Review: The Tower Of Chaos (DM PC/CSBwin)

Custom dungeon reviewed: 
The Tower Of Chaos
Gameplay comments: 

Although I found the way through the dungeon too chaotic despite your claim of "pretty straight forward" in the text file, this is the only criticism I can make here. Otherwise beautifully laid out and a lot of twists and turns to follow until the end.

Originality comments: 

Starting with "Double your money" there were many riddles both beautiful and -as far as I can guess- hard to design or make up. There’s still parts I did not like, but for the effort of creating some of the most original puzzles apart from the original series, I can but give you the highest rank in this category.

Difficulty comments: 

In some areas you overdid it a little (see the fireball trap in the first level that will kill you instantaneously if you’re not careful or other examples to be found in "comments"), although most is solvable by being careful or alert. I still claim my ideal dungeon must enable the player to theoretically survive the first time – I don’t think that "Tower of chaos" can completely fulfill that. Basically pretty linear difficulty design, although I found the starting levels too tough with reincarnated characters.

Puzzles comments: 

Probably the dungeon with the most original, newly crafted or uniquely varied puzzles throughout all the levels, experimenting with mechanisms and twisting them into little known forms. Excellent!

Size comments: 

I’m not a friend of too large dungeons in general, but you not only created a dungeon using nearly every single cell but also found ways to build paths and mechanisms that make the dungeon an overall sound design. This took me at about as long as my first try of the original CSB, so compliments on keeping up suspense and atmosphere throughout this huge layout!

Replayability comments: 

I had real (letal) problems with food and water as well, so as long as that is not changed I don’t think I’ll try it again soon. Generally speaking, there’s enough creativity in this dungeon for repeated tries, though. Let’s give it some time, shall we ? ;o)

Craft comments: 

I was very positively surprised at this dungeon after swallowing my initial frustration on the food and too tough creatures-sides. If you polish up the nourishment and time-to-time dungeon design a little, this will improve your otherwise outstanding and original design even more. No doubt that you know how to design a dungeon very well indeed!

Game Ending: 
Game Ending comments: 

Chaos again... oh, well. Excuse me, but I just finished the review to Amber’s "Imprisoned again" before so I’m afraid this is a common theme. It’s a little frustrating always having to corner the poor dark creature time and time again avoiding missiles, zytazes and demons... anyway, you made it pretty tough actually getting the Firestaff and then surviving to find Chaos and fusing him – so many things going on in this level at once... *phew* Still, especially with your ability to design I’d hope for a really new end next time...

Atmosphere comments: 

Just a small point here: the design ruined some of the otherwise excellent atmosphere, because the path was not as clear or straight as I’d have wished for sometimes. Try and error is all well but sometimes you strained that a bit too much in my eyes. Otherwise I certainly strained something, too (that being my nerves) and had a very good time (translate: near heart attacks) in your dungeon. That’s exactly how it should be.

Overall comments: 

Close call, but deserved. Dungeons like Amber’s "Imprisoned..." and your "Tower..." are the reasons why I was rating pretty carefully with my first dungeons so as not too use up all my aces too early.

Best part: 

"Double your money", the numerous impossible-to-spot teleporters where even the design around the areas concerned is exactly the same most of the times, the "pit riddle" 3(29,17), dragon and black flame in the "orange tower", fighter way in level 11, Chaos/Good/Order all on your heels in level 12… only to mention some.

Worst part: 

Big lack of food (especially in the first half of the dungeon), later on fountains were too rare. Playing legally you can hardly survive with a full party. I was missing an overall concept for the path through the dungeon, although the different towers were neat. Sometimes you’d have to go searching for an item you needed (Choker!) in a completely different part and I could not get a picture of the design since you used a lot of invisible teleporters to confuse me.


Comments: This will be a lot. Some are quirks or flaws I think I found, others merely suggestions or uncertainties on my part. Excuse my length, but the better I like a dungeon, the more details tend to interest me.
Contains spoilers

