Hezarin: Darkly out of the Moorland Fog   5 comments

If there’s any theme to this progress report, it’s “following loose threads”, so I’ll be quoting some things I’ve already posted.

I found one of the four panels needed for the Box to Defeat the Bad Guy (Anjith, otherwise known as He Whose Name is Easy to Misspell).

When I had gotten past the witches using a dragon head, I had reached a small set of rooms including a boulder that blocked my path:

You are in an east-west passage. The ground is pock marked with pits, several of which are filled with a nasty oily looking substance.
A large boulder blocks the way west.

>hit boulder

Hiyaaaaaaaaa >oof< You smash your bare hands to pieces on the boulder. Shortly later a pack of Hezarin super-gremlins happen to chance along and, seeing you defenceless, (though not entirely 'armless), take great pleasure in finishing you off.

Going by the rule that such an elaborate custom response message likely means the action is right, just the implementation is wrong, I intended to wait until I found some sort of strength-boosting potion, but on an experimental run I played a bit with the “oil” from the room description…

>take oil

You attempt to pick up some oil, but it just drains out of your hands.

…and I left it at that, intending again to return later with a container. I experimented with the glowing-magic-vial to see if I could empty the water out, use it for something else, then come back and re-fill it with water; unfortunately, this caused it to stop working as a light source.

Much later I found this:

>sip oil

You sip a small amount of the oil and suddenly feel quite vigorous.

(You can “drink oil” but your heart bursts from all the vigor. Oops.)

Is this fair? I could see how one could quaff some of the oil without picking it up at all, but still, grump grump. If I were writing the game I’d probably put a little more detail on “it just drains out of your hands”; even “it drains slowly” would help get across you can still do things with the oil.

Dead end.
The selnium panel is here.

I would have expected the hidden place for a panel to be a bit shinier. But still, sound fireworks, game progress!

Several posts back I had mentioned a “music room” with a “bonger”.

As you walk in through the door you are greeted by the hideous clash of long out of tune clarinets, bassoons and a euphonium.
The room is covered with scenes of people playing various instruments, some of them very odd. The only exit is to the south.
Lying on the floor here is an object which I find myself unable to describe as anything other than a ‘bonger’.

Amongst my recent travels I found this room:

You’re in a large chamber filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Its only exit is the northwest. Eight of the stalactites along one wall are unusual in that nature has seen fit to form them in a straight line in ascending order of size. In the centre of the room is a thick limestone column.

I knew immediately this must be the place for the bonger.

>HIT STALALCTITE
With what?

>BONGER
What tune would you like to play on the stalactites? (Please give your answer as a string of notes.)

This is one of those particularly British puzzles that blurs the line between objects and the words for those objects. Take a look at the “hideous clash” line from the music line which involves “Clarinets, Bassoons and a Euphonium.”

Yep, the tune is the initial letters. That message also only appears once, upon entering the music room, so I hope you were taking notes!

>CBE
Even as you hit the first stalactite you realise your mistake but even then it is too late. The stalactites crumble and fall to the ground with a series of purple flashes and loud bangs. When the last stalactite falls, any hope of survival is dashed as most of Hezarin, it seems, crashes down upon you.

It dawned on me then that the message in the music room is randomized and I had seen it differently on another playthrough. However, I did not have any notes from the playthrough I was currently on (it was a restart to get past that darkness/pit puzzle). So, I had to start yet another completely new game from scratch. (Given how familiar Graham Nelson would later be with the Phoenix mainframe and its accompanying text adventures, I could see why he would be able to think up the Bill of Player’s Rights. #2: Not to be given horribly unclear hints. #3: To be able to win without experience of past lives. #4: To be able to win without knowledge of future events. #5: Not to have the game closed off without warning.)

Getting the tune correctly reveals an obsidian bar “decorated with engravings of wild men hunting wild beasts”. I stashed the bar dutifully in my bag and assumed that perhaps the puzzle was optional (it was not, as you’ll see).

Next up: The Evil Moors of Hezarin. I’ve mentioned finding this location before, but allow me to re-quote:

You are wandering in a bleak and extensive area of moorland. The hillsides are a mixture of thick purple heather and sparse gorse bushes which scratch you at any opportunity. A chill wind howls eerily around the tors and vales and a demoralising drizzle hangs in the air.

[…after some walking…]

You’re in the centre of an ancient circle of huge monoliths, the focal point of which is an arrangement of three stones in the middle of the ring. The three stones consist of two pillars and a flat irregular slab set between them and lying on one of its long edges. The two pillars are oriented along a northeast-southwest axis.

Usually walking in the wrong way kills you. I suspected based on the setup (and the fact the game didn’t let me refer to any of the objects in the description) that this was a navigational puzzle, that is, that walking the right path would lead somewhere without having to use any extra items.

