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About the Story
"It used to be said that there are two kinds of magic-user: those who have been to Tolti-Aph, and charlatans. It used to be generally understood that the attempt to prove oneself in the unforgiving society of Tolti-Aph was a bid for rapid level advancement or else romantic, thin-young-mage-in-midnight-black-robes death. The closer you get to the wilderness island vaguely marked 'Tholtaff' on the agate globe in your great-great-grandfather's study, the better the alternative sounds: settling down in some coastal village, perhaps, a little weathermongering, some polymancy, and helping out with the nets after a bad storm. Retire at maybe level 3, with most of your experience points gained from observing rare fish-based poisons carry off those villagers careless about gutting. Publish an awesomely tedious monograph on the correct usage of the 'untangle rigging' spell. You know, the good life."
The Reliques of Tolti-Aph is the latest game by Graham Nelson, written to showcase some of the new features of Inform 7. It is not traditional IF, rather an RPG with IF elements. It implements a modified D&D engine referred to as Woodpulp & Wyverns (W&W). The implementation of the engine is impressive, but the gameplay itself falls a little short: it fails to adhere to its own conventions and several of the puzzles have unconventional solutions. (Thank goodness for David Welbourn's walkthrough!) It's not balanced, it's not fair, and it can be very frustrating for the player. Play at your own risk!
-- Dark Star
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The combat system that is at the heart of the game is pretty cringe worthy. I'm a big fan of RPG on the whole - Baldurï¿½s Game II and Diablo II and Morrowind - but the combat system here is lame. There's not even a proper combat system as such because all that seems to happen is that someone attacks you and you just bang the RETURN key a few times until the combat is over. Exciting it isnï¿½t. During the first combat in the game, between myself and a harpy, I tried doing things like ATTACK HARPY or KILL HARPY only to be told that I couldnï¿½t because I was already in combat. Ho hum. My opinion of the game, already low, sunk a bit further.
-- David Whyld
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Craft In Practice: a detailed game-design analysis of The Reliques of Tolti-Aph
I realize that tastes differ and people like different stuff in IF and all that, but I think that The Reliques of Tolti-Aph is a very, very bad game. Unlike most bad games, it has a perfectly serviceable premise and setting and so on, and of course Graham Nelson is a fine writer. But the actual game design is ghastly.
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The Reliques of Tolti-Aph has been given very negative reviews. Reviewers almost invariably tell us that it is a game with unfair puzzles, too much random death and even--gasp--a huge maze; and therefore, frustrating and not fun. Although I would hesitate to call The Reliques of Tolti-Aph a good game, I believe it is charming and fun, but to enjoy it, you need to be in the right mindset.
What mindset is that? The same mindset which you need to appreciate the first edition Dungeon & Dragons scenario's. These scenario's are often insanely difficult and grossly unfair, so your character is almost certain to die. But, hey, rolling up a new character is a matter of 60 seconds, and with your new-found knowledge that behind the second door on the left is a monster that deals 8d10 damage as soon as you enter its domain, you might actually have a chance of finding the fabled gem! And who knows, perhaps you'll manage find out what that magical staff does without losing more than 4 ability points?
This game is unfair. You will die random deaths. So sit back and relax: rolling a new character (so to speak) is not just allowed, it is expected. Enjoy the ride! You will not survive your first play-through of The Reliques of Tolti-Aph. You will not survive the second or the third or even the tenth. But getting further each time is fun; the puzzles actually have solutions (and you can always peek behind the GMs screen, that is, consult a walkthrough); the locations are well-thought out and well-described; and the maze is very cool indeed.
The only places where I feel the GM (that is, Graham Nelson) went beyond the bounds of fair play is with the stone you absentmindedly picked up and the two spells you learn from the gods. Those should have been described in a more explicit manner. The GM shouldn't write on my character sheet when I'm not looking!
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