Tuesday 1 December 2015

Missed Classic: Adventure Quest - Won! and Final Rating

By Ilmari

Yonder and Back Again for Tea, by Gumbo Baggins, Chapter 4: Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You to Bog - Hack It Off Instead

"A large skunk ape was seen trying to enter the royal palace at Minas Tirith last afternoon. The hairy beast, smelling of rotten plant life, kept making noises that sounded almost human, and an onlooker was sure to have heard the words 'I vanquished the Black Lord', although no sane person would have believed that this creature, covered in mud, peat and muck, could have been human, dwarf, hobbit or elf. The poor animal was taken back to the nearest swamp, where it could be seen slowly taken by the gentle skeletal arms of its fellow apes, rising from the quagmire."

I have to admit that the final sections of the game have been really boring. After a weird but promising start and an interesting and at times even exciting middle game it all just fizzled to nothingness in the end.

In case you wanted to see moor pictures *runs from tomatoes* 

Last time I had just been pulled down into an abyss by a huge balrog. Lord of the Rings told that a falling balrog could strike down a mountain. Here, its body just vanished without any explanation and I found myself in a bleak moor.

Sixteen rooms of boredom

When you hear you are on a bleak moor, it doesn't really sound that exciting. The moor in this game didn't really change my expectations at all. Mapping the whole thing was difficult, because I kept dying of coldness every other move, but the worst of it was that the whole place was mostly empty and desolate, the only thing of interest being the Black Tower I could see somewhere in South.

Well, there was also the hill-top containing a barrow with a black spot - a teleport, which led to the snowman's cave. Also, I found a Star-Stone, the third of the elemental stones, and a cool brazier that appeared to warm me and fend off the coldness and which conveniently shrank to a portable size, whenever I picked it up.

 So, they've invented neon signs in Minas Tirith?

And yes, there were orcs, coming from every direction. Somewhat simple answer was to pick up the one direction (down), which was still available and where the orcs did not dare to follow you (apparently just because they didn't want to slide down the hill).

Leaving the moor toward south led me to a ravine and steps taking me to a circle of thirteen stones, where I was surrounded by ghosts, sucking my life energy. For some reason, dropping my portable brazier to ground and letting it expand and spread its heat somehow vanquished the ghosts.

Life on marsh

Beyond the circle of stones was marsh, which was even more depressing place than the moor. Skeletal hands kept grabbing me every other turn, which was mainly just irritating, because I had to keep whacking them with my sword. And then there was quicksand. Of the movie variety, which drowns you in five minutes.

Of course, you don't really drown in quicksand.
You just get stuck and die of starvation.

After some exploration, I managed to find an ancient house in an island.

Quick, to the batmobile!

Ever since I found that piece of garlic way back at the beginning, I've been waiting this moment. There I was, face to face with a vampire.

I guess he had watched this video

But he could choose a better interior decorator

Vampire went away, not liking my garlic breath. I found myself a pair of boots. And boy were these some boots.

You know, I've visited my share of wetlands and wearing boots in them makes sense. They are just so much more comfortable than sneakers, since they are usually made of some material with better insulation and they are big enough so that you can wear some extra padding in them, making your feet feel so dry and warm. And when the inevitable happens - and trust me, for an in-door kind of guy like me, it happens sooner than later - and the seemingly solid ground gives away and turns out to be just a quagmire, you are just happy if you chose to wear boots. When you get your leg finally back on the solid ground, chances are, your sneakers slipped away in the quagmire and you will have to walk home barefoot, but reliable boots will have stayed with you.

The one thing I never realised, before playing this game, was that boots apparently affect your buoyancy, and with boots on, you literally cannot drown, even in the famously ferocious quicksand. This is apparently one of those remarkable properties of boots, like their ability to resist poisoning, that rarely gets mentioned outside of gaming circles.

You didn't wear boots? 
Serves you right that you got caught in the quicksand!

Didn't you hear what I said about boots? 
You would be floating right now, if you had listened!

Just use those boots!
Oh wait, she did have boots...
...back to the drawing board

Yes, well... With these miraculous boots I could finally map the marsh properly. Led by a will-o-wisp to a remote area, surrounded by quick sand, I found the Mist-Stone, last of the stones I required to defeat the Demon Lord.

I am all stoned now

Whereto now? I had searched the marsh completely, but one entrance was still available - the window in the vampire's mansion. Indeed, I could get out of it, onto a ledge, with the final teleportal to the lair of octopus. Next to the ledge, I found a final piece of quicksand, in which resided all the stuff taken by the underwater current in the previous post. And beyond quicksand, Black Tower.

Notice the two arrows pointing helpfully to the entrance

Moving upwards the ramp led me to a series of four doors, made of rock, gold, silver and glass. Each one of them was opened by its own stone - earth for rock, sun for gold, star for silver and mist for glass. After the final door, I got into a throne room of AGALIAREPT, where I was instantly surrounded by orcs.

Evil Gloating

The few seconds that the Demon Lord left me were long enough for me to wave my magic medallion, which apparently was an effective demon repellent. AGALIAREPT stormed away through a secret door, where I followed him. Another maze waited me.

Just moments away from victory

The maze wasn't really difficult, but it sure was annoying. Every other turn led me to a dead end, and since orcs were after me, a wrong turn would mean almost instant death. My BBC emulator allows me to use save states, but I am not sure if all the 8-bit machines the game was made for had the capacity for saving your progression. True, the game allows you to resurrect yourself, but it might still require a considerable effort to get you to the place you just were.  In any case, I managed to find an alcove, where I hid, while orcs gave up and went away. Now, I was ready to take a passage, which was formerly guarded by few orcs.

