Saturday, January 30, 2016

Game 11: Dungeon Campaign (1978)

Dungeon Campaign, designed by Robert Clardy, was release by Synergistic Software in 1978 (a date confirmed by Clardy himself, despite the copyright on the title screen saying 1979).  Much like Beneath Apple Manor (which I played previously), it's a maze-based dungeon exploration game, almost a proto-Roguelike.  The game was explicitly based on Dragon Maze, which was one of the programming examples given in the Apple II documentation.  Dragon Maze featured a randomly drawn maze, and the goal of the game was to escape before the titular dragon caught you.  It's not hard to see the influence.

A screen shot from Dragon Maze.

I wasn't able to find a manual for Dungeon Campaign (assuming that one ever existed).  The closest there is to a backstory is this, taken from the back of the game box:  "Dungeon Campaign is a game of high adventure wherein the player directs an expeditionary force as it ventures into an underground labyrinth.  The catacombs are filled with treasures and hazards, poisonous vapors and evil necromancers, stairways and pitfalls, sorcerous devices and an incredible assortment of monstrous inhabitants.  The dungeon's monsters may pursue or wait in ambush.  They have a variety of powers, strengths and modes of attack, and they become increasingly dangerous in battle as lower levels are reached.  As the secrets of the dungeon are uncovered by your force, a color-coded map is generated until you find your way safely out with your treasures."  It's pretty self-explanatory, and about all that's needed for a game of this type.


The game begins by generating all four levels of the dungeon.  They're generated on the screen right in front of you, meaning that people with a good memory (or a quick drawing-hand, or a screen cap) will be able to navigate more easily.  Not that it makes much difference; the stairs up and down aren't marked, so even if you know every detail of the maze you still won't know where to go.  The only level worth memorising is the fourth, because the exit is clearly marked at the bottom of the screen.

Generating the map.

You control a party of 15 men, as well as one elf and one dwarf.  The influence of early Dungeons & Dragons is strongly felt here, as in those days the game was geared towards larger parties with lots of hirelings and henchmen.  The number of men you have determines how strong you are in combat, and also doubles as a form of hit points.  When all your men are dead, the game is over.  I never lost all of my men during the course of a legitimate game.  I managed to get to the death screen shown below, but I really had to work at it.

"Hmm, where is it... birthday, get well, wedding... 
Ah, here we go, dungeon massacre."

Movement in the game takes some getting used to.  Instead of using the arrow keys, you have to press L, R, U and D for Left, Right, Up and Down.  Thankfully the game is turn-based, so fumbling over the keys rarely results in anything drastic or fatal.

There are plenty of hazards to be found in the game.  The most common are monsters, which appear next to you before they attack.  Some are faster than you, but there are others that you can escape from simply by moving in a different direction.  There's a decent variety of monsters: orcs, skeletons, basilisks, cyclopses, and the usual assortment of D&D-inspired beasties.  There doesn't appear to be much of a difference between any of them.  There's no tactical component to combat at all: you simply take turns attacking until one side is dead.  The main novelty is that you attack by hitting the space bar as numbers scroll by at the bottom of the screen.  It gives at least a small feeling that you're able to influence the battle, even if in practice the numbers go too quickly.  Monsters can kill anywhere between 1 and 3 men a round, while the party needs two successful attacks to wipe out any band of monsters.

(When the game begins, your strength in battle is equal to the number of men you have.  I noticed that after winning one battle this number is doubled, and after winning another it is tripled.  The multiplier increases for every battle you win, which is a nice simple method of advancement.)

Triumphing over some werewolves.

Also fairly common are the various dangers that can transport you to different levels, or to a different place on the same level.  Pits will dump you on a lower level.  You can also wake up a Necromancer or a Pteridactyl (sic) that will teleport you.  None of these are particularly worrying.  Dropping a level or two just brings you closer to the exit on level 4, and none of the levels are particularly more dangerous than the others.  Being transported back to an earlier level is more irritating, especially when you are trying to escape level 4.  You can avoid these dangers by using the jump command to skip over the square they are on.

