I'm going to downshift on hardware hacking a bit and roll up my sleeves on Dungeon Master II. I mentioned back in May how I'd acquired this gorgeous and rare Amiga game. I picked it up right after finishing the original Dungeon Master in March. Finishing that game was such a thrill.
Finally time for me to go for it with DM2.
I just love the music in this game! I recorded the intro, which isn't an overly amazing composition but it sets a very cool eighties/nineties horror mood with a mild dash of Diablo fantasy. The synths are so good.
So far I've picked my party and tried to adjust myself to the mostly familiar UI. But I've discovered there is a shop system in this game (which is kind of cool) and I'm getting my bearings around that. Things are a bit daunting at first - the main level once you start I'm finding to be massive and includes this really expansive outdoor area. It doesn't help that it's raining making things hard to see. I'm feeling a bit lost and need to map things out but will likely try and retrace my steps back to the beginning and start fresh from there. The good news there's a small map view to help in that department. But I need to find a compass!
I've really only just started, but I'm liking what I'm seeing (and hearing) so far. Now to focus and bear down for a few weeks.
The top half is a slice from the intro screen. The bottom half is a slice of a view of one of the creepy and somewhat steampunk tech for selecting your party members.
I've been playing religiously every day since the original post above. I've (finally) made it inside Skullkeep and have started to get my bearings. It's pretty hard core and cruel the moment you gain access!
To be clear, the first DM was entirely in a dungeon. For the past two weeks I've been mostly in an outdoor environment. It's broken up into multiple sections and feels vast.
Each section has its own enemy type, too. For example, the first area outside of your cozy village shops is filled with giant worms (which you can use for food. Yum!) and super annoying little thieves whose only purpose is to steal your stuff. These guys drove me absolutely crazy. Remember the giggler? It's like that, but instead this guy keeps shouting "Mine!" and takes whatever is in your hands and runs off with it all. You literally have to chase him down to try and get things back. But if you aren't fast enough, he'll just steal more and run off again.
Then there is a section filled with giant yet slow Thorn Demons (more food), Axemen, Skeletons, little tornadoes that shoot lightning, wolves, bats, and so on. Once you unlock a new area you confront a new type of foe. Some of them don't even attack.
Now inside Skullkeep I've made it to a few different areas. There is a set of magic maps that really help a ton in finding hidden walls and whatnot. I don't like the way they are displayed on the screen (I'll explain later), but I've learned to deal with it and solve several puzzles using them, which the game designers intended. Clunky at times, but very powerful. They can even invoke "minions" that help you get beyond certain puzzles, too. Sort of like fantasy-based droids or something.
At this stage I think I may be about halfway through this game. Maybe a bit more. I'm not sure. Such a damned shame this game was released after the original demise of Commodore and the Amiga line. Had it hit US shores in 1993 - like it did in Japan - it probably would have been a much bigger hit with Amiga lovers. But thank goodness it was released at all! Must have been one of the last "big house" games to ship for the Amiga after Commodore went up in smoke.
Anyhoo - more soon! I hope to get my full review out before the end of the month if not sooner.
Behold one of the Axemen. I took this picture to use in the future review I plan on writing for this game, and didn't realize until after looking at the photo that there was a skull in the guy's axe swing. Totally never saw that while playing. How cool is that?
I keep feeling like I'm making really solid progress. And I keep wondering if I'm just being trolled by the game devs.
Some of these puzzles are so skull-twistingly obtuse. Add to the fact that I seem to be at a point in the game now where every 3-4 minutes a little attack droid/minion appears out of thin air and starts pummeling me with lightening bolts. Sometimes two minions at a time, too. I guess this is my lot for the rest of the game (it's annoying!). You spend all of this attention on trying to solve weird switch puzzles to open doors or move (no joke) fireball reflector panels around a room. Completely random. Often times I'm running around Skullkeep, which is filled with weird almost steampunk technology, and I honestly have no clue what or why I'm doing what I'm doing. I have a boiler I need to activate - because it is there. That's pretty much it.
