Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Gorn and Scumbles

From The CRPG Addict

As I arrive in a new dungeon,the game again tells me my own thoughts.

My trip to the Holy City of Munkharama didn’t last very long. I mapped the small temple area, but my progress was impeded by a series of doors that had cups attached to them–they clearly want me to drop something in. There was also a group of four urns in each corner of the temple that also clearly want something.

Progress to the east was impeded by an inability to swim multiple squares at a time. There was a wishing well that had this riddle:
I know a thousand faces, and count the tallied heads, feasting bright upon the eyes, of the may who have died. Wielding well a mighty power, who hath but humble stature, masses fall upon their knees, to scarce behold my only side!
The game asked what I wanted to shout into the well, but I didn’t know what it was looking for. If the text is supposed to be a riddle, I suppose the answer might be COINS, but somehow this didn’t occur to me when I was there. I left the temple exploring the forest to the south, but overly-difficult combats turned me back.

Nothing in particular. Is shouting in a well something you typically do?


A few of my characters got extra levels during this process, and my alchemist finally got something I’d been waiting for: a mass-damage spell. In this case, it was “Acid Bomb,” which does damage to every enemy in a group for several rounds in a row. I decided to head back to New City and try storming the jail one more time. This time, it worked. I defeated the Dark Savant’s groups of guardians and troopers and got the jail key. There was a colored keypad blocking access to the jail, but I figured out the code from a “black wafer” I had previously found in the city.

Rescuing this prisoner set off the entire “Gorn” episode.


The prisoner turned out to be a Gorn captain named Boerigard, who said he had been betrayed while trying to find a secret fortress called Orkogre Castle. (The game is inconsistent and sometimes spells it “Orkorge.”) Upon further questioning, he begged me to travel to the castle and warn the Gorn king that “the Dartaen Alliance is broken.” He gave me a letter to show Lord Galiere–the Gorn we all have the hots for–and thus get safe passage through the forest.
I returned to where I had met Galiere and showed him the letter. He let me pass but warned me that the Gorn Empire was embroiled in a civil war and that I’d find plenty of hostile Gorn. He also mentioned that the Gorn wizard Murkatos had recently been assassinated.

My map of the land I’ve explored so far.


The land beyond Galiere opened up into several large branches. Orkogre Castle ended up being just a short way to the northwest, but owing to my exploration pattern, I got pretty far afield before I found it. The road split into major northeast and northwest sections, and only an increasing combat difficulty kept me from exploring in those directions indefinitely. Ultimately, the combats had the effect of funneling me to Orkogre, but it took several hours.

These guys were way too hard for me.


Orkogre Castle took up several small underground levels. I had to find a series of keys and levers to open the necessary grates to move forward. One puzzle involved a caged ape, to whom I had to give him a bunch of bananas (found elsewhere in the dungeon) to get him to open the lever to his cell. There were numerous combats with hostile parties of Gorn.

Using keys to open a door.


