Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Missed Classic: Legend of Djel - Won! (With Final Rating)

By Ilmari

Happened so far: Djel the Magician has to prove himself to people of the Kingdom of Ashes by solving three plights caused by three magicians from the neighboring countries. He has already dealt with an infertility problem by finding his beloved who happens to be also a daughter of Azeulisse, a ruler of a nearby kingdom. Now his has to just cure the magician Theros, thus ending a plague that has destroyed almost everyone in the Kingdom of Ashes, and to find gold for pauper Kal, who is using the hunger-induced raids of his subjects as a way to blackmail Djel.

Last time I had just received a statue from magician Theros (and Kal had taken back the one he gave me), so I begun by visiting Theros.


I really wonder where all these wizards sleep.



I tried calling Theros by reading the inscription under a strange mouth-shaped statue (manual calls it a throne, but I think it would be really uncomfortable to sit on it). Theros wasn’t happy to see me and sent me away.

I returned to Theros’s place and did a little more thorough search:
  • The manual suggested I should put out the candle that was burning and light the candle that was not burning. I met some demon that I had to fight, and after that, I found something called Demon’s Dagger.
  • By looking at the lava pool, I found a strange creature that told me that Orah gives life. Similarly, a creature I met at the window told me that I already owned Orah. At this point, I had no idea what this Orah was supposed to be, although the manual told that the father of Djel had owned it and that it was the cause of his supernaturally long life.
When I couldn’t find anything else from Theros’s place I moved back to Djel’s house, where I met an old friend of Djel’s - Petroy, the gnome, who wanted to help me with my quest.


Let’s embark on a new quest

Healing a sick man

Petroy told me the ingredients for curing Theros. Unfortunately, first of them, the Nymph’s Eye, could be found in Azeulisse’s country, but I had just lost the statue by which to access this land. Luckily, Azeulisse herself contacted me with my crystal ball and said that there was another Nymph’s Eye hidden somewhere else. With nothing else to do, I visited the new lands that had just opened up, starting with the Ocean of Pearls.

The main thing to do in this land was again detailed in the manual. I tried to approach the bridge, but my mouse was stumped by an invisible force field. I then had to touch a rock and an idol, to make an old man appear. Again, he noted that I owned the Orah and let me pass to an island.




The first time a land consisted of more than one screen

The most important part here was that I could trade the Demon’s Dagger to an Atlas, which allowed me to freely choose which land I could visit. My next target was the Land of Arch.


Not a tourist attraction

Arch had been ravaged by an indestructible fire, set up by Creor (Theros’s friend). Again following the advice of the manual, I clicked on the grill revealing a snake, who told me that Nymph’s Eye could be found here. The snake also gave me a key to open a door to the den of only living person at Arch. He was kind enough to hand me over the Nymph’s Eye for a reasonable prize.

After returning home, I met again Petroy, who transported me to a forest containing the second ingredient of the cure, a forest fruit.


With eyes like these, I bet you won’t need any lamp at night


 Land of the Glades seems just like the forest I visited earlier,
except with different colours - or then it’s the same forest at night

Finding the forest fruit was just a matter of few clicks. In the river, I found some strange creature that wanted me to throw some coins to him. Then he let out a prisoner with a good heart, who advised me to speak with the little master of the place.


The King of Ants! And he has the forest fruit!

Petroy used the two ingredients to make the potion, which I immediately took to Theros.


Two down, one to go

Returning to home, I was contacted by Kal, who returned his statue and urged me to collect the money he needed to feed his subjects.

Gold for extortionist

I am sure there must be lot of ways to collect the money Kal requires, because there are various sources of money in the game (and various ways to spend it also). The main way to earn money is to make it. Firstly, one needs some lead crystals - these seems to crop up here and there, often as a reward for solving something.

The other ingredient of gold is the bats, which you can also find in a number of places, sometimes only once, sometimes recurrently. Bats are yet another occasion for a minigame. This time, it’s pretty pointless. The supposed bats move through the screen without any rhyme or reason. The only thing you can do is to shoot some kind of webs, which then move on straight upward and hopefully hit the target. It’s just a matter of luck - the bats don’t even try to avoid the webs and might as well fly straight into them. There can be only one web on the screen at a time, and after a while, you cannot send anymore webs.


