Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Below the Cut: Times of Lore (NES)

(Source: Wikipedia)
Times of Lore - Rating(7 RPP)
1) 1 - Character Advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters, customize characters
2) 1 - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
3) 0 - Items and Equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 3 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
5) 2 - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6) 1 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve


Times of Lore held a special place in my heart. I remember playing it often as a kid, or at least watched it being played. I never got very far, in fact I'm not sure I ever completed any of the quests. So, why did I hold this game in such high esteem? Most likely nostalgia in combination with being an impressionable youth. I still have the desire to beat it; however, it falls into action-adventure more than an RPG, even with the extensive dialogue branches.

I'd always thought the game was an RPG, but after a series of events (CRPG Addict's assessment, playing the game before I started this blog, and reading a couple of reviews) I've come to the same conclusion as Chet: this game shouldn't be considered an RPG. Sure there are quests, and maybe even some puzzles (I didn't find any), but the combat is all action and there isn't any character advancement. This fact escaped my child-sized brain at the time, and I'd have put it alongside such classics as Ultima VII if asked just 15 years ago (heck it was even released by the same company).

With disillusioned memories I bid farewell to this game, and take it off my list of classic RPGs. One day I'll come back to conquer it, but it has lost its luster when I look at it now. To better times, and better games we go.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game 28: Warsong (Genesis) - Victorious, King! (Finished + Rating)

I can't decide if that's Garett staring into the sunset, or Chaos ominously on the horizon
While the ending scenarios were dramatic, compared to the scenarios 11 and 12, they were a cake-walk. I took them slowly, gained all the experience I could, and enjoyed the ending that followed. However, at least in scenarios 18 and 19, the party started right next to the boss with only a wall to separate them. With all the magic I had, including earthquake to knock down walls, I'm fairly sure those two maps would take less than 10 minutes.
6/8 flyers? Definitely want archers
Stage 17 required total defeat, so I armed archers to tackle the flying units. I held my ground on the hills near the bottom of the map, and let them come to me. The enemy commanding units had a couple of fireballs in reserve, which made placement troublesome. For the ground units I set aside some horsemen.
Only one option for this line of advancement
Garett and companions entered Seneferia to face off against the last three generals of evil. Naxos controlled the gateway in stage 18 with groups of monsters: slimes, skeletons, ants, and golems. The new golems had defense so high that magic was nearly the only way to damage them. I decided to have Mina go with guardsmen instead of monks because there were more slimes to grind on. For the skeletons, I did my best by throwing horsemen at them. Had I a dragon knight, I could easily have flown over the walls and completed the map on the second turn.
The back side of the leader is unguarded
I noticed Lance was no longer available on the next map for some reason. I tried out my strategy with Lance on the previous map, just to see if it was possible. I equipped Warsong and he easily took Naxos out in a single round. Having Lance on the map triggered some additional dialogue where he volunteered to stay behind to cover our backs. I'm really missing Sabra's dragon knight class.
Mortimus, the second boss general is right there waiting for a barrage of spells to take him out
Instead of taking the easy way out in scenario 19 I made my way around the sides, taking out all the enemy commanders in my path. Mortimus had a confusion spell that turned my forces against me, but only in the immediate areas around the spell target, which always seemed to be a commander. Knowing this, I spread my units out, and rendered that spell useless. Mina's monks took out the skeletons easily.
And Mina dealt the final blow... still a long way away from her second class change
The final stage was filled with skeletons. Monks are the only units strong against them, but Mina was the only one with that option. I went with mostly horsemen, and a couple detachments of archers. I'm glad I did because a hidden final boss, a bit obvious with only seven enemy generals shown on the map in the beginning, was all flying units. The main commander on map was Ganelon, the magic knight who originally used evil to conquer the land.
I used Garett to bait out Ganelon's powerful spells while I kept a distance with everyone else
Once Ganelon fell, Chaos appeared. His defeat was always the end goal for the map, so I guess the scenario overview really spoiled his appearance. Chaos and his units flew across the map, so I was glad to have chosen a couple contingents of archers. I also reserved a bit of magic for the final fight, and it proved very useful. Without a single commander loss I defeated Chaos in a single turn of magic, and a final charge. Good thing too, as nearly everyone was out of magic by that point.
Apparently in Chaos' eyes, I'm the bad guy
After all my magic was spent, Sabra was close by to wrap things up
And so, Garett and team bask in victory over the incarnation of Chaos. However, Chaos wasn't completely defeated, and claimed he'd return one day. As explained by him, Chaos existed to keep the world in balance against an encroaching Order. A Light exists that sustains life and pushed evolution forward. This evolution has caused the destruction of the world through war, and once it reaches its peak again, Chaos will return.
Garett reflects on his choices
The game wrapped up with a summary of each commander. Bayard became captain of the guard, taking over Baldarov's old position. Calais returned as the court magician, and was studying the ancient scrolls of the magic knight. Thorne left on his own, and Carleon returned home. Tiberon went back to sailing, and Sabra also left to hone her skills. Garett took Mina as his queen, and sealed Warsong once again. Lance's body was never found.
Sounds like a sequel
and the credits roll
With that, we have another game behind us. I can't fault it much for its simplicity, but I wasn't wowed. I enjoyed making my through it, but I'm eager to move on. I don't think I'd suggest Warsong to anyone other than strategy fans. It's a good length, and provides a challenge on most maps: charging in was rarely a viable strategy.

