Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Dungeon Master: Put it Back

I make sure I have as much food as I can before proceeding back down. It'll be greatly inconvenient to return here later. By the same token, I make sure Sonja's priest skills increase. Since Zed is acting as a second wizard, it only makes sense to have a second priest. Especially since Syra is running out of mana quite quickly now. I need my party to get their mana up, and getting some points in underused skills is a good way of helping with that.

That's one hell of a mustache
Level 8, or there abouts, starts off seemingly just an enclosed small area. A scroll telling me how to cast lightning bolt, which requires all 4 runes. But writing on one of the walls helpfully implies that one wall is false. Inside are the usual new enemies, giant rats, weird rock rat things, and a gnome wizard. He shoots fireballs. Two drop food. Making my trip back up mildly pointless. Its fitting into the usual routine I have when things are getting too easy. Map some, fight any enemies, retreat, rest, repeat.
Thrown items seem to go the same way 100% of the time, making for amusing visuals like this
But then it gets...interesting. Another set of stairs up. An area I missed one floor up? Not unreasonable, given that area's potential for undiscovered secrets. But no, its just a closed off area containing some skeletons guarding some food. Then after a near death encounter with some gnome wizards, I find the stairs down. Its not actually the stairs down, its just an area underneath a closed off room. There's a level next to that room which opens a pit trap. I assumed I had screwed myself slightly, but no. This gives me even more food and a green gem, along with a note telling me to put it back. Like...in the chest or somewhere else? No matter, I can take anything the game dishes out at me.
Its eventually pretty clear that I'm missing something. Not a hidden button or a hidden wall, because I go through that pretty quickly. Maybe I'm supposed to toss the gem back in that room or put it down in front of it? I can't get in there yet. I put it down, nothing, I throw it and all I get is walking back down to it. There's even a pattern to throwing it, as you have to throw it through the grates. But even at the farthest back you can be that still doesn't work. It just won't go on the spot the chest was. It takes a while before I finally realize, wait, what about that one staircase up? That had a hole in it. And that hole leads down above the exact spot the chest originally was.
Rarely have my TPK been in such a swift fashion
It worked. Next is a puzzle involving pressure plates linked to a fireball thrower. The objective is to weigh down the pressure plates with items instead of trying to rush past them. From here there are two paths. To the north, a few enemies, effectively just guarding some food. Man, I really miscalculated there. Those gnome wizard dudes are tougher than I thought, because it seems like every encounter with one forces me to stop to rest. Thankfully they don't seem to be respawning. I do find something called "corbamite" though, which seems to be a Star Trek reference. I'm guessing its going to be useful soon enough.
In-universe, what kind of sicko creates rats of this size?
Sure enough, there's an alcove in front of a door with a message next to it, "Lighter than air", as the corbamite has no weight. I ignore it at first, since its not the only path forward, and this locked door seems the obvious way down. RPG logic, ignore that, look for loot. There really isn't any. I do find a big room full of the big rats, which in theory respawns, like the mushroom ones earlier. But that seems strange since there are regenerating rats near the stairs up anyway. Not really much of a concern. The corbamite door, on the other hand, opens up the stairs down, and another key. A key I know opens another door in the firestaff area. Which I decide to use since I'm smart.
I still need another key, and all I really did was frustrate myself running up and down the stairs twice, reload a half a dozen times, and generally waste time.

Its really hard to show this in screenshot form
Level 9 starts off with a monster in my face. Its a skeleton. I'm giving this game too much credit as a RPG for not criticizing this. Or maybe just no load time not criticizing this. However, I will criticize the font on the wall messages. "Beware my twisted humor. The Deceiver. The Snake." Which in this font is hard to decipher. It doesn't click for me until I start looking at the level. Oh...no, a series of alternating pillars. I imagine the idea is to find the right path...but I know this is going to be twisted.