The most interesting dangers encountered are the special monsters that awaken if you linger for too long on the same level.  On the first two levels you will awaken a dragon, which is easy to avoid.  Level three features a giant serpent, which moves around in real time and is a bit more difficult to get away from.  Level four's boss is a spectre, which can move through walls and makes a beeline directly for your party.  This guy is pretty much impossible to get away from, unless you're able to climb some nearby stairs.  Fortunately, none of these monsters is all that deadly.  If one of them touches you, it drags away one of your men (the dragon eats two).  Losing one guy isn't that big a deal unless you're numbers are already depleted.

In addition to the various monsters, there are gas traps.  When you stumble into one a countdown begins, and you have to escape before it counts down to zero.  The timer never resets, so if it goes down to 3 before you escape, it will start at 3 if you go back into the gas.  If you are caught in the gas when the timer reaches zero, one of your men will die every second.

Being gassed to death.

Treasure (measured in "quadroons") can be hard to find, but persistence pays off.  As far as I can tell, you find treasure by using the Search command, but there are no clues as to it's location.  I've only been able to find treasure by hitting Search on every square I pass through, and hoping for the best.  A strange quirk of the game that I've noticed is that some treasures become visible when you are transported back to a level that you've already explored.  I'm not sure why, but it's a handy way of tracking it down.

The only mystery remaining in this game is the dwarf that accompanies the party.  I think I have the elf figured out; normally when you move next to a hazard you are warned about it, and I stopped getting those warnings after my elf died.  I haven't had a game where the dwarf died, though, so I'm a but mystified.  (A look over at CRPG Addict tells me that if the dwarf dies, your automap stops updating.  Sounds unpleasant.)

Dungeon Campaign isn't a great game, but it does have its merits.  Probably the greatest of these is that it's short: a game should only take around ten to twenty minutes.  Like most primitive RPGs, it is focused more on the resource management elements of early D&D, and less on tactical combat and story.  It does well for what it is, but it's not likely to command your attention for long.

Final Rating:

Story & Setting: None and none.  Oh, I guess it does have a setting, but a featureless four-level maze is hardly the stuff of legends.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: There are no characters to speak of, and most of the monsters are distinguishable by name only.  The special monsters that appear are cool, but not cool enough to merit an extra point.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: It's a Lo-Res Apple game, so it's rather more functional than pretty.  There are some well-placed sound-effects, such as the fanfare when you escape the dungeon, and the ascending and descending  scales when you go up or down stairs.  Still, it's primitive stuff.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: The game does what it does very well, but it's awfully simplistic.  There are no tactics to combat, and not much to the other dangers either.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Challenge: I found it quite difficult to die in this game, which is unusual for games of this vintage.  It's also quite a short game, and making it to the exit on level 4 poses little trouble.  The main challenge comes from locating treasure, and even that's not too hard.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: As one of the first RPGs I have to score it highly, but most of what it does isn't carried forward by later games in the genre.  Rating: 5.

Fun: It is amusing for a short time, but as I said above, it didn't hold my interest for long.  It's main strength is that a game doesn't take very long.  Rating: 3.

No bonus point for Dungeon Campaign, as I doubt I'll play it again.  The scores above add up to 16, for a final score of 32.

Final Rating: 32 out of 100.


Somewhat later in this blog I made the decision to overhaul my Final Rating system, so I'm going back through and fixing all of the games I've already played as of March 2020.  I've ditched the Innovation and Influence category, and replaced it for adventure games with a category for Puzzles.  I've also changed the purpose of the bonus points, saving them for games that are important, innovative, influential, or have features that are otherwise not covered by my other categories.

Also, the Final Rating is a boring name.  The CRPG Addict has his GIMLET.  The Adventure Gamers have their PISSED rating.  Data Driven Gamer has his harpoons.  So I'm ditching the generic name and calling my new system the RADNESS Index: the Righteous Admirability Designation, Numerically Estimating Seven Scores. It's a pretentious mouthful, but I'm going with it.

Combat: You can flee by moving away from monsters, or press space bar over and over again to attack. That's the extent of combat in this game, and no amount of scrolling numbers at the bottom can give the illusion that there's any more to it.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 1. It's an approach to D&D-style computer games that had it's own style, one more related in its war-gaming roots.  It's ultimately something of an evolutionary dead end, but the novelty nets it a point.

