Lords of Karma: Finished!   Leave a comment

Before I get to the winning path, I want to talk about a few other gameplay elements.

First a map, alas incomplete (click to enlarge):

karmamapthumb

There are forests arranged in mazes and tunnels underneath that are dark. Navigating the tunnels took using my torch, which I found ran out far too quickly; it was hard to explore more than a fraction of the tunnels before it went out. That element plus the secret doors (which I’ll talk about it a moment) plus the general randomness made it too hard to be fully comprehensive about mapping.

A lot of the enemies (vampire bat, goblin, and an evil magician) were lurking down in the tunnels. They apparently have no problem in the dark:

karmaX3

(If I had killed the magician, I might have finished a quest; there’s a “man in grey robes” wandering aboveground that warns “RETURN TO ME THE STAFF OF THE EVIL SHIMMERING MAGICIAN, BUT DO NOT USE IT YOURSELF!”)

What makes the light source issue doubly frustrating is there are secret doors hidden in a very odd way.

secretdoor

In other words, hang around and looking over and over and eventually a secret door may just materialize. I presume the intended mimesis is that by using LOOK you are searching the room, like an old-school D&D adventurer.

On to winning–

If you read my last posts carefully, you might have noted I ran across a king who wanted me to rescue the princess, and I shortly thereafter was killed by a knave near a “young woman in soiled but expensive clothes”.

It’s apparently possible to luck out, because I randomly came across the same knave / woman pair while playing a new game and attacked them even though I didn’t have weapons. I killed the knave with a single karate chop.

At this point the princess was willing to follow me, so I headed back to the king (who I hadn’t even visited yet that game!) and this happened:

karma4

After that bounty of karma points, I took the diamond to the church and gave it for even more karma points (quite a few!) and decided it was time to go inside the church and pray:

karma5

The problem with having a game with so many generative elements and a flexible goal it is quite possible to squeeze through via luck. I reset the game and tried to kill the knave quite a few times without weapons and had no success.

The amount karma awarded is random; I tried going through the princess-rescuing sequence again (with a weapon this time) and even after donating the diamond and several more items to the church, I was only at 176 karma points. Praying at 176 karma did nothing.

Apparently even the maximum required score is random:

The purpose of the game is to accumulate “karma points”, which are necessary for the character to go directly to Heaven. The player is never informed how many karma points are needed, and the chosen number of points is another example of the game’s randomness as it changes from game to game; some games end nearly instantly due to a very low karma point goal being randomly chosen, while others can last for hours.

Other than not defeating the evil magician I never got by one other obstacle: a giant in the forest. I’m not sure if it’s meant as an obstacle to something greater or if it’s just another notch for your karma score.

I also found a very neat item I never was able to use: a bomb with a fuse. I’m curious what would happen if I tried it on the idol of Baal, but I never had a situation where I both was holding the bomb and found the idol.

Normally my sense of completion might be enough to find out for myself what I’m missing but the fact goals don’t even give a consistent score rather takes my motivation away. If anyone else is dying of curiosity, though, I first recommend you grab an emulator as opposed to playing online, because there’s a several-minute startup time for the random generation; you can set the emulator so it accelerates the process and takes only a couple seconds. Download for the game itself is here (there are two versions, they both seem to work fine).

While my description of gameplay may seem underwhelming, Lords of Karma does feel chock full of texture. There’s randomly placed items, characters that can follow you, monsters that can chase you, and a weird religion system which feels suitably mystical. It’s certainly a promising first effort, especially for an author who programmed his own adventure-creation system from scratch in 1978 technology.

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Posted August 12, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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