Monday, January 23, 2017

Fate: Reuniting the Wand

I'm having flashbacks to prom night.
    
My next session started on a bit of a down note: I had lost all the progress I'd made in the previous 12-hour session. I'm not sure exactly how, but when I re-opened the emulator and loaded the saved game, I was way back on Fairy Island having just retrieved the Spiralgem.

The problem has something to do with my complete cluelessness as to how this emulator even works. Abalieno set it up for me, so I didn't take the time to learn the details myself. I still don't really understand what "WHDLoad" is. I just know that I load its configuration before launching the emulator, and if I don't properly quit the game and get back to the desktop (or workbench, whatever), my in-game saves don't save. Maybe I forgot to do that after the end of the last session. It's not impossible that I left the emulator running, intending to continue playing later, and Windows 10 helpfully rebooted itself in the middle of the night to install updates.

I tried reloading a save state from the end of my last session, then quitting and saving, but that didn't work. I just got a slew of error messages like I reported a few entries ago.

In most games, this would be a game-killer, but on reflection, all I had to show for those 12 hours--aside from the more detailed maps, which of course I still had--was a few more experience levels and a couple of useful potions. Definitely nothing I couldn't replace. I sucked it up and continued playing. What else was I going to do? Throw away 213 hours?

I made a major push over the weekend to find the last three pieces of the Moonwand. As the session started, I had no clues or leads except I knew I'd have to finish exploring Mernoc eventually. After wandering around and filling a few more holes in the map, I hit upon the strategy of using the small-scale magical maps to identify interesting patterns or structures in the overworld, and then investigating them.
    
Hmmm. That bit to the northeast looks interesting.
   
*Mostly, these areas resulted in more mysteries. In the northwest, a pattern of roads and water appeared in the middle of a forest. A sign said "linger on a while here." The screen flashes when I walk into the middle of the area, but nothing happens. The end of this entry explains why there's an asterisk at the beginning of this paragraph.

In the southwest, another pool appears in the middle of another forest. A statue of a stone lion sits in the middle of it. No idea what to do. Northeast of Cassida, a wand is stuck in the ground like Excalibur, and nothing seems to move it (strength doesn't matter). There were several interesting patterns of mountains that ultimately resulted in nothing.
     
I'd love to know more about this.
    
However, two of these investigations got me closer to my goal. Northwest of Cassida, in the middle of a stone circle, I found a clue that was necessary to solve a riddle in Mernoc. Most important, southwest of Valvice, in the midst of a forest, I ran into a dwarf who had one of the Moonwand pieces.

He's lucky I didn't kill him. The area was swarming with dwarves, gnomes, imps, and other creatures who use the same graphics. Generally, you can't speak to them, so encountering one doesn't make me pause and consider dialogue options the way that encountering humans does. I could have easily attacked him out of force of habit. But I was on alert because I was in the clear center of the forest, near a single paved square, so I caught myself just before hitting "fight" and successfully entered dialogue with the little bastard.

If he's lucky I didn't kill him by accident before talking to him, he's doubly lucky that I didn't kill him on purpose afterwards. He said he had one of the pieces, "Lightpearl," but he wanted me to do a task first: recover a coffin from a graveyard with a black monolith in it. I had already visited the graveyard and knew where it was, and finding the coffin was just a matter of searching squares in the area, but the place was like 300 squares away, and I had to trek there and back. The dwarf warned me not to open it, and I was looking forward to opening it anyway (after saving and before reloading) but the game never even gave me the option.

Upon my return,  I gave him the coffin and demanded lightpearl, but he then said he'd only do it if I completed another quest: fill a bottle with the water from Demon Tower. Again, I knew where this was (another Moonwand piece required me to visit), but it was a long 400+-square trek to the northwest.

When I got there, the demon kept coming out and killing us every time I tried filling up the bottle. I experimented with a number of protection spells and finally had success with "Time Stop." With the bottle in hand, I returned to the dwarf...
     
     
...only to receive a third quest: to retrieve  a gem from the catacombs of Larvin. I saved the game and killed the dwarf, but Lightpearl wasn't on his body, so I had to reload and sullenly complete the quest. It wasn't that bad--I had already fully mapped the catacombs--but it involved a lot more walking plus two trips on the Cavetrain. While I was in Larvin, I used the occasion to re-visit the altar in the Whatever Vaults. More on that in a bit.

