Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fate: Time to Be Done

From your lips to God's ears, Mandrag.
    
Fate has been lingering beyond the point of decency, but it didn't fully lose me until the events of the last session. There's simply no excuse for a game this big without the depth of content to support its size, and there's no excuse for some of the choices the developers made along the way as regards encounters and combat.

As I closed the last session, I was just entering the Agyssium on the quest to retrieve the stone heart of Bergerac. If you've lost track of the plot, I need the stone heart to revive Bergerac, who's the one mage who can take me into the inner Forbidden Zone, where I hope to defeat the evil wizard Thardan and find a way back home to the real world. I had to retrieve the seven pieces of the Moonwand to enter the Agyssium in the first place.
   
Multiple enemy parties wait to assail me in the Agyssium.
    
I spent about 8 hours in the Agyssium and have very little to say about it. Lore had told me that it was built from the bones of dead creatures, and the walls did have a certain disgustingness about them. It was huge, packed with enemies, and bereft (as far as I could tell) of any special encounters beyond the stone heart on the seventh level. But it's likely that I missed some things. I faithfully mapped the first level, and when I saw how large and empty it was--aside from monsters, the only thing besides stairways was a single weak dagger--I said "screw it" when it came to mapping the other levels. I explored each one just long enough to find the stairs down.
   
The large and pointless Level 1.
    
Incidentally, it took me forever to find the stairs on the first level because doors look like this.
   
They're hard enough to make out head-on, let alone from the side.
   
It would have taken 30 minutes except for the monsters. There was an encounter practically every step. They consisted of alien-insect looking creatures called things like bogons, crags, zorbs, slints, dromans, armans, and krysts. None of them carried any treasure. A few of them qualified as NUKEs, and even some of the ones that weren't were capable of doing several hundred hit points in physical attacks. By this time in the game, I was uninterested in learning the strengths and weaknesses of yet another set of creatures, and I was uninterested in going round after round with indistinguishable insects, watching them shrug off spells and physical attacks until I found a combination that worked.
    
I've had enough of this.
    
So I settled into a pattern: Upon the initial encounter (assuming it wasn't a very small number I knew I could easily kill), I would try to pray them away. That's working about 8 or 9 times out of 10 these days. If that didn't work, I would try hiding. That usually failed, so the third option was running. Upon failure of all of these options--maybe 1 time in 25--I would stand and fight and save if I won, cast "Revive" if I only lost one character, and reload if I lost more than one.
    
A prayer makes the monsters go away. This game does love its "spheres," for whatever reason.
    
Through this process, I slowly made my way down to the bottom level and the chamber holding the stone heart.
   
Everything about this game is strange.
    
Mandrag had to cast some spell--the game wasn't specific--to deactivate its protective shield and pick it up. Unfortunately, there was no quick teleporter or secret stairway to the exit--I had to fight back up 7 levels. I'm sure there were even more monsters on the way back up. But with time and patience, I eventually emerged in Katloch, made my way back to my ship, and set sail for Cassida.
    
The game is great about giving hints when you don't need them and not so much when you do.
     
I had expected to march into the plaza, stuff the heart into Bergerac's statue, and get a new party member. In anticipation, I sadly ejected Juliet from the party. She'd been with me since nearly the beginning, but she was the most expendable of my characters, with low caps on her statistics and the lowest character level.
   
Hopefully, her "magic ears" aren't that important anymore.
    
I was premature. The game had to pull the rug out from under me again:
     
    
The statue had vanished. Okay, what now? I wandered around Cassida but didn't find anything new. The populace, still under the curse that made them rude, offered no help. I wandered to the city of Perdida but didn't get any new dialogue options or hints. Same with Fainvil and Valvice. Lacking any other ideas, I jumped back on the Cavetrain and headed for Larvin, intending to visit the altar and see if there were any more dialogue options there. I swear the Cavetrain went in a different order than before, but I could be wrong. I did visit the altar and got some attribute boosts, but there were no new dialogue options in Larvin.

Lacking any more ideas, I consulted a spoiler site again. It said that I should go back to Naristos, the kind man who sheltered Winwood in the game's backstory. I headed back to the game's starting square and searched the area until I found a body on the ground between some trees. It was Naristos.
     
    
According to the walkthrough, I'm supposed to find his servant, Jordrak, at his tower. Unfortunately, there's a stone blocking the tower and I can't figure out any way to trigger the next part of the plot.
    
I think those are the stones of his tower behind the rock.
   
I started mapping some of the unmapped squares, and suddenly Winwood had a revelation:
    
By this point in the game, players could be forgiven for having no idea who "Naristos" is.
    
That answers the question of how I was supposed to know to visit Naristos. I reasoned that perhaps now that Winwood had made the suggestion, something would happen when I went back to the area. At first, nothing did. I posted a comment looking for help. It turns out that you need to keep hitting "examine" multiple times. Eventually, Winwood notes that Naristos is holding a staff. When Winwood reaches out to take the staff, he vanishes into thin air and Naristos's body crumbles to dust.
   
   
After this, I can switch to Winwood's "party." He was in the dark, alone, with brick walls surrounding him. I tried walking a bit and soon found an item that turned out to be a "goldeye," which casts magical light. I'm in a dungeon I've never seen before. I'm way overburdened because I have all the weapons and armor from Juliet that I was going to see if Bergerac could wield. I wasn't carrying any food or water.
   
  
Will Winwood survive? Will he reunite with his companions? Find out next time on Fate: Gates of Dawn! I don't often get to end on a cliffhanger.

These twists are cute and all, but honestly, the game has been going on too long to pull 11th hour stunts. It's time for this one to be finished.

