a hole in the floor and ended up alone. Fortunately, I was able to reunite them.
I had several interesting encounters in today's gameplay. The first was with a cook in the kitchens. I'll offer my entire conversation:
- Me: Who are you?
- Cook: I am the cook of the royal high court of Vanir
- Me: What are you doing here?
- Cook: I'm making a vinaigrette dressing out of wood lice [I think]
- Me: Who is your king?
- Cook: My king was the greatest of all. He died.
- Me: Who is your master?
- Cook: The great Akkad, but he disappeared a long time ago.
- Me: Who is your god?
- Cook: Nilgar, patron of the traditional high cuisine.
- Me: Do you want to help us?
- Cook: I have no time, what with lunch and everything.
- Me: Give me a clue.
- Cook: Nothing is free in this world, you know?
- Me: Name your price.
- Cook: It will cost you 22 gold pieces.
- Me: Done.
- Cook: Beware of the singing howler mushrooms.
- Me: Come with us.
- Cook: Are you kidding? With all the bugs swarming around here?
- Me: Goodbye and good luck.
- Cook: Your destiny is down the road. Goodbye.
Later, an orc tells me he is a guard of the castle and he's there to keep out intruders like me, that his god is Gol Goroth, the incarnation of evil (and taken from Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories!), and I should "tremble as the demon lord arrives on earth." When I ask him to come with me, he says something like, "Over my dead body, sons of dogs!"
I run into a man named Rockeux who says he's searching for his old master, Sir Maltorn. I ask him to join me--he seems an obvious candidate for the empty slot the game leaves you for NPCs--but he says he's too exhausted to follow in my footsteps.
Now, not everything is la vie en rose with this game. Obviously, the color sucks. You can't name your characters. Your characters get hungry and you have to eat the food you pick up. Unless I'm missing something, combat lacks the tactics of Dungeon Master and just consists of hitting "fight" repeatedly; when you hit your target, it says "Paf!"
Most important, I can't tell what most of the equipment I'm grabbing is, and since each character can only hold up to four items, this is a bit of a handicap. There are some things that look like potions, and weapons and armor that I can't find a way to evaluate against what I already have. And I've yet to figure out anything about the magic system.
Some of you (especially you, Georges) have been a lot of help in translations--if anyone feels like helping me a little more, can you take a look at the manual and see if you can tell me what it says, if anything, about a) the different types of items you can pick up, and how you can tell what they are; and b) casting spells? (I OCR'd the manual but the watermark screws up the text order and keeps me from translating it all at once.) [Later edit: one of my readers got a friend who speaks French to translate the entire manual for me. I can't thank them enough, but I don't know if they want to be mentioned by name on the blog. Suffice to say: merci beaucoup to EH and JVR!]
Pending that, I'm going to probably dip back into Legacy of the Ancients for a day.
A good day's work. A bientôt!