Monday, June 30, 2014

Game 26: Rings of Power (Genesis) - Final Rating

One of the most frustrating combat systems I've played. At least there's an auto option so you can blame the poor AI instead of the lack of control. That's my major complaint here. The player only controls which skill to use. Who to use it on, how to move, and where to retreat are all decided by the game. So, on to the minor complaints: random battles with enchanters are deadly, there aren't many options, and half the spells don't work as described. That last point is the only thing that makes the game playable. Early on paralyzing spells prove most useful, and the enemies never used them.

In a general sense, the combat is challenging, but for the wrong reasons. That's okay though, because unlike other RPGs combat is mostly optional. Run from most combat and save often is my advice. Most experience comes from completing quests, and the rewards from combat are miniscule in comparison. There isn't a large selection of enemies, but the spell animations keep things interesting as the game progresses. Stats are used to determine results in combat, and they do increase with level-ups, but they're all completely hidden.

Overall, combat seemed more like an after thought, or something thrown together when earlier ideas didn't pan out. Combat offers the most bugs in the game with a potential soft-lock (make sure not to press start too quickly at the start of combat) and spell animations that either don't show up, get stuck on screen, or multiply the spell strength for some unknown reason. Somehow, despite all the negative things to say about it, it was rarely a chore (probably due to the lowest encounter rate of any game to date).
Rating: 4
I never did find out whether Buc's version summons Thalmus or Nexus
Control over the characters is the main criteria for this section, so it should come as no surprise this is the lowest scoring. Appearance of the characters differs only slightly from others in their class, and is static over the course of the game. Skills are bought, but not interchangeable. It's nice that's it's possible to learn spells before they can be used. As the characters level up, the lower level spells continue to do the same damage, so collecting the spells is necessary in the end to stay competitive in combat. It would be nice to be able to cast healing and revive spells outside of combat, but magic is only useable in battle. Movement is slow and clunky with a lot of slowdown in some areas. Even with slowdown the game executes all commands, which causes many mistaken inputs and overshooting areas on the map.
Rating: 2
After I got the whip, no black priest would speak to me, but I found the clues this refers to in a volcano
So, if combat was such a pain and the controls so abysmal, then why in the world did I enjoy the game so much? Must be its charm. While we'll get to the story in a bit, the way it's pieced together with interconnecting plot points, clues, and hints is where the game really shines. Figuring out how each piece of new information relates to each other is where the fun lies. I was most impressed that the party was rewarded experience for completing quest steps, and that some steps can be skipped with some foreknowledge. There are no side quests though. Don't get fooled into thinking there are because everything relates to the main quest. You're either searching for a ring, searching for information on a ring, or recruiting party members to find the rings. The non-linear structure allows the story to flow in way that breathes life into the idea that it's an open world with a multitude of possibilities.
Rating: 6
This is one thing I never bothered to solve, but I figured they were some coordinates
The story is completely focused on the rings, but unlike most games the NPCs have more than one thing to say. The same topics are available for everyone, and a character can give either a stock response based on their class or city, or will actually contribute to the quest. There are plenty of clues that no one should ever be lost, except for the sheer size of the world and possibly missing a key character. The main idea of roaming the world collecting items until the end isn't exactly original, and it's strange that these rings have little actual power. I give it credit for not being about fighting a big bad guy... oh wait.
Rating: 4
What evidence is there that the rings actually have any power?
There's no way to really know if all the clues have been collected, but most are stored in papers the party will carry around forever. Unfortunately they're all named similarly. Finding which of the six notes is actually the one just picked up is a bit of a challenge. There are trade goods, which is the main source of income for the party. Getting the hang of buying low and selling high is essential to making it anywhere in the world. Food and water are a constant necessity. While there's no equipment per se, spells act as weapons to use in combat. Once the major spells have been purchased there's no reason to get gold, except to feed and hydrate the party. The caps on both money and food/water are necessary to keep a sense of urgency, and aren't quite enough to max out and forget about (especially while flying a dragon). As much as the game is a collect-athon, there's nothing really to do with the collection and no way to examine individual items beyond reading the papers.
