Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Ultima Thule

From The CRPG Addict

The game’s tendency towards broad comedy continues.
Some commenters had suggested that I finish up on land before exploring the ocean, so for no other reason than an inexplicable desire to be contrary, I set off on a long ocean voyage. I decided to make my way to Ukpyr, the Umpani city, by first going west from New City and mapping my way around the perimeter of what the map calls the Sea of Sorrows. I’d eventually arrive back at the Eryn River, east of New City, and from there walk to Ukpyr.
Almost immediately, I ran into a problem. When I reached the northwest corner of the sea, near the game’s starting area (for me), my map didn’t match up. It wasn’t off by just one row, as it was up near Nyctalinth, but rather four rows and one column. Thinking this couldn’t possibly be right, I looped back around on land to check the accuracy of my previous map, and I encountered the same problem.
The two squares with the Xs are the same location, just at different coordinates depending on which side you approach from.
It got worse after that. If I take the sea east from New City to hook up with my previous map of the shores of the Eryn River, I find that I’m off by two rows and two columns. If I loop all the way around the Sea of Sorrows and come up to the other side of the Eryn River, I’m off by three columns and 11 rows. That seems crazy. But I consulted a couple of maps online and I don’t seem to be wrong. Check out this map, for instance, and note how the creator had to stretch and distort parts of the map to make it all come together.
I frankly don’t understand how it’s technically possible for this to happen. I’ve played more than 200 tile-based RPGs, and never once has a game managed to screw up its maps this way. You’d think if it was easy, it would have happened multiple times. I think back to Fate: Gates of Dawn, which had the largest map we’ve seen so far, and yet not a tile was out of place. I probably wouldn’t understand the underlying programming even if you explained it to me, but Crusaders must use an approach different from just about any other game to introduce these kinds of errors. Whatever the cause, it really dampened my enthusiasm for continuing to meticulously map the game.
My enthusiasm also took a hit for thematic reasons. I spent multiple hours mapping two offshoots from the Sea of Sorrows: the Myrmideon Forest on the west side and the Lesser Wilds on the east side. Both areas had plenty of random encounters, but neither had a single special encounter, treasure chest, or really any reason to exist.
The Sea itself was also full of random encounters, mostly with the red piranhas I’d previously mentioned, plus plenty of fights with various creatures in the flying jellyfish family. They were mostly somewhat easy, as if players were expected to find the boat long before I did.
Other creatures in this category are called “dinkle wisps.”
The Myrmideon Forest, on the other hand, really kicked it up a notch. It’s “vampire vultures” are the toughest variant of the generic “black bird” icon I’ve been encountering since the game’s beginning. (The list I’ve recorded, in order of difficulty, are ravens, vultures, night rooks, dragon rooks, vampire rooks, fire crows, and vampire vultures.) There were several types of giant bugs, each with about a billion hit points. I had entered this session thinking my party was overpowered, but I got completely slaughtered by a party of eight “conquilados,” which have a devastating physical attack, spit acid for mass damage, and seem immune to everything.
It’s rare that I get full-party death from a random encounter.
I thought the Myrmideon Forest was coming to something when I ran into a road. The road made a loop around an area with a few walls that looked like buildings instead of forests, but there was nothing to find within this area. Maybe it turns out to be the exit from someplace.
This felt like it was leading to something.
On the south end of the Sea of Sorrows, I ran into a fog bank. Entering the fog bank caused my ship to run into things, or at least have a chance per round of running into things, causing damage to everyone on board. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel my way through this area (listed as Brombadian Bay on the map) or find some artifact that will let me pass. Either way, I left it alone for now.
On the other side of the sea, the Lesser Wilds were full of skeleton lords, which attacked me annoyingly in small groups of 1 or 2 instead of large groups that would be more susceptible to “Dispel Undead” and various mass-damage spells. I had a lot of trouble with them because “Dispel Undead” is a spirit realm spell, and by now I had exhausted most of my spirit realm points on healing. There were also a lot of monsters in the moth family. The area ended up leading to nothing important. I did level up a couple times during my explorations. Everyone is at Level 19 now, and the number of experience points between levels seems to have stabilized at 600,000.
These guys are capable of “Fireball” and thus not to be trifled with.
Eventually, I came full circle and headed to Ukpyr. Like some of the other areas of the map, Ukpyr is an ancient city that the Umpani–alien to this world–have recently taken over. The Umpani are a highly-regimented, martial society, and to even enter the city safely I had to say that I was interested in joining the Special Tactical Forces, a division of the Imperial Umpani Federation.
A good role-playing option.
I guess I could have fought and massacred my way through the map, but having already decided to oppose the T’Rang–enemies of the Umpani–I chose to role-play this one. I found the recruiting office, where Sergeant Balbrak welcomed me into the army and gave me my first set of “orders,” to go to the supply depot and get some equipment.
The supply depot gave the party a couple of flak jackets, muskets, and shot and powder. (We had to pay almost 10,000 gold for these things, but that’s a small fraction of the money I have now, wieh nothing to spend it on.) One distinguishing feature of the Umpani is that they have firearms, if only the muzzle-loading variety. From here, we went on to the firing range where every character took turns firing at a target, learning the “Firearms” skill in doing so. Every character can learn the skill, but in my party only the Valkyrie and lord can actually equip the musket. I doubt I’ll use the weapons unless they become vital later on.
An Umpani tell us how to use the musket.
The next set of orders had us scouting the forest to the north of Ukpyr for a party of T’Rang. I had already mapped the forest, so we just wandered around until we found them. It was an easy combat, and when we returned Sergeant Balbrak gave us 5,000 gold.
Later, each character has a new “Firearms” skill.
Our next orders were to go to the Umpani mission in New City to deliver a message to a “master tracker” named Rodan Lewarx from the Umpani General Yamo. To get there, we were given a “Humpa Card” which allowed us to take the “Humpawhammer,” the Umpani version of the T’Rang Anthracax–a teleporter between the city and the embassy in New City. 
We arrived in New City and gave Rodan his orders. He was excited, shouting about how Shirtis T’Rang himself, the T’Rang leader, was here on Guardia and now Rodan could finally avenge his father’s death. With that, he took off, leaving his orders behind. I read the orders, and they explicitly told Rodan not to seek out Shritis T’Rang. 
The Umpani are not a patient race.
The Umpani embassy has a door with nine digits that I don’t have the code for, but I can get out to New City from here, which is a convenient shortcut. I now have to figure out whether to go back to Ukpyr and rat on Rodan or whether to head to Nyctalinth and try to stop him from getting killed (if that’s even possible). 
Rodan didn’t even try to comply with these orders.
The Umpani are a reasonably well-characterized faction, and I like that the game has offered some role-playing options (basically, play along or slaughter everyone) in almost all of the major areas. However, as with almost everything David Bradley-related, there’s a patina of goofiness over the whole thing, and I find myself wishing the story went just a little deeper and featured less silly names and characterizations.
No new maps this time. I’m still not sure whether assembling all of them is strictly necessary. I hope not, as I’m ready for the game to be over. I think I’m just going to push on with Crusaders until I wrap it up, rather than alternating with the other games on my active list.
Time so far: 81 hours

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