Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Merlin's Crystal: Breaking the 4th wall

I've rarely seen an RPG break the 4th wall, but Runescape is a game that will happily do so. Merlin's Crystal is a quest found in Camelot, started by speaking with none other than King Arthur himself.

 It's a relatively short quest, involving Merlin being trapped in a crystal. In order to free him I had to find the legendary sword Excalibur and learn the secret spell needed for it to shatter the crystal.

This quest brought in other characters from Arthurian lore, namely the Lady of the Lake and Morgan Le Faye, who were in possession of the sword and spell respectively. It was not a particularly difficult quest, with the only puzzle being about infiltrating Mordred's fortress.

The spell summoned the demon Thrantax, who enabled Excalibur to break the crystal. I had some trouble figuring out how to use the spell as I had forgotten what Morgan told me about it; the bat bones had to be dropped, not buried.

It's only the first in a series of quests related to Camelot, and a good time off all that RPG seriousness we usually encounter in modern RPGs.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Desert Quests: The Tourist Trap

The Kharidian Desert is one of my favorite areas in Runescape, and after such a long break it was a pleasure returning there for some exploration.

This desert has a unique survival system where you must carry waterskins in your inventory to remain hydrated and wear white desert robes to keep as fresh as possible. Run out of water and you'll start losing health until you either find a safespot, such as a town or cave, or until you die.

It's home to a blend of egyptian and arabian themed villages, camps, ancient pyramids and wildlife. The local population worships deities inspired of egyptian mythology. There are even flying carpets you can use for 200gp a ride.

I went for the first quest you come across when entering the desert, The Tourist Trap, and it was one hell of a good quest. It's started by speaking to Irena just outside of Shantay Pass, who is crying because her daughter has gone missing. As with most quests, it's presented in a humorous tone:

Following her footsteps I quickly found out she was kidnapped by local slavers. Crossing the desert is an immersive experience, even for a game with such graphics. It's made me wonder why I've so rarely seen desert themed areas in MMOs.

I had a lot of bribing and persuasion to do, it was the main theme and difficulty. It got quite tricky a few times as I had to not only figure out which dialogue options were the correct ones, but in some cases also explore the environment and speak to other NPCs to unlock those options.

Selecting the wrong options would sometimes cause me to get jailed, and I'd have to break out and run all the way back to the slave camp. Wielding any sort of weapon within the slave camp would also get me jailed, which prevented me from just killing the guards and making it through some parts of the quest easily.

Rescuing Ana wasn't all that easy until I figured out what I had to do. It came with some fun, humorous dialogue as I put her in a barrel which then appeared in my inventory as "Ana in a barrel".

Right after rescuing her and having her reunite with her mother, she immediately decided to become an adventurer and set out to explore the desert. The quest came with the ability to craft darts and some experience in Smithing and Agility (which I could have distributed on two other skills).

The Kharidian Desert is one of the most immersive areas in this game and I've had great fun during this first adventure. There's plenty more desert quests out there and I know I'll enjoy the next ones, namely the very difficult Desert Treasure.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

One Month Milestone

A whole month in and I still haven't made a recap of my levels on Runescape. There's various skills in this game and each of them take a very long time to level. These are my stats as of today:

A quick explanation for anyone who isn't familiar with Runescape:

• Combat skills are trained simply by attacking monsters with the correct weapon and attack style. HP levels up as you deal damage to monsters. Slayer is training by fighting specific monsters assigned to you by Slayer masters.
• Skills like Mining, Fishing, Woodcutting and so on are pretty self-explanatory. You just go out and do those activities.
• Skills like Smithing, Cooking, Herblore and Farming require you to gain materials first from another skill. Smithing requires ores which you must first mine, for example.
• Agility is trained by running laps around agility courses.
• Prayer is trained by burying bones.
• Thieving is trained by stealing from stalls or pickpocketing NPCs.
• Construction is trained by purchasing a player-owned house and building furniture in it over and over again.

I've been training skills here and there with no specific goal in mind, although I've spent a whole lot of time mining while preparing my exams, doing my homework or watching movies. I'd love have both and Mining and Smithing cape eventually. These are capes when you reach the maximum level, 99, but at my current rythm it would take me over a year to get a Smithing cape.

And this is my current bank:

I've been testing out a lot of things and hoarding stuff I probably shouldn't. There's all the swords I've ever used, over 1000 blurite bolts I've yet to enchant and many ores I haven't smelted into bars yet.

It's a very lengthy game, but it rewards commitment and hard work. It's not RGN-intense like GW2. You need to grind for days and days to get the level requirements needed for bosses, but once you get them those bosses have 1/250 odds of dropping rare gear.

* * * * *

Daily Quest: Elemental Workshop

It's been a pleasure returning to this hidden workshop in Seers Village. It's a short quest where you must fix the Elemental Workshop and craft an Elemental Shield.

