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Prelude to Darkness is a pretty damn awesome RPG

Discussion in 'Prelude To Darkness' started by Lord_Potato, Mar 30, 2020.

  1. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    It seems PtD behaves differently on each person's computer. It's an old game written for Windows 95/98 I think, XP at best. Never updated for newer systems. It's a miracle it is semi-stable on my 2011 laptop with Windows 10. But if you can push through ctds and freezes, it's really a solid game.

    BTW, how's Hard to be a God? I guess you liked it since you replayed it, but still would like to know more. I'm a sucker for old, obscure rpgs.
     
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  2. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    Now I decided to get to the Monastery of the Charred Ones, so I am braving the Dark Path. From the amount of combat there I guess it's the PtD's very own Black Mountaint Clan.
     
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  3. fantadomat Arcane Edgy

    fantadomat
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    It is an interesting and unique story,the gameplay is not something amazing. It is typical hack and slash in that regard. Would recommend giving it a go,we are in a universal lockdown after. It is a good time to give it a go. Also as typical for russian rpgs,it is pretty big. You could also try out "A Farewell to Dragons",another unique russian game with ok hack and slash combat,tho this one is pratty based with some hard battles. Both of them real time,maybe with pause,i don't remember. If you feel like playing something more action orientated,you could try out xenus 2 white gold.
     
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  4. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    The quest design is really good, really close to the Arcanum/Fallout level and besides that, it's great how NPC respond to your leader genre and race, like some prostitutes not talking to a female or a gal waiting for a man for a one night stand at a bar's counter but refusing to engage the conversation with a woman or even a rebel leader not talking to "Flame" people and so on ...

    I also found a way to cheat while trying to optimize character progression (trying to level multiple weapons skills)
    If a character uses an item giving +X skill and you get to 30 (i guess it works for 50 too) you get the attributes bonus and if you remove the item, you keep it and will get it again when reaching the threshold.
    Got +1 Dex that way with my guardian (so two times +1 Dex).

    On the other hand, if you reach 30/50 because of a trainer, you don't get the attribute bonus. (-1 Cha for my Thaumaturge, didn't load a previous save, to be honest, i would have if it had been a Wis/Int bonus)
     
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  5. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    I'm really hooked, playing this game feels like i'm 10 years old and i just got the Christmas gift i was waiting for.

    After a while, you get a hang of the crash to desktop/freeze situation, you can avoid it when bartering by being careful; bartering 3 times a couple of items instead of all at once, not loosing focus of your party while exploring caves and saving often (random encounter while your party isn't on screen can crash the game too).

    The reward is incredible, if the game was stable, it'd probably be a Top 10 cRPG of all times, scratch that, in my opinion, it belongs there in spite of these problems.

    Lord Potato was talking about the Citadel design, while it's interesting, looking like some antique cities, i prefer The Barrier layout, more practical.
    Still, the northern part having closed and narrow labyrintish streets where thugs can ambush you while the southern part is extremely open is really well thought.

    And if it wasn't enough, there's a lot of different factions ( 3 Houses from the citadel, the Watchers, the Rebels, ...)

    All that time, waiting for a new great cRPG while it was already waiting for players.
     
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  6. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    Today I finished adventuring in Ironwood. Several interesting quests, the Darkness is strong in this town.

    Now the only places I did not visit yet are: the Isle of the Goddess and Barrier Fortress. However, at the moment all the plotlines seem to lead me there.

    A great game, aged like fine wine. It's been a long time since I felt so much joy from adventuring, exploration, figuring stuff up. It's like playing Baldur's Gate for the first time all over again (only turn based and better written).

    Even the crashes seem to get less frequent when I know some tricks to avoid them. Today I only had 1 inoffensive ctd during a 2 hour session. And due to autosave no progress was lost.
     
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  7. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    Ironwood was quite interesting but i only did a couple of quests there (hunters related) and moved on, the two hunting quests were a nice change of pace but the sleeping lady leading to Barrier intrigued me too much (magical necklace you said ?) and i couldn't find the beast's lair.

