Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Missed Classic: Adventure Quest - Through the Elements

By Ilmari

Yonder and Back Again for Tea, chapter 3: I Have Eyes Only for Elves

Striking for the soft underbelly? Finding that weak spot? Pre-historical ideas! I've found out a guaranteed dragon tamer and flame extinguisher. All I have to do is start bottling it and selling it with a great profit. There's been some definite interest from a fair knight in a distant land of Daventry...

Rolling on the river

Last time I had just dropped in an underground river, which was slowly taking me towards my inevitable death. The only plausible direction to go was up, but I had too much stuff on me for climbing. If I dropped things, they were carried away by the river. This might not be that bad, since I might find those items later on, at the end of this river. Except there was this one thing.

Like its predecessor, the game has a four-object inventory limit.

Yes, I've been carrying around stuff back and forth, and considering the scope of the game thus far, it hasn't been that fun. And now majority of my items was lying in the cave above, where I most likely wouldn't go again.

Let's restore to cave then. These early adventure games do like the verb "throw", and it didn't fail me this time either. Throwing anything within the cave would spiral it down into the river, which would presumably take it somewhere I was supposed to go also. So, I threw all my stuff down, followed it with my rope and then encumbered by nothing climbed from the river to a small ledge.

The only thing of interest on the ledge was a model of lung-fish. Picking up that model told me that I suddenly couldn't breath. I tried dropping the model, but I still couldn't breath. I tried picking up the model again - and I could breath. So, picking up the lung-fish made me change my breathing status. I wonder what it would do underwater?

I went back down the river and yes, whenever I couldn't breath in the air, I could breath in the water. Back at the beginning of the game I was told that I would go through the elements, and now it appeared to be time for water.

The river took me to a beach of a small pool, where all my stuff could be found. I also discovered a net, and instantly I guessed I would probably be catching some fish. From the beach, I could descend into a small lake-bed where sharks patrolled and the only way to avoid them was to hide in sea-weed. There was a place with more shallow water, in which I could ascend to the other side of the lake, but I first wanted to explore the whole underwater area. I found a clam, but opening it with the trident revealed nothing. A red herring!

The fishes are just so cute

One thing of interest was a drowned graveyard. Since I was still underground, it seemed peculiar why anyone would have built a graveyard here in the first place. Even more peculiar was that beside graveyard there was a drowned church.

It even has a cross

Considering that Tolkien thought his tales of Middle-Earth to tell of a legendary past of our own Earth, it is a bit anachronistic to find signs of Christianity here. But hey, who am I to argue with Level 9? Especially as there's that nice luminous jelly-fish I can catch with my net. And it's a good thing I found it, since my lamp doesn't work underwater (and by a remarkable coincidence, the jelly-fish shrivels when taken out of water).

With my trusty jelly-fish I can map a deep dark trench, with two curious things. Firstly, the west end of the trench has a strong current, and when I drop anything, the current whisks it away somewhere. Could this be a similar puzzle as in the snowman's cave, that is, should I drop my stuff here and find it somewhere later? I decided to investigate this later.

The east end of the trench led to a lair of octopus, which grabbed my stuff and then quickly ripped me apart. I tried my best, but in the end I had to rely on the clue sheet (- 5). "Carry the Bag to defeat the Octopus". The bag that I had used to banish the djinn at the oasis was to be used again - luckily I have learned not to discard anything away as useless. When I now approached the octopus lair, it tore first my bag of winds, which flew the beast away. I was a bit disappointed, because I then found out nothing of interest in the lair.

Except there's again that strange white dot

That was all I could find in the underwater area, so I proceeded to the north beach of the lake. Getting out of the water, I found two doors. One of them was marked with a black dot and going through it took me back to the well house in the beginning. Since the well house also had one of those white dots, I surmised I had solved the mystery - black dots contained tele portals (that's the official spelling in the manual, so I am sticking to it) leading to places with white dots. These tele portals were probably meant as a way to retrieve items left far behind, but considering they are one-way portals, I am glad I didn't leave anything behind.

The other door was rusty and locked. Good thing I had a bottle of oil and a universal set of keys with me.

I am not really sure if a bottle of oil actually works for a door that is rusted solid

Opening the door was easy, but I still couldn't get in, because the stone heads refused to let me pass, if  I had any weapons with me. So much for that trident, I wonder if it was worth anything? Fortunately, this looked like a peaceful cave system... TWANG... what was that? "Do you want to be resurrected?"

A Silmarillion reference! For once they got it right

I had been killed by an unseen archer. Not so peaceful caves after all. I decided not to go north again. East contained a dead end, and when I went west I found a junction - going south took me to another dead end, and going north I found a bridge with an orc archer alerting his comrades of my presence.

Out of water, into earth

This was actually one of the more innovative puzzles. The idea was precisely to go to the bridge and let the archer make the alarm. Then I had to move back to the magnificent cave, where I was originally killed by another archer. Now all orcs had apparently been recalled to defend the entrance to their lair, so I was free to explore the magnificent cave.