The passage led to me to a pit, to which the AGALIAREPT had escaped.

Demon Lord looks like an orc

The big bad demon was protected by bane-fire, which prevented my medallion from working. But then the phoenix that was born in the previous post came to my rescue and destroyed the fire, which led to AGALIAREPT imploding into nothingness. All Middle-Earth rejoiced! "Was that it?", I noted and proceeded to rate the game.

Session time: 2 hours
Total time:  12 hours

PISSED -rating

Puzzles and Solvability

1) Some of the puzzles were quite intricate. Timing of the sand-worm in the desert and lung-fish allowing you change from lungs to gills and back were some of the better puzzles in the game, requiring diligent observation of the properties of certain items and careful planning how to use those properties to your advantage,

2) Majority of the game's puzzles were still of the standard variety and often variations from puzzles in original Adventure. Using keys for locks, oiling rusty doors and such were obvious things to solve, but at least they kept the pace going and made me confident that I was still progressing.

3) The majority of my playing time was spent with rather tedious puzzles, which were not so much difficult as time consuming. Mazes requiring careful mapping abounded, and the necessity of carrying my stuff in groups of four items made me walk back and forth through same screens.

4) To top it all, there were some puzzles I really disliked. The game managed to tick many common failings of adventure games: parser problems (waving a sling?), reading the creator's mind (Open Sesame) and illogical solutions (destroying a stone bridge with a sword).

All in all, a very mixed affair. Looking back, I kind of feel that the negatives outweigh the positives this time. I can deal with an occasional bad puzzle, but tedium of mapping hundreds of rooms is just too much.

Rating: 2

Interface and Inventory

The interface hasn't changed that much from the Colossal Adventure, but the clumsiness of the four-item limit in the inventory and the limitations of the two-word parser showed far better in this latter game. Part of this has to do with the more ambitious nature of the new game - Adventure Quest tries to be a linearly structured game, with a large geographical scope, which forces the player to move back and forth between different areas. The creators clearly tried to ease the inventory management with the teleports and the underground current, but these innovations just underline how ludicrous the game is. Did we ever see hobbits going back to visit Shire and fetch that piece of rope they would have needed? Or did we see them throwing Ring to Anduin in the hope of finding it again few miles later? All in all, this category deserves a very low score.

Rating: 1 (2 for the graphical version)

Story and Setting

I am a bit torn on this topic. On the one hand, this game does have a real story, which is big leap from the first game, which consisted mainly of a simple treasure hunt. On the other hand, the game had some difficulties with its supposed source material and tried to insert all kinds of silly monsters in Middle Earth. I think I'll have to give the newer version a bit higher score, just because it had the guts to take out all the Tolkien references.

Rating: 4 (5 for the graphical version)

Sound and Graphics

The original must get a zero, but the new version showed some improvement. Sure, the screens were still quite bland, but at least there weren't any ridiculous rooms this time and the variety of different areas had increased.

Rating: 0 (2 for the graphical version)

Environment and Atmosphere

I am still a bit torn. I liked the linear structure of the game, which made the game like a travel story, with each area being like a chapter with its own style. Then again, some of these areas could have been cut away, because they had very little of interest in them. The tone appears to be quite serious, when the whole Middle Earth is in danger, but then some silly bits like the god Typo or vampire fearing garlic are introduced and the whole thing just falls apart.

Rating: 4

Dialogue and Acting

The text is still pretty standard stuff, with occasional marks of brilliance and with occasional silly typos. I did like the fact that there were lot of characters with something to say, even if it was just one line.

Rating: 4

2 + 1 + 4 + 0 + 4 + 4 =15, which divided by 0,6 makes 25 (32 for the graphical version).

This sounds pretty much right. The original version of Adventure Quest had made some advances in comparison with the original version of the Colossal Adventure, but introduced also its own faults, which were then mitigated somewhat by the better parser and the variety of graphical environments in the new version. The closest guess came from Aperama, but I'd also like to give reward to Fry, who was clearly rating the graphical version. Congratulations!


  1. Every other turn led me to a dead end, and since orcs were after me, a wrong turn would mean almost instant death. My BBC emulator allows me to use save states, but I am not sure if all the 8-bit machines the game was made for had the capacity for saving your progression.

    It really depends. Typically, if you had 48k or less (Spectrum 48k, BBC Micro, etc.) you didn't have many options other than saving to tape or disk, and restoring from there. With 64k or more, you got both OOPS / UNDO (they're the same here, unlike in Infocom games, where the former is for correcting typos), and RAM SAVE / RESTORE. I think UNDO would solve this particular problem.

    ... all of the above is for the Jewels of Darkness versions, by the way. The original versions didn't have those features, and I think even playing on an interpreter doesn't change that. I think the first Level 9 game that included them in its original version was The Price of Magik (1986), which is still a long way from now.

  2. You just had to mention quicksand, didn't you.

    I HATE quicksand. It's coarse, and rough, and irritating. And it gets everywhere.

    1. Is that a Star Wars reference? :)

    2. Absolutely. Or kind of a combination Martian Memorandum/Star Wars reference.

    3. I am sure Tex Murphy could have used some boots ;)

      Yep, playing this while at the same time playing along with Martian Memorandum made me have nightmares about drowning in that icky stuff. Not cool at all.

    4. Tex can get boots! They just don't help with the quicksand. :/

  3. Totally un-Adventure game related, but there's an MST3K kickstarter going on now


    I particularly like the way they seem to have done their maths properly and worked out what it actually will cost to make an episode.

  4. Congrats on beating this 'orrible bugbear!

    1. Thanks! Although I did it only with the help of clues.