Time moves differently, within these Realms of Atlantis - and as I was soon to discover, so can your membership of an alliance! With an order from my Great Dragon, came the seeding of an Outpost. My Commander had decided, to set about the expansion of my Dragon's Empire. Thus was it fortunate, that my First City was surrounded by suitable Wildernesses - as is required, for the building of Outposts:
For quite some time, did I find myself wondering - exactly what an Outpost is? Thus it was, with the Conquer of a Plain, a Water Dragon egg, and my Commander's level of eight - that I began to learn my answer :) After watching the intro to my Water Outpost (much of which I forgot), I was presented with effectively, an empty City and an empty Field. Well now I thought, let's build it like I did my First City. So off my Commander went, building both Homes and Farms - and it was only later, that I realised that having loads of Farms in Outposts, is not (necessarily) the best approach! It took me a couple of weeks to build my Water Outpost, and at the end I had: 23 level nine Homes, 4 level nine Silos (required for gathering resources), 25 level nine Farms - all intermixed with a level nine Water Dragon's Keep, Muster Point and Training Camp. It was then that something dawned on me - I have another Great Dragon! A Water Dragon, who also required his Armour to be reclaimed, before he could be used in attacks on Anthropus Camps. It was here, that some hint of Dragon Sickness returned, as I searched for my Water Dragon's Amour. Fortunately, I was able to use the time whilst Marching, to construct my Empire's second Outpost - my Wind Outpost. Unfortunately, I have yet to find, a single piece of my Water Dragon's Armour! Any ways, as far as my Wind Outpost is concerned - I decided to approach it's construction, along the same paths as I did with my Water Outpost. Thus, I set about building Homes and Farms, but with both a realisation, and a twist along the way :) At the end of another two weeks (or so), did my Wind Outpost have: 24 level nine Homes, 3 level nine Silos (required for gathering resources), 19 level nine Farms, 4 level nine Lumber-mills, 4 level nine Mines, 3 level nine Quarries - together with a level ten Dragon's Keep, level nine Muster Point, and a level nine Training Camp. The realisation dawned on me (by complete surprise): as I noticed, that when I sent my Army to Outposts, that they were NOT consuming my Empire's Food (at least the Food from my First City). This allowed me to build up my First City's Food resources, which in-turn, allowed the construction of my First City to progress (such as it's high level Wall). The twist affected my building strategy, as I realised then, that my Outposts did not require as many Farms - so I changed (albeit a little late), to building for the other resources (the Lumber-mills, Mines and Quarries). It was here, that Fortune decided to shine upon me, as it turned out, that I already had a complete set of Wind Dragon Amour! (I believe I won it from a Chest, and I'm hoping for the same with my Water Dragon's Armour - as I have still not found a single piece, even from attacks on higher level Lakes, with my Great Dragon accompanying). I am glad that I have my Wind Dragon, as I have made great use of him - upon attacks upon Anthropus Camps. I have found it's best to split my Army into two, with both attacks proceeding in sync - one attack led by my Great Dragon, the other led my Wind Dragon. I have also found that my Wind Dragon, can become injured far more, than my Great Dragon does. Thus, until my army contained suitable Ranged Troops, did I attack only medium level Anthropus Camps, with my Wind Dragon. Overall: I have found that I enjoyed building both Water, and Wind Outposts. I became so engrossed in building them, that I failed to realise - that I had been kicked out of the alliance! I was somewhat shocked at first, but after a while, felt somewhat happier - as I'd learn to play this Dragons of Atlantis, by my own Might, and my own Dragon's Fire :) How about you?
There be such things as Dragon Sickness. It creeps right to the Heart, of even the most Stalwart of Dragons. In a moment of Madness, did a Pool of Gold besiege my Great Dragon - a Quest for his Dragon's Armour, and an order for his Commander ... March my entire Army into the Heart of a level 11 Anthropus Camp - and reclaim my Armour! Madness you say? Well ... Here is how my Dragon, and his Fantasy Realm have grown, over the past three weeks:
There are those that say you learn more from your mistakes, then you do from your victories ... In this Dragon's Lust, was this certainly true - for an entire Army lost, on the whim of a Dragon! But, for those that are bold and fearless - a rise in power, unequal to any other (which took less than a minute to achieve). Through this Madness, did I rise my Commander's power, by more than a million! Having no Troops with which to defend my First City (and having just lost 288k power), it was to the Treasure Chests again ... It was here that I found more power through Fortune plus Troops: Thunder Golems (plus 160k power), Storm Drakes (plus 30k power), Dark Slayers (plus 400k power), Steelshard Harriers (plus 20k power) and in Giddying Heights (plus 500k power - from God knows what!). Thus, was my Dragon's Commander - now a Viceroy, with just over 1.25 million power ... But, what of my Dragon's Armour? It is here that this Dragon's Sickness spread, to my Adventurer Tyche - who herself, had a mission of her own: to gather as many ingredients for The Forge (as possible). Now, having become disillusioned with the fruits of longer Adventures (such as Investigate the Sky Temples), it was time to try something different: thirty four Adventures to Scouting the Anthropus. Some might call this Dragon Lust, but with a Quest to Consult the Ancients (for a check of what she had just done), followed by a Quest to Reap What Has Been Sown - did the Forges of this Dragon Land, rush