Elapsed Time: 8h36m (Final Time: 29h34m)


Quick rating time!

Combatant - Combat was challenging, and leveling up comes often. The balance of one action per turn makes unit placement key to winning. Taking advantage of magic spells was difficult.
Rating: 6

Admirer - There are advancement paths, and choosing the wrong one locks out other classes. Gaining experience only from the total defeat of enemy units kept Mina at low levels. If anyone has ever been able to get her Ranger, you've accomplished quite the challenge.
Rating: 5

Puzzler - Points for having clear goals. Strategy games are most likely going to fall very short in this category.
Rating: 2
See, I would have missed this tiny bit of lore had I let Sabra die... plus the maps would have been a lot more difficult
Instigator - Permadeath was interesting, but I don't like how it locks out the story for those characters. Instead, losing a character just means no summary at the end. I believe the main narrative may suffer from translation issues, but it's good enough to keep things going.
Rating: 3

Collector - I included the point system for buying units as part of an economy. There are items, but they're automatically collected at the end of each map.
Rating: 2

Explorer - The music was nice, one of the best on the Genesis I've heard. It would have been nice to have some interesting spots on the map to explore, but there are only enemies, nothing else to find.
Rating: 2

Final Rating: 20 [33%]

Now, on to Faria, but first, I need to cut out Times of Lore, a game I enjoyed when I was a kid even though I really didn't understand what I needed to do. I thought about including it anyway, but even with its story and branching dialogue, there isn't any character development.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Game 28: Warsong (Genesis) - Dive Head First Into the Fray

