Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Star Saga: Two - The Clathran Menace - Introduction and Back to Basics

Clathran Bird of Prey (Source: What is the Apple IIGS?)
My history with the series is covered in my early posts on the first game. The short of it is, my dad had these games when they were new, and my brother and I discovered them while looking for something new to play. The first game stuck out in my mind more than the second. I can't remember if I started playing and lost interest, or if my brother played through and didn't want to play again. In any case, I'm coming to this fresh.

Once again I have to thank Home of the Underdogs for piecing together the materials for this game in a playable package on the PC. Without their efforts, this game would most likely be lost to further obscurity. Unfortunately, the packages for this game seem to have some trouble running under newer OS's (64-bit Windows 7 and Vista throw an error I didn't investigate), so your best bet is to run this in 32-bit XP.
Part of me wishes I'd kept the disks (Source: MobyGames)
The year is now 2821 A.D., six years after the events of the first game. The timeline suggests we spent 4 years in the first game (about 200 turns), and 2 years afterwards refitting our ship to reduce the hodgepodge of equipment retrofitted on the fly throughout our adventures. Each of the six playable characters now has a sleeker ship build and reduced load. The characters remain the same, although their goals are slightly altered:

  • Jean G. Clerc - Clerc pursued the dream of building the ultimate spaceship. Compared to the Clathrans though, the ship is no match. The pursuit for greater technology calls.
  • Professor Lee Dambroke - Proposed and proved that humans can learn alien abilities, the professor takes the research one step further to discover why this was possible.
  • Laran Darkwatch - Violated church dogma and chased truth beyond the Boundary, Laran discovered a message to continue that pursuit by retracing the founder's steps that lead them to create the Final Church of Man.
  • Valentine Stewart - Heir to the Stewart Family business, Valentine threw it all away to become a smuggler. Having gained a renewed confidence from his family, he now has a contract to discover a source for a rare and powerful material.
  • Corin Stoneseeker - The Stoneseeker line seeks a legend wrapped up in the Core Stone. Bearing the full weight of his destiny, Corin pushes into the galactic arm to discover the stone's true nature.
  • M. J. Turner - Excommunicated from the Space Patrol, he was in truth set on a secret mission to capture the space pirate Silverbeard. With that task is complete, he leads the effort to push the Clathran survey line to the core.
This is the order I plan to play them in. Once again I'll play through each character, with the first providing the most depth on discoveries, and follow up with the others to fill in bits and pieces of their respective arcs. A final wrap up and comments on multi-player will bookend this coverage.
Who needs colorful graphics?
The text passages number 979, which should mean there's even more to the game, or at least greater alternative texts. The manual boasts 60 hours of playing, and I may reach it when I'm done with everything; I'm 15 hours in and through over half the planets. The Clathran Survey line suggests a time limit as it moves across the map towards the fringe.

I've always disliked games that impose a time limit to finishing, especially an ambiguous one. More so, I've hated when I had to start a game over from the beginning after investing many hours. A time limit suggests there's not enough time to fully explore and finish, and I have the unnerving feeling that I'll reach the limit before I figure out what to do. Time to push past those fears and move on. I'm documenting all aspects of the game, so subsequent playthroughs will be faster at least.
Instead of importing we "recreate" our characters.
Most of the basics for playing the game remain the same, and I'll point you towards my posting on the subject for the first game if you need a refresher. This game begins with the option to continue old characters. This consists of answering a few questions, which can lead to gaming:
  • What was the final score? - Any answer will do, but if you answer max score (5000) you get all equipment (except the Immature Riallan), max drones, and max bays.
  • How many cargo and drone bays? Select 10 - 14 cargo bays, and a drone of 3, 4, 5, or 8 bays. More than one character can have the 8-bay drone in this way.
  • A list of questions about specific equipment - There's only one possible choice for each of the equipment categories (Hand-To-Hand - Attack - Contact, etc.), so it's rather limited. The Immature Riallan is a choice as well, so I'm hoping there's a nice tie-in later on.
Star Saga: Two claims there isn't a great disadvantage to starting with fresh characters, and I tend to agree.
Testing out a new character starting in Star Saga: Two.
The equipment that an old character can start out with is either freely given with new equipment discoveries or purchased for a single basic commodity. The only catch is needing to reach the new planets. The starting abilities are more than enough for beginning encounters, so really the only benefit are a drone and cargo bays.

You'll notice from this screenshot two new statistics, Personal Health and Ship Condition. This brings the previous game's suggestion of character death closer to a reality for this game. Given the darker tone of impending doom I have more apprehension diving into the unknown. Each combat is no longer taken on a whim.

