Tuesday 28 January 2014

Game 40: Future Wars - Medieval Mechanical Wolves

Hero Journal Entry 2: "I don't know how I got here, but this really does seem to be a village in a medieval town! I've been forced to keep disguising myself so as not to give away my true identity. Thankfully I've met at least one friendly man, and for some reason I feel it is important that I help him in his current situation. His daughter is missing and he seems to think that I might be able to find her and return her to him. Everything points to the local monastery, and after everything I've experienced today, I have to agree! I've found quite a bit of evidence that links them to whatever plot I'm wrapped up in, but the girl's location still evades me. I don't know how, but I'm pretty sure finding her is the key to getting my life back!"

I really hope no-one expects me to clean this joint up!

I was hoping that I could give you good news by the time I got around to writing this post, but unfortunately all the frustrations I faced during session one if anything increased for session two. It’s sad when a game shows immense potential but is tarnished by a dodgy interface and horrible movement. Signs that things were unlikely to improve were immediately apparent as I tried to manoeuvre my hero through the swampy environment I’d travelled to at the end of my last post. I could see that there was a cluster of mosquitoes between me and the next screen, but just getting to them was a challenge. There was a very thin path that I was allowed to walk on, with even the slightest diversion ending in me sinking to my death. The problem was that with no keyboard control, the only option was to click where I wanted to go and hope for the best. Of course I could travel really short distances at a time to make sure my character didn’t stupidly choose a pathway a drunk might choose, but even that didn’t guarantee safety. Once I did reach the mozzies, it was pretty simple to operate my insecticide on them to remove the obstacle. I was very relieved when I made it all the way across this one screen of swamp, and just as I was about to leave the screen, something caught my attention. There was a glint of light in the grass in front of me, and it turned out to be a pendant.

Seriously, do I have to hit the mosquitoes with the can?

That's damn good eyesight you've got there buddy!

I actually temporarily restored my game to see whether I was able to find the pendant with my cursor before crossing the swamp, but I wasn’t. I had to be standing right next to it. Regardless, I picked it up and moved onto the next screen. The good news was that the swamp was gone, replaced by a very pleasant lakeside scene with tall trees and bushy shrubs. I began the process of carefully pixel hunting across anything and everything that seemed likely, finding I could interact with two trees, a tree branch, the bushes, the lake and a mound covered in moss. These gave me simple descriptions that offered no impression that further exploration was required, but looking through my inventory left me with one possibility. I walked up to the lake and operated the plastic bag on it. My character filled it with water, but I was informed that it contained leaks, so wouldn’t hold for long. I pondered what I might possibly use the water on, and tried everything on the screen, despite seeing no reason to do so. Nothing worked, and since I wasn’t able to leave the screen in either northern or southern directions, continued to the west. The next screen contained an inn and a drawbridge leading to a castle, but neither of these took up my attention. “Two monks are staring at you curiously...and then with open HOSTILITY!” Before I had any chance of taking action, the monks killed me until I was dead!

Oooohhhh prreeeeeeettyyyyy!!!!!!!

Surely they wouldn't mention a tree branch unless it served a purpose

That really is a pile of castle!

I restored and tried everything I could think of to avoid dying. I tried operating the bag of water on the monks, speaking with them, operating the pendant on them, and all sorts of other unlikely options. Nothing worked! Since there was no way of going in that direction, I figured there must be something I was supposed to do on the lake screen. I pixel hunted again, and tried pretty much every object I had on everything there. I was continually drawn back to the tree branch, since that seemed a very odd thing to highlight if it served no purpose. Eventually, after over twenty minutes of failed attempts, I found the solution. Despite having pixel hunted the screen numerous times, my cursor mustn’t have crossed the tiny area at the foot of the tree that was the answer. Examining the foot of the tree revealed a little hole, and in this hole I found a rope. I operated the rope on the tree branch, and my character pulled himself up and sat on it. There he sat for ages, while messages popped up stating that “Time passes” numerous times. Finally, just as he was about to fall asleep, a man entered the screen from the west and made his way towards the lake. He walked behind a tree, stripped off, and then jumped into the lake! Ignoring how strange this was, I hopped down from the tree and put his clothes on, knowing that this disguise would allow me to bypass the monks.

I assume the rope is only a few pixels long!

Even my character is getting a bit over this

Seriously dude. You look like a chick!

