Monday, June 18, 2018

Game #73: Dungeon Master (SNES) - All Things in Moderation, Including Moderation (Finished)

Thanks for the game, too bad it wasn't better
After this and Might & Magic III, I have the opinion that the SNES was never intended to support a first-person perspective. The amount of lag from such basic commands as opening a menu gives me some dread for similar games, Eye of the Beholder specifically. At least we made it through this one. I'll be happy if I stop running into save-wiping bugs. A dead battery is one thing, and I fully anticipate having trouble with that (although it has only happened with a single game so far), but my qualms over the stability of PC games seem less substantial when something like this happens on console ports. In any case, we start again from the first floor.
Knowing I could bash down doors, I was able to get this chest beyond the door that said none shall pass
Going through the floors a second time allowed me to find alternate ways to some of the mysteries I came across. It was easily redone, but the game moves so slowly that it still took hours to get through the first few floors. I hadn't noted where items were, so I still explored nearly every square. In addition to the new chest on the first floor, I found a shortcut on the third, but still explored it fully.
This teleport field appeared after a gold coin was placed in a slot, but it didn't teleport anything... not sure what use it had
Sound in the game is rather sparse consisting mainly of ambient water drops along with combat sounds from monsters, attacks, and spells. Music is only activated by stepping on set tiles. Any time they're activated the keyed music is played once (unless it's already playing).

I'm still unsure what a series of small buttons did on the walls south of the main room on the fourth floor. On the fifth, I managed to find an extra key I had missed. It allowed me to pick up an extra magic box; I still hadn't used a single one. I also dived into all the pits I could find, now that I knew some hid secret areas. There were some extra items, but nothing extraordinary.
Healing up after a fight
In the above screenshot I'm drinking a potion to heal HP, and restore some lost strength due to a body injury (shown by the red highlight). The lost strength has temporarily caused some severe encumbrance, which makes recovery after actions take longer. I'm also poisoned (red highlight around mouth icon), and have leveled up (blue highlight around eye icon). Leveling up increases character stats related to the class that increased. By the time I recovered all my lost progress I also regained my levels, and then some.
The use of the Skeleton Keys should have dawned on me earlier
The skeleton keys I'd found starting on floor 7 opened up a quick staircase that granted fast access from 7 all the way to 10. This gave me the idea that floor 10 was final floor to explore. I would find it was just the beginning of the end.
It began with an innocuous message on the wall
Followed by another... wait, this is where the stairs up just were
Without much announcement, the tenth floor was filled with squares that teleported the party between very similar 4x4 rooms. The squares triggered based on the direction they were entered. To track these changes I used items on the floor to tell when I'd been transported to a different room. There wasn't any danger, at first, except for the possibility of running low on water without a way to replenish it. Eventually I stumbled into a third look-a-like room where a keyhole fit an iron key I picked up earlier, and this led to a solid key in a chest that fit into a key hole in a fourth room. Using that unlocked a path beyond the chest. The rest of floor 10 was a bit more straight forward.
Well, aside from these non-corporeal slimes that were a pain to fight
Down a poison filled hallway I swiped a sword called diamond edge. In a side room I picked up a sword capable of firing fireballs (at an unknown power level). After a series of passages with crossed keys, I found a small riddle that asked for an enlarged view where I used a magnifying glass on an eye in the wall. This opened a passage to a ruby key. The final skull was there as well, which allowed for quick backtracking once I located the final key of Ra.
Make sure to save before using coins in this area as you can lock yourself out of some exploration and items (not necessarily from the end of the game though)
I delved into the eleventh floor still anticipating having to backtrack to the sixth. Dashed were my hopes that I'd find the end on the 10th. Damn you Wizardry for setting up my expectations of dungeon crawlers. The 11th was fairly simple, though I missed an enemy on my first pass that made me feel like I was stuck. Eventually I found it; it dropped a topaz key, and everything else fell into place. I found the last key of Ra, picked up a master key that I don't remember using, and found another skull passage that I wasn't expecting (which connected the one I thought ended on the 10th floor with this one, and an additional staircase down to the 12th).
I think these were by far the most annoyingly tedious enemy, dodging most attacks while doing a good chunk of damage
Before I went too deep, I thought it best to go back to the sixth floor for that staff that seemed ever so important. The sixth floor was filled with rock golems capable of doing half my HP while I swung for single digits. Magic seemed like the way to go. The ruby key was necessary to open up the rest of the level. Clues spread throughout led quite blatantly to the idea of using the firestaff to seal away chaos, not destroy him. I'm not even sure if the SNES version of the game has an option to end the game any other way.
Bringing balance to the force
Anyone know if these scrolls are in the PC version as well?
All in all, there were about 8 scrolls that detailed how to get a power gem, and finally seal away Chaos. Among the debris in that area I found another key of Ra that took me around to the firestaff as well as another staircase that led to a different area of the 12th floor. Before getting lost in that area though I found a switch that quickly connected both of the shortcut staircases together on the 7th or 8th floor. I decided the original set of stairs was best to explore first. They dumped me in an area that had pits open under my feet, taking me to a 13th floor. I almost loaded my save as my map already seemed a bit piecemeal. I stuck with it.
Finding dragon meat all game, and finally finding a dragon
The dragon was actually fairly easy as the room I dropped into allowed for a lot of maneuvering. Still, it took a lot of damage, and a good amount of fire protection to overcome. Defeating it probably wasn't necessary, but it felt like a big achievement. The dragons lair held the power gem I needed to fit into the firestaff in order to power up the flux capacitor, the key to which was hidden under a pile of ashes. The power gem was released using a spell I learned from a scroll, or the only odd spell spelled out in the back of the manual.
The stairs up from the dragon room brought me face to face with what I assumed was Chaos
I had to defeat a number of lesser fire demon looking enemies, and set past some black pyres that hurt me when I stood next to them for too long. Actually surrounding him took a of trial and error as I figured out how the flux cages worked. They wore out, disappearing quickly, so I needed to place them down while chasing Chaos around the small area I decided as the best place to trap him. The lag inherent in the game really showed why the SNES was the wrong console to put this game on. The magic boxes I had been saving up freezes enemies, but they don't work on Chaos.
Once surrounded, using the fuse command completes the game
Somehow Chaos automatically fuses with his good half and returns the Grey Lord to his former glory. Again, I'm not sure there's another ending, even a bad one for killing Chaos and having Order rule all. As curious as I was, I didn't bother trying to find it as I couldn't damage Chaos with any of the attacks I initially tried when I first encountered him.
Yes, the sinister plans of hiding out in a dungeon
Elapsed Time: 18h34m (Final Time: 37h12m) [9h13m replaying]