The level culminated in an encounter with the old Gorn king, who sat feebly on his throne. I transcribed his speech to give you a sense of the game’s long-winded approach to text:
So the gods have decided to put the old king out of his misery at last, eh? Look you now upon this soulful guise, but once it were not so. How the orchard blossoms have faded in the fields. Though my army still stands strong, their strength is but a shallow weakness, for their spirit is broken. And now they wage war upon themselves, having lost that fleeting essence which fuels the heart and makes possible all loves and desires. The vision of their destiny has been broken. Shattered by the crushing presence of you who come from the stars. What grim irony that your visage now stands so mockingly before me. Shall you be the ghosts of my tormentors to haunt my dreams in the hereafter? Or merely be you that come to put the sword in my heart and end this mortal suffering. I see it all now, so clear. Worlds within worlds continually unfolding. The boundaries of time crossed and overlapping as easily as one might step from the garden into the forests. Like simple fish in the oceans, flipping and darting, living out their days unaware of the unseen universes which lie in the sky above their heads, so near and yet so far. How likened unto every man, that all these galaxies swing and orbit around him, continually in his sight and yet never seen nor glimpsed. Save that small portion which leaks into his momentary vision and births a thousand tales of miracles and divine conception. I pray you, grant this King these ramblings. Would that I could take my mind and thrust it upon you! But instead am forced to fling only the feeble stones of words. But tell me strangers, what cause brings you this day? 
Finally, I had my chance to tell him that THE DARTAEN ALLIANCE IS BROKEN, only to get hit with another monologue:
What’s this?! The Dartaen Alliance at end?! Then the prophesy is indeed come. So be it. We shall all play our part as was foretold. And meet in the infernos of the hereafter. But perhaps there be slack enough for dangerous sport with the oracles in this. For who is tosay that an end is naught but a gateway to some new beginning. And the pages yet unread be but deliberately concealed! !think I see much mischief in the fates. And perhaps it not be too late to learn their game. But what say you, be you willing to take a part?
YES, I offered, and got a key to his treasure chamber, where I might find a “sacred piece of parchment.” The king decided to rouse himself and “find sport amongst [his] troops.” I later encountered him a few times in the hallways, where I amused myself by selling him the various bits of weapons and armor I’d looted from his own castle.

Selling the king a cuirass from his own armory.


It isn’t just the volume of text, nor David Bradley’s bardic aspirations, that make the readings a little tiresome. It’s more the way the text is presented, about 10 words at a time in a huge font, every sentence ending in an ellipse. It frequently looks like you’re done, because a sentence will end three words into the screen, but then it just picks up again on the next screen, as if the developers wanted to make sure every sentence started on a fresh screen. When you see it all written out above, it perhaps doesn’t look so bad, but when it’s being fed to you one line at a time and you don’t know when it will ever–for gods’ sake–just end, it’s like Chinese water torture.
When you meet an NPC, you sometimes just get dialogue options. Other times, you get options to do things like steal, trade, and share lore. I haven’t done much with the latter, but when I tried it with the Gorn king, he gave me several pieces of information, some of which seem like they conflict with each other:

  • Mick the Pick has formed an alliance with King Ulgar. (Ulgar is the king giving this information to me.)
  • Our party has been fighting Mick the Pick at Orkogre Castle. (Mick the Pick is a ratkin NPC who I encountered but couldn’t get anything useful out of.)
  • The “Legend” Map is rumored to be hidden near Old City.
  • Captain Boerigard has been sighted at Lost Temple.
  • Captain Boerigard has been sighted at Ukpyr.
The king’s chest was a bust. I opened it to find it empty.”Someone else has been here recently,” the game noted. Some commenters warned me that this could happen. I only hope it’s both possible to get the item later and obvious when the opportunity appears.
Continuing to explore the castle, I was attacked by the spirit of the wizard Murkatos. He had some powerful draining attacks and it took me a few attempts to defeat him. As he faded away, he told me (as part of a long speech) to seek the Tomb of Vilet Kanebe in the church of Nyctalinth. “There you will find a hidden part of what you seek.” His rooms had a lot of magic treasure and a Bonsai tree.

“Borne of Gorn” would be a good name for a rock band.


During this process, I lost about one-quarter of the combats that I fought (meaning at least one character died, a condition I couldn’t cure until the end of this session, when I found some resurrection scrolls). I’m finding the combat system a lot more frustrating than previous titles in the series. First, there’s a lot of variability to the difficulty. I remember this was true of Wizardry VI as well.You wander into a square and face 4 Gorn leaders, 4 Gorn shamans, 6 Gorn rangers, and 6 Gorn lancers. Thoroughly trounced, you reload, re-enter the same square, and get 3 Gorn rangers.

This was one of the unlucky times.

But even the easy battles are never throwaway battles. The game is genre savvy. It knows you can rest after every combat if necessary, so it’s not content to try to whittle down your hit points with endless parties of easy foes. And thus you can’t just blow through the combat with a series of physical attacks. With every other enemy capable of poison, paralysis, blinding, itching, stamina drains, or something worse, you have to strategize almost every battle. This almost always means casting at least one spell.