forth with Molten Gold! At first was there Battle Dragon Plating (plus 2k power). At second was there a Minotaur Amulet (plus 2k power). At third was there Armoured Transport Plating (plus 1.5k power) ... At sixth was there a Halberdsman Shield (plus 2.5k power) ... At eleventh was there Swift Strike Dragon Plating (plus 2k power). At twelfth was there ... But, what of my Dragon's Armour? Well, it's not in the Forge! Don't tell me that, go out and find it!! Well ... Even Molten Gold must solidify, thus it was with an Attack upon a level 7 Anthropus Camp, where I first found a piece of Dragon Armour - my Great Dragon's Claw Guards! Then did the Dragon Sickness return ... For it was Quest upon Quest, to attack Anthropus Camps (of medium to high levels) to win the remaining pieces of Armour. At times was this a difficult Quest (particularly in terms of patience) - as it took just under two weeks, to find the remaining three pieces! I was fortunate that there was a level eight Anthropus Camp, and a level seven Anthropus Camp - both within a minute or so's march time (of my First City). I kept hitting both of these, intermixed with some level nines and tens. In each attack, did my Dragon's Commander march his entire Army in (some sixty thousand troops) - and my Army hardly ever lost, any men. I suspect that the main reason for this, was the fact I had countless long-bowman (ten thousand or so), with three hundred Armoured Transports (which they travelled in). Often, did my Army return with few spoils of war (at least in the form of Dragon Armour) - as it was far more common, for them to return with resources (such as food). I'd tried hitting the same camp all the time, but that tactic did not work for me - as it frequently yielded zero items (and resources). As such, my Dragon's Commander also hit camps further away (to allow the closer ones a chance to re-spawn), and also hit level nine and ten camps (to increase his chances - of finding Dragon Armour). I found that I only ever earned one piece of Great Dragon Armour at a time, and that there was several days between each find ... During all of this, did my Great Dragon - wait patiently in his Dragon's Keep! And upon the last piece of Dragon Armour won? An excited Dragon (and player), whose Great Dragon was now fully equipped with: Claw Guards, Body Armour, Helmet and Tail Guard. It was with a visit to my Dragon's Keep, that I became excited - as my draw dropped, when first I saw my Great Dragon dressed in all his Armour! I was more than pleased - as my Great Dragon, now looked like a Battle Dragon! It was as though my Great Dragon, could fight an entire Army - just by himself :) Overall: A challenging three weeks in Dragons of Atlantis. Being part of an Alliance, I found it necessary to ignore any demands from them (I only had time to keep sending my Army out into battle). The Quest for my Great Dragon Armour, often seemed a fruitless one! But, the feeling of satisfaction (when you've won all four pieces) - is something that won't be beaten easily :) Dragon Gold, Dragon Armour!
My Commander's first days within The Alliance were marred with feelings of inferiority - as his Power Levels paled in comparison to his Over-Lords. Added to this, was the fact that no sooner had he joined The Alliance, than the Sentinel informed him of an impending Attack (on his First City). Here is how my Commander, and his Fantasy Realm have grown - over the past week:
That first Attack breached my City's Wall, and the enemy Commander made away with much of my City's Gold and Metal. The Attack Commander also slew all of my Wall's defenders (1692 Troops - including Halberdsman, Minotaurs, Swift Strike Dragons and Battle Dragons). My Commander had not known, that such low points existed! Fortunately (when it felt like he was on his knees), did he decide to open a Treasure Chest (or two). It was here that Fortune decided to shine upon him - as (from the Chests) did he gain: 3000 Storm Drakes and 50 Abyssal Ravagers. These Troops went straight to his City's Wall! Now, having had a long hard day, rebuilding his Resources and upgrading his Resource structures (Farms, Lumber-mills, Mines and Quarries) - did my Commander decide to put his feet up for the Evening (knowing that tomorrow would bring an upgrade to his Dragon's keep). But, when Morning came - it was not pleasant Fires of Dragon, as he had underestimated something: Storm Drakes and Abyssal Ravagers have massive food requirements, and Overnight - they'd eaten all of his Food Resources! Thus, with zero Food was it no Dragon's keep, and more drastically - no upgrades at all ... What could be done? Well ... With some head scratching, did I find a temporary solution: attack Anthropus Camps and Plunder their Resources. But, then was my Commander surprised - as he lost nearly all his Swift Strike Dragons and 9 Abyssal Ravagers when attacking a level 4 Anthropus Camp (I know!). There had to be a better solution (at least until his Army was big enough to dominate). With a question to The Alliance, did an answer manifest: the Transfer of Goods from higher-powered Alliance Members (e.g. with 9 million Food transferred from an Over-Lord, was it more than enough to feed his Storm Drakes and Abyssal Ravagers for a few days). Thus, the debate over whether my Commander should have joined The Alliance (or not) had been answered ... Even more importantly, it meant that I could resume the build-up of my First City (and continue to both grow, and support it's Army). It was here that I first learned about Power: the upgrading of Homes (to higher-levels) resulted in significant Power increases (plus 320, plus 640) - as did the upgrading of Lumber-mills (plus 128, plus 256). Thus, did I begin to understand how my Commander's Power Levels could grow! It was then that I realised (for the first time) that training Troops also increased my Commander's Power - although that was as nothing, when compared to the Power raised when those Treasure Chests