    Barrier is something else, a lot of quests are intertwined with a lot of NPC involved and many different ways to solve them, also, in spite of their numbers, i found out 90% of the NPC in town are part of a quest and the rest can give you valuable information, no useless NPC aside the random encounters when traveling but even then, half have already proven valuable (trainers, possible companions, ... )

    If every cRPG dev played it, quest design would improve exponentially.
     
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  8. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    The magical necklace quest is actually pretty tricky. You get some false info when researching it. You have to carefully investigate, thoroughly explore and trust noone to solve it.

    As for the Beast... there is a nature skillcheck of...

    Show Spoiler
    around 25. Tried to find the tracks at 20 and it was not enough. Unfortunately the battle that follows is way to easy. Even in tiny Ironwood there were two much more difficult encounters.


    Finally reached the famous Barrier Fortress, the place from my characters' dreams in the intro. So much content here: trainers, quest givers, gossip providers. I am investigating the strange illnesses and doing every menial task to earn some money after a whore whom my Guardian fucked, ran away with his purse. The party lost about 700 gold because of his lustful ways. Now my bard has to regularly play music in taverns so that we can buy rooms in those taverns and get some much needed rest after heavy questing. And all this because of a single strumpet...

    I love this game! :love:
     
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  9. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    I think i did all the quests in the Barrier but the magic necklace one from crossing east, Found the woman with the necklace with a uncut gem which she think was a gift from the goddess, even if her little sprog stole it from thieves and he talks about a hole in a big tree near the city exit but i couldn't find it.

    Also, no luck finding any merchant selling enchanted jewelry.

    I'm a bit disappointed about thaumaturgy, only temporary boosts so far and i'm also stuck in the academy quest due to the amnesiac student (maybe he got the "Barrier" disease too, didn't go back to check).
    Got the Golem spell but it looks like a temporary summon, didn't try it even if a have a bunch of black gems, saving them for rainy days.

    Also, you can learn Thaumaturgy but not Flame magic, some trainers can teach you a skill but didn't find one for the flame magic so far.

    I didn't recruit the mage/disciple from the Barrier either, i'm happy with my group (Guardian/Thaumaturge, Thaumaturge/Archer/Thief, Druid + Tauna (Druid), Hyric (probably bodyguard with access to all non magic skills) and Divinia (probably body guard too, nice combat attributes), i guess it calls for another playthrough in a year or two, specially since all quests have different resolutions and there is a lot of recruitable NPC.

    Funny, i did that quest twice three times due to a barter crash (was fast enough) and there is at least two possible outcomes, first i got a good one, did it again without thinking too much about it and got robbed blind just like you but this time, as i had the "right" outcome first, i reloaded.

    Show Spoiler
    You get a lucky charm on top of not loosing any money and it's part of another mini-quest.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2020
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  10. Tacgnol Shitlord Patron

    Tacgnol
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Grab the Codex by the pussy RPG Wokedex Strap Yourselves In Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    It's a real shame the source code for this never got released. A remastered version would probably generate a lot of interest.
     
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  11. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    I don't know, direct me to a single cRPG remaster which improved the source material.
    Maybe just one that didn't completely fuck up the graphics or the combat system.

    I'm quite happy with this, of course, if it was just fixing the crashes and speeding up everything, it wouldn't be bad but i don't see that happening, it'd have to be fan project, any big company putting its greasy hands on it would probably fuck it up big time, Realms of Arkania HD style ...
     
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  12. ghostdog Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    ghostdog
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    The release of the source code would at least create a chance that someone in the very small community that gives a fuck about this game would actually make a patch to make the game more playable.
     
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  13. Tacgnol Shitlord Patron

    Tacgnol
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Grab the Codex by the pussy RPG Wokedex Strap Yourselves In Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I probably should have been more specific when I said remaster, I mean purely fixes and technical improvements.
     
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  14. Ninjerk Arcane

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    Know anyone who makes patches like that?
     
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  15. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    I know he lacks time and he'll never do it for Prelude as he already lacks time for ToEE but Sitra Achara did way more than that with Temple+.

    A lot of people did it too for Wizardry 8 (wizfast, fastanim, enhancements ...)

    Greyface for Might & Magic VI, VII and VIII.

    The openXcom project.

    And so on ...
     
