Part 19: Tower of Myraglen, Part 1/3
Myraglen is the name of a dying world, a world soon to be lost to evil. Once it was a thriving world wherein justice could prevail, but now it has lost much of its strength. This world is your world.
Tower of Myraglen is another, earlier and even more obscure game designed by Richard L. Seaborne, the man behind Escape from Hell. It was developed for Apple IIGS and published by PBI Software in 1987. It is an action-RPG/actio-adventure that, despite its simplistic combat system (where you simply bump into enemies until either they or you are dead), has a really well-designed dungeon-crawling aspect to it, with nasty traps, obscure clues, tough puzzles, and quite a variety of powerful enemies. It also features multiple endings, including an evil one, as well as a, let's say, unique style that manages to outdo even Ultima in preachiness.
What kind of LP will this be?
This will be but a three-update screenshot Let's Play, with a couple of videos thrown in. The game is fairly short, and I will only be showing off the more important or amusing bits.
This is an Apple IIGS game, right? So how are you going to play it?
Yes, this is an Apple IIGS exclusive, but hey, there's an emulator. Namely, KEGS32. KEGS32 is very basic and not very intuitive, but it works just fine and it's the best we (those using Windows) currently have. The only problem is, it doesn't support save states, and the Tower of Myraglen only has one save slot, but it's fine as long as you back-up the play disk from time to time.
The manual tells a fairly standard story. You are a Knight in the Tower of Myraglen, entrusted by your King to recover the fabled Medallion of Soul Stealing locked inside the Tower of Myraglen.
In an age of darkness the remnants of a once great civilization are drawn together. The few remaining Knights of Justice have answered the King Of Myraglen's plea for help. They have come to save the world, knowing that its only hope lies with them. Each knows well the world of Myraglen, and of its devastation since the unholy wars. Myraglen is infected with a disease that cannot be cured without another confrontation. But this final battle is feared by all, for the armies of evil are vast and those of good are virtually non-existent. Only a handful of good knights live now, and they are gathered together at the ruins of Castle Myraglen.
There they hear the wise words of the King. He warns of an ancient device, a relic, created by the Arch Mage Mendalick. This artifact, entitled the Medallion Of Soul Stealing, is said to have power so great that no mortal can hope to escape it. It drains its victim's soul from its very being, leaving it unharmed, though lifeless. The King explains why this medallion must be considered during these last days of goodness.
As one of the last knights of valor, the King wishes you luck and success! As a fare well he says, "Serve The One! Servo Devy Unum!"
The Tower of Myraglen was built by the Arch Mage Mendalick in order to harbour the Medallion. The Medallion is said to have the power to drain its victim's soul in an instant.
With that, the good king/evil trope is established. Soon it is to be subverted, but only in-game, not in the manual.
Meanwhile, the manual goes at great length to describe the Tower's construction.
Each chamber within the Tower is constructed of a rock believed to exist only in Myraglen; this belief led to its name, Myraglen Rock. In its most basic form (common stones and pebbles) it is no different than any other rock, but when imbued with certain magical properties, known only to the greatest of sorcerers, it becomes impervious to all physical and magical assaults. This defense of the Tower has rendered all attempts to force entry futile. The magicked rock, though invulnerable, has been known to coiled moss in damp areas. The moistened rock is still indestructible, however.
Mendalick, so legends say, was able to imbue more than just the rock with such defenses. He placed similar spells upon the portals of the mighty Tower. This he had done to hold the beasts of evil nature in specific rooms. His fortunate he had prepared such protections, for some of the creatures were said to be the most hideous evil creations ever conceived.
All the men who worked on the Tower were strangely aware of the momentous event taking place. Through another mystic sense they could feel that the fate of the world rest in their work. Such beliefs resulted in phenomenal care in the job. Not a single stone was laid without careful planning and personal pride. The wood workers built with the best accuracy ever recorded, making certain each door, table, and chair was identical to the next. The metal workers did the same, fashioning troughs for beasts, sturdy iron doors, and steel portcullises. Everything was supposed to be easily replaced, needing little extra work in the future. Those who begged Mendalick, The Arch Mage, to give them immortality were given it - they were converted to Repair Zombies, human-like creatures that exist only to maintain and guard the Tower. Legends say that the Repair Zombies still exist within the Tower, that they cannot be killed... merely banished temporarily when apparently slain. Those who did not wish to be changed were left to live a life of contentment. The people were worried for Mendalick, when he hobbled up the huge steps toward the Tower. I recall the wonder, the incredible shock of the people when he said he planned to convert the entire Tower into Myraglen Rock. He cast spells on the outside for many moons. One day he was no longer around. The tower's gates were closed. We knew, somehow, that he was gone, and that we shouldn't go in the Tower until we needed his Medallion Of Soul Stealing for something very important - when the world's survival, its fate, was contingent upon Mendalick's creation.
