|A mysterious mountain, soon to be filled with pirate booty!
In my retelling, I will skimp on narrating all the running around and experimenting. I played through aspects of the game six times, with many reloads each of those times, to inch my way forward. Sometimes I would bee-line to a specific island to try something new, other times I would try out different routes to see what might make sense. I also started playing through the gamebook to see if that gave me any clues (more on that in a bit), but there were fewer than I expected and a large number of red herrings. With the disclaimer out of the way, let’s go pirating!
The Legacy of Axillon
|It would be ironic if a dragon killed him.
I re-explored every other area as well, but did not find any more “eureka” moments (or dragons). This is when I started to give in and consult the book, but it did not solve any of my problems. While it did feature some of the same areas, the puzzle solutions are different. For example, last time, I found a statue with a ruby tongue that slices your hand every time I try to take it. In the book, the pirates just take the whole statue-- something the game doesn’t let you do and I remain stuck. Similarly, the gray ovoid stone that burns your hands in the crypt can just be avoided in the game, but the book gives you the option of attacking it.
The Pirate Mermaid
|And you don’t know why, but you are dying to try… you want to kiss the Krell!
The cave is not very large or complicated and I quickly find and defeat the Krell. I grab the skull, but rather than head back immediately, I take the time to explore the rest of the cave. A few screens later and I find a man-eating giant clam and a unicorn horn. How the horn ended up in an underwater cave might be a good question for another day.
|Next to me is a cat. Does that count?
Examining the cutlass also reveals an inscription containing the answer to Salamander’s riddle! I bee-line back there and try it out, but all it does is let me skip one combat. That is a letdown as I was hoping for another treasure, but there’s still plenty to explore.
No Braaaaaaains Here
And… this is where I get stuck. I explore all of the locations again, but all I succeed in is sailing in circles. I’m pretty sure that I have seventeen treasures, but that’s not twenty. I take a lifeline and get a hint. I know, I know…
The hint was that you can defeat the zombie in Assur using the Silver Cutlass! Even though I had worked out how to get the cutlass, and I went back to the zombie several times, I never went back while I had it. I wish there had been a hint in-game that was what you needed to do, but perhaps I missed it. Even a note that the cutlass was good against undead would have been a big help. With the cutlass in my inventory, I’m able to defeat the zombie in a regular combat and head deeper into the tomb.
|Man, I feel like I should know this...
This hint actually told me more than you might think. This was the first time that I needed an item from another location to solve a puzzle, rather than having each area be a mini-puzzle all on its own. I also had to backtrack to do it: the sprites with the sword were further south than the zombie’s tomb. Armed with that info, I think I know what I need to do next.
The Final Treasures
Even though I have only found seventeen (or so) treasures, I’m going to replay the whole game again from scratch with an aim to get as many treasures to Nippur as possible.
I know that I only have seventeen or so treasures, but my next step will be to play through the whole game again. This is where the game’s meta-puzzle comes into play: you have to get to the end in one go, without dying. This means that I have to skip (or save scum) as many combats as possible and travel to as few locations as possible. Even with that, I had to use up my “staff of healing” to recover my health. The end result is this route plan:
|Not exactly “X marks the spot”, but it will do.
- Sail down the east coast and destroy the barge at Lagash first, followed by the Rivers of the Dead, then explore the shipwreck.
- From there, head west and north, skipping Kirkuk, to visit Assur and Calah.
- Backtrack south all the way to Kish.
- Southeast to the roc’s nest.
- South to the ice mountain.
- East and south to the Three Sisters
- And finally southwest to Nippur.
This route hits only the locations where I found treasures, skipping adventure or combat segments elsewhere. That means that I miss out on the war galley blockade in the Shallows of Goth, the strange empty forest in Kirkuk, and the adventure with the witch in Kazallu, but pretty much every other area had at least one treasure.
I fight my way through Nippur again (picking up two more treasures that I already knew about) and drop everything at the summit. Unfortunately, “everything” was not enough: I didn’t win.
|More battles! More treasure!
So I leave Nippur and chase down merchant ships. And, unfortunately, I run out of food. I restore and try again, same deal. Even though I picked up “plenty” of provisions and charted the most efficient possible route to Nippur, I find that at the end I need to “save scum” to trigger random battles before I run out of food. I need three to get three more gold coins, but no matter how hard I try I can’t get the third one to appear.
So… I give up. I title this one “Lost!” and start writing a scathing story about how the Commodore 64 version of the game was broken. Except… it wasn’t. A few hours later, I remember that I have a little box in my possession that I never worked out what to do with. I go back to the game and destroy the box, revealing a treasure inside. Did I not see it before? No, I did not. It’s the same “gold coins” that I find in the merchant ships and I didn’t notice that I had more of then after I broke the box. That final treasure is enough to reach twenty and I win!
|Not a particularly nice ending screen though...
Total time: 9 hr 05 min
And now we have arrived at the moment we all have been waiting for: the final rating. How will Seas of Blood fare? Let’s find out!
Puzzles and Solvability
|-1 points for a puzzle that makes you attack a cat.
The individual puzzles however were highly variable, ranging from easy to incomprehensible without reading the book. Can’t defeat the zombie? Make sure you’re carrying a treasure object you found in another location. Can’t get the potion off the sprites? Try talking to them, first. There were also many red-herrings (like the statue’s ruby tongue, the ring on the skeleton, etc.) that seem like treasure you are supposed to collect and puzzles you are supposed to solve, but are in reality just one-off ways to die. There’s also, at least in my case, the necessity to save-scum in order to trigger three merchant ship battles without running out of food. Chet from the CRPGAddict discovered that you could get around that by typing “wait” to pass time without using provisions, but that seems almost a bug rather than a feature.
Score: 3. I love the multi-layered approach to the game, but the individual puzzles were hit or miss.
Interface and Inventory
|I am so tired of typing “sail”.
Score: 2. It’s not a terrible game engine, but there’s a lack of polish in evidence here.
Story and Setting
|Kill things, collect treasure, repeat.
And yet… I like the setting. It’s clear that some thought was made (when writing the book) into shaping different cultures on the east and west of the sea and providing for different types of interactions with the different cities and villages along the way. I wish there was more cohesion, but it’s a world I wish we learned more about.
Score: 3. A good but not overly ambitious adoption of the story from the book, but I wish they had taken the time to integrate the backstory more.
Sound and Graphics
|Featureless ocean… with two warships and a river estuary.
Score: 3. Pretty standard for the illustrated text adventures of the era, but not good by modern standards.
Environment and Atmosphere
|Buddy on the beach where the fun is free!
Score: 4. The game’s elements come together better than you might expect.
Dialog and Acting
|Not a ton of conversationalists in this game.
Let’s tally up the score: 3+2+3+3+4+3/.6 = 30!
But I’m not quite satisfied with that. It’s a fun game, but I have to dock one more point for its key design flaw: you are a pirate. You should be going around being rewarded for pillaging as much as possible and generally making a nuisance of yourself. It’s in the job description. But the game ultimately forces you to avoid combat as much as possible so that you can make it to the end in one piece. It’s a great driver of tension, but not exactly the pirate way. At least we don’t fight like a dairy farmer!
Final score: 29!
Up next for me will be more Cruise for a Corpse, but I have no idea what my next Missed Classic will be. I had hoped to play Sherlock (1984) before getting into 1991’s Consulting Detective, but I am no longer sure I will have time. We’ll just have to see what the future holds!