Saturday, May 19, 2018

Quest for Glory III: The Roads Not Taken

Rakeesh rationalizes having a thief for a friend.
            
The role of the thief in the Quest for Glory series has always been an ambiguous one. He is, first and foremost, explicitly not the "rogue" of most D&D-derived games, who uses his stealth to explore dungeons and pick locks on chests looted from monsters. The Quest for Glory thief is a proper thief. He burglarizes houses and fences stolen goods to a guild. And he doesn't just steal from rich misers: his targets in the first game are an old lady and the town sheriff.

On the other hand, he's also a hero. He drives out Baba Yaga and prevents the return of Iblis. So how are we to regard this? Is he principally a good-hearted hero whose nature cannot help a little mischief on the side? Or are his heroics, while unquestionably bona fide, simply part of a larger scheme that requires access to barons and sultans? Or is it largely up to the player?

Quest for Glory III seems to take the former position. Rakeesh offers some gentle advice to keep his thieving friend in line, but he recognizes that the hero, irrespective of a little pilfering, is a champion at heart. However, my best recollection is that Quest for Glory V takes the opposite position on the question, which caused no small amount of role-playing chagrin when I first experienced that game. I could be mis-remembering, though, so I'll cover that when I get to it.
         
I'll try, Rakeesh.
            
What's indisputable is that a thief doesn't have very much to do in Tarna. Rakeesh is up front about this: "Tarna is not a good place for one of your skills." You can make the thief sign to just about everyone, and hardly anyone recognizes it.

Man, when I'm in charge of the guilds, I'm going to make the sign much less stupid.
        
The only people who respond are Rashid (the rope-seller) and Harami. Rashid is a retired thief. Both warn you that there's no guild in Tarna, and thus no place to sell stolen goods, and that being declared "without honor" really sucks. However, you can pay Rashid 50 royals to get some rope-walking lessons that greatly increase your agility.
            
On the other hand, that's a lot of money.
        
The money is well-spent because rope-walking is the thief's primary means of puzzle-solving. The thief's story starts with the Sultan of Shapeir giving him a set of "magic grapnels" that you can tie to a rope. They automatically grab on to things when thrown, which makes them different from regular grapnels in ways I don't really understand.
         
Yes, okay, technically he explains what makes them magic.
         
Each class solves small puzzles differently. For instance, to get the fruit from the poisonous vines, the thief uses his magic grapnel. The wizard casts "Fetch." The fighter or paladin throws a dagger to rescue a meerbat from the vine, and then the meerbat later leaves one of the fruits as a thank-you gift. But in these small-puzzle solutions, the characters aren't bound to their class-specific solutions. If the thief has magic, he can cast "Fetch," for instance.
     
There are only two large-puzzle solutions that differ among the classes: returning the Drum of Magic and Spear of Death, and defeating the demon wizard in the endgame. Here, your path is determined by your class and not your skills. Thus, the thief, no matter whether he passed the W.I.T. initiation in Quest for Glory II, cannot create a wizard's staff and challenge the Leopardman shaman. Nor can a fighter with thieving skills steal the Spear or Drum. Only a fighter or paladin can become a Simbani warrior.
         
Sneaking into the Leopardman chief's hut with my rope and magic grapnels. I also had to toss some meat to the panther below.
           
The thief's primary contribution to the crisis is bypassing all the B.S. the other classes have to put up with. He doesn't have to become a warrior or face off against the Leopardman shaman. He approaches the problem from a simpler perspective: if the main issue is that the Simbani have the Leopardmen's Drum and the Leopardmen have the Simbani's Spear, the solution is clearly to steal them both and put them back where they came from.
            
Inside the Leopardmen leader's hut. I had to free a noisy monkey from its cage and sneak over to steal the Spear of Death. As a bonus, I could loot a treasure chest by putting some oil on the squeaky hinges and picking the lock.
         
