Friday, 8 September 2017

Lure of the Temptress: Talking To People: The Game

by Alex



Whew, lads.

Lure of the Temptress is one of those games, those kind of games that makes mapping fun by using all sorts of tricks to distort the laws of physics and good game design.

See that screenshot up top? In a game like, say Quest for Glory, walking off screen to the right would move the player to another screen, approaching from the left. This would not only make mental navigation easier, but would also help the player make a paper map that makes sense.

Not so in Lure of the Temptress.


You see, leaving that idyllic-looking town square to the right could bring me to a screen that looks like this:



Which in turn could bring me here:


One of Turnvale’s many alleys. They aren’t Shapier-level annoying, but they’re close.

Yeah. Needless to say, my map is a complete mess of boxes and lines flowing hither and yon, resembling nothing so much as a giant jellyfish. Let’s just say that its usefulness is marginal, at best. I suppose I could eliminate the alleys—which sometimes appear two to three screens in a row—but I don’t yet know if I’ll need to do anything there yet.

So this session was spent mostly getting my bearings in the Skorl-occupied town of Turnvale, and picking up a few quests that finally get the main plot started. And I talked to a bunch of people.

First, Turnvale. I like the way that Lure of the Temptress gives the player a rundown of each room when the “Look” command is selected. I’ll go through the points of interest in Turnvale, as well as the people wandering around pursuant to Revolution’s “Virtual Theater”—sorry, “Theatre,” before I begin with the chain of talk and fetch quests that Diermot was thrust into.

Turnvale

For an occupied town, Turnvale doesn’t seem too bad, unless you count the boarded-up buildings, the Skorl wandering about, and the general atmosphere of paranoia and distrust! It’s a regular 1960s Berlin here!


Town Hall

As your tour guide, allow me to share with you the sights, the sounds, and the smells, of scenic Turnvale:

  • The Sewer Outlet: Where Diermot and Ratpouch emerge from the castle after they escape from the prison. The only thing of note is that the bottle Diermot is carrying breaks, leaving him with naught but broken glass in his inventory. I sure hope he’s careful carrying that around in his pocket . . .
  • The Castle Gate: The Castle is guarded by two “grotesque guardian statues,” and the gate is impenetrable . . . at least for now.


Not that I’m really itching to go back in there, mind.


  • Apothecary Lane: There is an Herb Shop that is all locked up with no way to get in. A shame, since Diermot could likely use some soap to clean off the raw sewerage he bathed in during his escape from the dungeons.
  • Magpie Courtyard: A cobble-stoned square with a weird discolored well. Leaning upon it is an Old Man who speaks in weird poetry. There is the Magpie Tavern—indicated by the sign painted with a magpie holding a chain with a blue gem attached to it from its beak (this is important later). There’s also a boarded-up building.


Diermot suddenly feels like he’s wandered into San Francisco


  • Magpie Tavern: A drinking establishment run by Nellie, the flirtatious and seductive middle-aged barmaid. There’s also a rude drunk named Morkus who is kind of a jerk to Diermot, answering each of his polite inquiries with snark befitting a 21st century denizen of the Internet raised on satire and third-hand echoes of what used to be called wisdom (no, I’m not cynical or anything).




SICK BURN, BRO!!!


  • Blackfriars Row: There’s nothing here but a weird old building with a statue of something that looks like a cross between a horned humanoid and a centaur. These monks I’m unable to talk to keep going in and out of it, but never when Diermot is close enough to sneak into the front door. I’m assuming I’ll have to come back here later.


WHAT IS IN THERE?!


  • The Castle Wall: There’s a well of fresh water and a goat. And . . . that’s it, really.
  • Middle Street: There’s a big building here, which is the Town Hall. It’s guarded by a Skorl. There’s a sign with the words “SELENA OUT” spraypainted on it. I don’t know if that means “Selena is not here,” in which case it’s kind of weird to use a permanent medium of writing like spraypaint—even weirder, considering what an anachronism spraypaint is in a quasi-medieval fantasy setting that Lure of the Temptress seems to take place in—or if it means Selena just delivered some sick burn and was like “Selena, out!” before she dropped her mic and walked away. We may never know. The game makes a point of noting that the Skorl guarding Town Hall is younger than “the rest of his breed.”
  • The Weregates: A weird, impenetrable door guarded by two statues that seem to follow Diermot’s movement “with a baleful stare.”


