Saturday, 8 July 2017

Kyrandia - The Descent

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Brandon’s journal - entry #3: Caves. Darkness. Floating balls of light talking to me. Monsters moving in the shadow. This is definitely the last night I spend in this night club…

Yay, the fireberries cave! Well it’s a long long maze, and it’s very surprising at first. You’ve been wandering around the game nicely until now and random gem puzzles aside, it’s been somewhat of a breeze. And then the game throws at you a hundred-screen maze with insta-death around every corner! I understand that a lot of players just stopped there dead in their tracks… As for me I kinda like it! I enjoy mapping my old-school games with graph paper and pencil and this is a maze that rewards the player for being thorough.


One of the two kinds of screens we’ll see for a long time…
But first things first. We left Brandon at the entrance of the cave, with no idea of what’s ahead of him. If we go north we find a fireberry bush. We can pick a fireberry and put it in our inventory. From there, every time you change screen, the fireberry becomes darker and darker and disappears on the fourth move. If you go east from the starting screen you find… another fireberry bush…


Oooh it feels like it’s going to be a long day…

The next screen holds a curious contraption involving a grate, a pressure plate, some kind of scale and seems to be directly picked from Eye of the Beholder or Lands of Lore (two games that teach us that heroic fantasy architecture was mainly based on pressure plates for basically every function imaginable). And sure enough, here is what happens:


Give me a “JUMP” key...


Yeah thanks Brandon, nobody saw that one coming…

Ok so now I’m cut from retreating to Timbermist Woods. I certainly hope that dead-man walking scenarios are not an idea that Westwood designers liked because I left a fortune in gemstones on the other side of that gate… There is obviously something to do with the scale, and trying to throw an apple on it tells me it’s not heavy enough to do anything, so I’m on the right track.

Past this point, we enter the labyrinth proper. The idea is simple. Your fireberry lasts four moves. Every room you enter either holds a fireberry bush or doesn’t. If your fourth move lands you in a room without a bush, you’re eaten by a grue… Or several…


Maybe Kyrandia is secretly a Zork remake…

There are two ways to avoid that. The first one involves careful mapping and trial and error. When your fireberry is almost gone, you enter the next room hoping you’ll find another fireberry bush. Save scumming is in the air and it’s quite tedious. However the save/load process is pretty fast and doesn’t weigh too much. With Dark Seed save system, I think I would have thrown my computer by the window after a few hours.

The other way is remarkably tedious and in my opinion removes the fun from the whole thing, but it works. When you put a fireberry on the ground in a room, it never disappear. So you can light up the whole place. However it means you have to go to a fireberry bush, pick a few ones, than go to the new room, drop the berry, go back to pick more berries, etc… I think whoever is employing this technique is bored to death in a few hours...

The nice thing with the “regular” way is that, once you have your map, you just fly through the labyrinth in no time, getting in the next fireberry room just as your light source is disappearing. It’s quite pleasant and you really feel like you’ve mastered the place. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there were many deaths before getting that feeling.


Many, many deaths…

I’ll spare you the hour I spent mapping the place entirely. Suffice to say the grues in the area feasted quite a lot on lost adventurers. After that, here are my observations about the place :
  • Right next to the entrance is a large chasm I can’t cross. Getting to the other side will probably lead to a way out, or at least an important item.
  • The maze can be considered separated in two “parts”, east and west. Two important rooms split the place in two. On the north side is The Pantheon of Moonlight, which holds two weird talking balls of light. They seem to be here for quite a long time and they need a gemstone of some kind to be freed… Oh come on, a gemstone? All my stuff is on the other side of the grate! Let’s not jump to conclusions that I should have taken one of the gemstones with me and keep exploring...

Let me guess… a sapphire? Sunstone? Ruby?
I’m starting to feel like a jewelry dealer in this game…
  • On the south side of the “split” (which isn’t really a split considering I found there is a middle path too but whatever), you’ll find a room with open sky which shows night sky for some reason (maybe it means Brandon has spent a LOT of time in the maze). On the ground there I find a gold coin, which immediately reminds me of the well in Timbermist for which I couldn’t find a use. Throwing gold coins makes sense in a game like this, but it doesn’t help me for the matter at hand, which is opening the damn gate.

Amusingly, Brandon says “Aaaah I thought I would
never get out” while it’s just the middle of the maze…
  • In the south-east corner of the maze, I find a room with lava in it and a bridge across it. Trying to cross the bridge leads to another horrible death…


    Come on Brandon, you’re always exaggerating… Oh.

    This is where the freeze scroll from Darm comes in handy. Using it turns the whole lava to ice and allows me to cross without problem… In the next screen I find… another fireberry bush… sigh. And an iron key which I have absolutely no idea where to use.

Yay
  • Finally, the last room of interest is a cave full of emeralds! I hungrily pick one of them but considering the form of it, I highly doubt it’ll help me with the talking will’o’wisps.

Okay, now you’re just messing with me.
  • Littered through the maze I find four rocks that look heavy enough to help me with the scales in the first room!
After this (very long) trek in the depths of earth, I go back to the closed grate. On my way, I make a small detour to try the emerald, the gold coin and the iron key with the wisps, but to no avail. Back to the first room, I try throwing a rock on the scale and it works! The grate moves slightly. I do this again with the other rocks.


Until…


...Brandon…


...does something…


...VERY stupid.

