Monday, November 12, 2018
Game 309: Sandor (1989)
Motelsoft (developer and publisher)
Released 1989 for Atari ST
Date Started: 10 November 2018
Date Ended: 8 December 2018
Total Hours: 10
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 28Ranking at Time of Posting: 155/310 (50%)
Sandor is another game from Motelsoft, the developer that previously brought us Seven Horror's (1988), a game I didn't hate but couldn't figure out how to win. On the game's official page, Motelsoft offers only that the game is "self-explanatory," which it isn't, at all. But I'll do my best to muddle through.
The top-down perspective has a party of six adventuring over a landscape dotted with towns, cathedrals, and dungeons. I gather that the land itself is called "Sandor." The dungeons are also in top-down perspective--a shift from the previous game, which offered first-person views.
The game draws some of its races from Seven Horror's, although it seems to merge races and classes into a single list. Attributes are agility, strength, intelligence, endurance, and skill, rolled between 1 and 20 during character creation, although certain classes seem to get bonuses or weights to some attributes. It's worth spending some time on the race/classes, partly because I don't have a lot to discuss otherwise, and partly because they're so weird. I'm hoping they make sense to German readers in a way that they do not to me. They are:
After character creation, the party lands on the game map, with options to open, look, take, drop, investigate, use, read, and camp. The game begins near a city called "Kolono," where you can visit a markeplace, pub, or healer.
I took some time to buy starting weapons and shields. It seems that you can wear a piece of armor or hold a shield but not both. Weapons are restricted by strength, but not (as far as I can tell) by class. Fortunately, attributes can increase during leveling up.
I set out exploring the land and spent most of this session mapping it. The explorable part of the world, at least at the outset, is around 50 x 50 squares. Rivers and walls block further progress to the east and south, although I can see some towns and other features there, so I know it will somehow be possible to explore further. Towards the eastern edge of the map, there's a little walled compound with a gate, and stepping up to the gate indicates that I need some kind of gem to pass.
In a potentially ominous note, visiting the pub at a town near that gate brings up a message that "this is where the world ends for the freeware adventurer" and that to explore further, I need to order the full version by sending DM25 to Harald Breitmaier (one of the two listed developers) in Stuttgart. I got the game directly from Motelsoft, who doesn't offer any option to register it on their web site. They didn't respond to inquiries I sent about Seven Horror's, so I don't have a lot of optimism that they'll respond on Sandor. I guess I'll play until I can't.
Combat is far more advanced than Seven Horror's, showing perhaps some of the influence of some SSI games. It doesn't seem to draw from any previous European inspiration. After you're told the composition of the enemy party (both type and level), you're brought to an 8 x 10 grid, where every character has the ability to move, attack, cast a spell, use an item, get information about the enemies, pray, or pass. The entire party acts first, in some kind of initiative order, followed by the enemies. Each character has a number of points that he can use for both movement and other actions, so if you're right next to an enemy, you can put all the points in attacking. This is quite similar to SSI's Wizard's Crown and Shard of Spring series.
This early in the game, I don't have any spells or items, so it's just been attacking. There have been some light tactics in anticipating the enemy's movement and trying to get him to come to me rather than wasting all my action points approaching him. I've also learned to target spellcasters quickly because they have a tendency to summon other creatures.
Combat hasn't been overwhelmingly common--maybe once every 30 moves. It has been quite deadly, however, and I've had to reload after about half of them. The difficulty of enemies is tied in part to the area of the map that you're exploring, and I've been attacked by numerous parties that I was nowhere near ready to take on. Fortunately, the rarity of combat means that you can just reload and get out of those dangerous areas. It also means that you rarely face more than one combat per game day, and sleeping at night restores most hit points for a Level 1 party.
There are a variety of schools scattered around the land, where characters can literally spend intelligence points (and money) to learn skills like hunting, lockpicking, healing, and spellcasting. Some of the schools are duplicated, and some of the skills are offered in towns, and I'm not sure if there's any difference among them. I haven't found near enough money yet to get any of these skills.
It's the skill system that convinces me that the direct inspiration for Sandor is SSI's Demon's Winter (1988), which not only had the combat system from Shard of Spring but also had the same schools around the map. There are some analogies among the skills themselves. There are a lot of other little similarities, including the way markets offer one item at a time, the way you can get lore in pubs, the way that different towns offer different services, the various temples that try to convert your members, the spacing between encounters in the wilderness (Demon's Winter had one every 43 moves, precisely), the requirement to find a guild to level up, and in general the top-down interface. Even some of the tiles and icons look similar. Demon's Winter was a decent game, so no complaints there.
Across the map, I found:
During my explorations, I rose to Level 2, which comes with a satisfying increase in hit points and attributes. There are two guilds, on opposite ends of the map, for leveling. I almost have enough for Level 3. My finances are very slow to grow, however, and I hope that dungeons offer more in that area.
On the plot, I've got nothing. The best I can go on is rumors from the pubs. A guy in Kolono told me about two caves in the west, and that I should not enter the first unless I have the Ring of Arcan, which I can get in the second. (I apparently need it to conquer some creature in the first.) Unfortunately, he didn't tell me how I could distinguish the first and second caves.
Out in the wilderness, a "lone wanderer" named William Bacon said that his castle, "across the river," was attacked by a "Jonge priest and his hordes." His children were murdered and his wife imprisoned. He asked for my help and I said yes, but nothing else happened after that. This might go with another pub rumor about "hordes" to the east surrounding a city called Habata.
Edit: I kept playing for about 5 hours after this initial entry, grinding my party to high enough levels to defeat the dungeons. Unfortunately, I kept running into these copy protection screens that had codes I couldn't answer. I got around them for a while by simply reloading: they seem to come at random intervals, but more likely as the game goes on, and pretty soon I couldn't avoid them. Until a cracked version of the game emerges or Motelsoft responds to my inquiries, we'll have to put this one on hold.
Here are some additional screenshots:
© and test by Chester Bolingbroke. Link: to the original report of The CRPG Addict
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