Doesn't really convey the true terror of a scorpion this size, but what does?
Its not, its just go all the way down, then up, then down. The tricky thing about this is the game stuffs beholders in my path. Then two locked doors, and a note on the wall saying to pick a door. Knights and knaves, without the knights and knaves. Interesting. I choose the southern door, inside is a scorpion. It hits like a dump truck, but at least it didn't poison me. My party is dead, but at least they're not poisoned. I'm forced to retreat from this fight, as its very hard. Hopefully he doesn't respawn. Its bad enough that those beholders respawn, forcing me into an awkward position.
After a couple of attempts, I kill the scorpion and make it through the area. Curious, its led behind the starting area, to a pressure plate. Is this a one-way path? Is it a trick? I found another key for the door I missed, but it seems it could also be used here. Interesting, making that path optional. Which means I should check that other door. And its gremlins again. I'm getting sick of them.
Its really hard to show this in action
There's not really anything there except another key. Not really surprising that they didn't have anything interesting, there was just as much chance of heading there first. Back at the rejoining of paths, the door leads to some pressure plates in front of a wall scrawling that just says zoom. What does that mean? You get teleported along a series of pressure plates, around and around, like a weird, noisy train. Getting off is a pain, if you don't time it right, you're going to hit a wall. Those sick developers even put some food down next to a teleporter, only that one takes you back to the start of the level.
The most dangerous hunt
These big, open monster filled arenas are starting to get me down. Its one thing that they tend to have monsters that can stop me dead, but its another that they have those AND these gremlins. This section is interesting because you have a safe area you can stay in with a door you can close. Beholders can open them, which makes them first targets. If a scorpion tries to get into the door, and a gremlin is behind him, he's stuck, which means he's trapped as the door is closing down on him. This means you're actually just as likely to die in this situation than if you didn't use the door. Meanwhile, the gremlins are a pain in the butt. Oh man, gremlins are a pain in the butt.
This brings in a curious pattern for the rest of the level. A gremlin appears, which causes me to chase him, which leads me to a scorpion, which causes me to retreat to assess, whether or not I killed the gremlin or not. Then solving both issues, and finding a pair of open doors, and repeating the whole process. I end this entry after dealing with a trio of scorpions, only to discover they're just guarding a whole bunch of nothing. Well, the stairs down, but otherwise nothing. There's a magnifying glass, and a button which creates a teleportation field. Which gives me a bunch of confidence that I have to walk back here later. That's just going to be great if it ends up being true.

This Session: 3 hours 00 minutes

Total Time: 10 hours 40 minutes

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Terminator 2029: What?

Another mission, another briefing. Reese is brought up. Wait, the events of the original film have happened. This is definitely before the second film, as only two are sent back in time. I have to rescue Reese's team, defend them from some T-800s, destroy some uplink dishes and steal some CDs. This seems to be the penultimate mission, as the mission is about destroying Skynet's thermal imaging capabilities.
As an aside this seems to run counter to what Reese was saying about "we were winning" in the film, since its still no sure thing at this point. So the game turns Reese into some overconfident fool. Cool.

This is one of the least questionable situations I've found myself in.
 It doesn't take long before the game is laying the enemies on quite thickly. This game really likes doing that. Its less annoying now that I have the cycle speed up, but its still slow going. And since this mission isn't timed, for the first time in a while, I at least have the opportunity to clear out these fellows. Make my life less difficult as I return.
But it doesn't take long before I'm at the uplink dish...or so I think. Guarded by four towers, as explained in the briefing. A proximity mine and a fusion grenade later, and I've retrieved a data diskette. I guess I use this for something, since none of my objectives have been accomplished. More enemies every few spaces. I'm doing well enough that I'm not needing to repair, so the real problem is waiting for my guns to recharge. Of course I say that, and the overwhelming number of enemies gradually force me to retreat while taking far too much damage. This forces me back to the top of the map. Where enemies still spawn. This turns into a vicious cycle where every time I heal damage, I run into another twenty freaking enemies.

Despite having questionable visibility, this is better than fighting in an open area
Eventually, after dodging some enemies, I manage to make it to another four towers, this one leading to the bunker I was supposed to go to, but it uses an access card, which is in the tower in front of it. And while I'm fumbling with my inventory, another group of enemies pop up. Can't say this doesn't have balls to the wall action.
Despite how it seems like I have a million enemies behind me, at least they're behind walls
Inside its not much different...and I don't really know what I'm looking for here. Are there more data disks, or are there just ten million terminators? Operation: Actually Shoot Things in My Way is going worse down here than on the ground level. When I finally reach the third level, I realize, oh, right, the damn time machine. Yeah. I'll get on that if I can stop getting pinned down, repairing damage.

