Crusaders of the Dark Savant: 10 Steps Behind

From The CRPG Addict


This just isn’t my month.
          
As I closed the last session, I was near the gates of Ukpyr, where I was destined to meet (finally) the Umpani, a human-rhinoceros race that I guess represents one of the game’s “good” factions. But I had reached the gates by following the right-most wilderness path ever since leaving the Rattkin ruins. Rather than continue to Ukpyr, I decided to about-face and map the rest of the wilderness between Ukpyr and the ruins, partly because I knew there were three more flowers to find.
Let me pause to note (and perhaps slightly complain) that Crusaders doesn’t really have an “outdoor” area. It has a huge dungeon with outdoor textures, just like the first Might and Magic. Far fewer than half the squares on the grid are used, and the party is channeled through very narrow passages. I much prefer the open exploration available in Might and Magic III, which retains a first-person interface outside, or Pool of Radiance, which switches to a top-down view. Crusaders’ system works okay for the needs of pacing and plot, but to pretend it’s a major step up from Wizardry VI is absurd. I find the game map, which copies the style of the Might and Magic series, particularly disingenuous. It suggests there are 54 map squares, from A1 to F9, but most of these squares–including, I think, all of Row A–are completely unexplorable, and others only have a tiny handful of used tiles. 
For that matter, why annotate the squares? Unless I’m missing something, there’s no spell or device in the game that provides the party’s current coordinates, so why even specify that New City is in square C4 or Ukpyr is in D9? In any event, one consolation is that this type of world is easier to map.
            
Water exploration is exhausting for both me and the characters.
         
In due course, I came to a water-filled cave. I spent an hour mapping the damned thing, swimming for six or seven squares and then taking forever to restore everyone’s stamina via “Stamina” spells. It was often up to 20 squares between land areas, so there were multiple “Stamina” breaks between times that I could simply sleep.
I should mention that water squares contain as many fixed encounters as land squares. Most of them are with red piranhas or these things called “Dinkle Wisps” that look like flying jellyfish. Nothing too hard.
          
I refuse to spell “piranha” the way the game does.
        
When all was said and done, I accomplished nothing in the cave. I’m not sure what it’s purpose was. There was one area full of whirlpools that I couldn’t pass without dying. (“Levitate” did nothing to help, and I couldn’t find any other spell solution.) There were numerous messages about calcium deposits and turbulent waters, but nothing that gave me a clue to use or do anything. Maybe I’ll later find something that allows easier passage over water.
I found two flowers on the way back to the Rattkin ruins. I also found another cave, this one populated by giants. (And like the cave I entered last time, at some point it collides with the existing outdoor map, meaning it doesn’t exist on the same scale.) The giants mostly attacked individually, and had names like Ogo, Munstachio, and Gruengard. At first, I felt bad about entering their cave and slaughtering them, but it soon became clear that they regarded us as food. The giants have a devastating melee attack that almost never hits. They have so many hit points that I was generally lucky with a critical hit before I actually wore them down to 0.
             
            
The ultimate battle of the area was with Spot–sorry, * S P O T *–the dinosaur-ish “pet” of the giants. He had about 1,500 hit points and, like the giants, a deadly physical attack that usually missed. He seemed completely immune to spells and critical hits, so I had to kill him the hard way. Sometimes I miss all-physical combats like this, where buffing spells like “Superhero” and “Bless” and “Enchanted Sword” can really make a difference, and you need healers to run from character to character to minimize hit point loss. You use far different tactics when pounding away at one guy than you do in combat with 40 enemies in 5 groups.
              
He doesn’t even have any spots.
         
* S P O T * turned out to be guarding nothing more than a buried helmet called a “Necromatic Helm,” which is cursed. I have no idea as to its purpose. Elsewhere in the caves was the fifth flower required by Master Xheng.
At this point, I was way back at the beginning of this wilderness area. Rather than hike all the way back to Ukpyr, I decided to walk downriver and see if I could figure out where the two maps connected (I had been keeping a separate map ever since emerging from the Rattkin ruins). It didn’t take very long, and with some careful cutting and pasting, I had a unified map again.
            
My current map of the game world.
         
Along the way, I explored an area north of the river, accessible only from the river, and found a treasure chest with a lot of great stuff. It had belonged to some kind of knight, apparently, and featured a “Crusader’s Axe” and “Crusader’s Helm,” plus a couple of pieces of magical chainmail. The items are only usable by a fighter, lord, or Valkyrie. I had been building my Valkyrie’s “Axe” skill in anticipation of eventually finding one, so I gave it to her to see if it would perform better than my +2 spear. Jury is still out.
            
Treasure chests are rare enough in this game that it’s a major event when you find one.
        
Munkharama was now only a short distance away, so I went there to bring the 5 flowers to Master Xheng. When I arrived, he was gone, but he’d left a note: “Seek out Father Rulae in the Abbey of New City.  Tell him that you have learned the Holy Sacrament, and he shall aid you in your journey.” This was followed by instructions for blending the five flowers together. I had to figure out part of the recipe myself, which was to make a “divine solution of White Dahlia,” which just meant mixing the White Dahlia with holy water. In the end, I had a potion called “Snakespeed,” and I have no idea what it does. “Identify ” doesn’t help at all. Drinking it doesn’t seem to produce any increase in attributes. I’ve saved it in case I need it for a puzzle or something.
              