Rating: 3
After a while, opening a chest just isn't the same, except for the locked ones
This world is grand in size. Seriously, it took me the majority of my game time just to traverse it (although that may have something to do with the slow walking speed). Graphics are reasonably acceptable, even delightfully colorful. The music I just couldn't get into. It was grating, loud, scratchy. I thought it was my system, but I popped Super Hydlide back in and was glad to hear clear crisp notes. Still, it sounded a bit different from the videos on YouTube, which I assume comes from emulator, so maybe it's partially my system and the specific music in Rings of Power. Luckily there's a way in the menu to switch it off.

Exploration is the key. There are plenty of places to discover, delve, and dig up many treasures. The world is wide open from nearly the beginning. Once Thalmus is dead Buc is released into the world in a town that has a ship for sale, which is the key to getting (nearly) anywhere. Discovering key locations is always fun, and if it weren't for the wandering random merchants necessary to finish the game, then I would have given it a 9. Not since Ultima: Quest of the Avatar (so many months ago... hehe) have I enjoyed interacting with a world. I have little hope of it continuing into future games, but it's nice to find a game like this. I can always hope it becomes more commonplace.
Rating: 8
I didn't find anyone that mentioned this place, but if you show up black priests attack the paty and guard some additional clues
Final Rating: 27 [45%]

It's not a perfect game, but it's very enjoyable in its own way. Look past the blemishes and give it a chance is all I suggest. It takes some time to make progress. Save often and eventually luck will take the party's side. If piecing together a series of clues and exploring a vast world sounds good, then this game is for you. Combat is downplayed quite a bit, and once you reach a certain level it becomes little more than a nuisance.

Next up I'll cut King's Bounty, an easy game to discount. Then we'll get on to Magician. I remember getting this as a kid and trying to figure it out, but I don't think I got very far on my own. I did watch my brother complete it a number of times. I recently learned the real challenge is to beat the game completely three times to unlock the true ending; each successive playthrough increases in difficulty. Magician is a short game when you know what to do (about 30 minutes), but I expect it'll take a few hours to figure out all the puzzles.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Game 26: Rings of Power (Genesis) - Finished!

The final screen, but it's possible to keep playing
Lucky. That's the only reason we're getting to see the ending so soon. I may have, at one point, met other parties that didn't attack me right away; however, those meetings never turned into an opportunity to purchase a dragon stone from a wandering merchant. I wonder how long it would have taken to meet another one, and figure out how to interact with them. Considering this random encounter didn't happen for me within the 20-some-odd hours I've played, it's probably the one thing I'd be most afraid of going wrong in a speedrun (something I considered doing based on how much can be skipped).
Here's how I got a dragon stone, from a random chest just like the sand
In my last post I mentioned how very little information I had left to go on. I visited all the inns I could reach, and found no ring. I ended up going back to Tutu to fight him, and only received some extra experience. I returned to where I picked up Obliky to face off against the group of random enchanters. With my exceptionally high levels I gained initiative and wiped them out easily. They left behind a picture of the Ring of Mutation.
Is this like a collector card or a pinup?
With little more to go on, I revisited all the inns showing all the women the picture. I ran across a couple interesting locations. A volcano in the middle of the sea spewed fire. I couldn't find anything to do with it at the time; after I beat the game I learned it contained additional clues for one of the rings of necromancy. There was also another temple area northeast of the Fens, which provided a spot for random treasure (in fact there was one screen that always had new treasure), but nothing more.
A very boring abandoned temple
I commented in my previous post that I tried to return an orb to the sorcerer in Oxbridge, but he wouldn't acknowledge it. Sean helpfully mentioned this was the correct step to take, and I should have received the next clue. It turned out this was only partially correct, though I appreciate knowing something I tried should have worked. According to a FAQ I looked at, to confirm this bit after trying and failing to give the orb again, there was a sorcerer in Oxbridge I should show the orb, but it was a second one. One I'd failed to notice during my original exploration of the town.
In my defense he won the hide'n'seek championship this year
Knowing there was a sorcerer in one of the houses made the search much easier, but I still nearly missed him hiding in the corner with his cloak blending well with the bed/mirror/window colors. I showed him the orb, and he told me to visit an island of light at night. Doing so allowed me entrance, and I gave the sorcerer on the island the orb in exchange for a key. Showing the key to the first befuddled sorcerer back at Oxbridge allowed him to recall a riddle for seeking out Flamory, the dragon who stole the ring.