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  16. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    I didn't complete it yet but there's only one location left (for now) i didn't explore, the western and closed city, Jerrock.

    "Short" review :

    Combat system
    Quite simple, Turn-Based with Action Points, Current speed = AP, speed = initiative too.
    Speed isn't overpowered though because you need strength to do significant damage and dex to land hits more often.
    Endurance is probably the most useless attribute, except for the tanks but with my 2x Druids team, it was way easier to tank, it's probably more critical with only one and you probably can't make it without one (one joins through random encounters)

    You get basic attacks (quick attack, attack, strong attack/aimed attack) + one special attack per weapon when you reach 40 weapon skill points, among these, brain damage (stun for a turn/action, might depend on the enemies), cripple (slows the enemy down, reducing AP as well), sweep (attack all enemies in range), etc.

    Dungeon design
    Nothing special here, there's some dungeons with special rewards, there's also some puzzles (not a lot though) but mostly, you'll focus on not making the game crash when dungeoneering ...
    The sewers might even be on the tedious side because the map isn't available in dungeons.

    Character Creation & Development
    You chose a tribe (Flame, River or Mixed), a background which is a non restrictive class system, except some backgrounds can't learn magic and some free skill points, combat or/and non skill points to learn some additional skills (on top of your background skills).
    You also get some attribute points.
    It works a bit like in wizardry, most backgrounds have a attributes requirement (which is displayed on the background description).

    Later, you'll be able to learn some new skills but not all skills can be learned on your own or through a teacher.
    Combat skills will get to 1 sooner or later if you use a weapon, armor as well.
    You can learn Thaumaturgy at the Academy (some background can't learn magic though, i think it's on their description), literacy as well in the Citadel.
    You can learn speech or pickpocket by doing, although it might take some time, specially for the later.

    Medicine can't be learned, i think and it's a critical skill (One of the recruitable NPC in the first City has it though) one of you character should have (i think only the higher score applies)
    If you want Flame magic, you can recruit a mage in the Barrier Fortress or you could create your own Disciple (which should learn Thaumaturgy at the academy as well)
    There's one or two thieves you can recruit, one is part of a quest (you can help him break out of jail ...)

    You don't get xp for killing anything, but your skills improve by doing (fighting, speaking, ...) and some skill point for completing quests (scarce at first but there's plenty to go around once you reach Barrier/Citadel locations )

    Upgrading skills to 30/50 gives you a +1/+2 attribute boots (depending on the skill) so it might be interesting to give it some thought during character creation.

    Level Scaling
    Random encounters and some monsters scale to your skill level / equipment, not sure exactly but it does somehow.
    Noticed it through the Citadel sewers quest and a recurring thieves random encounter. During the former, the "Boss" Captain was way weaker than his sergeants underlings wich had a very good armor and extremely high damage while the "Boss" had average stats ...

    Encounter design

    Nothing to write home about here, there's not a lot of enemy variety, something like 9/10 so far, about 30 more or less with the subtypes.
    Encounter design isn't terrible, sometimes there a scripted encounter that's quite interesting like one in the Barrier (you should go there early otherwise, it's unfortunately too easy) but most of the fights you get are from random encounters.

    They can surprise and surround you, though, which should keep you on your toes early on.
    Later, you'll farm thieves encounters to make some dough when your purse gets lighter ...

    Recruitable NPC
    There's plenty so don't worry too much about missing a key "class" if you explore every city, you'll find what you're looking for, in the first city, there's already 2 fighters type, a very good fighter in the citadel, a druid from a random encounter, a mage i talked about earlier, 2 thieves ... Probably more.

    Dialogs & Quest design
    That's where the game shines; although i like the character development system; all quests have at least two ways to solve them, some way more (possibly all of them), quests are interesting, although you'll get a couple of fetch quests but with an interesting enough context.

    Dialogs are brilliant and you can't just fast click your way through as some answers will lead to dead ends, if you piss off a key NPC, he'll just refuse to talk to you, like one guard in the Barrier which is about to get married with a whore, you could make fun of it when you learn about it but not only you won't be able to use him for a quest later but he might ambush you in the northern district at night.