Part of Master Xheng’s instructions.
          
Back I traveled to New City, now with two things to accomplish. First, I told Father Rulae that I learned the “Holy Sacrament.” He granted me access to a new underground area, where there was a chest that contained . . . only dust. Yet another map piece that someone else got to first. There was also a healing fountain that I don’t have to pay to use, but I do have to talk to Father Rulae and acknowledge multiple messages every time I want to use it. It might be easier just to use the one in the starter dungeon.
            
I walked around and picked five flowers. It wasn’t particularly “virtuous.”
        
I next visited Professor Wunderlund and told him that I need to visit the ARCHIVES, the keyword I’d received in the Rattkin ruins. He responded that the archives were in the Old City and gave me a key.
             
I feel like we could have gotten here sooner.
          
The key opened the way to a small underground area where there were a few easy combats with undead and slimes. I found two treasure chests there. The first contained some miscellaneous goodies–scrolls, mostly. The second contained . . . empty wrappers. Damn it. That’s 0 for 2 this session, and like 2 for 7 the entire game.
             
This graphic makes me think of the “great link” from Deep Space 9.
        
The interesting thing is that these two chests in New City are keyword-dependent rather than item-dependent. If you were replaying the game, you could presumably get instant access to the maps by feeding the previously-known keywords to Father Rulae and Professor Wunderlund. I’m curious if any of my commenters who’ve replayed the game have done that or forced themselves to learn the words “honestly.”
As I’ve mentioned before, the game continually assaults you with wandering NPCs. The two I encounter most frequently are Captain Beaurigad, the Gorn soldier I released from prison in New City, and Jan-Ette, the Helazoid I rescued from a party of T’Rang. King Ulgar the Gorn shows up a lot, too. Every time they appear, you have to acknowledge their multi-screen introductory text, and sometimes they pop up literally a few steps from your last encounter with them.
             
Oh, go screw yourself.
           
The two positive things about these encounters are that you can offload unwanted goods on them, and by clicking “Lore,” you can get rumors about who has the various map pieces. The current status seems to be:
           
  • We have Temple.
  • We have Boat.
  • We have Crypt (this is the one I bought from an Umpani rather than finding).
  • The T’Rang have Dragon.
  • The T’Rang have Legend.
  • The Rattkin have Crystal.
  • The Umpani have Fools.
          
Maybe I can trade the lodestone for it.
             
These are the only maps I ever hear about, but I think you only ever hear about maps whose chests you’ve already visited, so presumably there are still more out there. I still don’t understand why they’re called “maps” or what they actually do besides imparting some hints that you don’t really need to solve the areas.
Let’s do a quick character check-in. For the magic items equipped by each character, I cast “Identify” and gave it to the person that it seemed most suited for at the time, but for most of them, I can no longer remember what they do.
          
  • Gideon is a human lord of Level 17. He’s equipped with the Sword of 4 Winds, a Bat Necklace, a Crusader Helm, upper plate mail +3, lower plate mail +2, cuir gauntlets, and buskins. Every one of his attributes is 18. He also has the highest karma, at 19, but I honestly don’t know what karma does for me.
  • Noctura is a Dracon ninja at Level 17. She has a Vorpal Blade, a Blackbelt of 5 Flowers, nija cowl, ninja garb (upper and lower), and Tabi boots (all items of armor given by the Xheng Temple). She has 18 in most attributes except 15 personality and 17 piety. She has the lowest karma, at 3.
  • Svava is a dwarf Valkyrie of Level 17. She wields a Crusader’s Axe +1 (two-handed), a Burgonet helm, plate mail +2 (upper), plate mail +3 (lower), an “Amulet of Stillness.” Here attributes range from 15 to 18.
  • Esteban is a elf bishop of Level 16. He’s carrying a Staff of Blessing and a Cross of Protection and wearing the Necromatic Helm, a chainmail doublet +2, quilt leggins, and buskins. His attributes range from 12 to 18.
  • Prenele is a Level 17 faerie alchemist. I currently have her wielding a short bow and wearing an Amulet of Protection from Magic, a Wizard’s Cone, a gossamer gown (upper and lower), and sandals. Because the availability of ammunition is variable, she also has a sling and a faerie stick as backup weapons, but I use her mostly for spells. Her attributes range from 15 to 18.
  • Bix is a Level 17 hobbit mage. I just equpped him with an awesome whip called a “Cat’O Nine Tail” that hits enemies all the way from the back row. He also has an Amulet of Airs, a skullcap, Robes of Enchantment (upper and lower), and sandals. Skilled at “Music” from his bard days, he’s carrying a Poet’s Lute (puts enemies to sleep), a Chromatic Lyre (casts “Itching Skin”), a Lute of Sloth (casts “Slow”), a Silent Lyre (casts “Silence”), and a Cornu of Demonspawn (casts “Astral Gate” and summons a demon to help the party). I should really be getting more use out of these.
            