Upon return from this third quest, the dwarf finally handed over Lightpearl--after hinting that he wanted to give me a fourth task--and I had the fifth piece.
    
The dwarf successfully "reads the room."
     
Exhausted and out of ideas, I consulted a walkthrough for the seventh piece, which turned out to be called "Shadeshag," which sounds like a euphemism for an affair.  I was disappointed to resort to spoilers, but it was a good thing: the key NPC was on an island I'd already explored, and it wouldn't have occurred to me to return. Apparently, on the large island south of Fawn Island, I'd missed an NPC named "Spock."
    
"Spock," looking like he's gone full Romulan.
     
This one was refreshing after the dwarf's three-part quest. Spock said that he'd buried directions to the Shadeshag but couldn't remember where. I had to search practically every square of the island before I finally found the directions on the north coast. They directed me to a particular square of Spectre Wood, in the northwest part of the map, and a simple "dig" provided me the piece.

The directions from the hidden chest.

Thankfully, I"d already mapped the maze-like woods.
      
For the last piece, which turned out to be named "Erinstaff," I had to go back to Mernoc. Thanks to a comment from Zardas, I knew that the ingols and "bog ingols" that gave me so much trouble last time don't come out at night. (If there's any way to discover this in-game, I missed it.) While waiting for nightfall, I explored the surrounding area and discovered a graveyard with a stone slab covering the "Erin Crypt." I couldn't move it.

Freed of the need to fight every single step, Mernoc isn't all that big. The southern part of the map has five rooms, each of which contains an iron switch. The clue north of Cassida had told me "two must go down and three must go up; only then can you enter the Erin Crypt." That's great, but it didn't give me any clue which two levers had to go down, and the crypt was like 200 steps from the levers.

I sighed, saved the game, and began working my way through each of the 5!/(2!(5−2)!)=10 possible combinations of levers, walking all the way to the crypt after each choice (fighting multiple combats along the way) and reloading if it wasn't open. Fortunately, I hit the right combination on my third try. 
    
Yes, I could have split my party and had someone hang out at the crypt. I forgot about that.
    
I had expected the crypt to be a dungeon, so I was happily surprised when Winwood just dipped in and back out again, Erinstaff in hand.

From a previous hint, I knew that I now needed to find the Chamber of Lhanis to reforge the wand. I had no idea where it was, but it started showing up as a dialogue option once I had the Erinstaff, so I was confident I'd find it eventually. While I sought the right hint, I decided it was time for some serious character development.

As I covered a while ago, the altar in the Larvin catacombs gives you attribute boosts and extra "improvement slots" based on your combat statistics since the last time you visited. This includes the number of hits you've struck (separated by melee, missile, and thrown), the number of spells you've successfully cast, and the number of special actions you've succeeded at, including item use, mocking, enchanting, duping, groping, and so forth.
     
My reward for a lot of melee combat.
    
What I discovered when visiting the altar was that my default actions haven't been serving my party members well. The first few characters to act strike almost all the hits, and I've been using everyone, even the mages, almost exclusively as melee fighters. As I pointed out earlier, outdoor combats are like brushing away gnats after Level 30 or so. I hadn't needed to do anything else. But by always just spamming attacks with the first characters to act, I've created a very unbalanced party.

After my sobering visit to the altar, I decided I needed to use the outdoor combats as practice sessions for my various combat options, achieving a greater balance in both actions and the characters who performed them. I started using random numbers to determine which character would act first in combat (skipping past the others with the "Defend" action) and what he or she would do. I hope this approach pays off the next time I visit the altar.
    
Improving my attributes in a guild.
     
Meanwhile, some of my characters had dozens of improvement slots unallocated. I studied my guild notes and plotted a path to the various cities, prioritizing various attributes and resistances over others. The cities with the best guilds--Katloch, Cassida, and Pirate Rock--aren't exactly close to each other, and you have the issue where guilds are only open certain hours of the day. It took several hours to spend all of my slots, padded by the fact that I used the excuse of traveling from place to place to fill in other random parts of my map.

