Monday, June 12, 2017

Time Horn: Summary and Rating

Some of the missions involved defeating a "black master."
     
Time Horn: Il Corno del Tempo
Italy
Lindasoft (developer and publisher)
Released in 1991 for Amiga
Date Started:  1 June 2017
Date Ended: 10 June 2017
Total Hours: 9
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
    
This will be the first time that I wrap up a game based on the experiences of a commenter, but Zardas did such a good job filling in the next stages of the game that I feel like it would simply be a waste of time if I did it myself. He also cheated to give himself invincibility and unlimited movement, so it would have taken me 10 times as long just to arrive at the same conclusion.
      
I had the hardest time even getting this screen.
     
I did play a little more on my own, but I continued to have problems that even Zardas didn't seem to experience, including characters who "died exhausted" no matter how much food and water I gave them and an inability to get out of the mission even after achieving its goal and returning to the starting location to end my turn. Also, the documentation never turned up to explain exactly why we were on these various missions in the first place.

The primary reason, of course, for declining to experience the rest of the game myself is Zardas's report that the final mission crashes with an error message. I realize this sort of thing happens under certain circumstances that I might not have experienced, but I still wasn't going to risk wasting that kind of time on a game that I probably wouldn't be able to complete.
      
Not the kind of thing you want to see after completing 15 missions.
     
Based on what we know about the game so far, I give it:

  • 3 points for a short backstory that does an adequate job setting up the adventures to come. If the manual ever turns up, I may decide it deserves more here.
      
Mordred begins to make a name for himself. Funny how this is in English.
     
  • 2 points for character creation and development. There's no creation at all, and based on Zardas's reports, the max of 5 levels per class offers fairly limited development without much sense of growing really stronger, except perhaps in spells. This is faintly understandable, because there's a decent chance that Mordred will lose one or more allies per mission and have to recruit them anew at Level 1. So those Level 1 characters can't be entirely worthless, even late in the game.
  • 2 points for NPCs. There are no NPCs to talk to, but there are some who will join the party--up to 5 per mission, if you can afford it. There are various strengths and weaknesses among these characters.
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. There seem to be a large variety of monster types capable of various offensive attacks, ranged attacks, and magic, each requiring a slightly different strategy. The missions also offer some minor puzzles and traps. This category might get an extra point if it turns out the documentation describes each foe in detail.
      
Enemies crowd and paralyze our hero.
      
  • 3 points for magic and combat. I thought the combat system needed a few more options. The only real tactics for fighters are associated with the use of the environment and strategic use of movement points so you don't end up in a weak position. Both of these are complicated by the enemy's ability to see you before you can see him. Spellcasters have more options, including some impressive summoning and mass-damage spells.
  • 2 points for equipment. According to Zardas, there were no upgrades after the initial purchases.
  • 4 points for the economy. You need the money from the quests to re-hire slain NPCs, re-stock on food and water, and upgrade magic abilities. A player who scummed his way along and never lost an NPC would probably find himself overburdened with cash before the end.
      
Mordred is rewarded for completing a mission.
      
  • 3 points for the quests. You have to complete 15 missions before engaging in the final mission to overcome the Occult Master, and we don't know what that ending looks like. If it turns out there were choices or role-playing decisions, it might earn some more points. The individual missions follow a predictable pattern of 2 item fetches and 1 assault on a heavily-fortified stronghold to kill a key enemy.
      
Modred slays one of the sub-bosses and retrieves the "om key" needed to open the temple.
      
  • 4 points for graphics, sound, and interface. I find the graphics and sound to be very serviceable, but I had constant problems with the mostly-mouse interface. Simple tasks like switching between party members was harder than it should have been.
  • 2 points for gameplay. I suppose it has some nonlinearity in that you can approach the missions in any order. But I found the individual missions excruciatingly long and far too difficult, and I suspect the overall game would therefore rank low for those aspects.
       
That gives us a final score of 29, pretty low for 1991, but again subject to review if we ever find a manual and/or a version that we can complete.