It's actually quite easy for the thief to bypass half of the quest and lose out on the associated points. He really only needs to steal one of the artifacts and return it, at which point the village leader happily turns over the other. On my first pass, I freed Johari before realizing it was time to steal the Drum of Magic (or even how to do it). She led me to her village as she did for the other characters, and I stole the Spear from the leader's hut. Returning it to the Simbani led them to immediately give up the Drum. But to get full points, I needed to steal the Drum first, then steal the Spear, then return the Drum, which in the end was a bit superfluous.

If I have one complaint, it's that the mechanics for stealing the Drum of Magic (which, admittedly, as above, isn't necessary) are a bit unintuitive. With a guard posted outside 24/7, there's no way to sneak into the Simbani leader's hut. You have to wait for nightfall and then use the eye icon to look at the side of the hut and note a crack big enough to cut a hole with your dagger. I'm not sure there's anywhere else in the game that the eye icon actually leads to action instead of just description.
            
The Laiban's hut also has an optional chest. It's too bad money isn't more valuable.
           
In the endgame, the thief claims the jeweled eye of Anubis by simply climbing up the statue. In the confrontation with the demon wizard, the spell icon is grayed out, lest the thief attempt the wizard's approach. Instead, he makes his way from pillar to pillar with his rope and grapnels, then uses the same to yank the wizard from behind into the Orb, knocking them both into the portal and closing it.
            
'Cause "backstab" doesn't exist in this setting.
        
My thief did worse than my wizard in points: only 476/500. I'll talk more about the points in the final entry. He did end up with the highest statistics, however, and is capable of magic. I used it extensively in combat.
             
My thief is positioned well for his adventures in Monrovia or Moldova or whatever.
           
My primary regret with the thief is that there was no way to sneak into Rajah's chambers and loot them. I think Rajah deserved some kind of comeuppance for his brash, bullish behavior in the game, but he was mostly discarded after the peace conference. He's presumably marching on the Leopardmen's village even as we celebrate our victory in the final sequences.
          
I don't need to recount the paladin's adventures in detail since you have Alex's narrative at The Adventure Gamer. I did rather like the gameplay. Slashing enemies with a flaming blue sword was awfully satisfying after my last two characters basically poked at them.
          
An epic battle shot.
         
Making his sword glow with blue flames is one of four skills the paladin gains over time. The other three are the ability to sense danger, a light "heal" spell that comes with 5 magic points, and an "honor shield" that basically acts as a "Protect" spell, reducing damage in combat. Of the three, "danger sense" is the most useless--it basically activates any time an enemy attacks, a situation that is already pretty obvious. The game even seems to make a joke about the low utility of the skill.
           
I think "incredible" is the giveaway that the message isn't serious.
   
In case I missed seeing the two huge demons, my paladin sense would have served me well.
           
The skills appear when you cross various thresholds in "paladin points" which are in turn earned by increasing your honor. This is done with various actions throughout the game, primarily being polite to people with hellos and goodbyes, as well as acts of charity. The funny thing is, you can artificially drive your honor to its maximum in a few minutes just by spamming donations to the drummer in the bazaar. 10 royals allows for 100 donations, and you have dozens of extra royals by the end of the game. (Later, in my fighter game, I found that you can spam losing honor by walking repeatedly away from Harami while he begs for help.)

The paladin's game is front-loaded on the Simbani side, as he must become a Simbani warrior before he can pay the bride price for Johari. This involves giving a horn from a dinosaur to the Laibon, then participating in a long contest that involves running, throwing, and wrestling, with several opportunities to outsmart your "opponent," Yesufu. Even if he beats you at every contest, however, you still pass the initiation.
     
In this case, it was me.
         
As a reward for his passing the initiation, the Laibon gives the hero a boon, and the hero chooses the Drum of Magic. When Johari eventually leads him to the Leopardman village, he just hands over the Drum and the "peace conference" sequence commences.

I don't know why, but I found the paladin's endgame more confusing than the thief's or wizard's. First, he fights the demon wizard's gargoyle directly, which is no big deal.
           
He's no match for my honor fire and honor shield.
       
