|Some pirates in the second scenario mercilessly beat on my weakest character until he's dead.|
The comments in my first post on Les Templiers d'Orven, plus the manual that commenter Loic Daneels graciously provided, paint a picture of a slightly more complex game than it presented at the outset. The dungeon that I explored and mapped in my first entry, "The Ultimate Dungeon," is in fact the most boring of the four scenarios in the game, intended simply to give the player an exposure to Dungeons & Dragons-style gameplay. The manual explicitly mentions D&D, apparently not as worried about lawsuits a continent away.
|The manual has an interesting cover, but it's all text inside.|
The other three seem to have a theme and a quest. "The Citadel of Madonas" has been infested with pirates, and the players are meant to find the enemy that has a special idol, which confers some kind of special power. "The Caverns of Xand" are supposed to be a newly-discovered hole in the Earth in which the gods of old are buried; the quest seems to involve defeating some of the more deadly creatures from Greek mythology.
"The Guardians of Knowledge" draws themes from A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) by Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996), which also inspired elements in the later Wasteland. Before regressing to savagery, the inhabitants of this land locked their knowledge in a vault and set an automaton to guard it. The automaton will destroy anyone who doesn't prove that he's capable and worthy of assuming the knowledge and spreading it. Providing such proof means outwitting the automaton's series of traps.
The scenarios seemed interesting enough that I was motivated to give the game another chance. In a long day that involved re-watching A Game of Thrones, I grinded my characters in "The Ultimate Dungeon" so they could survive the other scenarios. It took me almost 4 hours to get them to Level 3, about halfway to Level 4.
I got sick of typing the characters' full names all the time, so I renamed them to single syllables. I'm not sure anyone noticed, but I had named the originals after the Templar characters in Ivanhoe.
|The reamed party fights against plants on the second level.|
Leveling up is much like Wizardry, where there's a chance of gaining or losing attributes. The manual notes that once the characters reach Level 12, they can ascend to a prestige class. Scribes can become "geniuses," guides can become "adventurers," warriors step up to "knight," and templars become "grand priests."
|Leveling up. I gained concentration, constitution, and agility but lost "observation."|
As I earned money, the "coffer" thing became clear. When you purchase new equipment items, they're automatically equipped and the old items get stuffed in the coffers.
|After upgrading most of my characters to plate mail, their former cuirasses sit in the coffers.|
But even after all those hours of grinding, I got slaughtered when I entered the second scenario. The enemies are too relentless in their concentration on a single character. In most multi-character games, the danger is spread somewhat equally among all the active characters, and the total of each character's hit points effectively serves as a party hit point "pool." If one character gets whacked in one combat, it's likely that another character will bear the brunt in the next one.
Templiers, on the other hand, is very much a "weakest link" sort of game. Whoever has the lowest number of hit points will get picked on mercilessly until he's dead. Healing him with spells only gets you so far, since even at Level 3, the guide only has three "vitality" spells. This means that exploration sessions tend to be quite short, requiring the party to return to the temple and rest even when 5/6 of the party is relatively hale.
The bottom line is that while this game might offer some interesting quests, the hours it would take to grind and succeed in those quests might not be worth it. I could see investing that time if I had an Amstrad CPC in France in 1986. This would be one of only 3 RPGs available to me. But I need to start making up time, and I don't think it's best spent on this title. Seeing what happens as you solve the scenario quests would be great material for a guest post, if anyone wants to offer one.
In the meantime, I'm boosting the GIMLET ratiing from 19 to 25, reflecting the fact that game really does have quests, that the encounters seem to get more interesting, and that character development becomes more meaningful later. Otherwise, I'm going to carry it as a loss and move forward.