Currently playing: The incredible adventures of Van Helsing, Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession

April 25, 2017

Ravenloft: Strahd´s Possession - Promising

With this post I feel things are coming together with the game. Its true self are slowly showned and the more I see the more I like it. It sure have its irksome interface but I am slowly getting used to it and it works better and better.

I never gave up the Caverns west of Barovia. I just had to methodically write notes on the map and to find all teleporters and hidden doors. The graphics is so pixelated in large screen that it is hard to see what things really are. To find a hidden button is very hard and easy to miss. To find a secret passage is even harder. I have now started to strafe myself against the walls and have found several hidden doors that way. This cavern requires you to find four jade keys to open four special doors in order to proceed. I got stuck from time to time and to get myself going again I had to get some hints from an online map that pointed out something I had forgotten or missed totally. Like a secret door. That was the only way for me to proceed. It also turns out that I had to go back and recruit the priest in the entrance of the caves because she is the only one to open one of the last doors in this cavern.


My new system of just clicking on the enemies instead of my characters weapons have made combat much easier. The cavern was inhabited by skeletons and the occasional bone golem. Those golems are pretty tough but not with some magic missiles. I find that magic missiles feels quite overpowered. Most of the tougher enemies in the game could be taken out with only one missile if you´re lucky and at most two or three hits.

The cave hid some interesting stuff like some wands and a few magical weapons. At that time I didn´t have any of my mages with me but a low level spel is identify which I cast on every weapon/armour I find to know wether they are magical or now. If not, I will just drop them. There are also quite many potions littered around in the game and I have never used a single one of them because healing in this game is pretty easy. You could rest almost everywhere as long as you are not in vicinity of an enemy. That replenishes all your spells and also heals the party. It is fortunate this part of the game is pretty liberal since there are other areas that are hard with it.

One major item which is vital in the caves is a key that leads to the church northeast of the village.


Teleporter



Anyway, after some tough searching I finally came to the last door and then the priestess awakened and helped me to open it. Unfortunately those last stages of the game was filled with tough monsters. Just when we had found the portal which we believed was the only way to exit this land and entered it we found that we where teleported to the town again. The warrior that had joined us had disappeared and left us and we felt cheated. The priestess had fulfilled her mission too and abandoned us and we stood there with a huge pile of items they left behind. The only way to pick them up was to quickly recruit two other NPC:s. I returned back to the wilderness just before the caves and picked up the strange mage. Then we returned to the city and I picked up my old companion mage at the tavern. We then got all the equipment and I choosed a base for us. An empty house we used as a stockpile for all of the items we didn´t need for the time being. After this process we continued to explore the village.




Prayer sceen for priests
I found at least one other NPC, a female paladin but since my main character already was one I was content with my party as it was and we left the village to explore the northern parts. The grounds outside the church was filled with undead, mostly zombielike creatures that was easily disposed of. We entered the church with the key we found in the caves and soon discovered a paralysed priest in the main hall in front of an altar and a black mirror where it seemed his soul was trapped in. We spoke to him to learn from his terrible faith and continued to explore these halls. They consisted of two large levels filled with undead, traps and secret passages. 


Church



It took me a few hours to clean out the two levels. Early on I found a book that contained some sort of ritual where I needed four very specific items. I also found a book which I completed by finding missing pages that formed an important message. Together - I suspected - they hold the key to free the high priest in the mirror but those pieces were hard to find. Especially I had trouble open two doors opposide each other with no visible button, hidden door or secret passage nearby. I had to cheat on this one but the solution was not found because this wasn´t particular hard. I found out in a let´s play that the lever for these doors where behind a pillar in the neighbouring room which I had totally missed. The temple was filled with new potions, chests (which act as containers) and some weapons. now I had the mages with me and could both identify all items and also scribe every scroll we found down to the spellbook. One favourite item I found was a magical throwing daggar that returns to the throwers hand. This made it possible to fight with one of my mages to the right because they can only use ranged weapons.

I also had much help of my elven mage that has an innate ability to find secret doors. It helped out a lot in this place.



Eventually we completed the levels and returned to the trapped priest and read the ritual to free him.

As always lovely and helpful comments from the group from time to time

The next part was to explore the area east of the church grounds which was the cemetary. This place increased the difficulty a lot because it was filled with close to 100 undead of which a dozen vampires with draining level abilities. To fight them became my hardest part. Level draining is perhaps the worst thing in any RPG because every level lost could easily translates to several hours of gameplay in grinding. So naturally I saved before trying to confront any vampire and then immediately checked my level status after a fight before saving again.