Damage to the head piece causes all sorts of GUI issues
This leads into the game's real problem. Currently, I have 9 grenades, but at full arsenal, I have 12, plus a refill, giving me a total of 24. That's not really enough for any random terminator I run across, especially since there are theoretically infinite terminators. Missiles have the same issue, except they're not useful against stationary targets. I don't have the resources to deal with actual threats in each mission. I kill two terminators down here, I need to repair. I still have four enemies, and the game likes to dump enemies randomly. This is not impossible, but it does make combat impractical for the most part. But combat is unavoidable. There are just too many enemies. And sometimes they shoot through the walls.
After some considerable amount of time, I've destroyed all the targets on the bottom floor. What does this mean? There wasn't any point to coming down here. Nada. Zilch. Gotta go slowly back up. And even if I am fully healed, I still have to deal with weapon slowdown. I'm really starting to hate that mechanic.
The end result, after finally getting back to the surface, is to find three uplink towers and take the data disks from there. Then I return...victorious. The debriefing happens...and the sound cuts out. Wouldn't be a Bethesda game if everything worked, now would it? And I also forgot about the final objective, which isn't clear in-game. As I make my second attempt around, I realize what it is...as I'm supposed to destroy T.D.E., or Time Distortion Equipment. And I actually did win the first time.
I have no idea that message means I should do, but it keeps popping up
Still, after a second attempt I make it out again. Its surprisingly nerve-wracking, as throughout the bunker I hear not the sounds of enemies, but horrible static and noise. But when I reach the debriefing and all is well. Skynet's going to...launch more nuclear missiles? Eh? I guess they made more then. If anything, Skynet has more to be worried about than we do with nukes, even if they glass LA.
The briefing tells me nothing very interesting. I have 10 minutes to stop the nuclear launch by putting a virus in a computer. This could be the final blow to Skynet he says...ha...
One of the team members worked on Wing Commander, I guess this is his work

This mission is comparatively harder but less tedious and shorter, so it all works out for the best. The bunker only has one level this mission, but the exterior is about 3 areas, and is teeming with enemies. Its relatively simple once you get inside, walk to the three dots on the map, then use the virus you got. I guess the two things near here are supposed to be destroyed somehow, but I couldn't figure it out.

The final mission has me...in space...? I have to destroy a space station. Huh. The mission sounds like a more mundane video game, find keycards, destroy a base, then return via the shuttle I entered. This is a strange turn of events.

We're really out in space
On-site I'm not really sure what's going on. This doesn't seem like something the briefing informed me about. There are less exits than I was told, which makes me think I'm missing something necessary to win this mission. The reactor is supposed to be taken out last. No, just go down...and then the most horrific sound comes out of my speakers. This continues throughout the entire mission. Or at least this attempt. It doesn't help that enemies just don't stop shooting through walls, and even if I can return fire sometimes, its still annoying as hell.
The final mission is both surprisingly early and incredibly long. Too long. This mission has both multiple floors and areas that extend out from those floors, like in the ground floors previously. And on this mission I don't know where those keycards are, so I spend quite a bit of time in an area with absolutely nothing in it, hoping to find something. But I never do. Its not clear where the game is hiding these keycards. Are they just lying around, or are they in turrets? This is something I'm going to have spend a lot more time on.
Target acquired...? Who is that?
Since winning the mission is a wash this time, I decided to see what happens if I fail. Soldiers killed, nukes fall. I guess the nukes were still a threat. Oh, well. Not really an alternate path...which is an understatement.

This Session: 3 hours

Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Dungeon Master: Chasing Gremlins

Last session, I had finished by getting some more food, and then returning to the area with all the skeletons and beholders. I'm not sure how many enemies are in there, but they do respawn, making any trips back potentially annoying. This turns out to be not much of a problem since there's no path out of there except where I came from. I guess that third key was needed after all.

So the left path. The first thing I see here is another key slot. Fortunately, there's another door past that, an open one leading to a pressure plate. Hmm, I wonder what this does. Oh, no, the way back is locked...wait a minute, how do I get back? Well, there are two doors out of here, but one is locked via key, and the other has a teleporter in front of it. The teleport shifting in and out. This is actually seemingly impossible to get past, which is just great.
I should explain the issue. Dungeon Master has great responses to the first button press, works lovely, smoothly. The second button press, is delayed, can't be canceled and generally wouldn't be accepted if the game wasn't that good otherwise. I think it might be functioning on a turn system like a proper Dungeons and Dragons video game. This creates a weird artificial difficulty in that I'm not sure if its possible to get through this. Which turns this into an unwinnable situation.
I suspect I need another key, as I have two key slots I don't have one for. It takes a while for me to figure out. My natural starting point are the areas in the safe section of the map. Checking walls, seeing if I get another key by inserting another gold coin in that one slot. Turns out that putting the item in the the fourth riddle opens up a niche, with another key. Only that doesn't work on the door forward, just on a door with a single item in it. An item I have no use for. Turns out my first plan of bruteforcing my way through the teleporter is the right way, though it could be that the session I was on was making my life hell.
After solving this puzzle, the way back is opened by a pressure plate, making the situation less sticky. The area I found has a lot of paths, some quite closed off to me, others opening seemingly endlessly. There's a puzzle involving a pressure plate that activates a teleporter on its own spot. No idea how to solve that one yet. There's a teleporter, guarded by skeletons, that I'm holding off on exploring until the rest of the area is clear. The other stairs down is found in this section, its opened by a hidden switch. And it, itself opens on the pit trap maze, that very, very awful one. There's a particularly cruel option that's actually locked off, containing a quartet of bees.

