April 28, 2013

[Game 036] Dragon Quest IV (NES - 1990)


After hearing the first heartwarming notes of the title song, waves upon waves of nostalgia swept o'er me, drowning me in sweet 8-bit bliss.  Dragon Quest/Warrior IV was my favourite RPG as a teen meatsack.  While Final Fantasy got more replays due to its more configurable party system, DQIV got more love due to its immersive world and adorable characters.  It also marks the first RPG I played that had five distinct chapters, making it feel so much more epic.  Each chapter stars a different character that the player controls and develops.  In the fifth and final chapter, the actual nameable main character is introduced and will eventually meet up with all the previous characters.  At the time, this completely blew my mind and I would actually eschew homework and girlfriends in order to get Taloon the merchant a couple thousand more golds.  I plan on writing an entry for each chapter, though the last (and largest) chapter will probably having multiple postings.  To pad out this inaugural posting, I'll regale y'all with a whimsical tale from my youth.

I had already played and completed DQIV once or twice before becoming friends with someone else who also had a deep infatuation for the game.  On a lark, we decided to try to complete the entire game in a single weekend.  The first night would be held at his place; the second night mine.  Sleep was not an option here and to ensure peak awareness, we kept ourselves topped up with many, many pots of heavily sugared Red Rose™ tea (resulting in an addiction that has persevered to this day).  For whatever reason, buddy's choice of music for the entire night was At the Hundredth Meridian by The Tragically Hip.  I wasn't (and never became) a fan of The Hip but after a few hours of listening to the same song, it just became part of the whole experience.  Anyway, progress went swimmingly until we reached the casino where we spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to win enough coins to get a Metal Babble Shield.  Our whole strategy lay in the double-or-nothing portion of the casino's poker game.  After a normal win in the poker part, a single card is shown and, from the remaining four face-down cards, a higher card value must be selected.  Failure results in losing everything gained up to that point.  We thought for sure we could game the system and developed pattern theories to ensure maximal success rates.  A combination of kilolitres of tea and music that had essentially transformed into white noise caused me to mispronounce pattern as "pattren" which I dutifully bellowed every time we managed to get a few successes in a row.  Of course, none of these theories panned out and I'm pretty sure we didn't get the shield.

The second night at my place held none of the enthusiasm and vigour of the first.  Sleep deprivation can be quite fun but there is a threshold that results in a plunge into sullenness after it is crossed.  Not much happened in the way of conversation and the whole attempt became more like a chore.  My only strong recollection of the night was unwillingly falling asleep for about two hours.  I barely even realized that I fell asleep and only knew because buddy was farther in the game than I had just observed (from my frame of reference).  The funny thing is that buddy didn't even realize I was asleep all that time.  Truly, sleep deprivation is a weird and wonderful state of being.  The kicker of this tale is that I'm fairly certain we still didn't finish the quest.

I'm really looking forward to experiencing DQIV again and hopefully I can give it the love and attention that it deserves (while still poking fun).

April 26, 2013

Dragon Crystal - Ranking

Story & World

Ha ha ha, oh wow.  I'll give two bonus points for amusing me so, but really — it should be zero.  2/20

Character Development

The bare bones "development" system is hardly worth mentioning, so I won't.  You can just purge your cache of that last sentence, like I will.  I did find out in my post-endgame FAQing that there is a method of increasing the character's power through an exploit.  After being drained of a level by a creature, the character's power stays the same, only the maximum HP drops.  Retaining the power boost he initially got upon attaining the level, the character gets an additional boost when he regains the lost level.  Kind of a roundabout way to control the character's development, but it works.  Too bad I assumed the level drainers did power as well as HP.  Always check your numbers, Shen!