Time so far: 249 hours

26 comments:

  1. You sound tired of this game, and honestly I am too. I mean 249 hours put in master thesis can get you pretty close to the end... If I understand correctly how MT translates to my country's degrees.

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  2. Well it seemed like the plot was finally getting somewhere.

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    1. Those developments would have been more welcome at the 50th hour than the 250th. At this point, I was hoping for more of a straight line to the end.

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  3. While I have enjoyed your series on Fate, I would certainly love to see a new game on the blog.

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  5. The Agyssium only had a handful of items, most of them entirely useless, so you didn't lose anything important.

    Anyway, welcome to the final dungeon, Castle Crypt, the game's magnum opus of teleporters, one-way walls and NUKEs. (As the Location spell will tell you, it's under Cassida.)

    Since it looks like you're sick of fighting (I was too), and to even the odds, here's a mild exploit of sorts: completely exiting and restarting the game will reset the spawn system. If there are only one or two people in the party upon loading, each enemy encounter will only contain one monster for some time. (It readjusts quickly if there are more people, so it wasn't useful until now.)

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    1. I'm on the road this week and next with limited time to play, so I scheduled some entries in advance. When my next two postings come out and I express surprise that there's no dungeon after Cassida and I act like I discovered the "reset" thing myself, it's not because I ignored your comment. I was just a bit ahead of my publication.

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    2. Time to play Deathlord, then.

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    3. Of course! :) Deathlord took me 14 years to finish. Not constantly booting up a IIc, mind you, but every couple of years setting it up and dragging out my growing folder of hand drawn maps, sometimes four pages taped together and re-cut/re-taped if I had to readjust some squares.

      The internet needed to be invented in order for me to finish it because of a similar situation described a few posts ago: I thought I had gone through every conceivable spot, but missed a word somewhere in the miasma of maps. To this day I still don't know where the missing word actually was. Thanks Deathlord FAQ!

      Looking back at the experience compared to what Chet is living through here, Deathlord still fit on a couple of 5.25 floppies, and it seems like a it probably takes longer to remember who Naristos is than it takes to get to one of the few plot items in Kodan or whatever.

      On the other hand, 14 years seems about right. It took forever to build a party that I wasn't constantly resurrecting and then building up the money to buy yet another boat (sounds familiar...).

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    4. Ha! I was going to make the same Deathlord joke! That game has a world that's comparable in size to Fate, but has a perma-death feature that even the author says was a bad idea.

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  6. And on the other hand, as a long time lurker, I have been enjoying the Fate posts waaay too much ... Particularly, more than I expected from the start, I'm actually worried how would continue with the blog once the Addict is done with Fate ...

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  7. You are our patron saint for enduring this game for so long:)

    I remember seeing this game in the last few pages of Amiga Power back in the day on the Buyer's Guide section. It had a nice screenshot and they mentioned they the game lasted forever. I wanted the game so much but could never find it.

    Now your posts are a nice substitute, because for surely I wouldn't want to play this nowadays. Even 50h RPG's feel to long to me.

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  8. Hey there, Addict, been reading a while and love the blog.

    You've got to applaud the Fate devs for feeling like their game was good enough that 250 hours in folks would love to have the rug pulled out from under them like that. I also enjoy having to search the same square multiple times to find a story item that's visible in the screen shot!

    Up until hour like 200, I actually thought this looked kind of fun. Not sure how anyone would have beaten it before the internet.

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  9. So is the next posting called "Unending Horror" or "Up and Died"?

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  10. "...to visit Naristos."

    I somehow feel very sad that the first bit of kindness you have experienced in this world has been rewarded thusly.

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  11. I talk a lot in other spaces about games making a "promise" with the audience early on, where they establish through their plot, premise, genre, scope of tutorial, et cetera, roughly how large the game experience is, and generally tend to reinforce that promise as things go on by the rate at which the map is explored, power-ups are doled out, and progress towards the level cap is earned.

    I find that some of the absolute worst game experiences are when that promise is violated, by a game that ends sooner than promised, or takes much longer than promised, or where that orderly progress is interrupted, for example by a long sidequest at a time when all the other indicators say you're almost done.

    I ditched Okami for this reason - I was about ready for it to be done when I beat the first big bad guy, and then it turned out I wasn't even half done, with no particular warning that that was the case.

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    1. Interestingly, this was also, IMO, the greatest flaw in the already greatly flawed Batman v Superman movie. They introduce a new bad guy ~1:45 into the film.

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  12. Chet your endurance is beyond human !
    I just finished Divinity: Original Sin 1 in 90h and the last 20 or so were annoying. Even though there were still interesting quests and a superb combat system.
    I bow before you great one

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  13. That "puzzle" to search Naristos is pretty unjustifiable. It reminds one of the worst puzzles in adventure games where you have to make a leap of logic or fight with the text parser.

    I have to say though that I have thoroughly enjoyed your postings on Fate! This game is completely fascinating.

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  14. Ive been reading you since Drakkhen. I found you while searching for history about that game and I've been following you since then. Fate has addicted me and I have also played it for lots of hous but i have stoped because of the npcs. They appear but they say nothing and you dont really know whats happening until now that it seems that they need to be asked several times. Quite demotivating.
    Youve got a nice blog sir, I really enjoy it. Congratz.

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  15. I wonder what you will think of Crusaders of the Dark Savant. I remember that game going on and on and on.

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  16. I have been reading since almost the beginning, though I don't post much. Fate has taken over the blog in a way no other game did. These posts made me want to play it, until the last few when the Chet's exhaustion became apparent. I almost wanted to play it, but not anymore. Anyway, thanks for giving us this blog!

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