Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep
Let's see. The entire cast of Neighbours has changed, we've watched war on tv, Stars In Their Eyes now exists, and Yugoslavia is no longer the country it used to be. Duran Duran are still around, there's a game called Doom, cigarettes cost 45P more, and pc's now run at 133MHZ. In days of yore, there was a computer called the Atari st, an 8mhz behemoth with built-in MiDi-ports and amazing graphics (compared to the zx Spectrum). On that machine was a game called Dungeon Master, the best, most ground-breaking Role-Playing Game Ever (then, that is). It took Dungeons & Dragons out of the dark, mouldy, yellow finger-nailed closet, and gave it a more rounded, acceptable feel. It was great. It was brill. It had staggeringly well-designed dungeons, a palpable atmosphere, a great feel, and addictive opiate-based gameplay. Even the graphics had a certain je ne sais quoi (I remember physically jumping out of my chair as a two-frame skeleton reared up out of the dark - but I was very young then).
Now, seven years later, Dungeon Master II has been released, promising more thrills and spills than the original. Legend ofSkullkeep boasts a host of new dungeons, new monsters, new artificial intelligence, and, frankly, not much more. We'll take it point-by-point.
The main difficulty with implementing a dungeon romp is combat. In real Dungeons b Dragons, of course, combat was silly. Roll a zillion-sided die. Look up your stats in a massive tome of "To Hit" tables.
Roll another rhombicosidodecahe-dron. Subtract x from y, divide by the number of people with blond hair in China, and take away the number you first thought of. You miss. Oh : dear. Try again.
All very exciting you'll agree. DM1 managed successfully to transfer the thrill of combat minus the dice. The monsters stand in front. Your two frontal party members pound them with a series of blows based on their weapons (chop for axe, jab for dagger, slice for sword etc.,), while the two cowards at the rear lob spells and daggers into the fray. The monsters fight back. You pound them some more. They die. You die. All very organised and, while not particularly exciting, pretty effective.
The Eye of the Beholder series went and "borrowed" this system from Dungeon Master (as well as just about everything else) and improved it slightly by removing the "choose your blow" stuff. You just hammered and hammered continuously. Then came Ultima Underworld I - simply the best and most seminal rpg ever. It rewrote the rule book on combat. Predating Doom or any other real-time combat games, it gave us truly realtime, mouse-controlled combat. You could actually circle your opponent, dodge blows, and chop and hack and slay - all "live" and with a flick of the mouse.
And now DM2 takes us back seven years to the dark ages. Click on your warrior. Click on attack type. Say "Huh?" as the damage you've inflicted flashes up for an invisible pico-second. Retreat one step into a dead-end to give yourself time to activate your second warrior. He attacks. How much damage was that? Curse your Pentium for being so damn fast. Launch a dagger from your rearguard. See it fly over your opponent. Oh dear. Gasp as you realise the monster has attacked six times in the space of your three. Select your magician and launch a prepared fireball spell. Hah. And other... er, wait, what were the runes? Oh shag. I've cast a "kill-everybody" spell. Merde.
The new fangled artificial intelligence doesn't help. The big innovation that has apparently kept DM2 off the shelves for the majority of this century has been the development of a supreme AI algorithm. And by golly, yes, the monsters are cleverer than before. The bats avoid your slow moving daggers. They run away if they suffer too much damage. And they dodge around you in mid-melee (although you can still trap them under closing portcullises). Unfortunately, a by-product of this improved brainpower is that they easily out-manoeuvre and out-fight your party, hampered as it is by the most archaic combat and movement system in the world. It's like a skilled mouse-playing DoomMeister deathmatching a blind newbie on keyboard. They dodge around the side of you. You "quickly" turn.
Another monster appears ahead, and you're surrounded and having to fight on all sides, mouse-clicking madly to get your team members to face the right way. A few keyboard shortcuts would have been nice.