    Fortunately, quests don't depend on a single NPC, there's plenty of ways so solve them so don't worry too much if you piss one off but don't take it lightly either because i'm quite sure you could loose a lot of skill points if you walk that path.

    You might want to take notes for the main quest and the most complex quests.

    Exploration
    Exploration is quite satisfying, there's no hand holding, no fog of war so either you pay attention to NPC hints or you're fucked.
    There's the journal too, of course but it's only classified by day (every other option doesn't work for me at least).
    No quest markers here, although you get a compass and can have it point toward a known location.
    There's fast travel toward visited cities/locations too, very good overall.

    Ratings :5/5::3/5:
    Take into account i really like AP based TB combat system and good quest design, i'd rate it 7.5/10
    It's a solid game, a real shame the devs didn't get more funds to finish/polish it, the scale of this game was probably too much for a small team with limited funds.
    Looking at the scope of their first try and the talent involved, it's a real shame they couldn't go on and develop a second and a third cRPG ...

    Edit : fixed.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2020
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  17. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    One clarification: upgrading skills to 30/50 gives you attribute boosts. Upgrading weapon skills to 20/40 provides you with additional attack modes.

    Oh, and Jerrock is located in the Western end of the Valley ;)

    Other than that, solid review!
     
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  18. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    So, did you finish the game?

    I'm in Jerrock. Quite interesting turn of events there. The usual "agents of Darkness realising their sinister plans" is a bit different here because at first you need to first understand who really is the agent of Darkness. After all,
    Show Spoiler
    the tyranical rule of the local strongman may be a reaction to the terror campaign of the Rebellion. So, perhaps Darkness lurks among the miners? After all, it is known for using the oppressed as its tools - like it used the People of the Plains against the Pinacle, the original capitol of the Children of the Flame.
    At first I was quite confused about the whole issue, wanting to see behind the shroud. Now I've finally made up my mind and I'm ready to act.

    I guess the endgame is not far. In my next post propably I will have much more to report.
     
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  19. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    And so I... finished Prelude to Darkness.

    Took me 41 hours. The ending took me by surprise and was a bit anticlimactic. I expected some epic battle with the Darkness. And while there was one difficult encounter (similar to the dream sequence in the beginning of the game) I really did not expect it to be the last one... still, the "ending slides" were satisfatory, even if quite limited. Anyway, I'll try to write my review tomorrow, when I gather my thoughts.
     
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  20. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    Well, i lost track of the main quest goal, i think i had to come back to the citadel after delivering a necklace to someone in Barrier but i'm not sure who, thanks to the journal.

    When does Jerrock opens its gate ? I guess it's linked to the main quest and the rebel infiltration ?
     
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  21. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    You deliver the necklace obtained in the Barrier Fortress to a person in Land's End (it is written in the journal to whom, you just have to find correct entry, I don't remember the name, also you can go to Deba in a shack in front of Citadel and she will remind you the name). Then you get next quests from the Rebellion. If you want to stay loyal to the Watcher, check with him often, he will tell you when you need to stop playing along and backstab the rebels.

    Jerrock opens up when you get the proper quest to go there and get an ore fragment. There may also be a way through the tree next to the wall, but I could not find a rope needed for the climb. Plus you may just enter by brute force, but it might break a questline or two.
     
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  22. Darth Canoli Arcane

    Darth Canoli
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    Yes, i saw that first time i visited the place, there is a warning message when you try to climb the tree.

    I think i delivered it in Land's End (or did i) i'll have to check at some point, i kind of burned out when exploring the north-western caves; fighting isn't very rewarding late game when your combat skills are very high and level-up very slowly and it's worse when your enemies don't even have any loot; but i'll get back to it.
     
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  23. Lord_Potato Arcane

    Lord_Potato
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    Ok, so here's the review.

    My reviews tend to be quite chaotic and lack focus. So this time I decided to introduce best practices from a guy who wrote hundreds of those, specifically concerning RPGs. Hence, I borrowed a rating system, the famous GIMLET, from the CRPG Addict, whose great blog you can follow here (if anyone still doesn't know it). Hope he doesn't mind.

