Saturday, May 7, 2016

Game #55: Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx-16) - The Order of Things (Finshed)

Game 55

Title: Order of the Griffon
Released: 1992 (US only)
Platform: TurboGrafx-16
Developer: Westwood Associates
Publisher: Turbo Technologies; Strategic Simulations Inc.
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down + First-person
Combat - Tactical Turn-based
Series - Standalone



Was the group from Warriors of the Eternal Sun  still remembered?
It's the lesser known games that I'm usually more excited about playing. Yet often times those are the ones that seem to disappoint the most. Obviously there's a reason they're not well known, but I had hoped it was due the console they were on. Order of the Griffon was exclusive to the TurboGrafx-16, and only in the US. It mixes first-person exploration and tactical combat similar to the gold box games, but the strategic depth is on the same level as Warriors of the Eternal Sun. With rules based on original Dungeons & Dragons, the simplicity is evident from the first combat. Try as I might, I could never reliably protect my spellcasters, and ranged combat options were limited.
These classes look familiar
Fighters, dwarfs, thieves, and halflings are all very similar. Elves are like fighters with less HP, but able to use mage spells. The drawback being they level slower. Clerics can turn undead, and eventually cast unique spells (mostly healing and hold person). Unlike Warriors of the Eternal Sun, spells go up to level 4, although my elf never reached high enough to cast them.
Summary text lies, and all spellcasters memorize the same number of spells
The selection of characters is limited to three pre-made characters per class. There's a summary text for each character that doesn't reflect the reality of each character's ability. Falcone memorizes the same number of spells as any elf or mage of the same level, and another elf that claims to cast spells more quickly usually ended up going last each turn. I figured that once again thieves would be completely useless. I decided on a dwarf, elf, cleric, and mage.
The story begins
The party was hired to investigate a rumor of  a vampire in the area. While Lord Korrigan doesn't believe the rumors, he is concerned about the rising number of undead. He offered a 200 gold advance on promise of full payment once the situation was resolved. The party was rushed out of his room.
*Plop*
As I turned around to speak with Lord Korrigan again, my way was blocked by a guard. After a short speech I was given the option to leave or attack. At my level I didn't dare attempt it, but later on (when I was stuck) I found there were two battles and a reward of a ring of protection; however, Lord Korrigan was nowhere to be found inside. Radlebb Keep had a number of such encounters, many of them not so friendly.
Purchasing some gear at the armory
The characters came with melee weapons, but lacked shields and armor. I purchased some slings as well, but ranged weapons are a bit cumbersome to swap out on the spellcasters. They are permanently equipped with their respective sources of spell power. Swapping weapons took a trip into the inventory screen each time per character. Most of the time I didn't bother with melee weapons at all for them.
This option never succeeded, but I wonder what the party gets out of it if it did
A tavern offered little more than random events. The magic shop sold spells, but I gathered more scrolls than I could scribe in two spell books. The shop had a couple of strange options: "look around" did nothing all game in either shop, and "identify" is listed in the manual as identifying magical items but neither it nor detect magic do much of anything. Magic items are always identified. The temple offered healing, raising dead, as well as potions. Strangely the potions were the most expensive, but the least helpful.
Joining the Order of the Griffon and getting my first quest
Most of the other buildings were unmarked, and I stumbled into a number of combats with rats, skeletons, and thieves before I finally found the titular Order of the Griffon. Before I headed out to slay some wolves, I finished up my survey of the keep. I ran into a group of guards angered by our presence. There was a locked door I decided not to tempt open. A plot to poison the duke was averted when I stumbled upon some ne'er-do-wells in the kitchen.
The riddle sounds interesting, but wasn't necessary to solve any quest
I made my way to the wolves' den without much incident. The overworld display is a top-down view where random encounters occur without warning. There are two ways to save in the game, either via a password or using a console with a RAM expansion. The password only works while outside. Luckily I had the later, and saved often. Dungeons only offer fixed encounters. Although, random encounters can still occur while the party rests to restore spells. Falcone and Chanda had such little HP that they'd often die to a single blow.

