Monday, August 7, 2017

The Eternal Dagger: Already Got It

My party explores the dungeon where they ultimately achieved the Eternal Dagger.
The Eternal Dagger is a larger game than Wizard's Crown, but it seems structured the same way: there are a comparatively small number of dungeons to explore, but each has a couple of nasty encounters, and you have to do a lot of grinding to survive those encounters. The difference is that while Crown had you running around a lot, trying to find fights, Dagger ensures grinding by tossing a combat at you practically every step. Late in this session, I walked from Koruy in the northeast of the Elven Island to the town of Lotharia in the southeast. It was a total of 47 steps, and there were combats in 19 of them.
Very slowly crossing the large island.
The sense of character progression remains quite strong in this sequel. Every 10 combats or so, I have the near-maximum number of experience points and can take a quick session to upgrade a combination of skills and attributes. Every few combats, I find a weapon, piece of armor, shield, or accessory that improves upon something I'm already carrying. I stuff anything else valuable into my backpacks, and upon return to town, sell my loot for enough gold to enchant a few pieces of equipment to higher levels. The results in combat are quite palpable.
Enchantment? Enchantment!
The game's approach to storytelling alas remains weak. I've gathered from the experience so far that there will be at least three islands: the starting island, the Elven Island (on currently), and the Dwarven Island (to which I can buy passage from the Elven Island towns). But the game offers no information as to what's happening on these islands and how the various factions interrelate. I gather that the elves are legitimate rulers of the Elven Island and are being harried by the dark forces, but that doesn't explain why parties of elves attacked my characters during their explorations. Are they working for the enemy or did they just assume that I was?
And what is the story here?
At some point, I encountered a princess, but I wasn't sure what she was the princess of. A key NPC is called Waddling Turtle, and I'm not sure if he's a person or an actual turtle. (His icon looks like a person, but he's surrounded by turtles.) It's these sorts of oddities that a better game would weave into a sensible plot.

Elven Island is about 3 times as big as the starting island, so fairly early I gave up on the idea of searching every square--especially after it seemed that the first couple of dungeons had visible icons. Later, I discovered that not all do, but you can get clues from NPCs in taverns about where the other dungeons are.
One of the "tavern tales" you get while resting in the inn.
Among my explorations, I found 4 dungeons and 2 temples on the island; there's at least one more that I haven't found yet. You have to hit them in the right order, but I didn't find them in the right order, leading to some blocked progression at various points.
Ultimately, I had to first find "Magoomba, the tree who walks like a man," in an unmarked dungeon in the southern part of the island. Killing him and his walking tree allies got me something called the Living Dagger, but it only happened after a lot of grinding. The battle was particularly impossible to win in tactical combat, because the encounter triggers at the mouth of Magoomba's room, at the end of a narrow passage, so all your characters start in a line outside the room, jammed up behind each other. It's several rounds before they can all act freely--rounds in which Magoomba's allies are casting mass damage spells. (I didn't take screenshots of any of this because for a few hours, I forgot I was in AppleWin, not DOSBox, and my CTRL-F5s weren't accomplishing anything. This guy's video demonstrates the situation nicely, though.) I ultimately won through "quick combat" because I found the tactical combat on this one too frustrating.
My victory against Magoomba was of the Pyrrhic variety.
Next up was the Waddling Turtle, who gave me a quest to rescue "the princess" from "the ruins of Koruy" in the northeast. This is way on the other side of the map. The journey to the area, with all the combats on the way, drained my priests' karma quickly, and I arrived with few resources and backpacks stuffed with goods for sale. Thus, I was devastated to find that there's no actual town at Koruy, just the dungeon. (I guess the word "ruins" should have been a clue.)
Forgive me for doubting the effectiveness of turtles as guards.
Fortunately, there were at least a couple of nearby temples where I could recharge my karma. Both of them also offered some backstory. In the first, I learned of the "ancient demon wars," when an evil army invaded through portals opened by careless wizards. The wars were only ended when a hero named Elharra "passed through the doors and closed them from the other side"--clearly foreshadowing what my party will have to do. In the second temple, an abbess told me that only a "special weapon, enchanted by one of the lineage of Elharra, can turn back the invaders," and that the Princess Rainbow (this is the first time she was named), held in Koruy, was the last of Elharra's line.
Into Koruy I ventured. It was a one-level dungeon of large rooms, so not too hard to navigate. The hardest part was learning about this game's approach to secret doors. In Wizard's Crown, you had to search the walls for them, but here, you just walk along the wall and note for places in which the compass indicates you can move through the wall.
Okay, this shtick is getting a bit old.
There were lots of battles with "dragonmen" and one actual dragon. There were numerous chests, but most of them were trapped and hardly any had anything worth taking.
This game's dungeons don't reward you for exploration. You want to get in, find your objective, and get out.
Ultimately, I had to find a skeleton key in one room and use it to free the princess from a skull cage. In return, she enchanted my "Living Dagger," turning it into . . . drumroll . . . The Eternal Dagger. She told me to return to the Waddling Turtle, who could tell me how to get to the sunken city of Enolho, "where the passage between worlds begins."
The Apple II was capable of lower-case letters, right?
The Eternal Dagger, incidentally, isn't much of a weapon. It does far less damage than the other daggers in my possession. The enchanters in each town will upgrade it, but I'm afraid if I do that, I'll screw up its artifact status and it won't work when I need it.
Sure, the "holy" damage is nice, but my +4 flaming dagger does the same weapon damage plus adds 32 points to my "close combat" skill.
When I returned to Waddling Turtle, he congratulated me and gave me a map to take to Gray Eagle, who can in return take me to Enolho (or Enolhe; the game uses both spellings). But he warned that I would need the Eternal Dagger and "water-breathing helms" first, and I definitely don't have the latter. I also have no idea where to find this Gray Eagle, but one of the "tavern tales" mentioned an eagle aerie somewhere on the west coast.