Discovering the abilities of the special items was fairly enjoyable and some had interesting effects, such as a rod that reshapes a monster into another type.  Sometimes it's tougher, sometimes it's not.  That's the risk involved whenever the character felt like he was in a pinch and needed an out.  Even more nerve-wracking was when he was in dire straits and his only option involved using items with unknown abilities (usually resulting in death anyway).  4/20

Combat & Monsters

The combat fares a little better due to the slight tactics involved when surveying a new room and deciding if the character can handle the monsters within.  There were also some situations when the character became more thief-like and quickly nabbed an item before the monsters could swarm him.  Still, compared to most roguelikes, there are slim pickings in the tactics department but it's still better than just ramming right into every creature.  Most monsters could detect the character regardless of his location and stayed out of his line-of-sight, forcing the character to engage in melee even if he did want the option to utilize the lame missile attacks.  5/20

Graphics & Sound

Not a whole lot of variation in the graphics but I suppose they are colourful enough.  There are a whopping four different graphics for the mazes; my favourite was the forest of mushrooms.  A colossal three songs (switching every ten levels) permeate the entire game and thankfully are fairly well done.  The song for the first ten levels in particular tickled my fancy (which was good since it's where I spent most of my time).  6/20

Gameplay

Roguelikes are usually delicacies reserved for the glorious PC master race and it shows here as this is the most watered-down, depthless roguelike I've ever played.  Pretty much everything that makes a roguelike fantastic is either missing or nerfed.  At least it kept the permadeath concept intact (even though I ruined that by save stating).  That being said, it still has some roguelike qualities which are enjoyable enough and might serve to be a good introduction to the genre (heh, you have to graduate to Rogue itself).  I look forward to seeing if any future games can manage to improve on this formula.  5/20

Final Ranking:  22/100

April 21, 2013

Dragon Crystal - End Game

It's been quite the roller coaster ride with this little ditty.  The mass suckitude I perceived ebbed away somewhat during levels 20-25 only to return full force for the last 5 levels.  The key was having a fully developed character with an array of weapons and items at his disposal.  There are many swords which are powerful against certain types of enemies and they are crucial for standing any sort of chance for victory.  Dodging the strength draining creatures when they first appeared allowed the character to keep increasing his power so that encounters with later drainers where resolved much more quickly (and the character was also able to dodge far more frequently).

Oh, sorry, I mean able to
dodger far more frequently.

So, instead of being drained multiple times in a single fight, the character could now feasibly stand up to these leechers of might and perhaps only lose a single point.  Instead of being coerced to run, the character could weigh the pros and cons before deciding to engage in battle.  Some situations forced the character to enter a deadly room, such as when the exit is in it.

Or when the character is
extremely low on foods.

The room pictured above proved to be quite a conundrum.  The character couldn't just run in and take on two golden nautiluses while dodging the fireballs from the shimmering everburn trees.  Couldn't draw them out into the hallway or even get them in the character's line-of-sight for a ranged attack.  But damn, the character just could not stop looking at those two sizzling ham bones, laying there so succulently in the sand, MEAT... DRIPPING... OFF... THE BONE... *gurgle*.  The most character could do was get them in front of the entrance to the room so that he could fight them one at a time.  He figured that, at most, he'd take two hits to his strength which would be worth it for all that foods.  That was his first mistake.

His second was thinking
they were strength drainers.

The dreaded level drainers which are the bane of any RPG are (unsurprisingly, in retrospect) here and in good numbers.  The ones here, though, are mild compared to other games since only the character's maximum HP drops when drained (initially, I thought power was also drained but that was incorrect).  Thankfully, the level drainers usually were unable to hit the character often and, even if they did, they normally just did damage with no drain effect.  During the levels with encounters like these, the roguelike experience started to shine more than it had been.  Finally, there were considerations to be made instead of just having to run away.  Unfortunately, after level 25, the monster difficulty increased again and the character fell back into his old routine.  Not helping matters was the addition of a floating eyeball that can rust the character's weapon down to a piddly dagger.

Oh yeah, and throw in some more
food gobblers for good measure.

Since there is no inherent save function, I took it upon myself to allow for a save every five levels (if I deemed the current character was worth it).  This breaks the spirit of roguelikes, which usually keep it real with permadeath for characters.  On the other hand, god-tier roguelikes (such as Tales of Maj'Eyal or Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup) have scads of variation in the initial character selection, monsters, items, and environments to keep the early game interesting; Dragon Crystal is the polar opposite.  Just the mere mention of T.o.M.E. has caused me to reinstall it which will take even more time away from this project (curse you, Dragon Crystal!).  So, the character going into the last few levels had a good assortment of weapons and items, including a Dragonslayer sword which proved essential as the last two levels were jam-packed with the archetypal fantasy creature.

