Bulleted lists of "things I've discovered" always seem like a hackneyed way to convey information, but they do have the advantage of being somewhat simple to write and, I hope, read:
- The game couldn't possibly be more unhelpful in its initial distribution of characters during combat. Almost always, my characters are facing away from the enemy, and my spellcaster in the last rank is almost always closest to them. This may seem like a nitpicking complaint, but since even turning costs moves in this game, I'd rather they started facing towards the enemy. Not being able to attack or move on the diagonal is also a bit annoying.
- The game suddenly makes you camp every time it decides your characters are "sleepy." If you don't have a unit of food for everybody when you camp, you lose hit points. The need for food is slightly annoying. I ran out in a dungeon and had to take a break to go outside and hunt.
- Leveling up turned out to be matter of finding a town with a "guild," where they either train you or tell you how many experience points you have left to earn.
- Priestly types can "convert" to another deity. I haven't tried it yet.
- Like Ultima IV, the game has a day/night cycle. To mimic night, the peripheral areas of the screen go black until you can only see for a limited box around you. I guess this is where that "visionary" class would come in handy.
- The game is fond of random encounters. They're not regular as in Shard of Spring (where they came every 33 moves), but they are frequent.
- A clue that RJ left me in my last posting informed me about a baffling interface design: shops show you only one item at a time, and you have to keep hitting (c)ontinue to see the others. Nothing on the screen informs you of this. The cool thing is that there's some expensive equipment that I'll have to have much, much more gold to afford. I like having economic goals.
- As you explore dungeons, you must periodically hit the (i)nspect command; otherwise, you miss treasure and special encounters. This took me a while to figure out, and then I had to retrace my steps through the Temple of Gamur.
Moving, examining, taking objects, and moving objects seem to be the four ways that the characters interact with the environment and solve puzzles. The Temple of Gamur took me a long time because I was trying to figure out the interface.
The entrance area gave way to a long secret passage in which I really couldn't see where I was going, and it took a while to map. There were a couple of inventory puzzles: I had to find a mallet to smash a glass case holding a prisoner, then heal him with a blue potion in order to get a clue about the entrance to a place called Zoorik, a mythical city beneath the earth whose existence I'd learned from a scroll. There was some good equipment in one wing of the temple, but in obtaining it, my wizard was killed by a column of fire from a will-o-wisp. There was another tough battle with a pair of skeleton mages.
A secret door revealed itself when I moved a wooden altar, beyond which was a room in which my part kept getting crushed (and killed) by walls before I realized that the safe path through the room had been given to me in an inscription in another room. The boss of the dungeon was a woman named Remondadin, who fell fairly quickly to my blades. Afterward, a message informed me that the dungeon was "only part of a small cult that worships Xerxes--the demon who destroyed Ildryn." The game gave me the next quest of finding Xerxes himself. But since he's named Xerxes, not Malifon, I suspect he's the "puppet" mentioned in the opening screenshot.
Consulting the game map, I see that Idlewood, southeast of the dungeon of Zoorik, is on another island. I'm not sure how I get there yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.
Combat ought to be tactical, but it's already striking me as somewhat boring and repetitive, just like it did in Shard of Spring. I can't quite put my finger on what makes this combat fundamentally different from the similar combat in the Gold Box games, and I have to leave myself open to the possibility that it isn't different--that the exciting tactical combat I remember from Pool of Radiance is pretty much identical to this, and I'll be just as bored when I get to it. I hope not.
I'm having a weird feeling about the entire game. This feeling has hit me before with other games: even though I understand it, and there's nothing I'm really confused about, it seems oddly inaccessible, like there's something I'm not quite "getting" about it, like it somehow wasn't written for me. I know that doesn't make any sense, and it's possible I'm just in a weird mood--this was my last week of classes, and I haven't been getting much sleep. I'll see how I feel after a solid 14 hours tonight. I should be back on a regular posting schedule after that.