Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Game of Dungeons v8: Two Down...

I took me ten months to complete Whisenwood Dungeon.  A lesser (or perhaps I should say wiser) person would have quit a long time ago.  The second dungeon, thankfully, took me just one month, and it's all thanks to the Potion of Astral Form.

Seriously, from now on I am going to read the documentation thoroughly before I start a game.  The Game of Dungeons has been running in the background for almost a year of this blog, and there's no doubt that it's seriously impeded my progress.  Now the end is in sight, and it's all because the Potion of Astral Form allows me to map in near-total safety.  If I'd been paying attention, I'd have realised that a lot sooner.

The second dungeon of the game (although you can tackle them in any order, and switch between all three whenever you want) is the Tomb of Doom.  The goal at the bottom is the Grail, which is guarded by a Vampire.  The documentation is vague regarding the Vampire's abilities, and whether he's stronger than the game's regular vampires.  As you'll see later, I never really found out.  The cursory nature of combat in this game makes it hard to know exactly how strong your enemies are.  Either you kill them, or they kill you.  There are no drawn out fights, which is a blessing and a curse.  (In a game of this length and difficulty, I would say it's more of a blessing.)

The maps are more complex in the Tomb of Doom than they were in Whisenwood.  The trick they most often rely on is repetition: lots of interlocking areas that appear exactly the same.  This is especially effective in The Game of Dungeons, because moving from one level to another always puts you in a random location.  Getting lost is easy, and even with a map getting your bearings can be difficult.  Here's an example of what I'm talking about, level 21 of the Tomb:

As you can see, it's repetitive as hell, and super-frustrating to map.  Without the Potion of Astral Form it would have taken me hours.  In addition to the repetition, pretty much all of the doors are one-way; you can pass through in the direction of the arrow, but you can't go back through from the other side.

Below is a map of level 19 of the Tomb, which may be the single most difficult RPG maze I have ever had the misfortune to encounter:

Seriously, just look at that thing.  How do you even make sense of it?  It's nothing but walls that exist on one side but not on the other, and I found it almost impossible to keep my bearings while exploring.  Without the Potion of Astral Form I'd have had no chance.  I very nearly gave up on mapping it, until my stubborn streak kicked in and I refused to be defeated.  I ended up mapping it systematically, starting in the bottom left corner and mapping row by row.  I'm not convinced that it's perfect, but it's as good as it's going to get.

Finding the Grail proved to be a bit more difficult than the Fountain at the bottom of Whisenwood, mostly due to the nature of Tomb level 30.  The tricky thing about this level is that it's loaded with transporters that send you back to level 29.  It's hard to move more than a few steps without stumbling into one.  I got it mapped eventually, but I know I haven't marked down every transporter on the level.  I got enough that I can navigate the map, but even on my last game I walked through one that I had missed.

With the mapping done, it was time to make a run for the Grail.  I was being extremely cautious; just as I had been using the Potion of Astral Form to help me map, I wasn't going to explore Level 30 without a Potion of Revival.  This meant grinding for treasure occasionally between forays, but it's worth it.  Even with the Potion of Revival dying is a setback: you lose all of your equipment, as well as a point of Endurance (which can result in a significant drop in hit points).  That said, it's better than losing your character altogether.  (Also, I've just realised something: it's possible that if I have to use a Potion of Revival from now on, I might lose the Grail.  I'll have to keep an eye on that.)

For my first ten forays into the dungeon, I wasn't able to find the Grail.  I'm not sure if it moves around like the Fountain, or if it's location is fixed.  With perma-death in effect, I'm not about to go back in to find out.  My character actually died on one my tenth foray: teleporting back to the surface backfired on me a few times, and I ran out of spell power on level 13.  I tried in vain to navigate my way out the old fashioned way, but without magic I was losing hit points with every battle, and I had to walk through slimes rather than kill them.  I didn't make it, but my Revival Potion saved me.  I lost all of my gear, one point of Endurance and about 100 hit points, but my caution had saved my character.

I'd like to say that the final, successful foray I made was the stuff of legend, but it was something of an anticlimax.  I stumbled across the Grail and the Vampire in the upper left of the map, and without thinking I cast the cleric spell Holy Word.  The Vampire died instantly, I claimed the Grail, and then I teleported back to the surface.  It's hard to get a good story out of it, you know?

So that's another dungeon down, but I feel more relieved than excited by it.  It will be a massive weight off my shoulders to put this game behind me.  I just mapped level 17 of the Caverns, so I'm well on the way.  As long as I can avoid stupid mistakes, I'm on the home stretch.  Thank fuck.