From The CRPG Addict
|The party is disproportionately rewarded for doing nothing more than stepping into a particular square.|
There’s a fine line between giving challenges to players and screwing with them, and I don’t blame developers for not always getting it right. No one wants a game where all you do is wander hallways and fight monsters, at least not by the late 1980s. You want puzzles, special encounters, and navigation obstacles to spice things up. Plus, games like Alternate Reality showed that you can make the environment as much of a challenge as enemies, with considerations of hunger, thirst, fatigue, heat, and cold. I thus respect what the developers were trying to do. They just messed up subtle aspects of balance that make most of the difference between a challenge and a chore.
|“Setting” the homing stick.|
There are a lot of other little ways that playing Legends of the Lost Realm feels like being nibbled to death by ducks. To cover a few:
- Many games feature thieves who have a chance of stealing things from the party. I hate this however it’s done, but the games that do it “best” give the thief a relatively small chance. Legends‘ thieves inevitably steal from the party nearly every round. If you face party of 9 of them, 7 of them will pickpocket the party and then slip away, leaving them with no gold.
- “Burglars” are worse–they can steal items from the party, not just gold. Fortunately, they only target characters in melee range. But this means that the three rear characters have to hold on to everything that the party actually wants to keep–quest items, lanterns, homing sticks, unidentified weapons, and so forth.
- Between the thieves and the tax man, the party has to visit the bank frequently to avoid constantly losing their life savings. Incidentally, the bank only allows you to deposit and withdraw everything at once; you can’t choose a specific amount.
- Arrows come in stacks of up to 40. They deplete fast–maybe 3 or 4 per combat round. You occasionally find them post-combat in random stacks of between 1 and 40. There’s no way to merge multiple stacks, so you’re constantly juggling them and you have to equip new stacks every couple of rounds. And when a stack reaches 0, they don’t disappear and the character’s don’t discard them automatically. You have to manually un-equip and discard the “stack” of 0 arrows.
- The game requires you to equip a weapon before you can pay to identify it. Which means a character capable of equipping the weapon has to be carrying it. Since only fighters can reliably equip everything, you would generally want to store excess weapons with them, except there’s an excellent change they’ll be stolen by burglars. So you have to store them with the rear characters and then shuffle them around come identification time.
But nothing has been more out-of-balance than the way the game rewards experience. Before I cover that, let’s talk about what I accomplished since last time.
First of all, the game unexpectedly got a lot easier. The difficulty problems I related in the first two entries really just plague you for the first character level. Once you hit Level 2, and effectively double your hit points, enemy parties stop being so deadly, and you can afford to resurrect after the occasional character death. I’ve never seen such a quick pivot in game difficulty.
This relative ease continued as I started to explore the dungeons. I got it in my head somewhere that I wanted to start with the northeast tower–maybe it was in some of the material that someone linked. Anyway, I expected the dungeon to kick it up a notch in difficulty, but instead the enemy parties–aside from the occasional wandering party of 18 fighters and 18 archers–were easier than what I typically faced in the town. Exploring the tower was logistically annoying but I was rarely in any real danger. I often faced only a single enemy at a time.
The northeast tower is called the Tower of War, and like all four of the corner towers, it has two entrances. The tower consisted of two levels, both 20 x 20.
|The first level. Shaded squares cause lights to go out. That got old fast.|
|The second level was mostly empty.|
The first level had four squares in which the wall showed me some kind of line drawn on a map. A message on the town level suggested that I would find 16 map pieces, 4 in each corner tower. I figured they’d be spread throughout the tower, but instead they were all grouped relatively close together.
|Finding the first map piece.|
Other features of the tower included:
- The first level had two stairways up, one of them only accessible after we found a silver statue on the dungeon floor. Having the statue in the inventory opened a secret door to the second staircase.
- A message on the first floor read, “The third test, what is may not be, what is not may be.”
- Two squares on the first floor had encounters with “Flat Head” and “Flat Head’s Mom.” Both of them were completely immune to everything I threw at them, including unarmed attacks. I had to annotate them for later.
|The game has mostly avoided this kind of goofiness so far.|
- There were two pits going down on the first floor. You need long ropes to travel them safely and I didn’t have any. By dropping into them (and taking heavy damage), I found that they led to a long underground area called a “secret passage” with multiple ways up. I suspect all the towers connect to this area. But I had no way to get back up, so I had to reload.
