|Killing the fabled "snake-dragon."|
Told over 15 scrolls, the story is this: Nikademus conquered Ferronrah as part of his conquest of the world. To prevent armies from being raised in Ferronrah that might pose a threat to him, and to prevent external armies from coming to support Ferronrah, he put a curse on the island that greatly weakens anyone who attempts to enter or leave the continent. Normal men die. Supermen become normal men--which is what presumably happens to the imported party from Phantasie when they get kicked down to Level 1. It's fun to see this common trope actually get integrated into the story.
|The scrolls describe how the capital city was destroyed by Nikademus. Here it is.|
The curse is contained in some way in an Orb. It used to reside in the old royal family's Summer Palace, but when Lord Wood tried to invade Ferronrah from Gelnor and nearly got away with the Orb, Nikademus moved it to a Netherworld dungeon. To end the curse on Ferronrah, I have to find the Orb and destroy it. The only way to destroy it is to feed it to Pluto's Ice Dragon, and to approach the Ice Dragon, I first need the amulets from the 8 other Beasts of Pluto that Pluto set roaming the world just to be a dick. (Pluto, god of the underworld, is supporting Nikademus in a way that the third game fleshes out.)
|I have gained an eighth!|
The beasts are:
- The Giant Constrictor, an enormous green snake. According to the "Book of Beasts" (one of the scrolls), it can be found "in any of the planes at any time and place." I haven't found it yet, which is starting to worry me.
- The Winged Devil. I encountered and killed it in Filmon's hut (more below).
- The Undead Snake.
- The Demon-Fly. Both the Undead Snake and the Demon Fly were said to occupy "small desert islands" on the material plane. I had to search around the surface world until I found them, but I was able to kill them both.
- The Wyvern.
- The Green Snake-Dragon. Both the Wyvern and the Snake-Dragon roam the Astral Plane between the two levels of the Netherworld. They must be summoned by a spell. I received the spell in one of the Netherworld dungeons, but when you cast it, it only has a small chance of summoning one of the boss creatures and a greater chance of just summoning a random encounter. It took about 15 castings and a lot of fights, but I killed both of the beasts.
- The Giant Wyvern.
- The Dragon-Demon. Both of these latter two creatures are somewhere in the Netherworld and I haven't encountered them yet.
The beasts I've encountered so far have been relatively easy to kill, particularly since I acquired "Fireflash 4" and multiple characters have it. This workhorse spell can do 100+ damage to a single enemy, and hardly anyone survives more than a couple of castings. Each character can only cast 3 or 4 of these before needing to rest in an inn or town, so you can't spam them, but they're the obvious choices for boss-level creatures.
|The "book of beasts" scroll lays it all out.|
Since the last entry, I've explored three more dungeons. Filmon's hut was the first. It was full of insectoid enemies which did me little good because they leave no money. There were also a lot of encounters with "dark dwarves," slightly overpowered enemies who have more than 75 hit points and do over 20 damage in melee attacks. A few random encounters with them were enough to send me out of the dungeon and back to town to restore health and spells.
An easy button/lever puzzle opened the way to Filmon. The famed sage forced me to fight a king cobra and a bunch of lesser snakes "with sticks" (mechanically, this simply meant stripping me of weapons and zeroing my spell points) to get his advice. I found it was easier to kill them with rocks. Annoyingly, my weapons remained stripped until I got back to the nearest town to re-equip them (you can only equip items in town through the "distribution" mechanic), which made tough going for a few random encounters.
Anyway, Filmon told me about the Orb and the Netherworld and asked me to look out for a couple of heroes named Pelzer (a gnome) and Pedaloe (a halfling) that he'd sent ahead of me. These two NPCs show up at Lord Kilmor's funeral in Phantasie III. He also recommended that I look for the Book of Beasts.
|Meeting one of the more famous NPCs of the series.|
Filmon's place was the last surface dungeon, so I headed to the Netherworld via Senog's Laboratory and started hunting for the Impling Hatchery, a dungeon described in one of the scrolls. The Netherworld is kind of annoying because the only convenient town to rest, heal, train, and so forth is Black Moor, and exiting Black Moor automatically transports you back to the surface world. I had to avoid using it. There are also places where you have to walk across lava and take a bunch of damage.
|No, you can't swim around it. If you try to enter the water, the game just yells at you, "The River Styx!"|
The Impling Hatchery was full of imps, as you might expect--annoying little buggers who have a way of casting "Slow" and "Sleep" every round. Last post, I talked about how a lot of my melee attacks get nerfed to 1 damage, and I discovered that this always seems to happen when my characters are under the effects of the "Slow" spell. "Slow" is supposed to reduce frequency of attacks, not damage. In such cases, I've reverted to throwing rocks.
The Hatchery delivered me the Book of Beasts, the spell to summon beasts in the Astral Plane, and the code ("66") to get from Senog's Laboratory to the second level of the Netherworld. It also had a collection of 12 pools that did a variety of positive effects (experience, gold, equipment) and negative effects (poison gas, lost gold).
|Kill the jedi!|
Early in the game, the Oracle in the kobold village had said to find the Book of Beasts, visit Filmon, do what he said, and return to the Oracle. Now that I had the Book, I went back to Filmon, but he had nothing new to say and he made me fight his cobra with sticks again. I then returned to the Oracle, who also had nothing new to say. I wonder if I broke something by doing it out of order.
