Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Game 38: Conquests of Camelot - In the Name of the Rose

King Arthur Journal Entry 4: "With Gawaine now safe in Camelot, and the Mad Monk's crystal heart in my possession, I set out to follow in the footsteps of Sir Launcelot. That meant paying a visit to the Lady of the Lake in her ice palace, which in turn meant travelling across dangerously thin ice to get there. Luckily, the rose that Gwenhyver gave me last I saw her assisted in getting me across, although I'm certain I know why she was so helpful in this instance. The Lady accepted the crystal heart in return for knowledge of the Grail's whereabouts (Jerusalem!), and also freed Launcelot once I'd solved her flowery riddles. As tired as I was after this endeavor, I immediately set out on the path that Galahad had taken, which meant travelling by sea to Gaza. On arrival I was introduced to a man named Al-Sirat, who claimed to be one of six guardians, each of whom hold a test I must pass for their Goddess to give me the Grail. It's all getting a bit crazy, and my day finished on a downer when a guide I hired tried to poison me. I fear I may need the help of more than a Goddess to make my way safely across this desert to Jerusalem!"

Cold you say! I know someone that really likes cold things.

There’s less than a week until I get a month off work, so unsurprisingly I’ve had to put a bit of extra effort into it to make sure I can depart with a clear conscience. That’s meant I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to play and write, but I’m sure I’ll make up for it soon enough. My last post ended with me getting my hands on the crystal heart that was hidden in the Mad Monk’s well on Glastonbury Tor. As soon as I found it, I figured it would likely be the item the Lady of the Lake was missing, so I was keen to be on my way. I wasn’t certain how I could get off the hill at this point, but knew I’d broken the Spell of Circular Entrapment that had kept me there previously (by finding the heart). It turned out that simply leaving the screen made me reappear at the base of the hill, where my mule still grazed. Taking the south path out of there, I was soon shown the map of Britannia Australis, and given the opportunity to select a new destination. I chose to revisit the Lady of the Lake at Moor Ot, convinced that she wouldn’t send me on my way now that I had her beloved treasure. I’d been to the icy region previously, so it didn’t take me long to navigate across the thin ice to the entrance of the Lady’s palace.

Finally the King and his beloved mule were reunited!

At least this time I didn't have that damn horse that stranded me here last time!

Once inside, the Lady of the Lake reacted just as I’d hoped she would: “I sense that you possess something that belongs to me. Give it to me and I will tell you what even Merlin does not know – where to search for the Grail.” I gave it to her, much to her delight! “Blessed be! For this greatest of all gifts, I will give you the gift of knowledge in return. To find the Grail, you must take ship to Gaza, then seek Jerusalem. Somewhere in that city it lies hidden.” The location of the Grail! That was more than I’d expected to receive, but I knew that more obstacles would undoubtedly await me before I could possibly have it in my hands. The Lady went on to tell me that she would keep Launcelot, “for he has spurned my love in favour of your queen”. She would only release him if I asked her to! Did she think that I would want her to keep him captive, just because my wife loves him more than me?! Hmmmm...actually, it was quite a tempting offer! No, as King, I simply couldn’t leave Launcelot frozen in ice, so I asked her to release him. “You are a noble man, Pendragon. But we will see how true is your desire to save Launcelot when you are put to the test. Follow me.” I followed the Ice Queen into another chamber where I beautiful tree stood. It appeared unaffected by all the coldness around it, even having flowers of just about every colour adorning it.

Knowledge? For this priceless jewel?! I beg you reconsider!

Who knew the Ice Maiden had such a green thumb!?

I learnt that if I wanted to free Launcelot, I would have to pass a test. “To free Launcelot, you must speak the Language of the Flowers. I will pose three riddles. You must give me the name of the flower that solves each riddle.” More riddles! I recalled reading about the Language of the Flowers in the manual, so immediately opened it up before trying to solve anything. I was given a close-up view of the tree, and then given the first riddle: “When light is dim and courage fails, when heart against adversity rails, when it seems you will never see the dawn, this alone can drive you on.” The list of flowers in the manual also listed their meanings, so I began hunting through them to find a suitable answer. As soon as I saw the meaning “Hope”, I knew it was the answer to the riddle, and since it apparently was the meaning of the flower Almond Blossom, began searching the tree for that flower. I could use the arrow keys to select each of the flowers, gaining their name in the process, and soon found the one called Almond Blossom. The Lady of the Lake praised my wisdom, and then gave me a second riddle: “Known to the priest and nun, who natural pleasures do shun.” The meaning of the flower Cornflower was “celibacy”, so I selected that flower on the tree. Another correct answer and only one to go to free Launcelot!