That's actually about it for this level. There's nothing much to talk about after this, just hordes of skeletons and beholders. A lot of them are respawning too, I died a few times in this section thanks to some popping up behind or to the sides of me. A good chunk of these areas are off to the side though. Most of them don't seem to be worth the effort, except for experience fodder, but one has the Vorpal Blade...which doesn't seem to be doing any more damage than a regular rapier. So, down to level 6, if I'm not mistaken. The Tomb of the Firestaff, which is the item I've been looking for all this time, which I forgot to mention since I didn't read the backstory. That seems rather quick, and there are stairs down too.

Well, there's a reason for that, it needs more keys than I have. Even a hidden note mentioning hinting at that. Feels weird having to leave a level before finishing it, but I guess the rest of the keys are down somewhere. Gonna be a lot longer than planned if I have to go back up.
Downstairs it takes a few seconds for me to be glad I got that Vorpal Blade. It might not do any more damage, but it has a disrupt function that takes out non-material beings. Without that an already messy area would turn into a nightmare. The second you walk off the stairs there's a pressure plate that opens a pit in front of the stairs, which I didn't realize at first and fell. And in addition to the ghosts there are skeletons. This whole area is just a mess. Since I have to stop mapping half the time to fight another monster. Its big too, You can't see one wall from another wall. Also there are things that steal items. Thankfully, it just stole a shield, but I hate these things.

And it just keeps going. Its only a bad thing from a mapping perspective, but this is by far the biggest open area I've seen here. And it will be, because its seemingly the entire level. There's a big section that's just open space, only a key, which is fun if you don't find it. Oh, and in addition to all the monsters in this wide open space, that constantly respawn, there are also things that shoot fireballs randomly. Woe be to the person mapping this out who makes a mistake. I double back to make sure there aren't anymore missing things in the walls. Lead to a few puzzles that are more annoying than fun, but I got a sweet sword out of it. If I missed anything here, well, that's going to be a fun trip. Meanwhile, I have to go back up, again, because guess what? I'm running out of food and water. I like this game, but this is becoming more of a liability than a boon.
Before I end let me talk about some of the aspects I've been neglecting.
The RPG aspect of the game is a bit simplistic. You have attributes, like strength, dexterity and wisdom, and some of these govern health and mana. Then you have skills, which you increase by using them, there are four, fighter, ninja, (ranged weapons, and using ranged weapons in melee curiously) wizard and priest. These in turn increase attributes. Ending this session I decided to increase Gothmog's fighter, since he's been over draining his stamina constantly, and increase Sonja's magic skills somehow. I haven't managed to increase that, as without any magic she has 2 mana, although the Vorpal Sword increases that to 6. She can only cast one spell with 2 mana, and that still requires a rest between runes. Either way she hasn't managed to actually succeed in a spell yet.
Speaking of runes, I've settled into a pattern of mostly just using fire magic and healing potions. You use mana as you cast runes, so you can store them in case of an emergency. Or if you want to unleash 4 fireballs in rapid succession. Priest and wizard spells are seperated by the element rune, but I could be wrong.
The party system is interesting, if slightly useless for its purpose. You can move characters into any position, back left, front right and so forth. This actually has some reasoning to it, as characters can attack enemies depending on where they are. Though preference is given to front-facing enemies, and spells are always forward.

This Session: 2 hours

Total Time: 7 hours 40 minutes

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Terminator 2029: Magic Act

Her face looks really awkward in motion, her eyes shift in form quite weirdly
This mission's briefing is interesting. I have to find a fellow resistance member, who barely hid himself, use some item or another to allow him to be extracted, then advance into a base with a code that guy gives me. In there, I have to find the source of some disruptions related to time, and use two items once I'm there to scan the area. And finally, use a location marker so our guys can get there later. Its curious, since this is a movie license taking place before the film, this is something that should be a mystery, and the game seems to be treating it that way. Because I've seen the movie, its not, the entire concept of the franchise makes it not. Even if I were just playing these games, its not. Seems the only winning move is to start with this game? Eh. More important, the mission briefing made it sound like I should hold my fire down in the bunker, and not destroy sensitive equipment.