  • Character Hissssa/Leta can be seen on the wall from 0(15,15)
  • Any chance to get Gothmog except if playing him only ?
  • Vision of Chaos - nice one. First time I just had a quick character selection, then jumped down the pit instead of looking for the rope - short game ;o)
  • Pressure pad on 1 (11,23) should "set", not "clear" - door does not open otherwise. (At least with conversion to CSBwin it does not work)
  • Door at 1(21,18) only opens when you are either (I don't know which) craftsman wizard or are able to speak an On fireball (strength 3). Since there is way too little food in this dungeon (or I have overlooked something) you cannot reach that level without starving - except if you play Gothmog but then you'll hardly survive. But you need that door to get the second Skeleton key to advance further... correct me if I'm wrong.
  • Scorpion at 10(39,25) is a good heart-stopper - although I dislike pits as ways of advancing.
  • After finishing I looked at CSBwin - the invisible teleporters transporting you to other dungeon parts are craftily made - the surroundings do not allow you to see any changes.
  • The meaning of the one scroll in the "Reading room" (can only guess that you are trying to show directions like north, south, west and so on) escapes me.
  • Door at 08(17/35) has an iron plate at the lower part that should not be there - graphical glitch ?
  • The blocking false wall on 07(51,32) has no trigger to ever open as far as I could see.
  • If you start (as I did) with the green tower first, you have no vorpal blade - and only at the end of the blue tower way just before the bridge (nice one by the way!) do you get one by killing an Oitu. Maybe this was planned as a sense of irony, but if you intended to provide a weapon for the green tower except magic you should force the players to climb the blue tower first.
  • In the teleporter room as far as I can see, I cannot reach 4(13,15) or 4(14,15), therefore my way is blocked and I cannot legally continue and finish the dungeon. Also, the green magic box (I don't know if intentionally or not) cannot be reached.
  • The teleporter on 3(27,14) is a very tricky bit I thought was not solvable for a long time, but has a beautiful solution.
  • t 4(33,14) and 4 (32,10) there are fountains that do not show on the maps in CSBuild. Either these are random wall decorations or I con't understand why they appear there.
  • The pressure pad at 3(19,12) should probably open the door at 3(18,14). If not, this is a death trap.
  • If I'm standing at 4(07,06) - "Zero Displacement" and use a ZoKathRa spell instead of a corbum and then going all the way back to the teleporter room up by the stairs on 4 (11,25), I will be teleported to 3 (14,10). To get on further there I will need a gold key for the ruby lock at 3(12,19). However, I can only get the gold key if I went up the stairs mentioned before - blocked way. The only other path to leave this level is through the pit at 3(17,04), which brings me directly to a dead end where I cannot move on any more. So this is another death trap.
  • The teleporter at 3(13,25) bringing you to 3(18,25) is a hard riddle - but I have to grant you that you left the scroll downstairs giving the right hint. I just remembered it too late ;o)
  • The riddle with the pit at 3(19,09) is pure guesswork - if you don't get it right - and there's no clue, since you don't see the blocked stairs - you are trapped if you enter any of the pits in the hope to be able to move on. I'd suggest a clear hint (a wall text or something like that). Otherwise it's impossible to know you have to open the pit, throw something in and then close it again before taking a pit down to commence your way.
  • The scroll at 3(07,23) is either a clever riddle or a tip on the hat to the "holy scroll" - I could not decipher it, but I liked it anyway.
  • After beating the dragons at 3(03,30) and finally concluding the blue, green and orange towers I would have wished for a shortcut back to 9(21,25) to use the two mirrors of dawn and commence my way to the final dungeon part. Not necessary, but would be a goodie, since the dungeon is very long anyway.
  • The start of the final part having to step on the pressure plate at 10(10,25) and thus releasing all kinds of horrors on the party was... very hard. Luckily I could reach the stairs and fight from there... if I had been cornered there would have been no chance of survival for my party.
  • I found the berzerker/dragon fang room around 10(34,18) also a little too tough. If you died in there once you can adjust your tactics and eliminate the demons before from the outside, but first in you can hardly survive except if you can still back out by any chance.
  • Silver coin "treasure slot" at 10(16,37) was very neat - especially after getting two goodies I did not expect the ful bomb coming, which hit me by surprise and very painfully.
  • Putting water elementals als "blockers" in the corridor of fire at level 10 was an appreciated irony. The way back though (I'm a stubborn enough player to have walked all the way back after the "sacrifice" part (novelty!) to level 5) was unnecessarily boring. Healing my party after each few steps was possible but made me yawn. A simple button at the end to deactivate it would have done the trick - when you come back you release the trigger again anyway...
  • The "Zo Ful Ra" text escapes me. (Zo for opening the first door, Ful [Ir] for the second one, but Ra ?
  • The master key at 11(37,46) is probably to enable you to get up and find some fountain for your party - but again through the whole corridor of fire and very likely there's no more food up there if you don't go back all the way to level 1 ("Fast food"). This is a general problem of the dungeon - simply too little nourishment all the way and sometimes badly positioned - I admit I simply cheated here - it was getting really annoying.

Your dungeon implementation has wonderful variations between riddles, mechanisms, monsters and searching for the way on, to improve I therefore can only suggest to simplify the dungeon design while keeping up the puzzles and tricks. You’re very good already so I’d say you can try maximizing your efficiency by creating best efforts using minimum design – and add some food, I’ll pay for it ;o) It was a real pleasure playing this dungeon – maybe it ought to have been Towers of Chaos”? Stunning effort!

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