gave me 3000 Storm Drakes in one go (aka plus 30 thousand Power). My Commander found that he was raising in Power quite quickly at this time - as he unlocked the Rank of High Commander, then of Legate, then of Elder. It was also then, that I realised that the bar at the top of the game screen (the one that shows your Commander's level) also happens to show how much Power remains - to your next Commander level. As such, my Commander started to obsess about his Power Level! At first, I started to investigate the Trade button. I observed that I could sell City Resources for Dragon Gold! Thus, was I glad that I had decided to build 8 Quarries (and carried out several levels of Masonry Research) - as this meant that I had a surplus of Stone. I wasn't sure what to sell it for - so I tried five-hundred thousand Stone, for fifty thousand Gold. It sold! Interesting I thought, that's one form of Power ... But, is there another? Oh yes, there is - I found it! The Forge ... Now, initially the Forge had confused me - as I couldn't seem to Forge anything. But, once I realised that you have to send your Adventurer out (to gather ingredients for the Forge) - then it made perfect sense! Thus, did my Adventurer (Tyche) start upon Quests of her own: Search the Shadows, Venture into the Mortal Mire, Scouting the Anthropus (really quite useful for low-level Forges) and Consult the Ancients. Whilst Adventuring, I noticed two key-points: first that Tyche was levelling up, and more importantly - that Tyche was bringing back ingredients for the Forge. Thus, to the Forge's Blacksmith did my Commander go. With a strike of a Hammer, did he Forge a Conscript Hammer (plus 1500 Power). With a strike of a Hammer, did he Forge a Conscript Amulet (plus 2000 Power). Well, now I thought - this is Power! Except, he broke his Hammer ... Overall: this has been an exciting week in Dragons of Atlantis. It has seen my City transform (from good foundations to strong foundations), and it has seen my Commander grow in Power (even if I feel - that he still needs more Troops in his Army). With my Commander's ability to Trade, receive Resources (from Allies) and Forge for Power - I have really started to enjoy this game!
During my first week of play, I had decided to concentrate on building up my Fantasy City and it's Troops. I had chosen to go about this, by initially focusing on the build-up of resources (which I believed would allow me to construct, a well-defended First City). This is how my Fantasy Realm looked - at the end of the first week:
To support my Quest for resources, I quickly realised - that I would require a high level Fortress. Thus, was it a key priority to upgrade my Fortress to level 6 (as this would allow me to have 26 resource buildings). Over time, did my Fortress grow to support this - and I decided to aim for a fairly equal spread of resource types (8 Farms, 5 Lumber-mills, 5 Mines and 8 Quarries). Whilst upgrading my Fortress, I found that my eyes were constantly drawn towards another associated structure: my City's Wall. As this structure also had demands for high-levels of Stone, I knew that my decision to build 8 Quarries - would pay off eventually (even if it took a while to dig the Stone for each upgrade). Thus, did I find that the upgrading of my Fortress, and the upgrading of my City's Wall - could proceed in unison (which I liked the idea of). Even so, I found that I became slightly frustrated - because with each Wall upgrade, I expected my Wall to turn to Stone! The next Quest I became involved with, was the construction of my Dragon's Keep (the home of my Great Dragon). A memorable highlight was when my Dragon's Egg hatched forth a baby Dragon! I was somewhat excited ... As it felt like my City now had something to guard (even if eventually it's your Dragon that guards your City). Thus, did I feel that my decision to build a level 4 Wall (early on) was completely justified - as it helped to protect what I regarded as the Heart of my City: my Great Dragon. Then did I find that my thoughts turned to Dragons (in general), as I elected to both construct and upgrade my Dragon Rookery. The race was on! I wanted as many Swift Strike Dragons and Battle Dragons as possible ... Unfortunately, I had neglected the building of my Garrisons - so I had to learn something of the Art of Patience, as I waited for my Garrison(s) to upgrade first to level 5 (for Swift Strike Dragons), then to level 7 (for Battle Dragons). In the meantime, did I find myself following the guidance that was available within the Quests Plane - as there seemed to be quite decent Rewards (for the training of lower-level Troops). As such, did I task myself with the training of: Porters (resource gatherers), Conscripts (low-level fighters), Spys (information gatherers), Halberdsman (agile bladed warriors), Minotaurs (heavy hammered warriors) and Longbowman (death from afar). Even so, I found it hard to view these Troops as anything more, than as a means to an end! I wanted to train Dragons - to field an Army of Dragons! Thus, did I find myself inspired - when I first trained Swift Strike Dragons (the smallest of the Dragon Breeds, a Western Dragon with short-ranged Fire). Thus, did I find myself excited - when I first trained Battle Dragons (the ubiquitous leviathan of the Dragon Breeds, a Western Dragon adorned in Armoured Plate). It was here (with 335 Halberdsman, 23 Longbowman, 350 Minotaurs, 30 Porters, 20 Spys, 143 Swift Strike Dragons and 300 Battle Dragons) that my thoughts turned to Conquest! With little regard for the Art of Spying, I marched my Army right into lower-level Anthropus Camps ... With 300 Battle Dragons I (mistakenly) believed that I had nothing to fear! At first, did my Conquests go well - I gained Hoards of resources, and boosted my resource production levels (by conquering Wilderness). As I had started Conquering on the last day of protection (from Attack) - I thought nothing of marching into higher-level Anthropus Camps (without