Unacceptable! *reset*
Warsong has a fairly standard rule-set for combat that it throws away about halfway through the game: soldiers > archer > horseman > soldier is a staple for the first half of the game. I understand shaking it up with some variety, but when my horsemen attack enemy soldiers and get wiped out 10 - 7 the game fundamentally changed.
Like these... what are they weak against?
In the 10th scenario Garett decided to lead the charge against Pythion. On his way to Dalsis he found castle Ualk, the last stronghold before Dalsis. This map had an obvious ambush, and even though I anticipated it, I still lost Sabra to a single rogue enemy archer while she was at 8 HP. I misjudged the enemy's mobility, a factor that's not directly shown to the player. Had it been Bayard or Tiberon, I probably wouldn't have reset immediately. But, I really wanted to keep Sabra for her Dragon Knight class, which I didn't know at the time was already not an option. This time knowing exactly where they would I appear, I set a counterattack. Still nearly lost Mina. In the end I had to resort to using Garett, now the king class, to finish off some archers as soldiers just weren't cutting it.
Go wait in those mountains away from the castle. Reason? Oh, just because...
One of my biggest pet-peeves, and I think I mentioned it before, is the fact the unit AI is dumb. Beyond that though, I have to switch it to manual every single map, for each general. I really wish this setting was stored. The biggest issue with letting the AI move units around is their pattern, even if they're a damaged unit right next to their general. Also, if they happen to move directly next to an enemy, they'll initiate an attack no matter the match-up. There are four options for the AI: move, attack, defend, and manual. Every map it defaults to move, and I haven't tried the other two.
That one enemy unit just barely in range to attack Sabra... still stings
At the end of the 10th scenario Carleon joined, and I found a magic wand. At last, the army arrived at Dalsis in full force. I prepared my units anticipating a tough battle, but I hardly expected the beating I received. It was as if the enemy units were pumped up on power pills. Garett and Mina barely slipped by on the bottom left side as Lance appeared once again; at the same time flying monsters attracted by Warsong arrived. The battle consisted of holding choke points at the four corners as I slowly whittled the forces down. I had Garett and Mina climb over a wall to escape the general I knew they had no chance of defeating. Calais, with the help of Tiberon, managed to make her way to the center; the goal of the map was simply to get Garett there. I thought that meant the pool of water, but any tile on the center island seemed to end the map.
Garett arrives just before the flying units to the north descend
By the end of the 12th scenario I was dreading the difficulty would continue. This one was by far the worst (at least to the point I am now). Seeing two entrances to the castle throne room, Garett decided to split the party. The map started with four of my generals in one room surrounded by two mages capable of devastating spells, two other generals, and Pythion (who thankfully didn't move). The key to surviving that was to take the loss of potential experience and bait the mages into a situation where I could take them out next turn. Killing a commander removes all the units assigned to them. I managed to do this with Carleon's archers, on my second attempt. The first was met with severe failure as I lost Mina and Calais due to some poor planning, and would have quickly lost everyone else. Sabra gained her second class change here, and I realized I misread her path to dragon knight; it's through lord, so I made her a grand knight. Mina also finally gained a rank up to priestess, and gained access to monks, which are useful against undead (a unit type I have yet to see). In the end, I took it slow against Pythion, and retrieved Warsong and an evil axe.
No, no, I just killed you, no returning