This part made no sense as I could not find a glowing path
Although the first part of the riddle made little sense (I scoured that desert without even a twinkle of a path), the second part mentioned the dragon resided near where life meets death, which could only mean Necropolis. He also mentioned selling doves for a bit of money, but having already purchased one I couldn't get another. I searched around Necropolis and at last found a dark cave. Inside was a battle against three dragons; beyond them three paths: blue, yellow, and red. Flamory was at the end of the red one; the other two had two single battles with nameless dragons. In exchange for the dove I was allowed anything from his treasury, and Buc automatically chose the Ring of Intuition.
The game is a bit confused at times... order of skeleton is a necromancer designation
Could you also be my pet dragon and fly me to Mesa?
It was after this point when I entered a random battle and found the dragon stones. I wandered around for at least an hour trying to drum up a wandering merchant. I even decrypted the hint regarding them, but it wasn't very helpful. I was ecstatic when the treasure description flashed on the screen. I hoped it was possible, but didn't really know until that point. I'm glad the game showed mercy on me. I took out my new dragon stone and... wasted it. It's only possible to use the stones where a dragon can land, and using it without a spot for it to spawn wastes the stone. I'm glad I got four from that chest.
Landing triumphantly at Mesa!
Mesa provided a store to purchase more dragon stones (I picked up 10, just in case). Strangely, I couldn't purchase magic sand.  It's only available from a single square if searched, but I missed the hint the first visit (not like I needed it any more). At the bottom of the government building was a piece of paper that explained why Mr. Belmont's business interests never took off in Mesa. Taking that back to Mr. B netted me a Bandit ID. There was also an inn, and wouldn't you know it, it's the one with an extra NPC.
I've heard it before, you were young and foolish, needed the money?
It's all very dramatic
One ring left... it felt good. I flew my new dragon over to the Power Lord's fortress. After a bit of effort to find a place to land, I entered and found no one named "Power Lord." Instead, four hostile parties attacked me as soon as I spoke to them. Each floor required a key to progress to the next, keys gained from the vanquished parties. On the last floor I gained a key to Motarin's crypt. I picked up a diary page that noted the crypt's location. The fight with Motarin was by far the hardest battle I faced. Really, combat is completely random. Like I said previously, it's a good thing enemies don't always choose the most devastating spells; otherwise, I'd never win.
Case in point... this spell three times is too much
I was sure I needed to gain that last level to have a chance. I took my time and purchased all the spells. I took a trip down to the bandits hideout to see what was behind the members only door. The ID I picked up from Mr. B's allowed me access, and I found Lenny hanging out next to the vault. For helping him out of his earlier jam he opened up the door. Inside was the Holy Seal stolen so long ago. Mr. B apparently heard the news that someone was rummaging in the vault, and came by with his elite guard. It was a tough battle, and I could have skipped it with the camp command, but I thought I might receive some item I needed (not the case). A strange incident happened that I haven't been able to reproduce. At one point, my knight cast a spell to hit each enemy (Puree), and for some reason it cast itself four times.
Mr. B miscast Pain and these giant swords remained on the battlefield until the end of the battle
I gained 50 whole experience from the battle with Mr. B. It's then that I realized just how far away I was from max level (at least 3000 more experience). I didn't really like the idea of grinding, so I saved outside Motarin's and just tried to get lucky. It only took a second attempt; Motarin and his other zombies only cast healing spells the first round... I told you it was random.
The last ring!
I made a beeline for the last location only available by air: the Fount of Heaven. It was there that Nexus was said to reside. Inside was a locked door. It responded to the holy seal by opening. Somehow, not ever explained, Darius was waiting for me inside. Darius explained how he was waiting for someone to arrive with all the rings. Why seek them out on his own when he could rely on someone else to succeed? His plan, to snatch the rings at the last possible moment. Little did he know... yeah I got nothing.
Best bluff all game
A fight ensued, and in the end I must have lucked out again as I succeeded on the first attempt. Darius put up a good fight, but with Buc and Mortimer paralyzing multiple enemies he really didn't stand a chance if I was able to survive a single round. All in all, there are a lot of spells to disable that luckily the enemy never used.
Uhh... what now?
Wee... off the map
After the battle, Buc floated off the screen. Scrolling text informed me that Void was now banished. Buc met Nexus in another realm and handed over the rings without question. Nexus deemed his return too great a risk as Void would return as well. He used the rings to recreate the Rod of Creation and gave it to Buc to rule the land. Nexus then set off in pursuit of Void. The world would now bow to me!
