|This doesn't look so much like a Sword of Freedom as it does a Sword of Freedom cake.|
I was hoping I could wrap up the last of Knightmare in one article, but it looks like I won't be that lucky. Either I have to write up things the way they are now, or I won't get another post out until next weekend. This will be short, but it represents about 6 hours of gameplay.
At the end of my last post, I was toying with taking a shortcut and going right to the final quest. I ultimately didn't do that because it seemed like bad form, plus killing the trees that block the quest entrances is hard. All your attacks bounce back on you. I finally gave up and tossed the Cup of Life at Tree #3 and entered the third quest.
|Groups of floating skulls assailed me in the third quest. They were hard to defeat because their images have no side view, so it's impossible to tell which way they're really facing.|
The third area consisted of three independent regions, roughly 20 x 30 each, and together I thought they made up the most satisfying map so far. Both puzzles and monsters got significantly more challenging, but in a fair way. Some memorable puzzles from the level included:
1. An area of 4 north/south hallways interlocked with 4 east/west hallways. At every intersection was a pressure plate that caused fireballs to simultaneously shoot towards the party from the north and west. (I'm assuming on the cardinal directions, since the game has no compass or method of determining your facing direction, but you get the idea.) I had to first find a safe alcove to dart into (after re-distributing inventory to make sure no character was overloaded) and then find a series of buttons that turned off some of the pressure plates, allowing limited movement in the area.
2. A 5 x 5 area with 9 moving walls. Moving walls by definition are hard to map, but I had to figure out their starting positions and ultimately push them in a way that allowed me access to each of the corners of the room. It took about 30 minutes of mapping, testing, and reloading to get this one just right and not block a necessary exit or something.
3. A teleporter maze with multiple teleporters going to nearly-identical areas (most consisting of a single square with teleporters in all four directions). Fortunately, I had been hoarding miscellaneous junk and was able to use items dropped on the floor to map the teleporter system.
|A clue in case I couldn't figure it out for myself.|
4. A ghost who couldn't be killed with weapons. I had to experiment a bit with spells to learn that the mage's "Dispel" was the key to making him go away. This is the first time that I've needed a particular spell to progress in the game. Are you simply screwed if you didn't get a mage? I suppose I could have led him to another area and locked him behind a door, but I think maybe he had a key or something.
|I thought the art was pretty good here.|
5. A room full of giant snakes who start behind walls. Stepping on a pressure plate (which you cannot avoid) abruptly removes the walls. This is one of the few places in the game so far where waltzing doesn't work and you just can't avoid a head-on fight. I had to heal the front characters frequently from the rear as I slew about 12 snakes.
6. A riddle: "when is a well not a well." This was given to me next to a well. When I couldn't figure it out immediately, I tried tossing every item I had into the well to no avail. But one of the items, recently acquired, was a Staff of Curing, and it led me to reason that a well is not a well when it's not well. I cast a curing spell on the well, and sure enough it opened into--actually, I don't know what. But walking into it teleported me to another area.
7. A roomful of dragons at the end of a long corridor where pressure plates shot fireballs down the corridor. This was another place where I couldn't waltz--there were too many dragons in the room--nor even back up, since I'd trigger the fireball plates.
This latter room put me face to face with a jester walking on his hands. I figured he wasn't an enemy and clicked on him instead of attacking him. He simply said, "I will pay you." I went through my inventory and reasoned that he might want something called a "Funny Staff" that I'd previously found.
As with the trees in the opening area, the game gives you only one way to "give" an object to an NPC: throw it at him. If it's the right object, the NPC will paradoxically dissolve into a puff of blood. That's what happened to the jester here, and his body left behind a coin. The coin later went to a Charon-like NPC in the game's final area. He gave me his boat.
The final area had some really tough battles, including a series of floating skulls (it's hard to waltz them because they always face you straight-on), witches on broomsticks, and whatever the hell this thing is supposed to be:
But it also produced some nice equipment. I'm pleased to report that finally, after three quests, my party members have several items of chain and plate mail plus...get this...a broadsword.
|I finally discover what would be starting armor in most games.|
The quest rewarded me with the Sword of Freedom, which I owned proudly for about 30 seconds before I tossed it at the final tree to make him disappear and let me into Quest 4. I played around the starting area for a little while; it appears that the opening area allows for infinite grinding against creatures that keep respawning. Although I prefer games that give me the opportunity to grind, I really hope it isn't strictly necessary.
|Moving on to the final area.|
Only after I finished Level 3 did I begin to understand something about the game's magic system. For spellcasters to cast spells, they must find a wand, rod, or staff that goes with the spell class. My wizard found a "Wand of Magic" and my priest found a "Cross of Aid" early in the game. I found some items that went with other classes but was never able to develop any skill with them.
As I've been exploring, I've been finding other wands and staves. Quest 3 gave me a Wand of Pain and a Staff of Curing, and I didn't understand them. Finally, I realized that each spellcasting class has more than one associated object. The Wand of Pain, for instance, gives extra spells to the wizard. I'm pretty sure I deliberately left behind something called a Cross of Life because I thought it duplicated what I already had.
|A very stereotypical witch attacks.|
- This nonsense comes up now and then here, just like it did in Captive. No idea what it's going on about.
- This is a button! A random skull on the wall. How I ever knew to push it, I have no idea, but I'm glad I figured it out. (Is there another game with very similar buttons?) There were a few of these.
I'm surprised by how much I'm taking to the puzzles, particularly considering that I didn't love the ones in Chaos Strikes Back, and I generally consider them an optional part of an RPG at best. But the combat system is wearing me down, and I'm glad I'm approaching the final areas.
Time so far: 25 hours
Reload count: 19