Before ending the night I took a peek at the 13th map to make sure I wasn't blindsided by anything. When I returned to the game, I placed Calais and Mina with guardsmen to take out the two groups of slimes. This was the first map with a chest. In it was a mirror that prevented the basilisks on the map from turning the commanders to stone. I also found the setting for game speed: it only affects the speed the computer selects units to move, but setting it to fast has already had a noticeable effect. Once the mirror was retrieved, any commanders turned to stone returned to flesh, including Lance, now a dragon knight and fighting on our side. Another new monster, ants, made an appearance on this map, and bucks the trend of unit classes. At the end of the map we picked up the amulet of power. I'm really not sure if these items do anything beyond adjusting stats.
At least I got to see what the Dragon Knight class is capable of once Lance joined
Map 14 started the party in a town with a single werewolf in the middle. Killing it triggered more to appear from the forest. Strangely only six commanders were available for this map. There are two friendly generals with citizens, and despite the announcements for all citizens to retreat towards the center of town, they didn't move an inch from the corners.
This doesn't look like a trap at all~
The oppressive difficulty thankfully took a respite during the past couple maps, and continued into the 15th scenario. Even though I was again using a reduced army (only four generals allowed), and a nearly invulnerable dragon bearing down on another town of civilians, it seemed much more manageable than 11 or 12. Seems each map is limited to eight friendly generals, so I only had access to four of my own because there were three groups of citizens, and an efreet I needed to summon to defeat the dragon. A dragon knight would have been helpful to summon it right away, but I decided against it in favor of some experience for my own units. Lance is already stuck at level 9 like Baldarov (RIP).
Guess whose fire is stronger
With the dragon weakened, Garett decided it was best to hunt it down now before it had a chance to fully recover. Map 16 found the party inside the dragon's lair. With groups of monsters again, including slimes, and a burgeoning point bank thanks to my stingy unit assignments, I decided to go full force on this map. In the end, against the dragon, it came down to generals with high attack power. Even Calais with 33 attack couldn't scratch it. Bayard, still a lowly knight, opened a chest with a dragon slayer sword; however, he wasn't that strong to begin with, so I really wish Sabra or Garett would have opened the chest.
Oh, and the sword disappeared once the dragon died
The dragon was by far the hardest single unit I've faced. Multiple times I barely scratched it, at great loss to my generals HP, only to have it heal up before I could attack again. It took Bayard with the dragon slayer, Sabra just being a herself with the great sword, and Tiberon (now a knight master) with the evil axe. I'd already burned through Garett's, Mina's, and Carleon's healing, and I had to wait for Thorne to maneuver around the backside for additional healing. It took three rounds of attacks and healing to finally put the dragon down without any losses. I advanced Calais to arch mage rather than magic knight. Someone in chat mentioned a ranger class for Mina, Calais, and Sabra on that line, but I stuck to my original plan rather than following the spoiler. The ranger class is apparently like a superhero class where they don't have any units, but are extremely powerful.
Random soldiers sometimes join in the dialogue
Hidden in the dragon's roost was an ancient rune tablet. Inscribed was the story of Ganelon, a magic knight, who used evil to take control of the land. A knight of light, Galafron from Elthlead, fought the evil with his sword: Warsong. With it he sealed the evil in the land of Seneferia. Garett determined that was a good place to try to thwart this rising evil. Pretty sure I'm walking right into their hands delivering the key to their release.
Yeah, I think I have enough points now; let's go full throttle
Elapsed Time: 10h03m (Total Time: 20h58m)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Game 28: Warsong (Genesis) - A Boy and His Sword