That thing over the door is a bat, while the
thing that looks like an eye is a web I’ve sent.
The webs are sent by the hand on the lower part of
the screen, and it can be moved from left to right and back.

With enough crystals and bats, you can then make some coins with Alambic, a money maker in Djel’s library.


I do wonder about the inflation in the Land of Ashes

Bats and crystals aren’t the only way to earn money. Indeed, I‘ve discovered two other major sources of gold. First source started with a visit to the Land of Marsh.


 I wouldn’t want to take a swim

Marsh was filled with weird creatures and after a quick battle with one of them, another one promised me a hint for finding Orah.


The mysterious Orah I supposedly own? Do tell me!


 It was in my home all the time! (But you cannot find it without getting the hint)

Instead of prolonging his life with it, Djel can use Orah as a bargaining chip in the Land of Ice Floes - if he hand the Orah, his fortune will be doubled.


Let’s see, an eternal life or gold to give to a person I don’t even like? A difficult question!

If that’s not enough, Theros at one point has an interesting message to tell.


A treasure awaiting me somewhere? Couldn’t you be more specific?

I finally found another hint in Arch.


3 gnomes, one tells truth, and of the other two, only one may lie at a time. I love these puzzles!


Could you shut your eyes, this is kind of disturbing?

The gnomes had the following messages to tell me:
  • The treasure is in the Atlas, but it isn’t in the Kingdom of Ice
  • The treasure isn’t in the land of the map! It is in the marshlands. Believe in me wizard Djel!
  • The treasure is in the land of map, I saw it there!
So, at least one of these persons should have told me the truth, while the two others won’t be lying at the same time. What’s the answer then? Well, the gnomes really mentioned just three places, Kingdom of Ice, land of map and the marshlands. If the treasure is in the Kingdom of Ice, then there would be two gnomes lying, which was supposed to be impossible. Thus, if the puzzle is to make any sense, the treasure must lie in the marshlands or the land of map.

Now, I have no idea what this land of map is meant to be. My best guess is that the producers meant a land off the map, that is, a land I wouldn't find in my Atlas. That would also make sense puzzlewise, since then this option would be ruled out by again leading to a situation with two gnomes lying. With no other option left, I decided to check the marshlands again.


A bit of a letdown - the final test for getting the treasure was just another battle


Your people will no longer have to pray to my kingdom? You must mean prey.


Now I have solved all three quests!


Great, it’s summer again!

That was it then, time for the final rating.

Puzzles and Solvability

If you’d look for traditional inventory-based adventure game puzzles in Legend of Djel, you’d be disappointed. There are few simple fetch quests, but nothing more complicated than that. All in all, it’s more about exploration than about puzzles as such - you just need to find the right places to click to gain something and often even what you need to click is spelled out in the manual. There apparently are many ways to solve some problems, but with a game like this it makes it all just way too simple, you might say. The physical problems where your mouse was not able to move the pointer were a fun addition, but ultimately not enough of a challenge.

Of course, this is not the complete truth. There are problems to be solved, but these are not of the adventure game variety, but more like resource management problems. Do you have enough gold? Do you still have enough time to complete the game? Is your strength good enough for a battle? The problems are not so much about finding the correct or one of the correct routes through the game - clicking around will do that quite easily - but about finding the most optimal route in time.

And then there are the minigames. I am usually quite happy to forget those, but this time I was quite enthused about them. With the exception of the lackluster bat catching, the minigames were the true heart of Legend of Djel - I just wished there was an option to play them against a human opponent.


Another one bites the dust!

All in all, a slightly positive experience, even if puzzles as such were mostly lacking.

Score: 4.

Interface and Inventory

The basic interface in Legend of Djel is something we’ll see a lot more in the coming years - just click on the screen and you’ve done it! As a representative of this simplistic type, the interface of the game is rather good - there’s nothing to complain about, no pixel hunting and no bugs. In two cases, mouse apparently stops working, but that’s just a clever part of the plot.

There’s still something to complain about. Inventory and numerical details of the health and wealth of Djel can be accessed only in Djel’s home, although these things would be most important in the various lands beyond the Land of Ashes.