Wearing my new, more suitable attire, I figured I’d be able to walk straight past the monks, but instead they simply weren’t there at all. This felt a bit forced, and it wouldn’t be the last time the game is made to feel linear, with obstacles appearing and disappearing depending on unrelated occurrences. I decided not to try my luck entering the castle for now and instead popped into the inn for a beer. Inside I found an innkeeper and three customers sitting by a fire having a conversation. I was told that I was not able to hear their conversation, and the innkeeper demanded coin if I had any intention of making myself comfortable. I tried a few things, but eventually could only wander back outside. It was at this stage that I realised the game world had opened up a little. There was no way to go north, but I could head south or go around the castle to the east. I decided it would probably be best to see what would happen if I tried to enter the castle before choosing another path. I walked up to the guard who told me to “HALT!”. Attempts to speak to him were met with cold silence, so I turned to my inventory. I didn’t have much hope that it would achieve anything, but I tried operating my pendant on the guard. “He examines it carefully, and says to you, “That’s a real nice trinket yee ‘as thur, zur, my maaaster would like to zee it, I’m sure. Come back later. When my maaaster gets back, I’ll talk to ‘im about it””.

This guy has well established priorities.

Come back later when you've completed some other completely unrelated task.

He gave me no idea as to when his “maaaster” might be getting back, so I could only assume his arrival would be dependent on some action of my own elsewhere. Setting it aside for now, I made my way south, where a bridge led to a monastery. On the other side of the bridge stood a large wolf, clearly guarding the path from strangers such as myself. I considered going back to the lake and getting some water to throw on it, but figured that was pretty unlikely to scare off a wolf of this size. If anything, it would probably just piss it off! Instead, I made my way back to the castle and then around it to the north-west. This path opened out into a dark forest, which I began pixel hunting with even more care than I’d given previously. I discovered the large tree that was clearly the focus of the screen, a small point on the ground beneath it, and a monk’s habit that was hanging from a branch. I figured I would need the habit to disguise myself and enter the monastery, but wondered whether the wolf would be fooled by that. I tried getting the habit, but it was much too high. Examining the ground near the tree revealed nothing. I therefore tried operating the tree in the off chance that I could climb it. “You shake the tree... SOMETHING FALLS FROM THE CASSOCK!!!” I hadn’t even considered shaking the tree. Have you ever tried shaking a tree this size? How did it go???!!!

Now this is a real obstacle!

Apparently trees have evolved to be firm and heavy in the past few centuries.

Whatever had fallen out of the habit was now on the ground, so I checked it out. “At the foot of the tree, you find a silver COIN.” Well, there was the solution for one puzzle, but it didn’t look like I was going to be able to get the habit to solve the other. I took the coin back to the inn and gave it to the innkeeper. “He mutters a few words which you find hard to understand and indicates somewhere for you to sit.” I sat down at the only spare table, and nothing much appeared to happen. Then “snatches of conversation come to you from the neighboring table”. So I hadn’t been able to hear what the men were saying when I was standing right next to them but could now that I was sitting at a table on the other side of the room?! Anyway, this is what was said. “... wen’ missin’ yes’day ev’nin’ ... Mas’er’s in righ’ despair. Aaar... ‘e’s a great man, we all feel right sorry fer ‘em!... I’m tellin’ yer! ‘n’ since then  ever’thin’s changed... They’s right queer fulk! Yes’dy evenin’ Ginette tol’me... ‘Tis a reeel pi’y! Some’ne mus’ve anger’d powers tha’ be...” Trying to decipher this chat was pretty difficult, and all I could pick up for sure was that someone important was missing someone they cared about. I had a strong feeling that this person was inside the castle and thought perhaps the “maaaster” might now be home. I left the inn and walked over to the guard to find out.

Excuse me sir. Have you perhaps been partaking?

As I approached him he said “Come in, my maaaster’s waitin’”. I felt like I was coming to grips with Future Wars now, knowing that there was a sort of unrelated cause and effect process going on the way there was in some of the early Sierra adventure games. The castle interior turned out to be huge, but I wasn’t able to explore any of it. I waited at the end of a long hallway while a man slowly approached. When he was finally standing in front of me, he had the following to say: “Good day to you, stranger. I am Torin, Lord of the Province of the Lowlands. My men told me of your arrival. I’m told that you possess an object that might interest me. Can I see it?” My character gave it to him, explaining that he’d found it in the marshes. “Ah... I feared the worst... and I wasn’t wrong. This belongs to my daughter, Lana. Yesterday, she went for a walk in the woods that surround the castle... she has not been seen since. This medallion confirms my worst suspicions.” My character then informed the lord of the conversation he’d heard at the inn. “Yes, the people at the monastery have been behaving very strangely ever since the arrival of the new Father Superior. The villagers claim that monks indulge in very unchristian ceremonies. This may just be idle gossip but my men have become frightened by venturing near the monastery.”

