Unfortunately, here is where my straightforward narrative breaks down. The Empire is-- as I just rediscovered-- huge. To cover the ground that I did in this post, I had to backtrack a great deal as I poked at each puzzle in turn to try to find the ones that I could solve and the ones that I needed to put off for later. The best way that I can express this is that Dungeon is an “open world” adventure game with a ton of different areas that opened up at once. To make this easier to follow, I will break up the narrative as best I can by region. I’m really “solving” these in parallel, but I don’t need to bore you with page after page of trying out false leads and then restoring. But first, we need to talk about combat!
|I want to cast “magic missile!”|
Unlike in a RPG, there are no visible stats like “hit points”, but you can see some basic idea of your health with the “diagnose” command:
You are in perfect health.
You can be killed by a serious wound.
- The troll swings. The blade turns on your armor but crashes broadside into your head.
- The flat of the troll's axe hits you delicately on the head, knocking you out.
- Conquering his fears, the troll puts you to death.
I think you get the idea. The overall effect is organic, a nice DM who keeps the details of the game mechanics hidden while letting you know when you are in dire straights. I don’t know how many more combats we’ll face, nor do I know if there are other hidden stats. I vaguely remember from Zork I that your score (the amount of treasure you pick up) had an impact on how successful your attacks would be. I have no idea if that is true for that game or whether the same holds true for Dungeon. We’ll have to see as the game progresses.
The final strange thing is that when you engage in combat you get some visual representation of what appear to be your die rolls. It’s jarring and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone just left some debugging turned on in my version of the game. Do any of you that are playing along see the same thing? Any theories as to what it all means?
>kill troll with sword
BLOW 10-- 1 19 1 T 0
BLOW 2050-- 2 2 1 1 20
BLOW 2650-- 2 3008 896 -2321 885
The troll takes a final blow and slumps to the floor dead.
|Here there be dragons… er… trolls.|
My next couple of hours are spent trying to get the lay of the land in broad strokes and fill in gaps on my maps. Just to give you a flavor, here are a few things I find:
- Immediately south of the troll’s role is a “Maze of Twisty Little Passages All Alike” just like in Colossal Cave. I’d like to call this more homage than plagiarism, but I skip on mapping it for now.
- A “Loud Room” that you find my following some ravines north of the troll’s room. It contains a Platinum Bar which is most likely a treasure, but I can’t pick it up because the room is so loud that we cannot hear ourselves think: anything we type is just repeated back to us in ALL CAPS. I’ll be on the lookout for earplugs.
- A “Round Room” just south of that where your compass spins wildly. Every time you leave it chucks you out a random exit so mapping is very challenging.
One of the exits from that Round Room lands me in a room with a riddle. I have to answer the question: “What is tall as a house, round as a cup, and all the king’s horses can’t draw it up?” That’s simple! I answer that it’s a “well” and I’m able to pass into a room containing a Pearl Necklace and access to what appears to be the bottom of a giant-sized well.
|What could it mean?|
Unfortunately, this is also the point where my exploration needed to end: my lantern ran out of batteries. In Colossal Cave, there was a place to get more in one of the mazes, but I have no idea if the same will hold true here. Let’s find out!
|Maize of Twisty Little Passages all Alike|
I restore back to just after I defeated the troll and gather as many items as I can carry. If there are replacement batteries in the maze, it’ll be a nice little homage to Colossal Cave. I don’t have my hope up because that may be a bit too on point, but we’ll see. My plan is to follow the traditional model for adventure game maze mapping: drop one item in every non-unique room to differentiate it, noting each explored exit in a spreadsheet. Almost immediately, I realize that this game has a major challenge that previous games did not: the Thief. While I am dropping and mapping, I get little messages like this one:
Off in the distance you hear someone saying, "My, I wonder what this fine glass bottle is doing here?"
I rush back to discover that my precious bottle has been moved somewhere. So, I drop a different item in the room, update my spreadsheet, and keep mapping. Sometimes I’m even lucky enough to find the missing item in another room nearby and sometimes not. This is a much slower and more difficult process than I was expecting.
It wasn’t too long into mapping that I found the first special room: a skeleton and his adventuring gear. His lantern is marked as useless (and there is no way to get the battery out), but he also was carrying a rusty knife, keys, and some golden coins. Now, this is how you do a Colossal Cave homage! If you touch the skeleton he curses you and sends all your treasure away, but I just restore to resolve that problem. Picking up the rusty knife is also interesting: doing so causes your sword to flash quickly a blinding blue light. What could that mean? In any event, the coins are probably a treasure (or currency) so I’ll be sure to hold on to them for now.
But honestly, I can’t get much farther than that. I have found (but not mapped all exits from) 16 rooms, but after that it becomes impossible. There is no way to juggle all the items the Thief is moving fast enough to make progress. Just as I’m giving up and trying to find my way back to a room I recognize, I wander into another special room: the cyclops! Why not a minotaur? Wouldn’t that have been the better mythological choice?
|He’s just subbing today. Otmin is out sick.|
As the knife approaches its victim, your mind is submerged by an overmastering will. Slowly, your hand turns, until the rusty blade is an inch from your neck. The knife seems almost to sing as it savagely cuts your throat.