I really do like the idea of "mission-based" RPGs, featuring a central hub where you can rest, restore, and advance, then head of on a variety of individual, independent missions in any order. They remind me of that old Airborne Ranger for the Commodore 64. But all the ones we've seen--Time Horn, Paladin, Knights of Legend, Sorcerian--have introduced issues that blunt my enjoyment of what could otherwise be an enjoyable dynamic.

It was fun to try a rare Italian RPG. Unless one surfaces before then, we won't see another one until Alfa Romeo Racing Italiano (2005), which stands a strong chance of being rejected. 2006's Etrom: The Astral Essence sounds more promising.

Returning to the field in front of us, it seems like we'll be on a Deathlord/Conan combo for at least a few entries.

30 comments:

  1. If the game you had was cracked it's more then likely to have issues because of it, not an uncommon problem with cracked games back in the day since many were either stolen beta copies or unlocked demo versions and with some games cracking was done with such a brute force that it broke something else entirely.

    Then of c. we have the usual old game problem of various versions of the same game (I'm looking at you Sierra and your games from early 80's) where some versions simply had bugs that made the game unwinnable.

    Unfortunately abandonware games tend to fall freely on any (and sometimes all) of those categories.

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  2. Somewhere in the Deathlords/Conan run coming, there will be time for Might & Magic III to break things up, though; only a few left in 1991 and that is one of them! So, hopefully that will give you something to look forward to. Darklands also is not far away (1992).

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    1. I'm thinking Darklands may top Fate for the 'Longest Played' record and if not, definitely make the list somewhere. What a great game that is.

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    2. I feel like I should mention, lest we scare Chet away by comparing the game to Fate, that the main quest of Darklands isn't that long. You can do or skip the rest of the content as you wish, and it even has the option of changing difficulty levels. It's a lot like a modern RPG where you can tap out of the main story at any time and go on dragon hunting for five hours.

      In Fate, everything was mandatory and most of it imbalanced.

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    3. I have to disagree about Darklands being an especially long game. I used three weeks to complete it, which is quite long, but not extremely so.
      In comparison I used nearly two months to complete Wiz 7, which is the longest CRPG I've played.

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    4. M&M3 finally made it onto the recent & upcoming list on the sidebar! I've been super hyped for his playthrough of it ever since I went through the game last year.

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    5. Darklands has some elements randomized ("spell" locations, using the term loosely to avoid spoilers, start, and even quest locations among a short list of possibilities).

      It can be long in game time, but it is a completely open world, as others have said. You could probably speed run it!

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    6. I didn't even know that Darklands can be completed!

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    7. Not "completed", but "beaten". You can beat the "final" boss, but it is an open world RPG so you do not actually win...you can keep questing beyond that point if you wish! I am not sure if the game can ever be "completed"...I think new quests still come even after you have beaten the final boss, they just are side quests not related to the main story anymore.

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    8. Mr. Popo, I agree with your sentiment. I have been waiting for M&M3 for awhile! M&M2 was the first real CRPG I played growing up, and since I never took advantage of the Cuisinart exploit (and still refuse to this day) I find it fun to go back to. I was initially not a fan of M&M 3-5 (and 6+ for that matter) because they changed things so much and I never gave them a fair shake (the magic system seemed so limited by comparison), but they have really grown on me now that I have given them a fair shot and I have realized that there really are only a handful of go-to spells anyway! Actually, one of these days, I want to play M&M 1-10 in order back-to-back and write up an article on each in succession...or possibly do the reverse, M&M 10-1 in descending order and write from that perspective, which could be an interesting twist!

      For now, though, I think I will fire up M&M 3 so it is fresh in my mind again!

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  3. Update: turns out the last mission's files were missing entirely from the disk, but replacing them with another map worked. So the mission itself remains a mystery, but at least I've been able to see the ending:

    http://imgur.com/o0vOMiu

    "MORDRED HA FINALMENTE RECUPERATO IL CORNO DEL TEMPO
    LA PRIMA PARTE DELLA SUA IMPRESA E' STATA COMPIUTA

    MA LE SUE AVVENTURE NON SONO TERMINATE
    EGLI DEVE ANCORA SALVARE IL SUO REGNO DAL TRADIMENTO

    NUOVE ENTUSIASMANTI IMPRESE LO ATTENDONO
    NEL SEGUITO DE 'IL CORNO DEL TEMPO'"

    Google translation/guesswork (corrections welcome):

    "Mordred has finally recovered the horn of time. The first part of his quest has been completed. But his adventures are not over. He has yet to save his kingdom from betrayal. New, enthusiastic groups are looking for the 'horn of time'."

