Monday, October 16, 2017

Might and Magic III: Mounted and Mastered!

"And on the pedestal, these words appear . . ."
      
There wasn't much Might and Magic to play after the last entry. I could have finished it in another 15 minutes, probably. That it took me a few more hours was reflective less of my savoring the last moments and more that, because I didn't know what was coming, I spent a lot of time in needless character development.

The session started when I gave all my remaining Ultimate Power Orbs to "Tumult, King Chaotic," the neutral king, who had initially struck me as a good halfway choice between the zeal of the "good" king and the clear maleficence of the "evil" king. It turns out they were all jerks.
     
Guys, we might have made a mistake here . . .
     
Once Tumult had the orbs, he apparently used them to lay waste to the other two castles. They were no longer accessible, in any event. I got what I needed from the process, a "Blue Priority Passcard."
      
Sorry, king. But I suspect you would have done the same thing.
      
It's curious how the developers pitted "chaos" as the neutral point between good and evil, rather than the opposite: order for its own sake, irrespective of the ends. I wonder if they were making a point about the absurdity of classic D&D "alignments" in general. I think they disappear from the main series after this, and my understanding is that the alignments offered in the Heroes series are more nuanced.

After this, I dropped all of my gold at Gringotts and began the process of working odd jobs for $50 per week. To finish getting all the rewards from Greywind and Blackwind, I needed to wait until Day 50 and 60 of three consecutive years, and I figured I might as well earn interest in the meantime. As I started the process, I had $20 million.
     
Unfortunately, there's no option to burn weeks while resting leisurely.
       
Both Greywind and Blackwind had three thrones. One of them permanently raised attributes; the other two delivered gold and items. (Some of those were Precious Pearls of Youth and Beauty that I spent several days offloading one at a time to the Pirate Queen.) When I started the session, I had this idea that you could only use each throne once, but now I'm not sure that's true. Maybe I'll fire it up again and experiment before the summary and rating.
       
Not that I really needed any more advancement.
      
During the three-year period, I also turned in two more seashells to Athea on Day 99 and brought my love-struck party members to Princess Trueberry, finally curing her doldrums.
      
Yes, the solution to this puzzle was quantity, not quality.
      
Trueberry gave me the alicorn horn in return, which I brought back to the shrine in Orc Meadow. Something happened there involving a galloping unicorn. I didn't really understand it, but I got a few million experience points from the deal.
     
Isn't an alicorn supposed to have wings?
        
Just for the hell of it, I had my characters continue working odd jobs for another few years, rationalizing it with my belief that it's obnoxious to try to accomplish too much before you're 30. As I was wrapping up the process, I realized that Terra's years are only 100 days long, so a 30-year-old Terran is only a little more than eight years old by our standards. I've been practicing child endangerment this entire game.
     
Back at the vault, I retrieved my earnings. I had gained $15 million in interest in five years. Not bad.
      
I have to wonder who his other clients are that he can afford a 12% APR.
      
I immediately spent $13 million leveling my characters about 7 levels each. The average was 115 when I was finished, with the two NPCs now asking for $250,000 each per day. I still had plenty of money, and I could have leveled up some more by scattering some of it into the central fountain in Fountainhead, but at this point I didn't know how much longer the game would last.
      
My party as we head for the endgame.
   
I figured it was time to explore the central pyramid. I'm not going to keep mentioning it, but during the explorations below, I wasted a lot of time visiting buffing fountains before entering the pyramid and its various sections. The enemies weren't hard enough to justify all the additional buffing, and I'm not sure why I was being such a wuss.

The tunnel led to the Central Control Sector of the great space ship resting under Terra's oceans, the various storage and engine areas of which I had explored last time. Immediately as I entered, I was attacked by "Death Agents," who despite their name died in single blows without doing any damage to me.
      
Death needs better representation.
      
The area consisted of a central room with a bunch of side-rooms off of it, and one long corridor heading off to the west. I naturally explored the side rooms first. They held robots, including a new kind called a "Terminator" that couldn't be damaged in melee combat and was capable of "eradicating" my party members if he got lucky. I had to destroy them with spells; "Implosion" did particularly well. I had to resurrect slain characters a few times.
        
If they were going to give it this name, you think they could have tried harder on the graphics.
       
