DROD RPG: Points of No Return

I could be working my way towards completing this game, but that secret level keeps taunting me. Just when you think you’ve got it beat, you find out that there’s one more obstacle, requiring resources you’ve used up by that point. So you start over, and you go back into the main dungeon to start with more keys this time, and you optimize more thoroughly so you can hold off on using items that you now know you’ll need later. One of the big lessons for me this time round has been the unintuitive value of keeping your health as low as possible most of the time. There are things that, instead of knocking off a fixed number of hit points, reduce your health by a percentage: I’ve already mentioned the aumtliches, and there are also hot tiles that knock you down by 5%. 1In Beethro-centered DROD, hot tiles kill anything that stays on them for more than a turn. This is one of many ways in which Tendry shows himself as tougher than Beethro, assuming that his tale can be believed. (And he assures us that every word is true, so how can we doubt it?) So if you have to expose yourself to such hazards, it makes sense to leave any healing potions alone until afterwards: (0.95x)+200 > 0.95(x+200). At one point, after going through a series of aumtlich beams, I had exactly one hit point left. I consider this to be one of my greatest triumphs of planning, as I had taken exactly the minimum amount of damage. (The system rounds percentages against you; if there had been one more beam, I would have died.)

And so, having done this, I have by now made it all the way to the exit of the secret level. And this presents a fresh problem. I mentioned before how the previous levels had some places that could be reached with special tools, including ones (such as the grappling hook) that I’ve only acquired in the secret level. The problem is that once you’re into the main part of the secret level, you can’t go back. There’s a one-way force arrow preventing you from backtracking. I had been hoping that the exit on the far side would return me to a previously-inaccessible part of the previous level, but no, it just sends you on to chapter 2. You can bring one of the special tools into the beginning of chapter 2 with you, but it doesn’t seem to do any good.

If there is in fact no return once you’re in the secret level, it’s unusual. Generally, this game allows you to retrace your steps, to go back and face those foes who outmatched you on first meeting, make short work of them with your new gear, and carry off whatever they were guarding. The only outright exception is the transition from chapter 1 to chapter 2. There have been places where I’ve gone through a force arrow with no immediate prospect of return, but this is always a temporary condition — unless I do something that cuts off my path, like leave a floating platform where I can’t access it any more. It’s possible that the secret level fits that category. At the very least, I could escape back to the main dungeon if I still had the Wall Walking token. So perhaps the solution is even more heroic optimization? We’ll see. I’m honestly on the verge of giving this up for a while and getting back to chapter 2, which I expect will seem very easy in comparison. (It certainly didn’t seem easy in comparison to the rest of chapter 1.)

In a way, the secret level reminds me of the endgame of Time Zone. They both have a point of no return, producing gameplay marked by repeatedly restoring much earlier saves in order to get back to said point of no return with more stuff, or at least different stuff. The crazy thing is that I know for a fact that people involved in the production of DROD RPG have read my blog post complaining about that very ending, and how it extended the experience of the game by diluting its fun. But of course it’s very different here. It isn’t just a matter of entering the same series of commands, hoping not to make a mistake. Every time I play through the familiar bits, I’m asking myself if I can squeeze it a little more, come out a few more hit points or greckles 2The unit of currency in DROD. ahead. Plus, of course, everything about the secret level and the inaccessible areas is completely optional.

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1. In Beethro-centered DROD, hot tiles kill anything that stays on them for more than a turn. This is one of many ways in which Tendry shows himself as tougher than Beethro, assuming that his tale can be believed. (And he assures us that every word is true, so how can we doubt it?)
2. The unit of currency in DROD.

1 Comment so far

  1. Maurycy Zarzycki on 28 Feb 2012

    “In Beethro-centered DROD, hot tiles kill anything that stays on them for more than a turn. This is one of many ways in which Tendry shows himself as tougher than Beethro, assuming that his tale can be believed.”
    Actually it proves that Tendry is weaker – Tendry takes damage when stepping on a hot tile, while Beethro can easily survive as long as he is on the move. I think the reason might be that while Beethro is generally tougher, even he cannot stand the hot tile without moving (it’s like running on a hot coal barefoot), Tendry is equipped with a big armor which directs the heat away from the body ;).

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