    So, a promise of a sequel, which I guess never came to be? Shocking. :)

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    1. NUOVE ENTUSIASMANTI IMPRESE LO ATTENDONO
      NEL SEGUITO DE 'IL CORNO DEL TEMPO'

      ...may be better translated as...

      New exciting quests wait for him in the sequel for 'il corno del tempo'

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    2. Thanks for your work Zardas!

      Delete
  4. "I really do like the idea of "mission-based" RPGs, featuring a central hub where you can rest, restore, and advance, then head of on a variety of individual, independent missions in any order."

    You'll see it again in 1998, at very least. In a Russian RPG "Rage of Mages" (Allods). But in the first game you always get one story mission and one side mission. And current side mission becomes unavailable if you do current story mission first. So it's actually linear.

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    1. I think Jagged Alliance, Ogre Battle (and its successor Tactics Ogre), Final Fantasy Tactics, Vandal Hearts, Crisis Core, Disgaea, Valkyrie Profile, Valkyria Chronicles & etc. Pity only the first and last are the only ones on PC.

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    2. I would pay money to see Chet's opinion of a few console RPGs. While I want to see him play say, classic Final Fantasy games, I wouldn't pay money for it. However, I'd probably throw $20 into a hat to read his opinion on Ogre Battle 64 or Hybrid Heaven. Ogre Battle is a great game, though I kind of fear putting Chet near something that addictive, as he'd probably try to get all the different troop types and whatnot. That said, he doesn't use spoilers, so chances are he'd never know most of them existed. But I'd love his opinion on the story, gameplay and whatnot.

      Hybrid heaven would just be to watch Chet have to deal with a combat system based on wrestling, and have to deal with levelling up each part of your body one by one. I might be a bad person.

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    3. I would presume X-COM (1994) is also like this, although I have never played the original, only the reboots (EU/EW and 2).

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    4. We've had a few games so far that had missions without the hub IIRC. Before he did X-com, Julian Gollop was responsible for a number of squad level tactics games that featured unconnected missions - X-com was a breakout game because it provided a macro level context for those missions, both in terms of story and character progression.

      In general terms, the original x-com plays similarly to the reboot. One of the main differences is that the original featured multiple potential hubs - as rather than just filling the sky with satellites, you needed to build new bases to cover additional radar space.

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    5. I only want to see Chet play important console games to add a bit of context; to observe a bit of the back and forth influence across the pond. I've barely played the early JRPG entries (or JRPGs generally).

      In terms of games I personally want to see - I want to see some of the comparisons that inspired the blog in the first place. Old vs new. Fallout vs Wasteland 2 vs Underrail. DM vs LoG. King's Bounty vs HoMM 3 vs the reboot. Daggerfall vs Skyrim. Ultima VII vs Divinity: Original Sin.

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    6. HoMM reboot? Do you mean 4 or 5? I've never played 4, but 5....that was NOT a good game.

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    7. Nah, KB reboot.

      4 is the black sheep of the HoMM family - I liked it but it had a non-functioning AI.

      What were your issues with 5? The campaign isn't very balanced, and features perhaps the worst dialogue (and voice acting) of its decade - were there other reasons?

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    8. The campaign didn't feel fun when I tried it, and the voice acting and attempt to do in-engine cutscenes were too much. So pretty much what you described. They used 'throw hands over head' for pretty much every emotion in the book since it was one of the few things they had animated.

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    9. I hated hoMM 5 because it didn't continue the science fantasy setting of Might&Magic, instead turning it into a pretty lame standard high fantasy setting.

      I love HoMM 4, but I know I'm in a minority when I say it's my favorite HoMM title. The King's Bounty reboot was pretty good imo, just the mind hero was a bit underwhelming apart from starting with a resurrection scroll which drastically lowered my losses once I learned the spell

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    10. There's a lot of flak heaped on HoMM 4 because it's different (Heroes can die and involve themselves directly in battle, 8 different Home units but you can only use 5) and, let's face it, pretty buggy and not a very good implementation of this new system.