For those wondering, the character's
dragon buddy there never did do
anything the entire quest.

The final level just required the character to find the orb which was just randomly laying around amidst a clan of dragons.

The final boss!

The enthralling story culminated with the character being congratulated, returned to his own world, and thanked for playing.  The end.  The purpose of the dragon companion is never explained and I'm quit baffled as to why it was even included in the first place.  I suspect my original assessment of it just being there because of the title isn't far off the mark.


April 17, 2013

[Game 035] Dragon Crystal (SMS - 1990)


The third and final serving from the Master System has already failed to even come close to its mediocre predecessors.  The game opts to give no introduction of any kind; beyond the title screen lies immediate immersion into the dungeon.

Have a reason for being here?

The manual does contain the backstory which is written like a single stream of thought from the overactive imagination of a six-year-old hopped up on several litres of espresso.  It's so awesomely bad that I'll reproduce it here in its entirety.

One late afternoon, as you ride down the same old street on your bike, you see an alley you've never noticed before. You make a turn thinking it could be a shortcut home. Whistling your favorite tune, you pedal down the alley. All of a sudden, a small antique shop jumps into your sight. You park your bike and enter the musty shop. The first thing that grabs your attention is a mysterious light coming from what seems to be a crystal ball on a dust-covered shelf. You approach the crystal and gaze into it until a powerful, unknown force pulls you in...

You don't know how much time has passed or what has happened. But as you look around, you realize you're surrounded by giant flowers and you're not alone! Whenever you walk, a huge egg follows you! You wander around for awhile wondering if you are just dreaming or if all of this is really happening. When you turn around, you see a couple of nasty looking green blobs and vicious green frogs trying to attack you! The only thing you can do now is fight! Luckily, you find a dagger. With a couple of stabs you destroy the beasts. You walk around some more and pick up various items - from weapons to magic potions - scattered about. You eventually find out that this strange world is nothing but an intricate maze crawling with frightful creatures!

You must successfully exterminate the ferocious beasts - or else you can never escape from this tormenting nightmare!

The last line reminds me so much of the last line in my own prologue except it's not lame when I'm doing it because I'm being ironic or sarcastic or something.  Anywho, after that gripping intro story, it becomes clear within minutes that the generically named Dragon Crystal is nothing more than a graphical roguelike.  Everything is randomized, including the very first room the character starts in (I'll be referring to the character as "the character" because there's not enough substance here to make me want to Shen it up).  Sometimes there'll be a sword upgrade guarded by a single monster (see above pic) or sometimes it'll be a vast hall of treasures and monsters.

The character will have a chance if he
can make it to those swords before
the enemies swarm his ass.

Exploration consists of wandering corridors and rooms, looking for the exit to the next level.  There can't be too much wandering, however; a food system is in place to make sure the character doesn't dilly-dally.  Once food reaches zero (and it will), the character starts losing HP instead of gaining; he has a natural regeneration fueled by foodstuffs.  I rather like having this impetus to keep the character searching for more rooms in hopes of finding breads and meats, as well as other loot.  There's a good number of special items that can be used: scrolls, potions, rings, and rods.  Whenever one of these item types are initially found, they are shown as being a certain colour.  Only after it is used does the effect become known.  If the character finds more of the same type, it's colour descriptive is replaced with something a little more informative.  The colours are randomized each game so they can't just be memorized.  Both the food system and colour-coded items are staples of roguelike games so it's no surprise to see it incorporated here.  It's just too bad the game fails when it comes down to the finer details of what makes a good roguelike.

Rogue: the original roguelike.

The ratio of eventless corridors to eventful rooms is dreadful in DC and, to make matters worse, many hallways are dead ends.  Notice how original Rogue manages to get corridor use just right; they are generally used to connect the rooms (you know, where the GAME actually takes place).  Later levels in Rogue have some tricksy hallways but it's not overdone.

Compare and contrast to
this shitload of fuck.

