Thursday, 18 October 2012

Small Beginnings (DQ: Legion of Shadow Prologue & Curse of the Cornfields quest)

Humble beginnings dealing with farm pests - not
quite a peril to haunt the existence of the universe...
The Legion of Shadow starts with me wakening from a dream. Sadly this dream doesn't involve fluffy Bunny Rabbits who eat bankers that threaten to stop your overdraft. That is, for the record, a most delightful dream to have. This dream instead involves black-scaled monsters with sharp fangs trying to do unspeakable things to me. I lie on a soggy ground, with rain and mud in abundance around me. Charred, twisted corpses surround me. What the fuck happened in that pub last night, anyway?!?! I feel in pain, yet I am not bleeding, nor am I apparently injured in any way. I'm certainly not a charred corpse like my fellow inhabitants around me, that's for certain. Looking at my arm, I'm now sporting some flash purple mark branded into my skin. What makes this far better than any tattoo I've ever had in other playthroughs of Gamebooks is the fact that it has three diamond-bodied serpents intertwined in spirals and stuff. Neat! I hear a groaning sound and locate its source to be a small boy clad in plate armour. He would be fine, but on closer inspection it appears he took an arrow to the knee.. well, chest anyway. I ask the boy what happened, having not a Scooby Doo myself as to what the hell is going on here. Take me back to the fluffy bunnies, please!....

The boy informs me that brigands and thieves attacked our camp and gave me a clobbering on my head. Following that mild inconvenience, apparently some weird shit happened with the mark on my arm and magic  flowed from it, causing the mass charcoal pile that I'm standing in. I, of course, have no memory of what happened, or even who I am. Back to more pressing matters; this poor fellow is dying in front of me, the head assassin's arrow having found its mark. As is always the case in such adventures involving mass burned bodies and a loss of memory, this head assassin is seemingly the only survivor from the 'bad guys'. Then again, who is to say I'm not the bad guy here? I did apparently murder hundreds of men with a flick of my purple arm! The boy goes on to use his dying breaths to inform me that he'd only known me for a day; we'd met on the way to Tithebury Cross, wherever that may be. This boy (Let's call him Pike, shall we?) tells me that he was due to apprentice with the great Avian Dale, who is apparently highly important, if only I could remember! I swear, this is the last time I drink that shiny blue stuff... Pike tells me to fetch his backpack quickly, as Harpies are moving in for the kill. In this pack is Pike's letter granting him access to Avian Dale's academy. As Pike draws his final breath, I vow to assassinate the assassin who assassinated him (try saying that 5 times really quickly late at night!) I also take his sword, The apprentice (main hand: sword +1 brawn). I will explain what the brawn statistic means as the time arises, but note that I can only have one main hand item equipped at any one time. Should I equip another, my current one is deemed to have been destroyed. Equip-able areas of my person are a Cloak, Head, Gloves, Main Hand, Chest, Left Hand, Talisman, Feet, Necklace and two Rings slots. This customizability is one of the main strengths of DQ; you can truly make your character unique compared to everybody else's. Leaving Pike to presumably rot and be eaten by Harpies, I make my way to Tithebury Cross.

Excuse the giant sun-flare on the right-hand side of the map.
Tithebury Cross does not really have a giant white spot near the mountains!
 The above is the layout of Tithebury Cross and so I should probably explain how the actual adventuring in DQ goes. Each number on the map represents the start of a quest, legendary monster hunt, boss battle or tavern. Green swords represent the easiest of quests, with Orange being slightly harder, Blue harder still and Red ones representing quests only the brave should undertake. Spider-like things represent Legendary Monsters, Skulls represent the Boss (i.e final quest) of the Act and taverns represent... err, taverns! While not every quest and monster must be conquered in order to proceed, for the purposes of this playthrough I will be attempting each and every one. I'm going to go about this methodically; starting with the easiest quests at the top of the map and work my way down until all the green ones are done and so forth. The hero sheet requires me to give myself a name, so I must confess to going all nostalgic and giving my hero the name that I have always thought to be simply the coolest, most badass name in all of fantasy. Balthus Dire it is! For my first trick, I shall attempt to rid Tithebury of the Curse of the Cornfields...