It's like Lawrence of Arabia...without the desert

...caption contest.

The lord continued, revealing my quest. “The villagers are too superstitious but I still think there’s some truth in what they say. Unfortunately, I’m not as strong as I was twenty years ago. Stranger, you give me confidence. Find my daughter and you will be rewarded. You are my last hope.” My character responded to this plea in a very anti-antihero way: “Don’t worry, sir, I will find your daughter again, if I have to move heaven and earth to do so.” Finally, the old man gave me the pendant back, telling me to give it to Lana when I find her so she would know that I’m a friend. I left the castle, realising on the way out that I’d gained no new items during my visit. I had a quest now, but what would my next move be? I found the answer as soon as I was out of the castle, as the guard was now asleep on the drawbridge. I picked up the lance that was leaning on the wall next to him, figuring I must be able to use it on the wolf at the monastery. I quickly discovered this was incorrect, as using the lance on the wolf was met with “Try and find something else”. Hmmm... what else hadn’t I solved? The habit! Of course! I made my way back to the tree in the forest and used the lance on the monk’s habit. “Go a little closer.” I moved closer. “Go a little closer.” I moved to a bit further around the tree. “Go a little closer.” “Go a little closer.” “Go a little closer.” “Go a little closer.” “You go a little f$#@ing closer you stupid piece of sh!t game!” “Go a little closer to my fist you bastard game developer!” “Go a little....aaaarrrgghhhh.....mwwaahhfdoerjjke..........(sob)

And also with you. Hey, hang on a second!

A man should always take care of his lance!

The hero's lance only raises under very specific circumstances.

In reality it took me about two minutes to find the right place to use the lance, but I must have tried about fifteen different places before I finally found it. This sort of thing is immensely frustrating, and makes finding the solution to a puzzle far less satisfying than it should be. Once I did have the habit in my possession, my character got changed behind the tree and reappeared looking uncannily like a manhunter. Would I now be able to just waltz past the wolf and into the monastery? Somehow I doubted it, but I set off to give it a try. I never did try though, as I noticed something I hadn't previously when I approached the wolf this time. There was an odd little green wiry thing between his legs! What was that? It was rather unfortunate if it was just a graphical glitch! I tried to examine it and found it to be a real object. “A little light attracts your attention. A spark dances at the end of an ELECTRICAL WIRE! Good grief, could this wolf be a MECHANICAL DEVICE?” What?! A mechanical wolf in medieval times? There better be a connection between the monks and time travel or that has to be the most ridiculous puzzle ever! After approaching the wolf with every intention of trying to walk straight past it, I now knew exactly what I was supposed to do. It was the thing I considered doing the very first time I saw the wolf, albeit not knowing it was mechanical at the time. I made my way back to the lake and returned with a leaking bag of water. Operating the water on the wolf caused it to go up in a blaze of light!

Don't mess with this brother, yo!

The little wire was always there, so I could have passed the wolf at any stage.

I assume entering the monastery in the wrong attire would have had "dire" consequences though...ahem...sorry.

I entered the monastery, finding myself in a square room with three real monks walking around it. I watched them do a full circuit and then tried walking towards one of the three doors leading out of the room. As soon as I did so the monks shouted “A SPY! A SPY!” and violently beat me to a pulp. Some religion this is! I restored and tried following the monks around the outer edge of the room. It worked, allowing me to open and walk through the door on the left. The doorway led to an alcove where another monk stood in front of a large gold cup. As I approached him, he turned and spoke: “Is the scorzuum ready, brother?” Huh? What’s scorzuum? Apparently my character said yes as the monk continued: “Good, we can begin the second phase. Go and inform the supervisor.” The monk turned his back on me, leaving me with no other option than to go and check out another location. I re-entered the main square and followed the monks around to the second door. This one led to a cellar, and down the stairs I found eleven barrels on shelves. The barrels were the only things in the room that I could interact with, so I operated all of them. I found out that two of them contained some form of liquid, yet all the others were empty. I thought about how useful that gold cup would be, since I had nothing to hold the liquid in. I had no choice but to return to the square and tried the third and final door.

These peaceful, meditative monks sure have a nasty streak!

Um...yes...if you just tell me which scorzuum you mean and I'll go and get it for you.

Is it a barrel of scorzuum?

