🗝️A Dwarvish-Mead Dream

Author
coolzx
Released
Jun 14, 2000
Genre
Dungeon, RPG
Size
86.1 KB
Boards
62 / 75
Rating
4.50 / 5.00

Closer Look: A Dwarvish-Mead Dream

Save the dreamworld from reality in this everything but the kitchen sink RPG bursting with ideas and great art

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Dec 15, 2019
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Coolzx returns to the classical dungeon combat, but the layout is more traditionally ZZT, being spread across several boards rather than making roguelike-esque rooms and hallways on a single board.


Glenn is pretty chill about encountering killer robots despite the the ominous music.

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Visually, this place looks really cool. Like most ZZT dungeon crawls, sci-fi also tends to be very gray and dark in ZZT, and just as before, Coolzx is defying convention to create some really visually interesting boards. It's not even weird abstract background lines, but with the knowledge that this is a path above a seemingly endless deep arrangement of pipes, gives the board some depth.

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The path leads to this room where somebody is caged in while some "battle bots" are roaming around and need to be destroyed first before the cage opens.

jarod
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
jarod: greetings, stranger. i am jarod,
lieutenant commander of flightship
thilos.

my name is glenn.

jarod: ...why! it cannot be! the ancient
race of dwarves are long extinct in the
dreamworld!

i come from the past to destroy a great
evil in your time.

jarod: so, you are the one who will
defeat that monstruous canine who
took over forepast station.

you have seen it?
f
jarod: yes, of course. that's why i
sealed myself inside this protection
field. it took over our security robots
and control systems. to reach it, you
must proceed south to engineering.
i shall give you a level 1 key card. it
is required to pass through most security
blocks located here. hmm.. you look hurt,
take this wound-cure spray and take care!

thank you.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Amazingly, Glenn gets to tell somebody his name instead of already being known. Turns out he's a hero of time now, the only survivor of the dwarven race due to his time travel shenanigans. Bestial has taken over and turned the security robots against the town, and it's up to Glenn to stop it.

Jarod thankfully heals the player, making it just that one rough patch on the wilderness.

"Jarod" might be another ADOM reference, but it's not as much of a one-to-one match. That same "Village Dungeon" in ADOM contains Jharod, a healer who will heal the player and eventually teach them the healing skill.

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With the keycard from Jarod, Glenn can continue into the city, though it's almost immediately useless as there's another door requiring higher clearance.

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"Security lasers" are a common thing in ZZT, but usually they're either object based and meant to be an impassable barrier, or blinkwall based and meant to be a challenge to sneak past.

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Coolzx's interpretation is definitely not something I've seen before. The walls flash on their own, and instead the challenge is that by touching the walls when they're invisible (causing them to turn into a normal wall), an object detects the revealed wall and instantly kills Glenn who apparently knows what lasers are.

The whole instant death is probably not the best mechanic, but the lasers reveal themselves often enough. I had to actually look up what happens when you touch a laser since it was so easy to get by them. The punishment for a mistake is a bit much, but I think this is a pretty good way to do an "invisible maze". Admittedly, a lot of that is owed to how portions of the board are always marked as being safe, and how the maze itself isn't too dense so there's room to navigate.

There's also a button at the end of the room to disable the lasers, making it safe to cross backwards later.

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This board is what's known as "filler". Boxes and shelves made of linewalls fill the room, but there are no puzzle in getting across without trapping yourself.

I also just noticed that the backgrounds have been gone for a few boards now, leading to a much more bland appearance compared to the pipes from earlier.

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At the end of the room, blocking the exit is a big scary robot, "warbot1280" who serves as a miniboss, but gets the proper RPG battle treatment.

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The fight doesn't feel all that different than the first one with Garlash. The warbot looks pretty good on its own, but looking back at the board where Razorre explained how the duel would work makes it seem basic in comparison.

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There are three attacks available now that Glenn has a better weapon, but it does not make a difference. Both sword slash and sword dance have a 50% hit rate and deal the same damage which seems like a pretty big oversight.

