Thursday, August 25, 2022

Sleeping Gods Lie: Dwarven Fortress

I feel somewhat justified in having apprehension regarding '80s DOS games. CGA and to a lesser extent EGA typically look eye-searing, and usually the only sound games had outside of the high end games were PC Speaker. Not an especially pleasing combination. Yes, with DOSbox we can configure speed to our hearts content, games nearly always work, but even so, such games often feel like utter chaos. I'm not particularly happy to be doing this even considering that Sleeping Gods Lie has practically no sound. But since its this or make a woefully incomplete review, we'll be seeing the DOS version.

This does make me wonder why the Amiga version is content to do nothing...
And I think I've figured out the problem here. If a DOS emulator with theoretically infinite memory for a period computer has this error, then there must be a similar problem with the Amiga version. Aha, I was just supposed to reload before traveling off to Sylvar. Silly me, using save states. Now then...

So, Sylvar, the great forest. I don't really see the difference between here and the last place, but something was probably lost in the porting process. Seems like quite a bit of deforestation has been going on. The manual even pokes fun at this, saying that the deforestation has caused the remaining trees to dislike humans. No tree enemies exist so far. The skyboxes, which I liked on the Amiga version, now feel like visual noise to me.

The unpleasant nature of dwarves here really reminds me of Dwarf Fortress
Enemies here in Sylvar are dwarves. The manual describes them as fierce but not much else. Their weapon of choice? A blowpipe and darts. Interesting choice. The blowpipe is a strict upgrade at this point. It has better range than the sling staff, about equal damage, but most importantly, a better arc. Unfortunately ammo is not as generous as with the sling staff. These dwarves are a pain to hit, and it seems like I'm not hitting them very well. This is also where the game manages to kill me a few times.

Depending on how long you end up wandering around, you can hear this blather for an hour
Pretty soon I come across Prince Gregor, a friendly NPC. He's out on an adventure, looking for his crown. Upon seeing me, he starts following me. Does he help? No, he's just here to be annoying. I guess he gives me a hat after killing one dwarf, but it seems all he does is chime in with the odd comment every so often. Not even a useful one, just an annoying one. I assume it was intended for him to be this annoying. If you rest while he's around he'll disappear. Or he died, I couldn't really tell you what happened. For obvious reasons, I assume this is bad. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time a FPS has had an escort mission. Funny that even the first time knew it was a bad idea.
Northern Sylvar is only linked to Northern Sylvar, and the only way to advance is to enter the Dwarven caves. But to do that you need to find a lantern, which I say like its some kind of challenge. The first time I went through this area I found one and that was before I realized it was a puzzle! I only discover this because a molehill says I need one to enter the caves. Gregor is too much of a coward to enter the caves, something I'm thankful for.
I know that sprite on the right is probably supposed to imply a gradually lowering ceiling, but it just looks like it shouldn't be there
Inside there are many dwarves. DOS does this place no justice, this looks like crap. Even the dwarves look like crap, because they have no interior coloring, they're just a black outline and maybe a few highlights. There doesn't seem to be much difference between various dwarves, some drop regular blow darts, others drop poisonous ones. Poisonous ones are very useful, since they kill the dwarves straight off.

I wonder if we can hear it in the Amiga version
There are two interesting things inside here, the first is rope, which will no doubt be useful later. Its guarded by some spiders. The game notes that one says something similar to mama as I enter. Creepy or intended to draw sympathy?
Probably some kind of weird memory saving trick
The king holds the crown of Gregor's, and he's guarded by one dwarf. Compared to the tunnels, this is a cakewalk. I return to Gregor and he gives me 50 gold. He says its too impersonal, but you know how it is adventuring. This, despite being a paltry sum for such a treasure, is exactly what I need. Gregor disappears the second I change areas after this, not that it matters since he can't follow me any further anyway, for the south end is where the plot advances. I should note that the last bit of tunnel here is difficult, since there are many dwarves in a small space, and one dwarf starts behind you. All these in-door areas give you a few seconds to act before they start attacking.
I should also note that I like the way these guys fight. I've mentioned that they usually attack from a distance, start retreating, then attack after retreating a certain distance. They also retreat if they've been damaged enough. While they seem to travel in a half circle whenever they retreat, the rest of what they do is interesting. They work along roughly the same rules as the player, except they can't move and attack. Their accuracy is quite similar to what I put out, as in they seem to be trying to lead their shots whenever I move, so I can dodge if I notice them attacking.
The south end contains more dwarves. Like I said, the dwarves are a pain to hit, so I can't hit them too well. Because of it I tend to be relying upon the sling staff, to build up blowpipe ammo for later levels. A molehill here gives me a belt to use the blowpipe better. Is this a reoccuring character? I don't quite get it.