The charge of my guns, left of the center radar, shows no charge, because Scorpions eat it like candy
In-between sessions, I had a brief session in the training mission to assess the usefulness of the highest power laser. While it is indeed powerful, I don't think I'm accurate enough to hit consistently. This turns out to not necessarily be a problem. According to the game, I've been hitting between 50% and 33% of my shots, with the 60 and 40 kw plasma weapons respectively. On this mission, there are a lot of the "scorpion" hunter killers, which lumber across the screen slowly, and drain more than two full 60 kw plasma charges. And there are many of these suckers around, so this is a continuing problem. I think the amount of enemies that spawn are more than any other mission at this point.

The screen is giving me a warning because enemies have punched through my armor, which also took out my fast repair module
Next issue, resistance. Turns out the game is being on the cruel side of things, as there are Terminator resistance members around. That is, enemies dressed up like resistance members that usually get the first strike on me. Thankfully, none of them around here are actually resistance, and they're easy to kill once you figure this out. I still have to be careful, I don't know when the game is going to throw actual resistance members on a map. The game mentions that our guy is in an area with 4 towers. This helps me out a great deal in finding him, and I guess he's alive? He's showing the same sprite as the corpses from the previous missions, but oh, well.
Just like the movies, except with more power armor

After saving the guy I was supposed to and entering the bunker the way doesn't seem clear. The game is getting glitchy on me too. Despite having full health, full armor, I'm still only shooting half my shots. My guns sound is cutting out, which is a shame since I liked that sound. Enemy attacks are also making weird glitchy sounds, so that might be an issue with one of the enemies. This could impact the end-level briefing badly.
I'm starting to think there isn't any reason why I shouldn't just use the 80 kw plasma weapon if this is what I'm going to be dealing with. Less annoying that way. The scanners are just saying I've used them, nothing as to information. It takes until level 3 of the complex before I see any indication of my mission. Stationary things on the map and my radar. I slowly make my way there...and they're terminator storage units. Well...crap. By all rights, I as a regular soldier should think this as something I should destroy, rules or no rules. As a meta-gamer, I know I shouldn't...? Eh, the Terminator timeline is screwy and who knows, I'm just going to follow orders. Still no indication of the scanners doing anything.