At later levels, creatures start appearing that can drain food or strength with each hit.  Battles with these beasts usually results in taking multiple hits, which can cripple the character to the point of no return.  The food shortage isn't too bad as long as there is some food nearby (relying on random is usually a bad idea, though).  The strength drain is far worse as it appears to be permanent.  Taking around 10 hits will render the character unable to compete with the regular monsters of the level.  Might as well reset at that point.  Forget killing them at a distance since there are no reusable missile weapons.  The character can chuck old swords and armours but these often miss and do little damage anyway.  So draining creatures are to be avoided, which is fine except that creatures with that ability become more numerous as the character delves deeper until he's pretty much having to avoid everything.  Throw in some ranged attacks that drain and the character is left with very little room to maneuver.

And top it all off with a
grammar fail.  Just lovely.

In case of death, the game does allow limited continues as long the character has found enough gold.  Additionally, all special items gathered up to that point will be lost as well.  This can be useful in earlier stages but at later stages the character will either be too strength-drained to make continuing matter, or the loss of all special items will make any further progress very difficult.  Really, it would have been better to forget about the continues and just have shops like a real roguelike.

Continue after being drained
of half his strength?  PASS!

One final bitch.  Notice that brown smudge that follows the character around?  That's a dragon which hatched from an egg and has been getting bigger as the character gains levels.  It doesn't do anything, though.  I was hoping it'd help out in combat once out of its shell but nope.  I assume it'll do something at the end but why bother having it follow the character?  Is he suppose to bond with something that does nothing other than shadow him?  Whatever, I'll assume it's just there to give validity to the dragon in Dragon Crystal.  Not that I should be using any form of the word valid around DC.

April 13, 2013

Pool of Radiance - Ranking

Story & World

The progression from lowly tenderfoots to grand heroes is strong within this game.  This is largely due to how much choice there is in which quests to do and even how much of a particular quest to do.  The many dialogue and interaction decisions also lets one roleplay their chosen alignment if they so choose.  Indeed, the characters could choose to turn against New Phlan at any point by simply attacking any of the NPCs there.  Tyranthraxus even gives the option for the characters to join him at the end, which results in the destruction of New Phlan.  I was playing all Lawful- and Neutral-Good-aligned characters so I rarely acted like a dink (except for one encounter where we bluffed our way past a guard patrol by acting tough).  In fact, one of the reasons we kept Magician around was because we felt driven to help the poor bastard out.  Anywho, the overall effect of all this gives the party the sense of determining their own destiny and not being forced to have to have good triumph over evil.

Being able to include computer-controlled NPCs in the party is a nice touch, though I wish it was fleshed out a little more.  Most don't stay around for very long, usually leaving whenever the party exits the area.  In addition to the static NPCs found in the game, there is an option in New Phlan to hire a more expendable one.  I was never able to utilize any of them, however; I assume they can only be placed in one of the first five slots that are taken up by the main characters.  The sixth open slot seems to be reserved only for static NPCs.  A shame, really, since for most of the game, that sixth slot is barren.  Despite my character's good-natured hearts, I would have liked having a redshirt around, mostly for the lulz.  Better than nothing, though, and the NPCs that did join us were amusing in their own right (oh, Magician, I'll never forget you).  16/20

Character Development

As one would expect from the D&D franchise, character development should be quite important, even though here it lacks the feats that would be available in later versions of D&D.  Unfortunately, only so much of what makes D&D great can be duplicated in a video game with the NES's limitations.  The only real choices are made by the magic-users when they get a free spell pick after gaining a level (clerics have access to all the spells that their level allows).  Most spells are quite useless anyway and only one or two for each spell level end up being of any use.  Fighters just get to hit easier and the thief skills are rarely used (and, even then, it was usually disarm traps).