The manual suggests that beyond these two mortality meters counting down to my demise, they also factor into combat. The lower these values are, the worse I'll perform in a fight. 50 personal health means I'm at 50% effectiveness. I hope it's as accurate as the fabled E.C.M. from the first game.
Even with 90 Personal Health, I get 100's
The glossary remains a wealth of information. Here are some highlights:
  • Archigenitors - A race of advanced beings who have left their mark throughout the galaxy.
  • Dodecahedron - twelve-sided polyhedron (why is this in the glossary?)
  • Interactive Literature - Artistic constructs which incorporate the free will of the reader into a pre-existing scenario. The seductive appeal of this sort of game-playing posed such a threat to scientific progress in the latter half of the 20th century that it was eventually banned worldwide.
  • Masters - A common term found on many planets referring to a mysterious race of beings who disappeared long ago.
  • Message - Something you leave on an answering machine, or a weird psychic call heard by several humans relating to a waking dragon.
  • Sudden Adjustment Psychosis Syndrome (a.k.a. SAPS) - An illness beginning to appear in the Home Worlds which is proving to be deadly in its effect on people.
Lastly, before we embark on another adventure, I want to thank all those involved in the creation of these games. I appreciate all the hard work you've done, and hope one day, however unlikely, to play the third.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quest For Glory 1: So You Want to be a Hero - So You Want to be a Thief

Thief type characters have always held an attraction that I can't deny. I like collecting everything not nailed down. Sneaking around always seemed like the better option compared to the direct approach.
Sneaking gives me a hunchback.
However, even I have to admit there's a logical flaw in a game where the goal is to become a hero, but the main activities are sneaking around in the middle of the night stealing everyone's belongings. Especially when the victims are an innocent old lady and the town's sheriff.
I wonder if Silmaria is a future destination.
Well, first things first. I need to visit the local thieves guild and register myself so I don't get in trouble for encroaching on their turf. The manual makes mention of a thief sign to make myself known to my fellow thieves, but in the the VGA version I'm not sure how that will work at first.

Every action is mapped to a generic icon. The best candidate is the 'hand' icon, which is usually 'take' or 'use', but in this case it doubles as 'show thief sign' to the thieves in the alley. After learning the password I entered the guild located under a trap door in the tavern. I wonder if it's possible to guess the password.
Are there dues? What about benefits? Who's Jon B?
Joining the guild costs 25 gold. I receive an official license. As part of the thieves guild I now have a place to fence my pilfered goods, play a friendly throwing game, and get additional lock picks. There's also a thief's tool kit, which offers additional benefits to lock picking.
I beat "The Chief" with barely any throwing skill
Playing the throwing game requires setting the angle and force of each throw. These numbers in combination with the randomly set position on the screen you throw from (plus I'm sure throwing skill in some form) determines where the dagger will land. It's a very easy game, and you can pull in all the money you can imagine.