Game 28

Title: Warsong
Released: 1991
Platform: Genesis
Developer: Career Soft
Publisher: Treco
Genre: Strategy-RPG
Exploration - Combat map only (top-down)
Combat - Turn based (player first)
Series - Langrisser



I don't know if it's the long absence or the style of game, but I've found some difficultly to write about this game. It's the first strategy game for the blog, and the story is rather sparse. The game is merely a series of combat scenarios strung together with a short description to explain the current situation. However, despite its simplicity, I have enjoyed it.
The evil emperor Pythion casts a spell during the initial assault on Baltia
The story begins with an attack on the Castle of the Baltia family. Pythion, the evil emperor of Dalsis, is behind the attack. He wishes to claim Warsong, an enchanted sword held by the Baltia family as an ancient heirloom rumored to grant magical powers. The opening scene begins with the first strike against the castle. Starting the game throws the player right into the action.
*Plop*
The first scenario grants control over Garett, the prince of Baltia, and Baldarov, captain of the guard. Each scenario has a winning goal, and a losing condition. All maps so far have had the death of Garett as a losing condition, but there are additional ways to lose. The win condition in this case is for Garett to escape, with no mention of what that really means. He's commanded by the king to retreat for help from a neighboring city. Friendly units include player controlled characters and those controlled by AI. Enemy generals and their cannon fodder units are revealed at the prologue as well.
The prologue includes a map that shows enemy locations, but not exactly which unit is where
The first time I played chapter 1, I accidentally got Baldarov killed, and learned that if a character controlled by the player dies they're gone forever; however, this isn't true of the characters controlled by the AI. I'm still unsure how to predict the expected damage from each battle. Displayed stats are simply an attack and defense value. Level and class also factor in with a soldier > archer > horseman > soldier pattern, but some generals don't always follow this format. Also, current HP (maxes at 10) seems to matter. My problem was I didn't anticipate a lot of randomness. Take Baldarov, my level 9 Sword Master at 10 HP versus a level 2 Lord at 10 HP for instance; they ended their first fight at 7 HP and 4 HP respectively. The enemy healed 3 HP, and in the next battle (7 HP each), Baldarov got completely wrecked. The second chapter without Baldarov was too much, so I started the game over.
Uh, how?
The generals available for each scenario are presented at the beginning. It's possible to leave some out during some maps, but I don't know what the benefit is for doing so. After selecting the generals to deploy it's time to assign the cannon fodder units. Hiring these units costs points, which are gained at the end of each scenario based on how many enemy units were defeated plus a base scenario bonus. The units available to each commander is based on their class. Garett, who starts as a basic Fighter class, only has soldiers available. Baldarov, who is the highest class of Sword Master, has soldiers, archers, and horsemen to choose from.
Each character has an area of influence (highlighted blue) that increases their units' base stats as long as they stay close
Enough mechanic talk though. On to the game! For the first scenario, I took out the general's forces stationed to the left and raced off north with Garett and Baldarov. The second finds the duo traveling towards Sulras to find Carleon, but they're besieged by bandits on the road. To make matters worse they've been joined by a traveling companion. A currently worthless Mina whose AI often times has her to run directly at the enemy unguarded. To make matters worse, one of the losing conditions is the death of Mina. Luckily the enemy AI is more likely to attack the cannon fodder than the generals.
Ending summary, extra units on my side seem to be a waste of points, so a balance must be made to have enough units for the current map and keep my total high for future maps
The third scenario introduces Thorne, a general under the command of Carleon, who assists in defending Sulras as it's attacked by the same thieves I fended off on the road. This time the ending goal is the death of the enemy commander. Mina is still as useless as ever. Garett gained enough experience to level up to 10 during this fight, which gave me a choice between changing class to a knight or a lord. The instruction manual shows that Garett is the only one who can become the king class through becoming a lord, so I chose that one.
Class changes add some variation, but I'm not sure how much it changes strategy
At the end of the third scenario Sabra appeared, and brought news of Baltia Castle: it fell to the enemy. While Carleon assembled his troops, Garett ran off to fight by his father's side. In the fourth scenario Garett, Sabra, and Baldarov were in the middle of a forest on their way back. Suddenly, slimes appeared and attack. These special units were strong, so the only option is to flee. Surviving ten turns was the goal. After the fifth though Mina appeared with a new type of unit, the guardsman. This is a fairly useless class; however, they're incredibly strong against slimes. She came to the rescue and gained quite a few levels. Only commanders gain levels from experience, earned by wiping out enemies. The killing blow is all that matters, none of the damage leading up to that earns anything. The generic units earn experience for their commander.
There was this strange body shape in the bottom right corner of the map; however, I didn't find anything to do with it
Commanders get one action per turn: move, attack, magic, or treat. If movement ends next to an enemy unit then it's possible to get a free attack that turn, but there's no way to move and then cast a spell. Magic up to this point hasn't played a large role. As a lord, Garett gained access to the first level of healing, and Mina, being a cleric, has the same. Going into the fifth scenario I completely forgot about magic. Treat allows a commander to recover 3 HP. Generic units only have the option to move and attack.