The rooms held a few boons, including chalices that added a few million experience points to the character who drinks from it. One of them served up an "Interspacial [sic] Transport Box," which is capable of visiting any of the game's maps by entering its number. It's a cute idea, but by this time I already had the ability to zoom to any game map with a combination of "Lloyd's Beacon," "Town Portal," and "Teleport." Since the box would have required a lot of fiddling to determine which number corresponded with which maps, I didn't waste a lot of time with it. Getting to this location ASAP would be the key to a successful speed run, however, as the box seems to remove the need for keys to the various dungeons.
     
Next time I swallow a good single malt, I'm going to think, "Ah, there's another 4 million experience points."
       
Most important, the half a dozen side chambers held talking heads that, when prompted with a password (CREATORS) that I got from another one of the ship's sectors, were quite explicit about the plot of the game. Together, they said:
       
Spanning the farthest reaches of the universe, two super-developed societies, the Ancients and the Creator, are engaged in a galactic race for power. The Creators exist in a nebulous realm where they construct their plots and create vile, chaotic armies to disrupt the civilizations of the Ancients. [The in-game text uses the singular "Creator" the first time and then "Creators" everywhere else.]

The Ancients draw their power from the heat and light of stars to create the intricate mechanisms of society, then send these civilizations to cultivate developing worlds. 
      
      
This mission has been code named The Great Experiment. It extends further away from the seat of the Ancients than any other colonization. It is under much greater threat from the Creators.

Because of the interference created by the renegade Guardian, Sheltem, the CRON and most of the VARNs carried by this vessel were lost in the Great Sea of Terra.
     
Okay, lots of exposition there. We'll learn more about Sheltem in a minute, but let's talk about the implications of the above. First the ship we're exploring is clearly the same vessel that held the CRON and VARNs of Might and Magic I and II. Now what do they mean that "most" of the VARNs were lost? Were some saved? Did the creatures from them supplant or merge with the existing life on Terra? How long has passed since this all happened, anyway?

What happened, I wonder, to the party that occupied this ship at the end of Might and Magic II? My pet theory is they somehow became the "Death Agents" that attacked me when I entered. There were only like six of them, and they're not found anywhere else in the game.

The background of the Ancients seeding worlds with their little CRON/VARN biospheres makes sense, but did they have to add vampires to the mix? How do undead in general fit with this backstory?

For that matter, how do the legends of the Elemental Lords fit? Are they the "Creators" mentioned here? (I suspect not, given what follows.) Either way, how were we able to visit their dimensions from CRON?

Finally, who are the "Creators"? Are the Kreegan of the VI-VIII series part of their "vile, chaotic armies"?

Seeking answers, we pressed forward down the long hallway. Well, no, actually we left the ship, returned to town, leveled up some more, visited the fountains again, and so forth, which again was all unnecessary. Then, we returned and pressed down the long hallway. The Blue Passcard from King Tumult was necessary to get through one of the doors.
       
       
I can't remember if there were any battles in the hallway. I don't think there were, meaning that one of the random combats with a "Terminator" was the last necessary battle in the game. Actually, I suppose those side rooms aren't technically necessary to win, so those pushover "Death Agents" were the last necessary combat in the game. There may have been one or two robots in the corridors; someone else might remember.
    
In any event, at the end of the long hallway, we ran into a scene that I wish had been illustrated but instead was only described via text:
     
The air is filled with the smell of ether and the flickering of colored lights, like horrible lightning. Down the corridor to the left, two robed figures battle among the plasm of magic so thick it hangs in the air like fog. It is Corak and Sheltem, locked in mortal combat among the sparks of their supernatural clash. Sensing your presence, Corak looks away long enough to give Sheltem the chance to pass into a nearby transport tube. Cursing under his breath, Corak beckons you to follow before disappearing into the same transport tube.
     
Would it have been too much to show Corak and Sheltem?
      
It's not a huge surprise that Corak is alive; the party from Might and Magic II reunited his soul with his body as part of the cleric's quest. I don't know how Sheltem came back to life. More important, though, the party from this game has no idea who these people are.

The player can turn left at the screenshot above and immediately proceed to the endgame, but naturally I had to explore the rest of the map. The automap clearly shows it shaped like the front of a ship:
     
Though not so much like the Enterprise.
   
At the ends of the corridors that look like guns are levers that say things like "Torpedo Launch Control" and "Primary Phaser Batteries." They didn't seem to do anything when activated, though its mildly amusing to think that the party is causing destruction and chaos all over Terra while they frown and flip the levers back and forth.
      
On the surface, an entire island is vaporized.
      