    Prelude to Darkness (or rather: Pyrrhic Tales: Prelude to Darkness, it was supposed to be first game of a series) was published by a small team of debutants, Zero Sum Software, in 2002. However, the game was riddled with numerous bugs and glitches, so next versions kept on being released for some more years. In the meantime the devs decided to offer their game as freeware (due to bugs and lack of publicity it was not selling too good anyway) in order to generate interest for future, hopefully more commercially successful expansions/sequels. This effort however failed. Zero Sum stopped supporting the game at version 1.8, which, while packed with content, was still very unstable, prone to freezes and ctds. Despite creating something original and fresh, even for an epoque fillled with good RPGs, the devs were unable to fully realise their vision. Thus, they finally moved on and PtD is the only game we got from a planned series. A pity, because as you will see, many elements of this game show a striking level of ability and competence. It is a true pity our beloved genre lost those lads.

    CRPG Addict's GIMLET is a nice and structured system of rating CRPGs according to 10 categories. In each category, up to 10 points can be earned. The final score is thus on a scale of 1-100. So, let's see how it goes.

    1. Game World. Creators of PtD managed to shape a vast well-defined and believable dark fantasy setting of the Valley. During the campaign we get to know it's troubled history and uncover some ugly mysteries. Most of them through quests, some through lore dumps (fortunately, not very frequent), others through optional books you may read in the Library of House Leit. Most of the time however you are not attacked by walls of text. The world simply draws you in and invites to explore it. It is quite sizeable, with two big cities, several smaller settlements, places like the Thaumaturgic Academy, the Monastery of the Charred Ones, the Isle of the Goddess, lots of caverns and several dungeons. A pity there are not many hidden places to visit outside the main "points of interest" in the overworld. Despite the fact you have a map that allows you to quick travel like in Fallout, you also have a contineous world, like in Arcanum. You can basically walk from one town to another. Unfortunately, such a trip is usually a waste of time, with few interesting encounters. So, you better use the map. Still, the main places are fascinating enough to keep your interest and make you push on to see and learn more. This is certainly a strong category for the game. Score: 8

    BTW, here is the worldmap (all screenshots come from Mobygames, regretfully, I did not take my own:
    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]


    2. Character Creation and Development. Here's where the game shines. Upon starting the campaign, you create a party of three. The system is basically classless, but provides you with three "bloodlines" (races of this world: People of the River, Children of the Flame and Mixed), and more than a dozen origins (professions - each has stat requirements, like in Wizardry, but also allow you to choose a different number of skills from the combat and non-combat lists). Later you can develop your characters as you see fit. The statistics are: Strength, Dexterity, Charisma, Intelligence, Willpower, Endurance and Speed. And frankly speaking, most of them are important. There is a wide selection of weapon specialities, rogueish abilities, magical talents and social skills. For example, to have a journal at all, you need at least one character with literacy and lore, who will write it. In order to trace footprints, you need nature. To earn money in taverns, music etc. etc. There are no experience levels. The skills raise when you use them, but upon solving quests your party is also rewarded with a number of skillpoints you may distribute according to preference. When certain thresholds of a skill are reached (usually 30 and 50) the associated stat also increases. Which is vital, because there are no other ways to permanently increase stats. Weapon specialities also have their own thresholds (20 and 40) which provide the warriors with alternative attacks. While it is wise to distribute most of the available skills among your three heroes, it is not obligatory: later you'll be able to fill the remaining three slots with people you meet during your travels. There are many candidates for party members, so you can pick and choose, searching for the optimal combination. All in all the character creation allows you to craft interesting heroes and their development feels good and is truelly rewarding. Score: 9

    Here's a character sheet:
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]



    3. NPC interactions. Along your journeys you meet a lot of interesting characters: agents of the Watcher (the elusive peacekeeper of the Valley and your employer) and of Darkness, peasants, soldiers, hunters, priests, politicians, heroes and villains, allies and enemies. Sometimes your decisions will shape who's who. Those NPCs provide worldbuiding, lore, questlines, provide training, riddles, hints. They often have a rich background and dark secrets that are waiting to be uncovered. Interacting with them will provide you with well written dialogue and lots of roleplaying opportunities. Also, there are some very basic NPC schedules implemented. They work during day, sleep during night, some of them socialize in a tavern in the evening. Score: 8