Spying). Unfortunately, this is where I had underestimated the strength of my Army ... I lost (at least) a half to three quarters of my Army, then did I notice figures appearing on my screen with minus signs in front of them (it turned out that my Commander's Power Level had dropped). Feeling slightly overwhelmed, I recalled what was left (of my Army) and sent them to ground protecting my First City (by assigning them to my City's Wall). It was here that the dwindling one day of protection (from Attack) started to sink-in! Earlier on, I had received an invite to join an Alliance (which I had ignored - as I wanted all the Glory to myself). But, with an eye upon my Troop numbers, I decided to embrace this Alliance ... Thus, did my first week end! Overall: My decision to concentrate on the building of my Fantasy City (and my Fantasy Troops) meant that I neglected Conquest until the last minute (let alone the Forge). Some might say that this was a mistake, but I would say that this approach - has given me a strong Fantasy Realm (with good foundations), from which to Grow an Empire!
This is the first web-based flash-based Fantasy Game that I have ever played. What caught my eye, was the idea of fielding an Army of Dragons - and suspected that this would be the ideal Strategy Game to fulfil this desire! I donned my Dragon Scales, and marched to War:
What I found surprised me somewhat! The veteran of many a strategy game, I was used to building structures (such as Castles and Barracks) whenever I wanted to. Yet, this game twists that all around - for you can only build one structure at a time ... At first, this caused me little concern - for I approached the game in the same way that I would other strategy games: resources first. Thus, did I set about building Farms (for Food), Lumber-mills (for Wood), Mines (for Metal) and Quarries (for Stone). Now, as I had expected - the level of my Stronghold-Castle (here a Fortress) constrained the amount of these that I could build (e.g. each upgrade to my Fortress allowed me to have three more resource buildings). Yet, it was when I was upgrading my Fortress, together with my resource buildings - that I noticed that the build-upgrade times were increasing! At first, it took 15 seconds to build a Farm - which soon increased to several minutes (e.g. it's 14 minutes 21 seconds for a level 7 Farm). Now, that may not seem too bad ... But, when you consider that a level 2 Fortress takes 9 minutes 35 seconds, with a level 8 Fortress taking 1 day 5 hours 5 minutes 20 seconds, then you realise that the limit of building one structure at a time - can quickly become a hindrance! Of course, there's ways to eliminate this - for example, by building structures overnight-over-weekend, or by acquiring speed-ups (which shorten your build times). I found it amusing that the game gives you a taster of speed-ups, then wants you to purchase Rubies to buy them (in the future). Despite this, I persevered, and was soon starting to feel that I had a good level of resources for my First City. Thus, did I go about wanting to build Troops to defend it! It was here that I discovered that these to, have various requirements (as I had expected). I tasked myself with wanting to build Dragons - specifically Swift Strike Dragons, Battle Dragons and (my first) Great Dragon. Whilst these troops require resources (such as Food, Metal and Lumber) - they also require specific buildings (such as the Dragon Rookery, Dragon Keep, Garrison and Metalsmith) together with specific research (such as Dragonry and Rapid Deployment). It was here that this game started to be become much more exciting! I quickly set about building the various structures, and completing the necessary research (within the Science Centre) with one goal in mind: to build my troops as quickly as possible. I liked the fact that there was a hierarchy here - I had to build Halberdsman (requiring Metallurgy research), Minotaurs (requiring a level 3 Garrison) and Longbowman (requiring Weapons Calibrator research) BEFORE I had any hope of building Swift Strike Dragons, let alone Battle Dragons! As each of these tasks (aka Quests) was completed, it was satisfying to see that you earn rewards (such as ten thousand Gold Coins, and-or five thousand Food). All of this started to fuel my desire to build Battle Dragons (which feature even higher requirements - such as a level 7 Garrison). Whilst all of this is going on, it's very easy to overlook one simple fact: that your First City shall only be protected (from attack) for the first week. I don't think that a weeks grace is enough. There's so much you have to do within this week, that the time seems to fly by - especially when you task yourself with upgrading your City's Wall, hatching your baby Dragon's Egg, carrying out higher level research and training 300 Battle Dragons. There's also the Art of Spying to learn, which allows you to Spy on enemies - both human and AI controlled Anthropus Camps (which when captured, increase your production rates-resources). To help you with all of this, the game features a Quests Plane - which I feel provides a useful task list of what to build (or do) especially in the Newbie (aka early) stages of the game. Overall (so far): I think that this game shows the potential to warm-up to become one of my favourite (online) strategy games. Even so, I feel that there's room for improvement. Apart from giving Newbies' more time (perhaps two weeks of protection), there's one area that I found confusing - the Forge. I found the layout of it's controls confusing (at first), as the ability to Forge and Adventure were greyed out. As such, I decided to ignore them, and concentrated on building up my City and it's Troops. I also found it quite common to run out of resources (in the early stages), and I became frustrated by time (an on-going concern). All of this is why, I have decided to grade this game four stars at present (as there's so much more - within the game to explore).