Afterwards, he has to use his shield to knock the gargoyle's body over the chasm, then click on the body to cross it. The demon wizard re-awakens the gargoyle and has it grab the hero's legs. The hero then has to throw his sword through the demon wizard's chest, and finally knock the Orb back through the gate by again bashing it with the shield. There's nothing wrong with this, exactly, but it involves a few moves that you're not used to making in the rest of the game. For instance, no other puzzle requires the use of the shield as an active object.
       
The paladin gets a good animation here.
        
There was an odd bit during the end sequence for the paladin, and Alex didn't mention it during his account. I'm not really sure who was speaking here or why the paladin was the only one to get this message. I should also note that the paladin also senses danger just before suffering "Otto's Irresistible Dance" at the end.
           
Who's speaking? The skeleton? The orb? The gate?
         
Anyway, my paladin ended with 479 points and some reasonably high attribute and skill statistics.
             
             
As if four times wasn't enough, I ran through the game a fifth time with a fighter created in-game--the only character I didn't import. I was determined that he remain a fighter, not promoted to paladin near the endgame (which happens if your fighter behaves with honor), so I role-played him as a reluctant hero. He certainly wasn't very polite in his interactions, didn't go out of his way to do side quests and stuff. When I talked to Rajah and the Laibon, I talked about things I wanted to talk about.
             
That didn't always go well.
            
I didn't cut quite as many corners as I did with "Bad Chester," but I didn't hit all of the side quests, either. Since he started with skills well below that of the imported characters, I had to spend more time leveling him in combat and running from enemies when I got weak. (He was the only character to face any serious difficulty in combat.) Otherwise, his experience for most of the game was almost the same as the paladin, minus the blue flame and danger sense.

For my guardian ritual, I chose the most obvious symbols--sword, fist, sword--and gave the most direct and brutal options during the questions. Sekhmet still judged me worthy--but barely.
              
This sounds more like something a thief should have gotten.
          
Some interesting things happened during my initiation ritual to be a Simbani warrior. First, since I was going for low honor, I left Yesufu stuck in a hole instead of helping him out. The game let me proceed through all the other challenges and through the end of the ritual before Yesufu ratted on me and I suffered an instant-death screen.
               
But the Simbani clearly have an open-door policy to tattle-tales.
         
Note that the game didn't bother to pretend that I actually "died" in any way--just that I made a decision that made it impossible to continue. This was precisely the sort of thing I was looking for (more often) with "Bad Chester."
            
       
Second, because I never learned how to control the wrestling contest on the balance beam from Uhura, when I had to wrestle Yesufu, the game took over and made all my moves. It messed up most of them, and I automatically lost. Yesufu was declared the better warrior. This didn't really impact the rest of the game at all except that Yesufu asked for the Drum of Magic and then gave it to me.
            
The game throws the match.
           
The only other major difference from the paladin's experience is that Yesufu gives the hero the Spear of Death to fight the demon wizard. You don't get to fight regular combats with it, but rather you use it during the final sequence, in lieu of the paladin sword, to impale the demon wizard. In total, it was a bit disappointing. I had been led to believe by some commenters that fighters and paladins had different questlines in the game.

The fighter was the lowest-performing "real" character, with only 411 puzzle points and 76 honor points.
        
Miscellaneous notes:

  • I didn't realize until the fourth game that you only ever need one poison cure pill. Taking one both cures poison and inoculates you against future poison.
  • I reloaded an old save to see what happened if I cast "Trigger" during the duel with the Leopardman shaman. It was pretty messed up.
          
No one should have this much power.
             
  • During my thief's experience, I came across this reference to the "little people" of the jungle, who set the trap that ensnared Johari (at least by one account). Are they an unseen race, or does it refer to the talking monkeys?
             
             
  • Every character had a different selection of weird encounters on the savanna. They included a variety of simple signs, a charging rhinoceros that you must dodge, a brief Laurel and Hardy skit (they're in the French Foreign Legion a la Beau Hunks), and a lengthy encounter with "Arne Saknoosen," an aardvark miner and explorer.
  • Both my thief and my paladin got so good with throwing that they could often bring down enemies with rocks or knives before those enemies could get into melee range.
           
You won't be poisoning me!
     