As always, sleep is a powerful spell at low levels
The fixed encounters in the wolves' den included a few patrols of men and wolves, a group of prisoners (adventurers on the same quest), and a hidden cache of items. The prisoners told me of an old village beyond a door in the back of the cave. There I would find the staff I sought. In a large hall was a wolf with a key around his neck; the key to the door. He was meeting with humans working for the vampire. They disputed an agreement concerning a rival group of wolves. The bandits claimed to have killed the leader, but the wolf Collum wanted the entire pack wiped out before he would relinquish the key.
I seem to have found a bug while trying to equip a scroll during battle in order to attempt to read from it; equipping outside of battle merely attempts to scribe it in the character's spellbook
A passage beyond the door led to the old village of Koriszegy. In addition to some magical equipment, there were encounters with skeletons, bug bears, and devil swine. The last of which held a key to a door with a dragon emblem. Beyond it was an easy riddle to choose the center door of three, followed by some undead, and then the staff of life that I sought. Attempting to take the staff caused my party damage three times before I was finally able to take it with me. The third was too much for Falcone, and he keeled over.
I'm not sure who's voice this is, or where the place is\
I quickly returned to the Order's Guild, and became full fledged members. Our first real mission was to take the staff to the crypt of Koriszegy. I was told the staff would open one of three doors, and recover two gems. I then raised Falcone, and headed to the crypt. Inside was a mural with a slot to place the staff. Doing so caused a faint blue light to glow, but I strangely found myself unable to enter any of the three doors. I was thoroughly stuck, unable to progress, and I had already saved over my game slots. I tried each slot to no effect. With no way to progress I tried to speak with Lord Korrigan again.
For anyone curious, this is the password for the save outside the crypt where this issue happened
I restarted with another party, ran through all of the above once more, and two hours later arrived at the crypt with a working staff. The only difference this time was ensuring all my characters were alive before I spoke with the Order, and a different set of characters. Beyond the first door was a pool of red. Dipping the staff there unlocked the red mist door. Another series of chambers led to a green pool, which turned out to be fake. In a side passage was a blue pool that allowed access through the blue door.
I'm glossing over most of the encounters, but the above obvious trap was the most interesting
Beyond the blue door was a rather annoying maze, followed by a second maze filled with teleporters. The lack of random encounters made it a bit less cumbersome walking through the maze many times, but at the same time there was nothing to break up the monotony. Eventually I came upon a statue where I placed the staff and gained a diamond. A final teleporter in the middle of that room led to an area where I found the death gem, a lot of fixed encounters, and a dragon.
By this point, Lhaeros had learned web, which apparently no one is immune to, not even dragons
Upon my return, the Order took the gems and destroyed them. Next quest was to infiltrate the vampire's keep through his cellar. However, before I set off into another dungeon, I had thousands of gold pieces and nothing to spend them on at the keep. I made my way to Specularum to the east. There I stocked up on all the magical equipment I could afford. The manual had a map that showed a third city to the northeast. The store had the same equipment as Specularum, but there were a number of encounters that offered great treasure and experience without combat.
The over world offers random battles while the party walks about
The cellar door locked behind the party as they entered. There were many were-creatures such as rats, bats, and boars that required magical weapons to kill. Stand out spells were sleep, hold person, turn undead, and web. I didn't quite have fireball yet, and third level cleric spells were useless as always. I fought a Nosferatu, apparently not the vampire I sought. Web works on any enemy with no saving throws. It stuns them so they can't act, but unlike sleep they don't die to a single blow. Strangely, hold person works similarly.
Cleric spells, level 3 consists of only curse
The Order then directed me to Duke Stefan in Specularum. His daughter was kidnapped by a group called the Iron Ring. They requested as ransom the staff of King Halav, which is apparently one of three items necessary to kill the vampire. I was provided a pass to see Master Higgins at Stefan Manor. The duke was suffering from some malady that he directed I ignore until his daughter was safe.
Web is also effective on spectres of all things
The duke's daughter was easily rescued from a cave deep inside the forest of Radlebb. My elf reached third level spells and started slinging fireballs nearly every battle. There was one difficult battle with four mages that resulted in a few resets. Charm person is very effective against my party as well as web. On the other hand, I found my silence spell was completely useless. Returning with his daughter, I was informed by the duke that he needed king Halav's chalice to cure his ailment. The tomb was an easy task to complete. It dragged on for quite a while as I collected the chalice, shield, and then four keys to escape.
"Oh yeah, have this staff" -- Order of the Griffon
The chalice and shield unlocked the final battle with the vampire, and the staff was used to kill him once he retreated to his coffin. His lair had a lot of difficult battles including a number of dragons. A couple of webs locked them down individually, but more than one made for difficult adversaries. There were three levers to pull once I entered the vampire's inner sanctum. This unlocked the path to the final battle, which wasn't the most difficult battle I'd faced. Defeating all enemies led to a short sequence before ending on the final screen shown at the beginning of this post.
This the second game to use the trope of a vampire retreating to its coffin
Elapsed Time: 19h06m (Final Time: 19h06m)

