Sunday, 11 March 2012

Game 12: Mortville Manor - Won!

Jérôme Lange Journal Entry 4: “I have finally followed the clues to a terrible resolution! Unbeknownst to me, Julia wasn’t requesting my help because her own life was in danger, at least not through the threat of any of the manor residents. She did indeed die of natural causes and it was another’s death I was really investigating. I young woman named Murielle had once lived in the manor and while she was liked by everyone, she disappeared just over a year ago. I only found out about her presence when I came across a photo of her in the attic and started asking questions. Of course, knowing of her existence and disappearance didn’t unveil any further secrets, but the third parchment I discovered in Julia’s room did. It spoke of opening the way of darkness “like young Arthur”, and while Arthur removed the sword from the stone, the slot in the stone in the cellar suggested the opposite might do the trick in this instance. It did, and I finally made my way into the secret passageway beneath the manor, only to be confronted by the “sad virgin” that the parchment also spoke of. Noticing another slot on this statue and following the clue of “offer her the circle of the man with three faces”, I inserted and turned the golden ring I’d retrieved from Guy’s room. Another success and another secret passage, with this one leading me to a horrifying sight! The body of Murielle was there, and when I confronted Leo about it, he admitted to leaving her there, but not to being the cause of her death. He says she died accidentally while they were searching the manor and that he’d decided to cover it up rather than drawing the attention of the police.”

I apologise in advance to those of you that have a nostalgic place for Mortville Manor in their hearts, for what I’m about to say might not align with the evocative memories you have for it. Mortville Manor is an exceptionally poorly executed adventure game, and was possibly more frustrating than any other game I’ve ever played through to completion. I can safely say that I wouldn’t have dedicated the eleven and a half hours it took to complete the game if it weren’t for the purposes of this blog, and probably would have stopped after around three. There were certain parts of Uninvited that annoyed the crap out of me, but at least in that game I had some idea about what was going on and what actually happened in the end. The same can’t be said for Mortville Manor, and I’ve astoundingly ended the game with more unanswered questions than answered ones. Now it could very well be that all of this is merely the result of a poor translation from French to English, or that my intelligence level just wasn’t up to the genius behind the game, but I can only describe and rate the game based on my own experience. Here’s a rundown of how I floundered my way to the finish line...


There were times where I felt like using one of these while playing Mortville Manor

When I last left you guys, I’d found the third parchment and figured my next destination should be the chapel. Well, I spent a good half an hour in that chapel, and couldn’t find anything of interest whatsoever. I thought I might have been onto something when I read “bring the sun to his knees” and assumed something would happen if I waited until night time, but no, nothing happened. Feeling more disgruntled than ever, particularly after Daubeur predicted I’d finish the game before my next post, I determinedly explored the rest of the house again, hoping to find something that would trigger a eureka moment. While doing this, I came across a room I’d never seen before! How could that happen I hear you ask?! Well, let me tell you. At the end of the landing in the manor (see below) are stairs going down and stairs going up. From this point, you can click the Move menu and then Choice on Screen, and then click where you'd like to go. If you click on one of the doors, you are positioned in front of that door, where you can knock, open the door, listen or talk to whoever is standing next to you. Now, during my very first session with the game, I clicked Choice on Screen and then clicked the stairs going down. The game popped up with a big green message saying “Then use the MOV menu”, which caused me to think that the stairs led to one of the other options in the Move menu, such as the kitchen, or the cellar, and that in all likelihood, the stairs going up would result in the same message. Wrong!


What's behind door number 9?

Going up the stairs took me to the attic, where I found a photo of a young woman, along with a bunch of other seemingly useless stuff. What this achieved however, is that it opened up new dialogue options in the conversation tree, which caused me to spend the next period of time trying to catch all eight suspects to ask them about the girl and their relationship to her. It turned out that Murielle was the lady companion (whatever that means) of Julia and that she’d disappeared under strange circumstances over a year ago. Unfortunately, the excitement of finding this new room and having something to do dissipated and I was once again left without a clue. Deciding to focus my attention on the two areas I’d been so curious about previously, being the well and the cellar, I headed back to the well, this time with the rope I uncovered in the attic. Imagine my surprise when I attached that rope to the well and selected Move – In the Weel (yes, the game spells well “weel” throughout) and was confronted with a loading screen instead of the response “Too deep!” Now imagine my utter disdain when that loading screen was followed by the screen below:


Karate chop!

