Friday, January 21, 2022

Galdregon's Domain (part two)


I have returned from the land of Mezron

Finally, here we are with the second part of Galdregon's Domain and if you missed the first with the hand-drawn maps I found inside the box then clickety-click to read all about it (these maps are quite superb!!). Anyhow, what an unexpected ride this has been and I've enjoyed it over the Christmas holidays. But did it live up to my expectations for a deep RPG heavy in exploration with lots of monster mutilation? Well, yes and no...

The good points are a sense of adventure throughout its beautifully crafted world of intrigue and strife. Independence to explore is paramount which goes hand in hand with the lack of a linear path that enhances the feeling of freedom - I loved this aspect so much. This is a varied and rich experience for both discovery and the characters you will meet along the way - many of whom are only too happy to chat rather than actually help.

However, this impressive RPG came with more than a few disappointments. As in, it's not an RPG. Sure, there are RPG elements like gathering better armour, weapons, and helpful items but there are no character attributes nor experience and little lore. Also, fighting the nasties isn't exactly sensational beyond mere mouse clicking.

Okay, let's ignore Pandora's trickery and continue on because the king needs our help...


What the king doesn't tell you is that his kingdom is a terrifying place full of psychos & monsters!


The Quest?

The land is in turmoil, the evil wizard Azazael has been resurrected and now searches for the five gems of Zator which will give him ultimate power over the entire kingdom and we don't want that! You have been chosen to battle against the minions of evil to recover all five gems and thus, save the lands of Mezron.

It's gonna be tough! Can you destroy the evil Medusa whose merest gaze turns flesh to stone? Can you outwit the high priestess of Set who holds sway over a temple full of horrors? Dare you venture into the dark catacombs of castle Seenar and cross swords with the dead. Oooh, this is all sounding rather troublesome!

Fear, not brave warrior your fate awaits you. (oh great...)


The kingdom is teeming with people but this is one of the few times you're alone in the dark!

You're thrown in at the deep end without any gradual progression. Beat these guys if you can!

This Viking warrior is someone you should seek out straight away. I call him Tom.


Play The Game

Galdregon's Domain is instantly playable and that's a strength I love thanks to a concise user interface detailing health and providing ways to interact and do battle. It's a cinch to master thus, you are able to start traveling without hassle thanks to a map design that isn't unnecessarily excessive. Plus it looks great too!

We begin with little more than a loincloth, a health potion, and a sword - surprisingly shortsighted but an effective start nonetheless. The only way to find new gear will be to win battles and search their rotting corpses for useful items. That's a lot harder than you might imagine as this game is rather tight when it comes to (quality) loot.

In most rooms, there are many characters but few initially offer any useful information. Talk to whomever you come across and listen to their quaint but sometimes interesting chat. Most are a bore, especially within the castle so it can be a chore until later but, even then, it's hardly significant. As an initial priority, it's worthwhile finding the castle's exit as soon as possible to begin probing the outside world for other places, items, and people.


I tried talking to the wolf. I just had to... And then I killed it. Yep, that's what I'm all about.
But talking can be fruitful and this nice chap had a stash of goodies he wanted to share!
One of the spells is a shield amongst the many others. Grab them all!!


Character

You play the same character for each game and it starts with the king who summoned you for the quest of saving his kingdom. There is no character configuration or any chance to alter skills or other attributes. Of course, this isn't what I originally expected but the simplicity of starting barebones means you can begin without delay.

His castle is bigger than you might imagine and most rooms have somebody lurking. Talk to them to see what pearls of wisdom they possess but you might be disappointed with earlier characters offering little beyond a greeting or compliment. However, the deeper you venture, the safety within the King's castle isn't a guarantee.

Once you exit the king's castle, the world is your oyster with great distances to explore. It's here that several distinct types of stages are accessible, each offers a different spin on the adventuring format. Within any part are dozens of people, creatures, and monsters just waiting to be found. Talk if you can, and make notes of their snippets of information because you may just need that later on and they are often very vague...


These friendly four greet you at a tower entrance but won't allow you to leave!

Although strong and armed to the teeth, I got my ass handed to me by this fella!

Not everyone is out to kill you. Look, I found Robin Hood and his merry men!


Interaction

The characters are plentiful but a good chinwag isn't exactly an astounding experience. Conversations are limited by the 'talk' command which lacks options and produces only a short one-liner. Most of the talk is pointless but there are some characters who will subtly point you in a direction for the gems, people/clans or help provide tips.

This text zips across the screen in a similar fashion to Damocles but it feels rather unwarranted here. It's quite hard to read on my monitor compared to an older CRT... I guess that's more my fault than the game?