No setup for a sequel here
Is that... am I... how am I breathing?
Giving the rings... all eleven
Getting the rod... eleven ringed sections, nice attention to detail
Returning to the land Ushka Bau
It's been a rocky road, but overall the game was well paced. Unfortunately there were a lot of issues. Little things like misspellings, discovering the name of NPCs (which seemed to change, or the wrong one might appear in a few cases), and trying to find a wandering merchant added up over time. Big things like combat being a deadly affair for nearly half the game and being able to kill NPCs before learning certain hints (although I don't believe it's possible to save in a dead man walking state) created aggravation instead of challenge. A lot of the game came down to getting lucky. I'm not sure what purpose continuing after the end serves, but I think it's the first time it's possible for a console game (that isn't a PC port--i.e. discounting Wizardry).
Buc... your adventures have aged you so
One of the longer endings for a game of this era, complete with fireworks
The closest thing to a final screen, I barely caught this
Another game behind us. Next up I need to King's Bounty, then play through Magician. First though, let's get that final rating out of the way. Magician is a short game, so I may attempt to get through it completely (apparently it takes three times to get the true ending). I'm really looking forward to Warsong though, so let's get there quickly.

Elapsed Time: 5h01m (Final Time: 27h11m)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Game 26: Rings of Power (Genesis) - A Wall On The Horizon

I can see it. I'm about to hit a wall. My clues are drying up quickly. By the end of this post they're so few I have trouble planning what to do when I play next. If I can't find anything more, then I'll have to review everything I have once more and hope for a moment of inspiration. My main hurdle at this point is I still haven't located a place to buy dragons. (As I typed this I realized I didn't properly search the City of Commerce's vehicles, the most likely place to purchase rare items.)
So far not even close to the longest game, but who knows when it will end if I have to scour the map more than once
Last session I had just recovered the War Key from Sparta, and made my way to the paladins' fortress. The document locked in the chest to help me with one of the rings proved fruitless. It merely told me the order of Variation, something I'd figured out on my own (it's not too hard as they only fit in a certain order given the room and starting square). That was my one hope for the Ring of Advancing. I ventured back to the Great Cathedral for more research.
Are you telling me I need to find all 11 rings and then some other Foozle?
I started to despair, but I still had a few hints left. I decided the most tangible was the thief who stole the map from the sorcerer in Oxbridge. It was in Thieves Haven where I learned a bit more about the Ring of Mutation. The guildmaster there confirmed the ring had taken human form. He then directed me to speak with all the other enchanter masters to gather more clues. I then found the thief I was looking for, not in the thieves' guild but in the inn.
Another bit of dialogue no one saw as it flashed on the screen a frame before combat began
The map I picked up off this thief pointed me towards a piece of snow drift in the middle of nowhere. Some kind of orb was buried there, and while it took me a bit of time to find exactly which square was at the center, I exacerbated the issue by not reading the directions completely (missed a bit that told me it was at the center). What the orb does, or how it might solve the final piece of the sorcerer's message (a key given to a friend that vanished) I haven't the foggiest idea. I've tried to use it and show it to the sorcerer, but he doesn't acknowledge it at all. Another dead end, for the time being.
At this point I started revisiting old locations, and noticed I'd never entered this house
Well, I took a trip back to Sunrise/Sunset to check for anything I may have missed. This after I visited Sarah's parents' house and found her not returned, she's completely vanished. I found a house I immediately recognized I'd overlooked in my initial search. Inside were two youths; one that mentioned a missing key to the backroom. After a short search of the other houses I found it, unlocked the door, and retrieve the Youth Milk.
Because it does a body good
Returning it to the regent accomplished very little. He said he'd make sure the king got it, but the king wasn't any better. At least he trusted me enough to open all the doors (save the king's own). I used the iron key to speak to the king privately without angering anyone. He instructed me to kill the regent and retake the milk. I'm not sure why killing the regent at this point was okay, but before was not. I mean, the guards suddenly didn't care about it. Also, I wonder what would happen if I ignored the king's request and merely retrieved another carton of milk. In any case, I took the easy way out, killed the regent, and received the milk (instead of the castle key as I did previously).
