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?

2 comments:

  1. I remember this game very well! I played it for a little while when it came out, but i had to give up because i got lost. I had a pirated disc so no manual, and frankly a lot of the areas looked very similar, so it was hard to keep track. Even if i usually was good at making maps on paper i would gt confused. Loved the grapihics, i felt that it was a great upgrade from Dungeon Masters pretty grey and dreary graphics. I loved the Barbarian themed look of it. Do i remember a weird scary scream in one of the early moments of the game i wonder? Like an eerie scary forewarning sort of, while walking the screens...

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    1. yeah the aesthetics are ace and those distant screams! Frightening for a 16-bit gamer bitd!

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