The whole area was swarming with robots, including a ton of those "Terminators." I fired off volley after volley of "Implosion . . ."
      
       
. . . but still had to reload a couple of times when everyone capable of casting "Resurrection" was eradicated.
     
Things aren't looking so well.
       
At the nose of the spacecraft were a couple of talking heads that congratulated me for making it through a difficult optional area. One of them offered the game credits. The other told me to use the special code "KTOW" when reporting my success to New World, to prove that I had made it to the optional area. It promised a "special reward" for this. I will wonder for the rest of my life what that award was.
     
Well, that's clearly me.
       
Time to win! Heading back to the location of Corak and Sheltem's duel, I found the transport tubes that they had entered. Entering myself, I found a couple of round doors . . .
     
       
. . . opening into the cockpit of a small two-seat craft:

       
As we presumably took the seats, a holographic head (accompanied by a digitized voice) appeared on a screen and asked us to "enter init sequence," which I correctly guessed to be the six-digit number offered by Kings Greywind and Blackwind. The five hologram cards I'd been collecting in the game's last hours were needed here.
     
     
The head then offered the final exposition as text on the screen:
       
The Grand Experiment of the Ancients: to use the technology of Elemental Manipulation to create a completely viable ecological and social microcosm. This microcosm was then to be transported to a distant biosphere (Terra) to supplant its indigenous ecosystem. The need was acknowledged for a central controlling unit capable of compensating for unexpected anomalies. 

Sheltem was created to be the Overlord and Guardian of Terra--the Supreme Law--but his conditioning was flawed. Seeing himself as the Guardian of Terra, not of the Ancients' colonization experiment, he rebelled against the "invading army" that was to be sent to "his" world. Sheltem was contained but later escaped, determined to undermine the Grand Experiment.

Learning from their earlier failure with Sheltem, the Ancients created a new Guardian named Corak. With his conditioning properly completed, the Grand Experiment was launched on its journey through the Void. Corak's first duty was to eliminate the threat of Sheltem, then assume the role of Guardian and Overlord of the Terra colonization.

Unable to stop the colonization of Terra, Sheltem has succeeded in disturbing the balance between the three alignments of men, a balance Corak must work to regain upon his return to Terra. However, Sheltem sees this as only a minor compensation and has set out to exact revenge by sabotaging other experiments the Ancients have scattered throughout the Void.

Two escape capsules have disembarked from this vessel, the first occupied by Sheltem, the second by Corak. At Corak's request, a third has been prepared to follow their course for a rendezvous at whatever world Sheltem seeks to exact his revenge upon. Having proven yourself as an Ultimate Adventurer, Corak and the Ancients ask your help in the adventures yet to come . . .
     
The scene then shows a small vessel departing from the main ship under Terra's seas . . .
     
      
. . . and launching itself into space.
    
"Fineous and Allan, I think it may be time to renegotiate your daily rate."
      
As we know now, of course, that vessel--called the Lincoln--missed its mark. While Corak and Sheltem ended up on Xeen, where a new party of locals would have to continue their fight, the Might and Magic III heroes somehow crashed into the seas of Enroth, found some SCUBA suits, and walked out of the ocean and onto a foreign shore.
     
Ah, but we're getting way ahead of ourselves.

(Side note: I never did find Tolberti or Robert the Wise, the two other canonical NPCs from VII. Where were they supposed to come from?)
      
From the exposition above, it sounds like the Ancients are the creators of the Elemental Lords, and all the backstory from the manuals in II and III about the elementals creating the worlds are mythological interpretations of a real creation process.

Sheltem and Corak are described as creations of the Ancients, but not robots, I assume, since Corak had a "soul" in Might and Magic II (although maybe that was an abstraction for something like a CPU). 

Sheltem being briefly "contained" seems to be a reference to Might and Magic I, where the alien (an Ancient?) described him as an escaped prisoner. It's hard not to agree with Sheltem's cause, incidentally. Isn't "supplanting" the life on an existing planet a bit evil? Especially when you're supplanting it with vampires and giant poisonous spiders and stuff? And if Terra is a real world, not a created one, why is it so small and flat? What condition are we leaving it, having taken Sheltem's existing "disruption of the alignments of men" and apparently carried it to an extreme conclusion?

