Journal Entry 2: “As harrowing as this place is, I am making good progress and overcoming many obstacles. I have uncovered new sections to the castle, defeated strange creatures, and discovered parchments that shed some light on the difficult task ahead of me. The main parchment states “Five to find, three are one. One gives access, the bladed sun. The silver orb, to banish below. The staff of ages to vanquish the foe. Joining two, the golden thorn. The last to invoke, the platinum horn.” It is my belief that the five items it speaks of are gems of different colours, three of which I found behind the waterfall near the lake. I have now used two of them; one in the cave to lower the wall and receive the parchment, and the second in the pedestal room to retrieve a crystal sphere. The sphere has been extremely valuable to me, freezing the lake so I could collect the key from the skeleton and then allowing me to defeat a fire drake that stood guard behind the mirror door (which the key opened). My confidence has risen with these victories and I long to continue with this quest I once considered futile.”
Hmmm...I can take the sturdy looking bridge or the rickety one surrounded by skulls. Oh I just don't know!
I’m very pleased to say that my ninety minute session last night was a very productive one! I’ll admit straight away that I did not achieve all my success without playing the reader assistance card, but that wasn’t entirely my fault. Many of you left me hints, ranging from pure guesses (what would this blog be without Canageek’s enthusiasm) to straight out spoilers. I have not yet deciphered all of the hints as I don’t want to ruin anything for myself, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) Bobbyloathesyou left me a few unsubtle intimations regarding the waterfall. While I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to use ROT13 when providing hints or spoilers, I’m not going to be too harsh on the offender in this instance because in all likelihood, I never would have found the bag of gems behind the waterfall if it were not for his varied and humorous attempts to inform me of the beauty and tranquillity that one can experience when spending afternoons basking in the vicinity of waterfalls. I will however deny the ten points that he otherwise might have earned as a lesson. ;) But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s how my session played out…
As Zenic says, "ROT13 is your friend"
Determined to get as far as I could without assistance, yet knowing that the waterfall played a role in the game’s solution, I once again loaded Shadowgate and entered the fray. My restore returned me to the chamber with the unclimbable wall, so I decided to spend a bit of time trying to figure out how to scale it. The one thing that caught my attention about the room was that the torches on the wall can’t be removed, whereas they can be (and need to be) in every other location so far. That made them suspicious, so I tried lighting them…nothing happened. I tried “operating” them and what do you know, the left one is a lever that opens up a hidden door. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the purpose of the arrow positioned in the centre of the wall is not to be collected as a weapon, but instead acts as a directional marker, informing the player that they really should focus their attention on the left hand torch. It seems obvious when you think about it, but how many times have you paid attention to what direction a newly discovered arrow (and by arrow I mean the type you project from a bow) is facing in a fantasy based computer game? It didn’t help me that the first thing I did on entering the chamber is add the arrow to my inventory, subsequently removing the game’s ingenious hint from the room.
OK, so it looks really obvious now! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I eagerly saved and went through the door, excited that I’d opened up a new part of the game while still having the waterfall hint up my sleeve. The bridge room beyond has two separate bridges that you can cross, but experimentation soon told me that only one of them can be crossed without falling to your death. The alcove I entered after crossing that bridge contained a rather eerie looking shadow wraith, apparently “searching for a soul to take its place”. Setting things on fire had been a fairly successful tactic so far in Shadowgate, so I immediately tried it with the wraith. He disappeared in a puff of smoke, but not without letting loose terrible laughter that suggested there might be consequences to my actions. I was able to continue a couple of screens, but the wraith kept reappearing and my strength deteriorated until eventually his curse overcame me and I died. Reloading, I looked at my very limited inventory to see what else I might be able to use on the wraith. One of my torches was described as being unusual and unlike the others, and I knew from previous uses that when lit it produced a glowing green flame. I lit that torch and “operated” it on the wraith, with the result being a lengthy scream rather than laughter and the wraith was no more. Another success and Shadowgate was beginning to be much less threatening than my Uninvited fallout had led me to expect.
I don't suppose you're scared of spiders are you? No? Um...do you like fruit?
I picked up some sort of cape from behind the wraith, which I’m now wearing (in the game that is), but I’m not yet sure what its purpose is. The next room beyond the alcove was another chamber with some interesting features. Most noticeably, there was a sign on the wall with the letters EPOR on it, along with a coiled up rope on the ground. I don’t think it takes a genius to realise the word EPOR is ROPE backwards, but any attempts to pick up or operate the rope fail as it was being held in place by some sort of magic. Deciding to try my luck, I clicked on the rope then clicked on “speak” and typed EPOR. The rope uncoiled and tied itself to an opening through the ceiling. Once again Shadowgate earned a little more of my trust and rewarded me for applying logic (well, fantasy logic anyway)! Climbing the rope took me to the mirror room, which was a bit disorientating since there are no stairs or any sort of incline between the chamber and the mirror room, but it’s nice to be able to jump between the two locations quickly. Also in the chamber were three items, being a bottle of vile smelling liquid that I've not yet used, the parchment that contains the message I wrote in the journal entry, and a bottle of Goo-Gone. Immediately thinking of the green slime that came out of the second tomb, I saved my game and skipped over there to see what would happen if I used it. It did make the goo disappear, but I couldn’t see that doing so gave me access to anything I didn’t already have.