    I know, not the best example of rich dialogue options, alas Mobygames did not provide anything better:
    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]


    4. Encounters and foes. Here's where the problems begin. Despite the fact you fight a lot in PtD - there is no "pacifist path" through the game, the combat encounters are not really that interesting. There is a limited number of enemies - several wild animals (dogs, bearlike hulks, insectoids, large birds, water dragons), several magical creatures (golems, nightmarish servants of Darkness) and humanoids (people, cavedwellers). Few of them have any special abilities. At least some people use projectile weapons. There are very few enemy spellcasters in the game. Mostly you or your allies will be the ones to use magic. So the combat quickly becomes repetitive and tedious, even if still it requires some tactics. The difficulty curve is a bit bizarre. The initial battles are very difficult and nail-biting, later it becomes a cakewalk. Until a certain point, when the monsters of Darkness appear and it becomes difficult again - but not very nail-biting, mostly you just cut through strong armor and lots of hp. All in all, a lost opportunity. Noncombat random encounters mostly consist of travellers you meet along the road. Sometimes you may trade with them. Score: 4

    Here's a party ambushed by Lovecraftian monstrosities:
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]


    5. Magic and combat. Despite poor encounter design and limited catalogue of enemies, the combat system is actually quite solid. It's turn-based with full party control (sometimes there are also allies, who are controlled by AI). The initiative and movement points are governed by Speed. After every action another character has an opportunity to act. If you have a fast hero, he or she may act several times during each turn - but those actions will be separated by actions of others, friends and foes. It's a smart mechanism which works very fine. PCs have numerous attack techniques, depending on the weapon they use and the level of appropriate skill. A pity those mechanics were not paired with more interesting combat situations.

    There are three schools of Magic:
    1. Gifts of the Goddess, which is absolutely mandatory and consists of healing, buffing and debuffing spells. If you don't have a healer or two in your party, you will suffer and pay through the nose for healing potions and salves.
    2. Flame. Mostly offensive spells. IMO not very useful. You usually do more damage by swinging a sword. My Guardian was an able fighter and Flame magician, but I usually forgot about his fireballs and just cut through my enemies.
    3. Thaumaturgy - enchanting weapons and armor, sometimes with better stats, sometimes with interesting abilities, like paralizing. Interesting, but the enchantments only last for a day. After playing with it for a while, I rarely used it.

    Score: 7

    Here are some useful spells from the Gift of the Goddess school:
    Show Spoiler


    [​IMG]


    Potential actions in combat (not a full list, by any chance):
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]


    6. Equipment. Lots of stuff to collect, especially when it comes to weapons, clothes and armor (which consists of 5 parts: helmets, body armor, pants, gaunlets and boots and provide damage reduction for the price of reducing speed). You will be upgrading the equipment of your party until the very end of the game (unless you go to the Barrier Fortress first and buy the best magical weapons from the shop there, but it is not so easy - check the economy section). When it comes to loot, the game is especially generous with magical daggers. They are plot points, quest rewards, you find them on the bodies of fallen foes. So, at least one character shoud be able to use, or even better, double-wield them. Unfortunately, the game is stingy with special ammo types. Sure, you can buy three different types of arrows and three different types of bolts from the shops... but during my whole campaign I only found 1(!) poisoned arrow. Also, there seem to be no magical armor, except for several helmets. There is magical jewelry however. PtD does not offer alchemical abilities or opportunities to craft items (with the exception of several quests, where you craft a quest-related item from some reagents). Score: 7

    The inventory sheet. The inventory of my lead character was usually more cluttered, due to abundance of quest and flavour items.
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]


    7. Economy. PtD manages to pull of this element really fine. You never swim in cash and sometimes really have to rely on those meager earnings from playing music in taverns, to pay for a warm bed and a meal for the night. At the end of the game I managed to amass about 4800 drachs (the currency of the Valley), which was quite a lot... but when I restocked my archer and crossbower with ammo, expecting a hard and bloody endgame, I was down to 3500. If you don't invest in Gifts of the Goddess you will also need to buy lots of healing potions and salves. And if you do invest, still you can buy many buffing potions. Weapons and armor cost too. So there is always something to look forward to buying. You earn money from certain quests, but even more from looting the bodies of humanoid enemies. Also, due to the relative scarcity of resources, barter skill becomes more useful than in say, Fallouts. Score: 8

