From The CRPG Addict
|My map of the game world so far. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to stuff in that middle area, or whether I can just fill it with a solid color.|
What has become clear–and what might have been clearer earlier, if I’d paid more attention to the game map–is that the wilderness areas are mostly incidental. The opening area held a few treasure chests and other interesting items, but I don’t think I’ve found anything in the outdoors since I first entered New City. The wilderness basically exists to funnel you from one faction’s territory to another’s, and while there are diversions to map along the way, most of them don’t stray far from the main road, and you could really spend all your time on the marked path.
|The map that came with the game. I should have focused on the path and not the wilderness.|
After my triumph at the Temple of Munkharama, I initially explored south, but eventually the combats grew too numerous and difficult, and I turned around. I returned to the opening area and the orchid field to the north, where my characters previously kept falling asleep. Now that I hard higher-level characters resistant to the sleep effects and a “wake up” spell, I was able to map and push through the area despite the constant drowsiness. I eventually re-connected with the road northwest of Orkogre Castle–well, not entirely “re-connected,” since as commenters have pointed out, the developers messed up to the tune of one north/south square.
|I hope someone was fired.|
Along the way, I conquered the Tower of Dane, but before I describe that, let me grouse a bit about the world map. When I originally saw the game map in the materials, I thought the developers had adopted a Might and Magic approach in which the overworld would offer open exploration. Instead, unless something changes, you’re pretty well limited to the loops of connecting trails, and a large section of the interior is destined to be colored in “inaccessible.” The division of the map into six rows, A-F, and nine columns is a bit misleading, since you can’t seem to explore the vast majority of it. (Among other things, A1 and A2 appear to be on the sun, while A8 and A9 are on the moon.) Not that I want the game to last a lot longer, but that’s kind of bogus.
On to the Danes. They’re tall, bald, blue creatures, like Zhaan on Farscape. I’d only met one of them before entering their tower; he had been sulking around Munkharama, spouting nonsense about the end of the world being nigh and such. Searching my notes, I found only a few other references. When I freed Captain Boerigard, the Gorn, from the jail in New City, he mentioned that the Gorn had survived numerous wars with the Munks and Danes. Brother T’Shober said he thought the evil Munks from the forest were plotting with the Danes. That was it. So you can see why I didn’t feel overly informed when I arrived.
The tower consisted of six 10 x 20 levels plus a couple of final rooms at the top. I’m obliged to note that the “tower” wasn’t visible from the outside and that somehow we went down a ladder in the wilderness to enter the first floor. On the first level, a priest told me that I would have to pass the Trial of the Fellowship, and he collected some initiation dues from me. I have this idea that I could have refused and just slaughtered my way through the temple, but I played it peaceful until circumstances wouldn’t let me do that anymore.
Each level had a name, announced by a title card upon entering the level. The goal on each level was to find a golden idol and place it on an altar, which in each case opened the way forward. Before moving up to the next levels, I always encountered the Dane priest, who congratulated us on our progress, promoted us to a higher temple rank, and collected a new set of (increasing) dues.
|None of these titles meant much in the end.|
Each level had a different theme, with a set of related challenges. Specifically:
- The Temple of the Initiate. A fairly easy level except for a single square, through which I had to pass repeatedly, where a “spray of choking gas” damaged my party and made a bunch of them nauseated. This square kicked off a theme for the tower, in which I repeatedly had to take unavoidable damage from certain squares, something that had me shouting some unprintable curses by the end of the tower.
- The Temple of Divine Order. I had to get a Key of the Beast from a group of Dane and use it to enter the Lair of the Beast, where I killed a Psi-Beast and learned its secret word, which was–sigh–MOO.
|This guy was freaky.|
- The Temple of Eternal Night. Most of the squares were dark, and I had to navigate with my map and by bumping against walls.
- The Temple of Aerial Wimsey. The level’s theme was a bunch of teleporters that I had to map and master. The golden idol was found in a room where a lack of air made the party collapse into unconsciousness. They had a vision of a young woman doing something with a sparkling globe. The young woman would seem to be the mysterious Vi Domina from the backstory (otherwise unencountered in the game so far), and I’m guessing the globe is the Astral Dominae.
|This had better make sense at some point.|
- The Temple of Deadly Coffers. Annoying as hell. Not only were there numerous chests that exploded every time I faced them (chests containing necessary keys), there were squares that damaged and “veggified” my party members, which I don’t even know what that means. I had to continually rest to undo the damage.
|“Oops” suggests I did something wrong. All I did was turn and face the chest.|
- The Temple of Wanderers. Another annoying level where stepping into various squares–not levers, buttons, or anything you could actually see–opened gates and hidden walls.