The Chief mentioned that there's a spy in our midst feeding information to the brigands. Since they're not union members he has quite the animosity towards them. There's a missed opportunity here, as we never get a chance to resolve who the spy is. I believe it's Bruno.
Found you!
As a thief, I have the option to sneak everywhere and for the first day I did just that. This advanced the skill to a very high level, and I started avoiding monsters. It's a nice feature and I enjoyed saving time and health.
No option to ambush them.
I was eager to sneak everywhere I went just to see how much combat I could avoid. I wasn't able to get by the ogre guarding the bear cave, but I did get the key from the kobold without rousing him.
You just stay asleep.
Well, let's get to the stealing already! The bread and butter of any thief. The whole town is ripe for the picking and I scouted out the possible locations. The butcher, the baker, the barber, the magic shop, the guild hall, the fruit stand, the healer, and the general store must offer such treasures beyond their locked doors... doors that are also barred from the inside; except for the magic shop, which is always under a watchful eye.
I tried Erasums' too. I only found a box that kept closing itself.
The only two remaining houses are the sheriff's home and the house of an innocent old lady who sleeps all day. Like I said before, I didn't feel very heroic ransacking these locations, but maybe we can convince ourselves otherwise.
Nice kitty... jaguar?
The old lady's house offered up a few bits of gold, a pair of candle sticks, and a string of pearls. Creaky stairs kept me from exploring further and the noisy bird wasn't much better. I pet the cat a bit too much and it turns into a large black jungle cat. It pounced and I found myself pinned to the floor, so I avoided that upon my reload. This left me short a few points in the end. A magic guard cat, this must be an evil witch in league with Baba Yaga. How else can she keep watch on the happenings of the town?
The only other thieving spot offers up a few treasures.
The bright blue vase is the first obvious item to take. A candelabra and music box are the next two trinkets I add to my pack; the latter gives a bit of a scary as it wakes Otto, but he fails to acknowledge my presence. The sheriff's house also has a hidden vault and I'm able to crack it without any effort from myself, just click.
Continuing my nefarious ways I attack the fox (-10 points).
What I've learned from this small stint in thieving is it's best to stay downstairs, don't go into any doors, and leave animals alone. I wish there were more locations to break into, but at least I have some treasure now. The barber's shop and jail are the most curious though. Both only say they're locked, not barred, yet trying to pick them only suggests "it doesn't work."
My collection is turned into raw gold when imported to QfG2.
I was now rather rich having won a number games against The Chief already, so I only cashed in a vase and candlesticks (I held on to the music box, candelabra, and pearls). I only got points for the first fenced find, and I thought these were nice keepsakes. I bought 9 more daggers, 2 healing potions, and 4 potions of vigor.
I practiced throwing with my new daggers.
Well stocked, I forged on without worry about grinding out my skills. I had some time to kill though so I trained up my throwing and climbing before heading to free Elsa. I spoke aloud the password and sneaked past the Minotaur with ease. It took a few minutes of failing to climb the structure before I made it over.
Apparently I didn't train enough.
I found myself in front of the Brigand Leader and used the dispel potion without giving it another thought. Elsa was free, and so was I to stare longingly at all the treasure that laid before me. I couldn't take a single item though, except for the mirror and potions on the table. All this treasure and nothing to do with it.
Ominous black bird what is your purpose?
My memory of the fourth game once again mixed me up and I anticipated being able to train my skills in the abandoned warehouse. I thought I remembered a climbing rope, throwing target, and practice locks inside. I'm also a little disappointed by only two spots for thieving, so I hope future games offer a bit more.
There's Jon B!
This game is a great start to the series, and I'm glad to finally overcome this childhood favorite. I enjoyed getting through this game each time, but all the same I'm ready to move on to the next. Having multiple avenues to travel towards solutions were appreciated (e.g. I found I could climb the mountain next to the spitting sprouts and grab the seed), and I hope the games continue in that vein. Getting through the next game will be a much greater accomplishment as I remember it not resonating with me.
Near the end, the night shows specular detail.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Quest For Glory 1: So You Want to be a Hero - So You Want to be a Fighter

If this game had a difficulty settings, then fighter is 'Easy'. If you don't want to give much thought to your actions beyond 'mash the attack button', then choose the fighter. If you just want to get through the game without a lot of side quests, then choose the fighter.
EGA graphics in all their glory!
While Magic-users have spells to gather and train, and thieves have loot to gather and sell, the fighter has the special skill of parry, which really doesn't add much benefit to combat. During my battles I found the best defense was a good offense.
Parry or just stab madly?
More often than not, holding the attack key won battles with less loss of life than trying to wrangle the controls to time parry or dodge. Even so, I did train those abilities to a respectable level in order to try to give them their due. In the end, I just spammed stab.
Parry did allow me to take out the Weapon Master though.
The fighter, or I should say the parry skill, allows the hero to train with the Weapon Master. My early days consisted of clearing out the stables, training with the Weapon Master, and fighting off waves of goblins. At 1 gold per day, it was a costly venture, but my skills at his hands raised considerably more than either of the other options.
Hey, just because I soundly trounced you doesn't mean you're a pathetic has-been.
Now that I lacked a quick way to build up stats, I was forced to train against endless waves of goblins. The training grounds there offered a slower progression, but greater rewards in gold. So much gold I was quickly weighed down, and ended up throwing much of it away.

After some time I gauged my skills advanced enough to take on the ogre outside the cave. I was correct in my assessment and found myself facing off with the bear.

Being a fighter and not turning back from a fight, I engaged the bear. I wasn't skilled enough to take him out, but I don't think it's possible to win in this case. I didn't try with max skills as I saw that fruitless. Without a calming spell I racked my brain for another means to satiate the bear; I offered him one of my food rations after he turned down the vegetables. I never did find a use for those, even the horses at the stables refused.
I also failed to use brute strength against the frost giant, even with max skills.
For the kobold, I found I didn't enter the normal combat screen when I typed 'fight', instead I pulled out my sword and sparred with him using the controls I had come accustomed to while facing the Weapon Master. Due to his constant teleporting, I found it easiest to throw rocks when he teleported away, which caused him to teleport back to directly in front of me. After a few rounds of stab and throw he disappeared and left a key behind.

