Crusaders of the Dark Savant: The Next Square

From The CRPG Addict


My map of New City.

          
I didn’t mention this in the last entry, but I initially explored New City without mapping it. As I made my second pass through the city, to ensure I’d found everything and properly annotated locations for later exploration, I found myself enjoying the game a lot more. Again, I am reminded that the simple act of mapping makes a huge difference in my enjoyment of a game. A good map serves not only as a literal map but a comprehensive set of notes and clear delineation of where you can and cannot go next. Uncovering each new square then becomes a goal in itself, imparting a sense of progress even when the game’s plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

The maps for Crusaders have been intriguing so far. The outdoor map twist and turn through forests, leaving huge unexplored areas–the game has no interest in the predictable n x n grids of its predecessors. It uses the “razor wall” approach for indoor areas but the “worm tunnel” approach for outdoors (in that every “wall” of trees occupies a block rather than just a wall). As you transition from the outdoors to New City, there’s a clear demarcation at the “Entering New City” sign, but the same isn’t true when you later reach Munkharama, and this opens the intriguing possibility that the world exists on a single scale. I haven’t found anything that would give me coordinates and help me confirm this. I don’t yet think we’ve had a large first-person game in which the entire territory could be represented on a single map page, cities and outdoor areas together, without transition between areas messing up the scale and coordinates. Perhaps Wizardry VI was like that and I just don’t remember.
When I last wrote, I was back in New City, trying to figure out to cure my fighter’s disease without reloading an earlier save and losing a lot of progress. The solution turned out to be simple, if expensive. When speaking to the priest at the Thesminster Abbey, he asks if you’re willing to sacrifice a little or all. If you say just a little, you get access to a healing fountain that restores your health and stamina. If you say “all,” you get access to a fountain that also removes all conditions. I figured I could make back the gold easier than redo so much of the city, so I gave it all up and cured my disease.
With my stamina at maximum, I was able to swim to the statue in the middle of the temple’s courtyard. It was dedicated to Phoonzang (from the back story, creator of the Astral Dominae), and searching it revealed a “moonstone.” I’m not sure what’s for, but I have no doubt it will turn out to be an important quest object later, perhaps the Sacred Stone from the story below.
             

I wonder if this will teleport me from place to place if I plant it.

               

Meanwhile, I took greater notice of an area whose importance I had missed earlier. In one of the southern buildings, there’s a plaque with a bunch of letters missing, but it’s clearly supposed to be “Old City,” and there’s a keyhole in the same room. In the city’s library, I met a ratkin NPC named Professor Wunderland, who had a long speech telling me more about the Old City. Apparently, all races on the planet used to live there in peace, worshipping a Sacred Stone, but they eventually broke into sects with their own interpretations of what the Stone wanted. Old City was abandoned as the sects settled in other areas and began to war with each other. Eventually, some strangers called the Higardi appeared from the mountains, and they worked to re-unite the various sects by creating New City. But then the Higardi disappeared and no one knows why. Unfortunately, nothing I could think to say or do would get Professor Wunderland to give me or even talk about the key to Old City, so perhaps I have to get that somewhere else.
         

“Something called the Sacred Stone”? Was it perhaps a sacred stone?

          

I should note, in keeping with the theme of my last entry, that the story I summarized above is very long–about 25 screens of text–and several potential questions elicit the entire story from the beginning, with no way to break it. It’s possible that if I’d kept at it, I would have found the keyword that would have led me to the key, but after four times cycling through the entire narrative, I was done with Professor Wunderland.
I don’t know if New City’s current state of depopulation is a result of the Dark Savant taking over (about a third of the buildings have a red emblem indicating his guardians are inside) or some other factor. Either way, I killed a lot of his guardians, which probably means I won’t be a part of his faction.
           

The troopers have stun-lances, which are hard to counter.

            

I left New City with about half a dozen areas unexplored or tasks unfinished:
         
  • In the northwest, a locked door proclaims that it is “T’Rshieche’s House” and “Property of the T’Rang Empire.” The door lock is too powerful for my thief to pick.
  • I the southeast, a building marked “Umpani detache” also has a lock too hard to pick.
  • I still can’t defeat the assemblage of Dark Savant troopers and guardians who guard the jail.
  • In a building across from a jail, there’s a door with some kind of control panel that needs an object I don’t have.
  • In a southern building is a locked door too difficult to pick.
  • The Curio Museum has two puzzles I haven’t been able to solve. One involves a set of “twisted heads” and the other involves a glowing wand surrounded by balls of light. Either way, there seem to be too many possibilities to figure out the answers by trial and error, and I don’t have any other clues that I know of.