At least there's still some thought required to solve these puzzles, unlike in Police Quest.

Unnatural ones are fair game on occasion mind you.

The third and final riddle was “For its sweet sake, you suffer in silence. What we both most desire, but will never possess.” This time there were a couple of meanings that seemed they could have been correct, but I settled on “true love”, since that did indeed seem to be something the Lady and I would never have (with the ones we love loving others). This meaning lined up with Forget-me-not, so I chose that flower on the tree. “Truly you are worthy to be king. The test is ended. Launcelot shall go free.” The Lady and I returned to the original chamber, where she cast a spell of sorts to release Launcelot from the ice, then another to return him to Camelot. The Ice Queen then farewelled me, wishing me well on my search for the Grail, and then teleported me back to my mule. Moor Ot was complete, meaning only one of the three original paths my knights had taken while searching for the Grail were left for me to explore. I knew from the guard in Camelot that Galahad had travelled to Southampton and then hopped on a ship to the Far East. Once I’d left Moor Ot, I selected Southampton on the map, reappearing on a dock where a merchant ship awaited departure. There was some luggage on the ground nearby, and a sailor standing between me and ship’s deck. I checked out the luggage, but it seemed of little interest, so focussed on the sailor.

There will be legends in my name? Excellent!

I don't suppose you could make him suffer just a little bit could you?

The people of Southampton are plagued only by aching facial muscles and not evil giant Ascapart as we had hoped.

It is cool how the border changes for each location!

He knew who I was and wasn’t at all surprised by my presence. “Others might be surprised to see you here, m’lud, but not I. Ever since Sir Galahad sailed from here and did not return, I felt another would follow in his steps.” He then informed me that there were five ships in port ready to depart. “Their destinations are Dublin, Rennes, Rome, Thessalonica and Gaza.” I asked the sailor about Galahad, to which he responded: “Aye, he took ship from here to the Far East. He said he had heard tales that made him believe he should seek the Grail in Jerusalem.” I continued to question him until I finally discovered that there was a ship called “Al-Uzza” that would soon depart for Gaza. I paid him the three gold coins fare, and then boarded the ship behind him, which just happened to be the Al-Uzza. Once onboard I was shown a map of Europe and the Middle East, and then watched as a small representation of my ship made its way from Southampton to Gaza. On the way the crew, which I assisted when needed, was faced with storms and huge waves, but eventually made it to the destination. My mule survived the trip, but my pack and nearly all my belongings were washed away, leaving me with only my purse and lodestone. Before I departed the ship, the Captain gave me some advice for the journey ahead: “You are not a king in these lands, so do not be quick to draw your sword for you will be surrounded by enemies. Be careful who you trust and never pay bribes with too much coin.”

I made that law? What was I thinking!

What good is a mule with no belongings to pack on it?

The crew and I had one hell of a party when we arrived in Gaza, and I awoke with a nasty hangover! I stumbled off the ship, to be confronted by two contrasting people, both of whom pleaded with me to make use of their services. The first of them was a little boy named Hazm ibn Salim: “Sire, I am Hazm. My master sends his respects and invites you to accept his hospitality. My master—“ At this point he was rudely interrupted by the man in black robes, whose name was Jabir ibn Hamid. “Ignore this boy. You are lucky he did not make off with your mule. I am Jabir ibn Hamid. I overheard some sailors say you need a guide through the desert to Jerusalem.” Hazm and Jabir spent the next period of time talking over the top of each other, with Hazm telling me how wise his Master was and that he could give me the protection I needed, while Jabir criticised the boy and his master, telling me he himself was the only one that could get me to Jerusalem. Both of them used wild hand and arm gestures while speaking, with Hazm looking like he was raising his arms to the heavens. By the end of it I had to make a choice, but it was not difficult. The humility and gentleness that Hazm displayed was much preferred to Jabir’s mockery and aggression. I typed “follow boy”, at which point he led me and my mule off to the right of screen.

In other words: "You get really pissed!"

I'm King! I can blame anyone I like!

...the recipe for a very effective hangover cure?