Equipping the party with armaments starts out promising enough with a slew of classic weapons to choose from but it soon becomes apparent that most of them function the same.  When the characters start acquiring magical items, the majority of them are just of the "plus" variety, increasing hit chances and damage or decreasing armour class.  A bunch of scrolls and a few wands are thrown in but just duplicate spell effects, which is fine as they function as a reservoir in case memorized spells run out.  But come on, where's my Bag of Holding or my Deck of Many Things5/20

Combat & Monsters

The combat system has both good and bad aspects about it, and the bad aspects are mainly due to me being ruined by the superior PC version.  On its own, the highly tactical combats are fantastic, especially compared with previous games that have a lot of button mashing involved.  Movement and position play a huge role for success in battle as well as smart usage of status-affecting spells.  Monsters aren't entirely stupid, either; given enough room they'll do things like run around the front line to get at the juicy mages and/or clerics in the back row (didn't affect me so much with all my dudes being multiclassed fighters).  They'll also attempt to flee if things are going badly or will just outright surrender.  The monsters themselves are a diverse bunch and a lot of them are staples of the AD&D universe, from ankhegs to zombies.  I'm not sure of the validity of trolls hanging out with kobolds, but I guess I could see it happening.

A few combat features from the PC version are sorely missed here.  Thieves (at least multi-classed thieves) don't get a back-stab option in combat, reducing tactical options for that character.  The option to delay a character's action until the end of the round is present but made fairly pointless by not interrupting an incoming attack.  That is, the incoming enemy will get their attack in first before the delaying character, which also decreases tactical use of that option.  Opportunity of attacks also work differently in this version and only come into play when a character or monster moves completely away from a foe.  This allows a character to run circles around the enemy, so to speak, with no fear of reprisal.  If I recall correctly, the PC version gave an opportunity of attack for any movement within the opponent's zone of control.  Still, I won't hold these deficiencies too much against the NES version; the combat system is still great for the platform.  17/20

Graphics & Sound

Wow, what's with all the brown, PoR?  So much brown.  Going for a gritty look, are we?  Well, that's admirable but stupid.  Even the character portraits are heavy on the earth tones and the whole game looks quite drab.  Let's also not forget the inexcusable omission of a fireball graphic (perfect chance to use some freaking bright red!).  However, there is good variation in the graphical layout for each area, even going to the length of darkening the overall scheme when night falls.  The music follows along with the graphics.  It's there but fairly uninspired and not really fitting in most of the scenes.  6/20

Gameplay

Just as in the PC version, the economy breaks early and this time the party can carry as much cash money as they can find.  The problem lies in that there isn't too much to purchase.  Magic weapons are always found and the only thing that costs a lot in town are the clerics, who charge thousands of golds for their services (even then, I didn't need them all that often).  Gems can also be found and sold one at a time for a random amount but, again, these didn't come into play and I had hundreds of them by the end.

The open-endedness of the game is truly one of the biggest positives of PoR.  Is a certain area too tough?  Fuck it and come back in a few levels; it ain't going anywhere.  Or double fuck it and never come back.  PoR doesn't care.  That's just how it rolls.  It might even be a good idea to leave some quests out of the mix if one was planning to replay with a more difficult party configuration.  Five mages would be really tough at first but the power of a quint-fireball cannon just boogles the mind.

Controls weren't nearly as bad as I thought they were going to be (again, ruined by the PC version's keypad controls).  However, performing diagonal movement was a right pain in the arse.  Thankfully, if the missed direction would have a character instead attacking an ally, the game gives the player a chance abort the order and try again (and I still sometimes managed to screw up and give the affirmative, much to Davros's chagrin).  14/20

Final Ranking:  58/100

April 10, 2013

Pool of Radiance - End Game

The whole purple, non-balled fireballs ended up annoying me more than it probably should have.  Lack of reds and yellows, as well as the sound of crackling flames, reduced the mighty fireball to a generic area-damaging spell.  I still used the spell quite considerably but my initial hardness for it softened down to about half-mast.

Yeah, fireball is okay... but just okay.

I think I've spent enough time talking about fireballs so let's move on, shall we?  The quests dished out kept with the motif of genociding a certain area of monsters, but as the characters gained levels and tackled bigger challenges, little tidbits of information alluded to a much bigger threat.  Someone (or someTHING!) known only as "The Boss" is gathering forces to try to stomp out New Phlan.  I really like how PoR handled revealing the main quest.  The little snippets of the bigger picture were mostly made apparent through finding letters that various monstrous factions had sent each other.  It's a nice change from getting information the normal way, via NPCs.  It gave the feeling that we had slowly stumbled into something much grander than just killing hundreds of goblins like we had been doing.