As we ponder these issues, there are three other things I'm wondering for the final entry:
          
  • What's the highest score that anyone has ever achieved? On the surface, my score above (1,106,212,020) seems likely close to the maximum because I solved just about every quest in the game. I'm sure I could have gotten it higher by spending more time in the Arena and using the fountain in Fountainhead. However, when you consider that I could have worked my party at odd jobs for another 20-30 years, earned tens of millions more interest, thrown most of that in the fountain, and leveled up accordingly, I'll bet I'm nowhere near the top.
  • Even more interesting: what's the lowest score you could win with? That's related to the next question:
  • How fast could you win the game in a speedrun? I suspect you could do it in less than an hour. You'd probably solve Fountainhead's quest (to get the experience fountain active), put the reward gold in the bank, work odd jobs for a decade or so, use the interest to pay for 10-15 levels and the needed transport spells, and make the "Interspacial Transport Box" a priority, bypassing the need for a bunch of keys. After that, you'd have to go to a series of dungeons, zooming around for the Ultimate Power Orbs and hologram cards. The big question mark is to what extent you can avoid combats. I didn't mark the location of individual enemies on my maps, so I don't know how hard it would be to avoid monsters even if you could "Teleport" around. If there are a few major combats that you can't avoid, you would need the appropriate levels and spells to deal with them, which would result in a higher score.
         
Maybe I'll experiment with these things for the final entry.

*****

If any of you are following the progress of Felipe Pepe's CRPG book project, it appears it's almost done. It is done, I think, to the extent originally envisioned, but Felipe keeps adding more games and reviews. Right now, he's seeking dedicated fans to complete short reviews of a few remaining games, including Eamon, Fracas, Rogue, Questron, Divinity: Original Sin, and Dragon Age: Inquisition. You can see the full list here. If you're interested in contributing, you can reach Felipe at crpgbook@gmail.com


Friday, October 13, 2017

Game 264: Karma (1987)

The script above the title seems to have been invented for the game. Some documentation that comes with the game translates it, but I didn't find any place in the game itself where I needed it.
    
Karma
France
Loriciels (developer and publisher)
Released in 1987 for DOS
Date Started:  2 October 2017
Date Ended: 6 October 2017
Total Hours: 8
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
   
For those who thought Tera: La Cité des Crânes (1986) was too comprehensible comes Karma, essentially the same game as Tera but with worse graphics and a weird Japanese skin. The game box manages to combine, among other things, a samurai, Yoda, a spaceman with a heavy weapon, and a robot.
      
Fighting some kind of robot monster. The woman's face appears at the top of the screen every time some kind of luck or die-rolling is involved in a decision.
     
The game takes place among a confederation of planets called Karma, Iron, Betel, Quarz, Hell, and Flame. Karma was the capital of this empire, established by the Ancient Gods with virtues that ensured mankind lived in harmony with nature and with each other. But after thousands of years of peace, monsters of flesh and metal are roaming the countryside, people are having nightmares so disturbing that they refuse to sleep, and the other planets seem to have forgotten Karma's existence. A Council of Elders thinks that someone named Ming has found the source of power of the Ancient Gods and is using it to wreak havoc and gain power for himself. They enlist the PC to assemble a team representing Karma's various castes and solve the mystery. This apparently is going to involve collecting a series of talismans scattered among the six planets.
        
If nothing else, the game perfectly captures the quality of an Asian "mockbuster" movie poster.
    
I get most of that from the manual. Thank goodness I found that. Trying to interpret the plot from Karma's opening screens would land you in therapy. They start with a view from inside a spaceship with a message saying "Hyperspace Jump," then move on to the question of "What role to embody?" The next two screens offer a couple of possible answers: "A samurai or a brave native."
     
     
So far, nothing odd. But then the next "options" come up: "Embody Goldorak," referring to a character from the Japanese cartoon UFO Robot Grendizer (1975-1977), which aired in France as Goldorak. I don't know if it featured robotic dinosaurs, though; Goldorak was, to the best I can determine, a humanoid robot.
       
     
If that isn't odd enough, the next option appears: "Or Mme. Butterfly." That would admittedly be original for an RPG, but I I don't believe the depth of role-playing in Karma quite supports it.
      
Yay! I've always wanted to role-play a love-sick geisha who commits suicide!
   
Does it seem at this point like the developers wanted to create a Japanese-themed RPG but only knew like two things about Japan? It would be like someone in Japan trying to set a game in England based on what he knew from television. "You can role-play Queen Elizabeth, or . . . uh . . . Austin Powers!"
   
Anyway, before we get a third option  suddenly a negative of a screaming ape appears, for some reason, saying "Oh pardon!"
        