A fairly simple ring to get once I found the right house
This bit of progress inspired me to return to Richi. The queen continued to insist I would need to gather intel on the key to the crypt below. I was most confused by these instructions because I thought it meant I needed to find a key somewhere else. There was a door locked with a ladder visibly beyond it. Apparently, this door opened once the lens was delivered. I believed it was for this door I needed the key. I stumbled upon the open passage in an effort to prove the door was still locked, only to find it wide open. The enchanted locked door was actually inside the crypt, with the key floating about on its own just out of reach.
The clue from Cathedral mentioned covering all my bases, and the floor tiles change when traversed, another simple puzzle
The key to this puzzle was to turn them all from one color to another. Then the key remained stationary and unlocked the door. As with the tomb in Necropolis, this crypt had some zombies roaming around. It also had Imino, another sorcerer. He claimed the right to the Ring of Advancing, and challenged me when I wouldn't allow him to leave. This fight was easier than the one at the Cave of Perfection.
I'm pretty sure I'm right before max level as I've stopped gaining levels as easily, but can cast most spells
This leaves me with three rings: Intuition, which I need to find a vanished friend who has a key (I have no idea what the key unlocks); Blood, which might prove incredibly simple once I have a dragon and access to the Power Lord; Mutation, which is a woman and very little else is known. I spent the remaining time gathering clues on Mutation from the Enchanter Guildmasters. A conjuror (spelled with an 'o' this time) noticed a woman at some inn that had the aura of a Ring of Power. You'd think he'd have marked the location of such an oddity. Another master enchanter reported a mutated object or person must be shown an image of its original form in order to be restored. I'm not sure if this means any of the rings will do, or if I need a mock Ring of Mutation.
My last stop for the night was at Mr. B's... the ring leader of the bandits
Not enough to go on for mutation, I set my sights on Mr. Belmont's residence. Sadly, the only thing I learned of was his interest in the town of Mesa. Nothing else moved him to divulge any secrets. Writing all this out, I believe the City of Commerce is my next stop. I hope to find a dragon for sale, and possibly another enchanter guild for another hint. I believe I've been to them all and only received those two clues. I'd hate to have to venture to all the inns in the world and hope that using the show command will transform a woman back into the ring she was. I could also try to return to the combat's I've skipped to see if they drop any helpful items. Maybe I can release this dove and it'll lead me to the mysterious friend with a key.
How about this, it's a town that can only be reached by a dragon... got one?
Elapsed Time: 2h04m (Total Time: 22h10m)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Game 26: Rings of Power (Genesis) - Rings of Nothing Is More Like It

It's been a long while since I've found myself so engrossed in a game that I suggest, "just one more quest." Rings of Power is such a game, and the progress I've made is palpable. I now have six of the eleven rings, and guess what... they do absolutely nothing. I'm not even mad about that though as I've enjoyed the process of discovering scattered hints and piecing them together. When last I left I was doing two things: exploring all locations in a meandering path, and completing quests if I happened upon them.
Neon? Wh... how?
On the way to Thieves Haven I came upon the casino I heard Motarin's men frequented (he has the Ring of Blood according to Thalmus). The proprietor complained about a group of knights that trashed the place, and gave me one of their card's in exchange for helping compensate for some of that burden. The card pointed me towards someone named Carl; he's in the service of the Power Lord. Carl suggested I ask Mean Dean, the fellow Power Lord employee at the Lobotomy Club, about the location of the Power Lord. I tried to do it civilly, but I didn't find any other way than killing him for the ID card--address was on the back.
I tried to visit Mesa, but it's inaccessible on foot
The Power Lord's citadel was the walled city I'd found last session. Seemed I'd need a dragon to access it and Mesa. I haven't found a place to purchase a dragon yet, but I haven't been very diligent when checking every town's travel store. I ended up passing through Thieves Haven on my way to Mesa, and found Keef the Thief. For those curious, it's not just a name sake; Keef goes into a lot of detail on his back story as master thief, mage, and warrior in a universe far away. He accidentally rowed his ship off the edge of the world and ended up here.
Achieve your... what? The dialogue actually ends at this point... I think someone made a mistake in the dialogue code
Keef said he found the Ring of Will in a bagel, but he wasn't about to just give it away. First I had to retrieve a leaf from the Fluffi Tree of Gomez. The location was a mystery to him, but he heard of someone locked in an asylum that quested for the tree at some point. The Sunnyville Loony Bin is on my list of locations to visit. Working my way back around I stopped by a large building: Magic B Us.