I had some trouble figuring out how to heat up the furnace, but nothing big. The shield is quite good looking and is iconic of Magic in Runescape. It has a good magical defense stat, but doesn't protect against melee or projectile. I created a gif which shows its equipping animation:

There's a mod on Skyrim Nexus for this shield as well. I used it back in the day, it's truly gorgeous:

You can find it at the following link if you play Skyrim and are interested in it:

Monday, April 10, 2017

DAW: Skelux (Super Mario Star Road)

This year's Developer Appreciation Week has been greatly successful, and in result many bloggers have written several articles rather than one only. I'm taking the opportunity to write one more article for this event as well. This is dedicated to Skelux, creator of the unofficial Super Mario 64 sequel, Super Mario Star Road.

Note that I may be interviewing Skelux in the next few days for a second blog post.

But first, let's talk about Mario 64. It's a game that frequently comes up in top lists for the best games of all time, and I'd have it there as well if I were to make a list of my own. It's a game that delivered so well on our expectations back then: having this 3D open world of adventures, puzzles, bosses, amazing gameplay and mysteries that still intrigue us up to this day. Much like Ocarina of Time, it was a child's dream come true.

It took us months to finish the game back then. I remember spending a whole evening with my cousin trying to beat the first Bowser, we'd take turns switching every time we died and I'll be damned if we didn't die a whole lot of times. We felt proud discovering the Wing Cap level and sharing the knowledge with our friends; we went on to kick every single brick in the castle to try and find hidden levels afterward. The great thing was that we did find such hidden levels. The game just kept delivering on and on in every single one of these expectations we had, and for that it felt very rewarding and incredibly fun.

Above everything, Super Mario 64 seems to have been blessed with immortality. It has hardly aged at all over the past twenty years. Its gameplay mechanics and graphics are still perfectly acceptable as of today. Many platform adventure games have aged horribly because of their slippery jump mechanics or pixelized graphics, but Mario 64 doesn't have any of that. It's polished to perfection, is aesthetically pleasing, has memorable soundtracks and sound effects and is repeatable to no end.

I hoped for a sequel the moment I finished this game. Not a new version with different mechanics and what not, but simply more worlds to explore and new enemies to fight. Fifteen years later, my wish came true: Super Mario Star Road was released by game hacker Skelux, featuring 130 new stars within 15 new levels and 9 new hidden levels. It has all the ingredients that made its predecessor great: nerve wrecking challenges, LSD-inspired map designs and mind twisting mysteries. Skelux truly managed to capture the feel of the original game with this sequel of his.

I didn't make it to full completion yet, but I did make it through all the levels and to the final boss, and it was one hell of a challenge. The platform puzzles are generally tougher than in the original game, and some stars are so well hidden it has taken me whole days to find a single star in certain maps.

It's absolutely mindblowing that all of these maps and their new soundtracks, enemies and sometimes even textures were designed by one single person. Granted, most of the work creating the game's engine and all its base sound effects and graphics had already been done by Nintendo, but this is still an impressive feat of dedication coming from a fan that did it for free.

Even though it came nowhere close to being as popular as the original version - understandably so, as we're comparing an unofficial hacked game to a legendary one, this game has received very positive criticism and has become somewhat of a benchmark for Super Mario 64 game editing. Fans have submitted speedruns, created Wiki fansites, and even modded the game, even though it is already a mod of another game itself. Think of it: a community of thousands based on a game modded by a single person. It's nothing to sneeze at.

I'm still working on those 130 stars and it's managed to give me some great memories. Like with the old game I also played this one with friends, and as with levels like Tick Tock Clock from the original game I'll never forget the sadistic platform puzzles found in maps like Fatal Flame Falls or Mad Musical Mess.

Once again I'm grateful to Skelux for this amazing game and I'd definitely recommend Super Mario Star Road to anyone interested in Mario games, platform adventure games or really anyone looking for a new gaming experience. The game can safely be downloaded from here:

It also comes as a multiplayer game, which you can download here if you wish to play with a friend of yours: 

It requires an emulator, the standard being Project64, which is also safe to download and use - don't let the names "emulator" or "hack" scare you away from it, these download links have been used millions of times and are perfectly safe:

Jungle Trek Part I

I never finished my "Journey into Maguuma" series back when I was playing Guild Wars 2, but hopefully I'll have better luck with this one.

Karamja is Runescape's tropical jungle themed island. It's not a particularly dangerous place, but it's easy to get lost in it without a good map. I traveled there for my most recent quest: Jungle Potion.

It's a great quest to begin exploring the island, as Trufitus asks you to search for various herbs scattered across the jungle, some of which are a little tricky to find. His hints aren't all that clear, in fact in one instance he'll ask you to head East of the village when the herb is in fact located very clearly North East.

Because of this, I was lost on the island for a little while searching for that Ardrigal, but it was an opportunity to find some mysteries like this hidden door:

I'm not sure which quest will come next, I'll be travelling to the Kharidian desert next time, one of my favorite areas in the game.