One of these could be Arnie, from any of the films
My mission ends rather uneventfully, where after running through the bunker for more time, hoping to find the target, I just stumble upon it trying to find another stairs down. I wouldn't have even realized this if I hadn't checked my orders there. An indication might have been helpful. Sloppy, just sloppy. A curious thing I noticed, while in a room with an open door, enemies can't enter. Sloppy, but at the same time, otherwise I'd be screwed at this point. From there one of the exit shafts takes me straight to the starting point. The end briefing starts with Merlin says they couldn't pay him to search one of those SLIMY-holes. Its all in how he says it. They found a time travel machine, who could have figured it?
I get promoted, again, this is indicated before the mission even ends surprisingly enough, and I get some new hardware. A 100 kw plasma weapon, some increased missile capacity, and some defensive items and missiles I probably won't use. It seems wasteful not to use them, but its generally not convenient to switch to missiles in the middle of a firefight.
Is he resistance or is he machine? The only way to find out is to get shot
Next mission, destroy Skynet's fusion generator. An interesting development in this mission is that its timed, after a certain amount of time, Skynet will gas the area. Seems like that's not the big concern it probably is, but I'm not about to question that. Seems like Merlin is also doing something at an outpost and I should be helping him, but orders in-map are less clear.
Time is ticking away, time I don't have
The mission goes wrong. I keep getting hit by enemies, and because this is a timed mission, there's no instant repair area, and its not good having that clock tick down. The briefing does tell me to be careful, since the area is crawling with enemies. Some of these are my own fault, since I throw a grenade against a wall unthinking. However, since towers aren't going down to a single fusion grenade, I'm also blaming the game a bit. I guess missiles are better than grenades here. I run out of time and then I'm automatically debriefed.
This is interesting, since this is the first time the game has actually shown the option to fail on a mission, seeing as its been hard to screw up previous missions without also dying. Now, I'm not continuing along this line just yet, but I did save a mission here. I like this sort of mechanic, more games needed this. I realize the reason why they don't, short-sighted fools like myself don't like losing at all, but these days with autosaves every 5 minutes and supposedly open-world games, I wonder why nobody continued to try something like that.
And there are actual resistance members in this mission. They don't do anything, they're just random spawns like anything else, but its the thought that counts. Sometimes they appear near towers, but I've been destroying them anyway, hopefully that won't count against anything. Also of interest is I've gotten hit in the head armor here a few times. That seems to affect the HUD, which is cool, if annoying.
Its not always obvious when the enemies are hitting me, as these flash by in seconds
The mission continues like last time...at first. I realize sometime fairly early on that engaging in constant fights against random HKs is not helping me. It also doesn't help that any sort of movement multiples their numbers to unmanageable numbers. Working off two assumptions, that I'm going to get hit anyway, and that I'm going to have to destroy towers anyway, I just ignore most other targets, hit the towers, rush through, and repair damage as needed. This gets me to the bunker with 10 minutes to spare. Naturally, there's a problem. There's no way down. I checked the whole map. Ah...I get it. There is no way to win this level, is there?
Anyway, after the briefing I get some new stuff. An Osprey missile, which I might use, its supposed to deal a whole bunch of damage. A shield, some other random crap I won't use since my layout is mostly set in stone at this point. Shame that I get all these cool toys and yet, none of them ever seem to be worth replacing my autodoc and repair speed boost. The shield is automatic, it should just give me a small boost of defense.
Anything that doesn't move is just put in as "target", even if its irrelevant to the mission
Naturally the briefing the next mission is all about finding Merlin. I have to find three transponders that I already have coordinates for, and then find Merlin's location from there. Or get extracted afterward, these briefings aren't always clear, and the game definitely pulls some stuff.
And as I enter the mission properly, I notice my orders say, "watch the timer". In theory I had plenty of time to handle the last mission properly, but it seems its intentional to lose that aspect of it. Possibly because Merlin is the mole, since he's the only superficial element of the team.
The time doesn't really show up for a good deal of time. Instead the real problem on this mission are the "Eradicators" or those tank things. They get off one good shot and I need to repair ASAP. They can shred through my entire armor and the hardpoint along with it. I don't think its defending much against the shield, but otherwise its working great, saves me a lot of time repairing.
I'm save, but all those dots on the radar are going to be trouble when I'm patched up
Curiously, the mission just involves me grabbing the transponders and returning to base. And the debriefing is short too, not even any weapon upgrades. It all feels weird. I'm getting the feeling that Merlin is the mole simply because of this buildup. This feels like a trap. And it also feels silly on multiple levels, since Merlin is the dude that led the team who got this suit I've been using. What, is he jealous? Replaced by a robot double? If the latter's true, that's quite the Terminator cliche, more so than some of the film's lines.
This level is a maze, and it feels like you're encouraged to check that more than the actual screen while this is going on
So, the final push to recover Merlin is another timed mission. 10 minutes. Fire at will, no friendlies here, except for the major. Infiltrating the bunker is easy enough, but once inside it is a maze trying to find the way in and then out. There's only one way in and out to recover Merlin, but that doesn't stop me from having to run around trying to find it. Merlin himself is fairly easy to find, the game all but points him out to you, but like I said, there's only one path there, and any other is wasting time. Time you need, to repair and take out robots.
My first attempt was marred by that, which caused me to technically lose the mission, I had gotten out of the bunker, but I was still very far from the extraction point by the time the timer ended. This caused me to lose the mission. The game proceeds as normal, but I did the mission over anyway.
A picture of the resistance taking a bunker, the reward for winning
Second attempt only goes better than the first by virtue of me actually winning. The only thing that can be said to have changed was remembering that route to the surface and cranking up the cycle count. This removes some of the slowdown I've been encountering, which has multiple times screwed me over. It was very tense, especially towards the end, I didn't think I'd make it. But I do, and I'm rewarded for my efforts by a cutscene. Interestingly, the game shifts a little in story, losing means Skynet has the location of our bases and ammo dumps, while winning means we're safe. I'm going to have to examine the consequences of these failures more thoroughly, as that was one thing I failed to do with A-10 Tank Killer.

This Session: 2 hours 00 minutes

Total Time: 3 hour 30 minutes

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Dungeon Master: Eye of the...oh, Wait...