In any case, I got pretty far (I think) last night, and after solving the reflector thing it opened up a room I couldn't access before. And it had a bunch of Fire Plate armor. And check it out - the armor is fully animated in every view - both the character preview up top as well as the inventory screen. And check me out!
I put this all on and just sat back and marveled at the brilliance of this design. Literally 20 seconds later, I began to get shot again!
Anyway, it was immediately after this scene when I progressed to the next locked door only to discover it apparently needs a key I've used before - way back in the dungeon - and is probably still stuck in the previous keyhole.
Wherever the hell that is! So much backtracking...!
This has been bothering me since I first started seeing you write about it, but what the heck is the story behind this game, anyway? In a 1991 issue of Amiga World they list "Dungeon Master 2" as the 9th best game of the year. I've never heard of the number 2 there or the "number II" here that's from 1995. They both have different subtitles, but online they don't even seem to call the one from 1991 the 2nd game.
Yeah - it's really, really confusing. I've been reading a bit about this but the history is very foggy.
The game originally came out in 1993 for (retro now) Japanese machines. Super weird, but it hit those shores first. The copyright date on the game when it boots up is 1994 (which is wrong). And it didn't actually ship for the Amiga until 1995, after Commodore had originally gone bankrupt and its customer base left adrift.
I've run across an interview of one of the original creators I've been saving to read after I finish the game. I'm hoping it illuminates some of this strange history better. It's really bizarre.
In addition, the Amiga/Sega-CD (!!) versions apparently share the same artwork, and it is much more in line with the original style. The MS-DOS version, which is what you usually find online, was much different. It's as if all NPCs and enemies were 2D cell animated cartoons. They simply don't look serious - on purpose. Lots of squash and stretch.
And by the time it did come out, everyone was so used to the smooth scrolling in Doom that it was considered back then "dated", which is a shame that's how folks received it. It does a lot of cool things.
The one from 1991 looks more like an expansion pack if you ask me, it has the exact same game engine as the first game. I'm guessing Amiga World added the 2 to the name, getting it wrong. I'd also say that regardless of how good that game might be, in the long haul here I think they made a mistake of placing it above Eye of the Beholder, a game which lives on when nobody seems to remember Chaos Strikes Back. But it's still all quite strange, as that one being released several years after the original surely would have been marketed as the 2nd game in the series, regardless of if it had the title or not, which is probably why Amiga World made that mistake. It's just all... odd.
Oh! Man, I could not see that title on your image until I downloaded it and zoomed in.
That's a totally different game called Chaos Strikes Back! OK, so this is confusing, too. But Chaos Strikes Back was the 2nd game released, but you are correct. It really is just an extension of the first game. I have that game but have not played it. What is cool about it is it comes with a character editor, where you can actually muck with the pixels of the character art (or create your own from scratch). I played with that a bit when I got it. It also has some cool story animations on one of the disks. That cartoon/animation is actually - I'm pretty sure - what convinced them to do the MS-DOS version for DM2 the way they did. Looks like the same artist's work.
So yeah - you've got Chaos Strikes Back there in that mag. I heard it was insanely hard. After having just finished DM1 when I got it, I was too weary to even attempt it at the time. I went straight for DM2. But maybe some day, if I ever build up the strength and willpower, I'll give it a go. The character editing tools were fun, though.
To that end I heard about a fan-created version from that original engine someone made that - I think - is PC-only, but supposedly is a TON of fun for DM fans. I'd be into that at some stage.
Welp. It hasn't happened to me in a very long time, but I think this game has beaten me. If I don't succeed after this weekend I'm giving up. I made it all the way to the final boss, but for a couple of reasons (which I'll explain in the review) I can't beat it and I don't think I ever will using original classic hardware.
Pretty sucky. I've played this final scene of almost 1/2 as long as I played the entire rest of the game! Truly sucks.
More on this in the next few days. On a brighter note, I'm looking forward to thinking about something else soon.