Monday, April 28, 2008

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer (#2)

Here are a few more notes about Shiren, and after another 20+ hours with the game, it's still just as much fun as it was for the first 30.

I've mentioned on many occasions that great games generate memorable stories, and Shiren generates a ton of them.

Yesterday, I was on the 18th level of a run, but I was in sorry shape. The drops from defeated monsters just hadn't been good enough, or of sufficient quality, to survive for much longer. That happens sometimes, and the variability in each run is one of the big reasons the game stays fresh--you have to work with what you get.

For a few days, I'd been trying to build up my weapon and my shield. I got to the point where I had a +22 Mastersword, as well as an Armor Ward +12 with melding buffs for blast, rust, and hunger.

That kind of gear is more than powerful enough to finish the main game, but it's missing the point, really--the dangerous enemies in the game are the ones that can cause status abnormalities. So, for example, if your character is hypnotized because you didn't stay back from a Gaze, your shield strength isn't going to matter. On the higher levels, your weapon and shield can just get knocked out of your hands, and sometimes they can get knocked off a wooden bridge and they're gone for good.

So weapons are nice, and so are shields, but this game is much more about understanding the nature of enemies and which ones can render you helpless. Intelligence, not brute force, is what gets you through the game, and when I lost that gear in about five seconds after I got hypnotized, the point was driven home.

Back to the story. I took the stairs to the 19th floor and was greeted by a monster house. There were red dots on the map EVERYWHERE, and I had nothing to counter, not even a Scroll of Confusion or a Scroll of Sleep.

In technical terms, I was screwed.

I used a switching staff to get closer to the door, and my health was flashing red (6 out of 86) as I took my final step.

That final step, though, was into a pitfall trap, and I plunged through the floor to the 20th level.

I made it to the 22nd level, where I ran into a Gaze and got hypnotized. There was a monster on either side of him, so again, I was finished--a Gaze can just hypnotize you on each turn.

A Gaze also forces you to use random items in your inventory, and I was burning through inventory items on my way to certain death. Again, my health was flashing red, the Gaze hypnotized me again--and the random item I used was a hiding jar.

Which caused the monsters to leave, of course, and incredibly, I'd survived again.

I didn't last for much longer, but both of those accidental survivals were epic moments.

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