Floor 3 started off with a few small but heavy encounters. New here was a giant wasp, which I didn't notice until he had me trapped in a small section of the map. His sprite is deceptively small, but he packed a mean punch, including poison. Then after that, for a good chunk of the level there was nothing. This was suspicious, but I didn't notice anything there. I'm not sure if there really wasn't anything there or if I just missed something.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the ghost, so here's more rock monsters
Then came the first real challenge. A ghost. An actual, classic-style ghost. No using swords or arrows against this guy, and believe me I tried. Magic goes straight through him too. So this is either a puzzle, unlikely, or I need to do something else. I know the spell system is designed in such a way that if you have a vague idea of what you're doing you can do other spells...but my idea depends on whether or not fireball actually works like the typical DnD fireball. It works...sort of. Its very easy for my wizard to run out of mana casting a fireball above the weakest level, which presences problems on multiple levels. The first is I don't know if that did anything. It goes past the ghost like usual, but it doesn't seem to have done any damage. The second is I don't know how to get better mana consumption. It seems the characters are quite strictly limited in their stats, and the low starting mana seems to be all I'm going to get.
At which point I realized I was screwed in some way. Turns out that is a legitimate way of dealing with the ghosts, but that only deals 25% damage. There's a weaken non-material beings spell. Checking the spell's words, I think I could figure it out given enough time. In theory there might have been a different way of dealing with the ghost, as there's a gold slot that summons a field nearby.
Joy, more worms
But surprisingly, that's not the end of my troubles, I find a pack of worms soon after. They are not easy enemies to kill. I found a way to sort of deal more effective damage against them...but its slightly slower. Characters don't get just one attack, they get several, including a parry function. My two melee fighters currently have a generic attack and a melee function. The melee consistently deals 30+ damage but takes a while to recharge. Its extremely draining, but I win. I go to retrieve my thrown weapons...and there are more worms. Huh. I retreat, get my health and mana back up, and return. Another pack dead. Then there's another pack of worms. Its not that they keep respawning, its that they respawn so fast. At this point I'm running low on water, and the only way to get more is to trek up several dungeon levels and then return here. Hopefully there's another fountain down here somewhere, because its going to get annoying if I have to trek through this level again.
Here are Zed's attacks, a light attack, I guess a block function, and a strong attack
Once I picked up my thrown weapons its fairly easy to get around the worm spawner. There's even a convenient room to rest in nearby. And a door after this area to prevent the worms from sneaking in. The rest of the level proceeds smoothly. There's another spawner, this time for the mushrooms, but that's not quite as fast as the worms to respawn. There are some more items, most notably more potion vials. The game is getting too generous with those, as my priestess is already out of space, and I'm not about to put potions in a chest, but I guess it isn't a bad thing...yet. Zed gets a rapier, which gives him a better low damage, but I'm not seeing as good highs.

Couldn't he just jump down the pit at any time?

Well it turns out that was a bad thing, because not long after I find a bow. Previously my priestess has been throwing arrows, because that's entirely logical. This feels like the fantasy equivalent of getting a shotgun. (I mean, it is in Heretic) But interestingly enough, I find a mummy across a pit, with the message above. Is this a puzzle or just for my viewing pleasure? I'm not getting anything back if I attack him, but he's standing on a pressure plate. After further exploring the area, I decide, hey, why not? That kills it, and opens a wall behind him, in addition to creating text on the right wall: "You will regret that". Oh, I get it, since they're going to be connected to the door I didn't bash open a little way down?
This gives me ample opportunity to test the bow. Its not that much better than throwing them as of yet, but I figure that's just because my two mages are only apprentice ninjas, assuming ninja governs bows and throwing weapons. Curiously, the rapier does much more damage than the axe Sonja had. I also figure that I'm supposed to use some of these items I don't know what they're for in an unused slot on the character equipment.

Gee, I wonder where this leads
As soon as I step down the stairs to the next level, I see a blessed water fountain. Well-done game, you knew exactly when to do that. I see another, and another, and then a stairs back up. Huh. That leads to a pit, which is...interesting. And by interesting, I mean it takes you exactly in front of the stairs up. It gets more interesting, because pretty quickly I see the way down. Is this level optional? I mean, its obviously not optional if I want a fighting chance against later enemies, but nevertheless.
Hydra because it has many heads

My mind is doubtful towards that. Continuing to explore this level, which is 4 or so, I come across another Tricks 'n' Traps-style section. This one says treasure rooms. Really ought to be a better name for that than referencing Doom again. There were monsters at the hub, but hopefully they're non-respawning. There was a new one, not a hard enemy by any means, but hard enough should I come back nearly dead.
Starting from the west, there's a teleporter maze. Ah, teleporter mazes. How I hate you. I especially hate it here because I'm not used to mapping these things myself, I just brute-force these. And it wasn't really worth it. I get another gold coin, which is starting to be a problem, another gem...wait, that's gotta be something important. Not liking the transfer value yet, I used three poison potions to get there. Turns out the weird snake thing, a hydra I guess, has ranged poison attacks. I'm getting poisoned darts, but I'm not sure how well they work yet. They've only hit the hydras and I doubt poison attacks work well against poison monsters.