It's been quite some time since I last walked the Lands of Lore and the Thrones of Chaos. Yet, all of that changed this week (with the help of DOSBox 0.72 and a hunt for my old 3.5 inch floppy discs!). I donned the boots of Conrad, and headed off for a trip down memory lane - to assist King Richard:
To be honest, I had expected the game to seem somewhat dated. The graphics are not in the same league as today's games, the 3d world is essentially tile based (where you move around using cursor keys), and ... You know what, I just don't give a dam! The storyline is amazing!! I found myself thinking about Quests and Adventures that seem as real now, as they did back then. Within the Draracle Caves, I was soon asking myself a question: what was the gift that the Draracle wanted? With some head scratching, I knew it when I saw it - a golden knife with red jewels in it. Then did the Draracle give me some riddles for an Elixir - that will save King Richard (albeit much later in the game). Still, I'm getting ahead of myself ... I love the fact that everything seems to fall into place in this game. When your Quest starts, you receive a Magic Atlas (which you need - as it's easy to get lost within the mazes of each location/level). Then do you receive a Compass (which you use with your Magic Atlas). Then do your receive a Spell Book (which holds your various magical spells - such as Spark, Heal, Freeze, Fireball and Lightening). Then do you receive a Lantern (when you first visit the Caves - which with enough Oil, helps Lighten the Dark). Your an adventurer (either Ak'Shel, Kieran, Micheal or Conrad) who has companions along the way (such as Timothy, Baccata and Lora). Prepare to have both your combat and magical skills tested - whilst at the same time, having a really good work out for your memory! It's easy to forget where you are in the mazes of these Lands ... Now, even though this game is (at least) two decades old - it does one thing that many modern games don't seem to do: it has the ability to make you laugh! For me, this always occurs in two places: the pits you find in various Mines and the sink holes (in the Gorkha Swamp). In both cases, it always goes something like this for me: fwd, fwd, left, left, fwd, fwd, left, AUGH! I've fallen down a hole! AUGH! Laugh, Laugh, Laugh. Then just for fun, I do it again! (Not quite so funny now!). Laugh, Laugh. As I say, this game's storyline pulls you in - especially when you feel like you've achieved something. It's great fun when you fix the Water Pump within the Urbish Mines (so that's what the lumps of coal and the gear/cog are for!). Although, the Urbish Mines themselves is a place that I've always found testing (both the getting lost, and those Avian Worms!). There's plenty of other challenges to - such as Scotia's Barrier(s)! These caused me nothing but grief a few years back, but this time - I remembered Vaelan's Cube! This game has more monsters/mythical creatures than you can shake a stick at. Some of my favourites are: Bandits, Cave Dwellers, Gimlets, Gorkha, Giant Lizards, Orcs and Great Orcs - as once you have some decent weapons (such as Great Swords and Great Axes), then these tend to die fairly easily in hand-to-hand combat. Some of my least favourite monsters/mythical creatures are: the Larkhon (a big worm - throw your sword at it), Magic Mirrors (walking jelly fish - they don't like Lightening), Rocklings (made of rock - dam, you blunted my sword!) and Wraiths (run, no really - run!). Overall: this is an amazing adventure/role playing game whose storyline seems to have stood the test of time. I'm amazed that it's challenges seem just as hard now, as they did back in the day (when I first got those 3.5 inch floppy discs home!). This may not be a game that you want to play full-screen now, but it can certainly play/run perfectly well in a window on your desktop (even perhaps whilst your doing other things!). One question I found myself asking was: where am I? I seem to be lost in these Urbish Mines! Let alone being lost in the White Tower ... Finally: it's been sometime since I've seen Scotia, but I do remember Dawn - was that a Cuckoo? Tip: for DOSBox 0.72, I used mount c c: (slash) OLDGAMES (slash) westwood (slash) lands, c:, lands. If you don't fancy that, then there's a newer version (see relevant link below).
