|The best of mostly-bad illustrations in the game.|
I spent most of my second Fer & Flamme session mapping the city of Dord, the city closest to where the characters start. The city is quite large, comprising almost 100 separate "scenes," both indoor and outdoor. I found it maddeningly hard to map. Just once, it would be nice to play an adventure-style game in which the developers didn't attempt to "trick" the player with transitions that go east from one scene but come into the south of the next one, one-way transitions, and the like.
|My aborted attempt at mapping in Excel.|
Fer & Flamme supposedly helps you as you explore by showing arrows at the bottom of the screen indicating which directions you can go. Except: 1) south is never shown, even when it's a valid option; and 2) the accuracy of other shown directions is inconsistent. In the "tavernier" shot below, for instance, the arrows indicating I can go west but not east. In fact, the reverse is true.
|Maybe that's a consequence of drinking too much.|
Some of the screens have doors. If you try to enter them, you may get a message that they're closed (this seems to depend on the time of day). If so, you're asked which character wants to open the door. Never once has any selection worked for me. Maybe my strength isn't high enough. To fully explore the city, I jut had to wait around a lot until the doors opened on their own. (Time passes whether you do anything or not, at a rate of about one game minute per one real second.)
|Trying to get into the palace.|
From practice and commenters, I learned the importance of searching every screen. About half a dozen of them held items of varying importance. You don't always find them the first time you search, but I soon learned that if there's no item to be found, "il n'y a rien" only appears on the screen once, no matter how many times you select the "search" option. If there is something to be found, on the other hand, the phrase stacks multiple times on top of itself until you actually find the item.
|I knew I'd get something eventually.|
Stores included a butcher, a tavern, a clothing store, a weapon store, and stands selling fish, bread, fruits and vegetables. My characters are hungry and thirsty, but because of my weapon and armor purchases during character creation, plus the purchase of a few meager weapons here, I don't have enough gold to buy more than a couple pieces of fruit. Stealing didn't work; I got caught every time.
If you get caught stealing, incidentally, you get sentenced to 1 hour in prison and literally just have to sit there and watch the clock tick by. That's not a bad approach. It's a real consequence, and back in the day it probably would have been more of a pain in the neck to restart and reload than to just serve your sentence.
|Lumiere, you had one job.|
I can't figure out how to eat or drink anyway. Theoretically, you do this from the "health" menu. You select manger or boire and then pick the character. But even characters with food and water in their inventories don't do anything when I select their options.
|Roussir has 9 waters in his inventory, but he can't drink.|
The game's approach to equipment is also a little messed up. You purchase all kinds of weapons and armor during character creation that don't appear once the game starts. I guess those initial purchases just modify attack and defense statistics. If you want to have actual weapons in the game, you have to buy them again. (I haven't found armor yet.) Not understanding this, I spent most of my gold during character creation. The best approach might be to start over and ensure that my characters start the game with at least a little gold.
NPCs are similarly confounding. The various peasants, monks, guards, and other characters you see in my screenshots aren't permanent fixtures on those screens (although animals, for some reason, are). They come and go. I like this; it makes the city feel more like a living place and it anticipates more complex movements of NPCs in later games. But there's no way to productively interact with them. Occasionally, one will wander up and offer a "bonjour," but all I ever seem to be able to do is say "bonjour" back or kill the conversation by insulting the NPC or telling him that we're thieves or something. They never offer any dialogue that means anything. I don't know if this is something I'm doing wrong or part of the game that was never implemented.
|Yes, that's very kind of you. Anything on my quest?|
Overall, the city isn't badly done. The artwork is only adequate, but the game does a better job than most at making the city seem like a realistic, diverse place. Neighborhoods include (my translations) the Cat Quarter, the Cut-Throat Quarter, the Old Quarter, and the Dark Quarter, with the artwork varied appropriately. Multiple roads converge on two key locations: the church and the "gilded palace."
These locations held the only quest-based items or messages I found in the city, and even they are a bit obscure. Translation was complicated by the fact that the text doesn't show diacriticals or apostrophes and words break with no indication. What should have been n'éclaircit was rendered as n eclair cit on the screen. Anyway, the first message, found in the church, read: "The light of God only illuminates the path of the righteous... the prophet Calaan only blinds the disciples of darkness."
|It's always weird to see Christian imagery in fantasy games.|
In the same location, I found something called the Medallion of Calaan. Calaan isn't mentioned in the backstory.
I need some help on the second message. It was found on a table in the castle. My best translation is: "As Tanaris came one day to destroy it, the fifth ruby of God Tanaris will return to oppose when Thandar lives." I'm not sure if dieu Tanaris means that Tanaris is himself a god or if the enter phrase la quinte des rubis du dieu is an object that somehow fits into the later sentence.
|The second message. Given the name in the last line, clearly the developers were capable of lower-case letters; why they didn't use them in the main message is an annoying mystery.|
Neither Thandar nor Tanaris appears in the backstory, but there is a spell called "Tanaris" that produces a magical ram to force doors. The attribution of the quote, "Salim Akar" does appear in the manual as the "master storyteller to the court." Anyway, in the same location as this quote, I found the "rubies of Tanaris."
Scattered throughout other screens in the town, I found a torch, 9 water rations, a sack, and a "nugget," which I'm guessing is some kind of precious metal.
And that's about all I can tell you. Every time I leave the city, within a few screens I get attacked by a group of skeletons or werewolves or something, and not only am I incapable of defeating them, I can't even strike a single blow. I note that the game insists that my characters all have 1 or 0 strength, however, which either has something to do with my hunger or thirst or something got screwed up after character creation.
|I would be disappointed if a French game didn't feature loup-garou among its bestiary.|
Finally, I'll note that the game crashes every opportunity that it gets. It freezes every time I try to enter combat (versus a creature attacking me), often refuses to transition between disks, and comes up with a "not found" error sometimes while I'm exploring outdoors. This might reflect emulator issues rather than game issues, but either way it makes for a miserable experience.
I haven't experienced enough of the game to GIMLET it yet, but unless someone comes along and instruct me how to successfully eat and drink.or solve the combat issue, I'm afraid we're done with this one. I'll give it a few days and if no one can help me by the time of the next post, I'll wrap it up as best I can.
For further reading: I never returned to the game and figured it out, but I did cover it's quasi-sequel: L'Anneau de Zengara (1987).