Hazm took me to a building within which I found an old bearded man sitting cross legged in meditation. His name was Al-Sirat, and he’d apparently been expecting me for some time! “I am Al-Sirat, the first of Six Guardians who serve the Goddess, she who gives power of life and regeneration through her sacred cup, which you know as the Grail.” He went on to tell me that each of the Six Guardians would test me in different ways, with the tests covering mind, spirit and body. “You must pass each one of us before the Goddess will relinquish her sacred cup to you.” During our conversation, Hazm re-entered the room to inform his Master that he’d fed and watered the mule, and Al-Sirat told him to wait with the mules until I was ready to leave. “Then you will guide him in secret away from Gaza.” The introductions finished with the old man offering me his knowledge, as well as “qahwah to drink and figs to eat”. I was a bit confused as to what I was supposed to be doing, so took a moment to think things through. Al-Sirat had made it clear that he was one of six guardians, and that each of them would test me in some way, but what was the test here? He hadn’t asked me to do or solve anything! Perhaps figuring out what the test would be was part of the test in itself? Or perhaps the figs and qahwah drink were keys to figuring it out?

I don't suppose you will accept gold instead will you?!

The graphics guys did a great job of making Hazm appear insanely cutesy and meek

I drank some of the invigorating drink, and then ate some of the figs, but nothing happened. I drank more, and then ate more, until there were none left, but still nothing happened. What was their purpose then? I began asking Al-Sirat about every topic I could think of, finding out quite a bit about the Goddess and her various aliases. “The Goddess gave birth to the universe. By many names and faces she is known. As virgin, Mother and Crone. As Birth, Growth and Death.” So the Goddess goes by six names, and there are six guardians standing between me and her. Interesting, but it didn’t help me right now. “I serve her in the form of Aphrodite, but she has six other manifestations which must concern you. You will not reach the Grail unless you learn of these Six Goddesses.” I realised at this point that I’d never typed “look at man”, and doing so added a little more to the mystery. “Even his name, Al-Sirat, is a clue. It is a name for the knife-edged path of truth that one must tread to reach paradise or heaven. Which means, Arthur, that he invited you here for a specific purpose, one which you must unravel for yourself.” What was this purpose? What was the test? I thought it must have something to do with the Six Goddesses, so I continued to ask the man questions about it. Eventually, I got something useful out of him!

Oh rub it in why don't you!

“These are the names of the Six Goddesses: Athene, Vesta, Isis, Astarte, Ceres and Venus, and these are their symbols.” Al-Sirat then named each of the Goddesses while drawing their symbol into the sand in front of him. Was this what I needed? Had I now passed the test? After asking an endless stream of increasingly desperate questions, I eventually decided I might gain some insight by trying to leave. I hoped that he would try to warn me that I hadn’t yet passed the test or maybe even stop me, but he didn’t. After walking out of the room, I appeared on the top of a hill, where Jabir ibn Hamid waited for me. “I knew you must come this way, and see, I have gotten here before you and waited.” Al-Sirat had told me that Hazm would lead me out of Gaza, and that we would visit a well to get water on the way, but that didn’t appear to be happening. Had I failed the test, and now I was forced to journey through the desert with Jabir instead? What would happen if / when I reached the other Guardians? Was I dead-ending myself? Was I just over-thinking things?! I panicked, and restored back to Al-Sirat. Suddenly it dawned on me that the manual made mention of the Goddesses. Perhaps I would find the answer, and more importantly the question, somewhere in the manual! I read through the two and a half pages of information regarding the Six Goddesses and the Mythology or Aphrodite, and while I learnt a fair bit about it all, I didn’t find anything that would help me in my current predicament. What was I missing?!

Is this what I came here to see? A little more clarity would be nice!

Oh...you again!

I'd been so certain I would find something among all this information. Alas, I didn't!