Within the last room I found the Father Superior! As soon as I entered he demanded I go fetch him a cup of Chikapok, whatever that is. I made my way back to the first room, hoping that there would now be some way of getting the cup. When I got there I found that the other monk had left the room, so I just walked up and grabbed it! I took it to the cellar and used it on one of the barrels containing liquid, then took the full cup back to the Father Superior. He drank from it, and then cried out in disgust: “Bgorak!! Black gjirb! This isn’t Chikapok!” Whatever I’d given him was potently alcoholic, causing him to slump over completely drunk! I was now free to explore his little room, but first I examined the Father Superior himself. “You search the Father Superior and in one of his pockets you find a box that looks like an infrared remote control device!” More high tech gadgetry in a medieval monastery! Clearly these monks were involved in the time travelling plot. I found no use for the bed, the table or the library, but operating the remote control on the wooden furniture at the base of the library caused it to open. “There is a little magnetic card inside the piece of furniture. The back of the card bears the following inscription: Bio Challenge.” Bio Challenge? Am I supposed to know what that refers to?

I see your srabyr is as big as mine!

Father Inferior more like it! Can't even handle a single drink.

This message suggests I should recognize the words Bio Challenge, but the only thing I can think of is the insecticide which acted Retro Biactively.

I’d been on a bit of a roll at this point, but that was all about to end. I took the magnetic card to all of the rooms in the monastery, but simply couldn’t find anything to use it on. I thought perhaps I’d missed something tiny again, so spent ages pixel hunting on each screen, including the central square. When I was absolutely convinced that there was nothing else to do in the monastery, I tried to leave. Perhaps I could use the magnetic card somewhere outside? To my surprise, I simply wasn’t able to leave. Trying to walk back through the door I entered through resulted in the three monks killing me, and I could find no other way out at all. I’ve been to each room several times now, but am at a loss as to what I’m supposed to be doing. I even restored back to my arrival at the monastery, thinking perhaps the whole “second phase” “scorzuum” conversation had some meaning I’d missed, but the result was the same. I’m not making an official request for assistance just yet, as the answer has to be in the monastery somewhere (if it’s not, then it’s a shocking dead end). I'm going to head back in and try everything on everything. If that doesn't work, then I'll have to assume that I'm either dead-ended or the interface is screwing me again. Time will tell...

I thought for sure that the light in the centre of the square would be a portal, but running into it achieved nothing.

Session Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 00 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. You've just "gone a little closer" to the end of this game and its interface problems, which is already something...

  2. Spaceballs reference!
    And, those monks killed you until you were dead?? I guess they wanted to be REALLY sure...?

    1. I believe the "kill you until you die from it" reference was from Hot Shots. It may have been parodying something else of course.

    2. Are you sure they wouldn't have only killed you a little bit if you asked nicely?

  3. Mmhh, I guess there's a reason why "frustration" is pretty much all I get when I search my long-term memory for this game...

    This seemed to be a staple of French games from that time (not only adventures -- looking at you, Silmarils!!). Great graphics and atmosphere, high concepts, deeply flawed execution.

  4. Sale! Kings Quest 1+2+3 for $3. Sale has an hour on the clock, but the clock drops every time someone buys the game.

    1. Or the clock goes up with each purchase, sorry.

    2. Space Quest 1+2+3 on sale: 44 min left.

    3. Police Quest 1-4 on sale now. 50 min left.

  5. Caption Contest: "... to be my daughter."

    I'm glad now that I don't have the time to play this. Even though it looked really good, I guess it's not a good indication of how a game plays.

    I looked up online, apparently there are shortcut keys for the interface menu. F5 is suggested as equivalent to Operate. Would have helped enter the keypad numbers faster, but might come in handy later on.

    1. Also, I hope I'm not overstepping, but wanted to let you know you're not dead-ended at this point.

    2. So, what's new in the Budayeen?

    3. So far nothing. I sent a post off, but it's a bit disappointing how slow the game is moving. My plan was to pick up the pace this week, but the best laid plans turned into another week of long nights with many things that bring me away from the computer. If I'm lucky I'll be able to get another post to Tricky before the weekend. I'm really not sure how long this game will take though (hopefully it doesn't run into the next guest game).

  6. Caption contest - "you don't seem to ... HOLY SHIT, what's that huge white arrow?"

    1. "You don't seem to realize the power of this fully armed and operational battle station!" *castle shakes*

    2. "...to be close enough. Come a little closer."

    3. Yup, I think you just got the win right there Charles. I rescind my application.

    4. I think everyone should stop trying. That's gold Charles!

  7. No-one has solved my Future Wars - Introduction riddle. There's 40 CAPs up for grabs now so go check out the riddle in its current state (in the comments of that post).

  8. Capron Contest: "... to look like Larry Laffer. I guess I can tell you about my daughter."

  9. Hmh, I;m playing this in dosbox, and can move with the cursor keys of the keyboard. This helps following the monks around.