I figured there'd be an ambush in the center, but that choke point is the key defeating the enemy
I tend to give the AI a little too much credit. I figured some would come down the middle while others surrounded me on both sides, so I sent units out to meet each threat so I didn't get boxed in. The enemy didn't even bother with the right side, and instead charged through the middle. The white area are impassible mountains, the brown are hills that give +30% to defense, light green are plains that give +10%, and dark green are forest tiles that give +20%. Some units gain additional bonuses, such as lizardmen and mermen that get +50% from water, which normally gives zero, and elves gain +40% from forests. Flying units are special and have a constant +30%. In any case, the AI decides a full frontal assault is best, and fails to flank me. One group did try routing me on the left, but they stood in a stalemate against a single tile-sized choke point.
Set dialogue sequences happen at the beginning and end of each scenario, but sometimes in the middle when certain events happen. Here Baldarov dies in a scripted event by taking an arrow from an unknown assassin
Scenario six finds the party, one less member, back at Baltia Castle. The objective is to kill the current enemy leader, Geryon. Now while the difficulty of each scenario varies, six was the first without the powerhouse experience sink Baldarov. To make matters worse, the placement on the map forces the party to split up on opposite sides of the map. At the beginning of each scenario, after assigning items and soldiers, the game continues with the placement of player units on the field. I ended up placing three on one side and Mina on the other, forcing her to run around the castle to catch up with the others. I lost a fair number of units, and retreated to the hills in order to stand a chance, and in the end it came down to the individual generals to finally take down Geryon.
I put my main force on the right, and luckily there were hills right there to take cover
At the end of the scenario I freed Tiberon and Calais, two friendly units who defended the castle in the initial chapter. I also gained a shield, and added it to the sword Sabra brought with her, and the cross Mina received as a gift from Carleon. Calais revealed that Warsong was taken by Pythion, and it has a more sinister history than rumored. Its magical powers derive from an ancient evil trapped inside the blade. Not much is said of what happened to Garett's father, but I assume he died.
Kind of weird to talk about him like this without his passing
In the next scenario, Garett received word that some of Baltia's men were still fighting the enemy at one of the forward defense fortresses. Bayard was surrounded, and things were not looking good for him. I lost this the first time I attempted it because I took my time advancing, making sure I cleared out the enemy; however, Bayard's death was a losing condition. The key to this map is to know lizardmen are weak to archers, and charge to Bayard's location as quickly as possible. Even so, Bayard was dangerously close to dying when I finally got my troops to his side.
Lance, the enemy general in the fifth scenario, showed up just as I was working the enemy leader down, so I missed out on the extra gold or experience
Scenario eight had Garett chasing a fleeing enemy. Allowing the leader of this map to escape ends in a loss. In my haste to start the map I forgot to give troops to Garett, and once again Lance showed up and I didn't have archers to take him on. Garett could be a king by now had I been able to take out all those horsemen. In any case, this map was rather simple and posed little problem. Last scenario Calais managed to change class from warlock to wizard, which opened up the fireball spell in addition to the magic arrow she started with. Both seem to have the same damage potential; however, fireball has twice the area of effect. Also, Bayard and Sabra changed into Knights. According to the manual Sabra is the only one that can reach the Dragon Knight class, and flying units sound awesome. Once Thorne catches up I think I'll have him go the lord route so I can check out the Magic Knight class as well as have a second general with archers.
Can't wait to see what other spells come along
With the enemy properly routed, Garett decided it was time for an offensive against Dalsis. The first obstacle was the river Worth, where I should have probably brought more mermen; however, I was feeling a bit stingy with my points. Tiberon was the only unit who had access to them, but the enemy seems better at using them so when Tiberon's class change came up I chose knight over his serpent king class. The former also allows for an additional class change into knight master which has better stats.
Neutral enemies appeared on this map and attacked my units and enemy's without regard
This map introduced the monster type, which isn't directly allied with either Baltia or Dalsis forces. It was fighting its own battle and attacked any nearby unit. At the same time, Lance showed up once again;. As expected by now, Garett and his archers were otherwise occupied, so I had to maneuver around to avoid both the horsemen troops and the krakens, who inexplicably can travel quite easily over land.
The fearsome plains kraken heavily damages a Sabra's horsemen attacking from the hills above
Somehow I managed to pull back from Lance long enough for Garett to reach him. I really hope Thorne gets to see some more action. Another lord with archers would help tremendously. In any case, the krakens were distracted my two other enemy generals, and the goal of the map, for Garett to reach the other side was achieved without a single loss. The maps are definitely getting more dangerous.
Thanks to enemy infighting I got points for all units killed whether I did the killing or not
I'm now sitting at the start of the tenth scenario. The manual lists 20 in total, so it's probably fair to call this the halfway mark. I suspect maps will increase in scope at some point, but each one has averaged about an hour. I've really been taking my time with the maps, but I'm hoping I can make quick work of the rest of the game. While it's enjoyable in its simplicity I'm itching for something a little more fast paced. I'm sure a greater variety of screenshots would be a plus as well.