This took time but even here the tactics is not to get in melee contact. Just shoot magic missiles, fireballs or ice storms and the vampires are quickly gone. It took some hours to clear the whole place including searching into every house in the cemetary. I found a locked grave of the person that murdered the jeweller in the village. I couldn´t open the door but by returning to the village and NOW accept the quest of possession I got the key from the jeweller and could open this tomb. And there he was, an undead lord that I did fight by hurling a few magic missiles at him and then it was over. By returning to the village afterwards I completed this quest and was given a few magical items.





After having reequipped ourselves we where ready to explore the last part of the cemetary...

So my reflections now is that the music had become a little better. I love the sudden screams, footsteps and echos in the environment and the music even picked up a little in the church. Fighting is relatively easy when not fighting level draining creatures. I feel that offensive spells are overpowered compared to similar AD&D games.

More about my adventures in the cemetary in my next post...







April 22, 2017

Ravenloft - Strahd´s Possession - Trying to like it

I continued my quest in them game Strahd´s Possession. I found the village Bovaria. It turned out to be quite large with many, many houses to search. I thought I could just do them systematically but the awkward interface and the terrible graphics in fullscreen mode made it easy to miss exploring some building. Therefore I used the automap which is fully acceptable and you can also make notes on it. I put a X-sign on every house explored and marked places of certain interests.



There are day/night cycles in the game and especially at night the streets are more dangerous. I was attacked by several brigands/thieves which I had to fight off. Fortunately you could rest quite liberally except when in immediate danger. I must tell you that the combat system is really awkward. It plays out in realtime but the steering is terrible which makes it hard to turn around to face the enemies when they also tries to circle you. The combat is a click fest. At least you get information if you miss or hit and what damage you inflict or receive but other than that it is slow and cumbersome. Enemies don´t reveal their health status so you have no idea which in a group have already injured. Also, my figher turns out to be the worst member of the group. He hardly hit but receives most of the damage. The only way effective way to fight is to use my mages magic missiles and my priests flame blade. Since you also don´t get any loot or any visible experience points (I am sure I get it. I would just like to see it like a reward) fightning feels quite unneccessary. It is just a hinder. Enemies seems to wander around by random until they see you and then swarm you. We are all starting on level 6 so any immediate level ups are also not on the table at this stage.

Ok, apart from the boring fights, what happened in the town ?



    Map from the old Paladin
  • I met an old Paladin that had lost his amulet of faith and couldn´t live or die with that shame. He gave me a map where I would find a tree stump and asked me to take a pick from him and dig just west of the tree. There I would find a key leading down to the catacombs under the village. Somewhere there lies the amulet. 


I did all of this and it was quite interesting. The underground catacombs was pretty large filled with fireball traps, living walls and its evil denizens. I could only fight them with magic because my melee weapons did only 1 or 2 points of damage. I had to rest and rememorize my spells a lot down here. Eventually I found two important keys that unlocked some doors. Behind this I found the amulet. I was very lucky because one of the keys was hidden in a room only accessible through an illusionary wall which I just stumbled into. They are very hard to spot with this bad graphics at the fullscreen resolution. It took me 1,5 hour to go through this catacomb.




The automaps for the game are quite good

When I returned to the Paladin he opened a room with my reward. A Paladins sword and some armour. None of them was any better than my starting equipment so I got very dissappointed. I don´t know if they have some special properties or are magical which I cannot detect but the descriptions of their damage or or my armour class was not affected at all.

What lies ahead of me is to explore the rest of the houses. It would take a few hours because I have only begun to explore a few of them. I have decided to take help from an online site with the town already mapped out just to save some time.

Right now I struggle with giving up this game because I don´t feel any progression with my characters, weapons or anything and the interface is really terrible. It is slow and clumsy. To use a potion or an item I have to go to the inventory, select the item put it in my hand and then return to the main screen and press the hand. Still, the free roaming movement in the 3D-world is slow by using the numeric keypad on my keyboard.

Inside a building in the village

The music is very simple but it tries to be atmospheric. I found the music in Ultima Underworld much better. The game's strongest part is the interactions with NPC:s and that your partymembers actually comment things they see from time to time. That is a very good thing and not very common. It reminds me of Realms of Arkania and games like Blade of Destiny and Shadows over Riva. This is probably Strahd´s possessions strongest part right now.