    1. Really? For me the arrow keys move the cursor around and not the hero. Are you playing the CD-ROM version of the game with enhanced soundtracks? Perhaps the interface was improved for that version too!

    2. I just checked both the CD-version and the disk version. Both behave the same for me:
      NumLock switches the arrow keys between moving the cursor and moving the hero directly. So just press NumLock whenever you want to change it.

      Citation from the manual:
      "Keyboard Controls- The arrow keys will move the curser. Make sure NUM LOCK is off. Press the SHIFT key to slow down the cursor movement. Press CONTROL and a key on the numeric keypad to instantly move the cursor to that portion of the screen. You can move the hero directly by using the following keys: Q (up left), W (up), E (up right), A (left), S (stop), D (right), Z (down left), X (down), C (down right)."

      Also, it has a use for the F-keys. F1 - Examine, F2 - Take, F3 - Inventory, F4 - Use, F5 - Operate, F6 - Speak, F9 - Action Menu, F10 - User Menu.

    3. I didn't figure the numlock thing out, but in the installation menu I set in the section "Cursor Moves" the option to Mouse, and not to keyboard. The versio I play is the disk version.

    4. Well, that would have been helpful for me also. Always read the manual, it seems, although I wonder why they had to connect NumLock to the equation.

      In other news, I just finished the game. The end is rather irritating as it is nothing more than a gvzrq znmr. I almost gave up, but then managed to beat it jvgu bayl bar frpbaq yrsg. Gnyx nobhg pybfr pnyy!

    5. It's gvzrq? V ernq nobhg vg va na FAQ, ohg V qvqa'g ernyvmr vg jnf gvzrq. Gnyx nobhg znxvat n onq qrfvta jbefr.

    6. At least there is one less thing to complain about in the final rating post. Movement would have to be about fourth or fifth on the complaint list though.

      Thanks to everyone that looked into this!

  10. One thing that bothers me about that game (Except the awful interface) is the fact how the "Hero" acts.

    Why is he doing all that? Why did he put the Bucket on the Door of his boss? Was there any indication for doing that? When he arrived at the Medieval Age he went out of the swamp and then (in canon) climbed up a tree to take a nap ... because?

    The monks should have send him back to where he came from when he entered the Village because the "Canon" Hero couldn´t know that the Village is dangerous and he needed a disguise to sneak in ... if ... you know what I mean :D

    1. I couldn't agree more Elanarae. When there is no motivation to do a certain action, it's a bit harsh to expect the player to try doing it. The game doesn't give you puzzles and then ask you to solve them. It gives you nothing and then asks you to try everything possible. When you find the right thing, the puzzle you are supposed to be solving is revealed (and solved).

    2. This is how I currently feel about Circuit's Edge. The manual states there's no time limit, but it also seems the story won't progress until I just happen upon the next step, which hasn't happened yet. I feel like I'm fighting with the game over giving me progress when it's not presenting any obstacles (or the ones it's presenting seem to have no obvious path or solution to follow up on).

    3. Suggestion: The hero is on a lot of drugs. Like a crazy amount. His job sucks to he pops pills alllll day. Uppers, downers and sometimes a hallucinogen, though that makes cleaning the windows a bit hard, as it is hard to tell if it is stained. He is trying to

      This sometimes makes his actions a bit random, which explains why he is employed as a window washer. It could also explain the whole 'time travel' thing.

  11. Bio Challenge is an earlier game by Delphine. http://www.mobygames.com/game/bio-challenge

    I "love" how the game randomly uses all caps and exclamation marks at random moments... probably to be more DRAMATIC!! It makes the writing look even more amateurish than it already is.

    Also, that waiting-in-the-tree bit is a good example of really bad puzzle design. There's no indication of what climbing the tree would accomplish, and what it does is so arbitrary.

  12. In breaking news, ├śkokrim (The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime) is currently at the Funcom offices (The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and the upcoming Kickstartered Dreamfall: Chapters) having meetings and fetching documents. No words what it is about as of yet, but the Funcom stocks were put on hold at the stock market before opening today.

    1. Hah, all employees has been sent home for the day, and Funcom has been charged with potential violations of the Securities Trading Act in connection with the MMO The Secret World.

      Still unclear what'll happen next, but I assume people will go back to work tomorrow and regular business will ensue until it's brought before the courts. Development of Dreamfall: Chapters most likely not disturbed by this at all at the moment.

    2. Confirmed from Funcom today. All development on all Funcom games continues. Licensed games not affected.