Screenshots didn't take well for this session, so enjoy this shot of the fountain far in the distance
 In the next area is a fountain. Wasn't I supposed to find a tree? There's no other path forward and a walkthrough online says to just walk up to the fountain. (I was concerned enough about this to check one, but I guess its okay) This is another of those funny things, because the first time I went through this area, I just walked up to it and was teleported, with no idea why. To Delanda.
The Amiga version would make the different kingdoms look different
Delanda is described as lakelands home to fisherman and sea farmers, along with ferrymen who just take agents of the Archmage these days. You know, wasn't there supposed to be a plague in this story? I feel like we're forgetting about that. Most RPGs forget about that, now that I think of it. The ferryman wants 12 gold coins to travel. I have plenty, but I figure I should rest here. I got pretty beat up in Sylvar.
This was a bad idea for two reasons, the first is that I got healed between here and Delanda. I don't know how. The second is that I encounter the deadliest enemy yet...seagulls. I didn't mention it yet, but this game doesn't work like other early FPS titles. That is, there is a Z axis. So shooting below or above an enemy is very much possible. Seagulls are tiny targets, and are a pain to deal with. Fortunately, they drop gold, 2 coins worth. So even if you missed giving the crown to Gregor, or missed it entirely (its good for one trip) you can still win. It is painful for resting though. I am curious as to if this whole need to sleep thing will ever crop up. I rested back in the caves, since that had a few rooms I could safely rest in. Otherwise resting is insanity, because it is guaranteed that something will disturb your rest.

This is a druid, not a ferryman, those curiously look like artiste types, beret, sweater and cigar included
Delanda is a confusing looking place. The edges are all deep blue, which I assume is supposed to be water. It doesn't quite work well. I think at some point its supposed to be showing the water as the edge, but it just looks like the game is glitching out. In the meantime, this area has druids, which don't drop any weapons or ammo, just golden sickles. This relates to a somewhat clever puzzle in this area. These pillars have inscriptions on them, and since I had the golden sickle, I assumed that was related to them.
Lime and limpid green/The second scene...

Wandering around more, taking out more druids and seagulls, I start finding sea demons. They're not colored in and here they don't drop anything. But the real clever bit is when I find a dying druid, who I guess had the plague. He fills me in on what I need to do. Take the golden sickle and cut down some mistletoe. There's only one unique tree sprite, and this allows me to use the pillars as transportation.

I'm guessing they just painted over the more impressive Amiga sprite

Or rather, teleportation. Which causes the peasants in the place I teleport to to start attacking me. They drop shortbows, which curiously enough, use pebbles as ammo. I'm not sure that works. I'm nearly constantly near death, but because of the outside setting, I have no ability to rest, so I have to find food on the ground or stay away from enemies for a long enough time. I get an armband here, from another molehill. Seems like a strange choice for a continuous helper.

Properly creepy looking
Ferrymen now seem to be charging 5 gold instead of 12. Much more reasonable. Sea demons start dropping arrows, meaning all my resources are in good shape. Curiously, I'm not finding a place to rest, meaning you're supposed to just blow through Sylvar and Delanda in one go?

Why does this sexy dress include what looks like very '80s shoulder pads?
A princess is here, marooned. Eloise seems to have been the graphics artist's attempts at doing sexy, but comes off as crudely done. Not sure if that's just the engine or the DOS version. She gives me some bracers to tell her sister that she's been marooned here. I also discover the name of the sea demons, before I called them sea beasts. She follows me around, but I find this less objectionable than Gregor. Oh, they're siblings. She also implies that Gregor is intentionally useless. Eloise isn't banging on about great adventures, so its more understandable that she isn't fighting.

Its very hard capturing a shot of a seagull, as it turns out

Okay, one more ferry. This island is supposed to be the biggest island. I see the druids again, and some pillars. And a man who looks like he's dying. Can't interact with...him...I've gone in a circle. Right...what am I missing?

The islands in the distance are actually places you can travel to, though I missed this until nearly the end of this area
Well, on the last island I missed some sandals. This turns out to be important, because returning to the big island I discover that there are some hidden pathways. I suspect the two are related and I just missed where this is explained. Anyway, this brings me to a new island. There's a well here, that wants a blood sacrifice...and I guess I need to use this vial on someone then. Great...well, I hope I don't have to do it to the princess. She's nice enough. Hey, since that one guy is already dying, it shouldn't be a problem getting some of his blood.

Er...uh...yeugh. The game really wants you to know that what you're doing is creepy. I sure feel happy that I had to do this...Guess I can advance. Hope I didn't miss anything here. I'll leave off here, since I think I have just enough done. There's a lot of downtime in this game where all you're doing is walking around. I don't hate it, but I'm not exactly fond of it.
I am curious as to how the game is going to continue being interesting. This is just before the halfway point, and the game's attempts at more diverse enemies is the kind of thing that blows up in game's faces. I still remember the spiders from Escape from Monster Manor, and including more small enemies like the seagull is an easy way down that path. Even taking out that mess with replaying the game 3 times, I'm still looking at roughly 7-8 more hours of game.

This Session: 4 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

1 comment:

  1. I caught back a bit, it is certainly an interesting game I had never heard about. It looks like their ambition was above what the tech allowed.