When it comes to a Computer Game that blends a Haunted House, with a Spooky Storyline and numerous Puzzles (to challenge your mind), then I'd be hard pressed to name one better than this:
Lady in White - She faded away from me ... I like the fact that this is a game that's played best in the evening, as this is when it spooks you the most. Lady in White - She faded towards me ... I like the graphics found within this game, especially the Twisting Staircase that leads to the first floor of the Mansion. Lady in White - She passed between two doors ... I like the contrast in difficulty between the Puzzles in this game: some are simple (such as the Word Games), whilst others may cause you to tear your hair out (such as the Chess Games). Lady in White - Just where do you lead me? To the Crypt, I see ... The first puzzle left me hungry for more: two Skulls, two Tombstones, the rest is just Icing. The second puzzle came with a phobia at hand: eight points in a Star, seven Spiders to move. The third puzzle with an Eye to the Sky: the rivers of Mars - what phrase do you Spell? Shy Gypsy Slyly Spryly Tryst By My Crypt. What logic is that? The Sky is Ruddy Your Fate is Bloody! What riddle is that? My first real challenge came with the Maze in the basement - as I kept getting lost. It was only the Twisting Staircase that revealed the turns to make - a room upstairs with a map to the Maze: take the fifth on the right, then straight on, then turn to the right, ... Yet before, a Puzzle with a Grate, a simple solution did it seem, yet on my next turn, did I forget! When I first played this game (twenty-or-so years ago), I found myself amused by the icons/cursors: a throbbing Brain in a Skull (there's a Puzzle to be solved), Chattering Teeth (there's a Spooky Scene to view, such as plates and cutlery, that dance by themselves) and a Skeletal Hand (which both shows you the way, and bars your way). When I last played this game (earlier this week), I found myself jumping-for-joy: as I'd finally nailed the Piano Puzzle! It's with my new found Love of Music (including the learning of my Piano Notes/Chords over the past couple of years), that allowed me to breeze through the puzzle: B, B-Sharp, E-Flat, F ... Speaking of Pianos, there's two Spooky Scenes to watch (via the Drama Icon): a Skeleton that plays the Piano by itself (I just love that one!) and two hands by themselves, that play the Piano (I'd just faint at that one!). What's the hardest Puzzle in the game? I hear you say ... Well, for me, there's two (at least in the early/middle stages): one is Chess based and the other is Frustration based! After conquering the first Chess game (where you have to place eight Queens on a Chess Board), I encountered Bishop Chess: swap the position of four Black/White Bishops. Seems simple enough ... Hours later though - whilst I'd found a way to swap the middle pieces (fairly easily), the corner pieces caused me grief (what planet is this Puzzle from?!?). After conquering that (with some Magic in the middle), I then found out just how a virus multiples! Yes Gentle Reader - it's the Microscope Puzzle! This Puzzle tested my patience twenty years ago. This Puzzle tested my patience last weekend. This Puzzle tested my patience this week! Now I have a headache and I feel like I've caught the flu! Anyway ... I think I shall Flip a Coin and Turn some Cards! Ah, that's better - both solved (even with some head scratching). Now, one of my favourite (graphical) locations has to be the Altar/Chapel: as the room is decorated with the Swords and Shields of many a Knight (in Shining Armour). The puzzle itself? Mind your step - as every third step should be on Purple. You did get this far didn't you? Still stuck on the first Chess Puzzle? Here's a hint (assuming each row/column is labelled A to H from bottom-left), stick a Queen in (row-column): AB, BD, CF, DH, EC, FA, shhhhh - quite, that would be telling! Now, I found myself shivering at several Spooky Scenes within this game: hands that push out from a painting, soup that shapes itself into a face, and a mirror that shows a Lady in Green more than she bargained for (when she wishes to be young again). I also found several comical/defying reality Secret Passages, which both helped to save travel time, and add to it: there's one from the Library (the Fireplace) and there's one in the Games Room (the Billiards Table), but perhaps the oddest - is the one that's located on the Shelf! What room scared you the most? The Children's Nursery/Doll Room, especially when the Dolls Shadows danced! What about the control system? It's quite simple - just point and click with the mouse, although you need to be careful when clicking in puzzles (as too far to the left/right/bottom and you abort/restart the puzzle!). I also like the out-of-game controls: as there's an Egyptian Sphinx, which allows you to save your game and view which rooms you've solved puzzles in (via a coloured map) - all rendered as though it's on some Ancient Egyptian Papyrus (that also features two Egyptian Pyramids). Overall: I'm quite a fan of the Mansion that Henry Stauf built - as both the Mansion, and the Games/Puzzles, have been entertaining for over twenty years. Yes, some of the graphics may seem a little dated (by today's standards), but they don't seem to affect the quality of game play (at all). I still enjoy playing the puzzles (they are a good workout for my mind), and I still have several puzzles to solve (can you guess which ones?). At the very least, I have several dates with the Microscope over the next month or so (I will solve it!). The game is something of a masterpiece - as the Music, Puzzles, Ghosts and Video all combine to convey a decent storyline. It's not a fast game, and if you don't like puzzles, then it won't be for you. But, if you do like puzzles ... You do don't you? Then what are you waiting for? Afraid that the game won't run under Windows 7/8.1 64-bit? Well - it can! I used DOSBox. For example: mount c c: (slash) OLDGAMES, mount d d: (slash) -t cdrom ioctl, d: (after install - c: then cd t7g), t7g. If you don't fancy that, then there's a newer version (see relevant link below). Just one question remains - do you have a date with the Microscope to?