So let’s get this straight. The rope I’d previously attached to the well was too short!? The game didn’t give me a message to tell me this information, such as “This rope is too short. You might want to try a different one.” No, it just said “Too deep”, making me wonder what else I might need to do to use the rope. Attaching a different rope, which looks absolutely identical to the other one, suddenly allows me to climb to the bottom of the well, only for someone to cut the rope, trapping me there. The game doesn’t even allow me to at least see what’s down there before reloading, it just ends. There were no hints as to how I might go about climbing down without being trapped there either, leaving me feeling more than a little cranky. I spent some time looking through the parchments and items I’d come across in the entire game up until now, but could see nothing that might help. Surely the well isn’t there as a red herring?! Well no actually...I later came back to the well, connected up exactly the same rope as before and entered...you know...for shits and giggles, only this time I wasn’t killed! Why I was able to enter this time and not the times I’d tried before, I have absolutely no idea.


This rope is apparently longer than the other identical looking rope

Apparently the whole reason to climb down the well is not to get to the bottom at all, but to read the “strange horoscope” on the wall halfway down. I thought for sure that I’d finally come across an explanation for the symbols found throughout the game and how to apply them to the cryptic parchments, so I was pretty excited about it to say the least. Thankfully I saved my game and took a screenshot too as if you hang around for long the water rises and kills you (don’t you hate it when the water in the well just rises all by itself!). I’ve stared at that screenshot for quite a while now and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more stupid in my life. Was this game created by aliens and sent here to drive us humans insane, therefore making their inevitable invasion a much easier proposition? If I was going to have a guess, I believe music has something to do with the solution to the puzzle. The second parchment says “The key to the melody is within your grasp. It suffices to find the note that clashes” and when you enter the well, you hear three distinctly different tones. Maybe it’s merely suggesting that I find the missing tone (i.e. the missing piece of wall), which might be the symbol in the cellar? If anyone can explain what the whole well thing is about, I’d love to understand. Regardless, as strange as it might seem, I managed to finish the game while having no idea.


I get it now! Satan is angry because Poseidon stole his chick before the sun came up?

Deciding to expend no further energy on the well, I entered the cellar once more, determined to figure out what the symbols are all about. Immediately I noticed something that had escaped my attention previously. An almost imperceptible slot just above the symbol on the centre pillar! For the first time since starting Mortville Manor, I had a eureka moment worth getting excited about! I’d been carrying around the dagger for a while (I collected all the items I could that were present on the coat of arms) and tried placing it in the slot. The secret door opened and I eagerly went through to see what dark secrets were held within. However...I was suddenly confronted with a question! “Julia: Did she commit suicide? Was she murdered? Did she die by accident? Did she die of natural causes?” My investigation had led me to believe she died of natural causes, so I selected that answer, only to be faced with another question. “Where did the money come from for the restoration of the manor?” The answers to choose from were blackmail, honest work, inheritance, races, rents, hold-up and other. Fortunately I’d recorded every possible dialogue question and answer throughout the game and was able to look back over it. When I’d asked some of the manor residents about Leo’s Occupation, they’d answered “He’s a fanatic of history and gambler. A year ago he won a great deal of money”. I could see no mention of any restoration, but the gambler comment made “Races” the most likely answer. Obviously it was correct, as the test continued...


This question implies that this story is involving. I beg to differ!

In total I was asked to answer ten questions before I was able to proceed. Since completing the game, I’ve read elsewhere that this test was added to certain versions of the game after it became apparent that the game could be finished in a matter of minutes if you have a bit of luck (or follow a walkthrough), therefore making the entire plot completely redundant. If you get one answer wrong, the game tells you that you’re not ready to enter the secret passage and need to conduct further investigations in the manor. In my opinion, this is a lame attempt to correct what is an obvious defect in game design. It doesn’t help that some of the questions are really quite hard, and despite the fact I’d spent days investigating every nook and cranny and asking every possible question, I still had to guess the answer. Who did Murielle have an affair with? Where was that mentioned? If you’re going to test a player to make sure they understand the plot, you better make the plot understandable in the first place! Somehow I got through it unscathed, and found myself looking at a rather unattractive statue with a sword.


Hooray for disused traps! I can't wait to try them!

Noticing how similar the statue looked to the one in the chapel, I quickly brought up a screenshot to compare. They both carried a ball shaped item in their right hand, but the one in the chapel had a cross on top whereas the one in the passage didn’t. The gold ring I had in my inventory (also on the coat of arms) had a cross on the top, so I tried putting that in the slot on top of the ball. It fit perfectly...but nothing happened. I couldn’t see anything else to do, so I selected every action in the menu, including smell and eat (you never know with this game), and clicked on the ball and the ring. Turning the ring worked, and another passage opened up. This led me to the apparent climax of the mystery, discovering Murielle’s corpse lying on a chest. I spent quite a bit of time looking in the chest and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do before I searched her body and found a wooden object with a screw on it. I’d previously noticed a hole in the top of the cabinet in Murielle’s room, so I quickly headed straight up there to test my theory. It fit, but once again nothing happened. I eventually figured out that the wooden rod in the top draw of the cabinet needed to be slotted through the hole in the ball so it could be turned, revealing a secret drawer containing a notebook.


