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About the Story
Alaric Blackmoon and King Kelson travel to the Great Sand Sea to investigate stories that Xixon lizardmen have reappeared.
9th Place, Classic - ParserComp 2023
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 2
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This game was pretty fun; it honestly felt like an old AD&D campaign module. You have a magic user and a warrior with an enchanted blade, you have to buy equipment like rations, there's a miniquest in the middle with a mysterious city, then a couple of dungeons and a big scaly boss.
The idea is that you are on a quest to exterminate some rampaging lizard men. You have to travel through a long desert to do that. Also, along the way, you have to play both characters. This has a few slight drawbacks (mostly making it harder to save) but feels very dynamic, especially when infiltrating the city, and makes the game more enjoyable.
There is some randomized combat in places (so saving often is very useful).
In general the game seemed pretty fair; there were places where I had to reload a save to grab an item but each 'area' seemed mostly self-contained.
I did struggle with the parser from time to time; for me the hardest parts were the gate doors (Spoiler - click to show)I tried LOOK IN PORT, OPEN PORT, SEARCH PORT, PEEK IN PORT, etc. before the game suggested LOOK THROUGH PORT. Occasionally the game would say I hadn't done stuff that I actually had done; in those cases I reloaded the beginning of the area and ran through it again.
Overall, it was a big game, and one I can only recommend to someone with patience and the time to try and retry. But it was fun, and I would recommend it to such a person.
This is one of three ParserComp entries by the author, which is the kind of work ethic that I feel like I can’t directly comment on without being consumed by jealousy. Each is an old-school ADRIFT puzzler, of various flavors – here, we’ve got another installment in the author’s long-running Alaric Blackmoon series of fantasy games. While there’s some continuity with earlier entries, with references to previous adventure sprinkled throughout the opening, XXR (you’d better believe I’m not typing that title again) seems to work quite well as a standalone, with a straightforward and engaging premise: there are rumors of monsters on the periphery, so you and your buddy the king need to cross a desert to check things out.
I’ve played some of those earlier games, but never to completion, and I was hoping this would be the one to break the streak – but alas, it was not to be. All of them have a fine-grained style that require the player to spell out exactly what they’re doing, step by step, rather than bottom line their actions. On the positive side, this contributes to a pleasant sense of immersion; I enjoyed the low-key opening section, where you need to barter for camels and equipment for your desert trip. Sure it’s a little fiddly to have to buy the transportation but then visit separate vendors to get saddlebags and tackle, then purchase clothes appropriate to the desert heat, but it helps sell the reality of the world, and establish that the player characters – you can swap between Alaric and the king whenever you like – are going to be fish out of water (er) on their trip.
On the downside, though, this granularity combined with some of the foibles of the ADRIFT parser to make the puzzles even harder than I think they’re intended to be. The first major section of gameplay involves exploring a ruined city where you’ve taken shelter from a sandstorm, which ultimately requires using an abandoned metallurgical workshop to duplicate a key. While it wasn’t too tough to figure out what I was supposed to do in general terms, each step involved wrestling with the parser. A key item can be found in the debris lying around the place, but SEARCH doesn’t reveal it – instead, you need to CLEAN WORKSHOP (I feel like cleaning abandoned workshops is right up there with cleaning a rental car in the implausibility sweepstakes). Similarly, getting water into the quenching trough is a bit of a struggle:
"> FILL TROUGH WITH WATERSKIN
You cannot fill anything with the water skin.
> FILL TROUGH WITH WATER
You pour some water into the trough from your water skin."
So I was able to make some progress, and found some intriguing secrets in the city, but eventually my progress petered out; the game does include context-specific hints, but through some combination of the system seeming to get confused with a different puzzle and/or me being too thick to figure out what I was missing, it couldn’t get me on track. This is a shame since I did enjoy aspects of the world, but between wrestling with the parser and the punishing puzzles – as well as an annoying quirk of ADRIFT that meant that I couldn’t reload the game when I died while playing as the king – I wasn’t too sad to wash my hands of it. Besides, even just in this Comp I’ll have two more chances to finally get through one of Horsfield’s games!
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"We need to save the kingdom! But...where is the kingdom? What are its bounds? Can history be distilled? Why do ghosts feign friendliness? We will make a quest of questions!" [--blurb from Competition Aught-One]
|Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder|
Average member rating: (16 ratings)
An anthology of terror, edited by Ryan Veeder. Also an ECTOCOMP 2018 entry.