          

None of these sound like good options.

          

At least some of these tasks can be solved with a stronger party, so I headed out of New City’s east exit intending to return and try again after a few more levels.
           

The outdoor area between New City and Munkharama.

         

The forest east of New City served plenty of battles with giant bugs, Gorns, giant ravens, giant moths, and a whole class of plant-like creatures called “phoots,” including “gumbiphoots” and “alliphoots.” I’m trying not to let all the David Bradley nonsense ruin the game for me, but it’s tough when practically every monster or NPC seems like it was named by a four-year-old.
           

Exhibit Z.

          
My fighter reached a skill of 100 in his primary weapon (sword) and got an extra attack per round. Eventually, so did my thief. The thief got good enough with “artifacts” that he was finally able to identify most of the stuff I’ve been lugging around, but disappointingly it turned out to be regular equipment. Equipment upgrades, at least from combat, have been very slow to arrive. Since the beginning, I’ve replaced maybe two weapons and a couple pairs of pants with slightly better versions.

Like the forest west of New City, the eastern one had a clear, marked road that broke into two branches. Forested areas that deviated from the road inevitably just led to small dead-ends with nothing important to find. The first major branch brought me to a Gorn NPC named Lord Galiere who warned me that I’d be attacked if I went any further into Gorn lands. The game didn’t give me a chance to talk with him before he galloped off. Sensitive to angering a potential faction, I declined to keep exploring in that direction for now.
            

This guy really turns me on. Apparently.

        

Incidentally, upon meeting Lord Galiere, this was the description I got:
         
Soon, a part appears in the crowd of leathered men, and striding up the open channel a tall regal figure walks with the poise and stature of seasoned nobility. Although he appears like the others, deep ochre skin, round barreled body, and short tusks ascending out of his mouth a from a wild boar, there is something more concentrated about him, and despite your misgivings about the situation, you feel an unmistakable attraction.
           
As I mentioned last time, I don’t really like being told what my characters are feeling, and that goes doubly true when they’re being unwillingly enlisted in David Bradley’s homo-bestial erotic fiction. Let’s hope this doesn’t continue to go anywhere.
On the other branch, I ran into a river crossing guarded by Brother Tshober. The priest at Thesminster Abbey had told me to repeat some words (SLAY NOT HE THAT CANNOT HEAR) to Tshober, but when I did, Tshober just said he didn’t understand what I was getting at. After I explored the rest of the forest, I tried again, and this time he reacted. Maybe I accidentally said “WHO CANNOT HEAR” the first time. Either way, my commenters had warned me that he was long-winded, and my were they right. The gist of it was that we needed to visit the hidden temple of Munkharama, beneath the Holy City. The temple guards the Holy Work, which I assume is the Astral Dominae. He said that once I find it (which is apparently going to involve dealing with some flooding), I should take it to Master Xheng, “Lord of the 5 flowers.” He finished his speech by giving us a “cable trolley” that allows crossing the river. Mercifully, he disappeared after that, so we don’t have to deal with him every time we approach the river.
            

The game’s text has me seeing double-entendres everywhere.

       

The path beyond the crossing led to Munkharama, where I ended this session. So far, the game has been pretty linear. I don’t know if it opens up later or if it continues like this throughout, but the paths have basically funneled me from place to place, with the only alternatives blocked by a lack of swimming skill or an inability to deal with the poppies on the first map.
             

We arrive in the next map.

       

Miscellaneous notes:
       
  • The door animation gets old fast. It slows down quick travel from place to place.
  • This is probably an emulator issue, but the game frequently registers double-presses of movement keys and thus faces me in the wrong direction, often screwing up mapping if I don’t notice it right away.
  • The inn in New City sells rooms for 50 gold pieces. I’m not sure what the advantage is, since you can rest anywhere.
  • A new NPC named D’Rang T’Rang keeps appearing but never wants to talk with me. I have to keep walking away from him.

          

Yes? Can I help you?

         

  • The sound effects include a consistent background drone that repeats every few seconds. I have no idea what it’s attempting to depict.
  • There is perhaps nothing in this universe more annoying than having your character successfully score a hit in combat but then achieving “no penetration.”
             
I’ve been at a conference all week, so my experience is a bit limited by the small fractions of time that I have to play. I should be back to a more regular schedule in October.

Time so far: 15 hours



Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2018/09/crusaders-of-dark-savant-next-square.html