The cave had a huge stalagmite, which could be climbed up. The top of the stalagmite contained a web, and within that web I found Earth-Stone, first of the four elemental stones that were supposed to help me in my journey to Dark Tower. Unfortunately, the web also contained a very nasty spider that killed me, if I tried to get too close to the stone.

Going then north from the magnificent cave, I found a statute of elf, missing one eye. Since I happened to have an emerald eye, I naturally handed the eye to the statue, which gave me its sword.

I bet they would hire Orlando Bloom for a movie version

My usual method has been to start with the all-text version, work out some puzzles, and then do the same piece with the graphical version. At this point I noticed an interesting difference in the two versions. I tried to see what the death message for getting killed by an archer would be in the later version, where they could not make a reference to Silmarillion. To my surprise, there was no message, but the arrow just passed by me and I could walk through the cave with no harm. Removing a puzzle just to avoid copyright issues!

Also, this statue has no eye patch

What should I do with a sword? I know, let's go take care of that icky spider.

They still can't get the webs right

When the spider now threatened me, I could easily defeat it with my sword. Unfortunately, I still didn't get the Earth-Stone.

Those pesky orcs

Alright, I had to infiltrate the orc lair. Fortunately, the orcs were having a party and didn't notice me at all.

Except when I crashed their party

I soon found a storage room containing the Earth-Stone. But getting out wasn't that easy. When I tried to cross the rope bridge leading out from the orc lair, the orcs started to chase me.

This is a cinematic moment

Luckily I had that sword and I could just cut the rope bridge, stranding the orcs to the other side. Goodies vs. baddies, 1 - 0.

I still had one corridor to investigate, and walking through it I was told that the air was becoming hotter. The reason for this became clear, when I found myself staring at a dragon. I had killed one of these with my bare hands in the first game, and now I had a sword with me. This should be easy...

A sword swallowing dragon, what do they think of next?

The stupid beast ate everything I happened to throw at it. That gave me an idea. I still had my bottle, which I could fill with water from the lake. Hey, it worked with sir Graham in King's Quest I! Come to think of it, I've already taken care of a giant with a sling. If I also have to play fiddle to leprechauns, I know where Roberta Williams got her ideas.

The dragon ran away, after a bottle of water had extinguished its flame. In the dragon's lair, I found a strange egg.

Because they still need change for the coffee machine?

Beyond the dragon's lair awaited the element of fire. Or at least an active crater, spouting lava all over. It was pretty clear that the eruptions had some sort of pattern and that I should time my movements carefully. But I was getting a bit tired of the game, so I relied on the helpful clue sheet again (- 6). "To descend the Volcanic Crater, wait in the Cave above the Volcano until fires leap to NE and SW. Then move DOWN every other turn, e.g: D, LOOK, D, INV .. etc." Simple enough. Except I should also go up to fetch my stuff, since I still had the four-object inventory limit to deal with.

At this point I decided to use the current in the lake, which slurped all objects that were dropped into it - hopefully, it would take my stuff to a place I would find in the future. I decided to keep only my sword and lamp with me, while descending into the crater.

While moving downwards, I found an insulation cloak, which I picked up. I was glad I did, since the cloak was of use, when I started to climb down Hell-Well, where a sheet of living flame kept attacking me.

Belle and Elle fell in Hell-Well

Beyond the Hell-Well, I was told to be iQ a very hot passage. Yes, iQ a very hot passage.

The spelling problems are just becoming worse

Within that strange passage, I accidentally solved a puzzle. I wanted to see, if the death by a sheet of living flame would have an interesting death message (it didn't), so I dropped my cloak of insulation, only to be told, that I also laid it on hot coals that had prevented my passage further.

Moving forward, I found myself in a junction. North passage led me to a room with another tele portal, which this time led to the giant black beer keg... uh... pillar in the desert. South passage led me to a burning nest. Hey, this is where I was probably supposed to bring that egg from dragon's lair! Except I had let the current take it away from me... Oh well, let's restore a bit! *After retracing my steps* And now I could put that egg in the nest!

These aren't symbols of infinity, they are just eights!

Phoenix was born, and let's not think about how this fits in with Tolkien's mythology. I now had only the west passage to take, so off I went. The all-text version didn't really say it to me, but the graphical version revealed that I had at some point moved outside the caves. I crossed a stone bridge, and on the other side I found an altar with a Sun-Stone.

Lenslok was a truly horrible copy protection for Spectrum
Thankfully, the interpreter avoids the need to use it

Getting back from the altar, I was face-to-face with yet another Tolkien reference, a balrog! Well, the graphical version also speaks about balrog, so I guess it isn't so Tolkien after all. No matter, my trusty sword will handle this!

Or not

After a few failed attempts, I decided it was time to rely on the clue sheet again (- 7). What would be the genial answer to this conundrum? " Smite the Bridge of Stone with the Sword to topple the Balrog into the Abyss".

Let me get this straight: I am supposed to use my sword to whack a bridge made out of stones into pieces? Well, let's forget the plausibility of this task and do as we are told. The bridge was torn asunder and balrog fell down, but it used its fiery whip to pull me down with it. I didn't see that plot point coming...