- In one chamber on the second floor, I found Bracers of Ogre Strength.
|This is the first unique item I’ve found so far in the game.|
Exploring both levels took maybe four or five expeditions from town, returning with a homing stick when I ran low on food, water, or light sources. As I explored, I kept track of how much experience I was earning, because I wanted to return to the Review Board when I was ready for the next level. It was a discouraging experience. My characters needed about 2,000 experience points to advance, and enemy parties were delivering an average of maybe 60 experience points–spread out among a party of 6. I was preparing to write an entry in which I would tell you that after 6 hours of dungeon exploration, I hadn’t gained a single level.
|One of the lamer enemies in the Tower of War.|
Then, in the northwest corner of the first level of the Tower of War, I ran into a party of 8 guards. Nothing special. I’d fought parties bigger than that before. I killed them without too much problem. Then a message popped up that said, “You have done well! The brave fighters will be rewarded for their courage.”
|That didn’t feel like a “boss” combat.|
Rewarded they were–with about 3,000 experience points for each fighter in the party (somewhat less for the other characters). That was more than I’d earned in the entire game up to this point.
It gets worse. On the second floor, just by wandering into a square, I got a message that said, “Congratulations, you have completed the Tower of War. Fights among you will have gained much experience.” Again, it wasn’t lying. Each fighter got more than 10,000 experience points. (Again, the three rear characters got somewhat less.) By the time I got done with the Review Board, my fighters were Level 5 and my other characters were Level 3.
|A fighter goes up two levels at once.|
The end result is that almost 90% of the experience points I’ve earned in this game have come from those two squares, and only 10% from the many, many battles I fought to get there. This is pretty nuts. If this continues, there is essentially no purpose to the average combat.
|Yay! 0.16667% of the way to the next level!|
As I close, I’ve begun exploring the Thieves’ Tower in the southeast. It’s composed of a bunch of small rooms connected by locked doors that my thief has to pick. You’ll recall from the last entry that the thief uses his abilities (like all classes do), by “casting” them. Somehow, this actually depletes from his pool of “spell points,” and so eventually you run out of points, can’t pick any more locks, and have to leave to rest. It’s taken me four trips to map one-third of the first level, although I’ve already found two more map pieces.
|A repeated message in the thieves’ tower.|
Despite the odd imbalances, the towers have intrigued me just enough to keep me from wrapping up the game with this entry. There are three things the game has me curious about. First, I want to see what kind of puzzle the map pieces are leading to. Second, I’d like to know when and how I can switch to the prestige classes. None of them have been available so far when leveling up, but my attributes are increasing with each level-up, and I imagine it’s just a matter of time. The prestige classes have some interesting-sounding skills.
Third, I’m very curious about the uses for some of the game’s many spells. So far, I haven’t done much with spells. My shaman has put almost everything into “Cure Light Wounds.” He has some minor offensive and protective spells beyond that, but nothing I’ve been eager to sacrifice healing for.
The mage has been less useful than mages in other games. Level 1 mage spells are mostly offensive, but they hardly do anything. “Magical Arrow” is good for a few hit points’ damage–far less than a fighter’s melee attack. “Hold,” “Pain,” “Slow,” and “Weaken” all sound more useful than they are. They have a minor impact on enemies’ stats. “Hold” doesn’t even really hold; it just “causes a group of enemies to hesitate.”
Level 2 mage spells are almost all about navigation: “Compass,” “Lantern Glow,” “Mapping,” “Determine Location,” “Detect Secret Doors,” and “Locate Treasure.” They’d all be more useful if the dungeons weren’t set up to cause the spells to fail in about half the squares you cast them.
|I’m also curious what some of these items will be used for.|
But what really has me curious is some of the spells coming up, as well as some of those available if I class-change to witch, healer, wizard, or enchanter classes. Plus, the sorcerer class somehow has the ability to create their own spells based on the characteristics of others in the game. This might be a “first” for CRPGs. It just seems like it’s going to take me a long time to get there.