When it comes to a Role Playing Game (RPG) that allows me to masquerade as a modern Vampire, you might just-be-able to get me to admit (with the twist of an arm), that this is indeed my favourite:
I like the fact that this game starts with the asking of a question that's on the mind of many a Vampire fan: What race of Vampire would you like to be? Whilst there is the option of answering some personality-style questions (to determine the answer), I decided to choose my characters Vampire race directly: Clan Brujah - as I liked the idea of my character being a rebel, who specialised in hand-to-hand combat, and who had some residual traits (from his human days), as a Special Forces operative! When it came to allocating my Vampires initial skills/abilities (upon the Character Sheet), I managed to get confused - as I failed to realise that I had to click the black dots/circles (to advance that particular skill/attribute to the next level). I then made another mistake - as I'd managed to select Skip Intro (which left me wondering how-on-earth my character had become a Vampire in the first place). Any way, once I made it through to the game play, I found myself getting lost again! So lost in fact, that I took a break from the game (for around six months), and it was only my desire to conquer it (that made me play it again). I am now so glad that I did, as I have experienced one of the best Quests (in a game) that I have ever played/seen: the Ocean House Hotel - which is in fact haunted! So haunted, that I found myself jumping out of my skin when: various objects were thrown at me, several doors opened by themselves and a Lady in White simply ran out in-front of my Vampire (which really made me jump!). There were also some spooky voices, and creepy Piano music, both of which, helped suggest the idea of a Poltergeist (and the thought that I wanted to play this Quest/Level several times). Unfortunately, my love of this level is matched equally by two control issues that I really don't like! The first: The elevator within Club Asylum - which has often made me feel like crying. How many times have I selected floor two only to have it open the elevator at floor one? No, no, no! The second: The constant flick between first and third person cameras. I usually play the game in third, then suddenly realise it's in first (changed by the game), then I'm having to press keyboard Z (to get back to third), then I'm having to press Z again (because I need to shoot). The camera controls in other games, just don't seem to be as annoying (as they are in this one). Despite this, the game goes a long way to making up with the way that it handles character conversations: the character (your chatting with) is usually centred on the screen, providing you with various numeric key-press options (to select your desired question/response). I like the fact that the game allows me to turn subtitles on (no more wondering what a particular character said) and that you can select/use certain seductive lines (assuming you have a high enough seduction skill/attribute). My favourite character conversations have to revolve around the two feuding sisters: Therese and Jeanette. With Jeanette being my personal favourite (as Therese tried to have my Vampire killed). Saying that, I also quite like the interactions with the character VV (as she makes me laugh!). Yet even this (conversation system) has some differences in consistency - the most noticeable being the fact that some conversations feature a high-quality (3d) character model, that's been rendered over a low-quality background texture! I have also encountered two major variations in frame-rate. The first being when my Vampire runs around outside in the rain, and the second being when my Vampire suffers a Final Death (although I suspect that both of these can be solved by dropping the particles slider-value). My second favourite Quest has to be Grout's Mansion - as it's another location that proves to be sufficiently spooky! On the Mansion side there's: Marble Floors with Grandfather Clocks, and Winding Staircases with Hidden Passages. On the game play side there's: several Puzzles (the Candlestick Holders that you have to flick in the correct order - to open Hidden Doors), numerous Ghouls (that can attack you five or six at a time - although they are also a good source of Blood) and getting lost (how many times have I seen this red/green Hall before?). Yet the Mansion does not want to let you go, as there's also: fun with electricity (until you notice the switches and learn how to crouch) and fun with fire (perhaps a Vampires worst enemy) - as you struggle to find your way out! Another part of the game that I really like is it's ability to surprise you - especially in terms of it's Characters. First: there is the Doom Sayer - a Female Fire Brandishing Zealot who appears when your taking a quick stroll down an alley in Santa Monica (not hard to kill, but try doing it without attracting the authorities!). Second: there is the Character called Chastity - a Female Vampire Hunter who caused my Vampire lots of grief (ironically, after I had spent a fair amount of time within the Character Sheet, spending Experience Points, ensuring that I had matched levels of Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Brawl and Dodge - all of which, made no difference at all, as she was still hard to kill!). Third: there is the Character called Vick - a Gun Totting Bishop who really did test my patience! The fact that my Vampire had a lower humanity level (too much feeding on passer-bys) meant that he constantly wanted to Frenzy (meaning I kept loosing control of my Vampire, whilst the Bishop Vick fired another volley!). It felt great when I finally managed to dispatch Vick (to read his own Sermon!). Overall: this is a game that has caused me to experience both amazement and frustration. The amazement stems from it's fantasy locations (some are very pretty with great story-lines), together with it's variety of supernatural beings (some have personalities that just seem to engage you). The frustration stems from certain elements of it's control system (the first/third person camera battle mixed with elevator fun), together with the feeling that I kept getting lost (where to next? - my Quest Log seems to have much more in it, than I've solved!). When the amazement and frustration are taken together - you end up with a game that has you wanting to replay certain levels, whilst Hammering a Stake into others!
