I’m not getting as much chance as I would like to play this game but I managed to get a couple of hours in yesterday. I’m taking JCC’s advice and swapping to expert mode for this level which I would have done earlier if I’d realised I could change difficulty on the fly.
Swapping difficulty means replaying the last bit of the previous level and this time the cutscene works.
The cutscene has Viktoria taking me to see Constantine (the guy I just robbed) who set up the previous mission as a test of my skills. He wants me to steal a jewel called the eye and is prepared to pay 100,000 for it. He claims to just want the eye for his collection but I expect he will have ulterior motives. For that sort of money I don’t ask questions. The eye is in an abandoned Hammerite cathedral and I have to figure out how to get in.
Changing the difficulty level to expert means I get a new set of objectives, including having to steal 2000 loot, placing coins on the grave of the watchman for luck and stealing a golden torc. I’m impressed with the way this changes the gameplay above and beyond just making the enemies tougher which is what I might have expected. It’s actually a genuine incentive to go back and replay the game. Of course if its too hard it will just put me off.
At the start of the mission is a note about the power grids around here. I’ll be wanting to turn most of the lights on to see where I’m going – this has the downside of making me easier to spot.
This is a city level and these early 3D engines always struggled to create a believable city. The graphics really are square and blocky and while they aren’t awful it takes me a while after each break from the game to get used to them again. I have a lot more problem with early 3D graphics than 2D stuff from 10/15 years earlier. On the plus side the place is big enough to feel like a city and there is plenty to explore.
I’ve no idea where I’m going and swim through a series of underwater tunnels to reach a little island in a darkened area. There is a very strange creature in here with giant pincers for hands. I decide to stay out of its way and just haul myself up onto the bank, grab a key that seems to be the purpose of this area and swim off.
A bit more exploring and I find another underground area complete with lizards. There is a bit of treasure around here + another key so I grab everything I can. I’m still using my sword as it seems like the best approach to dealing with the lizards. They don’t appear to be harder to kill than before, despite playing on expert.
A lot of exploring later and I find my way out of the sewers and turn some more lights on in the process. I discover a drawbridge which unfortunately for me is raised. I spot a likely couple of buttons and on the off chance that it will work shoot an arrow into one and sure enough the drawbridge lowers down.
This gets me into a very dark, zombie filled area. A key I’ve picked up along the way opens up a cell door with the power controls for the area inside. Despite the zombies, I need to see where I’m going so I turn the lights on.
Nearby, I work my way up a building, jump across to a ledge and discover a giant tombstone. This has to be where I’m supposed to leave some coins. There are a couple of spiders guarding it. I shoot a rope arrow into one of the beams, jump down, drop the coins and climb up again before they can reach me.
I continue exploring the area beyond the drawbridge. There is plenty to see including a new enemy who appears to be on fire. I run through the room and climb out before he can attack.
Outside, a zombie is picking a fight with 3 lizards and actually winning. I leave them to it for now. I always like to see this behaviour in games. Considering it was there right back in Doom it’s surprising how many games since didn’t bother to implement it.
A bit more exploring and it feels like I’m getting near the cathedral. There are a couple of ghostly figures guarding the door here. One is out of reach on a ledge. I attempt to blackjack the other. This doesn’t seem to kill him but I hack him for a bit and he vanishes in a puff of smoke.
The cathedral is just up the way and looking suitably impressive. Unfortunately the door is locked.
I walk around the side and spot a likely looking window to climb through.
The window turns out to be a bit on the small side but I can see the eye and it gives me instructions on how to get in. I should know better than to take instructions from a floating jewel but it must worth it for 100,000. First I have to find the keepers grotto.
I’ve seen the area already not far back. There is a small island in the middle of a moat. It takes me a while to figure out how to jump onto this. I can’t make the jump but I can hit the wall and haul myself up which I find out after a few attempts. I have to shoot a fire arrow from here at the statue which lights a couple of torches and opens up a door.
This gets me into a small area with two broken statues. Piling broken bits on one pedestal and standing on the other opens another door and allows me to enter a trap filled area which shoots arrows at me and the like. The arrows always seem to miss so I don’t worry about them. I’ve walked through the room by the time I realise the traps are there. I also have to pick a door (which takes ages) while a sliding wall threatens to crush me from behind. I’ve actually got time to spare but don’t realise this until I’m through.
I enter a comfortable looking library and I find a couple of letters. One mentions a figure called the Trickster who sounds familiar so I expect he will crop up later. I’m fully expecting to be double crossed by Constantine so it might even be him. The last time I ran into a Constantine in a game was Realms Of The Haunting and you didn’t want to trust that guy.
Across from here is another room which one of my keys unlocks. There is a table with a map and also instructions on entering the cathedral by using various talismans. This actually completes the main part of the mission. I assumed I would have to enter the cathedral and steal the eye but it appears this will be spread among several missions.
This being expert mode, I’ve still got objectives, one of which is finding the golden torc. It’s well hidden, I have to raise the drawbridge from earlier and climb over the wall it rises into to then jump across and enter a new area. This leads to a likely looking house.
There are two ghostly warriors in here and I can’t see a good way to sneak past them so I resort to a landmine which takes both out in one go. The torc is just up on the next floor.
At this point I still don’t have enough loot so I end up walking around and around the city attempting to find what I’ve missed. This isn’t a lot of fun and it really does take some time before I’m up to 2000 and complete the mission.
I’m going to have to go after the amulets one by one to open the cathedral. My next mission will be to attempt to retrieve one from an order of mages – this doesn’t sound easy. Since I’m on expert I’m not allowed to make a single kill either which should be interesting.
So I’ve had a go at one level on expert now. I have to say that it did improve the game immensely although it also took me ages. I was forced to fully explore the level which is good and I liked the extra goals to achieve. However, having to get the 2000 loot was a real pain. I’m hoping on a house type level, it won’t be quite so difficult to find my way around and this will be less of an issue. The level designers seemed to delight in putting minuscule treasures in obscure corners in this last map.
I don’t feel like I’ve had the true expert experience yet as this level didn’t require much stealth. I’ll stick with it and see how it goes on the next level. Something that does strike me is how large this game is. Each level is huge. Unless I can find more time to play, it could be another month before I finish it, and the latest Monkey Island game just came out….