Magic B Us has nearly every spell in the game
I purchased the Mirage spell the sorcerer back at the beginning of the game requested to prove I was ready for one of the clues to the Ring of Intuition. I stopped by Magicnia, but the only thing of interest was the goods for sale: mana. I left for the loony bin, just south of the town. The crazies there each offered some advice for my quest. The location of the Fluffi was just one. All others gave some, at the time, incomprehensible messages:
  • RANDOMNESS is S to wall, W to wall, NNENNNWW
Noting the strange directions (and lack of staff), I left the large asylum and made my way around the opposite side of the eastern continent. I spied a building on the map, and decided to stop.
Ah, Thalmus did mention this tower in his hint on the Ring of Variation
Inside the tower was the great enchanter Tutu. Unfortunately, he wasn't very accommodating to travelers. I found some scrap papers that hinted at where the Ring of Variation was, and the spell Wyrm. At the top of the tower Tutu froze me where I stood, and locked me in a room at the top of the tower. I'm not sure how long I'd be stuck there if I hadn't dealt with Fiver previously. Turns out this is where he ran to hide out. He let me out of the cell, which rewarded me with a significant amount of experience. Unfortunately, that didn't remove the threat of Tutu.
Wyrm? Oh yeah, I just picked up that spell in your tower
Can't wait to use it myself
Well, I guess this is another instance where I'll have to skirt combat and use the camp command to suddenly appear outside. Once outside, I continued south to the broken town of Necropolis. The town didn't offer much other than the main crypt where the Ring of Bile resides. The zombie guardian wouldn't open the door until I located a spell that could release him from his bondage. Only the most powerful necromancers have such a spell.
I think someone forgot to put a general store here; I can't find one
Still further south was a bandits hideout described by a woman hiding behind a waterfall I'd visited earlier. She mentioned that her crystal ball was stolen by some pirates from the Ahab. A note inside the hideout described a map, torn in half, that charted the last known location of the Ahab, a reportedly sunken ship. One half went to Red Beard a man in Division, and the other to a merchant in Magicnia. I noticed I was near the Fluffi tree location, and it seemed like a good location to check out.
Should be easy to find a leaf with all these trees around
Did that stump just disappear?
Turned out the area that held the Fluffi tree, and its fabled leaves, was a hedge maze. I wondered through and discovered various points that would chime and toggle some stumps in my path--stumps that were rarely on screen to show me if they'd appeared or disappeared. The same sound plays no matter which state the stump goes into, and walking into a wall triggers the square multiple times. This made determining if I should trigger it again very difficult. It took me a solid 20 minutes before I managed to reach the center, and the leaf.
Okay, everyone stuff your pockets; we'll make a killing off those thieves
Up to this point I was just exploring the land, but it was time to pursue the hints for each ring more thoroughly. I reviewed them and chose the closest: the Ring of Variation. A golden temple was said to be north west of the City of Speed, but it took me a bit to think to look across the sea and even then there wasn't anything on the map. Once I'd found it I was certain there was a ring present.
Temple with deadly floor traps; must be the place!
My notes indicated I needed to start on the third square from the south, but it took a while to decipher the rest of the clues. Especially when I kept reading the four north steps as three. The order ended up as MUTATION, ALTERATION, and RANDOMNESS. There were also some chests, one of which provided an item simply called sand. Could this be the same magic sand found in Mesa?
Finally! 16 hours in and I have my first ring
Finding success spurred me on, and I retraced my steps up the coast. The merchant in Magicnia would only provide me his half of the map if I gave him 5 pirate flags. These were the same flags I'd been collecting from the random battles with 3 enchanters. I've rarely been able to take them out before succumbing to their Frenzy casting, but I had managed to collect 3 so far. I was finally getting a hang of the spells, knowing which to rely on and which were garbage.
It's been much easier with my own enchanter able to cast Frenzy
I worked my way towards Red Beard in Divsiion. I stopped by Oxbridge again to look for that necromancer's pass, and found it on a shelf near the man who spoke of it. I can't think why I didn't find it before. I also stopped by Richi to speak with the queen. She acknowledged who I was (and mentioned someone named Imino), but would only assist me if I could provide the observatory with a new lens. Wrapping up loose ends I took a trip to the City of Mind to speak with the groundskeeper, who only confirmed that I needed to speak with the sorcerer in Oxbridge to locate the Ring of Intuition.