The Weregates


  • West Street: How the game can calculate that this is west compared to the rest of its moon-physics is beyond me. Seriously, even M.C. Escher would be like, “That’s it, I give up” after wandering around Turnvale for 20 minutes or so. Regardless, there’s a large, well-kept tavern here called The Severed Arms, which is both an incredibly obvious pun, and incredibly stupid. Of course, I like it.
  • The Severed Arms: An inn that, according to the game, is “clean, quiet, and entirely without character.” Alrighty then! Inside are the barbarian Ultar, the attractive knitting woman Edwina, and the proprietor Gereint who is—surprise, surprise!—a sarcastic, condescending dick. This was the 90s, after all.
  • The Market Place: Another town square. Of note is the Village Shop and a boarded-up house, like the building in Magpie Courtyard. Looking at the door reveals that there’s a lock, which, as with the tap on the barrel and Wulf’s pouch in the dungeon, reveals the lock into an object Diermot can interact with. I can’t do anything with it yet.
  • The Village Shop: The Village Shop is run by Ewan, a man with a prominent, twisted nose. The game makes a point of mentioning that Diermot doesn’t see any foodstuffs on the shelves.




  • Smithy Street: A street dominated, predictably, by The Forge.
  • The Forge: Self-explanatory. Here we find Luthern, the blacksmith and an old woman named Catriona who rambles on and on and tells Diermot old stories. More on Luthern later.

Notable People

In addition to the people inside Turnvale’s various buildings are some that wander about according to their own schedule based on Revolution’s Virtual Theater. Basically, these folks go to and fro, wandering in and out of shops. Luthern is one, but he at least has a home in his forge. Here are some of the others I’ve encountered walking Turnvale’s streets.

  • Gwyn: A woman who seems like the town gossip. She has something to say about nearly everyone.
  • Mallin: A shifty sort in a green coat involved in the business of “buying and selling.” He gives Diermot a large, heavy metal bar and tells him to bring it to Ewan the shopkeeper. Apparently there is some law against the willful mistreatment of metals, decreed by someone named the grand Wizard, and Mallin is involved in getting around it somehow? I don’t know. I just know enough to the extent that it’s a fetch quest.


Yeah, yeah, just tell me the guy to whom I have to give the thing
in order to get the stuff to give to the other person to give to the . . 


  • Monks: Diermot cannot talk to them, but there sure seem like a lot of Brothers, sometimes walking into the building on Blackfriars Row. I can never seem to sneak in after them, though.
  • Skorl: Yes, Skorl wander the streets, going into buildings, and generally getting Diermot’s way. They offer nothing useful in terms of dialogue or interaction. Is it one Skorl walking around? A bunch of different Skorl who all look alike? I am ignorant and indifferent at this point.

So that’s Turnvale. And now, a little about what I actually did there.

Fetch Quest: Activate!

According to Wulf, Diermot’s first task is to find the blacksmith and talk to him about a supposed resistance to Selena. I ask around, and am even told by Ewan that there is no blacksmith after the grand Wizard’s weird law about abusing metals.


Yeah, I don’t get it either.


In any event, I keep asking around and am told by others to go to the forge. Alrighty, then.

Along the way, Mallin gives me a metal bar to give to Ewan. I do this, and Ewan gives me a chain attached to a blue jewel. The jewel, apparently, is not real. It is made of “paste,” according to the game.

Sigh. It’s going to be one of these games.

But I guess it makes sense, because of the law against mistreating metal. The whole thing is pretty dumb and I sure hope this plot thread pays dividends later on in the game.

Anyway, Ewan also gives me seven groats, which is kind of a gross name for currency, isn’t it? Just what is a “groat,” anyway?

Checking with my friend Mr. Wikipedia, I learn that groats, also called “berries,” are the “hulled kernel of various cereal grains such as oat, wheat, rye, and barley.” Groats are also “whole grains that include the cereal germ and fiber-rich bran portion of the grain, as well as the endosperm (which is the usual product of milling).”




Okay then, everyone is using this stuff as currency. Fine, whatever. I really don’t care as long as I can buy stuff with it.

Remember the sign outside of the Magpie Tavern? That’s right: the bird was painted holding a blue jewel. With nothing else to do, and not having found the forge yet, I head to the Magpie and give the jewel to Nellie.