This actually might be a vampire.
    
After that, we get the backstory exposition:
       
Karma. A megalopolis turned resolutely towards the future. What future? With these metal monsters ravaging the countryside. Formerly, harmony reigned in homes; today these villages are prey to aggressors. Pray to the goddess, because demons are everywhere.
      

      
Your quest, oh honorable adventurer, will take you to the stars. Who will accompany you? Ansai the Sorcerer? Tori the Samurai? Tsurug the Magician? Go to the Temple of Ineffable Truth. Or Mariko, the priest with extrasensory powers.
       
Character creation begins with a difficulty setting (0 to 9), name, and sex. The game then asks if you want to play as a warrior. If you say "yes," it presents you with some kind of minigame involving a sword thrust at you. I wasn't able to figure it out. If you fail the game or say "no" to the question of being a warrior, you get to pick a class from the weirdest list I've ever seen: magician, Bonze (Buddhist monk), astronaut, priest, necromancer, merchant, and cyborg.
       
I couldn't figure out how to win this mini-game.
     
Each class has 35 attribute points distributed in predetermined ways, plus an extra pool of 6 points that you allocate as you see fit. Attributes are intelligence, speed, charm, endurance, vitality, wisdom, skill, agility, and strength.
     
I go for a balanced astronaut.
    
The player starts alone in the city of Karma (in Tera, you had to explore for a while before you found the city), the "capital of the world," which you can enter to visit a store or hospital.
     
I guess "Karma" is both the planet and city name.
    
The store sells a couple of different armor types, katanas for melee attacks, laser guns for ranged attacks, various sundries like healing potions and rations, and maps of some of the explorable dungeons. The 900 gold that you begin the game with doesn't go far.
     
Purchasing some starting equipment.
      
Like Tera, Karma's main game world is 30 x 30, wrapping around on itself, but nudging the character one square east for every north/south "lap," meaning that by just going consistently north or south, you eventually hit every square. Locations are randomized for each new game. The four-color graphics for Tera weren't great. Here, they they range from barely tolerable to completely incomprehensible. They seem to be shooting for a kind of abstract Asian ink wash style, not quite Shan Shui or Sumi-e. Someone who knows more about art might be able to identify the right term.
      
This is at least recognizable as a bridge.
But I'm not sure what's happening here.
      
Commands haven't changed much from Tera. You move with the directional pad and have about 20 possible keyboard commands, including (E)ntrer, (L)ire, (M)onter, (O)uvrir and (P)rendre, corresponding to "Enter," "Read," "Climb," "Open," and "Take." As with Tera, if you enter a command that doesn't make sense for the situation, it throws it back at you with a question mark: "Combattre?" But it also does that when it wants to confirm valid commands, so the whole thing is pretty annoying.
     
In-game documentation of commands.
    
The sound is assaultive and near-constant. In some ways, it's creative what the developers managed to do with the PC speaker. A rapid series of beeps for a laser firing; a crescendo of boops for a ship taking off. But with such primitive effects possible with that hardware, the creators would have been better off leaving more things silent.
   
Most of the 900 squares on the game map are just images of landscape. You occasionally run across a random monster. Sometimes you find gold pieces on the ground when you enter a new area; other times, there's an earthquake and you take damage. Waypoints generally offer trite messages (e.g., "May fortune favor your path"), although some give you directions back to Karma or to the Temple of Ineffable Truth.
      
The map shows the locations of important buildings.
     
Most of the key locations are one-room buildings with one NPC standing out front. (Some of them might be more than one room; see below.) Names of such places include the Ranji School of War, the Pavilion of Supreme Harmony, the Hermitage of Heavenly Tranquility, and the Fortress of Koriu.
     
"Hamlet of the Source." A necromancer NPC stands outside.
     
Each location can be entered, and each has exactly one chest that can be opened for a random treasure.
      
The interior of the Dojo of Samurais of Ryukyu.
      
The NPCs in front of the buildings don't say much when you talk with them, but any or all of them can join the party. I think the names are randomized for each new game. I got Ishiko the merchant, XU009 the cyborg, Shisei the Buddhist monk, Masamsu the ninja, and a bunch of other characters in my first game.
      
XU009 the cyborg joins me amidst the crystals of the Polygon of Transcendental Meditation.
     
I had 15 members at one point. Tera limited you to three. But I soon found out that more members means more of a drain on food, and I got into a situation where most of them starved to incapacitation before I could find my way back to Karma and purchase more rations. Once there, I found out that while the hospital is free for the main character, you have to pay to get others to recover from states of unconsciousness. I didn't have enough money and I had to start over.
       