I tried to reason with him, but ended up killing him for his half of the map
On my way south to Shard I took a side trip to Doggania to speak with the regent. Even though I'd taken care of Fiver the hall guards still required all my gold to enter. Turned out by, "all my gold" they really meant 1,000 of it. The regent thanked me for my help with Fiver, and told me my main quest was to acquire the Milk of Youth. The milk would cure the king. He directed me to the priests of Nexus who told me to quest for the king, not the regent, and to seek out the lore in Cathedral as this tied into the quest of division. The only advice I'd received on the Ring of Division was to seek the answer in Sunset/Sunrise where a division of age exists. Maybe I needed to correct the division and bring youth back to Sarah.
It didn't take long to find this odd Fen out, and with initiative in battle I killed the lurking enchanters before they could react
So, I further delayed my acquisition of the lens and sought out the witch Hideous. I learned before that she hid a piece of herself in the swamp in front of her lair. With the help of this guy I found the finger bone quickly. I stood outside her tower, and decided to break it before I faced off with her. I don't think this is what the game developers had in mind.
Why does my character look dead? I hope I didn't ruin the game some how
Well, I was able to snap the finger, and then gained a lock of hair. I checked inside the tower anyway, and only fought the guards. I hope I didn't miss any important dialogue. I took the lock of hair to Sarah, who thanked me as she turned young again. She gave me the iron key to the king's door, and then took off. I don't think I've done any irreparable harm to the quest, but I'm a bit stuck for what more to do here. I'll get to that in a bit though. On my way back I stopped by the City of Blood to seek out the secret meeting place of the necromancers. I had stumbled into it previously by accident when I first delivered the corpse to Tsalami's grave.
Without the pass they attack immediately
Running through my quest completions quickly I managed to get the embalming fluid, confirmed the sand I found worked for the lens (by getting the lens), and I even returned the leaf to Keef. Too bad he didn't think I'd ever succeed, and traded the ring to a priest for a lucky charm instead. With his apologies he told me the priest's name, and pointed me towards Cathedral as Yoppa's destination. Keef then took the leaf. Can you believe the nerve of this guy? With both halves of the map I tracked down the sunken Ahab, and found the crystal ball was guarded by a zombie. Single enemies are so easy to handle with Confuse.
If only I could open chests from across the screen as well
I tracked Yoppa down, and he just wouldn't listen. So, we had it out right in the middle of Cathedral, in the temple, in front of the head priest. He didn't bat an eye after the massacre, and happily revived my fallen companion before restoring our health and vigor. It's really lucky the AI is completely random. If they had any sense and always picked spells that devastated, then I'd have no chance.
"A" Will? How many Wills are there?
While I was there, I thought to check all the bookshelves in case I'd missed something more on the Ring of Division. Turned out I did miss a note, one that told me I'd need to ponder on a skull at Shady Funeral Home and a goblet that I'd already randomly collected. Since I was in the area, and I'd taken care of Hideous (so I don't feel bad anymore knowing what I know from speaking to Fen Ho through a locked door), I stopped by the town of protectors to procure a contract. Their demand? Some honey from a talking bear.
Why are you wearing your crazy face?
I picked up the honey, the skull, and dropped off the lens. The queen was grateful, but only pointed me back towards Cathedral for a way to open the enchanted door to her family crypt. Her ancestor was the last to have the ring, and it seemed logical it might be buried with them (or I'd find another clue as to its whereabouts). Now that I'd easily been taking out most battles I stopped by the arena in Sparta again. This time I took out those dragons (they're called wyverns in battle) easily.
It helped that they cast the bad level 9 spells this time... this did 14 damage
With that done I had completed the quests for the sun and moon temples. Time to collect my rewards. From both I received their respective gems. At the same time, I realized this might be the location for another clue, the one I received from Bob. "To find the ring of Holy Light seek a place between dark and bright, look closely neither left nor right, where sun meets moon and day meets night." As luck would have it, the first square I searched between the two temples popped me into a cave.
Riddles all the way down
The Ring of Thought was the prize at the bottom, and the skull and goblet were key items to reach it, as were the whip (I'd stopped by Kaos again, picked up another bingo ticket, and gave it to the secretary again, this caused the proper Void priest encounter that gave me a whip) and ruby (it pops out of the statue after finishing its dialogue). Answering incorrectly results in a meager 25 gold loss. None of the riddles were particularly difficult.