I haven't got the key for your brand
new Combine Harvester, honest!
Balthus Dire is having a pleasant stroll through some fields when some crazy old farmer comes charging at me waving his pitchfork about. Apparently his farm is cursed and like a good old superstitious type, he's blaming a witch. A strange mist lingers over the land, a mist which the farmer insists is not the cause of his cows. A mystery, then. The farmer tells me that in this mist he has seen more terrifying shapes move about than you'll find in a tub of Moshi Monsters Pasta for kids. Why is the witch to blame, I hear you ask? Oh, you weren't asking. Well, I'll tell you anyway! The farmer's wife got all bitchy with the witch, accusing her of not looking after the farmers crops properly. This has seemingly caused the witch to put a curse on the land, blighting all crops and the like. I tell you, women arguing ALWAYS ends badly. I agree to help the poor sod; after all, the quest isn't going anywhere if I don't! I trundle off into the mist, with only The apprentice to aid me against the monsters lurking within. Eerily, every time I think I see something move in the mist, the wind howls and the mist swirls, forcing me to believe that what I saw was just a figment of my imagination. For a basic quest, this kind of suspense-building atmosphere is nice. Before I can appreciate the aesthetics of the writing too much, a murderous Scarecrow emerges from the mist and decides I look like a crow. Gulp. Now would also be a good time to explain the combat mechanics of DQ...

Crow's Feet; Never leave home without them!
There are 4 key attributes to combat: Speed, Magic/Brawn, Armour (thank god this is an English production, I couldn't cope with seeing "Armor" everywhere) and last but perhaps most crucially, Health. Each combat round starts with the combatants rolling for their attack speed, which is usually 2D6 + their speed attribute. The highest wins the combat round, then rolls a single D6 adding the total to their Brawn score. The defendant's Armour score is then subtracted from that, leaving the final total to be deducted from their health score. A new combat round begins and the fight continues until somebody is very dead. Of course, the cavern-sized list of treasure one can acquire throughout DQ offers many items with combat modifiers, but I'll explain them as and when it is necessary. The good thing about DQ is that the combat scales in difficulty as you get through the book and get more powerful, something FF never did quite manage to perfection! Anyway, I start with 30 Health, an attribute that will refill to the maximum after every fight. My speed, armour and brawn all start at 0, although thanks to The apprentice my brawn now sits at 1. To cut a long story short, the Scarecrow ends up as little more than chopped straw, leaving me to escape with my dignity and pride intact. A necklace made of human bones around the bugger's neck appears to be what bought the thing life, so with one quick slash I remove it. I can now claim a reward for my victory from two items, with the one I plump for being Crow's feet (Feet: +1 Speed, + 1 Magic). After adorning myself with the bizarre item drop from our angry straw friend, I follow a green flickering light ahead, as that is what any self-respecting adventurer would do! Following the green mist road, I soon find a funky totem that is quite obviously out of place. The gleeful destructive side of me concludes that smashing it to pieces will be a most useful exercise, so The apprentice in hand I stride forth to kick totem ass.

Ahh, anyone remember this little gem of a game?
Tanks would have been far more effective
than my sword in destroying the evil totem too.
Unfortunately for me, I get winded by the mist punching me in the stomach. (See what I did there? I've been off a while, give me a break on the witticisms!) This Mist Stalker is a disturbing guardian, complete with 'green eyes glowing with a malevolent hunger'. My magic Crow's feet allow me to give this stalker a severe restraining order before I return to my favourite pastime of destroying evil totems. Slicing it neatly down the middle in a way that would impress on MasterChef, relief hits me as the mist and dodgy green light effects vanish almost instantly, leaving me standing with the crazy old farmer who arrives and does a little Irish jig around me in happiness. I demand a reward for my efforts in saving his crops, and get for my reward... wait for it, wait for it, it's a cracking prize.... a GRIME-COATED KEY. Thank you so much, you useless peasant. Thus ends the tale of the Curse of the Cornfields. What a nice easy start to my quest it was too!