Combatant - Combat is easy, except when it's suddenly not. In most cases, as long as there's room to move around and side step, picking the enemy apart is a battle of attrition. There's also no cost for resurrection that I noticed. It's not exactly the most thrilling, but the small amount of stat increases do well to keep it interesting. The spells add some strategy, although I tended to ignore the defensive ones as they don't last long.
Rating: 4
Maps flew by during the final scenes of the ending... here I see an area in bottom left of the fourth floor where the buttons are that I never unlocked
Admirer - Skill use increases class levels even outside of battles, which allows for some grinding. I came in way under max level, so it's completely optional. Each character has their inherent strengths, but optionally customized for however you play (except for the character that starts with 0 MP--I'm fairly sure that character can never gain mage or cleric levels). There's a large cast of characters for the party. Controls are bad, and appearance doesn't really change.
Rating: 3
Strangely, the shortcut isn't shown for the third floor
Puzzler - The main quest is spelled out eventually, but can be overlooked if the party keeps pressing forward. Puzzles and riddles are easy enough that I don't think anyone would have trouble with them, and I don't believe there's a way to get stuck in a position where the game is unwinnable. There's nothing that I'd call a side quest, and all steps essentially have a single path to follow.
Rating: 3
The top right portion shows the teleport maze on the 10th floor
Instigator - The story is light, but ever present. There aren't any NPCs to discuss the state of the world, and there's no real lore in the game to speak of aside from how to beat the boss. What was there was enough to keep me going though, and slowly uncovering it was interesting. I added a point for the possibility of multiple endings based on maybe doing something different in handling Chaos; it was a thing on the computer versions, so maybe if I slogged off back to the beginning of the dungeon even though there was no indication that was a possibility I would have found something.
Rating: 3
A console port no one asked for
Collector - There are a large variety of items. Unfortunately inventory is severely limited, even with multiple chests. The comparative strength of equipment is completely hidden. I had no idea by the end if one weapon was better than another, or only afforded slight modifications. Collecting everything is hardly an option as ensuring everything is found is nearly impossible. There's no economy.
Rating: 1
Blame!
Explorer - There's not much to see in a single tiled dungeon. The sound effects were atmospheric, and the music tiles appears at often strange locations, often jarring as it started out of nowhere. Exploration is completely open, only limited by obvious walls and few locked doors.
Rating: 3
I wonder why they chose to present the music like that, was that how it was in the original?
Final Rating: 17 [28%]

Overall, I'm glad to have finished it. It's a classic on computer, although the console port is lacking the technical superiority I would expect from 4 years of progress. At least I'll never have play it aga... what's that? It's coming up again in a couple games? Well, let's see what they changed in the TG-CD version of the game. I've read it's a bit different, at least in the presentation. It's 6 or 7 sequential dungeons. Before that though, we get a break (self induced) with Sorcerer's Kingdom, one of those games I know nothing about.
If I manage to post Sorcerer's Kingdom's entry by next Monday, then this hiatus can be considered officially ended. We'll see if I can manage that far. A combination of things has delayed this post, and progress on the RPG list in general, but I'm hoping to double my effort so that such a long break doesn't happen again. Thanks for sticking around.

9 comments:

  1. Was happy to see this pop up again in my feed after so long! Keep it up as long as you are still interested and having fun; you still have readers!

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    1. Still having fun, mainly other things taking priority.

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  2. Welcome back! I'm sure you're thrilled that you now get to play the sequel almost immediately after this.

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    1. Let's just hope it's a bit more stable. Being on a different system, I'm hoping it doesn't lag as much at least. That alone would make it more enjoyable.

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    2. Oh right, that's not the sequel, it's a modified form of DM that came out for the PC Engine. I don't know how close it is to the original DM.

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  3. I'm looking forward to Shining Force and I'm glad to hear your hiatus may be over.

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  4. Welcome back. I was happy to see an update. I have this on a tab on my phone and refresh it every week or so. Thanks for keeping at it. Looking forward to future updates.

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    1. Thanks, I don't know if I'll ever get back to the schedule I had before, but hopefully the gaps will be weeks instead of months.

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