This is always the "fun" kind of maze
Going clockwise, now north, a pit trap maze. At which point I hoped that would be the only kinds of maze I found, heaven forbid there's a regular maze...or a spinner maze. You go on a tile and trap doors open, and you're supposed to take a specific pattern. I'm not worried about falling as much as I'm worried about falling into enemies. Speaking of which, while attempting to figure out how long the room was, I was attacked by a giant dragonfly. This continues, and I also discover that I messed up my map. Huzzah. It feels like there are respawning dragonflies, which is annoying, but not ruinous. Until you factor in trying to navigate this confusing place. There are two exits out of here and while one is easy enough to get through, the other is by no means close to obvious.
As you can see, Syra has her hands full
The dragonflies are tough, but are like glass, a little bit of damage, compared to other enemies, and they go down quickly. They can kill you if you aren't careful. They're not truly deadly on their on, though they are fast, but in combination with this section's intentionally screwy design, they're not easy to fight. My mage has been able to consistently start off fights with a prepared fireball, but sometimes that combined with 80 points of damage, isn't enough. I'm just going to point out that the east door has nothing really of value in there, its the west you want. There's nothing really valuable here, I already have way too many potions, and the game is just handing them to me like they're candy. Fun fact, the game doesn't include a FUL, or fire bomb potion, because the designers were worried about making unwinnable situations. Which doesn't make sense since you could screw yourself on poison bombs, and I've already got an inventory full of potions. Real worries now include there being multiple stairs down, which makes me think the stairs down is as much a trap back at the start as the unusual stairs up.

Open spaces make me nervous, you don't know how big it is or what's there
So backtracking, I needed to do that anyway, takes me to a riddle room. Is this a treasure room too? Who knows. They're not hard riddles, I got two of them straight off, and the third I got after some thinking. I suspect this might just be because I already had those items.
Returning to the mini-hub, I go east. Unsurprisingly, its another maze-like area, surprisingly, its weird. The room is 6x7 tiles in size, and the way it works is that on the fourth tile you teleport back to the second. Its got a really clever trick in getting past it, which I liked more than the other two areas so far. Beyond that it didn't offer anything interesting or helpful to the puzzles, unless a staff is all and nothing.

You probably shouldn't be poking holes in walls since there's more likely to be creatures than switches

Finally, south, which compared to the other areas doesn't seem very interesting at first. Then the concept of the area is made clear, hidden buttons. It first came to me in one of the smaller rooms, one with a gate. That contained a cross, another gem, and a mace. The mace doesn't seem to be doing any more damage than the axe, so I dumped it not long after. Not long after, there is a series of these hidden buttons, revealing a treasure cache. That's it for this level, surprisingly enough, I guess I have to figure out that final riddle.

Bright yellow is a bold color choice though
I'd like to say I figured it out, but I really only used items until something happened. Made sense afterward, so I feel silly. Didn't even need to put down all four items, but since one of them was the bow my priestess was using, I'm glad they had that small amount of mercy. This level seems to be increasing the amount of puzzles tenfold. In the level? Puzzles. Enter a room, there's another puzzle. While there are indeed monsters on this floor, now featuring beholders, they're small potatoes compared to the last floor's enemies and while they do damage to all party members, I'm not having the slightest amount of trouble killing them one by one. Each room here gives me an iron key for figuring out the puzzle, and while two doors were easy enough for me to figure out, the third was surprisingly difficult and I couldn't crack it.
To the city of refuge?
Fortunately, only two doors are necessary. But after that comes a note on a fork in the dungeon, telling me to turn away and run. If I go to the right, there's a message saying he doesn't like to be ignored, and the other just has coward. That doesn't really matter, since it leads to a locked door I don't have the key for. To the right seems to be quite an ample supply of monsters, including an encounter with two beholders. Surprisingly, not hard. What really causes me trouble are the skeletons, of which there are many. They all have swords and shields, and they drop both always. There are four to a group, and I've taken out two groups. That's a lot of swords and shields to shift through just to get my thrown weapons off the ground.
This game is really picking up. The puzzle aspects of this game are really what sell it to me. Combat is fun too, but against those worms man, there was a good chance this game could have been given up there and then. Its a funny thing, its the exact thing I would criticize Doom's nightmare mode for, having too much meatshields in the way. Nothing is new under the sun.

This Session: 2 hour 20 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours 40 minutes