Quest for Glory II: Pulling up stakes

(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Day 16. I am informed by the locals that apparently I’m getting ready to move on from this town that treats me like a de facto prince. I’m a little fuzzy on why I am going to Raseir or when my character decided to leave. Maybe this is their tactful way of suggesting that I’ve overstayed my welcome. In that case, good luck beating off the next elemental that storms through your streets!

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Aww, a hand-holding simulator! Truly, Quest for Glory II leaves no idea unmined.

Actually, this is an arm wrestling minigame, which of course I lose incredibly quickly, along with my manhood.

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Then my manhood comes roaring back (no pun intended) as I take on a liontaur with my tiny little blade. Rakeesh and Uhura both have encouraging words about my new trek to save the entire land from the sorcerer (who, as I must remind you, I became mortal enemies with about 12 hours prior).

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The next morning I am assaulted with blocks of text telling me that the time has come for me to leave the town. For all of my troubles as a hero, I am gifted with a purse of money, gear, and a brand-new saurus. Aww, I liked my pesky saurus better.

I ride off to join a caravan heading to Raseir. Wish me luck!

attack

Oh noes! We are attacked! All is lost!

And right then…

intermission

Yup, the game goes into intermission. Got to say, this cracked me up big-time. Love the peppy little music that went with it. You can also right-click on various elements for more amusing messages.

Coming back from intermission, I’m treated to the most epic video game screen of all time:

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OK, some developer was having WAY too much fun with all of this.

raseir

Eventually I arrive at Raseir which, yup, is pretty much a reskin of the same city I left. Only crappier!

clear

Wayyyy crappier.

Khaveen and a group of thugs greet me, and after slapping me around a lot and telling me to obey the rules, I’m given a visa and told to behave. Yeah. Fat chance of that, effendi.

Quest for Glory II: Making enemies in all the wrong places

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I love how suspicious the apothecary guy is when you’re in the store, like he’s giving me major side-eyes here. “Whaaaat? Nobody’s making meth in heeeeere.”

Anyway, with the feather and the fruit from the compassion tree, he whips up a few dispel potions for me. You know who could use this? Tree girl. But I guess that’s not in the cards, poor thing. Back to the beast in the cave!

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The potion works brilliantly, transforming the beast back into a man named Al. Al info-dumps all over me, saying that he’s an apprentice sorcerer who was being punished by his boss. By helping Al out, apparently I will have made his master super-mad and he will be gunning for me. Al then points me in the direction of said master, even though I was thinking that I might have worn out my welcome in these here parts. Why would I go looking for more trouble?

Thus ends one of the longest days in the game yet.

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Day 14. Upon returning to Uhura, I receive yet another one of these weird vague notes, this one talking about “final orders” and such. Final? I haven’t even gotten the first orders! And who is this? Inquiring minds want to know.

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The final elemental comes out to play, apparently threatening to shut down the city’s water supply. I just want to say that if you’re a water elemental, perhaps showing up in the middle of a desert isn’t a good game plan.

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It’s beyond easy to defeat it, too. It’s as if the devs were tired of the whole process and decided to hand wave away the problem. So this time around, I already have the two objects I need — the bellows and the waterskin. Simple as that, the water elemental is now my prisoner. All four of them, actually. I’ve started a collection!

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Even though I’ve saved the city, the game isn’t over. The next day, it seems like half of the town wants me to come talk to them. There’s even another note over at Uhura’s, cryptically telling me to go to a door or I’ll regret it. Ooooh I am cowed. Dude, I have FOUR elementals in my pocket. Do you want to start something with me?

shee

I thought it was really sweet that one of the Katta gave me a gift for all of my service to the town. Aw, shucks.

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I don’t respond well to threats, but I am undeniably curious about all of these menacing notes. So I follow instructions to a door, where a booming voice tells me to, “Enter the darkness!” Suddenly, a Metallica song erupts.

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In the darkness, the voice tells me to remain still or else I am a craven coward. When the lights come back on, my weapons have been taken away and I’m chained to a wall. Just like all of my Saturday nights, really.

Then a lot of stuff happens quickly: I’m instructed to break free in 10 seconds, dodge a sword-wielding thug, get my weapons, fight the thug, and then finish him off. I do all but the last (not because I was showing mercy but because I didn’t know how to execute him. Maybe typing it out?).

eof

Turns out that this has all been an elaborate test to see if I was worthy to join the EOF — Eternal Order of Fighters. Even though I pulled my punch at the last, they say I’m still in like Flynn, at the rank of “Brother Saurus.” This game really, really likes its sauruses.

party

Once I learn the secret handshake and get my membership card, they throw me a party (which is described, not shown). I wake up groggy with a hangover, wondering what I did to deserve the EOF. Yay… I belong.