If I didn't know better, I'd think the game was nearing the end, given that I found the titular dagger and my next quest stop seems to be the dungeon with the portal to the enemy's world. Also, my characters are heavily developed, with most of their primary skills nearing the 500 maximum and their strength, dexterity, and life points significantly upgraded. However, I know there are at least two dungeons on the Elven Island left to explore, plus an entire Dwarven Island (tavern tales suggest the dwarves are money-grubbing and dealing with the enemy), so perhaps there's a lot more to go.

Some miscellaneous notes:

  • I had to channel a lot of points into "Cure Disease." I arrived in the game with virtually none, since it wasn't used in Crown, and you need at least 250 points to have a decent chance of curing the diseases that half the combats seem to leave my characters with. "Diseased" characters are permanently fatigued and don't recover hit points with rest. The condition wears off after a few days, fortunately.
  • I still don't understand the resting mechanic. The game forces me to camp every night, and the ensuing rest does seem to reduce some of my fatigue, but not enough. Every once in a while, you have to spend 24 hours doing nothing but resting. I wish the game had picked one or the other--either force me to manually rest or have the automatic resting cure everything. Both is just annoying.
  • As I mentioned in Wizard's Crown, this series is just screaming for a "fix" button that automatically heals everyone, much like the Gold Box games. After every combat, I have to go through a long process of curing disease and poison, stopping bleeding, and treating injuries.
  • Continuing on that theme, it took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize that each level of prayer also does everything in the levels below it. Thus, "heal normal injuries" also "stops normal bleeding." "Heal all injuries" stops normal and serious bleeding and heals normal injuries. "Restore life forces" heals everything except death.
The different healing levels. Each new level also performs the healing of the previous levels.
  • I've also been neglecting the "First Aid" capabilities of my ranger despite pouring a lot of points into it. In the first game, I noted that it didn't do much more than stop bleeding. It was a way to make sure that at least my characters didn't die when I ran out of karma. More recently, I realized that with more points invested in it, it has a decent chance of healing normal injuries, too, meaning that I can save karma for serious injuries only.
  • Each character can only carry 255 experience points, so I have to remind myself to stop and run through character improvements every 8-10 combats. Otherwise, additional experience is wasted.
  • Enchanting works differently in this game than in Crown. First, you can turn non-magic items into magic ones through enchantment. However, enchantment only adds "+" levels to the weapons and armor; it doesn't raise a "flaming" sword to a "storm" sword like the last game did. You have to find weapons with those types of enchantments already on them.
  • If you try to surrender to animals, the game says that they "don't understand the concept." That makes sense.
I realized that in my Wizard's Crown re-visit, I didn't recap the tactical combat very well, so I'll devote the next Dagger posting to it. Dagger offers some more incentives for engaging in it, including powerful wands and potions that you can't otherwise use.

Time so far: 17 hours


  1. Forgive me for doubting the effectiveness of turtles as guards.

    Perhaps they are of the ninja variety?

    The Apple II was capable of lower-case letters, right?

    Yes and no. There were ways of coaxing them out, but not stock out of the box:

    1. Later models such as the Apple IIe had them... but, obviously, there was no way to add them retroactively to pre-IIe games. Same thing with 80-column text.

    2. They might be clutch turtles: "Eight-foot high and bottle green, the room's soft light waking gleams of malachite and cobalt among the tiles of his magnificent shell. Eyes as big as dinner plates, yellow and slitted, like a cat's, four hundred pounds, if he weighed an ounce."

  2. Regarding "empty except for", maybe they are preparing for "room is full of orcs. Without warning, they both attack." Ohohoho.

  3. I thought there was a point in the game where the elves became your friends, but I may be remembering incorrectly.

    I remember upgrading The Eternal Dagger to +6 with no issues, but I understand why you would be wary to upgrade it. I did rarely use it since I was wielding it with a priest/wizard and that character usually had better things to do than to wield a dagger.

  4. As you suspect, there's a bit more to do before you can head to the demon world. I don't think there was that much to do on the dwarven isle though.

  5. Was that a Dragon Age reference in that second screenshot caption?


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