Nice try, goblins, but slaves generally
aren't armed to the teeth.

More than that, it really felt like if we just stopped questing that events would continue to unfold without us.  This is rare as most RPGs do their darndest to make the main characters the focal point of the entire story.  In PoR (as in a well-run AD&D campaign), the party must earn their reputation as they earn their levels.  With my party full of multiclassers, levels didn't come very rapidly and we were all quite scared of the level-drainers that we knew dwelled in the graveyard (one of the later quest areas).  Even though we had Restoration spells on hand, they don't grant back 100% of the lost experience points, just enough to bring the xp total to the bare minimum required for the level that had been lost.  This means thousands of xp can still be lost, even more so for all us multis.  So the graveyard was off-limits until we got all the fireballs happening.  Thankfully, encounters with soul-draining undead were not all that frequent and mostly consisted of just skeletons and zombies.  The most often encountered drainer was the wight, which always appeared with ghouls, which themselves were always placed in front of the wights.  This allowed us to whip our fireballs off into the wights as the ghouls got in their way.

Wights are coloured cyan because didn't
you always picture wights to be cyan?

While wandering around the hallowed grounds, we met a kindly old magic-user named Magician.  He told us the location of the master vampire and implored us to help him destroy it.  We were going to do that anyway so we let him join us.  He quickly became the comic relief for the group.  In combat, he would attempt one of three spells: Sleep, Stinking Cloud, or Fireball.  Sleep and Stinking Cloud don't work on undead and Magician kept forgetting about it.

Oh, you!

Even when he decided to fireball, most times he would abort it as well since we'd often be in melee.  OR, he'd toss it off anyway and hit one of us.  Anyway you slice it, Magician blows hardcore but I'll be damned if we didn't pick him up each and every time we came back to the 'yard.  Yeah, that's right, we had to pick him up because he refused to come back to town with us.  I thought it odd that a magic-user armed with such useless spells would choose to stay in the graveyard by himself.  Instead of staying in character and suspecting something was amiss, I chalked it up to the game trying to limit the usage of these NPCs (as had happened with others).  The fog was lifted from my eyes after we came across the vampire and, to my shock and dismay, we learned that Magician was in cahoots with him!

And to think we humoured him all this time.

However, we had a little trick up our sleeves as well.  In our possession we had a bottle that contained an efreet named Samir Ahwahl that we had picked up from a kobold cave many quests ago.  As a sworn enemy of the vampire, he popped out of his glassy abode and joined us on the battlefield.  With his help, we made short work of the vampire (who thankfully missed with all his level-draining attacks) and his minions.  Even as I dispatched the traitorous Magician, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor booger.

Kids, don't get involved with the
undead.  You'll just end up with
efreets all up in yo' grill.

While the majority of quests had the overarching goal of total elimination of all bads, most also served up a little flavour as described in the story above.  This was enough to persuade me to do every single quest available (also because our party was so hungry for xp).  I had originally intended to just skip the graveyard but I'm glad I did because Magician was such a card (and I wanted to see Samir in action).  The final quest involved striking at the source of the monster infestation, Valjevo Castle, where final boss Tyranthraxus hung out.  Presumably, the Pool of Radiance would be there as well since it had barely been mentioned the entire game.  Valjevo Castle was a humongous four times bigger than any other area and had a large hedge maze in its inner keep.  Many giant creature types inhabited the castle and while fireballing their asses didn't kill them off, it did whittle them down enough for an easy slaying in melee.  Well, all of them except for the fire giants, which were immune to flaming balls.  Luckily, they weren't immune to clouds of stank and so were only a trifle more difficult than other giants.  The entrance to the hedge maze required a password which we initially did not have, although Davros tried to bluff our way past in his usual jocular manner.

Being level drained taught Davros nothing.