This seems to be a great place to end this post. Although I've enjoyed this leg of the game, I am already waiting it to end. Unfortunately, the game appears to be quite huge and I still have no idea how close I am to the end.

Clues used - 7

Session time: 4 hours
Total time: 10 hours

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. There seems to be a rash of accidental puzzle-solving going around.

    1. I guess it has something to do with blogging at the same time. Personally, I just try to do all sorts of things, while playing, just to see if something funny or remarkable happens, worthy of being mentioned here. Sometimes it results to accidental puzzle solving.

  2. The balrog sequence made me think it would be rather funny, or even interesting, if your character is a reincarnated Saruman who must repent his past sins by reenacting the deeds of Gandalf and in the end be able to pass to the west. Thus explains how someone actually was able to break the stone bridge in one fell swoop. Of course the magic system seemed to have changed in middle-earth since a wizard without his staff was almost powerless.

    1. That would be an interesting turn of events - much more intricate than stories in these early adventure games tend to be.

      I am actually a bit disappointed by the lack of magic in this game. The manual makes so much about the hero being an apprentice mage, yet, there's no spell that I could use. A missed opportunity, to be sure.

  3. Forgot about that part about the hero being an apprentice mage, which now when I think about it baffles me even more since I think magic faded away even before the third age ended since that was one of the reason Sauron even created the rings in the first place. So how can there be a wizard guild at all all this time later?

    1. I guess this is just one of those inconvenient details the creators of the game chose to ignore. I am pretty sure dragons and balrogs were also supposed to be eradicated at the end of Third Age, but here they still exist.

    2. If I'm remembering correctly, it's the Elves who started fading (slowly) at the end of the First Age (when Morgoth the Biggest Bad was defeated). The Rings were made during the 2nd Age, in about 1500 c by Celebrimbor in Eregion (who was the ruler at that time and was deceived and later killed by Sauron). 2nd Age ended with the defeat of Sauron in 3441.
      Source is here and whee, I'm already ahead on studying for lotr trivia in a couple weeks!

  4. I guess a lot of games of this genre/era were really concerned about padding/making sure people felt like they 'got their money's worth'. It feels like the only puzzle in this section that you enjoyed - and that they maybe 'thought out' - was distracting the Orcs and then cutting the bridge (the wooden/rope one, not the stone one). My mind extrapolates that to 'that was their original idea, then they realised the game was really short and just started adding in every fantasy creature they could think of'.

    1. I did also enjoy some of the puzzles in the "water world", where every item just appeared to have some intriguing use I had to unravel (With this fish I can breath in water! And this fish lights up dark places!). Pity that the whole place had no other apparent use, but to be one more way station in my travels (I killed an innocent octopus, for what purpose?).

      But the orc lair was a very tightly structured and satisfying phase in the game, with an actual remnant of a plot cycle (distract the orcs, find an elven sword, kill a spider with the sword, lose the magic McGuffin I came to find in the spider's nest, steal the McGuffin from the orcs, chased by orcs to a wooden bridge).

      The dragon and the balrog would actually work quite well after that sequence. Sure, their presence in the game is quite ridiculous (and could the dragon be vanquished with some more serious method?), but it makes a kind of action movie sense, where a monster is instantly replaced by a bigger and a meaner one.

      Unfortunately, there's another kind of padding, in that you have to walk few rooms to get to the dragon's lair and then cross the whole volcano/lava sequence, before you get to the balrog. Discarding many of the rooms and puzzles between the monsters would have made the pace of the game better.

      It's definitely hard to top a balrog as a final monster, and I kind of feel that whatever lies down there will have to be a letdown after this. The ridiculous puzzle is my only complaint. It would have been quite easy to make that moment much more satisfying. Just say that there's some structural defect in the bridge or that the sword has some magical properties and I am convinced.

    2. >It's definitely hard to top a balrog as a final monster

      What about Morgoth? Angand has him as the final boss.

    3. OK, it's possible to top a balrog, even with Sauron (or with the demon lord of this game), at least when it comes to power levels. But I don't really know what more interesting they could do with any of these Dark Lords, who would probably just sit on their throne and gloat, while the PC uses the magical McGuffin to eradicate them.

  5. Anytime now, the developers are going to exhume Tolkien from his grave and have their extremely necrophiliac ways with him then abandon his corpse in a dingo-filled wasteland after spitting on it.

  6. Also, why the heck is an orc calling out to Melkor? Melkor/Morgoth was vanquished at the end of the First Age, that's a LOOONG time ago (like thousands of years long). Sauron'd make slightly more sense.

    1. I actually thought this made some sense. After all, it's Melkor who created orcs and not Sauron, and unlike Sauron, Melkor wasn't just blown away like a piece of black cloud, but he was thrown outside the world and (at least according to some of Tolkien's versions of Silmarillion) will come back again for the final battle. Furthermore, there's a precedent for Melkor worship even in Second Age, when Sauron deceived Numenorians to worship Melkor.