|Dude, could you wear a bit longer skirt?|
Middle Earth is a tranquil and peaceful place. The problems with the Dark Lord Sauron are ancient history, and no dragon has been seen since the sack of Esgaroth. The last elves sailed for the West centuries ago, after the rescue of their fellows from the dungeons below Colossal Cavern. Indeed nothing remotely interesting has happened for ages, and the ordinary folk lead peaceful, mundane and - for the most part – contented rural lives. At least this was true until a year ago.
No, this is not script for Peter Jackson's new movie (although Peter, if you are reading, you would have material for a new trilogy here).
Instead, this a direct quotation from the manual of Adventure Quest, the next game in Level 9's Middle-Earth trilogy. The first game had only a tenuous relation to Tolkien's work, but not so here! There's already a mention of Sauron and Esgaroth, and in a moment we'll hear about Amon Sul and Minas Tirith. There's also this weird place called Colossal Cavern, but that's just the location of the first game, Colossal Adventure.
Of course, the manual lies. I definitely remember killing a dragon in the first game, and that must have happened after the sack of Esgaroth. Then again, I killed it with my bare hands, so maybe it was just too small to be inscribed in legends.
The manual continues by describing a series of catastrophes, culminating in an attack of a vast army of orcs (Peter Jackson, are you listening?). Finally, a messenger appears with the following ultimatum:
"My Lord AGALIAREPT calls on you to surrender. Even now His armies are sweeping towards you and He cannot be defeated in battle. If you surrender, you will be permitted the boon of death with dignity, otherwise it will be much worse when you are defeated. You will have one week to decide."
The local King (probably not the Aragorn) decides to call a meeting of the Wizards Guild, which is hauled before the throne and issued with an ultimatum. The Guild decides there's only one possible option - they order an apprentice magician to deal with the threat. Have I heard this story before?
If the dates in Mobygames are reliable, both Enchanter and Adventure Quest were published in the same year (1983), so I doubt either one copied the other (although my suspicions fall on latter with its less imaginative title).
Getting on with the plot, the base of the Demon Lord's power has been discovered. AGALIAREPT has taken up residence in the Dark Tower, on the far edge of the world. The Guild says they are planning an attack, but they also have another plan.
"Perhaps one person, acting alone, could find the four Stones-of-the-Elements and use them to enter the tower. Then, the Medallion-of-Life could perhaps enable you to defeat the Demon."
The plan sounds so familiar that I instantly thought that the apprentice must have some Hobbit blood in him.
|Peter Jackson, you have to see the potential here!|
Think about it, you could hire Elijah Wood and let him play
greatgreatgreatgreatgrandson of Frodo.
The gullib... gallant hero is dressed in travel clothes and took before a tele portal (it says so in the manual so it must be the correct spelling). Entering it, he finds himself at the end of a road, outside a small brick building.
Before I start the game itself, I should probably note that I am again playing both the original non-graphical version together with the graphical version, in which all the reference to Middle-Earth have been erased. I will use latter for the screenshots, but the official score (which you can guess) will be for the original version. I am using David Kinder's Level 9 interpreter, which has the ability to search for Level 9 game data in any file given. The files themselves are from the Spectrum version of the game, so the graphics should be reasonably true to the original, although the fonts look quite modern. So, let's begin!
Yonder and Back Again for Tea, by Gumbo Baggins, chapter 1: Garlic Breath is NOT a Plus on Tinder (Except if You are into Ogres)
Wizards have been the bane of my family since the time immemorial and it seems I have to continue this wretched tradition. Stranded in a wilderness, with nothing to eat and a long stretch of desert to cross. By Elbereth, I hate those bearded wiseguys!
You know, I just despise mazes. And when a game begins with not just one, but with two mazes in near vicinity of the starting position, I am ready to throw the imaginary game box to wolves and worms. Especially as the game has been so eager to feed me to various beasts in those mazes.
The forest to the west of starting position is the nicer maze. It's almost empty, except for wolves, who keep coming at you randomly, and a huge oak tree, containing a silver ball. Apparently, wolves are timid creatures, as throwing the ball at them makes them run away.
North of the starting position lies the other maze, the desert, which has been a hell to map. It's not just the thirst factor (there's a source of water nearby), but more the sand worm that with no clear logic just comes and grabs you for lunch once in a while. Suffice to say, the only thing of interest I've managed to find yet in this hellhole is a black pillar with a white dot. I have no idea what to do with it.
|Looks like a giant black beer keg.|
The sand sliding softly is a warning that I am going to be eaten by the sand worm
Thankfully it's not just mazes around here. The very first screen is actually the same spot, from which the first game began, that is, the well house. The house contains a bottle, some fruit, keys and a sling - and a small table. There's also the well, which is now filled with water and from which you can fill your bottle.
Just like in the first game, you can follow the stream moving to south of the house, all the way to the entrance of Colossal Cavern. As it happens, the place is shut up, so it's just a nice call-back to the earlier game. Still, I manage to find an orchid in steep gulley nearby, except it is just out of my reach. Yeah, I know, I'll carry that table around, drop it here and pick up the orchid.
The east is then the only direction left. At first, I find an onion rolling around my direction.
I also come up with a pinnacle, which is probably the one I thought must be Cirith Ungol in the first game. At the top of pinnacle, I find a stick, which has the curious effect of sprouting up fruits, whenever put down. Also, a wizard hands me a scroll:
"Take the Talisman to the Black Tower through the four elements twice. It can defeat the Demon Lord, but only a companion can bring victory at the end. The Talisman is nearby, but you will also need 4 Stones to gain entry and these are guarded by servants of the Enemy. You are the only hope for Middle Earth - the High Council lied when they pretended otherwise. The blesssing of Typo, god of Adventures, goes with you. Good Luck!"
Yes, blesssing is apparently spelled like that - although given the name of the god, this might be an intentional joke. I am a bit perplexed where the god Typo fits in the Tolkien mythology. Perhaps it is some of the maiar, unmentioned in the tales, or then it's just a nickname of some vala.
The only thing left to find in the eastern parts of the area is a unicorn (I bet the old J.R.R. would just love these additions to the fauna of Middle-Earth). After some failed attempts to ride it, I try to give it the orchid, which the unicorn accepts. Then it shows me a previously hidden path, taking me to a clearing with pipes and a medallion, which is probably the Talisman the scroll talked about.
And that concludes my travels through the late ages of the Middle Earth thus far. Since I have searched the other places thoroughly, I suppose I must now try to continue with mapping the desert *sigh*.
Session time: 2 and half hours.
Total time: 2 and half hours.
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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.