The hedge maze itself was quite a pain.  I mapped out part of it but hit a teleporter and got lost.  We found our way out again and this time just tried the tried, tested, and true technique of keep left or keep right, but to no avail.  Following our gut instincts (i.e. random wandering) was the key as we found a secret door that led up into a tower and Tyranthraxus.  Even as we approached the final boss, the game continued giving us interesting little encounters.  Before finding the secret door, we had some dialogue with a fake Tyranthraxus in which we blew his cover and he got embarrassed and asked our permission to just be able to leave (we consented).  In the room right before Tyranthraxus, we met his right-hand man, Genheeris, who, again via dialogue options, offered to join us as he suspected T-Bone was going to betray him.  We had learned our lesson from Magician, though, and stabbed his face off.  Even Tyranthraxus had some words for us and offered to let us join him.  Refusal resulted in him sending a horde of high level fighters against us and we really had to work the stinking cloud and hold person spells as they each had close to 90 HP.  Never was I happier to have each character a spell caster than during this pitched battle.  We took some hits, though, and had to use and reuse the option to continue the battle after they were defeated in order to heal up, suspecting that we would be immediately launched into the final fight after this one.  A little unrealistic but we figured we'd need every advantage we could get going up against Tyranthraxus Rex.  This rung true as the bronze dragon's first action was to engulf Davros with his fiery breath.  Davros survived, thanks to the ring of fire resistance he wore, but he was still down to two HP.

*sizzle* *crackle* Ugh, you
ain't so hot, Tyran... *gasp*

Knowing that most of our spells would be pretty useless against a bronze dragon, we surrounded Tyranthraxus and commenced the pummelling.  Thankfully, he didn't target Davros again and actually spread out most of his attacks amongst the rest of the group.  This failure of basic tactics led to his destruction (missing with every attack other than the initial one also helped — go go negative armour class!).  Just when we thought it was over, the spirit of Tyranthraxus rose from the Pool of Radiance (oh hey, there it is!) and bragged about being immortal and how he was so going to take over our bodies.  Fortunately, his boss, the evil god Bane, came and took him away because of his failure.

Yeah, I don't think so, Tyranthraxus.
Buh-bye now.

We returned to New Phlan, received a phat award of xp and golds, and yet the game didn't necessarily have to end here.  The option to continue was given to finish up any quests that remained or just wander around and do whatever.  This marks the first time that the final boss isn't really the final boss.  One could feasibly do half the quests, kill Tyranthraxus, and then complete the rest.  This rather odd aspect of the game was due to plans to be able to export the characters into the next chapter of the saga, Curse of the Azure Bonds, via a very long password (144 characters for each party member!).  Unfortunately, the sequel was never made for the NES and what could have been the most epic RPG for the system was squelched.  Still, Pool of Radiance is an epic adventure on its own merits and such a loss should not be lamented — too much. 


April 04, 2013

Pool of Radiance - Great Balls of Fire

Just like a clucker with a crack pipe, I'm having a hard time resisting blazing this shit up.  Just when combats were starting to get a little, teensy-tiny bit stale, the fireballs sizzled their way in and cranked up the spice by several million Scoville units.  Temujin was the first to be able to master his passion and summon up the balls of a hundred fire giants.  With his single casting of fireball, we were able to take on monsters that were previously too difficult.  This meant a large increase in the XP we were getting from random encounters (much welcomed by our group of multiclassers).

Break out the chipotle steak sauce!

Vast throngs of creatures fell before our mighty tri-cannon of blazing fury.  Pinpoint accuracy ensured that even when embroiled in melee, none of the flamage ever reached us.

I like how Zeelus is confident enough to keep
his back turned on the kobold swarm.

The only bad thing about fireball, as you can see, is that it's:
  1. Purple
  2. Not a ball.
The Klingon Empire symbol there is the icon used for any magic attack that takes form as a missile.  While I'm willing to forgive such a lazy design choice in theory, why wouldn't the default choice look like a fireball?  I mean, anyone who has played PoR knows that once fireballs are available, it's the spell that's going to be displayed 99.9% of the time.  At least make it red, dammit!

At least there's no performance issues.

So yeah, I'm barrelling on through all these quests but wanted to give a short update before reaching endgame.  As long as we don't come across any fire-immune creatures, we should be just fine; at the time of this posting, we have a maximum of five fireballs locked, loaded, and ready to unleash hell on Faerûn.