During this process, hints on the Chamber of Lhanis were few and far between. One NPC said, "Find it in a small graveyard." Another said that "you have to linger on a little while to find it." I was going to close this section saying that I'd need more hints--both in-game and in the comments--but while I was scanning my map to catalog the various "mysterious places" for the beginning of this entry (starting with the asterisked paragraph), I realized that one of the locations had a sign that said  "linger on a while here." That's close enough to the NPC's advice that I suspect I'll find the Chamber of Lhanis there. Next time, we'll see.

After that, all there is to do is explore the dungeons of Katloch to find Bergerac's heart, free Bergerac in Cassida, and take on the Forbidden Zone. Clearly, we're only looking at another 100 or 200 hours, tops.
     
The latest update, for all you map-philes.
     

Time so far: 231 hours

63 comments:

  1. I love the fact that you will NOT give up on this game! Thank you so much. I've wanted to play 99% of all the RPG's you've played so far. I never would have played even a FRACTION of 1% of them and you've been going GONZO on them. Again- thank you :) 99% of them I would never have finished or been bitterly disappointed with so that alone is worth the price of admission- and the fact that you don't even CHARGE us is awesome :)

    You've been one of the anchors from before my wife died and I thank you so much for being here- you may not have REALIZED that your existence has been good for my continued therapy but it's true :) And thank you so much for it!

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    1. Sorry for your loss mate. Glad you found something fun.

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    2. We all look for entertaining things to help us get through the day. I'm proud to be part of the sound and fury of your life.

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  2. "What else was I going to do? Throw away 213 hours?"

    "Clearly, we're only looking at another 100 or 200 hours, tops."

    You are the wind beneath my wings.

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    1. I was joking a bit in that last sentence. I hope we're really looking at 30 or 40, tops.

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    2. 200 more hours and you'll definitely have that map finished though!

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    3. "I hope we're really looking at 30 or 40, tops."
      There's your joke right there.

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  3. Well looking at the walkthrough your description of what's left isn't too far off (one more step in between that you will have to do) but will probably take 50 hours. Certainly I recon you can time it so your W post is "Won!"

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    1. Or Victory if you're a bit faster. :)

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    2. xpialidocious? (as in supercalifragilistic?)

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    3. Zero alphabets left and 12 more posts to go! XD

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    4. Success, The Winning Move, Ultimately I Won, Victory!, Won!, Xpialidocious, Yet Another Game Won!, Zuccess!, Again!, Because I'm That Good...

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  4. There's something so incredibly satisfying about watching that world map slowly fill in.

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    1. Does anyone here know "Walking on Glass"? Strange early book by Iain Banks in which two characters are caught and have to play and win impossible games like Invisible Domino.

      Now imagine having to do a time lapse video of filling in the complete Fate map, in the order it was done of course... :)

      Chet, how does that sound as a retirement project? The ultimate paint by numbers therapy! :)

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    2. Its fun just to open the previous version of the map and compare it.

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  5. The problem back then was that most Amiga games were not installable to hard drive - it was one of the side effects of copy protection countermeasures. You had to play from floppy disks and endure long loading times and disk swaps. Likewise, you would need an extra blank floppy to save games. Hard drives became standard issue on Amigas much later than on PCs, so by the time that happened most games were no longer supported and no HD-installable versions would be made.

    WHDLoad tried to remedy that. It's a program that loads data from disk images (or their contents) into memory and makes the game "believe" it is accessing floppies even though it's actually accessing RAM. Skilled Amiga coders, sometimes coming from cracking groups, would basically reverse-engineer the code of a game and write an installer that tells WHDLoad how to access the data of its particular copy protection. Sometimes they also fix bugs and access faults or add small new features such as gamepad support! Not that the latter matters for CRPGs anyway.

    One downside of the approach is also that saved positions are also written in the same memory area where the game resides (usually the game doesn't know that there is your hard drive in the back). WHDLoad will eventually "flush" them to hard drive as the program is closed. So that's why you have to make sure you quit the game and go back to the Amiga operating system running in your emulator.

    More recent versions of WHDLoad support writing saved games and highscores direct to hard drive from within the game, but one would then have to write a new installer for each game in order for it to support this feature. As far as I can see, the only installer for Fate was produced in 2008 and hasn't been updated yet.

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    1. Thank you. That's the clearest explanation I've seen for the program. Was the software written while the Amiga was still around, or was it a product of the emulator era?

