Throne of Darkness: Unready

tod-guttyThe second floor of Castle Tsunayoshi ends in a transition from traditional Japanese decor to Hellmouth, complete with pointy teeth. And climbing the stairs to the third floor brings me to another one of those points where my party is slaughtered swiftly and mercilessly. In part, this is just the nature of stairs. When you climb stairs, you wind up in the middle of an unexplored space; there’s no safe area to fall back to. The archer and wizard can’t hang back in the rear if you’re surrounded. But also, it’s just that the monsters are suddenly a lot harder again.

So I left the castle and gave a thorough explore to the southeast slope of the mountain. This was a pretty meaty chunk of adventuring, with two small optional dungeons (in addition to the big one that leads into the castle, which has entrances on all four mountain paths). Several of my samurai gained levels, and my ninja has maxed out his skill in the “Fire Kanji” spell, effectively making him as powerful as my wizard as long as I keep buying him mana potions. My current plan is to keep on doing the slopes until I run out, then assault the castle again.

The general RPG design concept of making areas available before the player characters are actually ready to tackle them is one that I’ve praised in the past (Wasteland is a good example), but it doesn’t work quite so well at this moment. Mainly because of the way the game leads you around the gameworld by assigning quests. For the most part, just following the lead of the quest system takes you through the game in optimal order. There comes a point where the mountain trails become available, but your assigned quest is to continue to the next castle in the proper sequence; ignoring your quest and charging up the slopes quickly proves suicidal. But here in the endgame, that’s reversed: obeying orders and continuing into the castle is suicidal, and the sensible thing to do is to wander around in the wilderness, which makes no sense in the story.

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