  • Despite occasionally winning, I didn't really get yawari until my paladin character played. For some reason, I thought you could only capture stones on the opponent's side of the board. I didn't realize you could wrap around your "home" area and capture your own stones. I was wondering why Yesufu would suddenly add several stones to his bank without the "I be capturing your stones" dialogue. I thought he was cheating.
  • I lost count of how many responses Janna had to "flirt." She seems to have a different one for each visit.
               
Lori Cole proves that she could be successful in other genres.
          
We still have a lot to discuss in reference to the way points are earned and how the skills develop during the game, but I'll save those topics for the summary and rating. For now, I'll just say that I think I like the wizard's path best, but I'm glad I have all classes saved for Shadows of Darkness.
              
Final time: 25 hours

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Legend: In Its Own Mind

One of the two levels that took me 9 hours to finish.
         
I've had a lot of enthusiastic commenters heaping praise on Legend, so I've done my best to give it a fair shot. But I'm simply not feeling it. Gameplay sessions are mildly torturous, and I have to have something else going on--a television show, a "Great Courses" series, another game--while I play it.

The game is far too combat-heavy for a title that gives you so few tactics in combat. Most rooms and most corridors in between rooms feature at least one battle. If you linger too long afterwards, you might even get a second battle. Even after you "clear" a room, there's around a 50% chance of an encounter on a subsequent visit. I started counting the number of battles I fought in the two levels of Fagranc. I lost track at some point, but it was well over 100.

There are a few factors that make the combats annoying, and I mostly covered them in my last entry. I suppose in the broadest sense, they're annoying because most of the time, there's nothing for you to do but watch. But just enough of them are dangerous enough that you have to jump to the rescue with a spell, potion or magic item. So you can't just let them start and then go get a snack, but when you do watch them intently, it's like waiting for a pot to boil.
             
A reminder of what combat looks like.
         
As I've reported before, a lack of enemy names or really any differentiation means that you really don't know which combats are going to be dangerous until they start. There's virtually no correlation between the location and the difficulty--random combats in hallways are often more deadly than fixed combats in important rooms. So you end up reloading a lot after you've learned, the hard way, that this combat is one that needs your full attention.

Not that "full attention" always saves you. With respect to those that love the spell system, I still don't have a lot of luck except with a healing spell that heals the caster and damage and paralysis spells that target the enemy directly in front of the caster. The utility of something like "Forward-Missile-Surround-Damage" or "Forward-Forward-Forward-Paralysis" is lost in a game where you cannot reliably position or face the characters. By the time I get the caster nudged into the right place, the enemy I wanted to target has moved somewhere else.

If there's one positive to the game, it's to be found in the puzzles. I covered a pretty hard one a few entries ago, and I still maintain that it was a little too hard for being so early in the game. Now, I see better how I might have figured out the solution on my own. The puzzles in Fagranc weren't nearly as hard, but they were still challenging enough to be fun. For instance, the screenshot below shows a puzzle where casting "Damage" on the western rune causes the person standing on the square above the face to teleport to the closest pad across the water. If someone is already standing there, he teleports to the other pad on the eastern side. Both pads have levers nearby that raise squares from the water, and the ultimate goal is to get someone over to the chest.
            
Casting a spell at a rune shoots a teleportation spell out of the northwest pillar.
       
I was able to figure this out through testing, and it was a lot of fun, but there were only a couple of puzzles like this in Fagranc. The issue is confused by the fact that a lot of the rooms have floor tiles that look like they're parts of puzzles but really aren't.
           
Trying to get to that chest when there's a teleportation pad in front of it. I think I just cast a "Teleport" spell from a scroll.  I don't know if that was the solution or if I just circumvented the puzzle.
         
Some of the rooms are beautifully rendered, and it makes you wish there was more to do than simply search the various pieces of furniture for treasures. As for those treasures, equipment rewards have been frequent enough to count as effective character development. I also find a lot of magic rings (which duplicate spells, but anyone can use them) and potions. I don't really understand potions. Their effects are based on their names--"Serpent" potions always heal; "Moon" potions always make you invisible--so I don't know why they're different colors. I guess maybe the color denotes the strength of the potion?
           