The dungeon design
In the old days, dungeons based on lateral thinking: this key in that door, this pressure pad does that, etc., etc., were fine. But now games like Ultima Underworld and Doom have raised our standards. A level of sophistication is demanded. Both architecturally and interactively. These seminal titles have fully 360 texture-mapped environments, uppy downy bits, full lighting effects, and fully scaled, fully animated sprites. DM2 does not - at all. Ultima Underworld's puzzles and quests are varied intaglios of object manipulation, clever spell casting, interaction with characters, riddle solving, and sheer dexterity. DM2 has some of these, but doesn't even come close to UWs sophistication. DM2 is a text adventure next to UW. And UW came out three years ago!
In Dungeon Master II, your first couple of hours play will be taken up with "purchasing" weapons, armour and supplies. Huh? The Elder Scrolls: Arena and Legends of Valour both learnt the folly of this kind of system. It's all very well constructing, designing, nay sculpting an entire world for your rpg, but "real-world" activities, such as bartering and buying equipment, are dull. Exchanging money for goods is boring. If we wanted to do that, we'd go down to the newsie and buy some sweeties. Because RPGers want to find their booty. Want to solve intricate puzzles and find some more booty.
Want to kill scary monsties and find even more booty on their still-steaming corpses. This is a quest, isn't it? DM1 had this down to a pat. The further you got, the more booty you found. The more comprehensive you were in searching each level, the more booty you found.
It was the incentive to progress and the reward if you managed it. Buying equipment doesn't work. And, insult to injury, the buying scenes - set in twee, medieval-type "shoppes" - are stultifyingly boring.
You flick through a wall-mounted catalogue. Side step right and place your monies on a table (prices can be long-winded, so you might have to retrieve three copper pieces, two silver, and four gold, one by one from your inventory). The shopkeeper scratches his forehead or whatever and then rotates the table. You pick up your newly acquired weapon or whatever and your change (again this could consist of more coins to be tediously replaced in your backpack). Then the whole process repeats itself. Yawn.
The outside bits
Eye of the Beholder II just about pulled it off (with a rather boxy forest). Eye of the Beholder III failed dismally and Ultima Underworld didn't even bother (it knew what it was up against). The point with dungeons is that they're inside - closed up, subterranean death pits, constructed by a mega genius, arch evil wizard on a few sheets of "magic" graph paper. Outside bits deaden the sense of claustrophobia and the entire atmosphere of the game. And, besides that, DM2's graphic engine just can't handle outside locations. Flick screen, grid-based rpg's work well in underground catacombs, not in exterior forests with Etcha-sketch angles.
On the positive side, DM2 has some new things to offer. The engine is slightly enhanced: there's now a small "in-betweeny" stage of animation as you move forward. There's the aforementioned AI. There's more frames of animation per monster (four instead of two). The sound and music is vastly improved. There's an interesting cyber-tech setting, with old-fashioned weaponry and laser technology all mixed up. But, unfortunately, Dungeon Master II seems to have rather arrogantly ignored all the major innovations in rpg's over the last four years. The result is a retro, old-fashioned, and visually unimpressive, desperately average rpg, which may have a nostalgic appeal for some, but will just appal modern gamers weaned on the fulsome breasts of Underworld and System Shock. The folk at FTL should have spent their not inconsiderable game designing prowess investing in a new engine and a more flexible interface.
It took years to get to the small screen, but Interplay's Dungeon Master II is now riding high in the role-player's game chart. Whether you're a hardened dragon slayer or an innocent newbie, the dungeons of Skullkeep are stuffed with cunning traps. This month we've cobbled together the solutions to the most difficult bits, so if you're stuck, you should find the answer you're looking for right here.
Before you start
The torches in wall holders are the best form of light, but you have to watch out as they go out eventually. However, they can be recharged by placing back in a wall holder for a moment.