Brandon proceeds to throw the rocks one by one with riskier and riskier moves until he manages to miss the fourth throw and the rock falls down the scale into the abyss underneath while the grate was starting to move! Stupid protagonist! There is something to be said when the character in an adventure game messes up the player’s efforts…

Anyway, thanks to this dumb hero, I’m devoid of rocks and the grate is still closed. I’m now contemplating the idea of returning through the whole labyrinth and see what I missed… but before doing that, I have to check the notable rooms again just in case and I don’t take too long to find it. But come on, you have to give me some slack for missing it in the first place. Let’s do a little game. Go back to the “cavern of twilight” screenshot and find the very important rock that’s obviously in this picture. Go on, really. I’ll wait…


THERE!

Thanks to this little pixel hunting, I now have a precious fifth rock. I go back (again) to the first room and score! The grate is open! Let’s stop for a second there. I spent the better part of two hours in this maze for what? Find a way to exit it by the same way I entered? Granted I got an emerald, a key and a gold coin for my trouble but you have to admit it’s a bit anticlimactic…


Pictured: victory.

I have a good idea where to go though : to the (wishing?) well! It’s a good feeling to be able to get out of the cave and back to the Timbermist environment and music. And sure enough, it works! The gold coin seems to start a weird reaction in the well. It fills itself with water and gives me… a moonstone!


...whatever that is.

Considering the shape and name of the gem, I guess it’s what my new friends the will’o’wisps need. I go back aaaaaall the way to the Pantheon of Moonlight and put the moonstone in the socket! I had a little moment of stress though, when the game suddenly told me that I couldn’t put that in here…


in red letters!

But I just clicked a bit on the side of the socket. The moonstone fits and the wisps surround me to thank me. They shower me in purple sparks and give me another power for my amulet. The power of the will’o’wisp! With that, I turn into a purple ball of light and can glide my way through the darkness of the labyrinth without worrying about the fireberries!


Weeeee! Take that, grues!

With my newfound power I can cross the chasm near the entrance of the labyrinth… and finally find the exit!


For once we agree, Brandon, it was about time!

I try to go a bit further before closing off and on the third screen outside, I get knocked out by a falling branch! This is a great place to stop so we’ll leave Brandon have a good and deserved sleep.


Let him sleep, he had a bad day…

So we successfully exited the infamous fireberry maze. What thoughts have I about the whole thing? Well I kinda liked it to say the truth! I think it worked perfectly with my love for mapping, but I can also understand a lot of people would hate it. The only way to map the place is through trial and error and the few actual puzzles there is are pretty simple. Basically, if you remove the maze, you just have to get the rocks and the coin, then bring the moonstone to the Pantheon in order to exit it. Once you have a functional map, the rest is pretty straightforward. Anyway, it was more pleasant to me than the gemstone puzzle in Timbermist… We’ll come back to this in the Final Rating. I’m very curious now to see what the rest of Kyrandia has in store for us… We’ll find out next week!

Session time: 2 hours
Total time: 4 hours 30

Inventory: 2 apples, flute, magic scroll, tulip, emerald, iron key
Powers: Healing, Will’o’wisp

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

9 comments:

  1. The maze itself wouldn't be even that bad actually, but the overlong death animation (isn't it something like 20-30 seconds?) you get every single time upon entering a dark room unprepared reeeeally makes the whole thing much more tedious than it'd otherwise be.

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    1. You can speed it up by clicking starting on the second death. Thank God for that! Maybe it's a feature implemented on an update to the original game? I think without that, mapping would indeed by a nightmare!

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  2. Are the rocks placed randomly? because I don't think I took one from the moonlight room, although I could be mistaken (or perhaps there are six rocks, to make sure you definitely find five?).

    Anyway, I'm definitely not a fan of big long mazes in my adventure games, so this part was a bit of a struggle. Usually with these games, when I replay them they turn out to be smaller than I remember, but the fireberry caves went on forever! I was so glad to get out of there. As much as I love the music, it gets very tiresome after a while.

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    1. >Are the rocks placed randomly?

      No. Google image searching for maps of the maze shows that.

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  3. You can actually pick more than 1 fire fruit, like 3. Then you drop 1 by 1 on each screen, that's faster than going back for more.

    Also, when you turn into the will o wisp, you still have to be careful, because after it times out you get back to being Brandon, and if you were walking to the next screen, it's game over again.

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  4. This maze seemed pretty fair, as far as mazes go. It seems more like a test of the player's willpower than anything unfair.

    A plate puzzle though...in an adventure game...*shudder*

    Re: Westwood's dungeon crawlers, EOB 1 and 2 are solid, whereas I found the last third of Lands of Lore to be exceedingly annoying. That final dungeon is designed to piss you off.

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    1. Yes, I agree in general, the maze is not that terrible (except if you miss the key in that very far from the main path screen). But the thing is, theres no logic to it, just randomly guess the path, and the game punishing you for making the wrong turn (that game over sequence scared me a lot as a child).

      I dont know, I would have made some kind of cryptic map or clues that point the right way, like the fire fruits glowing more if you were in the right path or something like that.

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    2. So it's based on trial and error. I can see how that's annoying, like it's trying to artificially increase playtime.

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  5. I didn't have trouble with the maze, but I picked three fireberries at a time, dropped them in each new room, and mapped as I went. I only died to a grue once, when I had to make a blind leap of faith at a fork and chose wrong. I didn't even realize that the wisp power allowed Brandon to ignore darkness because I already had the maze fully lit.

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