Combatant - Combat is relatively satisfying, even into the mid-game where the party slowly becomes nigh unkillable. Magic is really influential on the outcome of battle, and in turn so is initiative. There's rarely an easy battle that includes multiple mages. Enemy AI is lacking when it comes to pathing, and most of the strategic options revolve around magic. It would have been nice to get more utility out of spare scrolls and certain spells like silence. By the end of the game I was running from nearly every random encounter since the rewards were pitifully small. It's too bad only elves and mages could use wands.
Rating: 6
Half of the final battle group, the vampire chills with his pet red and green dragons
Admirer - Pre-generated characters are rarely customized, and this is no expcetion. Every character in a given class is the same. Each has different stats, but they seem so poorly implemented that differences are hard to distinguish. Equipment doesn't change appearance, but each character has unique art. Controls are a little awkward, especially swapping weapons, and how combat spells initially target the caster. There aren't any advancement options, and equipment boils down to relatively simple options.
Rating: 2
You've reached this point in the plot, time to kill a vampire
Puzzler - There are some encounters, but most of them lead to combat no matter the option. The main quest is well laid out, but there are no side quests per se, merely side encounters. The world is nicely built, but only a single solution exists. All of the riddles and bits of story presented as clues don't have any bearing on how to approach the encounters.
Rating: 2
You fools! You have played the game!
Instigator - The story is acceptable, but it's the detail in the odd side encounters that carry it into a believable active world. Descriptions are lacking, but there are enough NPCs to ensure the direction to the next plot point isn't hanging. There aren't any decisions to make though, as most are rendered ineffectual soon after.
Rating: 3
A random bit of story from the very beginning where none of it really matters
Collector - There are a good number of items in the game, but most of it boil down to a basic piece of equipment with a +. The problem is there's no way to tell the difference between weapon types in the game. The economy only peters off after the staff is obtained near the end of the game. Inventory space is limited, but not enough to make it an issue. No massive collection, but even so, I did carry around the Sword +1, +3 vs dragons just because it had cool art.
Rating: 4
That final battle loot I'll never use because the game doesn't let me play anymore after this
Explorer - While the world is completely open from the beginning, it's so empty and devoid of reason to explore. At least one town offers some nice early equipment if one can avoid all the random battles along the way. The music has a glitch where it cuts out after the first action in combat. Very little eye candy or unique areas to explore leave the game feeling underwhelming.
Rating: 4

Final Rating: 21 [35%]
Much like my enthusiasm for this game
Overall I enjoyed the encounters. The game dragged on for a bit longer than necessary, especially the filler near the end that was hardly balanced for high character levels. I'd always thought I'd find a hidden gem on one of the more obscure systems, but (while not terrible) this game is hardly what I'd recommend to others. It's a curio of the time. By today's standards it's hardly worth a play unless you're like me and enjoy delving into this type of game. I think having a second mage instead of the second fighter wouldn't have made much of a difference.

Moving on, I have an Ultima game to cut that's not really an Ultima game. Then we can finally get to Might and Magic on the NES. We'll be in for the long haul on that one. It's predicted to be the longest RPG on the system. Actually, I got a bit excited. See, I've already beaten Knight Quest, so I'll write a bit about that as well before getting to Might and Magic.

4 comments:

  1. The game looks impressive for its time, but the glitches are BS. A glitch that forces the player to restart from the beginning and a glitch that cuts out the battle music both got through beta testing? Licensed games always seem to have more problems...

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    1. What's beta testing? ;P

      I think licensed games get a bad name because they're licensed. The real issue probably has more to do with a tight schedule and shipping titles out too quickly. The battle music is definitely eyebrow raising, but the quest glitch is a little more obscure.

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  2. I have a question about the passwords. The game gives you passwords with lots of weird characters, but when I try to enter a password, none of those characters are available in the password screen.
    Do you have any idea what might be going on?

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    Replies
    1. Resolved this through email; apparently it was a bad emulator not displaying the entire screen. Good luck with your game.

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