SWTOR: Operative appraisal

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I feel as if I’m gradually getting my gaming house in order, and it is glorious. Having a computer that actually runs these titles is a plus, of course, but on top of that I’m loading up MMOs (as many as I want!) and organizing them according to interest and projects. The idea is that I generally want to focus on one character in each game and have him or her be on top of the content so that I can jump in and check out whatever is new.

This brings me back to SWTOR and my long-time Operative Yeti. According to my gaming records (this blog, which functions surprisingly well as a record of what I was up to and when I left and returned to games), Yeti had reached chapter 9 of Knights of the Fallen Empire around November 2015, after which I lost interest in the whole companion search party and never returned for the new chapters. Still, like my LOTRO Captain, Yeti has been with me on a very long journey so far and I want to see her through. I’m not super-interested in ops or raiding, but seeing the storyline progress? Sure, I’m on board with that.

offer

Plus I got this in my email, a note from BioWare welcoming me back and saying that I could come play five chapters for free. I’m not sure if this means I get chapters 10-14 for good from now on or just for August, but why not? I think my plan here was to wait for the ultimate chapter to come out and then sub up for a single month to snag it and all the previous chapters for a free-to-play account anyway.

If I don’t have to spend money right now on a game that I’m quite casually playing, sure. I’m in.

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I will say that I’ve missed my Operative. It’s such a joy to play her without a computer stuttering all of the time, and she just looks cool all around. It took me about 30 seconds to get reacquainted with her fight rotation (which I adore) and everything else kind of fell into place soon thereafter.

To help with the refamiliarization process (is that a word?), I did go on one of those companion gathering missions that was sitting in my log anyway. I really truly do not understand why SWTOR wants us to get all of these companions, since you can’t have more than one out anyway. To be honest, I was totally fine with my Agent companions.

So two slight bummers in this return gaming session. The first was that my guild seems more or less dead at the moment. Every time I’ve logged in during the past week, there’s been one or zero other people on. That’s not a terrific sign, at least for the guild, so I might have to go shopping again. The other bummer is that now the game has made my Agent’s spaceship completely empty of companions. Running through it, I felt their absence keenly. Maybe all of these other companions we’ve collected are clogging up a closet somewhere in the back?

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I maxed out my slicing skill while we puttered around on Zakuul, and I had a great time fighting. Chapter 9 is officially over and done, and that purple button inviting me to start Chapter 10 is waiting for my say-so.

Another night, perhaps.

6 interesting novels I’ve read recently

saintI haven’t done a book post in a while (a year in fact!), probably because my reading in 2016 has slowed waaaay down for various reasons (I blame late-night sitcoms). Still, I have managed to plow through a good half-dozen novels so far, so here are a few thoughts and recommendations.

(1) Saint’s Blood by De Castell

The third of the Greatcoats series, I was so excited to see it pop up. It’s simply one of my favorite fantasy series of all time now, a new take on the Three Musketeers. Saint’s Blood has Falcio and company doing what they always do — trying to hold a broken country together by fighting near-impossible odds. It was a good read, even great, although I would probably put it at number three if I had to rank the series to date. Some good twists and a running theme on dueling keeps it gripping reading.

(2) The Devil’s Detective by Unsworth

Here’s a neat premise: A noir detective story set in Hell, where a man must investigate a series of murders that are unusual even to the underworld. Great world-building and a main character that slowly awakens and comes into his own. Now onto the sequel!

(3) The Rain by Turkot

I use Bookbub to notify me of free or highly discounted enovels in the genres that I read, so many times I take chances on these novels if they look interesting. The Rain kind of hit that spot, being a post-apocalyptic novel set in an America that’s seen nonstop rain for years and years. The concept is good, but the sometimes shoddy writing and dull characters lost my interest after a while.

(4) Bitter Seeds by Tregillis

Nazi soldiers with superpowers vs. British warlocks in World War II is a slam-dunk premise, and some people have talked up Tregillis for a while now. I’ll put this out there: It’s a good read, sometimes very dark and depressing, but the alternate history take on WWII with a fantasy/superhero approach is worth exploring. That said, I don’t think I’ll move on to the other books in the series, since by the end it was a little more work than pleasure to finish.

(5) The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Dickinson

Man people raaaaaved about this novel. Maybe a little too much, since my expectations going into it were very high. It’s the tale of an island native who is absorbed into a conquering empire and decides to rebel (in some fashion) from within. The protagonist balances between smarts and terrible situations well, and I’ll say that while it’s not my best-of-2016 or anything, it’s definitely an above-average novel with a decidedly different approach to fantasy.

(6) Dawn of Wonder by Renshaw

Probably my favorite book of the year so far. I’m a sucker for coming-of-age fantasy tales, and this one is both well-done and very long. The main character is a village boy with baggage who — after a good chunk of the book — ends up being trained in a military academy for elite troubleshooters. Every chapter was fascinating and I simply cannot wait for the sequel.