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    2. The first public release was 05/09/1996 (just checked on the program changelog).

      So, Amiga was already in its declining years, or half dead.
      WHDLoad gave a lot of impulse to the emulator scene, along with Winuae and is a big part of the reasons why it is still active today, almost 20 years later.

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  6. "I had lost all the progress I'd made in the previous 12-hour session."

    You are a true hero. When this kind of thing happens to me, I tend do give up, or at least put the game aside for a while...

    You rock man!

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  7. (trigger warning: mathematical pedantry)

    Isn't the formula:

    5!
    ---- = 10
    2!x3!

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    1. That's actually correct. His "formula" doesn't even give the correct result :p

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    2. I swear I wrote it as 5!/(2!(5-2)!)=10. I have no idea what happened to the first part.

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  8. "That's great, but it didn't give me any clue which two levers had to go down, and the crypt was like 200 steps from the levers."

    The developers probably expected you to use the party split feature and just switch back and forth until you got it.

    "I realized that one of the locations had a sign that said "linger on a while here." That's close enough to the NPC's advice that I suspect I'll find the Chamber of Lhanis there."

    Yeah, I guess you've already figured it out. Linger on a while, as in wait until it appears at a certain hour.

    Nothing much else to say, nice and steady progress.

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  9. For its time, Fate is really quite an amazing game in terms of options and complexity, but it could also be more forgiving. Many have enjoyed characterizing and cataloguing the magic system, character classes and races, the many bits of belongings, NPC interaction system, the composition of up to four parties, and many other aspect which all interact to offer a reasonably enjoyable level of challenge. In these sorts of games, we strive to optimize different aspects of our alter egos, and the complexity offers enough options to fulfill a wide array of different approaches and inclinations. Navigating through this aspect of gaming tends to be very satisfying. And, of course, the mapping.

    At the beginning of the game, after a player spends some time exploring the world without any particular focus, Winwood has several reflective moments where he thinks aloud, "Hmm, maybe we should go back and search in the vicinity of the destroyed inn..." or "Hmm, maybe we should go to Larvin as Naristos suggested..." Those were reminders of hints that we had already received but were ignoring. It would be nice if such a hint system could be turned on or off at will. After a few hundred hours, rather than resorting to spoilers, a player might prefer to activate an internal hint system.

    It would also be nice if they could have balanced encounters with a better morale system. As your reputation improves and your party spreads a swath of broken assailants across the land, lower level nuisance attacks that serve to mostly waste your time should become less frequent, even as Thardan dispatches ever more powerful minions to neutralize the threat you increasingly pose.

    It's a real shame that reLINE went bankrupt just as the game was being released in the English-speaking world. Their incredible construct cries out for provisioning with as much care in the story and the world as they've obviously put into the gaming engine. If they had been fortunate enough to enjoy commercial success, one could imagine an Elder-Scrolls-like franchise with modules and updates that expand and extend both front and back stories to make exploration of this vast but presently mostly empty world a lot more interesting.

    This game has continued to capture and hold the attention of many gamers, though many of the resources are in German. Initially I used the WinUAE WHDLoad from the English-speaking http://dungeony.rpghry.cz/fate/index.html site. This worked fairly well, but on my system it missed out on the ambient sounds, corrupted my game whenever I asked an NPC about themselves, and required me to remember to exit with a “*” or else I lost all of my in-game saves (yuck!). More recently I discovered the FS-UAE WHDLoad which provides ambient sounds, no corruption bug, and in-game saves no matter how you exit. This German site http://www.mightandmagicworld.de/phpbb/ftopic24904-0-asc-0.html pointed to this download https://www.mediafire.com/?xta2s2fa745u5vf which included quite a bit of extra material including walkthroughs, maps, manuals in German and English, and both the German v1.7 and the English v1.6 game variants accessible from the same launcher dialog. So far, this has worked out really nicely.

    Additionally, over the years, those mmworld forums have catalogued virtually everything about the game, and have even been visited by the author upon occasion. It turns out that virtually anything I discover has already been discovered and documented, albeit usually in German. This can really help if you’re stuck somewhere, although of course it’s rife with spoilers.

