Saturday 14 January 2023

Roadwarden: So You Want To Be A Hero?

I watched someone stream a bit of Roadwarden, because at first I wasn't sure if I was gonna like it or not. There are very limited graphics, just some small, pixel-art for locations and items, things like that. Most of the game is essentially a text adventure. It didn't take me long to want to buy the game and play it myself.

There's a real charm to this game, and it really captures that RPG-style Choose-Your-Own-Adventure thing. There were these "Fighting Fantasy" books I read as a kid that were kinda like that, like a small adventure, usually in that case there were a bunch of ways you could fail but only really one way to progress all the way to the end.

With Roadwarden, there are three different classes to pick from, each with slightly different equipment and abilities. The minor differences are what sets them apart, giving you a potential option to get past tricky situations. The fighter can use some brute force, the mage can use some basic magic, and the alchemist can read stuff (actually quite important!) as well as make potions.

For my playthrough I picked the mage, as I usually do with RPG style games. I keep saying "RPG style", because the game isn't really much of an RPG, there are quite limited stats and stuff, but what stats, items and character development it does have are super important. Your health, your appearance, your hunger, how much money you have, how much time you have, all this can make a big difference to the choices you want to make or may be able to make.

You also fill in some of your backstory as you progress through the game, when characters ask about you sometimes you'll be given an option to say where you're from, what colour your horse is, or other small details that help your character become your own. There may only be small changes between all of these options, but it really does help for me to be able to inhabit a character as I play.

The Roadwarden of the title is you, and you are tasked with investigating this northern peninsula on behalf of the merchant's guild. The wealthy merchants are from a big city further south, and are looking to expand trade to new areas. The game takes place in a wild corner of the world where people have settled, but they are far from the domain of the cities that the merchants represent, and far from the potential prosperity they might bring.

Alongside this you have a personal goal, do you want to be a hero? become rich? there are a few choices here, and your actions as part of the game will determine if you achieve your goal. I'm not entirely sure I picked a good option, but it was the one my heart desired, and basically in any game like this all I want to do is go around and help people, and so I tried to do so.

Early in the game you'll meet some friendly folks, soldiers from the pass into the peninsula will give you a brief overview of the troubles in the area, and potential risks you might face. This also provides a little tutorial to explain how the basics of the game work. After that first night, you kind of are on your own, free to move in almost any direction from the start. You can take the advice of the soldiers, or completely ignore it.

The game is very good to provide plenty of autosaves, the ability to quicksave, and tons of other save slots, so don't worry about making a short term bad decision, as you can always go back and retry an encounter. Longer term stuff on the other hand... well, if you pick the normal setting at start you get 40 days to complete all your tasks and return to the merchants with your findings. I really found I could do with some extra time by the end, there's just so much packed into this little game! If you're interested in that, you can either choose the unlimited time option at start (also makes some other things slightly easier), or use a console command to just increase the time limit.

In my little adventure I managed to help quite a lot of people around the peninsula, and meet so many wonderful characters. I also managed to seriously piss off three groups of people, to the point where in a couple of cases they threatened to kill me if they ever saw me again. I'm sure there were things I probably could have done to improve situations, but sometimes it does feel like you have to make a hard choice and pick a side. Not everything in the game is an easy choice, but that really makes the impact of those choices stronger.

Early on, by staying on the safer western path, I found a destroyed village. Uncovering its secrets took a long time, winning the trust of many people to uncover the truth. In the end I wanted to make a really tough choice but it didn't exactly go the way I'd hoped. To contrast with that, there was another village on the other side of the map who I kinda wish I could have just stayed with at the end of the game and continued to help them, as they sought to build and improve their small village into a larger and more sustainable place. The writing is so evocative, the music beautiful and the characters so memorable that I couldn't stop thinking about it.

While my playthrough had some great highs, such as dealing with a plague and some undead, it also had some more melancholic lows, especially towards the end of the game. As much as I felt my character had done real good here, in the after game text (similar to what you get in the Fallout games) my character seemingly tried to go on one adventure too many and ended up dying out in the wilderness. I know there are a lot of variations here, depending on what you say to people during your adventures and what state the peninsula is in when you leave. I really enjoy when a game gives you that little bit of post-game text to let you know the consequences of your actions.

I would definitely recommend this game, it really hit the mark for me (melancholy ending aside!). It's really cheap on Steam (I got it for £6.21 in the January sale), and gives you a bit of replayability with the choices you make. I also really like that there is an unlimited time mode for those that get very anxious about tough time limits!