I don't have enough money to get Koyomi out of his "desperate state."
     
On subsequent games, I determined that you really need a mix of classes because only certain classes excel at the skills that damage certain enemies. For instance, necromancers excel at the "pray" ability against undead and Buddhist monks have the easiest time dispelling spirits. But NPCs often run off without warning, meaning you can never feel comfortable that you have a good, diverse, permanent party.
     
This party was large but ultimately unsustainable.
     
Combat theoretically has several options: strike, shoot, mental attack, dispel, cast a spell, and pray. In practice, only certain characters, with only certain items, can make use of some of these options. And some of them only work on some enemies. For most flesh enemies, you mostly choose either (L)utter to hit with a melee weapon or (T)irer to shoot with a laser. Only three characters can be active in combat, but you can choose from all the characters in your party at the beginning of every round, favoring the ones with the skills that can help against the present enemies.
      
The game waits for my input against a giant snake.
    
One advantage over Tera is a meter at the bottom of the screen showing the enemy's health. Monsters deliver gold and experience as in most RPGs; experience leads to level-ups, which lead to one-point increases in random attributes.
      
One of my more lucrative combats.
      
The first goal is to save up 2,000 gold pieces (and that is the currency; I'm not defaulting to usual RPG-speak) to purchase a ship, which you can then launch from starport. Once launched, you consult a map and enter coordinates for the planet you want to jump to, being careful not to run out of fuel.
     
Consulting the star map.
     
Minions of Ming often attack during jumps, putting you in a minigame that works like the Pirates of Sham in Tera. You mentally divide the screen into a grid of 9 cells, try to figure out as early as possible which cell the enemy ship is approaching from, and hold down the respective number on the pad to shoot it down. If you're too slow or choose the wrong number, the enemy gets a shot at you, which depletes your fuel.
     
The forces of Ming are merciless. I'm holding down the "6" key.
     
I've visited two planets so far, and each has a 10 x 10 outdoor map with only one other structure besides the starport. In both cases, however, that structure has offered a dungeon maze, and it occurs to me that I might have missed one or more dungeons on Karma, assuming that all buildings were only one-room. The doors are not obvious.
     
Moving through a dungeon door.
     
Oh, and you can only save the game on Karma, making space travel rather dangerous.

I explored one of the dungeons for a while and ended up getting killed by a vampire. I didn't have the right party composition to defeat him.
      
Lasers don't work on vampires, apparently.
      
The dirty secret is that I hex-edited my party's gold to even afford the ship in the first place, just so I could document what visiting other planets looked like. I don't know how you do it legitimately. The 20-30 gold pieces that you earn post-combat take a long time to add up to 2,000, and while you're saving, you have to keep everyone equipped (only laser weapons, at 600 gold pieces each, damage the ubiquitous metal monsters), fed, and healed--assuming you can keep them in your party at all, and they don't just go running off with the equipment you've purchased for them.

One last note: Just like Tera, Karma has a "boss key" (as in, your boss has just come up behind you), called by hitting the "H" key twice, which displays a nonsense bar graph. These two games and NetHack are the only ones I know with this feature.
     
My boss: "Jesus, Bolingbroke. Don't you know how to use Excel?"
     
I'm writing this entry assuming that I'm done with the game, inclined to give it about a 30 on the GIMLET--a few points lower than Tera, which had better graphics and a brisker gameplay, without annoying elements such as NPCs who up and disappear. In a couple days, I might find myself regretting two losses in a row, and thus try harder to document the endgame. We'll see.

In the meantime, if you ever want to try it for yourself, make sure you download it from a French abandonware site. The original game has pretty solid copy protection, and every time you try to enter a key building or take off from the spaceport, a message comes up telling you to buy a real copy at your nearest retailer. It took me a while to find a cracked version.
     
An anti-piracy message as I try to enter the Temple of Ineffable Truth.
      
The author of the game is the same "Ulysses," real name unknown, who wrote Tera. His partner, "Lout," is missing from the title screen of this production. Graphics--the part most different from Tera--are credited to an Yves Koskas. I'd love to track down this "Ulysses" some day and talk about what mushrooms he was taking when he developed these two games. Like many of the French RPGs we've seen, they have no clear connection to any previous RPG lineage, and they keep this blog interesting with images and gameplay elements we see nowhere else.