Four crystals of Trazere was a game I remember playing way back in the days of the Tandy 1000. I never had a copy myself, but my cousin had bootlegged a version from a friend. Since we didn’t have the original discs, we were never able to copy the program so I could install it on my computer. It was one of the long term frustrations of my childhood. I loved the game from the first time I played it, and only getting short sessions when I was visiting my cousin didn’t scratch my itch.
Years later, I downloaded a copy, but computers had progressed exponentially, and the game was essentially unplayable. Everything happened too fast, and by the time I could make battle decisions everything was over, and often everyone was dead.
Further in to the future I found a cpu limiter program, that could scale your computer’s processing power and apply that scaled power to a specific program, which allowed me to play the game appropriately, unfortunately things came up (and the game is incredibly difficult) so I was never able to progress far, or get close to finishing the game.
More recently, I discovered the fantastic program that is DOSbox which has allowed me to relive some of my younger days, and tackle the games that forever stumped me as a child. Or to play some of the awesome ones such as the Quest for Glory (Hero’s Quest) series.
Up to this point I had never finished the game, which for a completionist like myself, is a difficult pill to swallow. I committed to getting through it this time, and set aside all other gaming distractions to accomplish said feat.
I quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to be that easy. To date, I believe this is one of the most difficult and intense games I’ve ever played. It’s essentially a dungeon crawler, where your party of four heroes delves through various dungeons in search of the four crystals of Trazere to banish “evil” from the land. There is an overworld map, where you travel to the various towns and dungeons scattered throughout the world.
Your party is marked as a yellow banner with stars. There are blue banners, which are allied troops, and red banners with symbols, that designate enemy armies. If two banners collide, they enter combat. There are various strengths of banners, which hold more difficult enemies. The higher level banners are fairly rare, most often the lowest level banners will appear.
Allied banners appear at noon, and enemy banners appear at midnight. Time is shown by the sun or moon moving across the top of the screen.
Your movement speed on the map is determined by the type of horses you have available. Horses can be purchased from the towers (there are 4 of them) on the map. If you run in to an enemy banner and try to flee you may lose your horses and have to purchase new ones. Horses are cheap, getting the best ones available early isn’t a hardship, and helps immeasurably.
Your party is made up of four characters. A warrior, bard, thief and mage. They have different titles, but that’s the basics of it. The warrior kills things, the bard has music (which you have to learn from local minstrels), the thief backstabs, and the mage is the most powerful character in the party.
Each member of the party has different strengths and weaknesses. They wear different armors and have different weapons. In combat they all have different roles to play. Managing those roles is not an easy proposition, with the “auto fight” mechanics, the game goes on, whether you can keep up or not.
The only way to level up a character is to visit the guild at the starting city. The experience requirements get steep. I ended up at level 12 or so when I finished the game, and I did a lot of extra fighting to get there. Characters earn experience based on how much damage they do (or possibly how many enemies they help kill). Which means you have to optimize your characters so they can get the experience they need to progress. This is doubly hard with the mage, since he is a glass cannon and if he gets stuck in hand to hand combat, dies very rapidly. It may seem beneficial to keep him on the sidelines to keep him alive, but he if doesn’t participate, he doesn’t progress.
Trazere has one of the most complex, and awesome magic systems that I’ve ever seen. You have to build your own spells, using runes that are purchased from “The Elder” for small fortunes. The combinations of the runes are only limited to your imagination, and I think you can only use the same rune twice in the same spell.
Spells can be multi-purpose, you can make a spell heal yourself, shoot a missile which you target on a party member, cast a healing spell, maybe regen and/or speed on them, then explode and do damage to all tiles surrounding that character.
Spells are incredibly powerful, they can do thousands of damage, and can one shot your own players if you’re not careful. Some items contain powerful beneficial spells, and some items will kill everything on half the screen without breaking a sweat. To make it easier on you, the items don’t actually tell you what spells they cast, so you just have to use them and recognize which spell is cast based on the effect.
When you are making spells, you have to associate runes with ingredients. Each time you use a spell, you burn through ingredients, which makes magic also the biggest money sink in the game. You can only hold 999 of each ingredient, and can only mix 99 spells of a certain type at a time. You’d be surprised how fast you go through them, when every room in the dungeon brings another fight.
The Duneon is an overhead isometric view. You can control each character independently by selecting their portrait (or hitting the Function Keys 1-4). Each character’s special ability can be triggered with the spacebar (is on the far right of the menu) and by clicking on a floor tile they will path their way to the location (if possible).
Combat happens automatically, with enemies and good guys trying to beat each other to death with really bad pathing and combat AI. It’s almost impossible to control everything at once, so most of it is set and forget, and hope that everyone makes it out alive. The exception is the mage, applying his magic to the right places at the right times is the key to completing the game.
You start each dungeon with a blank map showing your current location. As you explore the dungeon, it is recorded for later review. Making notes of certain rooms will help later on – some rooms require multiple visits to solve the puzzles within.
Every room in the dungeon can possibly hold pre-staged monsters, or can be an ambush site. Every time you move to a new room, monsters can start flooding in without warning. In addition, sitting in the same room for a long period could trigger an ambush. Long story short, you will be fighting, a lot. Save frequently, because every fight could potentially kill your whole party. Especially when enemy mages get involved, they are just as powerful as your mage, and care less about killing nearby teammates.