The main purpose of the game is to provide electrical power to a device on the top floor of the castle. This power will be used to help you blast open an exit out onto the clouds, where you will face the final bad guy and destroy him. Your first big problem is to find the four clan key pieces of which are needed to open the door to the Skullkeep tower. The area outside the tower is a training area where your team can build up necessary skills and learn basic spells; you must get your magic users trained to cast the light and fireball spell as quickly as possible (ful and ful ir).
Your priest must be able to create a healing potion and a poison cure while holding a flask (vi and des ven). Food is found by killing and eating the wandering monsters, and big money is made by selling the weapons which are dropped when you kill the bad guys. You can make big bucks by selling the axes dropped by the Viking giants.
Unfortunately non-material monsters such as ghosts, whirlwinds and ghost skeletons can only be killed by spells like oh kath ra and des ew, or a swipe from a Vorpal sword.
Skullkeep castle is situated in the centre of the map. You begin in the square of shops to the west of the castle. The fountain in the square contains more than just water, so have a quick feel around. The black star nearby is the first of the many teleports (use the tech shield to activate this device).
Travel first to the north-west of the castle where you'll see Stonehenge, guarded by whirlwind creatures. Here lies a clan key plus a lightning key.
Now head for the north-east corner to the wolves' lair to find the second clan key plus the moon key.
The eastern edge of the map is the home of the Vikings, where the third clan key lies on a rock table. Take the northern exit from this area and you'll find three other shops.
The final piece of the clan key is on a table inside a small dungeon on the south side of the map. There is an important hidden wall switch in the entrance area. To enable you to pick up the key you must first place some money on the table. There is another shop nearby, beside the blood red fountains, which specialises in magical weapons - it's well worth a visit. Before you bother entering Skullkeep, it's important to make sure you are fully armed and that you have trained your entire team to cast magic - going in early just isn't worth the hassle. (Note: certain items of jewellery and magical weapons give non-magic users the power to begin to cast a few spells.)
Skullkeep entrance gates
To open the three gates in the entrance hall you must turn to face the three wall switches. Quickly press the three buttons in the sequence left, right, centre, and then run backwards through the three gates. To move quickly enough you must either remove all heavy objects from your party, or cast the agility spell oh ir ros.
To the left is a room of pits containing a magical sword. If you pick up the sword an extra pit will appear to block your exit. Leave the sword until you find a minion map which allows you to create a minion which can fly over the pits to pick up the sword for you.
Place a manna blossom plus a staff in the cauldron to produce a serpent staff.
Beyond the cauldron room is a room with a central core and a floor pad which controls its exit door. Standing on the floor pad quickly opens and shuts the exit door. In the corridor beyond the door is a series of tech eye sensors which control a fireball trap. Your two problems are:
- 1 - How to dismantle the tech eyes
- 2 - How to get through the exit door.
Firstly, find the illusion wall which you can walk through -this wall is on the top left hand corner of the room. Halfway through the wall, turn left and press the small secret button which will remove a further secret wall. Inside the secret room there are now two wall plates which can be removed and the tech eyes dismantled.
Return to the main room and stand in the bottom right corner facing the floor pad with the exit door to your right. Throw an object towards the floor pad, turn right and run for the door. You should reach the door just as the thrown object hits the floor pad and lets you through the open door.
By using your magic map you can see the illusion walls in the corridor before you. By passing quickly through the walls you will be able to find the rear of the sensors to disable the fireball trap. Alternatively, cast the repel spell zo bro ros to repulse the fireballs.
There is a corridor with a series of doors which will not open until a separate gearwheel is placed in each wall alcove next to the doors; the floor next to the doors turns into a pit if you hesitate.
You can buy additional gearwheels in the shops near the Vikings - remember to buy a vacuum tube as well. However, there is a secret wall alcove near to the first door which contains additional gears; this alcove is revealed once the first door has been opened.
Sooner or later you'll end up in the castle basement; the only way out is via a blue transporter behind a locked door, but the key is held by the caveman creature who casts poisonous clouds. Kill the caretaker and he'll drop the key.
