Alright then, let's take out this Dragonlord chump and be back to Tantegel in time for tea.
Ah, I see. There's no going around this body of water to the east. Let's try the other way.Music: Battle theme
First blood! That coulda gone worse.
The standard Slimes are practically the symbol of the Dragon Quest series, but it's not for their combat prowess. On the off-chance that we don't kill them in one hit, they'll hardly ever hit back for more than one point of damage.
This is as good a time as any to point out how remarkably small the damage values are, especially in the early going. Slimes have 3 HP and we sometimes only deal 1 damage, even with our Club. There are probably more points of damage dealt in the first thirty seconds of the first battle of Final Fantasy XV than in the entire first hour of Dragon Warrior. I rather prefer smaller numbers myself, given that it makes even small statistical increases seem more meaningful. The same goes for experience and gold. For example...
The Red Slime, slightly tougher than a regular Slime, drops two gold instead of one. You can pay for an inn stay in Brecconary by killing three Red Slimes, or six Slimes, and over time that'll be some difference. It also teaches a new player that seeking out stronger enemies is more rewarding.
We can't exactly find stronger enemies around town, though, as the immediate area here only has those two types of Slimes. Let's head a ways southwest.
Before we can get much further, something happens after we defeat another Red Slime.Thy power increases by 1.
Thy Maximum Hit Points increase by 6.
And that's level 2. Stat gains per level are not random. There's a table that determines what stats you have at what level, and it has four variants, each of which has two stats growing faster than the others. The variant you're on is set at the start of the game, and it's actually decided by assigning an arbitrary numerical value to the first four letters of your name, adding them up, dividing the sum by 4, and taking the remainder (which will be a single digit from 0 to 3, of course). "ZedP" has Type 3 stat growth, which has fast Strength and Agility growth, but slow HP and MP growth.
This system ensures that there is some slight variance between players and that you won't end up underpowered by endgame, but its effects don't seem pronounced enough to be worth worrying about.
Another fight leaves us with less than a quarter of our max HP, which turns the white portions of the interface red, as well portions of the background that share their palette with the interface. As far as low health warnings go, this one's hard to miss without being totally obnoxious, so take that, Legend of Zelda.
Anyway. We didn't find the stronger opponents we were looking for, but we've just about gotten our butt kicked, and the southwestern path is a dead end. Time to hoof it back to town and catch some Zs.
That 6 gold charge hurts, it literally cut our day's profit in half. We're definitely not paying for that Leather Armor with Slime money, but we ought to be able to explore further this time. Let's try the northwest. We've heard the town of Garinham is in that direction, and while we have no reason to go there, if we can't make it to the closest town, we definitely can't make it to Charlock.
A few Red Slime fights later, we find a strange cave entrance.
Nobody told us anything about this cave. Nobody will ever tell us about this cave. It's just there, on the way to the only place we've been given directions to.
It'd be rude not to oblige.
...is what I'd like to say but...
Magicians are tough customers! They have four Slimes' worth of HP and have a 50% chance to cast a spell on their turn instead of attacking with their... fists I guess? Punch Wizards! Oh my!
Their only spell is the HURT spell. A little on the nose, eh? It inflicts 3 to 10 damage and completely ignores our defense power. We make good use of the RUN command, succeed in our escape, then immediately run into another Magician, who gets in a hit before we can sneak away again.
Escape odds are largely random, but there is an influence from both our and our opponent's Agility stats, and every enemy in the game also has a stat with one of four values that indicate how difficult it is to run from them. Tougher enemies are usually harder to run away from, but that's not always strictly the case.
In addition, if our Strength is at least twice as high as our opponent's, they have a 25% chance of escaping the battle every turn. But that won't be a concern for a while.
If we encountered another Magician right now, they could one-shot us. Time to fall back a bit and try to find critters more our size.
Uh-oh. Gotta run again.Music: "You were killed by a Slime" theme
: ...huh? Is it dinner time already?
: Dude, get off my case, I just got ganked by a Slime! A Slime!
: I will give thee another chance.
: That's kind of you but I'm going to need therapy too.
: To reach the next level, thy Experience Points must increase by 7. Now, go, ZedPower!
Ah, death in Dragon Warrior. Classic. As you may notice, we just lost half our gold, leaving us with less than we had when we left the inn this morning.