I returned to the Netherworld and used "Transportation" to get me to the only other town on the first level: Deathport. It was steps away from the dungeon that turned out to hold the Orb. This dungeon was a series of caves connected by teleportation pools, and I had to fight a lot of imps and devilish creatures. I found and freed both Pelzer and Pedaloe from the dungeon, and I emerged with the Orb.
|Killing him would have created an awkward moment at Kilmor's funeral|
It was only after this dungeon that my funds finally caught up to my training. All my characters are now Level 12 and have enough money to train to Level 13 when it happens. I'm even hitting the maximum gold cap of 65,535. Other than training, there's really not much to spend money on.
|Preparing to fight Pluto. Even three castings of "Fireflash 4" didn't help.|
I started to explore the second level of the Netherworld. The only dungeon I've found so far is Pluto's Smallest Castle, and every time I enter, I get attacked by Pluto himself, who has over 300 hit points (I know because I've hit him three times in a row with "Fireflash 4," and he won't die) and gets about 12 attacks per round. I haven't been able to survive him. But it looks like there are multiple entrances.
|This is Pluto's "smallest" castle, according to the scrolls.|
Believe it or not, I still find the combat system a lot of fun. Perhaps the only exception is when I'm trying to get somewhere on land; there are far too many random encounters on the overworld maps. In the dungeons, they're spaced out just right, and (saving Pluto) are of challenging but not impossible difficulty.
Combat begins with a pre-combat round in which you can "beg mercy," "threaten," "greet," "fight," or "flee." Since fighting is the only way to get experience, gold, and equipment, that's my default choice, but experimenting shows that "greetings" works about a third of the time--sending the monsters away with no fight--and "beg mercy" works almost all the time, albeit at the cost of all the gold you're carrying. "Threaten" hardly ever works and "flee" gets you out of there maybe half the time, but if it fails the enemies get a free round of attacks.
In combat, enemies face you in up to three ranks, and each character has options to attack, cast a spell, parry, or toss a rock. There are several different types of attacks. "Thrust" does a single powerful attack that has the best chance of hitting, and I've learned you need it for some of the more agile creatures. "Attack" does two less-accurate, less-powerful attacks, but I find that it's a good default. "Slash" does three inaccurate, weak attacks and I don't think it's worth it. "Lunge" is the same thing as a "Thrust" but it aims at the second rank (only fighters can do this). The thief is presumed to use his agility and stealth to dance in and out of the enemy forces, so he can aim his thrusts or attacks at any rank. Any rank can also be targeted with "Toss."
The most plentiful group of enemies will always occupy the first rank and the next-most plentiful will occupy the second. So if you're attacked by 4 kobolds, 3 orcs, and 1 troll, that's the order in which they'll appear. Only the first two enemy ranks can attack the characters, although the third can cast spells if they have them. If you wipe out two of the kobolds in the first round, the next round will have the 3 orcs in the front rank, followed by the 2 kobolds and the troll in the second and third ranks, respectively.
"Fireflash" spells--the most damaging--always hit the rear rank first and work their way in.
These rules come together to create a number of different strategic scenarios. If I'm facing two ranks of kobolds and an ogre, for instance, I probably want to keep the ogre in the third rank, out of melee range, until I kill him. Kobolds only do about 1 damage per attack, and they miss a lot. I can endure their stings while my characters toss rocks at the ogre (along with my thief's ability to attack the third rank) until he's gone. But if I'm facing two ranks of orcs and the ogre, the story is different. Orcs do more damage than kobolds and I can't just ignore their attacks. I might try to line up just the right series of attacks and lunges to make sure I wipe out both ranks of orcs at the same time, bringing the ogre to the front rank all at once and allowing all my characters to attack him in the next round.
Sometimes the most difficult enemy will be in the second rank, a situation that always sucks. Let's say I'm facing 4 kobolds, 2 master rangers, and an orc in that rank order. The master rangers are my top priority, but I can't hit them with spells like "Fireflash" until the orc is gone. I might have all of my characters throw rocks at him except my mage, who casts "Fireflash," trusting that I'll kill the orc before the mage acts.
|That guy in the back looks menacing, but he's a pushover. The spellcasters in the front ranks are my priority here.|
There are, of course, additional considerations associated with the variety of buffing and mass-enemy spells like "Confusion" and "Sleep." The one thing the game lacks is a strong mass-damage spell. The four levels of "Flamebolt" are supposed to serve that purpose, but I find that even "Flamebolt 3" (I don't have level 4 yet), which is supposed to do 1-31 points damage to each enemy, routinely does only 1 or 2 points and never seems to do more than 5. The manual warns that "some of the effect is absorbed by armor," so I guess most of my foes just have really good armor.
Assuming I can find those last beasts, I can't imagine that finishing Phantasie II will take more than one more entry, but I've been wrong before.
Time so far: 17 hours