It's at this point I wish the rings had actual use, reading thoughts would be very handy
With the gems in hand, I slowly made my way back to the cave of perfection. I was feeling much more confident about my chances against Fezzik. On my way past Magic B Us I had a thought, the powerful necromancer may just be the one at Magic B Us. My hunch turned out to be correct as he described a new spell he was working on. The missing ingredient was a mustache of a thespian. Cross off one more random item used. I received the Raise spell for my trouble. While I couldn't purchase this from Magic B Us, I did strangely find I could purchase it from the necromancer at the secret lab. I wonder if that was intentional.
How did you get Lucius new spell without a mustache?
I also took a detour to drop off the honey for the protector's guild. The contract I received was given to Fen Ho. He told me about the Ring of Will in exchange. A ring I already recovered. There was an additional hint in the form of a piece of paper that told me about 8 stumps and 8 patches of grass to remove them from the maze. In any case, a wholly unnecessary side quest that still netted me some needed experience. I hope the other quests cover their bases as much. I still haven't been able to get anywhere with Doggania.
I even tried bribing the guards... they attacked immediately after this
The above message flashed for only a single frame. Dialogue triggered right before combat doesn't have the proper wait command. I ended up killing the guard and the regent (as well as another guard and a maid) as I moved about the castle after this incident. I gained access to the king, although he was as enraged as everyone else. Who knew one simple bribe would turn so quickly. I camped for many nights until the past transgressions eased away from everyone's minds. Speaking to the king face to face, he quested Milk of Youth. I can't believe the regent wasn't lying about that item. In any case, I reloaded so I removed all trace of this, but I thought I'd point out how odd the game reacts to killing NPCs. As far as I can tell, they remain dead permanently.
Well, at least I confirmed the regent was/is evil
Back to the quests I could do something about. I took the gems out to the cave of perfection, and with the help of Fezzik we unlocked the ring of perfection. Unsurprisingly, he then attacked me for the it. This was the easiest battle I've had all game thanks to the spell Mesmer, which is exactly like Confuse except it affects one or more enemies. In this case it stunned four out of six of the enemy party.
Perfctin is not this game, but it's still fun
After this ring I picked up Bile in the Necropolis. The Raise spell was what the guardian was looking for and he disappeared after its use, but not before he warned me the tomb was not fit for mortals. Seemed my party's health was continuously drained while inside.  While exploring I found I needed to camp out a few times to get my mana back. There were many zombies, but one particular battle caused the game to immediately end. I'm not sure if it really was this one battle, or some kind of hidden random event.
Most battles are over in that time
The Ring of Bile was found on a sarcophagus with no additional battles beyond solo zombies. It was a bit of a disappointment, but during my second exploration of the tomb I found that if I used Mana or Balm goods, my MP or HP were completely refilled. Balm was purchased at the Protectors Guild, and I'm glad to have purchased 99 of them.
I was expecting to face off with zombie Pain
The very last simple task to complete was the return of the crystal ball to the woman behind the waterfall. I didn't expect to get the Ring of Calling straight away, but that's what happened. She alluded to great forces aligned against each other and choices to make. At the end of this short speech she handed over the ring.
Finally! I have a calling, a purpose...
After I had this ring in my possession I realized I was a bit short on hints for the other rings. Scrambling for the next step I returned to Richi, and was once again directed to Cathedral. I realized I hadn't been able to get anywhere with the paladins there, and returned to question each one. Either I missed him on the first go around, or I triggered an event, but a paladin told me about a document on the rings inside the locked chest. The key was taken during a raid by Sparta. The Spartans kept it guarded. It might be tricky to retrieve it.
This was more of a suggestion as I just walked in and picked up the key
Looking over this post now, I've realized I should have made one for each night of play. There's just so much to report on because random battles take up so little of the actual game. I'm now down to the rings of Division (unsure on my next step, maybe visit Sarah, maybe she has the milk of youth), Advancing (I have a feeling the document I find in the paladins will lead somewhere with this), Intuition (I need to find that map a thief stole, an orb in snow, and a key from a friend who vanished--I received a random dove to assist me), Blood (with the Power Lord, I need to find a place to purchase a dragon), and Mutation (a ring which turned into a person and is now hiding... somewhere, no other clues). I'm most worried about the ring of Mutation.
I've tried to show them to priests, but they weren't interested in any of them
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