There will be two apparitions, or visions, we'll be encountering in the course of the game: a good and an evil one. The nature of apparitions is even explained the manual's Glossary section.
Apparition: An apparition is a phantasmal image of something. Being illusionary, it has no substance; this immaterial existence makes it impervous to attack. This invulnerability is commonly used as a warning or threat to people who enter a specified area. It takes powerful sorcery to conjure such apparitions.
In the beginning of the game, our valiant knight is standing at the entrance of the Tower of Myraglen. His current HP is 1000, HP being our primary attribute. Hit points can be increased immediately by strength potions or later by using a special in-game device. They are extremely valuable, and some fights should be avoided so they don't cost us too many hit points. The two secondary attributes are Damage and Defense. They are only improved by weapons and armour we pick up along the way. We have two kinds of weapons: a melee weapon (currently a simple shortsword) and a ranged one, called the Ring of Unlimited Arrows:
Even worse, the King states, the Tower itself has many mystic spells placed upon it. No conventional weapon or armor can pass through its gates and only one person may be within its confines at any given time. Attempts to do otherwise will result in the destruction of the violators. As a result, he informs the knights, his wizard has created a magical ring. The ring will pass through the tower's gates, as it is not a conventional weapon; it is a Ring Of Unlimited Arrows. With it the knights may fight with a sword, or similar weapon, while firing arrows in any direction. One thing to be careful of, the ring's arrows will, because they are magically guided, strike the easiest to hit object. If a creature hides behind a chair, the chair will be hit rather than the beast. You must draw it away from the obstacle and shoot it, or enter normal combat with a weapon you might find in the Tower.
Arrows are very weak, however, and we'll have to rely on our melee weapon most of the time.
This is, by the way, a games where you can lose at the very beginning - by leaving the tower:
The world's destruction isn't, however, the desirable turn of events, so let's try again.
The controls are simple. W-A-S-Z send an arrow flying in one of the four directions, whereas I-J-K-M are the directional keys that let you move around. Pressing a directional key has you move on and on until you either press SPACE to stop or bump into a wall. It may sound a bit stupid (and it is, really), but it can be quite useful for ramming into enemies, which is the main way you attack them in this game.
The dark passage to the north beckons, but we wouldn't want to miss out on the treasure in the room to the west.
There is a bestiary in the manual, and I believe those creatures must be Fuzzy Humanoids.
Fuzzy Humanoid: These creatures are very primitive, acting much like our early tribes. They practice simple customs, one of which is the belief that all other races are evil and must be killed. This is surprising because they are relatively weak creatures.
Treasure chests in Tower of Myraglen may contain gold, weapon/armour, strength potions, or plot-critical items such as keys. In all cases but the latter, their contents are random and, further, they are randomised whenever you reload the game. That, naturally, makes them easily exploitable: you only need to save the game before opening the chest and then keep on reloading until you discover something useful inside.
Gold is, well, gold. The better armour and weapons you find are equipped automatically, so you don't have to worry about any kind of inventory management. Finally, strength potions increase HP, and in Tower of Myraglen, your HP is never set in stone: there are no levels, no regenerating health, and no Max HP.
Those barely discernible enemies that look like chickens are actually Flying Manta Rays.
Flying Manta Ray: These creatures, frequently dwelling beneath sand, have been known to sneak up on opponents with the least warning - they cast an illusion of sand around them wherever they go. Use this to your advantage.
Did I already tell you this game just loves preaching at us? It'll only get worse.
Inside the chests, we discover a Chain Mail and a Battle Axe. Then we head down the eastern passage, all the way till we hit a dead end.
A mirror is hanging here.
An apparition of an aged wizard appears. With that, the real, in-game prologue kicks in. It's long, but I'd rather transcribe it than flood this page with screenshots.
As you gaze into the mirror, you feel a sense of peace, of absolute tranquility. A story begins to be seen from within the mirror, much like an animated adventure.
"Once there was an exceptionally smart boy who grew up to be a powerful wizard. He thought wizardly powers were the answer to the problems of the world. Ergo, he created through the greatest of spells a medallion, a medallion that was capable of draining the soul from its wielder's opponent. The boy, Mendalick, was aged much by the process of its creation, but felt the lost decades were worth the universal safety of the land. But he found, however, that he no longer had the strength of his youth, so he could not use what he had created. Finally he realized that if the dark side of life gained possession of the weapon, terrible evil could be inflicted on his world, his home!