Dungeon Campaign's RADNESS Index is 25. That puts it second from the bottom, and makes it the lowest-rated of the CRPGs. It was definitely the simplest CRPG I'd played on the blog to this point.

NEXT: Next I'll be tackling the text adventure Voyage to Atlantis, which has the distinction of having been programmed by a twelve-year-old boy.  I'm looking forward to this one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pirate Adventure: Victory!

Well, that didn't take long.

At the end of my last post, I had just constructed a pirate ship and was ready to sail to Treasure Island.  I took a break there, because I had assumed that the bulk of the game lay ahead of me.  As it turned out, there were only a few locations left to explore, and just a couple of puzzles to deal with.

Treasure Island consisted of a mere four locations: the beach where my ship landed, a graveyard, a barren field, and a monastery.  (This was incorrectly spelled as "monastary" but I'm going to have to stop now when it comes to pointing out bad spelling in text adventure games.  I'll just say that there's a lot of it to come, and leave it at that for the sake of my own sanity.)

Before I took off for Treasure Island, I made a point of loading my ship with every inventory item I could find.  Everything from maps to tools to a parrot to a mongoose to a big pile of sand got shoved in the cargo hold.  I was convinced I would need it all.  The pirate from earlier in the game, who was now serving as my sole crew member, refused to take off so long as the magic book was aboard.  The book was the only way I had of returning to my flat in London, so I was reluctant to leave it behind.  I had no choice in the matter, so it became the sole item left on Pirate Isle as I set sail.

I disembarked on Treasure Island, and the pirate followed me into the beach.  He looked expectant, but at this point I had nothing for him, so I headed south.

He didn't follow me into the graveyard, which was full of broken glass for some reason.  I did a bit of digging with my shovel, and turned up some moldy bones, which I dutifully added to my inventory.  I considered trying to rebury them, but couldn't come up with any verbs that would work.  The upside of having a simple two-word parser is that you can rule out any actions that seem too complicated.

I headed east, into a barren field.  There was nothing here, and digging didn't help.  There was nothing for it but to head north.

There I found a monastery, and the first of the treasures I needed: a pile of "dubleons".  (Funnily enough, if you google this spelling of the word, a walkthrough for Pirate Adventure is one of the first hits.)  Alas, they were being guarded by some deadly mambas, and any attempt to get them resulted in my death.

My first instinct here was to release my mongoose; as soon as this guy showed up in the game I knew there would be snakes.  It was a red herring though.  My mongoose was actually a squirrel, and the snakes poisoned him to death.  This was a momentary head-scratcher, but then I remembered back to the snake in Colossal Cave Adventure, which was dispersed by a bird.  I threw my parrot at the snakes, and sure enough it drove them away.  The "dubleons" were mine, and I had just one more treasure to claim for success.


There weren't any places I hadn't explored, and there was no obvious location for the second treasure.  I tried digging everywhere.  I tried dying, and dropping the mouldy bones in Never Never Land.  Nothing worked.  It was only when I started examining my inventory that I remembered the treasure map, and the message scrawled on it: "30 paces then dig!"  I was in the graveyard at the time, and I typed GO 30.  Rather to my surprise, I got a positive response, but upon digging I found nothing.  When I tried the same thing in the barren field, though, I found the second treasure: a set of rare stamps.

I still can't quite believe this worked.

With both treasures in my possession, all I had left to do was to return to my flat in London.  For this, though, I would need the book, and the book was back on Pirate Isle.  I couldn't sail back, because the pirate was waiting around on the beach for some sort of payment.  The solution was actually quite simple: all I had to do was dig on the beach, which uncovered a cache of rum.  The pirate drank some, then went for a nap in the graveyard.  I woke him up, we sailed back to Pirate Isle, I used the book to return to London, and placed both treasures in my living room.

Totally worth it.

So that's the underwhelming ending to Pirate Adventure.  I shouldn't complain too much about it, as I only devoted about three hours to the game in total.  A short game can get away with a lackluster finish.