When it comes to a Role Playing Game (RPG) that allows me to masquerade as a Vampire, I'd be hard-pressed to name one better than this:
I like the fact that this game starts with a twist - as it's a while before you become a Vampire! The games storyline sees you take control of the character Christof, a Medieval Holy Knight, whose been injured on the battlefield (by an enemy arrow). Almost mortally wounded, it's only with the caring of the Nun Anezka, that Christof eventually recovers. Yet in doing so, Christof falls for Anezka, and the games storyline gains an important sub-plot: a wound for which there is often no cure - the Power of Love! I like the fact that this game strives to contrast the differences between Christof as a Human, and Christof as a Vampire, yet at the same time - it also fights to highlight the similarities! Whilst Christof is still Human, you undertake a Quest within the Bonn Silver Mines - to rid them of whatever Evil lies within. It is hear that you learn the basics of control: left-click to attack an enemy, left-click plus hold to powerfully attack an enemy. It is here that I first appreciated the quality of the graphics: as various flames/torches light your way, whilst leaving the shadows to themselves. It is also here that you shall encounter your first challenges: Just how do I drain the water from the Crossing? Just how do I kill the War Ghoul? And just how do I kill the first Vampire Boss? The answer to all three is essentially the same: left-click, left-click, left-click! Yet, as Christof is a character of strong Faith, perhaps some Holy Water shall save the day? The games storyline then gains another important sub-plot: as Christof fights to retain his Soul. His Desire for Anezka places it in Peril, yet it is the attentions of a Vampire that truly tests his Character ... I was excited when Christof becomes a Vampire - as this is when the game comes truly alive! I'm also a fan of the Vampire Mythology that's found within this game. First: there is the fact that there are several races of Vampire (such as Cappadocian, Gangrel and Nosferatu - each with their own particular traits, skills and appearance). Second: there is the idea that Vampires have their own beliefs and traditions (Christof is recruited by the Philosophers of Caine - the Brujah, whose primary aim is the collection of Knowledge). Third: there is the concept of Vampire Lore (that the Brujah only take from Humans the Blood that they actually need - not a drop more). Fourth: there is the suggestion that not all Vampires are the same (that the Brujah actually see themselves as Guardians of Humanity, and as such, are less interested in the Blood Lust that's often associated with Creatures of the Night). I was impressed by the games use of animation and narration to highlight several of these ideas (especially the part where Christof views the Scrolling Tapestry). Playing as a Vampire is much more exciting than playing as a Human! There's plenty to learn (as a Vampire) - and you shall earn your Fangs (so to speak) at Petrin Hill Monastery. Lesson One: Looks can be Deceptive - as the Monastery looks all Quite and Peaceful, yet open that Wooden Door, and you shall soon have plenty of opponents to fight - as there's Vampires and Skeletons (usually armed with Swords and Arrows). Lesson Two: Vampires require Blood. When Christof (and his friend Wilhelm) become low on Blood, they shall start to Rampage (possibly even feeding off each other). To counteract this - you need to learn the Art of Feeding! There's plenty of Monks around the Monastery for you to feed on (and slaying an enemy this way does not affect your Humanity levels - which comes in handy). Lesson Three: Sometimes the ability to fight is not enough - you have to use your brain as well, together with switches and keys. Many an Evening did I fight Mercuio (the Vampire Boss of the Monastery), and many an Evening did both Christof and Wilhelm die (to his Green Gas). Yet it was, when searching around, did I find my first special weapon: a Femur (bone) that introduces Mercuio to the Grave! The games more than just about fighting though. One part I really like is managing the equipment that my Vampires wear. Once you've found enough Gold/Jewellery/Jewels, I like to equip my Vampires (via the Blacksmith) with: Studded Leather Armour, Gauntlets and a Light Helm - which helps improve their combat/defence capabilities. Another part I really like is the Character Advancement screen: with each Quest you complete, you earn Experience Points, which you spend to make your Vampires stronger. When I have enough points, I like to increase (in this order): Strength, Dexterity and Stamina (as I feel that these help to establish the central core of my Vampires abilities). When it comes to Spells and Magic, it's a must to upgrade Blood Healing (as it quickly heals your Vampires, usually for less blood), and in the case of Wilhelm, his Feral Claws (a favourite of mine - as he's often at the fore-front of an assault). I also like to equip each of my characters with: two Scrolls of Awaken (so that they may wake fallen comrades) and a Scroll of Walk the Abyss (so that a doorway can be opened between the current Quest and your safe haven - a great way to save travel time, which also allows you stock up on valuable supplies!). Overall: I have spent many an evening playing this game! I found that I became fully immersed in the storyline (especially with the twists regarding Faith, Love and Souls). Yes, there are some frustrations (such as when you accidentally tell Christof to feed off Wilhelm), but there's also a great amount of fun (such as when you destroy the rampaging Golem). I was stunned by the beauty of many scenes (especially those that reflect a decorated ceiling of a Castle/Palace unto the floor). The most draw-dropping part of the storyline (for me), was when the Time-line changed (as I wanted to remain in the Medieval), and felt totally lost (at first) running around in the Modern Age. Even so, this is still my favourite Vampire game to play!