Apparently, it’s the Turnvale Jewel, which had been stolen at some point. Nellie is so happy, she gives me a flask of some potent liquor that makes Diermot start to see things. I have a feeling I can use it to bribe someone or other in this God-forsaken town. But first, I need to find the blacksmith.

I catch Luthern wandering around near the Town Hall, of all places. He tells me to meet him in his forge, which I do . . . and where I grab the tinderbox that appeared only because I restarted the game right after beginning. Gotta love potentially game-breaking bugs . . .

I tell Luthern the message from Wulf: that the girl is in danger. Luthern knows what it means:

Luthern: “He means Goewin, the girl who keeps the herb shop. She has disappeared! If you want to help us, search the town for news. We must find her!

Diermot: Where was Goewin last seen?

Luthern: I met her last night outside the Magpie. I asked her to help me with a little job. I haven’t seen her since, and it’s all my fault!”

Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself, Luthern, even though it kind of was your fault. But at least now I have another mission.

By the way, Ratpouch vanished at some point, and I haven’t seen him since. I sure hope he wasn’t important to keep around . . .

So it’s time, once again, to interrogate the citizens of Turnvale. Some are, shall we say, less than helpful. Ultar claims that he is Goewin. Edwina tells Diermot to butt out, and that Goewin deserves whatever punishment she gets.




Nellie is at least more helpful. She tells Diermot that a Skorl was in her tavern last night asking for her. The Skorl then spoke to Morkus and left.

Morkus, for his part, is an unhelpful tool, telling me that, since he doesn’t know Diermot, he’s not talking. Which I guess does kind of make sense as Diermot is a stranger and all of this business sounds dangerous. But I still don’t like the guy.

I use the “Bribe” command and fork over a groat. Morkus is less-than appreciative . . . but he does end up talking.




Goewin has been imprisoned in the Town Hall, accused of being a member of the conspiracy!

Thinking the direct approach may be in order, I head to the Town Hall to talk to the Skorl guard. I try to bribe him with the flask, but he just tells me that Selena doesn’t want any of the Skorl consorting with humans. Useless, just like all the other Skorl in this game.


Especially this one.
I get ready to go talk to everyone in town again, when who wanders by but good old Luthern!

Let me interrupt here to tell you how Virtual Theatre really works. In theory, it sounds cool. In practice, you can have upwards of four dummies wandering about on the screen, knocking into each other like idiots and spouting random bits of conversation. But in this instance, it was actually convenient.





Luthern tells me to talk to someone named Grub, “a resourceful rogue,” and ask him about the Black Goat. That’s some kind of signal to let Grub know Luthern sent me.

You know what this means! More asking around Turnvale!

By happenstance, the first place I end up at is The Severed Arms. Gereint is unhelpful, asking if I came to drink or gossip, but I ignore him and talk to Edwina instead. She . . . is actually helpful, telling Diermot that Grub will “be somewhere around the town, watching the world go by and contemplating the folly of mankind.” When Diermot asks if Grub is a great philosopher (Can you imagine? “Behold, the great philosopher . . . Grub!”), Edwina replies that Grub is actually “a lazy old sod.”

Ah ha! I know one of those!

On the way, I ask Ewan about Grub. He tells me to as Gereint at The Severed Arms, as he and Grub are “great pals.” I supposed if I bought a drink from Gereint, he would have shared some intelligence. Oh well. Edwina was helpful enough as it was.




When asked about the Black Goat, the Old Man at Magpie Courtyard reveals himself as Grub. He drops the poetical ramblings and tells me I need to find Taidgh, the magician. He gives Diermot a lockpick and tells Diermot that his house is in the marketplace but is “well guarded by the Skorl.”

Back at the Market Place, I check the lock on the abandoned house and “Use” the lockpick on it. Diermot is unable to do so.

I guess . . . I guess I have to start going around asking everyone if they’ve seen Taidgh.

No one knows, and no one seems to miss him. Taidgh apparently vanished when the Skorl rolled in to town. I try paying Gereint this time, and he just tells Diermot that he’s an “idiot” and that his house in the Market Place is abandoned.

So bereft of ideas, I talk to Edwina who . . . had ransacked Taidgh’s house and stole his diary. Which she forks over to Diermot.




O . . . okay.

The diary mentions that Taidgh got a recipe from Gwyn, but otherwise chronicles, in bits and pieces, his plan to disguise himself as “their mistress” and make a potion, presumably, to make himself look like Selena.