All in all, I feel like Pirate Adventure is a very slightly better effort than Scott Adams' first game, Adventureland.  The progressive structure makes it feel like it has a more in-depth story, even though it doesn't.  My only real complaint is that the game felt far too short, and too easy.  I was just gearing up for it, and it was over.  I'm interested to see where this falls in my ratings, so let's do it.


Story & Setting: The progression of this game from London, to Pirate Isle, to Treasure Island made it feel like there was a story, but in retrospect it was just another treasure hunt.  The pirate vibe was refreshing, and the setting was much more cohesive than that of Adventureland.  I'm tempted to rate it higher than that game, but that would put it on equal footing with Colossal Cave Adventure, which doesn't feel quite right: the setting of Colossal Cave had a lot more atmosphere.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: The annoying parrot and the wicked-looking pirate are the sole characters in this game, with some snakes and crocodiles serving as obstacles to victory.  The pirate shows a bit of personality, but his one character trait is "pirate", so I can't exactly award extra points for that.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: It's a text adventure game with no sounds and minimal descriptions.  The pirate setting gives it a modicum of atmosphere, but not enough to elevate it.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: This has exactly the same parser and screen layout as Adventureland, but despite its simplicity it works very well at what it sets out to do.  I rarely had trouble figuring out which verb to use in a given situation, and that's always a bonus for me in any text adventure.  Rating: 4 out of 7.

Challenge: This game was short, and it was easy.  Perhaps I have an advantage in that I've played the only two text adventure games that precede this one, but none of the puzzles troubled me for more than about ten minutes.  I like my games to be a bit more challenging.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: This one is a bit hard to gauge.  It's a very early game in the text adventure style, and it's the first such game in the pirate milieu.  That said, it's derivative of Adventureland, and doesn't offer much new aside from the setting and some structural flourishes.  I think I'll split this one right down the middle.  Rating: 4 out of 7.

Fun: Again, the brevity and ease of this game bring it down.  It started well, and never became frustrating, but it didn't last long enough to really engage me.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

I won't be returning to this one, so it doesn't get the bonus point.  The scores above add up to 17, which doubled gives a score of 34.

Final Rating: 34 out of 100.  This puts it significantly below Adventureland, which was unexpected.  I guess the areas in which it exceeded that game weren't improved enough to gain it extra points, and it lost out on innovation, challenge and fun.  At least it rated higher than Space.


Somewhat later in this blog I made the decision to overhaul my Final Rating system, so I'm going back through and fixing all of the games I've already played as of March 2020.  I've ditched the Innovation and Influence category, and replaced it for adventure games with a category for Puzzles.  I've also changed the purpose of the bonus points, saving them for games that are important, innovative, influential, or have features that are otherwise not covered by my other categories.

Also, the Final Rating is a boring name.  The CRPG Addict has his GIMLET.  The Adventure Gamers have their PISSED rating.  Data Driven Gamer has his harpoons.  So I'm ditching the generic name and calling my new system the RADNESS Index: the Righteous Admirability Designation, Numerically Estimating Seven Scores. It's a pretentious mouthful, but I'm going with it.

Puzzles: The puzzles in this game were fair, but none of them were particularly clever or gave me all that much trouble.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 0.

Pirate Adventure's RADNESS Index is 30. So far that puts it 7th overall, and 3rd out of the three adventure games I've played so far.

NEXT: It's back to the world of proto-RPGs, with a look at Dungeon Campaign.

DND v8 Update: I'm still conservatively grinding away during the times I watch pro-wrestling.  Strider is level 22, and advanced enough that I can farm XP without any danger.  Only a lack of patience can stop me now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Game 10: Pirate Adventure (1978)

It's a brand new year, and what better way to kick off 2016 than with a text adventure from 1978.  Pirate Adventure is the second game from Scott Adams.  I enjoyed his first effort, Adventureland, well enough.  It was short, not too difficult, and a fine diversion for a day or two.  It wasn't a classic, but nor was it the terrible game I'd expected based on Adams' reputation.

Pirate Adventure was released on all the major platforms of the late 70s and early 80s, and even a few not-so-major ones.  (What's an Exidy Sorcerer?)  Its original release was on the TRS-80, so that's the platform I'm emulating it with.  (Not that it really matters for text adventures, but I like to keep things as authentic as possible.)  Some sources cite Pirate Adventure as a 1979 game, and others have it in 1978.  I've gone with 1978, because that's what's in my database, and I can't remember why I chose it in the first place.  I'm not overly fussed about the dates at this point, because all of these games have an official date of "prehistoric".

