Closer Look: Sivion

One of ZZT's finest - A detailed fantasy adventure through the kingdom of Bespin. (Oh, and the password is BARNEY)

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Nov 20, 2017
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Beyond Aprithia


Rook emerges from the cave far away from Bespin. We are only halfway through this game (though the second half is much faster). I love the way this board looks. It's very simple, but quite pretty. There have been flaws in the Bespin half of the game, but overall it's a great experience. The second half, as happens with so many ZZT games really phones things in by comparison. Rook is going to talk a lot more, and he's not very charismatic. The writing and justifications for things will fall pretty flat, and basically you'll get that sense that Mothingos was growing bored with his grand adventure (and in particular wanting to use MegaZeux to create the definitive version of Sivion as we'll see in my criticisms later).

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Guard: You cannot enter.

Rook: Why?

Guard: Where have you been?

Rook: Mainly on the other side of the
mountains, although lately I've been in
a cave.
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This is the kind of writing we'll be getting from now on. The guard goes on to explain what's been going on to Rook. He's arrived at Daroquin which is on lockdown as Aprithian armies are amassing in the desert to lay siege to the city. They plan to conquer it so it can be used it as a stronghold in preparation for an assault on the capital. Rook tries to warn them that they need to worry about traitors already in the city, but the soldiers themselves are locked out as well. The gate will open for nobody and it's up to Rook to find a way inside and warn the king.


The eastern path leads to the desert where the player will run into this cobra who serves as a gatekeeper.


The cobra threatens to devour Rook for a meal, but he suggests giving the snake some pretty gems to leave him alone.


The only choice that doesn't result in being killed and eaten is to give up every last gem. Mothingos manages to cleanly divide the game up into halves this way by essentially resetting the player. First Aprithia gets rid of any ammo collected, and now the cobra gets rid of gems. By the end of Bespin, the player felt pretty powerful, but for Daroquin we're back to square one.

:Go #Take Gems 1 #Yo #Go

Or at least, we would be. There are two bugs here! First, there should be no pound sign before the "Yo". I think that would cause a syntax error once the player ran out of gems. That never happens however because "Go" is a reserved word in ZZT-OOP for movement so as soon as the first gem is taken the object errors out and halts execution. You'll have to cheat your way past the cobra and only lose a single gem when trying to pay them.


There's only one path that can be taken right away in the desert, which leads to still another cave with a bazaar at the end. Here there are a lot of shops and a normally poor Rook. Like with Bespin, Rook will eventually need to get a complete set of keys, but this time they're (almost) all sold for cash. The prices however, are prohibitive. The first key seller wants 50, 200, and then 4000 gems for the three keys they sell. The second wants them for a single gem each, and just gives them to the player for free when Rook tries to make a purchase (deliberately, not as a bug).

The other shops in the left tents include a fish vendor where you can buy fish for health, an ammo vendor with overpriced wares (40 gems for 1 ammo), and lastly somebody trying to sell a security system consisting of spinning guns and blink walls that Rook immediately breaks.

The second set of tends offers a long conversation with somebody selling flour who keeps making offers for more things to buy to help Rook out with the flour (a cart to carry it in, somebody to pull the cart, etc). The green vendor sells firecrackers which means putting a bomb on the ground which will then destroy some of the magic gems sold by the cyan merchant. Said merchant will get upset and kill the green one for their transgression. Magic gems, are just regular gems but some ZZT-OOP is used to make them flash colors. Lastly of the non-important vendors is the one selling some torches, 3 for 3 gems and nothing more.


The final merchant sells maps for 10 gems. If Rook buys one they take a look at it together (though nothing is actually shown or given to Rook), and they reveal the way through the shifting sands of the desert. This is important for later to avoid wandering aimlessly through a bunch of mostly empty boards.


Finally, standing against the wall is a loan shark who will loan Rook exactly 4,250 gems in order to purchase the three expensive keys from the first tent. The terms are that he owes 10% interest in addition to full repayment the next time they encounter each other. With that money, Rook is already capable of obtaining six of the seven keys!


Meanwhile, the western path leads to a small guardhouse where numerous soldiers are sleeping. A suspicious oak chest blocks a hidden passageway through the back wall and into yet another cave. There are a few exits, but all but one requires a key to be purchased from the bazaar first.


The open passage takes Rook into Daroquin's walls. Most of what remains of Sivion is obtaining the money to repay the loan.


There's a bank, but Rook can't use its services until the plumbers are done working on the flood. The plumbers are some red and green brothers...


Contrast Rook here with the start of the game. He talks a lot less early on and is a much better character for it. Here he seems less like the protagonist of an open world adventure and more like a character in a sprite comic where Sonic the hedgehog gets dropped into Final Fantasy or something. He starts feeling out of place in his own game.