A pretty room, but there's still nothing to do but search.
        
I always like finding Golden Helms, which blast enemies in front of you hard enough to kill most of them. Finding one is the only time I can micro-manage my troubadour. I burn through them pretty fast.

I've been experimenting with different troubadour songs, but it's hard to see the effects of most of them. The default, "March of the Bold Ones," which regenerates hit points, is still the most tangibly effective of the group. 

The two levels of Fagranc, representing about 120 separate room and corridor screens, took me well over 8 hours to fully explore. At the end of Level 2 was a stairway down to a single room on Level 3, full of doors I couldn't open. I found a "Dark Key" in the room along with a note that said "Come and see me at The Dark Tower. --K." The Dark Tower is in a different dungeon in the northwest of the map. I guess it will be a while before I can report to the king that I've destroyed all the evil in Fagranc. He didn't even want to see me when I returned to his castle later.
               
Sorry, but your evil is in another castle.
         
Back outside, I stopped in several towns to sell my excess equipment and purchase more spell reagents. A bartender told me that The Ancient wanted to see me, which is fine--I needed to visit him to buy more runes anyway. Stopping at various cities, I slowly made my way back to the game's starting area.
          
Beginning the long trek home.
        
In Treihadwyl, I was disappointed that each character could only level-up once or twice. I thought I'd been in Fagranc so long that I was due for a major upgrade. On the other hand, leveling is becoming expensive enough that it's probably a good thing I didn't have many to gain. I wouldn't have been able to afford another round. My berserker and troubadours are now Level 5 and my assassin and runemaster are both Level 4. The experience point variance is significant, from almost 18,000 for my runemaster to about 50,000 for my berserker.
            
            
The Ancient, meanwhile, wanted me to recover his "mystic staff" from his evil cousin, Kilijan, who lives in the Dark Tower. Good thing I was headed there anyway. I was also able to purchase the "Teleport" rune from him for 4,000 gold, which I hope will get my runemaster out of more life-threatening situations. Of the runes, at this point, I'm only missing "Regeneration," "Vivify," and "Disrupt."
           
"Kilijan" joins the game's long list of names that just don't quite work.
           
I have a few new spells to experiment with, so I suppose I'll give the game another few hours and see what the Dark Tower has to offer. But I suspect you may see me end this one prematurely in favor of making more substantial progress in 1992.
       
Time so far: 19 hours


Monday, May 14, 2018

Quest for Glory III: Won!

            
Wages of War wrapped up quickly after my last entry. You'll recall that Manu the Monkey and I were on our way to the Lost City to stop the Demon Wizard from opening a portal. I was stuck briefly at a crossing, but the solution was simple: tie a vine around my waist and convince Manu to pull me across while I cast "Levitate."
       
Just as I reach the other side.
           
There was one more fight with a Devil Worm on the way. Repeatedly, Manu tried to convince me to abandon my quest and leave the "bad place," but he ultimately capitulated and told me of a secret entrance that involved putting an "eye that glows" in a jackal's head. However, he refused to enter the city with me and left.
        
If you won't come with me, who are all these monkeys who enter the city "alla time"?
        
Sure enough, I found the jackal mural plus a neaby jackal statue with a fire opal for an eye. A quick "Fetch" got me the eye. It was interesting to see from Alex's summary at "The Adventure Gamer" that he'd received his eye from a meerbat ages ago.
     
Outside the Lost City.
         
The secret door led to a hall atop a staircase, where two demon goons stood guard, complaining about their lots in life.
      
This reminds me that I never fought an ape man. Alex contended with many of them.
          
A "Calm" spell let me pass the demons unmolested, and an "Open" got me through the door behind them.
      
The style of this room seems more like "haunted mansion" than "lost jungle city."
          
Inside the room was Reeshaka, the daughter of Rakeesh and Kreesha, survivor of the doomed peace mission that never reached the Leopardmen. She told me that a gate atop the tower allows the demons to enter the world, and that we need to destroy the gate.
        
Powerful wizard.
           