Gwyn is unhelpful, as is everyone else, even Luthern. With nothing else to do, I end this session to rest up and steel myself for another exciting round of . . . talking to each and every one of Turnvale’s citizens and trying every inventory item on everything and everyone.

Adventure games, folks! That’s what we’re here for!

Inventory: Broken glass, knife, lockpick, tinderbox, flask, diary, 6 groats

Session Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

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!

14 comments:

  1. >The Severed Arms

    What is it a pun of? Explain for us non-native-English people.

    Regarding the disappearance of Ratpouch, in my playthrough he sometimes lingered in the taverns. He should eventually find you again, if you don't find him first.

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    Replies
    1. @Laukku

      There's a trend in Ye Olde Endland, or Commonwealth countries (including America) for inns, taverns, or even apartment buildings to be named things like "The ______ Arms," for example, "The Garrison Arms." So "The Severed Arms" is just so . . . it's just such a bad and obvious pun I can't help but smile.

      And regarding Ratpouch, I figured that out--you'll read all about it in post 3. But I appreciate the tip!

      Delete
    2. There's a really interesting historical reason for this "trend" that I can bore you with if you like....

      Ah bugger it, I'll bore you anyway.

      In the middle ages (ie before breweries) people in towns would take it in turns to make beer. When they'd made some, they'd put up a flag to let everyone else in the town know where the beer was. Their houses became "public" for that time, hence "public house" now largely abbreviated to "pub" (at least in the UK). This is where the British tradition of having signs hanging outside taverns came from - when people started selling the beer in specially made premises they still needed something that would direct people to them.

      The "The ______ Arms" trope comes from "Coat of Arms" - I don't know how easy that is to translate for non-English speakers but they're the picture-on-shield-type-things that most towns and cities still have (in Europe at least). Naming your pub The town-your-pub-is-in Arms and using it's Coat of Arms as your pub sign was/is an easy choice for pub owners.

      Delete
    3. "I don't know how easy that is to translate for non-English speakers"

      Ironically, it's quite easy in many European languages, since they can say "coat of arms" in one word, for instance:

      Finnish: vaakuna
      French: blason
      German: wappen
      Italian: stemma
      Estonian: vapp
      Esperanto: blazono

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    4. @Kus

      You explained it far better than I. Thank you!

      Delete
  2. 1. "Groat" is a term for an old English or Scottish coin. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groat_(coin)

    2. Are you playing in ScummVM? I see some forum discussions about pathfinding issues leading to Ratpouch potentially getting stuck in a loop of early-game rooms. See, e.g., http://forums.scummvm.org/viewtopic.php?p=82309&sid=42e3b119a6d9cdead35084a32ea718a5 and https://sourceforge.net/p/scummvm/bugs/5340/
    (no spoilers in those links).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Voltgloss

      1) I did not know that. Thanks! Still, I like to imagine the citizens of Turnvale walking around with seed in their pockets (I'm weird, I know).

      2) I am playing in ScummVM and pathfinding is really weird, to say the least. I *did* find out what happened to Ratpouch, and as you'll see in the soon-to-be-written post 3, it was vital that I did. Thanks for the link though!

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    2. I thought you said in the introductory post that you'd play in DOSBox? Don't say my technical instructions scared you.

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    3. @Laukku

      I was going to play in DOSBox, assuming that it was the default emulator, but it turned out to be ScummVM and I didn't feel much like mucking around so I said "Screw it," and decided to roll with it.

      Delete
  3. I have a lot of memories from this game. It was (badly) translated in french so I remember it was one of the few adventure games I could actually play as a youth.

    The most I remember from it is wandering around the city during endless hours and trying to talk to people while they were bumping into each other and drowning the screen with random nonsense. I don't think I ever went past the city part of the game.

    Always loved the overall feeling of the place though. Great setting, broken "virtual theater" mechanics.

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  4. @Alfred

    It does have an interesting setting and premise. I'm just not ready to declare Virtual Theater broken yet.

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    Replies
    1. IMHO the virtual theater works very well in Beneath a Steel Sky but it may have to be with the fact there is much less people wandering around...

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    2. And each character in that game wander within a much more narrowly defined area. I think the only characters with a significant walking range are Ynzo naq Zef. Cvrezbag, naq Uboovaf sbe n gval nzbhag.

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  5. Was I the only one thinking of something else when you mentioned 'heavy metal bars'?

    https://metalpubs.com/

    Yes, I assume I am the only one thinking that.

    ReplyDelete