There are a lot of useful spells–so many that I’m only beginning to explore them. I’ll leave a longer posting about magic for later. For now, suffice to say that the mana bar is a bit misleading,because you really have separate pool of points for each spell “realm” (fire, water, air, earth, mental, and divine). Within each realm, you can only cast one or two spells (at least, at a decent power level) before needing to rest again.
In the rare case that you do just want to use physical attacks, the animations and sounds slow things down enough that you can’t simply hold down the ENTER key and blow through it.

Three of these hateful bastards destroyed me.


I don’t want to complain too much because so few games offer truly tactical combat. Crusaders is a bit exhausting in the number, lengths, and intensity of the combats, but I suppose that’s preferable to games that offer no tactics at all. 
The final issue is that character development doesn’t seem to make as much difference as I feel it should. A couple of my characters are maxed in their primary weapon skills, but it doesn’t feel like they hit more often or do more damage than when they only had 25 points. Of course, it doesn’t help that leveling slowed to a standstill after everyone passed Level 9.
At some point, I noticed that Gideon had enough points to change from a fighter to a lord, so I made the switch. Now I’m toying with moving my bard to a proper mage; I feel like my major weakness in combat is a lack of traditional mage power. The problem is that I’m still getting plenty of use out of his lute, but then again my alchemist has a “Sleep” spell now and plenty of points in that area. I’m also running out of reasons not to switch my thief to a ninja. I was thinking about doing both when they cross Level 10. As for the rest, I sort of like their existing classes, frankly.

Bix puts a bunch of T’Rang to sleep.


I’m not sure I put enough time into thinking about how to handle class changes strategically. When you switch, you lose a lot of attributes (to the minimums of the class you’re switching to) but not your health, stamina, mana, spell points, spells,or skills. Part of me feels that the best way to “game the system” would be to keep switching at Level 2, thus keeping the number of experience points needed for the next level low and maximizing the frequency with which you earn points to put into skills as well as new spells. Then, after switching a lot at low levels early in the game, finally settle on one class for the bulk of the game and try to get a high a level as possible. Unfortunately, I didn’t approach it that way and will probably have most characters switch only once and some not at all.

My lord has managed to gain some high attributes since switching to this class.


Miscellaneous notes:
  • My characters haven’t really aged much since starting the game, but I have no idea how far I am, and all the resting is giving me the heebie-jeebies. I wonder if there’s any real chance of dying of old age.
  • I got so sick of not being able to swim more than one square at a time that I spent a lot of time swimming and resting (since the skill goes up with use). Almost everyone is over 50 in the skill now, but I still can’t swim more than a few squares without stamina running out. I’m guessing you can never build the skill to such a level that you can swim long distances with n trouble.
  • The game re-uses a lot of art. At least 6 creatures use the “giant bug” animation and at least that many use the “giant black bird” animation. This makes it hard to keep track of the enemies. I always forget whether a “Dragon Rook” is worse than a “Vampire Rook” or vice versa.
  • It’s frustrating that you can’t target specific enemies. If a group has 4 enemies asleep and 1 awake, I want to target the awake one, not spread my attacks out so that everyone wakes up.
  • I’ve learned to hit the “search” key at just about every environmental message. If there isn’t something to find, there’s often a supplemental message. 


This is exactly the sort of place you want to hit the “S” key.

For my next move, I can go back to Munkharama and try the potential answer to the riddle. I still have several squares in New City for which I need keys and clues. When I was there, I wasted some more time with Professor Wunderland but still couldn’t figure out how to get the key to the Old City. If this is something I should know by now, I wouldn’t mind an explicit spoiler. Finally, I have at least three forest directions (two north of Munkharama and one south) left to try, in addition to the poppy fields near New City that I still have no way to navigate.

I really don’t know how any of this stuff ties in with the backstory yet. My party seems to have gotten embroiled in local matters and lost sight of the whole Astral Dominae business.

Time so far: 23 hours

Original URL: