Friday, October 15, 2021

Sorcerer: Won!

During my first session of Sorcerer, I had learned of Belboz's mysterious disappearance, and magically traced his location to a dangerous world across the ocean, over the ruins of a previously unseen portion of the old underground empire. I had mostly mapped it out, but had few clues on where to find Belboz, or on what challenges had to be completed.

In my inventory, I possessed:

  • Belboz's journal
  • A magic amulet, attuned to Belboz's location, glowing faintly
  • The amulet's jewelry box
  • A small key which had unlocked the journal
  • An issue of Popular Enchanting magazine
  • An orange vial containing a vilstu potion, which obviates the need to breathe
  • A light-emitting calendar for the year 957 GUE with postcard pictures of the empire
  • My spellbook

 

My spells were:

  • Gaspar - self-resurrection
  • Meef - wilts plants
  • Gnusto - inscribes scrolls into the spellbook
  • Vezza - view the future
  • Pulver - dry liquids
  • Izyuk - fly
  • Yomin - probe minds
  • Rezrov - open locks
  • Frotz - illuminate
 

In the deadly arrival area that had been foreshadowed by the prologue dream, I used Pulver to vaporize the river. This opened up a path to a cave, but in accordance with Sorcerer's cruel nature, you get one chance to wade through the correct path in the river bed - go through a wrong direction or just stand there looking and the river will return and thrash you against the rocks. Gaspar won't do any good either - return to the river bank again and it will give way each time, dumping you in.

The hidden cave past the river contained a pile of bat guano, a "fweep" scroll to turn into a bat, and a "blort" potion to enable sight in dark places - seemingly redundant with Frotz, but perhaps it would be useful in a situation where conventional magic is unavailable. A hole here dropped down into the castle's dungeon, from which I could exit into the underground.

Previously, I had mapped out a 3D maze of invisible walls and deadly drops, and been stuck near the end of it by a shaft too high to ascend with my Izyuk spell, but Fweep, it turns out, lasts much longer, and also allows you to "see" the walls of the maze by sonar. I'd find that clever if I hadn't already wasted so much time mapping out the maze with no knowledge that the Fweep spell even exists. The downside is that you must leave your inventory items behind as a bat, but you can memorize multiple casts of Fweep ahead of time so that it can be cast without your spellbook. That said, if it wears off when you're in a room with no floor, and it will wear off without any warning, you'll die.

At the end of the glass maze, a "swanzo" scroll awaited near a hole, which I dropped it down, as the bat can't lift it. This triggered something in the maze that caused the panels to rearrange themselves, and as I entered to re-map its new layout, a slavering dorn beast chased me through! Thankfully, the rooms without floors are just as deadly to it as they are to you in your non-bat form, and the chase was very soon cut short when it followed me into one.

Back at the entrance, I collected my stuff as a human and went into the stone hut, where the swanzo scroll lay in the chimney. Bearing the description "exorcise an inhabiting presence," I Gnusto'd it into my book.

Now, what can I exorcise? My first thought was, maybe whatever keeps me from searching the cannon in the fort could be exorcised. It couldn't, but then I had the bright idea to drop the pile of bat guano inside, which worked just fine as an exorcising agent. I found a single-use scroll of "Yonk" inside, which augments magical power. I also realized that although I could not climb the flagpole in the courtyard, I could lower the flag, which concealed a "fooble" potion for enhancing strength. But I couldn't leave alive - the only way back was past the river bank, which now gave way whenever I set foot there. Then I realized, Izyuk would let me pass without actually setting foot there.

I went to the theme park, which I could enter by taking my Zorkmid back from the sleeping gnome, and drank the fooble potion to let me win a ball toss game on the midway. This earned me a scroll of "malyon" to give life to inanimate objects. I tried using it on the dragon carving, which reacted slightly, so I tried again, yonking it first. The carving came to life and moved out of the wall, revealing a passage!

Past the carving room, a coal mine opened up south to a lagoon, where my meef spell made vegetation recede, opening a path to a lair of mutant grues who feared no light. Diving below, I found a grue repellent kit, but this ruined my spellbook. Clearly this was an endgame area, and my amulet was pulsating. Continuing to explore, I found that past the grue lair, three ornate doors led to three different dooms. Belboz himself napped behind one, and exorcising him would cause the demon possessing him to take my body instead. The other two led to voids of eternal torture.

Reloading to the coal mine, I sucked down my vilstu potion for breath, and a stranger - meant to be me in the future - burst into the room through a coal chute and told me "the combination is 257." This unlocked a combination locked door to the mineshaft, and to a familiar puzzle of years past.

Here, a mini-MOTLP looped up to the top of the coal chute, where I could slide back down to the start, but just as in MDL Zork, a rope found here, when secured to a timber placed at the top of the chute, can be climbed down into an eerily lit room halfway down. If I'm not mistaken, this is the last puzzle from MDL Zork that had not been recycled into a commercial microcomputer game. The prize this time is a time travel scroll, which when cast, subtly changes the room and results in a "vardik" scroll being hidden in a kerosene lamp, which shields your mind from an evil spirit. However, no objects may be taken into the past this way, and you need your spellbook.

The solution, of course, is to give it to your future self, then do the time warp, get the vardik scroll, and after meeting your past self, give him the combination and get your spellbook back. Figuring that out was easier than executing it, as the vilstu potion seems to expire, and your immediately after, in exactly as many turns as it takes to perform all of these actions.

With this vardik scroll acquired, and with my knowledge of what lay ahead in the lagoon, I made through the grue lair, into Belboz's room, and exorcised the demon with its protection.

 

>swanzo belboz
A wispy translucent shape rises from the body of Belboz. It speaks in a voice so deep that your whole body seems to hear it. "Foolish Charlatan! I am forced to flee that weak, old body -- I shall take your own, instead! Already I have sucked all knowledge, all secrets from that ancient Enchanter. Now begins an epoch of evil transcending even your worst nightmares; a reign of terror that will last a thousand thousand years!" The shape blows toward you on a cold wind.

Jeearr surrounds you like a cloud and begins to contract. Suddenly, it strikes your invisible protection and recoils as if burned. "No!" it cries. "Such a guileless Enchanter developing a mind shield?" The cloud is thinner, the voice fainter. "It cannot be! I cannot survive ... without a host." The demon roils in agony, then thins and dissipates. There is a final scream of pain, then silence.

Belboz moans softly, and begins stirring. He sees you and rises, instantly alert. After posing a few well-chosen questions, he casts a brief but unfamiliar spell.

An instant later, your grue suit has vanished and you are standing in the Chamber of the Circle. The Circle of Enchanters is assembled. Belboz speaks. "Once again, this young Enchanter has done a matchless service to the Guild and to the entire kingdom, displaying resourcefulness and imagination worthy of the greatest of Enchanters. I grow old, and must soon step down as Head of the Circle. But let it be known that a successor has been found."

Your score is 400 of a possible 400, in 450 moves. This puts you in the class of Leader of the Circle of Enchanters.

Here ends the second chapter of the Enchanter saga, in which, by virtue of your skills, you have been appointed as the next leader of the Circle of Enchanters. The final adventure awaits you as the Enchanter series concludes.

You hear a distant bellow. "What happened to my morgia plant?"

 

GAB Rating: Average. Sorcerer's missing something. Overall it works as a game and features some decent puzzles, although the portions inclined to kill you arbitrarily and frequently got tiresome, and the inclusion of the Gaspar spell to resurrect yourself is rarely more convenient than simply reloading a saved game. The potential to have to restart the entire game because you didn't send for a promotional Vilstu potion at the very start, not needed until nearly at the end of the game, also feels pointlessly cruel, and I'm glad I had that puzzle incidentally spoiled for me as I looked up the solution to another one. Sorcerer also goes way overboard on the red herrings - Rezrov, Yomin, and Blort seem to have no purpose whatsoever.

But I think what really holds Sorcerer back for me is the plot and worldbuilding, which I found completely forgettable, certainly not up to the atmospheric qualities of Enchanter and Zork III. Coming from Planetfall, where Steve Meretzky broke ground in in-universe storytelling, it's a disappointment that Sorcerer's world, apart from the small Guild of Enchanters area, serves no kind of lore purpose, existing solely for the purpose of containing traps to avoid and puzzles to solve, and that nothing of any plot significance happened in the game except for your fast track promotion - Jeearr is just another foozle that needed killing.

Sorcerer's fine, but lacks that special magic, and that combined with its more irksome tendencies make it a lesser Infocom title in my book.

 

My Trizbort field map:

8 comments:

  1. "I had the bright idea to drop the pile of bat guano inside, which worked just fine as an exorcising agent."

    What made you think of this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought whatever was inside might not like the smell.

      Delete
    2. Interesting! I was really pleased with myself when I figured this one out, but it seems you just stumbled into it :-)

      See the entry for "Yipple" -- the last one -- in the Field Guide to the Creatures of Frobozz in the Feelies at https://gallery.guetech.org/sorcerer/sorcerer.html

      Delete
    3. Interesting that the ingame copy protection also provides a clue.

      There were other things I tried too, like blorting the cannon to see if I could see the stinging beast inside, or firing the cannon to get the scrolls out. Using the bat guano was, shall we say, a crapshoot.

      Delete
    4. That is rather a brilliant double pun.

      Delete
  2. I went to the theme park, which I could enter by taking my Zorkmid back from the sleeping gnome, and drank the fooble potion to let me win a ball toss game on the midway. This earned me a scroll of "malyon" to give life to inanimate objects. I tried using it on the dragon carving, which reacted slightly, so I tried again, yonking it first. The carving came to life and moved out of the wall, revealing a passage!

    The incomprehensibility of this paragraph to outsiders is why I quit adventure games. Back in the day, I used to fail at them, and I thought *I* was the stupid one. Today, looking at what you had to go through to win one, I feel 100% vindicated.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well done!

    Gaspar provides an alternate means of "solving" the return trip through the glass maze. If you cast it before entering the maze the first time, then let the dorn beast kill you after you reach the end and drop the swanzo scroll down the chimney, you revive back outside the start of the maze and can go retrieve the scroll easily.

    Vezza (foresee the future) tells you which of the three doors to use at the end of the game (without need for trial and error).

    The Blort potion is an elaborate trap. It works fine to let you see in the dark. But grues are afraid of light - not of being seen. So you'll just get gobbled up anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vezza (foresee the future) tells you which of the three doors to use at the end of the game (without need for trial and error).
      I tried that out. Seems like it's random what vision you get, though specific visions stop happening once they're in the "past." And you won't have access to any unlearned spells by the time you reach Mammoth Cavern, so unless you've been habitually using Vezza repeatedly to see all possible visions at every stage in the game, it seems like you'd need trial and error anyway.

      That, and what self-respecting adventurer doesn't check behind every door anyway?

      Maybe if Jeearr's magic disabled saving, and the correct door was randomized, then Vezza would be necessary. As is, I can't imagine solving the puzzle that way, except after the fact with the mindset of trying to find a use for it.


      The Blort potion is an elaborate trap. It works fine to let you see in the dark. But grues are afraid of light - not of being seen. So you'll just get gobbled up anyway.
      But who would fall for that trap? You always have access to Frotz, and, despite what it tells you in the opening, Frotz (still) never expires.

      Delete

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