    Barter screen:
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]


    8. Quests. Simply put - very good. The quests are interesting, diverse and usually offer several ways of solving them. They force you to use your brains, investigative skills and search for creative solutions. Sometimes they also offer a moral dilemma or two. There is no quest compass here, and the journal is written in a way to provide only the lightest of clues. Quests push the narrative forward and provide a lot of incentive to continue, despite other problems of the game. Score: 9

    The quest journal. Don't forget to choose "Literacy and lore" skill for one of your PCs, or you will not have one!
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]


    9. Graphics, sound and interface. As you see from the screenshots, PtD is not a pretty game. The visuals are functional, but nothing more. It's a pity the creators of the game decided to use early 3d graphics, they could achieve much more with 2d. And there would not be so many instances of missing or terribly pixelated textures. Music is nice and atmospheric, but monotonous and repetitive. Ambient sounds are okayish, but the sounds of battle hurt the ears. However the true culprit is the interface. There are so many issues with it I don't know where to start. It's cluttered, unintuitive and sometimes completely retarded. Example 1: you can open the map with an "m" button, but you have to click "close" on screen to get rid of it. Escape or any other button does not work. Example 2: outside combat you can turn on main menu of the game with Escape button. However during combat it stops working - you have to click the disc icon on screen (not to mention the disc icon is quite unfitting in this wooden layout). The journal does not work as intended - you can only change pages, but you cannot filter the informations by quests or locations - even though the option seems to be there. Score: 3

    10. Gameplay. I'd love to say it's great, but there are some serious problems with it. First, the phantom menace of constant instability. There are techniques you can learn to avoid most ctds (don't move the camera too fast in caverns, mostly keep your party on the screen) or to mitigate their effect (put autosave to "once a minute", save often, especially in caverns and after combat). Still, you will encounter freezes, that force a restart of computer with troubling regularity. Then, there is a feeling that some parts of the game are simply unfinished. After braving the wilderness you come upon a hidden shack in the middle of nowhere. You enter it, see that it is not ruined, obviously someone lives there... but there is noone. The devs forgot to place someone there? Most likely. Or even if people are there, they have one line of boring dialogue. So, no rewards for careful exploration. The dungeons are often tedious and unimaginative. The biggest problem of exploring the sewers under the Barrier Fortress is... atrocious pathfinding. However, if you ignore all those things, and are lucky enough to avoid script errors and broken questlines, you get a fascinating, non-linear, moderately hard adventure in the best tradition of Fallout and Arcanum. It is certainly a ride worth taking, but the barrier of entry might be too high for most people. Score: 7.

    So, where does it leaves us? My final rating for PtD is 70/100. :5/5::2/5:

    You'd say not bad and I'd agree. It's more than I would grant to most of the RPGs published today. However, at the same time this rating is quitel tragic, when you consider what Prelude to Darkness could have been. The devs in Zero Sum Software had tons of talent and sheer love for the genre. If they had more resources, manpower, advertisement budget and propably time, they could have crafted a masterpiece. What we received is a flawed gem. And yet, I still recommend it to every true CRPG fan out there. It is worthy of your attention.

    Edit: if you are asking, what sort of a time investment PtD needs, I'd say it's a rpg of medium length. I got to the ending slides in 41 hours, though I did not complete all the quests and ignored at least one dungeon. You propably could squeeze 45 hours of quality fun out of it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2020
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  24. Ninjerk Arcane

    Ninjerk
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  25. Skall Learned

    Skall
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    That's certainly a major reason for why I haven't played the game. Despite trying multiple times -- with both version 1.7 and 1.8 -- I rarely managed to get far enough for ctds due to the interface. The lack of keyboard shortcuts made constant use of the mouse a necessity, but regardless what settings I used, the cursor always jumped around erratically. It made clicking on any of the UI elements infuriating, and this was only exacerbated by the erratic framerate of an early 3D game not quite compatible with modern systems.
     
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