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    1. I understand why so many people love the game, but for me it's not QUITE there. For all the game's size, it could have used some of Might & Magic's attention to establishing a different character to its zones, improving special encounters, and adding side quests. Except for a few places (e.g., Fawn Island) you mostly meet the the same random selection of rats, snakes, mage-types, fighters-types, and thief-types no matter where you go in the game. The huge game world is mostly undifferentiated and unused.

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    2. reLINE did exist until 2002. I never played FATE but I remember Biing!, which was released a couple of years later, fondly. Not for the gameplay but for humour like this:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftkFFQixm-E

      I wonder how the resources of these small German development studios compared to their American counterparts in the 90s.

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    3. The issue of "lower level nuisance attacks" seems to be endemic to CRPGs--it's certainly an issue in Skyrim and IIRC, at least as far back as Pool of Radiance. I've been playing the former a lot lately and roll my eyes and groan every time I hear a bear growl or a wolf howl.

      I'd like to see some way to reduce such encounters in CRPGs, either automatically or initiated by the player. In the first case, you get sufficiently intimidating that monsters/fauna keep their distance or run when you're nearby; in the latter case, the player could make/buy/find something to achieve the same effect. Anti-bear pheromones, anyone?

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    4. A few games have a repulsion spell you can learn, which minimizes pointless encounters. Of course then it turns into a nuisance keeping the spell buffed in order to avoid the nuisance attacks. (Dragon Warrior comes to mind, but I think I've seen at least a few others.)

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    5. I much prefer the Earthbound system where weak monsters will actively run away from you. And if they're caught, it's an automatic victory.

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    6. Fate does have its own anti-nuisance spell called Invisible, but like most RPGs, it has absolutely no way of tracking how long it lasts and no warning when it expires. Even modern RPGs like Skyrim (unmodded) are often guilty of this.

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    7. You have "kyne's peace" dragon shout but you might as well use fush-do-rah to nearest the ravine with that bear in any case.

      There's also calm spell but those are limited to creature levels and simple "hitting them with my sword" still works just as well.

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    8. Nuisance fights are a nuisance, especially for games where there is no mechanism via which you can speed through them. Wasteland 2 had numerous fights that you couldn't really lose, but they'd still take up time and ammo. Fallout 4 handles things pretty well, when you're sufficiently over leveled you barely have to pause to offload a couple lethal bullets, or you can just keep running and be confident that you wont get particularly hurt.

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    9. One of the advantages of more linear - as distinct from open-world - games is that they can avoid most of this problem by having all the monsters in a given area have something like the same strength.

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  10. To put it simple WHDload is a program and a bunch of games that are "compiled with it".

    Reason is that because the Amiga had no HD in usual configuration most games never bothered with a HD installer at all.

    So time goes on and all that and we now suddenly have a problem of lots of disks for emulator but no way to execute them from a virtual hard drive.

    So BAM WHDLoad appears as an answer to that problem, thing is that normal "copy protection" for Amiga was to use a non standard file system on boot track of the diskette and load it for the OS during boot thus making it "impossible" to copy them via workbench by normal means (since WB couldn't read the disk) this of c. had no difference on pirating those games but it made lives of those of us who actually had HD miserable.

    So WHDLoad also makes files on an entire diskette to apear as a single file which is also handy, caveat is that 99% of WHDLoaded games are made from pirated copies which are more or less broken already (space crusade for instance has a broken random gen. in pirated WHDLoad version) from being cracked.

    WHDLoad shouldn't affect on saving games or other disk access though but one can never be really sure since games are after all crammed in to a single file instead of a diskette albeit it a virtual diskette.

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  11. The new font you chose isn't very easy on the eyes....

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    1. I just figured people set their browsers to their preferred font, overriding whatever I've chosen, anyway.

      I'll change it back if I get a second negative opinion. In the meantime, I like typing in this font better.

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    2. I don't hate the font, but I much prefer a clearer one like Arial.

      It doesn't seem to be affected by my browser settings, for whatever reason. (other websites do change, but blogger ones don't. I've no idea why or what the difference is).

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    3. I'll change it back if I get a second negative opinion.

      I'm slightly terrified by my newfound power, but for what it's worth, I prefer the old font as well.

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    4. Well, I lied. I'm not going back. Freaking Arial. You people probably like Wonder Bread and Kenny G, too.

