Author Topic: REVIEW: Bloodverge's Mystical Fantasy Quest for the Elder... (by Michael Landis)  (Read 657 times)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Bloodverge's Mystical Fantasy Quest for the Elder Scrolls of the Archmage
by Michael Landis

Reviewed by Darius Whiteheart

     
    What does it mean to be a parody?  Everyone has their own sense of humor; often one person may be rolling on the floor while another is rolling their eyes.  Some humor comes from experience; references may be lost on those who can not draw on the same database of information.  Lastly, humor can be based on intelligence, or perhaps, how the mind works; some jokes might pass right over another person's head, leaving them with a puzzled expression.  Monty Python's Flying Circus, South Park, Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- these shows aren't for everyone.  But those who share the same sense of humor as the comedian can sit back and enjoy every minute of it.

    These were the thoughts I had while playing Bloodverge's Mystical Fantasy Quest for the Elder Scrolls of the Archmage by Michael Landis.  Meet Bloodverge, the red-skinned, demon-winged afrit whose personality is part Eric Cartman, part Roseanne Barr and part...Al Capone?  Bloodverge is the central character of the story (after all, it is *his* Mystical Fantasy Quest) and the primary and only PC.  Other NPCs join in along the way, most of which are repeatedly slapped and told to 'shut the hell up' by Bloodverge.  Yes, this would be a good time to mention that the design contains adult language and some adult themes.

    From the beginning you know you're in for something completely different.  Bloodverge and the other characters in the design are well-realized and very interactive.  In fact, probably half of the text in the game is used for dialogue between party members.  This takes some getting used to.  The whole design, really, is written primarily as a script to a play, such as:

        Elf: Fin' th' woed spri's 'n th' foe-raest tae th' north!
        Bloodverge: At least you can say cardinal directions without any problem.
        Elf: No-wrath! Sow-eth! Aest! Waest!
        Bloodverge: .....You all right there?

    Actions are noted in brackets; be prepared to see a lot of <effiminite gasps> from Elf, one of the main NPCs.  Actually, Michael has written up a little prologue to the story which is included in the zip file as BVNOTES.TXT.  I would highly suggest you read through that document first, as it introduces the main characters somewhat and is a good example of what you'll find throughout the design.  If you like what you see, play on.  If not, you may want to stop there.

    As for the parody, well, nothing escapes untouched.  You'll find a celebrity narrator (very funny) as well as cameos from Christopher Lloyd, Brittney Spears, Denis Leary, Michael Jackson, Pikachu and others.  The 'fourth wall' is broken frequently, as the PC will converse with "You", "Player" and even "UA".  I found the best bits to be jabs at the UA engine itself; Bloodverge pokes fun at some events (Who Tries) and most of the art available, including walls that are not quite appropriate for the scene and those infamous sudden backdrop transitions that never look right.  It also makes a mockery of the 'quests' that are the bread and butter of a fantasy role playing game.  You'll spend most of your time on endless 'quests', usually doing something very mundane such as fetching porridge or coffee.  The twist is that with just about every quest, your character manages to either fail miserably or wreak some havoc on whomever he leaves behind.  One thing is certain: the author seriously dislikes both elves and gnomes.  :)

    Design

    The design work is very good.  I found the game to be bug-free, with no broken quests or bad transfer module events.  The author has made nice use of the wall sets to create visually interesting areas that look good to the UA eye.  The forested areas are well done, with lots of variations of tree walls.  Also, something that is often overlooked, there is plenty of music and excellent use of the available sound effects to portray some of the action.  It's also obvious that Michael knows what he is doing, as he has mastered the use of Quest Events.  He has some clever ideas that create the appearance of dynamic areas -- that the PC's actions have a real impact on the environment, such as burning down the forest, collapsing a tower, etc.  There is also one sequence of events which portrays a blinding flash of light and a haunting apparition that is very creative.  Finally, I appreciated his attention to the player; there are reminders of your current quest available (should you need them), and he has, for the most part, accounted for the possibility that the player will choose the wrong path and reach certain points of the game at the wrong time.

    Gameplay

    Michael has created a fairly large world with several distinct areas, which are all connected by 3D transitions only, and not by an overland map.  This is certainly more immersive, but traveling back and forth through the forest maze without the help of Area View quickly became frustrating, and that was before I'd done it more than a dozen times.  Of course, this is likely part of the parody, since Bloodverge is clearly unhappy about it as well.  While combat is not intended to be difficult, the repeated battles wear you down quickly, especially when you are lost in the forest, and especially when you consider that Bloodverge begins the game as a Level 1 Thief with no weapons or armor.  Granted, he does have 85 hitpoints, but those disappear quickly against gnolls and vampires, even if they are toned down a bit.  Add to that the fact that your main NPC at the start of the adventure has only a single hitpoint (which is definitely consistent with the character), and you're in deep trouble.  Fortunately, Temples are readily available, and if you're smart, you'll grab as many Potions of Extra Healing as possible when you have the chance.

    There were some puzzling things that had to do with the gameplay.  For example, Bloodverge is said to be carrying around a gun (which he uses quite frequently) and yet his inventory is empty and his damage is inconsistent with such a weapon.  I would've liked to see a simple item hack to add a handgun and bullets to the game, as that would have been both appropriate and useful for long range attacks.  You'll also find plenty of Vaults during the game, yet you'll never find more than a pocketful of platinum to store there.  Finally, the NPC mentioned above is so weak that he spent much of his time as a corpse I had to drag around -- but Bloodverge still could not escape that NPC's irritating Southern Baptist twang.

    Final Thoughts


    So we return to the question of what it means to be a parody.  Some bits had me laughing out loud -- such as the kingdom of the Sky Elves and their helium-induced song of joy.  Some bits were not in my reference banks and some were either over my head or just not my sense of humor, such as the depiction of God Almighty as a swearing Ninja Turtle.  Also, I felt it may have been too much of a good thing; the design is epic in scope, using all 36 dungeons, a near 10 hour experience.  A chance to poke fun at UA and fantasy RPGs is great -- even probably necessary once in a while.  But ultimately, I don't want to spend that much time listening to Bloodverge belittle everyone and tell me that everything about what we do here is dumb and meaningless, even if that were true.

    I guess I'd say that while I got some good laughs out of my adventure with Bloodverge and developed a great respect for Michael's designing abilities, in the end this particular design is just not my cup of tea.  I could tell from this work, however, that in addition to having a unique sense of humor, he has a gift for storytelling, an incredible imagination, some clever ideas, and an artist's eye.  I would really like to see what he could do with a more serious setting, such as what he mentioned on the list a few days ago.  But even if Bloodverge's Mystical Fantasy Quest for the Elder Scrolls of the Archmage isn't quite to my liking, that doesn't mean it isn't to yours.  If you're in the mood for some off-the-wall humor, give this design a try.  As Elf would say, "Tae th' Kaeng!"

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Bloodverge's Mystical Fantasy Quest for the Elder Scrolls of the Archmage
by Michael Landis

Reviewed by Susan McKinney

I should have not played this design after reading the text file and the background.  I found this design VERY annoying in places.  Admittedly, technically it is a very well-designed module and I hope to see Michael put his creative talents to something less parodic.  I hated trying to read the written bad accent of the elf.  I found the immaturity of Bloodverge to be quite irritating and it's a good thing I can't shoot him with a gun.

Rating:  5

 

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