Saturday 11 May 2019

Snail Trek (2017-18)

From the opening title, I could tell where this game took at least a certain amount of inspiration. Snail Trek immediately made me think of Space Quest, in the best possible way. Aside from the immediate graphical similarities, it also has it's own quirky and humorous sci-fi setting. But no plucky janitor here, instead you control a team of snails desperately trying to find a new home, with plenty of fresh lettuce.

While it's definitely reminiscent of old Sierra text-parser games, the interface does include an autocomplete option to help out, as well as having a "Maniac Mansion"-style ability to swap between two or more characters. The game is made up of four episodes, which don't take very long to complete. This provides some short, enjoyable experiences that don't outstay their welcome. I think I completed the first three parts in about an hour or so, but the last part was a bit trickier!

The first episode starts on your spaceship, as you wake from hypersleep to find that the Captain is dead and there's a planet on the scanners that looks positively bountiful with lettuce! Your task then, is to investigate what happened on your ship, and then try and find a place to land so that you can confirm the lettuce planet is habitable.

After this, the adventure truly begins, and each chapter has new and inventive puzzles to solve. Having to switch between the different characters is key, and generally the puzzles are well constructed and with some hints provided for what you should be doing next.

This being a Sierra-style adventure, death is often around every corner, but do not worry! In addition to the relatively short length of these chapters, they also have a good auto-save and I have not found any situations where I got into an unwinnable situation. I would highly recommend trying the first chapter, which is free, and the rest of the game is very cheap too.

I'd also like to thank Mumbles who covered this game as part of her podcast, where she discussed Loom and various other adventure games:

Saturday 10 November 2018

Donut County: A Hole Lotta Fun

Donut County is a game about donuts, raccoons, trash and holes. Nothing more to say except go play it now!

I love its sense of humour, and who doesn't like creating a hole that destroys stuff?

And it has a big Trashopedia of all the stuff you... collect?

Friday 3 August 2018

The Adventure Gamer: Reviewing Alone in the Dark (1992)

Apologies for the lack of updates here for a while, I'll try and add a few posts here over the coming weeks.

For now though, I've been working on a playthrough and review of the classic 1992 survival-horror adventure Alone in the Dark for The Adventure Gamer.

Catch all the updates starting with the Introduction post here:

It's a game which I have played a few times, but not for quite a few years, so I wonder how fondly I will feel about it after playing it again. At the moment I feel very positive about it but I've only played the very start.

It was an amazing experience to play back in the early 90s (I think I probably didn't play it in 1992, more likely in 93? can't really remember though!). Proper 3D polygonal characters, orchestral soundtrack and voice-overs (mostly from the CD-ROM version).

I have both a boxed version of the Alone in the Dark trilogy, and own the games on (which is the cheapest way to get a hold of these games if you feel like playing along).

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Quest for Glory 3: It's A Kind Of Magic

There's a point in every Wizard's life, that they really want to get their hands on a nice bit of magic wood. I'm no exception, and previously I had been told by a sparkly orb that I needed to go find a special flower in the jungle. It's time to head further east, towards the darkness and the danger.

I wandered for a while in the jungle, a few fights against flying snakes and some sort of prehistoric hominid slowing me down a little. It didn't take me too long to find the flower, this azure orchid was growing up high in the trees, but any Wizard without a "fetch" to hand is a poor magician indeed. First part down, I needed to get out of here and back to the Pool of Peace.

Stopping me before I could leave though was a trapped creature, upon inspection, a monkey. The poor thing looked pretty scared so I sprung him out and he thanked me. I guess a talking monkey shouldn't be too surprising in this magical, mysterious and magnificent world, so I took it all in my stride.

Greeting the monkey, he told me his name was Manu and he thanked me for freeing him. It seems he lives in the jungle and prefers to hide out of sight, up a height, where the monsters can't see or eat him. Lured down by tasty fruit he was trapped, until I chanced upon him. I guess it's his lucky day! With a brief chat out of the way, we parted company and I made my way back west.

The flower needed dipping in the pool of peace under the light of a full moon, and it also allowed me to refill my waterskins. Hero business is thirsty work, after all. Wandering back to the tree took me a little while thanks to some pesky wildlife, but once I'd thinned out the local fauna I finally got my hands on a staff!