Oddly, sword slash had a 75% hit rate earlier. I suspect the intention was for it to remain at 75% with sword dance being 50%, but since the damage is the same regardless who knows how this was meant to work.

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Speaking of oversights, warbot's hands are connected to the rest of him with white solids, which get used for the animations of one of his attacks, this means they get unintentionally turned into invisible walls afterwards.

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The usual gold and experience is gained, along with the next level of key card to explore the rest of the facility.

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Grisly.

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Turning back and walking to the locked door reveals that the next area is the engineering bay.

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I really like the way the stairs look even if it's kind of annoying to actually walk down them.

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This area is nearly finished, as Glenn arrives to find Bestial, who is looking far less goofy in cut-scene form. He's got the Chrono Orb and is prepared to shatter it once and for all.

glenn: bestial!

bestial: what!? how did you find me?
i guess you are smarter than i thought..

glenn: stop this at once! if you destroy
forepast, the chrono orb will be
shattered! we will be trapped here!

bestial: well then. this is your chance
to battle me dwarf! come on! (passage)

Finally the two get to battle for the fate of the orb, and not the whole dreams/reality thing that was Mead's original premise.

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Hell yes, this is the kind of Coolzx art I've come to look forward to. Warbot is trash compared to this giant Cerberus.

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Each of Bestial's heads is a unique target with its own health. This could lead to some strategizing which head to focus on, or maybe giving a head a multi-turn attack that Glenn can prevent by hitting the correct head, but it's ultimately underutilized. Bestial still has one attack meter and it doesn't say which head is attacking so you'll end up just picking a head and killing it before attacking the other one.

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There is the benefit of earning a reward the moment you defeat a head, but none of it matters for fighting the other one.

There's also the annoying issue of the game still prompting you to pick a head to attack (and you can pick the defeated head and waste your turn).

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Head #2 falls and Glenn is victorious. The reward for this one is some cool art.

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This was totally worth picking "head 2" after defeating the first head. The Chrono Orb actually looks like some weird magical artifact.

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The future chapter draws a close as Glenn defeats his nemesis and returns to the past.

Present.

His time period.

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Again Coolzx immediately delivers with this extremely wild art that should be an album cover. It's been a long time since I've had so many choices for an article's preview image.

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Anyway Radux is back, and it's time to storm a tower of dreams and free it from reality. That last chapter took its toll on my interest, but there's not much left. The future section just had everything about it except the Bestial artwork be pretty boring overall and kind of threw out the fantasy vibe the game had.The Final Fantasy series had a history of mixing fantasy and sci-fi, but tended to frame it as weird lost technology. Coolzx just says "in the future there will be robots" and that's a lot less interesting to me.

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Part 4: Reality, is the game's final chapter. It's a return to classic form as Coolzx has run out of gimmicks to introduce.

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Still, it's a shame that the first dungeon was so unique looking and then all the others fall back on boring old gray walls.

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Enemy-wise there's really little to report. "S" for snake, "T" for troll, "y" for gargoyle, and "L" for lizard. These don't match ADOM aside from the trolls (though the color is wrong for that).

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For a final dungeon, it feels rather weak. After all the constant ways Coolzx has been changing thing up, just repeating this roguelike themed dungeon crawl yet again is a bit of a letdown.

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Meanwhile, the ADOM player in me is scared to death of a room with several capital V's in yellow, but fears of lightning vortices are quickly abated as they turn out to be vampires.

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On the one hand, things look very scary regardless as the vampires and their master hit hard and fast. On the sides of the rooms are two "wound cures" that restore 50 health.

The vampires (and actually it looks like every enemy) have one fatal flaw though. They don't have a case in their code to handle the player not having enough health to take away from them. Since my health isn't a multiple of 15, once it drops below 15, Glenn becomes invincible.

The fight here is also mandatory, with the master vamp dropping the key needed to proceed. All of it feels like it's supposed to be an exciting boss battle, but it completely lacks any characterization that might lend it some gravitas. It's a bit late for Coolzx to try and get you invested in some new vampire foe. Still, even the most basic "you'll never get past me!" level of dialog would at least acknowledge that the fight is supposed to be a little more special than the random baddies Glenn had to fight on the previous floor.

