Sunday 29 July 2012

Sorcerer of Siva (Apple II, 1981), II: First gameplay.

Thanks to Robinson Mason I have finally managed to put my hands on a working copy of Sorcerer of Siva and just this morning, I tried to get familiar with all the commands (quite similar to all the rest of Dunjonquest series) and the game system itself.

As I have promised in the previous post, here's a part of my first thoughts after a first approach with the game. I managed to include even some screenshot and hopefully I will be able to create soon a video of an actual gaming session .

Sorcerer of Siva, desktop screenshot of a first gaming session

The first thing I have noticed, after two hours of testing and playing, is that Sorcerer of Siva is quite hard. The probability to die is really high and even if you are equipped with quite powerful spells, your character gets tired and unable to cast, move or attack after few minutes. In some way, it reminded me the frustration of playing (and dying) in Rogue.

Epyx Welcome Screen
Main Screen

The main screen is quite essential: game title, credits and date of release. You just need to hit a key to get into the game. 

Skill Level and Speed Factor menu

Just before the game starts, you can choose the general skill level and speed factor. I initially decided for an average value of Skill 5 and Speed 5, just thinking that it was ideal for a quick testing. Pure naivety. 

And here you are into the Caves of Siva

Above a first screenshot of the actual game. As expected, the game is visually really basic and structured on simple but solid monocromatic bidimensional layout: main game on the left side and statistics on the right. The movement system can result a bit difficult if you are not familiar with the Dunjonquest series. Anyway, as for almost all the early CRPGs the manual with all the instructions is vital and specifically for this one, no manual means any chance to survive at all. Intriguing

In Sorcerer of Siva there's no trace of any character creation, once you have chosen your difficulty level, the game starts immediately and as said in the previous post you wear the shoes of a sorcerer capable of either combat with various weapons and cast spells. Sadly you can't choose your equipment, spells or weapons to use and apparently the only way to change your initial status is to find more treasures and equipment during the exploration of the Caves and Underworld. 

However all you need is on the right side of the screen where you can find vital signs, magic aura level, time and location statistics. 

Apart from the Magic System, which will be analyzed in the next days, you need to get used with the vital signs control of your Sorcerer. 

Energy & Fatigue
Casting spells, fighting, and running about in the mines naturally make you tired. While the computer keeps precise track of exactly how much physical energy you have from moment to moment, the display shows only five basic states of fatigue: FRESH, TIRING, TIRED, WEARY, or EXHAUSTED. The fresher you are, the faster you strengthen your magical aura (that is, the faster you recover the mental/mystical energy expended in casting spells). When you are EXHAUSTED, you cannot increase your aura rating, and you cannot perform physical activities such as moving or fighting.
You can recover from fatigue in either of two ways. The first is the simplest and slowest: just rest by typing 0 (zero)—that is, moving zero feet—or do something else requiring no energy (e.g., the S or E commands). Although the computer will make the appropriate adjustments each time you rest, you may have to do this several times before you notice a change in the printed display. (After all, you can't go from being EXHAUSTED to being FRESH simply by pausing for a few seconds of rest.)
You can regain physical energy much faster by using the energy spell (N), but this, of course, will drain you of some of the mental energy shown under AURA.
Source: Sorcerer of Siva, Instructions Manual, p 17 

It's essential to learn how to manage your fatigue otherwise you will just face a certain death after few encounters. The management of your health affects everything and it's a big complication while wandering monsters attack you almost every step.  

Trapdoor and Wyrm 

Above  you can  see vivid example of what can happen during a quick game session. After few minutes and three encounters,  I fell in to a trapdoor and just right there a Wyrm was ready to attack and eventually kill me.

Scoring Screen

This screenshot  reports my personal record: 9 minutes of resistance. Apart from my lack of skills, the scoring screen gives the sense of how much you progressed in the game and how you managed all your magical and vital resources.  
When you finish your game, you will be given a score that takes in many factors: the speed and skill level you selected, the treasures you accumulated, the state of your health and aura, and so on. Two considerations, however, are of overriding importance: Did you find your way out of the mine, or did you get killed? And did you slay the sorcerer?
Don't expect to get all the way through the mine on your first try, even if the skill level and speed factors are set to 1. As you gradually learn the secrets of the mine and its treasures, you can keep the game challenging by adjusting the skill level and speed factor appropriately. This will also increase your possible score, but you will find it more difficult to do as well with the added handicap. If you can triumph on Skill Level 8 and Speed Factor 10, you are a wizard.
Source: Sorcerer of Siva, Instructions Manual, p 16

In the next days I will have a better look at the magical system which is with the vital/health system fundamental to progress in the game. 

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