I just did enough brute-force tests until I found a new area:

Numbed and downcast by the demoralising mist which shrouds everything around you, you have almost given up hope when you see ahead of you a dark figure. Initially your instinct is to stay well back, but somehow sensing that there is no danger you approach to find that……

You are standing beside a solitary dolmen which looms darkly out of the moorland fog.

The right solution seems to be to walk perpendicular to the axis the pillars are at (it’s randomized) but I can’t swear to that; I know at least if the pillars are east-west going NORTH multiple times works.

I was unable to do anything at the dolmen. You can’t refer to the dolmen directly, so any action would have to be a stand-alone one, like PRAY (which is an unrecognized verb). It did lead me down an interesting hour of distracting research (see image below).

A 19th century drawing of Zennor Quoit, a dolmen at the West Penwith moors of Cornwall dated to the Bronze Age. Bones were found inside, although archaeological evidence suggests that when in active use the bones were occasionally changed; hence it was likely not intended as a final resting place but rather a location to commune with the dead.(Source.)

Continuing north leads to a barrow.

You are standing outside an ancient barrow which is swathed in mists of the Moors of Hezarin.

>dig

You start scratching at the side of the barrow, finding to your surprise that the earth comes away quite easily. After excavating a fairly large hole your fingers strike something very hard and rough, and when you have cleared around the object you find that it is a large granite slab.

You can refer to the slab, so I underwent a lawnmower process of trying every item I had, in order, until I came across:

>hit slab with bar

You rap the slab sharply with the bar, producing a resounding clanging noise.

>hit slab with bar

At the second time of asking the slab emits a thunderous >>> BOOM <<ne

You’re in the burial chamber of an ancient round barrow. Amid an assortment of broken pots and neolithic miscellanea lies the yellow rotted skeleton of the dead chief, a sorry tribute to man’s ephemerality. In the skeletal fingers of the chief’s left hand is a mace.
There is an extremely rare and perfectly preserved copper axe here!

I suppose the “wild men hunting wild beasts” was supposed to be a hint of sorts, and I can at least understand the game is trying to invoke rituals from the deep past. The atmosphere was haunting enough I was able to give this puzzle a shrug once I solved it.

Taking the mace teleports oneself to safety (and it has a “lanyard” so can be worn). I haven’t worked out what to do with it yet. I would suspect it’s something to do with the temple area past the surfing scene (remember that it causes any non-worn items to be lost) but my dilemma there is getting burned up, not a lack of pummelling devices.

I made one last big revelation via use of in-game hints. I was getting mad at the quarry (a room I haven’t mentioned yet, but is in between the wild wood and the moorland).

You are standing in a horseshoe shaped quarry whose walls somewhat resemble a natural amphitheatre.

It was too prominent to just be scenery, but there’s no items to refer to.

QUICK ASIDE BEFORE GOING ON

One problem with adventure critiques (including, at times, my own) is that variations of bad gameplay are often lumped when they could be separated. “Guess-the-verb” is a prominent example; sometimes you might be certain of an action and it just requires a slight verb adjustment; call this Struggling to Communicate. Past that there might be deceptive messages provided by other verbs; I’ll refer back to the bear in Enchanted Island where typing HIT BEAR leads to the message “I’d rather not. It might hit me back!” but ATTACK BEAR works and drives the bear away. Call this Receiving Bad Information.

Somewhere between the two is the kind of puzzle where a verb that ought to solve a puzzle is unrecognized, but it’s unclear a puzzle is being solved in the first place so the player is in a guess-the-verb situation without even realizing it. Call this type of guess-the-verb Hidden.

END ASIDE

>YELL
I don’t understand what you mean by “yell”.

>SCREAM
I don’t understand what you mean by “scream”.

>SING
I don’t understand what you mean by “sing”.

Nothing to see here, move on? Note that I hadn’t even tried these verbs at the quarry; I already knew they didn’t work from testing verbs earlier.

According to the in-game hints:

>SHOUT
You take a deep breath and bellow out a chrous of “I’m an Adventurer and I’m OK,” which ecoes round the quarry, at first surprisingly quietly but then quickly gathering volume to reach a tremendous crescendo which causes rock and rubble to fall from all directions. When the dust clears, you see that a cave has opened up in the east side of the quarry.

I don’t use a scoring system like a lot of play-through blogs do, but I’m going to make up one right now for this game, start it at zero, then subtract ONE BILLION POINTS, then keep subtracting more numbers until the score leaps off the real number line altogether and enters the Cursed Numbers.