So far the solutions to puzzles for a fighter have been narrowly focused on throwing (healer's ring, spitting plants), and I found Erasmus had little to offer a hero of my stature as well. I had little reason to visit 'enry, so I avoided even meeting him.
I slaughtered countless goblins.
In order to advance my skills I looked for fights at every corner, and after buying the chain mail armor I had little use for all the gold I began carrying around. Due to the weight of it all (I was carrying around massive amounts of fruit), I could only carry a small number of potions. I found the fighter added points to his score for each new creature bested in combat.
Corey, if you happen to read this, why wasn't mounting the head of a Saurus Rex in the guild hall an option? I'd love to see little details like this in Hero-U, which I'm looking forward to playing along with Trickster (or sooner).
I was trying to think of all manner of creature I could face off against. Even though the butcher dreamed of feasting on the white stag, I couldn't kill it. The dryad was equally immune to attacks, and the meeps wouldn't come out of their hidey-holes when faced with aggression. I never tried facing off with that fox in the trap though... probably wouldn't have worked anyway.
I even tried fighting the frost giant multiple ways, but even throwing rocks was a dead end.
I collected what I needed to finish the game, mandrake root, dispel potion, and the key to the secret passage. I never discovered the second note (at least I don't remember getting it), but I still managed to run across the meeting between Brutus and a random henchman brigand. Good thing too because brute strength couldn't open the door. I saw it's possible to just charge in and climb over the logs while stifling the pain of hundreds of arrows. I'd rather fight the troll in the cave though.
In-fighting brigands, who would have guessed.
I read, and spoiled myself, about the antwerp on Chet's blog. In the VGA version, you can just kind of maneuver around him and still operate the door; however, in the EGA version it didn't seem possible. So, I ended up attempting to face off with him.
Of course I'm cocky, I'm a fighter!
Well, the antwerp either got in the way or I had to fight him, which caused him to leap high in the air like a dragoon from Final Fantasy. I'm not sure I would have figured to type 'use sword' on my own, but because I read it in the recent blogs, I couldn't exactly wipe that from memory.
I think this animation was meant for a dagger. It looks like he is grabbing the sword blade. Don't try this at home kids.
Even with the foreknowledge of the password, I did the stupid fighter thing and entered headstrong in my ability to face off against the troll. It still took a couple of fights before I got the rhythm down to strike solid blows. I yanked off his beard for later and strode proudly outside where I met the minotaur.
Only two 'A's, I think you underestimate my baaadness.
Not big on small talk, the minotaur was a tough battle. I actually took him out easily the first time I faced him, but walked out towards the beginning area and died quickly since I didn't heal up. The next few fights were more difficult. Searching his body revealed some more money, which by this point is rather useless.

I found the same puzzles inside the fortress, which had slightly different timing in this version. After getting through them, I decided to try my hand against actually fighting the brigand leader. I didn't stand a chance.
In fact, I wasn't even given a chance.
Without throwing the dispel potion, a message appears that the brigand leader quickly dispatches me. Not much of a fight for a fighter. I guess the point here is that the potion is necessary.

After rescuing Elsa I made my way over to Baba Yaga. I gave the gem to the skull without learning the rhyme, but was able to type it out anyway with the text parser. There are some good things to say about not being dead ended in this way. Then again, I found that Baba Yaga greeted me in such a way as if I'd seen her before.

I'm guessing this was due to having the mirror in my possession, even though I also had the mandrake root and never met her before, so the game assumed I was at a point where I had encountered her already. My only option was to use the mirror, and I missed out on points in delivering the mandrake.
This ending isn't interactive like the VGA version, but it's also more timely.
In the end, I'm not sure which version I prefer. The added ease of use in the VGA is welcomed, but the EGA also has some charm in the control over dialogue. I'm not sure I can say one is distinctly better over the other. Another difference I noted was an empty stamina in this version didn't mean an automatic death in combat, which falls in line with the instructions, as it did in the VGA version. I wonder if that was a bug or a design decision.
Fighting it out with 0 stamina, each action now costs HP.
Well, now I've truly become the hero of Spielburg (once more), and I'm ready to start my adventure again as a thief.
All quests completed! Where did I miss those points?
The fighter was much easier to grind for stats, and I ended up maxing out most of them through basic meandering and mischief.
Bah! Who needs intelligence stuff? I crush things!
I do prefer the ending in this version, as it adds much more detail and charm to the world as we exit and set off for the next adventure.
What is Yogic?
I'm looking forward to joining Trickster for the next game in the series, which I have much less experience with. Honestly, I hated that game, but I'm ready to approach it with a fresh mind.
Oh yeah, I'm hyped!
But! First, I need to grind out a thief, and report on all the interesting things I can pick up, collect, and sell. I'm sure Hero-U has a lot of loot to not only sell, but a place to show off a collection of goodies.