Elapsed Time: 10h55m (Total Time: 10h55m)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Game 27: Magician (NES) - Final Rating

Combatant
Combat is quick and especially deadly for the unprepared. There are a wide range of combat spells, but many of them are too inefficient. In addition to damage, spells have an elemental attribute, which all have corresponding shield spells. The player and enemies have equal access to these shields, and learning what enemy weaknesses are is where much of the strategy develops. There many utility spells as well that are helpful for dodging. A variety of enemies keep play fresh throughout the levels. Unfortunately combat is mostly superfluous as enemies rarely are an obstacle to overcome and many times fail to provide a reward for the risk involved.
Rating: 4
By far the most deadly creature, the ogre can kill with a single hit
Admirer
The most memorable part of the game is entering the spells by selecting different runic combinations. It's possible to fill in the spell book with all spells by the end of the first level. Paul gains additional mana by completing various quests objectives. This is the only progression in the game. Paul's appearance never changes, and there aren't any options for advancing his skills. Overall control of Paul is good; however, gauging jumps and turning left or right when exiting a building are troublesome.
Rating: 4
Strangely, this spell isn't in the manual, and an attack spells in the manual isn't in the game
Puzzler
While the main quest boils down to "go right," there are plenty of obstacles to overcome. Searching every oddity is necessary, and progressing without doing so can result in an unwinnable situation. I'm reluctant to name anything a side quest in this game since discovering and solving everything is necessary for the complete ending. Most puzzles fit well with the world, although the puzzle rooms are a bit misplaced. The puzzle rooms don't offer any risk, but the rewards for getting through them are always beneficial. In the end, there's only one way to win completely though, and only one way to accomplish that task.
Rating: 4
Most puzzle rooms are just trial & error
Instigator
Poor Paul. Overlooked during the elimination of all wizards it falls on his inexperienced shoulders to defeat the evil wizard Abadon, who was capable of defeating all other wizards. That sounds plausible. There are plenty of descriptions for the various locations, and NPCs are helpful by providing random spells just when Paul needs them. The player's actions don't change the world, and instead feel like excuses to raise his experience (mana) once again.
Rating: 4
Paul left while Abadon was still dying, that's cold
Collector
There are plenty of hidden items, and no limit to Paul's inventory. Gold is necessary, and since it doesn't drop from enemies very often, having a good supply is beneficial during the early game. Late game? It's absolutely useless; there's no where to spend it. I learned that nothing carries over when playing through to the next loop, which makes hoarding gold and items useless. There's little way of knowing if all items have been found unless you check them off from the manual. Finding the items that allow free use of spells is key to getting through the game successfully.
Rating: 4
My save game at the end shows how many objects I'm carrying, and spells learned

Explorer
This is one of the best NES musical scores I've heard. It really enhances the atmosphere. The sprite work is unique; it hardly feels like an NES game. It's interesting to see the progression from level to level as a bright promising journey turns into a seriously dark environment. Unfortunately there aren't any unique features to see in the environment. There's nothing awe inspiring; everything flows well, but no one thing is really outstanding. Exploration of the environment is closed within each level, which does give a sense of urgency to move forward, but doesn't allow full enjoyment of the world. Not that Paul could really live off the current food supply.
Rating: 4
Even the final scene is kind of meh
Final Rating: 24 [40%]

This game has a special place in my heart. It was one of my last experiences with the NES as we bought SNES later that year, and I quickly became engrossed in the newer console. I did play some later NES titles by renting them, but I believe this was one of the last we purchased. While each individual category above is slightly below average (due to the scores skewing towards turn-based RPGs), I feel this game provides a complete experience for any player.
I can't imagine wanting to go through this multiple times right away, but maybe some day I'll see the other endings
I'm not sure this scoring method is really going anywhere. It could still be too early to tell, but for now I'm going to downscale this effort. This is going to my last post highlighting the scoring in such detail. From now on I'm going to include it in a brief overview at the end of the last game post. These posts usually take an extra day away from playing the next game, and was one of the contributing factors to the hiatus this blog went into. These posts are some of the least commented, and least viewed, so it's time to let them go. As always feedback is welcomed.

The month off has been good, but I'm very eager to getting back into it. For those curious what I've been doing to fill my time, I've been participating in a semi-annual mystery game tournament (finals this Saturday), and idling in the chat of a streamer that goes by the name TheMexicanRunner. He's on an adventure to play through every licensed NES game released with an English language version. Something that he calls NES Mania (www.nesmania.net). He just completed his first 100 games, which are picked by the viewers. Wish him luck in his effort.

Next up is Warsong starting very soon after this is posted. This'll be the first SRPG for the blog, so I hope it's well received.