After spending yet more time questioning Al-Sirat to no avail, I decided to venture back out to Jabir ibn Hamid and hope things would become clearer eventually. He told me that I must hire him if I had any chance of surviving the desert, so I did. “Excellent! Let us waste no time! Follow me.” The nasty mannered man led me through a couple of fairly non-descript desert screens until we arrived at a waterhole. “I have brought you to water, habib. Drink, before the heat overcomes you.” I felt imminent danger, particularly as my mule refused to drink and the skeletal remains of a camel lay very close to the water’s edge, but decided to save my game and take the plunge anyway. After taking a deep sip of water, Arthur stumbled a few steps and then collapsed, dead! “Too late the signs are clear. This water is poisoned. It killed the camel who had not the sense of your mule. But then, neither did you. To add insult to injury, the scoundrel Jabir robs your corpse.” I restored my game, and knowing the true nature of Jabir, drew my sword from its scabbard. The bastard ran for his life off into the desert, and good riddance to him too! The only problem was that I was now alone in the desert, with no guide and no real idea how to get to Jerusalem. I still have the feeling I’ve missed something important, but am not requesting assistance at this point. I’m about to find out whether this desert can be conquered, and perhaps this lodestone will finally come in handy.

Water...water!!!! We've been out here in the desert for, I don't know, at least a few minutes now!

Oh please let me kill this guy before the game is through!

Session Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written 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!


  1. I had a revelation when lying in bed with fever fantasies tonight. Suddenly I realized just where Christy Marx got her design philosophy from with the dead ends and backtracking, and it just so happens it's from my favorite Arthurian legend as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOfZJZLcTh0

    The original version also contains a final verse which I find truly fitting to your current situation Trickster:
    You see my boy it's nature's way
    Upon the weak the strong ones prey
    The human life it's also true
    The strong will try to conquer you
    And that is what you must expect
    Unless you use your intellect
    Brains and brawn, weak and strong
    That's what makes the world go round

  2. Alternate solution for crossing the ice lake: Glcr "hfr urneg" jura ba gur vpr. Vg jvyy nccrne va gur pbeare naq punatr pbybhe qrcraqvat ba jurgure lbh'er ba gur evtug cngu be qnatrebhfyl pybfr gb guva vpr. Much more slow and tedious than using the rose, which I didn't know of before.

    Good luck trying to cross the desert, I got stuck here for ages and resorted to looking up the solution.

    1. That was my solution for crossing the ice.

      As for crossing the desert, I had no trouble with it so we'll see how it goes for Trickster...

    2. Yep, I did the same. But I had the other item before crossing the ice though, so I never tried using the rose.

  3. Have fun exploring the desert -- there are few half-baked intriguing dead-ends out there that won't get you any closer to the game's conclusion, but do hint at game play avenues they didn't have time or resources to finish up.

    (Also, this big desert presages the one in QFG 2 -- which I believe even has a King Arthur mirage -- much as SSI's Al-Quadim and Darksun games borrowed each others' desert assets.)

    Actually, this also reminds me -- a shot you posted while playing through Codename: Iceman, at the top of the hill before the car chase -- was strongly reminiscent of the entrance to Jerusalem in Conquests of Camelot. You'll have played them more recently than I, so let me know if you notice anything similar.

    1. I found that the game kind of teases the player with apparently large playing world (look at all the towns in Britain! And you can sail to five different destinations!) and then the actual game area is quite small in comparison with the expectations (Oh, most of the towns were not important. And oh, sailing to wrong destination leads just to a yet another creative death scene). I wonder if that was intentional or if the producers just noticed they couldn't fit all they planned in the game.

  4. Well you're now just past where I got before I had to have surgery on my hand, which has curtailed my ability to play somewhat. I would imagine I won't get this one finished before you're well into the next game.

    1. Wait, hand surgery? What have you been up to?

    2. Too much using a mouse and gamepad leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. Had to have the nerve released.

    3. Ouch, I feel you. I had the same thing myself in my younger years. It got so bad that I sat in my car not being able to get home after work because I couldn't work the stick shift due to the pain and lack of strength in my hand. Thankfully I was able to make changes both at home and at work and I've been symptom free for years.

      Did you do the open release or the endoscopic surgery?

    4. Open, surgeon said he likes to see the nerve, which makes sense.

  5. Camelot, Quest for Glory 2, and King's Quest V all had deserts. There was no cross-over between them; we each came up with a different solution for our deserts.

    The QG2 desert was supposed to be "infinite", which is to say larger than you can explore with the amount of water you can carry. But some players managed to get across it to the twin city of Raseir, except with every square "off by one" since that was supposed to be impossible. :-)

  6. “Known to the priest and nun, who natural pleasures do shun.”

    I'd have chosen Grass!


  7. Since I've not played this game, I don't think I'd stumble on any spoilers. Anyway, I thought a lodestone would be used to navigate the deserts?