Well, not quite, as it would need a special ritual first. So, time to head all the way back to Tarna (my feet hurt, does anyone else's feet hurt?). A little detour via the Simbani village brought a new challenge, it turns out they'd captured a Leopardperson, and to cut a long story short, this new furry friend turned out to be a rather upset Leopardwoman. It's amazing what a dispel potion can do, isn't it? To try and dispel her displeasure, I figured I'd need to release her from captivity.

Easier said than done, as I'd need to buy her as a wife. Not an ideal situation, but it would at least only be a temporary one. As a fellow magic user, perhaps she'd lead me to her people if I didn't come across as a total creep. The bride price was high, and I'd need to head back to Tarna's market to get what I needed. Good thing I was heading that way anyway.

The rest of the journey was relatively incident free, save for a visit by an particularly talkative aardvark. Given the rest of what I've seen so far, such things are a normal part of life now, so I sat around the campfire and traded some stories. He gave me a few hints about what I might find further into the jungle, and we parted ways as I wanted to sleep, and he wanted to go catch some more giant ants.

After that, Tarna beckoned to me. It's grand architecture was a pleasant sight, and I made my way to Kreesha's house to get my staff ritual sorted. She had everything prepared, and in the ritual I had to bind all of my spells to the staff. All except the Trigger spell, which could trigger a release of magical energy that would be severely hazardous to the health of anyone in the vicinity.

Now I truly feel like a Wizard worthy of the name, and nothing can get in my way! Well, except for needing a lot more money to buy all these bridal gifts. A fine spear, fine robes and zebra skins are required, and I can't quite afford them all. Guess I should have stored up more cash from Shapeir.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Quest for Glory 3: Around Eastern Fricana in 8 days

Travel is a huge part of this game, with places to visit spread across vast swathes of savanna and jungle. Each area has locations of interest, but often there's not a huge amount to do there. I found myself having to backtrack a bit for some quests.

With the quest for peace on the back burner, I began by exploring the local surroundings and trying to find the ingredients I needed for Salim, and the gem I needed to be judged by Sekmet. I'd already got the feather from the honey bird on my way here, so I could at least get more healing pills when I got back to Tarna.

The other ingredients were needed for dispel potions: something that will surely come in handy as I had found out in my previous adventures in Spielburg and Shapeir. Three items were on my list: Fruit from the Venomous Vines; Water from the Pool of Peace and a Gift from the Heart of the World.

The vines were easy enough for a magic user, a quick "fetch" and a fruit was in my possession. I returned a little later for a bonus gift, aiding a young meerbat that got caught by the vines. In return for my help, a fruit and a fire opal - an extra fruit was unnecessary, and I'm not sure I can remember what the opal is for, but helping others is a hero's job.

Next up was the Pool of Peace, which I'd already visited. The waters refill your stamina, so it's always worth stocking up (and thankfully I'd remembered to buy extra waterskins at the Tarna bazaar. The peacefulness was surely magical, as a quick "detect magic" proved. Erana's symbol appeared shimmering, a reminder that other heroes exist.

Finally it was time to take a trip to a tree so big it looks like it could hold up the sky. This vast vision of vertical vegetation was easy to spot from the map, and like the Pool of Peace it was tranquil and safe. I made my way up into it's branches, to meet the Guardian, a sparkling orb of light not entirely dissimilar from ones found in a certain cavern in Kyrandia.

The Guardian could sense I spoke the truth when I sought peace, and aided me not only by creating a gem for use in my upcoming judgement, but also told me how to get the Gift from the Heart of the World but also how I might be able to get some magic wood for a Wizard's Staff. Further up the tree is a bright glade withing the tree, and on a platform in the centre I poured out some water from the pool of peace to gain my gift.

No time to wait around, it's time to go back to Tarna. It's a long way to walk though, so a little rest at the Simbani village was called for. While there, I played some Awari with Yesufu, threw spears with Uhura and spoke with the Storyteller. The storyteller is a great character, and works well in the game to highlight parts of the story and certain characters.

From there, it's a long trip back to the big city, and one that seemed to be constantly hampered by attacks from dinosaurs and giant ants. I'm not fond of the combat at all, and while in the previous two games a good wizard could kill things from afar, here the need to constantly re-select the spell you're using means you can usually only get three or four attacks in before they close in on you. My spell skills with Force Bolt and Flame Dart are well over 200 by now, but they don't do nearly enough damage (or maybe I'm missing? It's a little hard to tell).