Much like Adventureland (and its inspiration, Colossal Cave Adventure), the goal of Pirate Adventure is to find various treasures and return them to a set location (in this case, your flat in London).  Whereas Adventureland had thirteen treasures to gather, this game has a mere two.  That hasn't made the game any easier, though; I've yet to find either of the treasures I'm looking for.

As mentioned above, you begin the game in your London flat.  The time period is a bit ambiguous.  The game has all the trappings of the pirate genre, but a "flat in London" hardly feels authentic to the 1600s.  Nevertheless, that's where the game begins, and in said flat there is a sign that says: "Bring *TREASURES* here, say: SCORE".  That's it for setting up the plot.  There's a sign in your house, and by golly you're going to obey it.

The flat is pretty small, with only a few areas to explore: a downstairs room, and upstairs room with a bookcase, a window ledge and a secret passage that opens when you take a book from the bookcase

The downstairs room contains a bottle of rum, a sack full of crackers, a pair of sneakers, and a rug.  Adventure game veterans will be trying to lift that rug straight away, but for the moment it can't be done, as the rug is nailed down.

The upstairs room contains an open window and a bookcase.  As mentioned above, taking a book results in the opening of a secret passage.  The book, inevitably, is a copy of Treasure Island.  The word YOHO is written in blood in the flyleaf, and there is another message inside:"Long John Silver left 2 treasures on Treasure Island".

The secret room contains an unlit torch, a smashed rum bottle, and a pirate's duffel bag that contains a box of matches.  There's also a sign that tells you how to extinguish your torch, because UNLIGHT isn't the most intuitive command.  The torch and matches are the obligatory adventure game light source, and the smashed bottle is a mystery for now.

The goal in the flat is simply to gather all the items you can, and read the word YOHO from the book.  The first time you read the word it transports you to the window ledge, and this can be deadly.  If you aren't wearing the sneakers you can slip and fall, which results in death and a trip to Never Never Land.  This doesn't necessarily mean your game is over: you can use the book to escape from Never Never Land.  But if you hang around in there for too long, you are declared dead and that's that.

About to escape Never Never Land.

If you say YOHO while on the ledge, you are transported to a beach on Pirate's Isle, and that's where the adventure really begins.  There is a ship's mast and a keel on the beach, and it soon becomes apparent that your goal is to build a ship (The Jolly Roger, what else), and sail to Treasure Island.  There are a number of interesting locations on Pirate's Isle, which I'll list below.

  • Near the beach is a lagoon, with a rusty anchor half-buried in the sand.  The tide goes in and out fairly frequently, and if you get caught here when the tide comes in it's off to Never Never Land.  A sign on the beach warns you about the tide, and you can even look at it from afar to see where the tide is before you enter.  The only way to be really safe here, though, is to carry a set of Water Wings.
  • At the top of a hill there's a crack, and you can squeeze in here as long as you're not carrying too many items.  The cave beyond contains many of the items you'll need to build the ship: a set of sails, some lumber, and a tool shed where you'll find a hammer, a shovel and the above-mentioned water wings.  You can't fit the shovel or the lumber back through the crack, but there's a door here that they can fit through.  Unfortunately, it's locked from the other side...
  • There's a wicked-looking pirate who lives in a shack with his parrot and a treasure chest.  The pirate won't let you take the chest, but he's easy enough to get rid of by giving him the bottle of rum.  You can take the parrot, and he'll stick around as long as you have crackers for him to eat.  Occasionally he speaks, but so far it hasn't been helpful, just messages like "Pieces of Eight!" and "Check the book!".  The chest is locked, and you can't open it without the key.
  • At the base of the hill is a network of caves, and when I entered I felt a cold shiver of dread at the following room description: "I am in a maze of caves."  It wasn't as bad as I feared.  The maze only had four locations, and a pit full of crocodiles.  Beyond the crocodiles was a locked door, which presumably led into the tool cave, but first I had to distract the crocodiles.