So, the journey. As you'll have noticed, this pint-sized quest could (and was) undertaken in a mere 20 minute period, so they make ideal for short, regular blog posts! As Destiny Quest is a load of mini-adventures, obviously I do not start at reference number 1.


Short, sweet and effective. I like it! Only two fights as well, which were as follows:

Scarecrow - Speed: 0 Brawn: 1 Armour: 0 Health: 8
Mist Stalker - Speed: 0 Brawn: 1 Armour: 0 Health: 10

To fill you in on where Balthus Dire stands at the end of each quest, I've decided to include a short character summary;

Main hand - The apprentice (Sword, +1 brawn)
Feet - Crow's feet (Feet, +1 speed, +1 magic)
Backpack - Grime-coated key
Money Pouch - 10 Gold Crowns

Speed - 1
Brawn - 1
Magic - 1
Armour - 0
Health - 30

Ok, time to cross series and use a tried and tested feature, time for...


Illustrations: There are the colour panels in the middle of the book which are very nice, including the maps of each act/homeworld which you've seen the first of earlier. Apart from that, the one sad omission in my eyes is that of any black and white illustrations throughout the remainder of the book. Even if it was only for all the Legendary Monster quests, as illustrations of those would be welcomed with open arms. Without any illustrations this section of my analysis will obviously not feature when it comes to DQ titles sadly. N/A.

Monsters/other NPC encounters: The farmer, the Scarecrow and the Mist Stalker. That's all there is for this tale, but it's all you need for a minimalistic quest such as this. Think of it as a more sinister version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Mist Stalker is an interesting fellow, and for a first quest I am satisfied with the ensemble I encountered. 6/10.

Storyline/Plot: I believe this quest is part of an ongoing storyline with the Witch, something which should play out nicely as I get through the quests in Act 1. It is a fairly generic plot for the quest (Farmer has trouble with crops, needs adventurer to save his means of living) but the atmosphere with the mist and evil glowing green light saves it from being boring. 6/10.

Difficulty: Nice and easy. Not much more to say really! 1/10.

Seal of Approval?: Obviously this doesn't have to be the first quest you undertake from the book, but as my first quest I must say that it serves as a nice introduction to fighting and the aspect of equipping an item to your character. In that respect, it does very well in what I assume is intended to be an introductory quest in many ways. It is, of course, no classic, so no fluffy Seal here. An honourable mention though.

The award for a well-done if generic adventure.

A good start to my Destiny Quest adventure then. I'll round this up nice and quickly with a brief moral completely unrelated to anything you've read above:

Be yourself; everyone else is taken. Thanks for that one Oscar.


May Your Stamina Never Fail...

I sort out an altercation involving turnips and progress no further to stopping the Legion of Shadow...

Return of the Blogger

Good day to you all. It's been a while, hasn't it? A dodgy internet connection at University coupled with an onslaught of work in the early weeks caused me to take an early winter hibernation, but with a break this week I unleash upon you all the beginning of Destiny Quest: The Legion of Shadow, which frustratingly had been virtually finished an entire month ago. Sad times. Hopefully I will be able to do an update at least once every 2 weeks now that I've got my head in gear, but we shall see. Should I continue to fail you with updates once again, hop along to Marsten's Blog of Wonders, where I have been put to shame by regular updates despite an exploding computer. Not to mention a reminiscing about Knightmare, which was a frankly awesome TV show. Anyway, enough of this, get reading my next post, it's the one with action in it!  

A dancing Crocodile. Because I can.