The Secret World: Choose your own adventure

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Now that my new computer is up and running, I have no excuse not to play the newest mission from The Secret World’s Issue 15, Choose Your Own. Sure, it was disappointing that an entire issue was basically repackaging of previous sidestories plus only one investigation mission, but then again, it’s one more mission than we had before. So let’s get to it!

Our tale opens on a ravaged Tokyo, where my character walks up to a pachinko parlor and notices an old-fashioned floppy disc sticking out from behind a monitor. Said monitor blinks on and a woman with a wasp mask introduces herself as “The Swarm,” an Anonymous-like collective that has been watching me. It challenges me to a game in exchange for some information.

“We know what your masters have done. We know what the Hive is,” The Swarm says in a computerized voice. I am intrigued.

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Oh hey, they literally meant a game, like a computer game. The floppy has another classic-type text adventure game on it with the appealing title of “Sloshing in the Dark.” Like the other mission in TSW that had an adventure game in it, you have to beat this mission to proceed. And as the name of this quest implies, you’ll be making a LOT of choices.

The story is actually really well done. You wake up in a hotel room and have to scramble to get out of there as an unseen force is chasing you. Jumping from a window, you discover that this is the bed and breakfast in Kingsmouth, taking us to familiar grounds. Yet it’s also a place on the verge of a Lovecraftian apocalypse, with a horrible force pressing in on the world, cultists hopping like frogs everywhere, and kids trying to murder you with scissors. The ending — which isn’t so much happy as it is an end — has you retaining your sanity even as the world boils to an end.

Time to find the next uplifting disc of this series! I’m guessing that you use the story from the game as clues for the next location.

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Back to Kingsmouth, always back to Kingsmouth in this game. I get a little shiver of deja vu running past Wendy and Jack’s B&B, thinking about the game.

The next game is found at the Lobster Trap, and I pop it in the sheriff’s computer for a late-night text adventure session. I have to say that these games are really well-done writing, short stories from start to end that will brutally finish if you don’t make the right choice.

This one deals with a failed thespian who is given a book, a forbidden play, that consumes him and causes a whole lot of weird stuff to happen around him. It’s downright creepy, especially in its ending… and I have to go perform that very same play as a character. Thanks, Secret World, for making sure I won’t sleep tonight.

stage

It’s not too bad, actually. Once I got the stage set up, I do a bow and apparently that’s my entire “performance.” At least it prompted the Swarm Wasps to come out for a moment up on the balcony.

Another interesting (but not quite scary) story, this one about the Baba Yaga who stole away your brother. Reminds me of Quest for Glory, especially the part about her chicken house.

London eventually leads me to Translyvania, where I find a dark room with a single light shining down on a blindfold. Sure thing, I’ll trust my life to these insane wasps while the undead are prowling around outside!

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Life goes from great to even better, as I wake up in an abandoned mental asylum. At least, I very much hope it’s abandoned. There aren’t any enemy mobs at all in this mission, but the atmosphere and sound effects do a great job convincing you that at any moment, hands could reach out of the dark and pull you into a sticky embrace.

A phone rings. I pick up and the Swarm tells me to play one last game. A short one, but perhaps the most important one. It’s about escaping the very same asylum that I’m in, so I follow those directions and end up gassed in the face for my efforts.

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As I fall unconscious, I see a pack of the Swarm coming out of the shadows. Hope they don’t rifle through my gear.

I wake up in Seoul with the floppy disk that talks about the Swarm, and the collective sends me a text:

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Now this… this is fascinating. The theme of choice has been running strong this entire mission, leading up to one final actual choice: to turn in the evidence about the Swarm to the Templars or keep it to myself. After coming into this knowledge, I don’t think right turning them in, so I kept it. I love that this mission actually gives me one of the very rare choices in TSW.

I also hope that this quest and the Swarm have ramifications on the game going forward. It’s a great concept, that bee-kissed people who didn’t go with a faction are jailed by the secret world for their independent streak — and how that “swarm” is fighting back. If they’re recruiting, I am so in. A fourth faction that’s unlockable as you play on? How cool would that be?

WildStar and the Art of Movement

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Sorry WildStar fans, I don’t have a huge return-to-WildStar post for you today. I’m still sort of in the process of reloading all of my stable of MMOs and chortling with glee that they actually run right on this computer. But I do have plans to explore Arcterra with my Engineer, so stay tuned on that front.

What I did want to comment on today that even spending a few minutes with my character here reminded me of one of my hands-down favorite aspects of WildStar: Its freedom of movement. Character just handle so great in this game, from the double-jumps to the tight controls while you’re making course corrections in mid-air. Even the running animations are spot-on. Little things, but when you go from game to game, you do notice how one MMO handles like a truck and another like a sports car.

WildStar, you be the sports car.