The first task here was finding the key, and that wasn't too difficult.  With the claw hammer from the cave in my possession, I returned to my flat and pulled out the nails holding down my rug.  (The nails were also an inventory item, and needed to build the ship.)  Under the rug was a set of keys, but before I could return to the island I was distracted by a noise.  I decided to investigate the secret passage, and I found the pirate from the shack asleep there, with an empty bottle next to him.  (I guess this explains why there was a smashed bottle and a pirate's bag in the room earlier.)  I took the bottle and woke the pirate, who said that it would soon be time to set sail.  Then he vanished, which was weird.  A magical pirate?  Lazy writing?  Or just system limitations?  I guess we'll find out later.

Equipped with the keys I needed, I was able to open the chest.  Inside was a set of plans that told me what I needed to build the Jolly Roger: a hammer, nails, lumber, an anchor, sails, and a keel.  I knew where all this stuff was, I just needed to gather it together.  There was also a map in the chest that showed the location of Treasure Island.

Now it was time to deal with the crocodiles.  This was the trickiest puzzle so far.  I figured that I needed to feed the things, but giving them crackers did nothing.  When I threw the parrot at them, the bird actually tried to fight them off for me, but it wasn't successful.  (A call-back to Colossal Cave Adventure? Probably.)  Nothing I tried was working, so I wandered around just trying random things.  That was when I tried using the water wings in the lagoon, and discovered that they allow me to survive high tide.  From there I swam further out to sea, and found a fish.  This was obviously the solution, so I gathered some sea water in my empty bottle (the fish would dry out otherwise), took the fish, and fed it to the crocodiles.  Sure enough, the crocs let me past, my key unlocked the door, and I was able to retrieve the parts I needed to build the Jolly Roger.

Getting past the crocodiles.

With the ship assembled I climbed aboard, and was a little surprised to see the pirate waiting for me.  I wasn't entirely sure what to do next, but the pirate helpfully told me to WEIGH ANCHOR, and then to SET SAIL.  With the help of the map we sailed to Treasure Island, and that's where I left off.  With the final adventure location ahead of me, it felt like a good time to take a break.

Treasure Island awaits.
Pirate Adventure is a leap ahead for Scott Adams, and feels a lot more sophisticated than Adventureland.  Not that it's any better technologically speaking: the parser and interface are exactly the same.  But the structure of the game feels far more advanced.  I like the way it's separated into distinct areas, it gives the game a flow and a sense of progression that was lacking from Adventureland.  I'm actually rather looking forward to getting back to it, and unless a puzzle really stumps me I expect that I'll be done with it by next week.

DND v8 Update!

I was going to do a full post on DND, but instead I decided to forge ahead with my list.  Rather than devoting full psts to DND, I'm going to give a quick update on my progress at the bottom of my posts on other games, which could be amusing given how balls-hard this game is.  I wonder how many other games I'll get through before I finish this one?

As of New Year's Eve, I was doing very well.  Axebeard (a dwarf, naturally, and successor to his brother Beardaxe) was 53rd level, and I was exploring level 11 of all three dungeons.  The earlier version of DND had a twenty level dungeon, so I figured I was about halfway through.  Later on I used a potion of Astral Form to take a quick trip to the bottom of Whisenwood Dungeon, and discovered that the dungeons are 30 levels deep.  Bugger it.

Most of the chests in this game are trapped, but if you're on one of the easier dungeon levels it's not a problem.  I was doing most of my XP grinding on Level 3 of the Tomb of Doom, which has a nice spiral pattern conducive to random wandering without needing to consult my map.  (Incidentally, I've discovered that wrestling is the perfect thing to watch while XP grinding.  I watch a lot of wrestling every week, so it works out well.)  On the deeper dungeon levels the traps can kill you, but if you have a ring of protection or some sort of magical armour you will usually survive an otherwise fatal blast (albeit with the loss of said item).  I had gotten complacent, and while exploring level 11 of Whisenwood with no protective items I opened a chest and was obliterated instantly.  On New Years Eve!  On my bloody birthday!!!  That was fifty+ levels of grinding down the drain.