Djel needs a dragon’s brain just to look down to his pockets

Furthermore, there still seems to be no possibility to save your game. This seems nothing but a cheap way to lengthen an otherwise quite short game - without any save states, it would have been very likely that I should have started the whole game again numerous times. Together with the blandness of the inventory, these things lower the overall score.

Score: 3.

Story and Setting

The story behind the game is quite interesting. I am sure some might consider it a fault that the three different strands of the game are fairly independent and that there is no all-explaining plot device behind the three plagues affecting the Land of Ashes. Personally, I am just glad there was no Black Sorcerer behind it all - it just seems so much realistic that way. Indeed, it is not the plagues themselves that are important, but as the name of the game suggests, the growth of Djel to a position of a respectable sorcerer with a nameless lady friend.


Seriously, they named many of the random creatures but not her

Of course, the story still fails to be a complete masterpiece of fantasy. Especially the worldbuilding lacks something. I am not expecting Tolkien-like obsession with maps and geography - I am quite happy with the conception of travelling to these different lands via a magical transporter. It’s more that none of these lands feel very developed and I found it a bit difficult to distinguish some of them.

In addition, there were some minor inconsistencies or perhaps more like unexplained details. Take the magical live inducing Orah. According to manual, the father of Djel told Djel that he now owned the Orah. Then again, Djel is suggested in the game to look for the Orah in his home, and before getting the hint, you cannot even pull the lever revealing the hideout of Orah (I know, I tested). This just seems lazy storytelling - surely Djel would have searched for every nook of his house, if his father said that he left something valuable for him.


And even before we’ve found the Orah, we apparently already hold it

Similarly, manual suggests that Atlas used in choosing the lands Djel travels to is a permanent feature of Djel’s home, but for some unexplained reason we still have to find it in another land.

All in all, these were mostly just minor problems, although they prevent me giving really high scores for the game.

Score: 5.

Sounds and Graphics

The graphics look reasonably good for the period and they do manage to convey the fantastic nature of the lands Djel is travelling in. Sounds are again a weak point. There’s no music and you quickly get bored with the few sound effects the game has, although there’s nothing wrong with them as such.

Score: 5.

Entertainment and Atmosphere

Scifi series often make the mistake of representing a single planet - or even worse, a space faring civilization - with a small village of little more than ten occupants. Often enough, they also too often implicate that this randomly chosen village and its occupants are the cultural norm and that there’s no real diversity among the populace and their customs.

Legend of Djel tries to do something similar. Almost all of the lands are represented by a single screen and there’s just couple of inhabitants in these screens. I know there must have been difficulties with the disk space, but less lands with more screens would have been a more captivating choice.


We see a throne room of the Kingdom of 100 Lands - and even that is so empty

The other problem is that we are given no reason to care for the plight of people in the Land of Ashes. Sure, there are explanations for all of this, but a possibility to walk through the ravaged land and to see and hear the inhabitants I am supposed to rescue would have made the player more emotionally involved in their problems.

But there are good things. The game does manage to catch the sense of magic that is so important in a fantasy game. The eerie surroundings and the weird inhabitants both make clear that we are moving somewhere else than our own home planet.

Score: 4.

Dialogue and Acting

You might have noticed that I’ve switched back to English. Compared to the translation of Emmanuelle, the text of the game seems mostly professional, with the exception of few embarrassing but understandable mistakes. Still, there’s also nothing particularly noteworthy or interesting in the dialogues.


Well, except an occasional stiffness: revolution grumbles in stomach?

Score: 5.

So the overall score is 4 + 3 + 5 + 5 + 4 + 5 = 26 /0.6 = 43.


Quite high score for a Missed Classic (and especially high for a French game), but Coktel Vision still hasn’t improved on Mewilo. Andy Panthro had clearly the closest score guess.

My history of the games designed by Muriel Tramis has reached a phase, where I have only one game to deal with. Unfortunately, it is the one I dread most - Geisha, the spiritual successor of Emmanuelle. We'll see when I'll have a chance to tackle it.

3 comments:

  1. As a general note, for the benefit of those of us reading these posts on mobile devices over our coffee breaks, if useful parts of screenshots could be transcribed in their captions it would be much easier for us to keep up.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the idea! We'll have to start doing that.

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    2. Even on a computer, the colour scheme of the game isn't the easiest to read - the text colour seems to mostly be a lighter version of the background colour - very bad choices, Coktel.

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