In the end, I give up. I don’t find a way to defeat the cyclops either through combat or trickery and I can’t map well enough to know if there is more to find in the maze. I’ll have to come back later, especially if I find a way to neutralize the Thief. I restore back to the house and take a brief dive in just to get the coins and other stuff, but the rest will have to wait.
Flood Control Dam #3
|Flood Control Dam #3 and environs.|
Just on the other side of the troll room is a warren of chasms and other rooms leading to the world-famous “Flood Control Dam #3”. I had been here briefly before as the “Loud Room” connects here plus several of the passages get me into the “Round Room”. Since we can’t tell directions in that room, sometimes finding my way back to where I was exploring is impossible. Thankfully, we can always just restore!
Solving the “Loud Room” turns out to be pretty easy: no matter what you type, the room just types it back at you. Except to leave, there’s no action you can take. But how could I avoid typing “ECHO” in that room, just to see it echoed back? Of course, I couldn’t. When you do that, the game lets you know that the harmonics have shifted and now you can pick up the platinum bars and treat the room just like normal. Puzzle solved!
Not too far from there is the infamous “Flood Control Dam #3” that we could see (!!) from the canyon outside. The dam itself consists of three rooms: one with a panel with buttons and a sluice gate; a waiting room containing a matchbook and a guidebook; and a maintenance room with a number of buttons, a tube of “gunk”, a screwdriver, and a wrench. Reading the guide demonstrates that this is another area where the developers had already plotted out the backstory: the dam was built in 783 GUE at the cost of 37 million zorkmids, funded by Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive. It was built in 112 days by 384 slaves and overseen by 312,545 miscellaneous bureaucrats and paper pushers. Talk about excessive!
I do not play with the buttons yet, but it’s a puzzle I’ll come back to. Exploring the banks of the Frigid River near the dam, I find a room containing a shovel and some bat guano and another that contains a plastic boat and a sharp stick. Unfortunately, I do not have enough lung-power to inflate the boat so I’ll be looking for a pump of some kind. As for the shovel and guano? Who the heck knows.
|Bells, books, and candles!|
I barely explore any further before I find the demonic room I remember. It even has a sign: “Abandon Hope Ye Who Enter Here”. A stray gust of wind put out my candles out along the way, but the matchbook that I found at the dam works just fine to light them again. I ring the bell, I read the book, and I light the candles. I wait expectantly. I do it again. I was pretty sure this was the solution to get past the spirits and descend into Hades, but I must be doing it wrong. I’ll need to come back later when I have some new ideas or items.
I also get briefly excited by the candles: when in the temple itself, they appear to burn forever. Are they the solution to my battery problem? The answer is regretfully no as once you remove them they will quickly burn down and go out. Since we probably need those for a puzzle, my quest for a more permanent light source must continue.
Through the Looking Glass & The Coal Mine
|Curiouser and curiouser...|
The first little mystery I discover is a slide back to the cellar! That may be useful. It’s in a room with a suspiciously-labeled “Granite Wall”. Why would someone write that on the wall if it wasn’t to draw your attention that maybe it wasn’t granite after all? I’m not sure. In any event, I don’t find anything I can do with it yet.
Further in is a large coal mine section. I take the northwest fork and find myself in a room with a very large bat. He quickly scoops me up and deposits me in a “Coal Mine” maze, just like the Twisty Passages one except with a less catchy name. I didn’t bring enough items with me to map it (because I’ve been making little journeys with as little as possible as I can still only return to the surface carrying one object at a time). I end up stuck and have to reload. On the next attempt, I carry some of the garlic and guano with me, expecting one of them to help in some way and it does! The garlic causes the bat to hold its nose and I am able to steal its Jade Figurine without a problem. Another treasure! A few rooms further in, I discover a Sapphire Bracelet in a “smelly” room. I pick it up without an issue. If there’s a puzzle here, I don’t see it. And finally, I find a well with a bucket that I can raise and lower, but there’s nothing in the bucket and no obvious reason to use it. It also doesn’t seem to be related to the big well I found earlier. I’ll mark that to puzzle out later.
Having returned my items to safe-keeping, I return with more stuff so that I can map out the Coal Mine maze. The Thief is here too, but thankfully there are only seven rooms and I was able to work it out before running out of stuff. That led to a ladder deeper into the mine where I found some coal, some tinder, and a small crack that I could not squeeze through without dropping all my stuff. I get killed by a grue on the other side, so there must be a way to carry a light source through…
Not really having the solution to these problems yet, I finish exploring the rest of the rooms on the eastern side of the mirror. I discover a trident and an air pump! Well, I know what that’s used for! Time to go rafting!
|Working in a coal mine, goin’ down… down… down...|
Wow, has time flown! Without really noticing it, I’ve spent more than seven hours in this game and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. What’s more, I’m not bored and there’s still so much low-hanging fruit to explore. There are still a ton of exits that I haven’t traveled down yet.
Next time, I’m going to try to inflate the raft to explore the river. I’m also going to try using the stick on the cyclops and see if I can find any more special rooms in the Maze of Twisty Little Passages. I might also try fiddling with all the buttons at the Flood Control Dam #3. See you soon!
Time played: 4 hr 20 min
Total time: 7 hr 05 min
Treasures Found: 9 (Egg, Painting, Portrait, Pearl Necklace, Coins, Platinum Bar, Grail, Sapphire Bracelet, Crystal Trident)