Even after death, Murielle rocked on to Iron Maiden and Slayer

I expected this notebook to make everything clear. It didn’t! It might not be as cryptic as the parchments I’d collected, but it didn’t answer anything other than the fact Murielle had followed the parchments herself and found her way into the crypt. The game quickly wraps itself up at this point in a most unsatisfying way. “You don’t know what implication Leo may have had in Murielle’s death. Was she dead outright? In any case, the family problems that you have uncovered in the course of your enquiries would explain Leo’s behaviour.” What behaviour? What family problems? I know Guy has been having an affair with Eva, Pat owes Guy money and has been forging accounts, Max is a bit of a drunk etc. etc., but what has any of that got to do with Leo and his apparent behaviour? The “revealing” talk with Leo goes part way to answering the above, as Leo describes how he and Murielle were searching the crypts when she was killed in an accident. Instead of reporting her death, he simply left her there, but not before taking her ring and the treasure he found. He then explains that Julia wanted me to investigate as she suspected Leo was involved in Murielle’s death, but that she made all the clues very difficult for me to decipher to protect her husband. So let me get this straight. Julia wanted me to find out whether Leo killed Murielle, but she scattered her own clues that led to her belief around so that I might not suspect Leo. Huh!? Oh, but none of this matters anyway, because Leo commits suicide shortly after I leave the manor after losing a bet at the races!


Was she dead outright? As opposed to what? Undead?

So...I’ve finished Mortville Manor, but it doesn’t feel like it. All the dialogue between me and the suspects allowed me to complete the test when entering the secret passageway, but otherwise played no role in completing the game. Most of the parchments still make absolutely no sense to me. Nothing happened in the kitchen, the bathroom, or the shower for the entire game, nor did I pick up any item from any of those rooms. I could now finish the game in about five minutes, without talking to anyone or accessing more than two rooms (all you need is the ring and the dagger). Why did Julia’s stepson Pat answer that she died of frostbite when everyone else said she died of pulmonary embolism? Why did I start the game with a pistol when it clearly plays no part in the game (wasting a valuable inventory slot at the same time)? If Leo isn't a murderer and merely hid Murielle's body to avoid attracting attention, who kept killing me throughout the game? Why does Guy answer “I took the picture and what’s more, it’s printed in reverse” when talking about the photo of Murielle in Julia’s room? Are these things just there to confuse the player and make them chase answers that simply aren’t relevant, or have I completely missed the point over and over again? One thing’s for sure! I’m really looking forward to playing a Sierra game after slogging through this mess. But first...I need to have a quick look at the game in French on the PC, so I can rate it properly for that platform. Then it’s case closed...for good!


Murielle may have left due to the financial success of the manor? Yes, that should be avoided at all costs!

22 comments:

  1. Praise success! Generic comment about moving on. Follow up comment about getting closer to Shadowgate. Much luck. ;)

    /existentialism

    I haven't read anything yet, I just noticed the topic before closing my reader down to start playing. So, I'll make a follow up post if appropriate.

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  2. Considering I was one of your commenters who said that playing through Mortville Manor was worth it, I think I owe you an apology ;)

    Great accomplishment nonetheless! Congrats for getting through it. I didn't remember it was such a mess, but when I think about it, I'm not sure I understood a lot of what was going on when I played it, and I for sure never finished it...

    Well done in completing the game. You're gonna have a nicer time with Police Quest. It's much less cryptic and I remembered having great fun with it (even if it was sometimes all about following regulations on how to write a ticket or take a shower...)

    Well done sir!

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    1. Haha...no need to apologise. I might just pop over to your blog (which is worth reading for those of you that haven't checked it out) and start suggesting you play through some real shockers as payback. ;)

      I'm really excited about Police Quest. It's a game I never finished as a kid.

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    2. Don't bother, I already have the resident evil gun survivors series and the zelda cdi games on my play list. I think I have enough stinkers coming ;)

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  4. Hello logic. Meet window. :D

    (PS, I've now read your entire post, and I had many of the same questions.)

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  5. Truly impressive, you had to go through a lot to finish this one.