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The corrupted tower has a healer running a clinic in it. The town of Forepast does not.

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Still, I'm not going to complain about finally having something to spend my gems on. Oh wait, yes I am because there's only one more board in which health matters and the enemies can only kill Glenn if his health is a multiple of ten so I'm invincible here.

Still, it gives me the chance to try out the weird "turpentine" whose healing is based on how many points you have.

HEALING: 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 20 + 40 + 80 + 150 + 300
POINTS : 0 + 20 + 40 + 60 + 80 + 100 + 250 + 900 + 1000 + 2000 + 4000

For each health check it takes away that many points and then gives them back after healing, which means you need 4000 points to get the maximum possible health back which is pretty easy to hit. There's also a bug where the 2000 point check only gives back 1000 points, so really you need 5000 points. Needless to say it's a lot of health and far better than the other heals.

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For the final dungeon floor... worms. Maybe I was too hard on the vampires, this is even more depressing.

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Once they've all been killed, the shutters open and it's time to face reality.

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reality: ah, glenn. i was wondering
when you will finally show up.

glenn: leave this world, reality!

reality: you? ordering me? ha ha ha!
i can kill you this instant!

you will meet your death now, dwarf!

garlash: no!

glenn: garlash?

garlash: you cannot take my world!

reality: ugh. i guess you will have to
die too!

voice: no, i don't think so.

voice 2: growll! *snap*

reality: who are you!?

ah! bestial! so you have come back.
after being defeated by this dwarf-
i would think you'd want to return to
me...


bestial: mwahahaha. i will defeat you now,
reality, and then *i* shall rule this
world!

reality: defeat me? you've finally gone
crazy, haven't you! fine! if it's a fight
you want, death you will get! come on!

Garlash showing up isn't too surprising, but I wasn't expecting Bestial to decide to turn on his master and try to take over the dreamworld for themselves. Place your bets on who reality is going to kill.

Oh yeah, all of this happens as a little cut-scene where Garlash plinks a single bullet into reality's knee which is pretty funny.

The massive reality art compared to the now dwarf-sized (the irony), Bestial makes for a pretty imposing threat which is immediately defeated the moment Bestial makes an attack. I admit that Bestial has been built up far more than Reality so it almost makes sense to just go with him for the final boss.

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The awesome artwork continues with a closeup of Bestial's heads here. Let's be honest, the two-headed dog demon is the real star of this game.

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As is all too common, the hero refuses help out of a sense that he must be the one to defeat evil. There's no prophecy or anything really. Radux just had a hunch that Glenn would be the one who could save the dreamworld.

wow
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
bestial battle!

controls-
left- move left
right- move right
up- attack: you must attack only
when bestial is resting. (stop shooting
and when bestial says "soo.. tired..")
if you attack when bestial is active then
you will get bitten and more health will
be taken off.

dodge the bullets and wait for bestial
to rest, then attack.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

And for the grand finale, Coolzx has one last idea with a battle engine that's somewhat reminiscent of Tseng's November Eve. The fight involves the player hitting arrows to move Glenn around and dodge an oversized Bestial's attacks.

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In practice, it's definitely more simplistic than November Eve. Glenn can only dodge by moving left and right, and attack by pressing up. It's a very poor fight where attacking before Bestial gets tired results in Glenn getting hurt, and there's not a lot of "dodging" since bullets come from objects moving up and down the sides that shoot horizontally. If a bullet is shot from the side at Glenn it's going to hit.

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After a bit of time, Bestial gets tired and the red object stops attacking. At this point Glenn is supposed to only have a moment to attack before Bestial revitalizes. However there has to be an issue in the code somewhere as you can then attack and hit him at any time whether they're at rest or attacking.

You can also exploit the fight more by moving into one of the columns with the gray objects, blocking a side from being able to shoot Glenn. Glenn has a lot of health (the green bar) and I don't think it's actually possible to lose this fight.