Anyway, after a brief visit with Salim to get the potion-making underway, I decide it's time to be judged. This sequence, which is reminiscent of the fortune telling sequence that begins some of the Ultima games (another favourite series of mine), asks you to pick from a bunch of symbols and answer questions vaguely relating to them. It's a fun little part of the game, but not quite as involved as I'd like. If I were remaking this, I'd probably have this whole sequence be a dream sequence referencing the previous games and involving old and current characters, and rather than simple questions actually have control of your character in a new location with some puzzles to solve.

Finally to finish the day, I spend a little time at the inn in the evening, chatting with the survivor of the peace mission. He seems in a pretty bad way, so I try not to question him too hard. After hearing his terrifying tale, I decide to go find my old buddy Honourless Harami. He's in a bad way, finding out that not only is he stuck in the city but nobody will even so much as acknowledge his existence. I offer him some food and a little chat, and while he still thinks you should only look out for number one, he seems to be pretty remorseful (although this method of punishment seems very harsh when you consider that he's unable to find work, get food or find a safe place to sleep).

Next time: Try and make a magic staff, and explore the jungle!

Saturday 28 April 2018

Quest For Glory 3: Liaison with the Laibon

Last time we had barely made it into the city of Tarna and had only just begun to take a look around. There's so many people to meet and so little time before I have to make the journey to the Simbani village to the east. The city is comprised of three sections: the upper with the temple, throne room and council chambers; the middle with the inn, the apothecary and Kreesha's house; the lower level has the market.

The conversations with the citizens of Tarna mainly lead me to more quests, after all being on a quest for peace is not enough to keep a true hero busy. The trip to the Temple leads to a call for judgement, but that requires a Gem of the Guardian. The Apothecary needs reagents to help me out, but at least the inn is a place of calm to which I can retreat at night.

The only other place to venture is to the market, but to actually buy anything I'll need to get my money changed. Trouble is, there's a hold-up going on! The thief tries to run off, but a quick "Calm" gets him to stop. Isn't being a Wizard useful? Of course the Liontaur guards are less than pleased about my use of magic, even if they do appreciate my help in apprehending the thief.

A quick trial leaves the thief, Harami, "Honorless". This seems like an easy deal to him, and I get told to keep my magic using to authorised locations (or outside the city). Such minor heroics can't get in the way of a shopping trip, so I return to the marketplace to get some local currency and meet the various traders.

One pair that attracts attention to themselves are the junk dealers, a comedic duo from whom you can buy a tinderbox. Their double-act is a reference to Sandford & Son, a U.S. sitcom itself based on a UK one called Steptoe & Son. I can't hang around with these two jokers, so I also help myself to some food, some beads, and some extra waterskins. Of special extra note is the honey seller, who gives me a hint on how to acquire the feather needed for healing pills, and the Katta woodcarver.

This Katta is related to Shema, one of my Katta friends from the previous two games. Talking to him about Shapeir and giving him a letter from Shema gets me a free leopard carving. I'm sure this will come in handy in future. After giving a few coins to the drummer, I decide to take a bit of time to practice my magic in an appropriate location.

A little trip out of the city helps, and I begin to see the sort of fauna I'll have to deal with during my stay. Giant Ants, Dinosaurs... how much worse can it get? What's worse, neither of these carries anything of value. At least I'm honing my skills (slowly), and thanks to importing my character from a previous game I pack a lot of a punch.

I can't tarry too long, because I have to meet the council and talk about war and peace. After a good nights sleep, I stand before the council and pledge my honour to bring peace to this land. What sort of a hero would I be if I didn't? And with that, our whistle-stop tour heads to the Simbani. The trip takes the best part of two days, with Rakeesh telling me about being a Paladin, and warning me again about my use of magic. It seems everyone here apart from the Leopardmen hates magic, and they're considered enemy number one.

The Simbani have set up a village in the plains for the dry season, but fear the Leopardmen hiding in the jungles to the east. After a quick chat with Uhura, we have a little chat with the Laibon. The ruler of the Simbani has had enough of peace, and is quick to talk about war. He talks about how the Spear of Death has been stolen, and how the Leopardmen can't be trusted. Nothing I say makes much of an impression. It seems actions will have to speak louder than words.

After a grand meal, a final chat with Uhura and Rakeesh, I sleep for the night. In the morning, Rakeesh has gone back to Tarna, and left me seemingly in charge. Well, this isn't my first rodeo, and I know with a little exploration and persistence I'll be unlocking all the secrets this land has to hold, and bring a little peace to the party.