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    5. For me it's not an issue of aesthetics, but legibility: Verdana is, at least in my case, easier to read than Trebuchet.

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    6. I didn't even notice the font changed until now. I've been using Calibri for years now, though not on my blog. I'm sure I am committing some style-related sin by italicizing everything I write there.

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  12. On the subject of losing 12 hours and it not being too big of a deal... how long would this game take if you knew exactly what you needed to do? If we were comparing speed run times for all the games you played -- would it still be one of the longest?

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    1. A playthrough with complete maps and walkthrough, collecting most equipment upgrades and skipping useless stuff, heavily abusing cheap fighting tricks (praying, berserkers, running away, etc.) in later dungeons, would take roughly 40-45 hours.

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    2. I was going to say it would have taken me about 40 hours to get where I am now if I'd been looking at other people's maps. Of couse, my characters would have half the levels. I don't know if that becomes a problem later or not.

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    3. Speaking with no knowledge of Fate, but having seen my share of speedruns, I feel like it'd have to be able to be cheesed in significantly less than 40 hours!

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    4. Remember to submit your time to finish it here: https://howlongtobeat.com/game.php?id=3418

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  13. Egads I've got to try this game....

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  14. "What else was I going to do? Throw away 213 hours?"

    Can you add a hyperlink to the Wikipedia entry on sunk cost fallacy? Might as well make this a learning opportunity!

    I kid, of course, there's no room for rational economic decision-making in CRPG addiction.

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    1. It's not sunk cost if there's a definite payout.

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    2. Of course if we count winning a game as payout.

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  15. I'm equally amazed by how huge this game appears to be and by the fact that I somehow never heard of it until this blog.

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  16. You know a game is a bit too large when you're positively *relieved* when there is no quest or dungeon, just an item in a hole in the ground :).

    This might be one of the lowest variety/size ratios we've had on the blog, discounting games that generated endless empty planes filled with random fighters ;).

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  17. "Time so far: 231 hours" This instantly reminded me of J.G.Ballard's 'Report on an Unidentified Space Station"

    And googling that, it can be read online. Check out http://www.paradiserow.com/usr/library/documents/main/j.g.-ballard-short-story.pdf for this classic.

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  18. "After that, all there is to do is explore the dungeons of Katloch to find Bergerac's heart, free Bergerac in Cassida, and take on the Forbidden Zone" - how can you be so naive after 200 hours of Fating :-D.

    I have a good news gor you - there are totally 4 full scale dungeons (7 levels) in this game, and Bergerac is not powerful enough to destroy Thardan (just need him to enter the inner zone) :-D
    So stay tuned.

    About WHDLoad-ed games, i played Crystal Dragon (dungeon crawler, sometimes called Black Crypt 2) and WHD version was not cracked properly. Only first copycheck was cracked and there was another copycheck later in the game so i was not able to get past level 12 (or 13?).

    I informed my internet friend from Amiga community and the contacted the programmer of this WHD version. After few days properly and completly cracked WHD version was released.
    I finished Crystal Dragon after that without any problems/bugs.

    I think you should play Crystal Dragon one day, so be 100% you have got the properly cracked version.

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    1. Crystal Dragon! I've been trying to remember the name of that game for months.

      I didn't enjoy it very much, but it was one of the last CRPGs I played on the Amiga.

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  19. "I'd love to know more about this."

    Google is your friend, but only if you're Googling German (e.g.Seltsamen Zauberstab).

    Here's one approach that started from conversations in Valvice:
    http://www.mightandmagicworld.de/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=23901&highlight=seltsamen+zauberstab

    Here's a different approach to which Olaf made several contributions:
    http://www.mightandmagicworld.de/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=21263&highlight=seltsamen+zauberstab

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    1. Those forums are full of spoilers, and I don't really understand half of what's being said (probably because of poor translations) anyway. Is the wand in the ground something I need to be concerned about?

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    2. Not yet, for now just note where it is.

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    3. +1 (Zardas)

      And, regarding German web pages, translate why not Google how florid?

      P.S. I was all energized to to build the Fate Gates of Dawn web site. I really thought I had learned a lot that was pretty cool. Then I discovered this might and magic world web site. Man, they've discovered everything I've discovered, and more. There's not really much sense in an un-original repeat of their content. *sigh* Takes the wind out of one's sails a bit.

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