From The CRPG Addict
|The Game Master gives me one of the main quests of the game.|
At this point, I’ve explored five towns, three caves, and as much of the outdoor area as I can. The outdoor map is structured so you can’t get very far without the skills necessary to navigate through swamps, forests, and mountains (and, I suppose, swimming), but the trainers for everything except “Forestry” must be on the other side of the island. Eventually, you get to a point where the only possible way to progress is a bridge, where a woman wants a password.
|Everything funnels the player to this bridge.|
The outdoor about 64 squares vertical, ocean to ocean. If it’s also 64 squares east-to-west, there’s still a lot of the game for me to uncover, as I’ve only gone a maximum of 17 squares horizontal. On the other hand, this game does not seem to be interested in predictable square maps. The dungeon maps have all been much longer east-west than north-south–sometimes absurdly so–so perhaps the continent is stretched in the other direction.
|The town of Pelingore is 37 x 15.|
The outdoor map is sprinkled with towns, caves, fountains that raise attributes, and random treasure chests. Every town has a hut nearby where a gnome tells you how many parties of wandering monsters you still have to kill to clear the town. Once you kill them all and return to him, he gives you gold and experience. Each town has an armory, a tavern, a temple, a training hall, and its own variety of special encounters and side quests. Some of them have guild shops that sell magic spells. Each town so far has also featured at least one mysterious square in which a question mark indicates some kind of encounter, but stepping on it produces nothing.
My characters are all Level 11, and combats haven’t been very hard since the first few hours of the game, when I didn’t know how to properly equip items. I’ve purchased some offensive spells, but I have yet to find anything that affects the entire enemy party. Meanwhile, single-enemy offensive spells like “Cold Ray” and “Fire Ray” do less damage than a melee attack, so there’s rarely any reason to use them. My healer is kept busy with “Cure Wounds,” but my sorcerer doesn’t often have any sorcerer-specific things to do, except when I need her for “Townportal” or something. Since I’m never really in any danger during combats, battles have become rather tedious and boring.
|This battle with 8 enemies is merely long, not hard.|
The process of sorting through all the “found” equipment is about as cumbersome as Might and Magic, and to simplify things I’ve adopted the expedient of using the sale price of the piece of equipment as the primary measure of quality. Even then, I have to go through about a half hour of shuffling and sorting after each dungeon.
|A lucrative expedition loaded me up with much better equipment than I already had.|
None of the mysteries I mentioned last time have been solved except perhaps for the skill system. Midway through this session, I found a hut where a trainer will increase your score with each skill–but only if someone else has already taught you the skill. So I was able to take “Forestry” and “Healer” to 100% for the characters who had them, but I wasn’t able to do anything with skills like “Burglary” and “Swimming” because no one had acquired them yet. The long list of skills for which I have found no trainers is a counter-argument to the “small, narrow continent” hypothesis. I suppose there’s going to have to be much more territory if I have to find huts for all these other skills.
|All of the game’s skills can be trained here, point by point.|
I’m acquiring a lot more sub-quests than I’m solving. In Umure, a woman wants me to find a ring that she lost near a cave. In Brelock, a man wants me to rescue his daughter from “Zappo.” In Barura, Baran der Allwissende wants me to find his spellbook. And so forth. I’ve been assuming that these things are all on the other side of the continent, but late in this session, I realized I was mistaken as to the rules of secret doors. The nature of my mistake would be long and complicated, but the end result is that they can appear in far more places than I assumed. I thus feel that I need to go back through the towns and caves I’ve already explored and test more of the walls. There are also a lot of locked doors that I’ve left for later, presumably when I have the “Burglary” skill.
The third cave I explored was called “Glorys,” which introduced a new navigation obstacle: pits and teleporters for which I needed the “Jump” spell to pass and continue exploring the dungeon on the other side. It wasn’t hard to figure out. There was also a switch that lowered a nearby wall, but in general the game has featured nothing of the complexity of puzzles that we see in games of the Dungeon Master style.
|Casting “Jump” to cross a pit.|
Glorys gave me a series of messages related to someone called “Xoon,” which seems to be a play on Might and Magic IV‘s “Xeen.” As Might and Magic IV came out the same year as Dark Stone Ritual, the latter’s developers must have been remarkably quick, or else everyone’s wrong about Ritual‘s proper year.
Anyway, the Xoon messages are a little odd in that each one features what I think is the German word nur, meaning “only” or “just,” as in nur ein wenig (“just a little”) or nur ein gigolo (“merely a gigolo”), only for some reason the letters in the word are spaced out. I don’t know how I’m to regard that odd spacing in a word that you wouldn’t normally emphasize, and I hope some of my German readers might help. Here’s an example:
The messages, with what I get for translations, are:
- Xoon: mordet n u r aus verzweiflung: “Xoon: murders only in despair.”
- Xoon: schlägt n u r die die ihm wiedersprechen: “Xoon: strikes only those who talk back to him.”
- Xoon: liebt blutige getränke n u r wenn sie noch warm sind: “Xoon: loves bloody drinks only when they’re still warm.”
- Xoon: liebt gebackene leber n u r wenn sie menschlichen ursprungs ist: “Xooon: loves baked liver only when it’s of human origin.”
There was a fifth message for which I didn’t screenshot the German, suggesting that Xoon eats only very small children. The dungeon culminated in an encounter with the “Game Master,” who said that if we defeat Xoon and bring the Game Master his head, “the power of the Dark Stone sect is finally broken and you will have passed your first test!”
I next need to find the password to cross that bridge. I may already have it. Two of the towns featured encounters with a “morgogilde.” One told me that “the first two are MO” and the other said that “the second two are ND.” Unless there are more morgogildes that I missed behind secret doors, that gives me a password to try: MOND.
|Here, have a napkin.|
Ritual remains some fun, but I’m starting to worry that it will wear out its welcome long before it decides to wrap up. It has Might and Magic‘s admirable variety, although not assembled quite as artfully as is inspiration. Still, it’s been a major step forward for the Motelsoft brand.