At times I didn't understand the context of a conversation. For example, entering the temple, I was greeted by a soldier who said "hello...". He didn't appear aggressive but, after a couple more Talk button clicks, he asked if I was going the right way - and then began attacking. I killed him but none of that made any sense!

Anyhow, it's often a good idea to stop for a yap with whoever pops onto the screen. Sometimes it's handy when information is freely given, however, most of the time it's rather fruitless. I think 'talk' should have been heavily improved or replaced with more detailed location descriptions to read through.


I met this goblin after only a few minutes and he's told me where a gem is. Dare I go?

This sounds like an invite I should refuse. Are they doggers? Yeah, I reckon they are!!

These guys were waiting for me outside a tavern and had absolutely nothing worthwhile to say!


Let's fight!

Battles are frequent in the lands of Mezron but that doesn't mean they're riveting. I failed to see any tactical element because the whole affair is little more than (quickly) choosing a weapon and then clicking on the mouse until he drops. Sure, I can use any number of weapons but it's all rather predictable without depth or structure.

This is partly due to no detail being provided for your current weapon or the ghoul you may wish to engage in battle. This means I had no perspective for any battle because I knew nothing of my weaponry or how strong the enemy is. Also, most weapons break after a couple of battles which leaves you fumbling through a sluggish user interface to source a replacement. All during a real-time battle and thus losing precious health!

I support the need to stand your ground but that doesn't mean you should fight every battle like a complete idiot. Consider hightailing it to safety using the 'run' command to quickly scurry off to a quieter place. If at the expense of possibly losing your bearings. Use with caution.



Typical, and I thought I could sneak into the castle without being seen...

The three dwarfs were easy kills for me and my magical sword!
So now let's ransack their tiny corpses for valuables before scarpering off.


Inventory & Map

No RPG is worth its salt without a magical backpack to carry our loot, spare weapons, and any other useful items. Can you imagine how that would look in real life? Anyhow, Galdregon's Domain has a nice inventory screen which is basic but uses a concise design with ample slots to fill. It's also the screen used to protect our naked body with various items of clothing. Well, if you can find any (nice graphics, man).

Within this screen are two tabs for backpack and location. The first is what you possess whilst the other represents what's in your current location and this is how you can rummage through a corpse looking for goodies. However, this is where I felt the Inventory showed the limitations of the game's design. Basic functions are available to eat found food for example but no ability to select a weapon, potion, or scroll... This is done in-game.

Finally, pressing the right mouse button for a second time will display an overhead map of the entire kingdom. This is superb and helps navigate between each stage without getting lost out in the sticks. Sadly, the game doesn't feature any auto-mapping within these individual stages - so grab that pen and paper!

Use your legs because not every place is shown on your map...

The map also doesn't display this walkway through the northeastern forest.

And the map also doesn't show fellow travelers walking about the land - so always explore!


The mission?

The game is based solely on the main objective of finding the five gems. Which means nothing more than fighting your way through the hoards during a walkabout to the places that have them. There are side-quests, but these aren't a necessity nor something officially accepted. They're just there if you fancy extra leg work.

However, each gem is a crusade in itself battling many, many different baddies before you eventually reach a 'boss'. To be honest, I would stay clear of this part - for as long as possible - whilst you instead look for clothing, weapons, potions, etc/etc. Take your time, be careful, and make sure you turn over every stone.

Look, just forget boss battles unless you're tooled up and that only comes after massive exploration.


Hey look, I've found a secret opening into the woodlands. Yes, so dense an opening is needed!

Let's be serious and play properly. I wonder if these two gentlemen have anything to offer?

Sometimes I enjoyed running around killing things but he's already dead!


Tips to get you started

You aren't as tough as you think, start slow and don't be too cocky!
Exploration and communication are always key factors so don't be too quick to rush off.
Certain smaller buildings will help get you started with a sword, scrolls and potions.
Don't get lost - use the map when roaming outside in the wild.
Not everywhere is shown on the game's map...
Why not seek refuge and friends in the Enchanted Woods?

Here are a few more

Whenever a dungeon nasty appears, and you don't wanna fight, quickly walk on!
Similary, why talk to a stranger when you can kill him and plunder his corpse?
However, think twice before attacking a gang and watch that stamina.
Forget about looking for gems until you're tooled up with weapons, items and clothing.

Ultimately...

Save-your-game-regularly!!



This kind soul will freely hand over something rather special that helps get you out of trouble.
Eat this, man thing? How rude! Who's he calling man thing?

I want that gem but this boss dude wouldn't hand it over. And he killed me very, very easily.


Graphics & Sounds

Like Dungeon Master, Galdregon's Domain employs a similar pseudo-3D first-person perspective and each move is performed using 90° turns. Worried about getting lost in a dungeon that looks the same at every turn? Fear not, because it's stunning with fantastic attention to detail for each and every different type of location. I also adore how each character has been drawn with such careful precision. Some of the best artwork I've seen.