If the King took our money, then he's a dick. So we must have been robbed by monsters! Except the monsters would have taken all of our money, not just half.
So the King's a dick.
In terms of gameplay, this sort of punishment is fairly controversial. It has more leniency than the typical "game over, better reload from a save" because you do get to keep all of your experience and any items you may have found, but there are times when losing half your money feels cruel to the point of naked sadism. I tend to think that the mechanism has slightly more advantages than disadvantages, especially in terms of giving weight and consequence to death, and heightening the tension when you're in over your head, but I certainly remember hitting the reset button in rage and despair more than a few times when I was a kid, so who knows?
Welp, chin up, eyes forward, and once more unto the breach. This is 1986, princesses aren't rescuing themselves yet. Man, that'll be the day.
: Save thy money for more expensive armor.
: No, really.
: If what they say can't help me get this Slime joy-goop out of my hair, they can fuck right off.
: Whatever's inside of this cave better be worth it.Music: Dungeon theme (first layer)
So, first dungeon. It's hella dark. There's a loud thud when we try to walk into a wall tile so we could navigate by sound if we had to, but that's a colossal pain in the ass and no one should ever put themselves through that. Besides, we came prepared!
The match is struck! A blazing star is born!
Lighting a torch illuminates the eight tiles immediately around us. This is actually quite realistic vis-à-vis real life torches. Less realistically, it will stay lit as long as we remain in this dungeon, then burn out the instant we see the sun again.
The darkness mechanic doesn't add much to the game in the grand scheme of things. I suspect it's there mostly to make the dungeons feel bigger than they really are. That said, I have to admit it also imparts a certain claustrophobic atmosphere. Let's navigate this cave in real time, maybe you'll see what I mean.
This dungeon is tiny and I ssssssorta remember the way, but you get the picture.
There are two things to note here. First, there are no monsters in this cave. You can probably think of it as a tutorial, letting players get used to finding their way in low light without constant combat pressure, which is especially welcome at this level and this far into the wilderness.
Second, the music slightly changed when going down stairs.Music: Dungeon theme (second layer)
There is only one dungeon theme for the entire game, but it pitches down and ever so slightly slows down as you go deeper, which is a pretty clever way to go about it, even if the melody itself gets old after a while.
The red squares are up staircases, the blue square is a down staircase, and the green square is the single chest here. Let's see our reward!I am Erdrick and thou art my descendant. Three items were needed to reach the Isle of Dragons, which is south of Brecconary. I gathered these items, reached the island, and there defeated a creature of great evil. Now I have entrusted the three items to three worthy keepers. Their descendants will protect the items until thy quest leads thee to seek them out. When a new evil arises, find the three items, then fight!
Our quest now has slightly more direction, even if it's short on actual... well... directions. At least we know not to waste time trying to find our way directly to Charlock for now. That said, it's somewhat questionable to put information this critical in an optional cave that no one ever tells you about.
At any rate, there is nothing else to find here, so we walk back out.
So, finding the descendants of the "worthy keepers" it is, then. Garinham shouldn't be much further; we didn't have a reason to go there before, but maybe someone there will have some sort of clue for us.
Ghosts are mostly unremarkable critters, tougher than Red Slimes but not by much. However, they do have fairly high evasion rate for this early in the game. None of your character's stats affect your accuracy in this battle system; instead, all monsters roll a dodge stat every time you attack. For example, Ghosts have a 1 in 16 evasion rate, whereas Slimes and Magicians have it at 1 in 64.
We end the fight with 9 HP, so I decide to return to Brecconary before we push northwest any further.
And we level up just in time. Two more Strength, two more Agility, two more HP, and...
We also get 6 max MP and a spell! That's right, we've got a spellcaster here! Which is good, because this is one-man operation. We're not putting together a party here. We couldn't even if we wanted to.
...did I neglect to mention that?
Anyway, new spell.
HEAL costs 4 MP, and restores 10 to 17 HP. This considerably extends our travel range, but it also means we can get free MP refills from the old man in Tantegel and never have to pay to sleep in Brecconary again. Glorious!
We're still far from being able to afford our Leather Armor though, so we fill up and set out back towards Garinham.
Ah, here's the last remaining monster type in this region. Drakees have nothing especially noteworthy going on; they're stronger than Red Slimes but not as strong as Ghosts.
