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July 2nd 2014, 04:12 AM
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
Whoof. I've been working on this one for a while. I hope y'all enjoy.

139: Pilgrim's Quest Author: Simon Klaebe Release Date: October 31, 2002

"Hell no, I hate riddles."

REPUTATION NOTE: This DMOD is the highest-rated on The Dink Network (9.7).

"Pligrim's Quest" is the second really big DMOD by Simon Klaebe. He's the first author to successfully complete two such DMODs, and I'm not sure anybody else has ever done so. This is understandable, as making one of these huge things requires an insane amount of effort when you consider what you're putting it towards. It's a sequel to "Stone of Balance," Simon's other epic, but the connection is light enough that playing it is by no means a prerequisite. PQ is absolutely revered in the Dink community from what I can tell. Of the many reviews it has, the one with the lowest rating is a 9.1 take that raves about the DMOD from start to finish.

PQ features a total interface reskin, one of the best I've seen. The magic cost bar creeps around in a pleasing effect.

While "Stone of Balance" was very impressive, a number of frustrating design issues kept me from enjoying it as much as I could have. I didn't have any such problems with PQ. This is just a rad DMOD, you guys. It's got everything you want out of a Dink adventure and then some. Actually, I think my favorite thing about this DMOD was how it didn't feel like it was trying to set up some grand, epic story. There weren't seven crystals or orbs to collect, and it wasn't until pretty late in the game that the stakes were elevated into "save the world" territory. It all felt relaxed, natural and very Dinky. This DMOD was just fun, not something I felt like I had to put myself through because it was a Great DMOD. I think that's the best compliment I can pay it, because that's a tough feeling to sustain for eight hours.

Screw the riddles, though. Seriously.

But they're so clever!

At the start, you're given the choice to play a "bawdy" or "mild" quest. This is a good idea, given how I've seen some reviews complaining about the obnoxious sexual content in Simon's mods - Hell, even I complained a bit in my SOB writeup. I played the bawdy version, though, and I don't think this one stepped over my personal line and made me uncomfortable the way SOB did at times. "Pilgrim's Quest" seems a bit more self-conscious, for example acknowledging that its bad fabulous jokes are bad fabulous jokes. I had many a good laugh while playing this DMOD.

It's a hallowed tradition.

I also really enjoyed the puns, but apparently some people find them a little bit annoying. This is just a subtle impression I'm getting.

Like SOB, this DMOD is full of good, original ideas. There are several new magic spells, my favorite of which is the spell that freezes one enemy in place so you can easily dispatch or avoid them (if they're the last enemy maintaining a screenlock, the spell will also cause the screen to unlock). There are great visual concepts in the areas, like the "fire wood" (another lovely pun), where all of the trees are on fire. You can find a spell that will cause all the trees on the screen to burn down to their trunks at once, which is really something to see.

It's enough to bring a tear to a Dinker's eye.

The bulk of the fighting is done with a series of throwing star weapons, which are similar to the throwing axe. Rather than strength, their performance is determined by an extra statistic called agility. There are also 'luck' and 'honour' stats, but as far as I can tell, they don't do anything apart from being required to reach certain levels in order to progress through specific parts of the game.

Suuure you do.

Once again, Mr. Klaebe's visual work spoils me for other DMODs. I shall let the screenshots do the talking. And then I will talk below them. Because I never shut up.

These full-screen animations look too good for the Dink engine; Simon is clearly the Devil. Also, check out that boat model! There's even a little Dink at the helm.

Those bunnies are really odd, but this snow effect is by far the best weather effect I've ever seen in a DMOD. It did more than get the idea across; it was downright convincing.

BOY that dragon was fulla blood!

When I look back on "Pilgrim's Quest" and I piece it all together, it's hard for me to believe that all these memorable bits are from the same DMOD. Remember that DMOD where Dink has to help a fairy change its rather unfortunate name?

You have to get him a sign that says "Manne." I eat this stuff up, I really do.

How about the one where Dink has to lure a horrible genital-creature to help a tyrannical village elder? Just the other day I was playing this crazy DMOD that had a Vegetable Church in a snowy land. Or that one with a tough slime boss in a strange-looking cave that turned out to just be the servant of a weird fire demon. Each bit felt like it could have been its own quest. It's hard to reconcile in my head that it was really all part of the same DMOD. SOB was like this, too, but all of its segments were clearly separated from one another. In PQ, these parts seem to run together, and before you even know it, you've lost track of how you've gotten from where you've been to where you are. It's making me feel kind of light-headed even now.

I know how you feel, rock.

I haven't even gotten to the part where the bad guy succeeds, much like in LOT, in his world-destroying plan. I saw it coming, but it still got a reaction out of me.

Well, this probably isn't good.

Nope. Nope, it wasn't good at all. See, I was right on the money with that one.

Y'know, in retrospect, I could even have done without that "probably."

The final portion of the game - and it's quite a good chunk of it - plays out in a nasty land of blood-red water that turns people mad. Floating skulls warble, "Join us." It doesn't seem like a fun place to be. What I found a lot creepier, though, was that you can end up in this doomsday wasteland much earlier in the game.

You have to bargain with a certain queen. She was being a bit of a crazy bitch, so, knowing it wouldn't end well for me, I decided to be a pervy jerk and tell her to "take it off." Into the clink with Dink. He remained there as years passed, until he was finally broken out by one of the big bad guy's frog robots. I had no idea what this thing was. The villain had not even been introduced. I left my cell and wandered the castle, but as creepy music played and I found nothing else but these frog-bots, a dreadful feeling of futility slowly came over me. My weapons confiscated, I couldn't seriously fight the bots, but I had an instinctual feeling that it wouldn't matter if I could. Finally, I found the Queen's chamber to contain nothing but corpses, and then... this:

Ahhh Jesus! WHY?

When I read the words "bad ending," I realized what was going on, and I smiled. This must be what the end of the game is like! With Dink out of the way, I surmised, whatever calamity was on its way went ahead and happened. All of it - the loneliness, the futility, the realization of what's going on - was a singular experience. It was also one of the creepiest things I've seen in a DMOD, quite appropriate for a mod released on Halloween. If Simon Klaebe came up with this idea, he's a damn clever guy. Even if he cribbed it from somewhere, he did a good job. All of that from happening to pick a dumb, jerky dialogue option.

Don't get too mad at Dink for asking others to disrobe. He gets as good as he gives.

The game ends on an intense scene where you have to run out of a crumbling cave as huge rocks fall down all over the screen as exciting music plays. It's a great effect, but I couldn't get a decent screenshot of it.

This scene is pretty cool, though. The way the magic object is framed, it screams, "This is important!" If it weren't at the end of a long game, it would kind of come across as ridiculous.

The actual ending sequence, however, is incredibly short, and cuts off abruptly. It's like, "Okay, Dink, now let's go over here..." Bam. Black screen. "TO BE CONTINUED IN SOB III: NECROMANCER."

"Noooo!" I shouted at my monitor. "Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!" (This really happened.) No resolution for Dink. Not in December 2005, not now, not ever. Sad.

I just realized that I forgot to complain about anything. Well, I don't care for the author's obsession with inserting loud, inappropriate sound effects for things like moving the cursor on the inventory screen. Also, I ran into a really nasty bug. When I go to plant the sugar beets, I get stuck.


I could never get out of that spot without using the Ultimate Cheat. I wonder if it's just me.

That's about all I can think of. If anybody was hoping for me to take the reigning review ratings champ down a peg, I'm sorry to disappoint.

Here are my final stats. See you next writeup!