    I think there are still discussion threads nowadays discussing what the hell it was about.
    The smart idea, which also makes the whole thing impossible to understand, is that there already was an investigation a year before, led by Leo and Murielle, and that all you find is the remnants of it (for example, they probably found the dagger behind a stone in the well, using one of the parchments).

    I swear Zombi isn't as twisted.

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    1. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on this one Daubeur as I figure the translation really did some damage. Don't hold back on the suggestions. :)

      That being said, every time I watch a much loved movie from my childhood, it always turns out to be really crappy. Sometimes memories are best left as just that...memories.

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  6. For what it's worth, that "horoscope" is showing traditional alchemical symbols for Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Neptune. The other two might be less traditional representations of the Sun and the Earth. Not that I have any idea what this might mean in context.

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    1. Furthermore, at least in more Latin-based languages - like French - the weekdays got their names from the planets (+ Sun and Moon). Wasn't there in some parchment a rhyme with weekdays? Perhaps the well was meant to be triggered by pushing the corresponding stones (or something like that), but as Daubeur suggested, someone got there before the player - note that the well is missing a stone, which probably would have had the symbol for Saturn (Saturday).

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    2. I think the two of you are totally onto something here! It's a bit harsh to expect the player to know that the symbols were the alchemical symbols to represent planets, but even harsher if you're then expected to associate the planets with weekdays on top of that! Even if you managed to it, I still can't see how that information would be useful as there doesn't appear to be anything further to do in the well.

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    3. The weekdays are named after the Roman gods. Saturday = Saturn, Sunday = The Sun (Not sure if that was the name of a god), Monday = Mars I think. http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/questions/question48.html has more details.

      You guys don't know old alchemy symbols? I got that right away, but I didn't remember those are also the planet (Which is dumb as me, as I'm taking an astrophysics class right now where we still use the one for the sun as a short form.) I wonder if there is something you can only do one a specific day of the week?.

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    4. Actually Monday = Moon. In English the connection between weekdays and Roman gods/planets is a bit lost, because there's also influence of Norse mythology (Wednesday = Odin, Thursday = Thor, Friday = Freya), which probably makes also the symbols in Mortville Manor a bit more difficult to unravel. Don't know, whether the connection is easier to spot for a Frenchman playing the French version.

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  7. I'm voting that you or someone else here do some reading and explain it to us. Could it be translation issues?

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    1. I've done quite a bit of researching since finishing, but all the walkthroughs I can find simply take you through the actions without explaining the plot. The best answer seems to be on YouTube, but the accompanying explanations are all in French.

      Here's the first video for anyone that wants to check it out.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G6diAVcM0k&feature=related

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  8. It truly is a mystery game, since even completing it just raises even more questions.

    I also hope that someone can explain things, even a little bit.

    Looking forward to seeing Police Quest, I haven't played the original in quite a while (I tend to play the VGA remake instead). I seem to remember it being fairly logical, provided you adhere to proper police procedure! (remember to read the manual)

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  9. On another note: I noticed some adventure games in GoG.com's weekly sale:
    http://www.gog.com/en/news/selection_of_activision_games_50_off
    Namely the infamous Phantasmagoria (I can't wait for the Trickster to reach that one!) and A Puzzle of Flesh.
    Also they just added a horror adventure game to the site: http://www.gog.com/en/news/new_release_the_11th_hour

    I'm just doing this as I like being useful, and GoG seem like cool guys; I don't get money for this, I'm not associated with them, etc. Also if Trickster or the other readers want I can stop this.

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    1. Relatedly, the SWAT games are also on sale, which are pseudo-sequels to Police Quest. However, only the first SWAT game is really adventure-ish at all, and even it represents a significant shift from Police Quest (it's pretty much an FMV game). SWAT 2 is essentially an isometric tactics game, and SWAT 3 is a mixed 3rd person/team tactics-bsaed arrest simulator or something.

      Still.. they are all technically sequels to Police Quest. Sort of.

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    2. I certainly have no issue with any news related to adventure games being commented on here, as long as someone isn't advertising something they have a financial interest in. I also think the guys at GoG deserve all the recognition and success they can get, as they're doing a wonderful job bringing back all the old classics and making them playable for a new generation (and the old ones of course).

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    3. I only wish people would give me money for this; I'm just trying to be helpful.

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  10. Lankhor.net has quite some information (or rather theories) about the plot and the "riddles", unfortunately all in French. Still, there are some questions left unanswered, like who keeps killing you or what really happened in the secret crypt (did Leo kill Murielle or was she hit by a boobytrap and he just left her to die?).

    As I'm sure you're all wondering, a "lady companion" is an horrible translation for "lady-in-waiting".

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  11. "You are alone. Cool." This is how I imagine feeling after this game.

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