  8. Broken Sword 5 - The Serpent's Curse has now been released!



    It's still on special for the next week or so and the two episodes can't be bought separately so by buying you get the first part now and the conclusion early next year.

    This is the first kickstarter game I backed that's reached release so I'm excited, even though I won't be playing it straight away because I've still got an as-yet-unplayed Broken Sword 4 in my GOG account.

    1. Thanks, TBD, just bought it along with the original trilogy. Somehow I kept missing these games over the years, despite running across reviews of them all the time. Time to ... break some swords...?

    2. Same here. I've played 1 and 2, but not 3 and 4 I think. And now my reward 5 is sitting in my account as well. Can't seem to find time to play other games than the ones on here though, so it may take a while before I get to it.

  9. And in other news, the GoG version of Tex Murphy: Overseer has been updated. Instead of the CD version with corresponding CD quality cutscenes it has now been updated to include the DVD version cutscenes. If you have it already, go download it again and enjoy the higher resolution content!

    1. Ooh. Thanks for that! I've still got the DVD physical version from back in the day but I couldn't get it to work last time I played so gave up and played the CD version instead. Now I can play the best version next time I have a go.

  10. Damn, I really hated EGA graphics. VGA can't come soon enough, I may sound silly but I actually prefer ZX Spectrum graphics than this.

    1. We're getting there quickly, only three games to go until we hit the KQ1 VGA remake. Personally I love the EGA graphics, but it'll be refreshing to change it up a bit.

    2. The KQ1 VGA remake? We won't hit it until 2001.

      Sierra's own 1990 remake is in EGA and with a parser.

    3. You're of course correct Laukku, I got my editions mixed up, there's so many of them. Thanks for the fix.

      What's the first one then? Altered Destiny in five games' time?

    4. Wasn't the first one Mean Streets? ;)

      Altered Destiny is EGA still, if I remember correctly. This year, at least Countdown, B.A.T, Rise of the Dragon and King's Quest 5 are VGA. I think starting from next year we will have a majority of VGA games.

    5. Altered Destiny has a MCGA/VGA mode, but it still uses just 16 colors. So the first game with true VGA will be Countdown yes. I tried them all just to check. :p

    6. Eh, the first UPCOMING game, I'll correct myself Ilmari. ;)

    7. When these EGA games were being released i had an Amiga. Back then there was the odd bad conversion that retained all the same colours as the EGA PC version. It always seemed like my monitor was faulty.

    8. Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire had the unfortunate distinction of being Sierra's last EGA game. Prior to that, the average Sierra adventure game had a half-life of 18 months (i.e. sold as many copies after 18 months as in the first 18). Sierra made as much from their catalog as from new games.

      Within a year of KQV's release, that number dropped to six months, and I think all the way down to three months within a few years. All of the EGA games and Sierra's back-catalog became worthless almost overnight. I think Hero's Quest sold twice as many copies as Quest for Glory II even though most of our fans consider the second game as good or better than the first.

    9. Wow, that's really interesting! As far as I can remember, that shift to VGA also came with the shift from typed commands to point-and-click for Sierra. I'm assuming most of the longevity issue with the catalog was due to "spoiled" gamers graphics wise, but did you ever do research on the impact of input style?

    10. That's a good observation, Lars-Erik. I can imagine the move to an iconic interface might have made the old parser-based input method look positively prehistoric in the eyes of many.

    11. I bet a similar shift happens when a new console generation comes out; At the start of a console generation people are figuring out how to unlock the hardware and take advantage of the increased resources and figure out how to use the new controller, so games get a lot better in a lot of ways very quickly (It took time for games to figure out how to use a duel-joystick well in FPS, and figure out follow camera in 3D games, doubly so platformers). Later in the life cycle graphics still improve, but a lot more slowly; There is a lot less graphics and playstyle difference between Mass Effect 2 and 3 (27 months) then ME1 and 2 (26 months), as the developers are gaining less understanding of how to unlock the power of the system, and how to best use that, then they were in the early days.

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  12. GoG sale: Syberia, Syberia II, Still Life, Still Life 2, Amerzone, Atlantis, Atlantis 2, Atlantis 3, Dracula trilogy and Return to Mysterious Island all for cheapcheap!

  13. It surprises me that receiving significant information from Al-Sirat didn’t fulfill your curiosity. I wonder what did you expect from that man. Of course I am aware that few years have passed since the game was completed. Just thinking out loud.