Before we could continue, she was suddenly taken over by a demon. I suspect the thing to do was to throw another "dispel" potion at her, but I didn't have one. I don't know why. Some walkthrough says I was supposed to have gotten three from Salim, but I must have screwed something up.

Anyway, I had to fight the demon/Reeshaka in regular combat. It wasnt very hard.
           
I envisioned this game's demons as quite sinister, but they mostly just look ugly.
          
Shortly after I "killed" him, a portal opened and out stepped Uhura, Yesufu, Rakeesh, my wife Johari, and the thief Harami. Rakeesh immediately called upon his paladin powers to heal his daughter.
        
            
This is the same thing he did in Alex's game, where Alex did have the "dispel" potion, so I guess it ultimately didn't matter.

Alex has a good line-by-line analysis about how your various friends fulfill the prophecy given at the Temple of Sekhmet. I'll let you read it in his entry (CTRL-F "this prophecy thing"). Suffice to say that Harami pretended that he didn't care about anything but himself.
      
            
Rakeesh expressed some concern that the prophecy wouldn't be fulfilled because he was  supposed to have five friends with him, and with Harami refusing to fight, we only had four. Fortunately, Manu showed up to take his place.
      
Nothing better happen to Manu.
          
Uhura and Rakeesh stayed in the previous room to fight oncoming demons (and Harami just stayed) while the rest of us went forward. In the next room, we each came face to face with an enemy in a mirror. 
    
      
The ensuing battle with my doppelganger went poorly. His hit points refused to budge and mine steadily decreased. Then, all at once, Harami came through and stabbed my opponent in the back. Harami shoved some healing and mana pills in my hand and told me to go on and close the portal.
          
How heartwarming.
            
In the next room, I found the demon wizard conferring with the demon lord. The wizard was standing on the other side of a chasm, so I couldn't rush him directly. The lord wasn't in the room, but being contacted remotely in his own plane. They had a bit of villains' exposition, confirming that they had orchestrated the war between the Simbani and the Leopardmen as a way to both humiliate Rakeesh and to fuel their orb with deaths. The lord was impatient for the orb to be refueled so he could come through the gate personally. I broke up their discussion by trying to nail the wizard with a "Flame Dart."
      
If only tape recorders existed in this setting.
             
The endgame was something like the wizard's duel in the Leopardmen village. I had to find the right spells to counter the wizard's actions, starting with "Reversal" to counter his attacks. He then cast a spell that caused the floor around me to erupt in flame, but I reversed it with "Calm."
        
Nice alliteration, but also a bit redundant.
        
The next sequence took me a few tries. He summoned a gargoyle, and I had to go through all my spells to find that "Trigger" was the solution, turning it back to stone (why?) He then said he was going to summon his "lord." I tried pelting him with "Flame Dart" and "Force Bolt," but he just laughed off my attacks, calling them "puny efforts." Casting spells on the orb did nothing.
            
One of many possible death screens in this sequence.
             
Clearly, I needed the more powerful versions of the spells that my staff was capable of casting. I summoned it, but he immediately "Fetched" it, and I couldn't "Fetch" it back.
         
           
For some reason I don't understand, "Trigger" again saved the day, causing my staff to explode in his face and kill him. A burned ball of his ashes floated to my feet, and I kicked it in the chasm. I then "Force Bolted" the orb from its pedestal and into the gate, closing it.
        
That's gotta hurt.
           
I rushed to find my friends and my wife to celebrate. They all had something nice to say until Johari dropped this bomb.
          
How will Yesufu ever be sure that it's his son?
             
Why, you lying, unconstant succubus! After I gave you beads and everything. Yesufu expressed similar surprise, but Johari simply said, "You said you wanted to marry me. I accept."

Before I had a chance to react or celebrate any further, some magic enveloped my body and started jerking me to and fro. 
             
Those paladin skills really give you an edge, Rakeesh.
              
"To be continued," the game said, "in Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness." The accompanying image showed my Quest for Glory II adversary, Ad Avis, now looking rather undead. A hooded figure next to him is likely the "Dark Master" he spoke of in the previous game.
        
Only about 60 games before we get to it.
   