      With direct involvement from Heroes, you can literally use ONLY Heroes in a single party throughout a scenario. The campaigns even forces you to do so, basically making you play Might & Magic in a grand-strategy 4x game.

      I guess that may be the worst complaint. Then again, when we look at RTS trying that, we get what-we-call-them-now Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

      Maybe HoMM4 was just ahead of its time.
      Maybe it was misunderstood and it didn't have a chance to prove itself right in a sequel (in 3DO).

      I, for one, am also a black sheep. I enjoyed the game for what it was, an ambitious strategy-RPG hybrid that allows you to create your own campaigns without the usual RPG logistic annoyances (Encumbrance, Hunger\Thirst Bar, Stamina\Endurance, Party vs. Character Alignment) and distilling all the high adventures of one into
      a game more concerned about the destination than how you got there.

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    11. My favorite C.R.P.G, Superhero League of Hoboken has a mission-based structure.

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    12. They tried to bring the SF elements in during one of the expansion to HoMM3. However, when they tested it, it went over like a lead balloon with the HoMM community. So they had to quickly remake it using existing units as much as possible which is why Conflux was all elemental units.

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  5. What did you guys think of E3? I was disappointed by the lack of some interesting games like Mechwarrior 5, Death Stranding, Cyberpunk 2077 and Star Citizen, but there were impressive games:

    Battletech looks like a fun mix of giant robots and Shadowrun Returns, which was a good game and Archangel also looks like a very fun mech game; Knights and Bikes looks like a unique, surreal game; The End is Nigh looks like a worthy successor to Macmullen's unique games; Matterfall looks like a great tribute to weird and challenging platformers from the 8 and 16 bit eras; Mario Odyssey and Mario versus Rayman look fun and surreal even by the standards of those series; Xenoblade 2 and Splatoon 2 are the sequels to excellent series with a lot of potential; Spiderman looks fast, fun and a good use of his powers; and I want to believe Beyond Good and Evil 2 will be a good sequel to one of my favorites, but after 14 years I doubt it will ever happen; and Sea of Thieves and Skull and Bones look like fun pirate games, hopefully as fun as Sid Meier's game.

    There were some disasters: Bethesda seems to be obsessed with remaking its old games instead of making new ones, although The Evil within 2 looks like a fine sequel to a wonderful game; Days Gone looks incredibly boring and no different from a million other zombie games; why bother showing Call of Duty, we all know what it will be and anyone who cares will probably buy it regardless; I admit that anthem looks a really fun game with robot suits and jetpacks, but after Drangon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda, I have no faith in Bioware; Vampyr and Kingdom Come: Deliverance look like very boring games with tedious gameplay, slow combat and messages everywhere saying exactly what to do instead of letting the play figure things out himself.

    I like the plethora of games with robot suits, those are fun, but overall a pretty mediocre show.

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    1. Mechwarrior 5 can't be made because no one wants to make it when the original creator of the game is making a game in that universe.

      Death Stranding is still in early development phase because, from what Kojima described, the gameplay is weird as f*ck and will be a b!tch to implement.

      Cyberpunk 2077 is far from being ready, considering the number of people they are still hiring for that project (http://en.cdprojektred.com/jobs/).

      Star Citizen... there are no words for Star Citizen. When you give a game developer only money but no deadline, they will never have a deadline.

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    2. You can still get disappointed by the lack of Star Citizen? You either have too much faith or paid way too much into that vaporware.

      Mechwarrior 5 made me very happy. Loved the series, especially the Mercenaries versions. There are few things I hate more than successful single-player series turning into free-to-play MMO trash. It's always a welcome sight seeing one climb back from the abyss. :)

      Xenoblade is also good news, though as a PC-only guy I probably won't get to play it anytime soon. At least the soundtrack should be good.

      Not interested in any platformers, especially 3D. My eyes have trouble perceiving depth on monitor screens, so it's already a frustrating experience when RPGs have platforming elements, I certainly don't want dedicated games for that.

      The rest is pretty much meh. We'll see.

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