Thankfully, there is no in-game music to spoil the atmosphere of this 'RPG' as I would have switched it off if there were. Instead, we have lots of sampled sound effects ranging from the chinks of your sword to excessive grunts and frightening howls emitting distant places. I longed for footsteps otherwise the audio is spot-on perfect.

In other words, Galdregon's Domain looks and sounds superb!


The hill with an eye! I wonder where it leads? (Wait, are you armed to the teeth?)

You have to admire the gorgeous details of most monsters, especially when they're killing you!

However, sometimes there are too many to fight at once. Or displayed properly (I count 5)


The CryptO'pinion?

It's hard to know where to begin... Okay, when I picked up the box, I was fooled into thinking this was an RPG or Dungeon Master wannabe. It's not. It might look the part but it's nothing at all like I had initially hoped. There is no progression or experience to be gained because this is deceivingly masquerading as an RPG.

However, the main hallmarks of Galdregon's Domain are an excellent adventure deep in exploration with many places and people. Sadly, it's let down by a severe lack of items and pointless combat that feels random and segregated. Don't get me started about the horror of replacing a broken weapon during the heat of battle. Ultimately, it's completely unbalanced with far too many enemies and too few pickups to keep you replenished.

I sense I have moaned a lot about Galdregon's Domain? Well, there are lots that bugged me and much that didn't make any sense. It's not Dungeon Master but, as an action/adventure, I liked exploring an open world with beautiful graphics and effective sound effects. This is an excellent place to lose yourself and I enjoyed it.


You'll see this screen a lot. Fear not brave adventurer and simply reload your saved game.
Hang on, you did save the game regularly, right?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Friends Reunited!


Miniature hard drives!

Look what I've just found at the bottom of my cupboard!! After many moons, here is a tiny plastic case that contains two SD Cards I thought I had lost: one features MagiC and the other is a raw ST MiNT image (this is created by Marcello running Cripple MiNT due to the ST's 4MB Ram limit and you can read about that here).

For me, MagiC is where it's at because this is such a powerful and versatile operating system albeit at the expense of some awkward incompatibilities. Unlike MiNT, I've actually got some RAM left over to make this a usable operating system replacement. It's superb but the default desktop is lame so I've got to find a copy of Ease online. Now, I know most will probably scream "Jinnee" but I feel Ease is the better alternative desktop for me.

Sadly, I've yet to find another SD card that I remembered has my Geneva/NeoDesk installation (it's now free!!). Anyhow, it's funny what you find when least expecting it. So which is your favourite or do you prefer good old TOS? Let me know in the comments below while I stuff this card with programs and my chip music archive...

Marcello's ST MiNT https://subsole.org
MagiC v6.20 https://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?p=327914#p327914
Gribnif Software http://www4.pair.com/gribnif/


Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Errand Boy



YANASTG

Thanks to AtariMania, I got wind of a new game available for the Atari ST by Dwalin. It was originally released last year for something called MSDOS... whatever that might be I don't know. Anyhow, it is a short conversational adventure ported to DAAD for a variety of home computers, one of which is our lovely Atari ST.

The Errand Boy is a graphical-style adventure and prequel to Rudolphine Rur. It's not too dissimilar to what we've seen before displaying both imagery and written text to describe our current location. We are Galdrin who appears to be at odds with Mr Eldrad because he thinks of us as nothing more than an errand boy. In a huff, we leave because that's no way to treat someone who's been in service for a thousand years so he's gonna pay!
(Hang on, how old am I? Erm, am I even human? What's going on?)
We begin in a grungy room somewhere in New York not too far from Central Park. The graphics are retro using a rough digitized style that I really like. Each room is detailed without large, overbearing paragraphs of text. Although some of its English has grammatical issues, nothing serious and it certainly isn't going to spoil the fun.

The parser interaction is excellent allowing exploration using the usual commands to look, examine, get, drop, open, etc along with the usual compass directions to get around. Each command can be shortened: 'L' to look, 'X' to examine something... In fact, examining everything is never a bad idea nor is asking for help.

The characters you meet along the way are few but full of... character! The butler appears to have spent his lifetime pottering about the house so you get little from him. Dorwinion isn't exactly and a nice guy by the looks of it but I liked Shadow's sense of humour. Oh, and there's a nasty cat. I don't like cats because they only use you to get food! And then there's the gnome, what a crazy tale he represents and he's nothing more than a lunatic.

This may very well be a short adventure but it's full of wonder, investigation and alternative humour. Yes, the story is insane, without any realism, and I loved that. Do not be too quick to dismiss this excellent adventure game.


In fact, I wish I would listen to my own advice! Make sure you look under every stone.