In desperation, he had a tower built to harbor the thing. His tower was built of tremendous stone, of Myraglen Rock. The substance, created by him for the sole purpose of the medallion's protection, was impervious to all forms of attack. The old feeble grey-haired man enters his tower upon its completion, never to be seen again."
A second story begins, "A king summons a brave adventurer to his aid. He tells him about the medallion's terrible power, and furthers that it can be easily stolen by thugs because the tower has lost its magical protection, leaving only a few scarce traps behind. For the safety of the kingdom, he instructs the adventurer to enter the tower and retrieve the medallion. Only then can the kingdom be safe once again. The brave journeyman enters the tower, and many days later leaves it. He gives the medallion to the king, only to have the monarch drain his soul as the king says, 'You naive fool!'
The king grows older, becoming more and more evil, pitting cities against cities in awful unholy wars. Hell becomes the new name for Myraglen. Hopelessness and despair are common. Entire villages are engulfed in flames from no where."
The stories halt... An apparition of an old bearded man huddled over a staff slowly forms before you. He begins to speak, "I am Mendalick and I am truly sorry. I began this problem long ago by creating the Medallion Of Soul-Stealing. Forgive me, for I did so with good intent. But without wisdom, I was no more than a naive inexperienced boy.
Of course my mortality has left me long ago. I am dead, now an apparition in your mind, no more than a memory. I will aid you if and only if you are good. For that to be known, you must enter my many tests in my tower, knowing greed of life is evil. If you do not pass, you will surely die! You need the medallion to destroy the king who is not a king of this world.
He is an impostor. He is the king from the darkest side, from a world that is pure evil. He must be stopped with my medallion. I hope you are good, intelligent, and skillful; without those traits I cannot give you the medallion. The second story you saw is what could happen if the evil king, The Arch Evil Sir PunDragon (), is given the medallion. Prevent the disaster! Even if he isn't given the medallion, awful terror will shroud the once skies of crystal purity. Ah, my fate is as always, Fading Away."
The apparition slowly fades away.
The big twist is, the king is evil and the wizard isn't. No wonder the king wants such a... questionable medallion so much.
Moving on, we find a Halberd in one of the rooms, which is the most powerful non-magical weapon in the game.
Halberd: This weapon evolved as a lance-axe. It served the purpose of a long polearm, while also acting as a battle axe. Most versions of the halberd have an axe-like blade with a lance-like (large spear) tip as the head of the weapon. This weapon is the preferred weapon of a Knight when confronted with powerful opponents.
A puzzle room is to the west. There's a clock and a fireplace in here. A clue we can find earlier tells us the clock will strike at midnight, revealing a key in the fireplace.
The puzzle is tricky because the in-game clock directly corresponds to your system clock, and you must set the system clock to midnight or noon to solve it.
That done, we should examine the fireplace to obtain the Jewel key. We'll be finding many keys as we explore the Tower, but I won't be showing off them all.
Anyway, it's time to explore the rest of floor 1.
Judging by the hammer in the creature's hand, it must be a Repair Zombie.
Repair Zombie: These are not ordinary zombies, for they are believed to be immortal. They are never killed, though they are temporarily dispelled (banished). They dean up and maintain the Tower, and protect it against invaders.
You use the Gold key
Naturally, despite the explicit warning, curiosity takes the best of us. (But we save the game first.)
It turns out to be a trap. Placing a lava pit trap on floor one is probably meant to demonstrate the game won't be fooling around.
We crawl through the southern corridor, which then curves north, and enter the first room.
This is, of course, a test room, and we shouldn't take those gems. Otherwise...
It transforms into a giant snake!!!
The old man yells, "You are no better than a common thief, stealing the beauty from life. You shan't have my statue for the injustice you have done, but I shall have your life!" The man fades until he is no longer discernible.
A snake appears in the old man's place, which we have to fight.
Then we cross the next room to the north, and another vision appears:
"Behind an end stand the steps you must ascend. Once at the gate whisper my fate and you'll avoid a fray which may make you run away." The apparition slowly fades away.
Whispering Mendalick's fate should be easy if you've been paying attention.
Anyway, the next room looks abandoned, but it's an illusion, as Mendalick himself is kind enough to inform us (this is only the tutorial area, after all):
"Illusions may stand before you, but don't let them bore you. Just remember that beyond this end stand the steps you must ascend. So simply go straight as if the passage did not end." The apparition slowly fades away, leaving only the wall behind him.
We grab a strength potion from the chest and bravely bump into the eastern wall, revealing a secret passage.
Let's see what awaits us on the second floor.
The gargoyles will attack us if we try going through the door without giving the situation a thought, and believe me, we don't want that to happen.