The boiler room
In order to get the generator going you must first get the furnace stoked and burning; the rockmen in the room below the boiler will light it and keep it going, provided you destroy the enemy minion who stands sentry in front of the furnace. You can leave a sentry minion here yourself, but throughout the game you will need to return to the furnace and keep renewing your sentry or it will go out.
This is above the boiler room. Switch everything on for the water to flow.
To cross the room which contains the moving battering rams, start by moving to the left of the first pit and face the ram. Cast the agility spell then move forward past it. Take one pace forward, turn right and then move quickly forward three steps to pass two rams. Turn left and negotiate the final rams.
The lightning pit
There is a difficult pit preceded by a floor panel which controls a lightning bolt. As you step onto the pit it opens and shuts as a lightning bolt crashes above it; fall through it and you'll be attacked by ghostly skeletons. Stand before the floor and use the magic map to create a floating eye.
Send the eye across the pit and into the small alcove beyond. Now move forward onto the floor pad and the lightning bolt will destroy the eye - leaving the pit in the closed position.
The flying chest and the big barrels
In the room of the archers there is a flying chest. This can be destroyed and its contents obtained easily enough by trapping it in the room with the floor pads and the fireballs. Now 'freeze' the chest with a magic box and destroy it with fireballs. (There is also a magic staff which casts the freeze spell.)
There are two large barrels in this area which can be destroyed with a couple of fireballs; it's worth doing this as they then reveal useful contents.
Retain the master key after you have used it as it opens two doors.
The fireball reflector trap
In the room with the pits and fireball reflectors there is a floor pad which controls the emission of a fireball from the opposite side of the central pillar. Switches on the other sides of the pillar control two reflectors at the other side of the pits. Use the magic map to see the position of the far reflectors, and the path of the fireball; to close the pits you are supposed to move things around until you can reflect a fireball back into the spot where it was created. It is easier to simply move one of the reflectors on the far side of the pit so that you cast one of your own fireballs to hit the other side of the pillar.
Once the pits are closed you can cross the room and use a fireball to blast open the locked door on the left hand side of the room. There is a ladder on the right hand side to the upper level.
The skull and onyx key trap
Beyond the electrical shock corridor is the room containing the wall alcove where the skull and onyx keys lie. Picking up both keys turns on the magical magnet which will not let you leave the spot you are standing in. The trick is to take only the onyx key, then leave and open the onyx door. Inside the room there is a wall switch which lowers a ladder into the room of moving transporters. Return the onyx key and take the skull key. Go to the room below and find the ladder back up into the onyx room. Use the skull key to create a magical transporter nearby which will move you inside the skull room. Use a fireball to destroy the table then move the reflectors out into the crystal room.
The crystal room
The trick here is to position the two reflectors on top of the floor drains next to the central crystal in such a way that they will direct the fireballs from the wall into the crystal. Once the boiler and the water is working in the boiler room and all the wall switches in the crystal room have been turned on, you'll be able to blast a hole out through the outside wall to the clouds.
There is a generator on the roof guarded by a troop of archers. The archers can be destroyed, but no useful purpose seems to be obtained by clearing this area.
The final confrontation
Out on the clouds lurks the final enemy - and be warned, it's bloody hard to kill him! There appears to be no clever way to dispose of this sonofabitch - it's simply a matter of wearing him down. By creating hordes of attack minions you can weaken him enough to take him out in one final battle, but this is a spot where nimble fingers and a steady hand seem to be the only way out. Make sure you have loads of manna for the creation of attack minions, and that you also have the emerald orb so that you can heal your warriors during the fight, or you'll never get through it.
The creation of your own attack minions is the only way you can survive in the later stages, so make sure you learn to create your own army of flying warriors to protect your hide.
Having a kip in the corner to build up your strength is necessary every so often, but you have to be aware that while you are asleep enemy minions are generated and they'll take you out before you can recover. So to avoid being wiped out in this way, create a barrier of guard minions around you to guard your peaceful slumber.
Download Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode