Monday, March 7, 2016

Game #52: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Genesis) - This Spot Is Reserved For (Finished)

Game 52

Title: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
Released: 1992 (US/EU only)
Platform: Genesis
Developer: Westwood Associates
Publisher: Sega (of America)
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down / First-person
Combat - Turn based / Active combat
Series - Standalone

Is there any game I can import these characters into?
It's sad to see a fairly good game setup for a sequel that never materializes. While Warriors of the Eternal Sun had its flaws, the overall game was a nice change of pace from the grueling slogs the last few Genesis RPGs have been. Strangely using the Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition ruleset rather than the AD&D rules might have been a contributing factor. It balanced well the first-person dungeon crawling with over-world battles. While not exactly tactical, it was enjoyable.
The opening scene depicts the goblin hoard encroaching on a human settlement
The game opens with a battle between a goblin army, and the good humanoids. Duke Hector Barrik has retreated to his castle where he plans to make his last stand. Just as the goblins are seen coming over the ridge, the sky rips open. The entire castle is torn from the ground into the rift above. The castle and its inhabitants find themselves in a valley with impossibly high cliffs all around. Blazing above them is a red sun that never sets. The duke entrusts four adventurers with the task of exploring this new land to find allies to his plight.
Creating a new party
The ever present dilemma: use the default party or create new characters. I enjoy character creation. I decided on a group of four humans: a cleric, a fighter, a magic-user, and a thief. The demi-humans (dwarf, elf, or hobbit) offer a couple unique abilities, but level up slower than humans. A dwarf is strangely a worse fighter with no special ability. An elf is a fighter with magic-user spells, and the ability to detect secret passages. Hobbits cross fighter and thief without the ability to disarm traps. Magic-users and clerics have separate spell lists; while clerics have access to all spells each level, magic-users need to hunt down scrolls to scribe in their spell books. Thieves (and hobbits) have the ability to hide in shadows, but this was never successful for me, and I soon gave up trying. Clerics have the ability to turn undead (or damage if high enough level) as well.
The game began with a vague quest: find allies. The castle is in the middle of a valley surrounded by a river. Spattered around the valley were various cave entrances. There's a bridge that connects the small island to the rest of the valley. On this island I found a small encampment of beastmen, and a cave behind a waterfall that I explored thoroughly many times.
Note the caves to the southeast, northeast, and many to the northwest
The encampment seemed like a set encounter, but there was no description before or after the battle, and no special reward. The townsfolk continued to speak of the beastmen to the north even after clearing the camp. A cave behind the waterfall contained a variety of enemies: giant toads, flying vipers,  beetles, and more D&D-esque creatures with owlbears, trolls, and carrion crawlers. At end of the cave was a passage that led out to the top of the cliff, but little to discover there. Attempting to cross the only bridge produced a dialogue warning of the uneasiness felt by a couple party members. I felt stuck.
To exit this dialogue I would wiggle right, then back left, triggering it 5 or 6 times in a row before I gave up
I still don't understand why a piece of flavor text needed to trigger every time I tried to cross that bridge. The manual warned of the increasing difficulty of monsters across the water, so I stayed, thinking I needed just another level or two before my characters would feel fit for crossing. I grinded in the waterfall cave with many fatal attempts. The best way to approach combat in the dungeons was to use ranged weapons, and only melee for 2 or 3 swings before maneuvering around the monsters. Enemy movement and attacks are on an internal timer that's fairly easy to judge. All characters are capable of reaching enemies with melee weapons, but only enemies to the sides of behind can reach the back two.
That's a good summary of my experience
Oh, I wasted (well, I was gaining levels, so not a total waste) 3 hours more than necessary exploring that cave. I also spent some time exploring the town, although not enough to find the secrets until after it was destroyed. Gaining those levels somehow stocked the weapon and armor shops with more appropriate gear for adventuring. Spells from the magic shop were overpriced, and magical equipment was also outside my conceivable price range.
Apparently I truly am my people's last hope
Eventually I decided that I had done all I could in that blasted cave, the city stopped producing new equipment, and something was fishy about the bridge. Once I finally stopped wiggling, and merely pressed a button after the dialogue to continue, I was on my way. It was smooth sailing (minus actual sailing). In the cave network to the northwest, I fought a beastman named Uklangor, and a woman named Kacantizu identified as an Aztacan. The duke berated me for my lack of success, and sent me away. Marmillian, the duke's advisor, was very interested in the artifacts I'd found in the cave. He provided a withered vine to clear another section blocked by a tangle of living vines. I noted some heavy rocks that blocked some passages, but I never did figure out how to move them.
I came upon a lizardmen encampment in the swamp beyond the cave
The gold skinned brethren were the Aztacan, which made their home beyond the cave to the northeast. To gain access, I needed to find a combination in the beastman cave. This new cave provided a ring of regeneration, which was too slow to abuse, and some third level magic-user spells. My mage wasn't quite able to scribe them. I saved my game outside a giant pyramid hidden in the jungle on the other side of the cave. Saving can be done anywhere except in dungeons, and full party death requires loading a saved game (or starting anew). Characters can only be revived in the town, or special locations in the jungle (a rejuvenating pond) or swamp (a special tree).
One of the few scripted outdoor battles
Combat outside is turn-based, and uses the standard initiative method of D&D. Only two weapons or abilities are readied, but it doesn't cost anything to switch. Characters move within a certain radius, and use attacks based on the range of the weapon, ability, or spell. Some spells have been modified to work within the confines of the engine. Fireball radius is much smaller, and lightning bolts don't bounce (they seem to be exactly like fireballs). I found most spells to be underwhelming due to limited availability, and the requirement to rest in order to restore them. Resting is easy outside, but in dungeons it's limited to areas where the enemies have been cleared within a certain number of squares away. Enemies respawn when changing floors, so it's necessary to clear a certain area on a floor before the party can recover.
I took this guy out with ranged attacks, never saw if he had a unique sprite
The pyramid was lousy with traps, and my thief disarmed maybe three of them. Both my mage and thief soon died due to them, and my inability to let only my cleric nap to regain healing spells. I obtained four rings of fire resistance, which then allowed me to cross the lava path impeding my progress to the larger northwestern cave. I returned to town only to be forcefully removed by the duke for my failure. He declared this as my last chance to find an ally in the fight with our growing number of enemies (even though I'd been doing well clearing them out solo).
Well that was easy
The fire cave, as I'll refer to it, was guarded by a red dragon. I grinded on the dragon for a bit, but those levels were drained quickly by the undead below. I came away with numerous magic items to sell back in town, and the honor of an Oltec merchant willing to provide support to our cause. Unfortunately, by the time I'd returned, the madness had completely set in. The whole town was destroyed, and the people scattered into the forest. Only Marmillian remained to tell the tale. He provided me with the scroll of Ka, and told me of a strange creature called the burrower that was causing the madness. To the southeast was his cave, and I proceeded to clear it out in search of this beast.
An example of the automap that retains only a single floor until exited
Dark elves were the main adversary in the cave, up until the final floor where it was a strange assortment of one off D&D monsters. I suppose it makes sense as Marmillian called the valley a kind of zoo, where rare creatures or civilizations near the end of their time were taken to live on as evidence to their species. The final battle was... non-existent. I approached the burrower, and watched a scene play out: the party summoned Ka, who saved the day.
Ka is a T-Rex?
We were greeted as heroes upon our return to town. The duke apologized for his actions, and made each character a leader of their respective guilds. (What if we were all the same class?) The credit roll followed. Overall a fun game. It doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but it isn't very punishing. It was a nice break between two rather long RPGs. A party full of clerics could do just as well, or at the very least swap out the useless thief for an elf.

Elapsed Time: 13h46m (Final Time: 13h46m)
I wonder if he ever found his cat
Combatant - Combat was challenging in a way that required abuse of the mechanics. Kiting around enemies was necessary because the alternative was almost always death. Enemies were a hodgepodge of monsters from the D&D manual, plus some humanoid tribes. While stats do come into play, it's really the ability to dodge back in forth in dungeons that wins the day. Experience varied by enemy, but only the character that killed the enemy gained the majority of experience. Gold was only gained from outdoor combat with humanoid enemies.
Rating: 5
This final battle was fought only by Ka
Admirer - The controls worked well for this style of game. The character selection had a nice range, but the only customization option was choosing one of four colors for each character. Equipment wasn't displayed on the characters. No advancement options (no dual classing), but any party could easily beat the game. Well, maybe not thieves and magic-users solo.
Rating: 3
What's the point in a thief that can't disarm a trap
Puzzler - I honestly had trouble following the main quest in the beginning, but only due to one piece of dialogue that dissuaded me from crossing a bridge. There were a couple of necessary points to hit that could confuse some players. Without an elf the required secret doors had me thinking I was stuck in the pyramid. There weren't any puzzles to solve, and a single solution to the game. While there weren't exactly any side quests, there are a lot of secret areas and hidden caves to explore.
Rating: 1
Hey dude, I found your cat
Instigator - The game responded to my actions, but the main story was a bit light. The NPCs are hardly helpful in progressing the game, and definitely weren't helpful with the main quest (except for Marmillian). There weren't any descriptions, and I had to name most locations on my own.
Rating: 2
Apparently we have caravan routes to our enemies
Collector - There are a lot of items, but they're difficult to collect. Inventory space is limited, and there's nowhere to stash them. Dropped items appear on the ground or dungeon floors, but disappear as soon as the map changes. The economy is always useful for upgrading equipment up until the point where the town gets destroyed. Judging the best equipment is done automatically for armor (seriously, the game auto-equips the best armor), but difficult with weapons. (Sure +2 is better than +1, but is a spear +2 better than a sword +1?)
Rating: 3
8 items max each, including all equipment
Explorer - It's a nice world to explore. A bit too open and empty, but at the same time most of what's to be found is hidden. I enjoyed my treks back and forth from town to cave. Random enemy encounters appear while exploring. There isn't anything that stands out as extraordinary, but it's cool to see such an open world. The caves do tend to have plot locks unfortunately.
Rating: 6

Final Rating: 20 [33%]
We came; we saw; we died
I'm not sure if I was being kind to this game because it wasn't Wizardry, or if it really deserved the praise I gave it. The score doesn't really reflect my enjoyment. It's an interesting game, but I can see why it might not have done well enough to garner a sequel. It's a solid game engine, and could have been reused to bring other first person dungeon crawlers to the Genesis.

Now it's time for a couple RPGs from my youth. Of course, I played the PC version of Pool of Radiance, so we'll see just how much has changed. I'm expecting another long one in any case. Then we'll cut The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past before heading into Arcana.


  1. This game is boss. All the console-exclusive D&Ds are pretty fun, actually.

    1. I don't think there's one I've heard a bad thing about.

  2. Is there any reason for an ordinary gamer to play Pool of Radiance on the Genesis instead of buying it from Good Old Games? (It's part of the "Forgotten Realms Archives Collection Two", I believe).

    Other than Genesis nostalgia, that is.

    1. Pool of Radiance was on the NES, not Genesis, and no, there's no redeeming value to NES version.