It's not often solutions to puzzles are literally written on the wall
The other thing of note in the chamber with the rope was a fairly obvious outline of a door at the end of the room. I opened it and pushed through into a cave containing a wall with cracks all over it and some sort of stone inscription with a hole in it on the floor. I could figure out anything I was supposed to do there, so I assumed I mustn’t yet have whatever it is that needs to go in the hole. Still holding the waterfall hint up my sleeve, I decided to push my luck and head back to the dragon’s lair to see if I could now achieve something there. From my last post you might remember that anything I tried to do in this room resulted in dragon’s breath burning me to a cinder. Unfortunately, nothing new that I had in my inventory appeared to be of any help, but before I left I thought I’d try a few more random things. Interestingly, unlike every other item in the room, “operating” the shield resulted in “you raise the shield instinctively as a warrior should”, yet adding anything from the room into my inventory afterwards still resulted in a fiery death. I dragged the shield into my inventory and when the dragon sprayed me with fire the game stated that “the shield protects you from a burst of flame as the dragon tries to roast you”. I was then able to pick up the spear, the helmet and the war hammer without being toasted. Yet another small victory and I was on a roll!
But there's a treasure chest...surely I can just get the treasaaaagggghhhhh.....it burns!!!!!!
At this point, given how well things were already going, I decided it was time to check in my “ask the audience” card and go and see this waterfall. I tried clicking on the waterfall and selecting “go”, but that just made me stand in the water with no positive outcome. I tried "operating" the waterfall but that didn’t do anything at all. Any attempts to access the area behind the waterfall were blocked due to a landslide and the game informed me that the rocks were too heavy to lift. Honestly, if Bobbyloathesme hadn’t given me the hint that I needed to do something with the waterfall, I would have left that screen and not thought about it again, certain that there was nothing more to do. Instead, given how adamant he was that I simply must see this splendid waterfall, I started double clicking on different spots on the screen to see if anything would happen. Suddenly I appeared in a little alcove, wondering how I got there. It turns out there’s one little shadowy spot just next to the waterfall that you have to double click on to gain access to the alcove, and since this is where you get your hands on the three gems that are of major importance in the game, I think that’s a bit unforgiving. Perhaps in other versions of the game (with more colours and better resolutions) the solution may have been more obvious, but I’m putting this down as the first example of a puzzle in Shadowgate that requires a bit too much luck to resolve.
The fact that there's an exit displayed on the minimap, and yet double clicking on it tells you the path is blocked, makes this particularly difficult
Thanking my lucky stars that the one hint I needed was the one I’d accidentally received, I set about figuring out what these gems were for. There were two places that quickly came to mind where I might be able to use them. The pedestal room, where there’s a hole in the wall, and the cave beyond the bridge room, where there’s a similar hole in the floor. I went to the cave first and the blue gem fit the hole perfectly, lowering the crack-filled wall and revealing an old wizard. “Heed my words, warrior!” he said. “The Warlock Lord can only be defeated by thy courage and the Staff of Ages. Remember, five must thou find. Three for the staff, on to be the key, and one to be thy pathway. Have the wits about thee, warrior! Fare thee well.” With that, the wall closes again and I’m left with a parchment on the ground. The parchment rather cryptically says “As the shadow of the wind, thou shalt be! Ulterior Humana.” I have no idea yet what that means, but perhaps I’ll know when I need to. With nothing else to do, I quickly moved onto the pedestal room and successfully slotted the white gem into the hole there. I was rewarded with a crystal sphere that would turn out to be extremely useful! The sphere was described as being “as cold as ice”, which gave me an idea...
A magical image of an old wizard? I guess projectors must have seemed pretty magical back in the eighties.
That damn skeleton with the key in the lake had been annoying me since I first came across it, so every time I picked up a new item, my first thought was whether it could be applied to that puzzle. In this case I wondered if the freezing sphere might help, so I “operated” it on the lake. The water froze up, allowing me to cross over and get the key! While I was trying to think about what I might do with that key, I wondered what would happen if I then melted the ice with my torch. The answer is that I was able to recollect the crystal sphere, so I happily placed it back in my inventory. Lucky I did too, because I was about to find another use for it! The only mystery I could think of that I still hadn’t solved was the mirror room, so that was my next destination. Looking through my inventory, I now had a war hammer that seemed the perfect thing to use to smash one of the mirrors with. I chose the middle one due to the surrounding gems and to my astonishment it actually smashed, revealing a locked door. That’s right, a locked door that just happened to be unlocked by the key I’d just found!
Did I need to smash the other mirror? Probably not. But damn it felt good!
Still not being able to believe how much progress I was making, and wondering what the hell I was about to come up against, I stepped through the door to be confronted by a bridge surrounded by fire and “a legendary firedrake” blocking my path. My attempts at burning and hitting it achieved nothing but death, and then I remembered the freezing sphere. Operating it on the firedrake didn’t work, so I tried it on the fire surrounding the bridge. Apparently he was getting all his power from the fire, so as soon as the sphere touched the flames, he vanished! I can very happily say that this is where I left the game session. Typically I finish game sessions at a point where I’m not entirely sure what to do next, hoping that a good night’s sleep will make the solution come to me (it works sometimes too!), but in this case, I don’t even know what is beyond the next door! I’m genuinely eager to get back to the game, which is not something I expected to say a few days ago. I’m not sure whether my excitement has more to do with my surprising success, or whether Shadowgate is actually a great game just yet, but one thing’s for sure...it’s far better and much more rewarding than Uninvited, which is just as well.
No ICOM gaming session would be complete without being ripped to pieces
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Time: 3 hours 00 minutes