We make it to Garinham not much richer, but in decent shape and with our MP intact.
The item store has the same inventory as Brecconary's.
If you think this is a reference to the late 80s early 90s de facto Nintendo Power mascot character, you might be right!
That doesn't narrow it down by much, but it's a start.
Hahaha wow, yikes. Any given encounter near Garinham has a one in five chance of being a Magician, who will drop about 10 gold. Trying to save up for any of the stuff here that's not also on sale in Brecconary would take a ludicrous amount of time. For now, our next goal is still a Leather Armor, until we can reach a place where our income increases considerably.
This is an interesting aspect of equipment upgrades in this game. The Half-Plate here makes Chain Mail and Leather Armor obsolete, but trying to make money by grinding the few monsters we are able to kill with our current gear is unreasonable, so there is still a strong incentive to "waste" money on smaller upgrades that allow us to travel further and make money faster.
Nevertheless, we have nothing more to see in this shop.
Oooh, now we've got two pieces of info to rub together: the Princess was taken east of the castle, to a cave. Worth the trip!
: You're a funny man, you know that?
And here we see that half the town is behind a locked door. That'll be for much later.
So. We're now in a situation where we can still barely survive the local bestiary for long, but we've exhausted the locations of interest on the map. What's left is a bridge south of Garinham where danger definitely awaits...
...and a path northeast of the castle we haven't explored much yet. The bridge definitely makes me nervous, so let's see how far we can go the other way... once we've filled up and saved, of course.
: Well, I'm certainly pleased I didn't pop in here the same way I did last time.
: Before reaching thy next level of experience thou must gain 12 Points.
It seems a little weird to hear this from him, but it's the only way we can access this information. It doesn't appear anywhere on our status screen.
: Will thou tell me now of thy deeds so they won't be forgotten?
: Uh, sure. I went to Garinham, a shopkeep made fun of me with his eyes and I couldn't open a door. Please make sure future generations are able to learn from these glorious exploits.
: Thy deeds have been recorded on the Imperial Scrolls of Honor.
If you want to take a break and shut off the game, that's where you say "no". But we're not done for now.
: Goodbye now, ZedPower. Take care and tempt not the Fates.
: Well dang, now that you tell me not to, I almost feel like I should.
Oooh, there's a bridge in the northeast. This one's mostly safe to cross though, because there's an overland path to the other side of the river if you go a bit to the southeast and don't mind crossing a poison swamp, and the encounters there are the same as around Garinham. That said, just before we can explore that way, a fight against a Ghost dangerously depletes our resources, and coincidentally earns us level 4. Two Agility, 6 HP, 10 MP, and our second spell.
It's our stronger version of the Magician's HURT. It only costs 2 MP, and deals 5-12 damage instead. Considering our club attack has never dealt more than 4 damage at once so far, this is a big deal. It really allows us to punch above our weight, and it remains useful for longer than you might think, since it ignores the defense stat. Unfortunately, many monsters have at least a small chance to resist HURT and completely ignore its damage, but this is not something we have to worry much about for a while.
This spell is also a reason why I want the Leather Armor and maybe even the Small Shield before our next weapon upgrade; it's a big step up for our offensive capabilities, and it doesn't depend on our stats or our gear.
Speaking of gear, we make it back to Tantegel with 4 HP and 71 gold!
Ah, at last. Maybe we can fight more than two Ghosts in a row without having to run home now.
Back to the east bridge.
Further east, another bridge. I suspect this one isn't going to mess around, but I'm feeling saucy, and if the King wants to have half the money we've got right now, he's going to be disappointed.
Oooh, a cave, in the east. Let's... maybe just check out the environs first.
Skeletons are several times tougher than anything we've seen so far. They're as dodgy as Ghosts, but have no resistance to HURT at all.
And it's a good thing too, because our standard attack has a chance to do nothing. This happens when your attack power is lower than the enemy's defense power; in that case it's a coin toss whether you do 0 or 1 damage.
Hot damn, now we're cooking with gas!
...we're also feeling considerably less saucy.
Maybe another level or two and a shield would allow us to take out more than one enemy here before getting winded. We'll return to Tantegel, and then it's grinding time! I'll spare you the... the de... tails...
Let me... let me just get back to you in a bit.