Chester ended the game with 486 points out of 500. I'm sure the 14 missed points were in various dialogue options throughout the game, or perhaps some were from fighting Reeshaka instead of using a dispel potion on her. I'm not overly concerned.     
        
The winning character.
            
Before we finish up with the game, we're going to have a few replays. I want to experience the game as a thief, and even though I have Alex's account to tell me how a paladin fares, I still need to get my own paladin through Wages of War so he'll be ready for the next one. Ditto the fighter I created in this game.

But before I did any of those, I ran through the game again with another wizard. I wanted to see what would happen if I bungled everything--how low a score I could achieve. I wish I hadn't. The whole thing made me sad.

I created a new character called "Bad Chester" and re-started. These were his experiences:
           
  • I talked to no one I didn't absolutely have to. I offered no "greetings" or "goodbyes." In the forced interactions with Rajah and other characters, I said nothing. I walked away from every scripted scene as quickly as I could. I never even visited the tavern except when I was forced to spend the night there between Days 2 and 3.
          
Rajah reacts to my silence.
        
  • I ran from every battle I could.
  • I did nothing to try to stop or chase Harami when he was first caught stealing. I was still forced to testify at his trial. I never met Harami in the bazaar afterwards or gave him food. (I couldn't avoid witnessing the episode entirely because I needed to buy the zebra skins from the merchant on the same screen.)
  • I bought no items that I didn't need. I only bought a couple extra waterskins, the items I needed for the brideprice, and some food, for which I paid the talking dog the least amount possible.
  • I threw Shema's note to Shalla in the gutter.
  • I didn't tell Salim about Julanar. I didn't get the honeybird feather for him, either.
  • I refused to swear the oath to bring peace that Rakeesh swore.
  • In the middle of the game, the only things I collected were the items necessary for my wizard's staff and the dispel potions. I never even met Yesufu.
  • I didn't get the Gem of the Guardian or participate in the Temple of Sekhmet ritual.
  • When I came across Manu the Monkey in his cage, I just walked away and left him there. 
                 
Trying to kill the monkey results in an instant death.
          
  • After Johari was captured, I didn't give her any gifts. I just opened the cage and let her go. 
  • When Johari approached me in the jungle, I immediately said goodbye without speaking to her.
              
My first disappointment came when Johari approached me for the third time and said she had spoken to her father about peace. I thought that only happened if I encouraged her to do it, and I hadn't said anything to her. Then, when we arrived outside her village, I didn't talk of "romance" this time, but she still kissed me. I guess that's how the scene inevitably ends, gifts, romance, or no. (Because of my evasions, though, she never taught me "Lightning Ball.")

Once inside the village, I did everything I could to screw up the encounter. I talked instead of challenging the Leopardman shaman to a duel. I tried to leave. I tried to refuse the duel. But no matter what, Johari yelled at me and funneled me to the duel.
         
Hey, it's called "role-playing," woman.
          
During the duel, I screwed up as many spells as I could without losing. When the shaman was possessed by a demon, I killed him instead of dispelling him. I still got the Drum and then the Spear and the peace conference proceeded as before.

The endgame was the most disappointing. Despite the fact that I'd left him rotting in a cage, Manu still showed up calling me "manfriend," invited me to the monkey village, and took me to the lost city.

At the Lost City, I tried to avoid the secret door, but there was no other way to get in. I wanted to lose more points by killing the demons outside the door instead of casting "Calm," but doing so didn't leave me enough magic or hit points to defeat Reeshaka.

Of course, after I fought her, the same crew appeared, despite my never having helped Harami or even having met Yesufu. The rest of the game went as above and I "won" with 334 points and an "Honor" score of 53.
          
I'm not sure "congratulations" is the right word here.
           
I understand the Coles' desire to avoid "walking dead" scenarios, but it seems to me they erred too far in the other direction here. To be able to skip so much game content and still achieve the same ending seems unfair to players who put in the time, care, and role-playing.

Before the rating, we'll take a look from the thief's perspective. Keep an eye on The Adventure Gamer for Alex's final rating in the meantime!
              
Time so far: 18 hours