There was a corridor on this last level with a series of grates on the west wall. Some maniac was on the other side of the grates, with a “wild orgy of bodies,” casting fireballs at my party. There was no way to open the grates and get to him, just move forward down the hallway. “Fire Shield” didn’t seem to do anything to protect us. The damage continued for four squares, and it got so bad that I had to stop and rest several times in the middle of the corridor. When I got to the end, it turned out there was no way to progress further in that direction, and I had to turn around and walk back through the corridor–again stopping to rest several times–as I continued to take more damage.
|This was pretty infuriating.|
The lunatic turned out to be the head of the temple, Torquesade, the “Magna Dane,” who I encountered when I went up and back down. He presided over a “decadent” group of followers, “ripe with wine and orgasm.” In a long ALL CAPS speech, he demanded that we face the “challenge of the Spawning Pit, kill a fiend, and return with his demon horn. I had an option to just attack the idiot, and I was sorely tempted, but I had already collected some items necessary to perform the ritual at the Spawning Pit, and no role-playing option motivates me more than seeing a quest item fulfill its intended purpose and get out of my inventory.
|The head of the religion doesn’t seem very religious.|
The top level of the tower had a pit where we performed the ritual to summon the demon, first by throwing the Munk Innards from Gorn Castle, then by throwing the Ashes of Diam found earlier in the Dane Tower, then by tossing in the Stone of Gates found in Munkharama. (Until this moment, I had been hoping that the Stone of Gates would somehow warp us from location to location.) This sequence was found in a book and also explained by the Magna Dane.
|Well, that’s disgusting.|
The demon appeared and attacked. He is called * S P A W N * in the game; I remember from Wizardry VI that Bradley is fond of putting asterisks and spaces in the names of boss-level creatures. He had some mass-damage attacks but wasn’t that hard overall. When he was dead, we jumped into the pit and took his horn.
|The graphics and animation were pretty cool with this guy.|
Immediately, the voice of the Magna Dane stated ringing through the levels, shouting things like “KILL THEM, SEIZE THEM, BRING ME THE HORN!” as if I wasn’t going to bring it back to him. When I returned to his location, he attacked me with his army of followers, but my growing arsenal of mass damage spells (including the mage’s “Nuclear Blast” and the alchemist’s terrifyingly-effective “Asphyxiation”) made short work of them.
|The “boss” battle of the tower.|
After they were dead, it took me a while to realize I had to search the area to find the Magna Dane’s ring, use it to enter his chambers, and loot the treasure chest with the “Temple” map. I also got something called the “Coil of the Serpent” and a “Jeweled Cushion.”
When I left the Temple, I finished mapping the pathway and forest north of it, which reconnected with the part I’d already mapped at a new location called Nyctalinth. This appears to be the T’Rang capital. On the way, I did have one weird encounter in which I found a Helazoid battling a group of T’Rang and chose to help her. She gave me the banner of her people and suggested I visit the home of her people. Incidentally, she introduced herself as “Jan-Ette” and said that her queen’s name was “Ke-Li.” I don’t know how much more of that I can take.
|But not the Crusaders of the Dark Savant, right? Because wouldn’t they be bad?|
- The second level of the tower had a room called Belcanzor’s Magik Emporium. A note on the door said that Belcanzor is in New City at nighttime and in the tower during the day. I guess I mapped his shop but didn’t realize there was something to find there if I re-visited.
- In between the various areas, you get attacked by members of the various factions in generally unavoidable combat. In random battles, I’ve killed plenty of Danes, Munks, Gorns, and Helazoids in their hovercraft. I feel particularly bad about the latter. They’re pretty, and I have nothing against them even if they don’t seem to fit in to this setting.
|They look so happy. Why are they trying to kill me?|
- NPCs have started offering “Lore” when I click the associated button during encounters. The lore mostly indicates which individuals have what pieces of the map. The Magna Dane was supposed to have both the “Temple” and “Fools” maps, but I only found the Temple one. Some Munk has the “Dragon” and “Legend” maps. Ratkin have the “Crystal” map. Other lore talks about alliances; one tidbit I received late in the expedition is that “Lord Galiere has formed an alliance with Magna Dane.”
- Supposedly, when you click “Lore,” you’re actually trading lore, and the NPC finds out everything you know, too. I’m not sure what consequences this has for the game.
|I guess I’ll have to return to Munkharama.|
I’m still waiting for the plot to resolve into anything sensible. Despite taking copious notes in a very text-heavy game, I never really understood why I was at the Tower of Dane, what the Danes were about, or what consequences their demise at my hands might have on the game world. Crusaders feels like it was developed by someone who had a strong internal sense of the plot, the characters, and the various factions, but he forgot to seed the world with enough clues for the rest of us.
Time so far: 47 hours