I had to go back to the start, but I've managed to get my new character Strider up to level 20 by grinding on the first level of Whisenwood.  It's slow going, but now I am taking no risks.  I'm not even going to touch chests when I'm deeper than level 3.  My plan is to grind myself to about level 100, then make a run for the three items at the bottom of the dungeons (the magic fountain, the grail, and the orb).  Before I tackle each item I'm going to buy a Revival Potion from the alchemy shop - this ensures that if I die my character won't be erased.  It's going to take a long time, but I have patience, and I'm determined to beat this bloody game.  All I have to do is resist the urge to take risks.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Games of Summer: 2016 Edition

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while.  It's for the usual reasons related to this time of year: Christmas, school holidays, and the family commitments that stem therefrom.  Still, even though I haven't been writing, I've found a decent amount of time for playing games, and a bunch of new games to play.  I don't have a lot of love for Christmas, but it does have the benefit of providing me with new games in the form of gifts.  Those gifts are mostly for my son, of course, but I plays 'em all the same.

The major addition to our household this year was a WiiU.  I'd been reluctant to fork out for one, because it didn't seem that much better than the Wii.  My son wanted one, though, and once we got it I was pleasantly surprised.  Not by the system's capabilities: it really isn't that much better than the Wii.  I think my favourite thing about it is the controller, which has a touch screen embedded in it, and can be used to play games independent of the TV.  It's pretty great to be able to pick up the controller and play Mario Kart 8 while my wife is watching 'Heartland' or some other such drivel.

We got three games with the system: Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Skylanders.  To be honest, we haven't even tried Skylanders yet; my son isn't interested in it, and I haven't been moved to try it out either.  Mostly I've been playing Mario Kart 8.  I spent much of my teenage years playing Mario Kart on the SNES obsessively: it's still my favourite multiplayer game of all time.  None of the sequels have ever matched up to the original, and to be honest I don't enjoy this one as much either.  The fault lies more with me than the game itself: I'll be holding the SNES Mario Kart up as the pinnacle of the franchise until the day I die, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.  Mario Kart 8 is reliably fun, even if it's a little too easy at the outset.  It's getting more difficult and more fun as I progress through the different engine classes, so I figure I'll be at it for at least another few weeks.

I haven't played a great deal of Splatoon, but it has the same addictive quality that I find in a lot of mobile phone games: quick games with constant rewards.  It's a third-person shooter from Nintendo, so it's predictably non-violent: the goal is to help your team splatter the environment with more paint than the enemy.  My major gripe about it is that it's trying a little too hard to be cool.  It has a touch of the Poochies about it.  The gameplay is fun though, and it's easy to get sucked into "just one more game".

I also went and bout some X-Box 360 games now that some have been made compatible for X-Box One.  I think I chose a very solid selection: Bioshock, Mass Effect, Fallout 3 and Assassin's Creed 2.  The trouble here is going to be overcoming my natural aversion to playing game out of order.  How can I possibly play Fallout 3 without finishing the first two?  It's a sickness I have.

So far I've only played a bit of Mass Effect and Fallout 3.  Mostly this is due to the absurd times it takes to download the game the first time you load the disc.  Seriously, I have to wait four hours before I can play a game?  What the fuck is even on the disc?  If someone could come out with a current-generation console with no internet connectivity, no need for profiles, and games that load instantly, I'd be on that in a second.

I can't say I'm particularly sold on Mass Effect yet.  The conversations at the beginning weren't all that interesting, and I had a hard time coming to grips with the gameplay.  I've never played a game in which I have to control the camera as well as my character, so for me it was tricky.  I guess from what I'd heard about the series I was expecting more role-playing/adventure elements and less shooting/action.  I'll probably enjoy it more once I've mastered the controls.

Fallout 3 grabbed me straight away, though.  It has a quirky, morbid sense of humour, and I loved playing through character creation.  Come on, it let me play as a baby!  I only made it up to my character's terrible birthday party, but I'll be coming back to this before too long.

That's it for new games (or new-ish games, I should say).  I also played plenty of The Game of Dungeons, which I'll be writing about in my next post, and I've started on Pirate Adventure.  At the very least I'd like the blog to be out of the 1970s by the end of the year.