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Ah! The young Eldain!  My spies have
alerted me of your arrival to the castle.
Word of your deeds to the overseeker of
Bespin has reached my ears.  Apparently
you're chasing some kind of villian ... we
searched our castle for enemy spies.  We
found two.  I am afraid there is still
some loose, and if they do an inside job,
we might just loose Daroquin to a siege.
So here's what I want you to do.  Go to
the dungeon and find out who else is in my
castle, and where this villian of yours is
you chase.  Obviously you have above
average credentials in this area, so that
is why I want you to do it.  I'm pretty
sure this villian of yours is behind the
siege.  Now go!
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Rook is the only one who can root out any remaining spies because of his "above average credentials" in this area where he's a complete stranger? I'm assuming Rook isn't his original name what with the whole fleeing a kingdom for his background story.


Another wing of the castle is a bar with a few novelties in the back area. There's room on the far right where Rook can race in an invisible maze to reach the goal in time and get some gems, or a tiny arena up top where he can gamble on which creature will win in a fight. It's really tough to judge this segment of the game because I have more gems than I'm supposed to.


In addition to the bar's tiny cockfights, there is a full sized arena as well, and this time Rook can actually fight in it.


Interestingly, the arena is framed as being full of deadly illusions conjured up by a wizard. The entrants are really killed though, so I don't think illusion is the right word.

Fighting in the arena is ill-advised. The goal is just to survive against a timer, and once Rook enters several duplicators appear and begin cloning monsters inside. The 50 arrows Rook has are not enough to survive, and the only way to really beat the arena is to exploit it by standing in front of duplicators to break them.


Are y'all ready for a ZZT torture chamber? The two captured Aprithian spies are here for Rook to interrogate. This one here reveals that there's a secret passageway behind the king's throne.


The second is strapped to a rack and stretched, but refuses to talk.


This allows Rook to tell the captain of the guards about the hidden passage which is then revealed. Another programming error shows up as the captain never zaps the :touch label and will never move away from the blocked passage. The intended code should have the captain ask if Rook's ready to go, and check if he has any garlic before letting him actually enter.


Back at the bank, the solution to Rook's financial issues presents itself as he robs the vault. This whole scene is an absolute mess which I'll be getting into the details of later, but for now Rook has a few thousand gems to pay back.


Repaying the loan shark results in Rook getting the last colored key which can be used to access the desert. There's no indication that this will be the case, and I was fully expecting to actually run into the loan shark somewhere in the castle or something. If you go back to him without the cash, you die for it.


The desert looks a lot like this, with several boards of it repeating. Hopefully the player paid attention when the map salesman mentioned how to leave the desert because there's no way to get that dialog ever again.


And what's on the other side of the desert? Is it the Aprithian army preparing for an attack? Is it Aprithia himself? Nah, it's just another cave with a spice selling hermit inside. Rook can purchase some garlic, and is now ready to confront Aprithia and end this!


Just one last cave...

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Rook pulls out the four garlic arrows and
throws the rest away.

Aprithia: What?!  How did you find me?!

Rook: Lucky...I guess.

Aprithia: Ah...well, I shall leave.

Rook: Not without these.....

Aprithia: What is it with you and
enchanted arrows?

Rook: Oh nothing.  Here.  Just hold them
for a second.

Aprithia: Well, okay.

Aprithia takes the arrows from Rook.

Aprithia: Hmm...I feel...funny.

Rook: Yea.  Now you're mortal.

Aprithia: Whoa!  Gotta run!
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The whole requirement about giving Aprithia the arrows just doesn't work. I mean, he certainly takes them without a fuss, but I don't know if it's supposed to be funny or what. It'd have gone just as well to scrap and have him be weak to the garlic arrows and be done with it.


This is it, all the fun of Sivion comes to a screeching halt that is that awful final boss fight. Rook has four shots to hit Aprithia with, who moves randomly left and right. Without any pattern to his movement it's entirely luck if you hit him, and it has to be done from a long range due to the purple water that cuts off the rest of the room.

Oh, and you have to hit him FOUR TIMES. You can't miss a single arrow. It's not fun or interesting or anything. I didn't even waste my time attempting to do it legit because I knew it would take forever. I just zapped my way to the top and shot from the side to hit every time.


After one last Barney encounter the game ends and the credits roll. The usual credits scroll by, everything by Mothingos, with him and one other person beta testing the game. And we once again have to ask ourselves what happened during the beta test since there are several spots that require cheats and go as far as displaying ZZT error messages. There's no way these wouldn't have been found if the game was played from beginning to end.


The player gets to give some feedback, though all the answers just end the game with no bonus points or sarcastic messages or anything.


So that's all there is for Sivion's gameplay, so now it's time to lodge my complaints.

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