I probably did a mistake by visiting the jeweller in the village. I had already been warned in a comment of my first post but never understood that it was this encounter until it was too late. The jeweller was an undead that demanded that I would slain his murderer who stole things from him a long time ago. This murderer could be found in the cemetary and is now some sort of undead lord. Until I have fulfilled my promise my soul are now possessed by the jeweler. I didn´t acutally find out until an hour or two later when I checked the status of my paladin. He was possessed it said. But I never understood what it meant......Until just some moments later when the ghost of the jeweller haunted me impatiently and said the undead lord still lives and he demanded me to go there or he would squeeze the life out of me. It was then I understood I had some sort of time limit before my Paladin would be lost.

What would YOU have done ?

I had to google this part up and it was obvious this is one the worst things you could do early on in the game. It is way too hard to fulfill that quest at this stage so my paladin is lost. I thought about quitting the game right here but decided to do one more try by reloading an old save and avoid this jeweller for now. I am glad I did because the game started to grow on me afterwards.

My next exploration in the village was the mansion and the village mayor. He was obviously a puppet for Strahd himself (the ruler of this land) and told me that Strahd had invited me and gave me an introduction letter. In the room he already had an elven guest and after we had spoke for awhile I recruited her to my group. It turned out she was a mage as well. I have no clue wether experience points is divided between the parytmembers or not so until that is confirmed, the more the better. 

After I had explored the mansion and picked up some scrolls in the library I was ready to accept the invitation to visit Strahd Zarovich. Now a cutscene took over showing the carriage taking me to Strahds castle. This is a nice touch in the game and all texts are spoken as well which adds much to the atmosphere.





Suddenly I was inside the gates at the castle. I could not explore it since guards where everwhere. The only way forward was to the dining hall where I med Strahd Zarovich for the first time. He was polite and told me in no uncertain terms that there is no way to leave these lands. However there was rumoured to exists some teleporters which he wanted me to investigate in the caves west of Barovia village and since he hadn´t the time himself and trusted us he gave us a key to enter those.



Then he invited us to a splendid dinner with the best wine of the country before letting the driverless carriage return us to the village. And here I was again. At least with a clear goal again. Now things started to get more interesting and I decided to head for the caves so we left the village through the western gate and entered a wilderness. We where immediately attacked by skeleton bats but this time I found that the easiest thing to fight anything in the game is to just clicking on them and all available weapons will attack in their order of readiness. Now the combats actually was managable and I could get rid of dozens of skeleton bats withouth much trouble.

The only interesting place in the wilderness was a house with a mage that had made it to his permanent residence. He was interested in joining us but since I already had my party at full strength I declined. Instead I found the entrance to the caves to the west but also a new NPC woman who was also in search of those caverns. She could also join us but I refused this time as well and decided to enter the caves with the key Strahd had given us. 





This underground cavern turned out to be huge and hard to navigate. Not only because it was filled will teleporters and disorienting squares but it was also filled of skeletons. Those where, however, easily disposed of but before I entered the main area yet another NPC showed up. A strong warrior who I decided to replace my first multiclass fighter/thief/mage aquaintance. If not only because I now didn´t have as much strugge in combat as before when I had to rely almost solely on magic. He was a fighter at level 7 and quite competent so he is with me for the time being.



Death comes often in this game
Attacking skeleton

I have to say that I end this post with a better understanding and a more positive view of the game than after my last post. Combat is more managable now and the story have developed. I also love the cutscenes and the dialogues with the NPC:s and from the group members. Those texts are really well written, like reading a fantasy book. 

This cave however is hard to navigate and all teleporters are not activated or functional while othere require keys. I haven´t found a single key yet and I have searched everywhere. My worst nightmare is if there are illusionary walls here because frankly, in a free roaming, slow moving game like this it would take ages to search the walls and that is just too boring and tedious with the little time I have to spare. I might look up a map of this place to help me out if I don´t find anything soon.

I would imagine that at the time in 1994 this game would be a really good RPG. Too bad the graphics is not coming to its best to be played in fullscreen. I sometimes play it in a very small window just to try to understand what I actually see on the screen.

I was very near to quit this game when I found out about the irreversible possession you get from the jeweller ghost. I had no motivation to reload an old save game. I even let my possessed character be killed in order to use a scroll of raise dead to see if I could get rid of the possession but with no success. Anyway, I am glad I did give it another chance so I could progress a little more in the story. Let´s see if the labyrinths and dungeons of the game will be the irritating part that will destory my progress.....