Gargoyle: These huge monsters, created by necromancers, should be avoided at all costs. Their magical existence makes them exceptionally strong and difficult to kill. They can fly into their opponents, while flailing their mighty fists down upon their hapless victims.
We yell FADING AWAY, since that's what the old wizard's fate is.
To speak the answer to the riddle, we must press Y to yell and then enter the words. The gate opens, and the gargoyles remain non-hostile.
The next area contains a fork of three paths; tempted by the sly voice, we take the middle corridor.
The preaching goes on as we crawl down the narrow passage.
And here's another of Tower of Myraglen's tests. To pass this test, we must turn back and leave the room without taking any treasure, thereby resisting the temptation.
As soon as we do that, a vision of Mendalick appears again. (On an unrelated note, I wonder if Dark Heart of Uukrul's visions were inspired by the ones in this game.)
"Justice is done so very rarely, and you are among the elite. I congratulate you for your goodness, and for the honor you have displayed. You have resisted a huge temptation, one that is especially great.
I tell you to be good and pure for all your life, and even after. Beyond this realm you must be as a crystal. Be pure and hard -- do not be harmed by the world around you. When you doubt the answer lies within you, speak aloud the mystic phrase of command, 'SERVO DEVY UNUM'." The apparition fades out of sight.
In case you haven't noticed, we've just received an important clue for a later riddle.
Next we take the left path, which then curves to the west.
The clue to "ignore the noise" is quite valuable and even life-saving, as we'll soon see.
The gorgon is badass and hits us hard.
But it's not the gorgon we've come here for - it's the evil apparition:
"I am a friend despite your clear disbelief. I even tell you that the key you need lies behind the sphere of internal explosions." The creature vanishes in an equal flash.
Woe to us if we believe the evil creature. "The sphere of internal explosions" sure doesn't sound dangerous.
We backtrack to the fork and go up the right corridor, which then turns east.
At the next intersection, we head down and deal with some skeletons in what seems to be a dead-end, but naturally isn't, and eventually reach a room with a monolith:
The magic monolith is activated by the words we heard from Mendalick earlier.
The magic words release the forces of truth and justice from captivity...
And the platinum key is ours.
We go back north and then further east.
The text urges us to be cautious, and indeed, if we approach any of the two rocks, it'll crash on us and we'll lose some HP.
Life keeps throwing curves at us: this time, it's a curve to the north.
Nothing but curves.
Let's have a look?
This is the sphere of internal explosions that the dark apparition was talking about. The good apparition, on the other hand, warned us to stay clear of the source of the noise, which is the sphere. If we approach it, we'll die, so let's go west instead.
Arriving at another fork, we take the left path and encounter the evil apparition again:
"Abandon all hope, ye who enter The Tower Of Myraglen. Thou hast entered my domain, my sphere of control. Stand fast and run fast if thou wishest to survive the perils of my world! I shall meet thee again, and when I do thou shalt lose the most precious dreams... as they transform into nightmares!" The beast is gone with a flash!
Nothing left for us to do here but proceed straight to the stairs up to level three.
A flashback to Ultima IV happens as soon as we step off the stairs. I almost expected the question to be "Art thou good in nature?" or "Art thou good in spirit?"
Anyway, we answer YES and head east.
Now this is a really wicked room. It is massive, 3x4 of standard sized areas. Each area has its own "message", but most importantly, every other step triggers some kind of trap.
There are explosion traps...
...traps that make our weapon vanish...
...as well as those that make our armour vanish.
That's just... not fair. Crossing this room can leave you without HP, weapons, and armour.
To add insult to injury, the puzzle is pure trial and error of learning where all the traps are.
But let's assume we've crossed the room unharmed.
The three corridors connect. All paths are interconnected
In the next room, we have to fight domesticated cats.
Cat: These cats appear as friendly creatures, but once in combat they can be as ferocious as any beast. Be wary, for they have very sharp claws and teeth!
Mud Man: These creatures smell of excriment, and look like humanoids covered with mud. They serve no known purpose, but are simply creatures. You should be wary of their force, however. They have been known to pull victims down beneath mud, releasing them only after they are dead.
Level 4, here we come!
We come across an interesting puzzle on the fourth floor. It's a shifting tile puzzle: the tiles switch colour from black to white, and vice versa. The black tiles are harmful, the white tiles are safe. Stepping on a black square has us lose some HP. Our destination is two screens to the north, and we must make our way there without getting harmed. Luckily, there's a narrow safe corridor we can get to and follow.
Watch the solution! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYohZyoDCI8
Which ends the first update.
Next time: Smash him, smother the disease! Kill the evil creature from heaven!