Here is the Cursed Number between six and seven: ṕ̵̪̝͖͕̳̭͔̭̣̪̯̤͔͒̄l̷̡͓̞̫͚̖̟͕̱͓͐͒̈́̀̎̎͂̈́̾͜͝ȩ̴̯̉̉̓́̏̐̏͐͠a̶̯̲͎̠̮̝̤̭̞̅̀̾͝͠s̷͛̅̃̏̇ͅȩ̵̠̯̹̜͖̤̖̳͔͓͉̠̿͗ḿ̸̢̢͓̘̟͈̖̤̦̣̺̩͔̣́̍̂̃͝͝͝a̶̛͈͚̫̐͊̄͋̓͂̃̊̿̎͠k̶̨̰̼̪̳͋̽̀̿͑̀̽̚͘̚͝͝ͅe̶͇͊̐͆̓́͑̈́́̂͊̕͝i̶̢̛̱͇̽̉͌͜t̵̞̀͆ş̶̻͚̥̪̖͔̞̑̆̔̇̉̇ͅţ̷̼̠̝́̈́͒͑̅̆̈͌̍̈͌̒̚̚͝ơ̶̧̤̫̮̟͍̗̗̈̑̂̓͒͐̓̉̒p̶̨͍̮̗̤͓̘̼̝̞͚̙̖̯̣̊̀̊̅́

Banging open the cave led to a new large area. I haven’t even explored thoroughly yet, but I wanted to show off the part with Gilgamesh’s tomb.

This is the antechamber to the Tomb of Gilgamesh. It is piled high with various pots and cauldrons associated with cult and ritual, and even after the millenia which have passed since the last offering was made here for the soul of the dead king, the smell of incense lingers. The only exit is a low tunnel to the east.

At the eastmost point there’s a “carpet”, and of course, in any magic-based adventure game involving a carpet, it can fly.

You are in the eastern alcove of the eastern gallery.
Spread out on the floor is an ancient and magnificently patterned carpet.

But how to use it? Well, this is Gilgamesh’s place, and the game already indicated earlier (in the long plot-dump when I opened the box) I needed to go to Mashu, so

>say mashu
The carpet ripples slightly, then hovers along the ground and slides under your feet. As it does so the east wall of the alcove opens up to reveal a long passage sloping upwards to a patch of light. When the carpet accelerates up this passage and into the open sky, you are thrown off balance and when you sit up you find that you are flying at speed over hill and dale.

The carpet flies to a gully with another cave, but trying to enter leads to one of the most awesome deaths I’ve seen in a videogame (using the old sense of the word).

As you move toward the entrance of the cave, two large figures step out and stand shoulder to shoulder, blocking the way completely. Peering into the gloom it becomes clear that these are no ordinary giants: although they have human faces with pointed beards, their lower bodies merge into the tails of scorpions. They stand silent and uncompromising, their arms calmly folded, and their cold eyes unblinkingly fixed on you.
There is a moment when time seems to stand still, as you gaze unbelivingly into the monsters’ eyes. Then you collapse into a crumpled heap, and die an unknown death.

Posted January 27, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Hezarin: Darkly out of the Moorland Fog

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  1. Fascinating how different things come naturally to different players. I somehow guessed almost immediately what to do at the quarry (I’d tried SHOUT before so knew it was a verb – I was hoping it would startle the bear, Adventureland-style; it does not). I guess making a loud noise in an “amphitheatre” just comes naturally to me, like surfing did for you. :)

    But I have not yet found Gilgamesh’s tomb within. I’m guessing the tomb is beyond the “rectangular clay” niche, but I’ve yet to figure out what goes in there. Nor had I made any progress in the moor.

    Hmm. Apparently the manscorpions’ gaze causing death is literally a thing from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Or at least so this translation I just summoned via the magic of the Internet suggests:

    “At its gate the Scorpions stand guard, half man and half dragon; their glory is terrifying, their stare strikes death into men, their shimmering halo sweeps the mountains that guard the rising sun. When Gilgamesh saw them he shielded his eyes for the length of a moment only; then he took courage and approached. When they saw him so undismayed the Man-Scorpion called to his mate, ‘This one who comes to us now is flesh of the gods.’ The mate of the Man-Scorpion answered, ‘Two thirds is god but one third is man.'”

    This actually gives me an idea of what might solve the puzzle. I need to catch up so I can test it.

    (Incidentally, I made it past the temple floor puzzle. Hezarin certainly has its share of unfair puzzles, but that one I actually found quite satisfying to solve. Perhaps it’s helped by the freedom that comes with a narrowed possibility space – i.e., the fact that the vast majority of your inventory just can’t be brought to the temple.)

    • Making a loud noise was fine. I’m fine with that being a solution. I had already eliminated every way I could think of expressing a loud noise. The guess-the-verb was the bad part.

      The hero doesn’t even actually shout in the text, the hero sings!

  2. Quote of the game so far: in response to WAVE SWORD “What kind of a pansy swordfighter are you?” I’m still laughing.

  3. You take a deep breath and bellow out a chrous of “I’m an Adventurer and I’m OK,”

    Ohhh, I have not got the mental bandwidth to do this, but I wish I did.

    I’m an adventurer and I’m OK,
    Guess verbs all night and I map all day…

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