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It only takes 6 hits to defeat Bestial, and it's likely that hitting them will erase the message about Bestial being "ready to kill" again. Even on my first attempt I won the fight by just mashing attack, not even aware of the bug at first since I thought Bestial was either still resting or being stun-locked by the attacks.

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you
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
glenn and garlash climb down the
great tower, relieved. reality is gone,
and so is bestial. they see radux
approaching them...

it's over! reality and bestial are
gone forever! the dreamworld is safe!

radux: yes. finally. you have done very
well, glenn. someday you will take my
place as guardian of the dreamworld. as
for now, let's go celebrate.

garlash: yeah! parties!

i finally feel i am truly part of this
world now, and i am happy. let us all
join together and forever protect the
dreamworld!

and thus ends our story. after a
wonderful feast and celebration, normal
life returned to the citizens of the
dreamworld. many prosperous long years
have passed, glenn has been made guardian,
and garlash became a king of orcs.
radux's tomb lies in the mountains of the
northeast, but his memory will always be
preserved in the hearts of the dreamworld
citizens.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Everything is resolved and they all live happily ever after.The dreamworld is saved, Radux gets to appoint Glenn as the new guardian, and the orc who killed a priest is made king.

The game's credits are the usual, but it's one final excuse for Coolzx to show some art with Glenn fighting what I think is supposed to be Reality. The music is there, which is about the best I can say. Coolzx's art is great, but his composing doesn't really do anything for me.

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And there's the plug for ADOM.

Plus a few other inspirations in ZZT dungeon crawlers ZZT Romp and On The Wire. I'd like to know the explanation on the IF ZZT Excellence Awards, a short lived event whose 2001 results are still available.

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Final Thoughts

So that's the end for A Dwarvish-Mead Dream. Like many ZZT worlds, it kind of started to fall apart by the end. After seemingly endless bursts of creativity for various forms of gameplay, things started repeating, and lacking their novelty on the second pass, it kind of fizzles.

The game's story is a mess. The initial concept sounded really cool, reality vs. dreams and shifting between worlds, but the actual game really didn't touch on any of that. As it stands, Dwarvish-Mead is a pretty standard fantasy game that usually has something new up its sleeve. Its under-utilized story and repetition aren't the only flaws though. The lack of healing in Forepast is a glaring oversight that marks the beginning of the game's downfall in quality. I was also quite disappointed to not actually get to fight Reality. Having Bestial return and win what Coolzx sets up to be the game's climax is rather underwhelming. I would have been okay with a revenge fight against Bestial followed by fighting Reality, or fighting Reality and then Bestial making one last attempt to stop Glenn. Instead it's just another broken promise of the story.

Despite those flaws, overall, I really enjoyed Dwarvish-Mead and was constantly excited to see each new gameplay mechanic it introduced. The variety in the first two-thirds of the game is something to be commended with its mix of dungeon crawling, RPG combat, and sword duels. It never really excels at any of these, and I'd be inclined to say that a better game could have been made by picking one thing and sticking to it, but I'm also aware that so many ZZT games do stick to one mechanic and fare no better in terms of quality.

The artwork, is excellent as well. Coolzx can create some wild character designs that remind me of the battle portraits in Nivek's Defender of Castle Sin, but here they enhance the experience whereas in Castle Sin, the art is the prime motivation to keep going. This quality seems to be no exception in his other works, as just looking at the title screens for Infestation 3 or Dark One's Rising (Demo) really showcase the quality we're dealing with.

In fact, the game's zip file actually includes two pieces of artwork depicting Glenn and Reality!

Glenn
Reality

Perhaps their ZZT interpretations are a bit nicer.

A Dwarvish-Mead Dream is a great example of the differences between dreams and reality in ZZT. It clearly wants to do so much more than it can, and if you're willing to play along with it, you'll find yourself having plenty of fun. Coolzx combines so many interpretations of role-playing in ZZT worlds that this serves as an excellent primer. It lets you quickly sample a lot of what ZZT has to offer in a small package. Give this one a try!

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