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Ravenloft: Strahd’s possession

“Ravenloft” is a not-so-bad role-playing game I first completed in 1996 then again completed in 2007 to refresh my memories. By current standards it is not very good, and I whould not recommend playing it now.

Game was originally developed in 1994 and has strong similarities to “Eye of beholder”. It uses special VGA mode with doubled vertical resolution, so graphics is less blocky then of other games of that age. Graphics is a main appealling point of game: faces have striking style, inventory and some wall textures are drawn very beautifully. At the time that game was quite an advancement technically: first-point party-based RPG with smooth rotation, wide field of view and high resolution.

This game is placed in most-known scenario of Ravenloft setting: Barovia. It is ruled by count Strahd, who became vampire to be forever young and win the love of woman named Tatyana. However, she preferred Stahd’s younger brother, so Strahd has killed him. Then woman commited suicide by falling from castle walls. Because of Stahd’s bad deeds Barovia was taken from real world and turned into separate realm, with borders guarded by poisonous mists. Strahd has biggest power in his domain, but he wants to escape. Sometimes, by power of wizardry, people are able to get into Barovia or get out, but such cases are rare.

Game starts far away from Barovia, with party sent by Lord Dhelt to retrieve stolen amulet. Party succesfully defeats the thief and discover amulet along with some strange magical items. There is also a note which reveals that thief stole amulet because he thinks that it is an artifact which is able to defeat somebody called “Strahd”. Then mist comes and transfers party to some strange place, with all artifacts lost. It is unclear who are characters hidden by mists.

Party starts explorations inside dangerous forest. There are remains of house with cellar where party can safely rest. Forest is inhabited with goblins and worgs (big wolves). Here party can also pick up first NPC. Later party moves to big road, meets some brigands and finally comes to village of Barovia. Everything is dangerous and dark, there are very few helpful people, brigands roam village at night. This game doesn’t have any consept of “money”, there are no shops, so party should just keep only best items and throw away all ordinary weapons and armour. By talking with some NPC and reading some books/scripts party learns that evil lurk the land and it’s name is “Strahd”.

At village party should be carefull, because game contains a problem: if party is posessed with ghost of jeweller too early, then it will be impossible to complete the game. Village of Barovia is a good place to explore, just be carefull and save often.

Main friendly spot of village is a tavern. Party can safely rest there and get some information. There is also a house of burgomaster, who informs them that “Strahd” is a count who rules the land, and he wants to meet with party. By accepting the invitation party goes to castle, and surprizingly sees quite pleasant and peacefull man. He informs them that there is no simple exit from Barovia, and he himself is searching for teleport out. He provides party with location of one teleport and a key. Party goes to some caves, and there they meet cleric and fighter who must join. Caves are dull and boring labyrinth, where player must fight numerous skeletons and locate keys. Some areas are hidden behind false walls, there are also hard-to-find switches. Enemies are easily defeated using cleric’s spell “turn undead”. Finally party locates teleport, but it is a fake, and both fighter and cleric will leave the party. I’ve played a CD-ripped version, so I’ve missed some of game’s video sequences, and plot is not very clear for me.

Accepting an invitaton and exploring caves is a good idea, because skeletons are weak enemies good to increase party’s experience. Other areas are better to explore after that, then party becomes stronger.

After failure at caves party can use a key to church which they find in caves to continue their search for way out. Church is destroyed, but it is possible to rescue some priests, who tell that Strahd is evil. After exploring all possible areas, getting all possible experience and best weapons, party is left nothing then try to enter castle Ravenloft. At this point it is clear that Strahd is evil, and rules his land with iron fist. There are also traces of many mages who give clues on their attempts to destroy him or various ways to escape Barovia. It seems that thief was collecting amulets which were beleived to be a weapons against Strahd. Defeating of Strahd becomes party’s main quest.

At castle party is attacked by Strahd’s servants. This is a good place to explore. Bone golems seem hard, but they are easy victims to “turn undead” spell. At the top of one of castle’s towers party frees a wereraven, who in return helps them to meet with Barovia’s underground who fight against Strahd. They tell to party a secret of powerfull amulet called “symbol of ravenkind”. Theif was thinking that Lord Dhelt’s amulet was this symbol of ravenkind.

To get amulet party needs coins which could be used to by potion which allows to go past mists. After heavy fighting party gets an amulet, and now they can go and face Strahd directly. Then Strahd is defeated party can pick up Lord Dhelt’s amulet. It is not clear how Strahd got it. By coinsidence, amulet is a required item for returning home by using “trimia’s catalogue”.

Game has good atmosphere, dark and fearfull, with lots of undead enemies. There are not many cool weapons, but there is some cool armour. Gameplay is rather repetitive: most levels are mazes, which party has to fully explore in order to advance. Exploration often means looking for hidden buttons. Mazes are hard to navigate because they age big, and walls are dull. There are very few non-linearity, very few side-quests, very few gameplay except maze navigation and monster fighting. Plot is also not very rich. So, it was probably a good game for it’s time, but definetely not for now. It a hack-n-slash game in the same way as “Eye of Beholder”, with very little place for strategy and adventure.

Some strategy hints:

  • As I already mentioned, use cleric’s spell “turn undead” often. It’s very powerfull!
  • Some enemies reduce character’s levels. Be carefull, fight from distance, and save often
  • Projectile weapons can help. There are some magical arrows, sling and throwing knife
  • Fire monsters (elementals, dogs) are best defeated with non-fire magic, such as lighting or magic arrow
  • Use map. Mark locations of teleporters, it will help
  • I don’t know how to use “Rod of smiting”
  • Some races and classes have ability to detect secret walls
  • Use “detect magic”, then “impoved identity” to find out magical items
  • Party has up to four members, moving in square formation: two left characters in front, two right characters behind. Enemies who stand in front of you will attack only two first characters. At open areas all party members can hit. In houses/caves two rear (right) characters can hit only with spells or long-ranged weapons (spears, halberds, quarterstaves, two-handed swords, bows, slings), so they don’t need to carry shields. You can move characters to put well-defended close-range fighters in front, and magic-users to the back.
  • Some areas have “rotators”: your party instantly starts to face in opposite direction. Be carefull, in some mazes walls are so dull that it is hard to notice that your party was rotated

Hints for running this game:

  • This game works quite well under DosBox
  • I’ve played ripped version of game. It has some video sequences missing. Sometimes I even had error messages like “file not found”. These messages are caused by those missing video files. You can cheat by making a copy of existing video file under different name. Video files are named “cinexx.anm”. You can use this trick to see all available video sequences: just get to a place in game where some video should be shown, and then keep replacing original video file with other different videos
  • There are several patches for a game. Applying those patches restores copy-protection by asking words from manual. Cheating against this system is easy: all answers are located together with questions in file “code.2”
Categories: Old games
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