Let's have a little background

As I was enjoying the adventure, I message Dwalin about the game, its story and how it all came about...

"This is really a very short adventure, and that is why I chose it to be my first experience in translation. I am fond of text adventures since the 80s, where I played most of the commercially published adventures in Spain. I also had Gilsoft's PAWS, the program (or parser) that allowed you to create adventures for Spectrum, and I published a first homebrew adventure for that in 1993.

In Spain, fans of this type of game grouped together in various clubs, the most important of which one of them was CAAD, which published a bimonthly fanzine. Over time the clubs evolved into pages and internet forums, and the adventures of text as well, adapting to more modern computers. Contests were held on https://www.caad.es and players and adventure creators shared comments.

In 2005, using another adventure creation engine, Superglús, the evolution of the old PAWS, I published my second adventure: “The Adventures of Rudophine Rur”, and in 2015 using NgPAWS, another evolution of the engine. Rudolphine Rur tells the story of a little forest gnome who must enter the human world in search of his brother kidnapped by evil elves.

With the passage of time, the love for retrocomputing and old computers grew in Spain. I discovered this hobby in 2019. In Spain, the most important company that published text adventures in the 80s and 90s was AD Adventures. This company used as an adventure creation engine a parser called DAAD, also an evolution of the PAWS, but whose main feature was that it could port the games to most of the main systems of the time: Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad PCW, PC MSDOS, Commodore Amiga and Atari ST.

Andrés Samudio, the director of Adventures AD released in 2014 the DAAD parser for use by the community of adventure creators. Until that moment DAAD had not been available to the general public, since it had been programmed exclusively for AD Adventures (it had a price of about € 12,000 in 1989!). The Spanish community of adventure creators began using DAAD to create cross-platform adventures for retro computers. In my case, I dedicated myself to porting my old Rudolphine Rur adventure to this system, and finally (2020) it was published (https://www.rudolphinerur.com) for most of the existing computers in the late 80s. I even published a small physical print run in cassette or floppy disk for Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX2 and Atari ST.

A year later I also wanted to try another parser, from the early 90s, SINTAC, another evolution of PAWS, which generated adventures for MSDOS. With him, I created a very short adventure, which I set in the same world as Rudolphine Rur: "The errand boy" being a prequel to it. The adventure was published in May 2021 in its PC version. Later I ended up porting it to DAAD so that I could release versions for Spectrum, Amstrad and MSX2.

Until now all my adventures were only available in Spanish. I considered that "The errand boy", being a short adventure, could be a good candidate to be translated into English. My level of English is not very good, and I have mainly used the google translator. So I hope native English people can forgive if they see something "weird". Finally, shortly after finishing the translation, I ended up porting the adventure also to Atari ST and well, that's the one you're playing :-)


I think Dorwinion deserves a slap for how he treats poor Galdrin!


The CryptO'pinion?

It's always great to see new Atari ST games released. (Yet Another New Atari ST Game, just in case you were wondering about the header). I loved its story, style and really enjoyed playing through to the end. Okay, I wish it was a much bigger adventure, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the ST version of Rudolphone Rur gets translated into English someday soon. My thanks to Dwalin for taking time out of his busy day to chat with me.

You can download the ST disk image from Dwalin's websiteAtariMania or by clicking this link.


This is Rudolphine Rur running on the Atari ST albeit in Spanish. Maybe in English, one day?

Friday, January 07, 2022

Droid - all of them!


ED-209

I should have showcased this before Christmas but I never got a chance due to work commitments. So here it is now, the new Droid Definitive Collection which features all three Atari ST and Atari STe games in a spanky cool box. This is the latest from Bitmap Soft in collaboration with the mighty Atari Legend. (Maarten paid me to say that)

You might be thinking "three games?". Yes, both of the original Droid shooters plus the newly upgrade Atari STe Droid by Jame Hamshere - featuring smooth scrolling, better sounds and gameplay enhancements. This is the ultimate boxset for all fans and something I'm sure Miles Lord never dreamt possible back in the day?

This is a quality purchase, the box is strong and rich in both colour and content. Inside, is a manual, floppy disk, and poster that doubles as a huge map. Geeks rejoice for we have trinkets: stickers and a badge which I must remember to wear down the pub! Seriously, I hope we get more boxed Atari ST games soon. Well done to all involved.

Pop over to Bitmap Soft and treat yourself to the latest Atari ST game: Bitmap Soft web store.

But first, check out this video on YouTube which shows Droid running on both computers...


- Production Credits -

Miles Lord - Droid I & II (original game code and design)
Patrick Lord - Droid I & II (original graphics)
Jamie Hamshere - Droid Special Edition (Atari STe code & DMA audio)
John Blythe (cover illustration)
Darren Doyle (box & manual)