Combat has frankly become easy, and it’s my fault for spending so much time switching classes and getting easy skill points, though I guess I’m paying for that wasted time when it comes to the maps. Between Esteban, Prenele, and Bix, they’re capable of so many mass-damage spells, and have so many spell points, that large enemy parties rarely last more than two rounds. Ironically, it’s individual enemies, like the giants, that pose the most risk because I’m less likely to spend a lot of spell points on them.
From here, I have a few options. There’s an unexplored area northeast of the Rattkin ruins, but I suspect it simply dead-ends in the forest, and I’ll end up walking all the way up there just to map six squares. Still, I need to take care of it. I also have to finish the Nyctalinth ruins (readers offered hints that I haven’t fully digested) and of course Ukpyr. 
But as I was closing this entry, a new path opened up. There’s a square in New City, in the “Curio Museum,” that I’ve long left marked “for later.” I annotated it with the comment “Twisted heads; several options.” To remind myself what I was talking about, I returned to that area and found that there are six heads sticking out of a mural, and they can be twisted around in any order. Their names are Laughing Devil, Silent Devil, Happy Demon, Angry Demon, Surprised Imp, and Scared Imp.
          
I wasn’t looking forward to trying 6! = 720 combinations.
         
Those names rang a bell because I had just consulted the “Boat” map to support my statement above that the maps just give useless hints. It says:
            
The waters of life do move as the weather, and in life as the waters, thee shall know both calm and storm. He that must embrace the storm shall soon be swept away. While he that learns to navigate shall make his own journey. When they fear has turned to anger, thee has lost thy soul, and shall make the devil laugh. But to still thy tongue and become amazed, thee begets enlightenment, and thus shall thee know bliss. Thus may one discover a craft, and sail upon the waters. Thus one may discover thyself, and sail upon life.
              
(Every time I quote text in this game, I’m ignoring that all of the sentences end in ellipses rather than periods. Every damned sentence in the game ends with an ellipse. It is one of the most annoying devices I have ever seen in an RPG.)
Twisting the heads in the order suggested by the paragraph caused a secret door to open. The passage beyond led to a boat! The game noted that it had no visible means of propulsion, so I searched my inventory–why am I still carrying that lodestone?–when I realized that the game called the boat the “Wikum-boat,” and I had something called “Wikum’s Power Globe.” That was obviously the solution, and a few squares later, the party was out on the open sea. This is another area where a second-time player could get this resource almost immediately.
            
This feels like a major milestone.
           
A couple of weeks ago, a commenter with the initials L.M. (I’ll let him comment if he wants his identity known further) contacted me to encourage me to upload my times to howlongtobeat.com. It’s an interesting site that gives average completion times in three categories: “main story,” “main + extras,” and “completionist” (gods, how I hate that term). I frankly don’t get some of the distinctions. For instance, it says that it takes 27.5 hours to beat Ultima IV‘s main story, 35 hours with “extras,” and 50 hours as a “completionist.” The problem is that Ultima IV really doesn’t have a lot of optional content. For a first-time player (which is what the site ought to be polling), you have to visit pretty much every area. I don’t see how a “completionist” approach would double the game’s playing time. (Nor do I see how a second-time player would take as long as 27 hours.) Frankly, it’s well past the era in which my blog currently lingers (1992) before such distinctions become relevant to most RPGs.
Nonetheless, the “main + extras” value is a reasonably good predictor for how long it took me to win games that I’ve played. Here are some examples:

Game
Me
HLTB
Might and Magic
50
55.0
Might and Magic II
65
65.0
Might and Magic III
68
71.0
Pool of Radiance
30
32.5
Quest for Glory
12
11.0
Ultima V
48
44.0
Ultima Underworld
33
30.5
I created an account and L.M. agreed to help enter my scores for games already played. A lot of my games weren’t in the HLTB database, and for many that were (or were later added), I’m the only player. Mandragore (1985) and Conan: The Cimmerian (1991) are two of them.
Anyway, Crusaders of the Dark Savant is proving to be a bit of an outlier. HLTB’s scores show the “main story” should wrap up in 66 hours, “main + extra” at 100 hours, and “completionist” at 112 hours. Again, I don’t know how you make these distinctions as a first-time player, when you basically have to explore everything, but the numbers suggest I should be done in about 26 hours, and it just doesn’t feel like I’m that close. I guess we’ll see.
I’m toying with whether I should reference this site at the beginning of my experience with a game. In some ways, it’s a spoiler to know how long it lasts, and the numbers might even serve to intimidate me in the case of very long games. On the other hand, it might help me plan my upcoming list, alternating long and short games to create a better pacing. Of course, I’m still going to run into issues where a decent portion of games aren’t in the database. Not a single title on my “upcoming” list is in there, for instance. Still, I’ll try it for a while for major titles and see how it goes.

Time so far: 74 hours



Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2018/11/crusaders-of-dark-savant-10-steps-behind.html