In addition to not having mouse overs and helpful popup tips showing what skills and objects do, there is a lack of explaining how puzzles work. Your best friend will be trial and error, and even then you may not know what is going on until you see it happen. Many dungeons have remote buttons and levers that you need to push to create effects in other rooms. There is no visual queue that something has happened, in many cases you need to take it on faith.
Some puzzles are relatively simple, once you’ve mastered the basics that the game throws at you, and others are incredibly complex, and require much thought, and or a strategy guide. Unfortunately there is a lack of guides out there on the web. I found the one here: Adventurer’s Handbook infinitely useful.
Most of the puzzles are solveable with some applied logic, the ones that foiled me completely require you to kill a party member in a specific location, and revive them from another are of the room (rooms have multiple entrances leading to different areas). It’s just not something you run across in many games, and isn’t something I think about to resolve a problem.
This game was a long, grueling journey spanning many hours of walking through dungeons and looking for the right exits. The dungeons were amazing, each one was unique, provided a different challenge, and tested my skills at every turn. I usually pride myself by how little I rely on a strategy guide, but in this case the section on what items do was heavily used, along with the maps sections showing the dungeon layouts. Not having to make my own notes about which rooms were which sped things up quite a bit.
The last dungeon was intense, but not the hardest challenge. By then my gear and skills were honed to the point that I could face almost anything the game threw at me. The mid dungeons are the most difficult, because the monsters are powerful, and your party (by comparison) is not.
I had thought the first “boss” character I ran in to, was a challenge, but it was nothing compared to the final boss of the game. As you step in to the final room, you are dispelled, paralyzed, and set up for the volley of magic headed your way. The boss summons two monsters, which are just as strong as the first boss I ran in to, and the three of them proceed to obliterate your party in seconds.
I had given up on the game as impossible, I couldn’t see a way to be effective. Your characters die so fast, that they just aren’t useful – and the only damage you can inflict is through “mystic weapons” which require you to cast “make weapon” on a character. Dispel removes the weapon, so the spell has to be recast. It may sound simple enough, but casting spells and targeting players in a chaotic environment where they are dying so rapidly is essentially impossible.
Final Boss Strategy:
I could find no help online, so I’m writing this up to be useful to other people who might end up in my situation of facing the impossible with no way to progress.
Have the bard singing Kijam’s Litany, which helps with the initial magical salvo. Don’t worry about buffing up to start since you lose everything when walking in to the room.
Note that there are trigger panels on the floor that launch AOE damage spells throughout the room. Try to keep your mage away from the line of fire, and try not to let your characters fight on the trigger tiles.
The spells I found most useful, were:
- Continous – Make Weapon – Vivify – Surround – Continuous – Make Weapon – Vivify
- Use this to blanket the room in continuous revive areas, if someone dies, drop one of these clouds on their corpse and wait for them to get back up
- Any time an enemy gets close to the mage, teleport and move to the opposite side of the room. If the mage dies, the game is over.
- Self Heal – Heal
- Use this often
- Missile = Heal – Heal
- You won’t have a chance to target this effectively often, and it doesn’t heal for that much, but it helps
- Surround – Heal – Heal
- When you don’t have time to target a missile spell
- Regen – Speed – Antimage – Surround – Regen – Speed – Antimage (amber staff)
- Used rarely, make sure not to hit monsters, unless you are going to dispel them
- Missile – Regen – Speed – Anitmage – Makeweapon
- If you can, hit characters who are stationary and fighting with this
- Missile – Continuous – Heal – Heal – Speed – Makeweapon
- I end up using this later on in the fight when things slow down and the monsters are boxed in. Cast this on the target being hit by the monsters to keep them alive without constantly having to missile heal them.
The only damage spell I used, which I used most of the game was:
- Missile – Dispel – Disrupt – Disrupt – Paralyze
The paralyze didn’t work, but I had 80 of them prepared and didn’t feel like remixing just for the final boss, I was low on ingredients anyway.
How to Win:
Step inside and pray that you get hit with a surround dispel before everyone is dead. If you don’t, reload and try again.
While paralyzed, berserk the fighter, change the bard’s song to a defensive ballad, I used smithy song, invis the assassin and wait for the mage to unfreeze. I turned off the mage’s auto combat, since he’s too hard to control when running around the screen.
As soon as you can cast a spell, drop the AOE resurrection spell, and possibly a surround heal. Buff and heal your party as possible, but when you get surrounded and characters are dying, save the mage by sending him somewhere else and drop another revive cloud.
It would be super helpful to have an invisibility potion or ring for the mage to make him a low priority target. I didn’t have that luxury so it isn’t necessary, just helpful.
Once characters start reviving switch the bard to March of the bold ones, it will keep everyone alive longer since dropping regeneration on them will be difficult since you won’t be able to see anything due to bronze flashing clouds covering the whole screen.
Watch your mage, if he gets damaged, heal and teleport somewhere else. If characters aren’t resurrecting, teleport near them, drop a resurrection cloud, then teleport away again. Focus on keeping the mage alive and healthy and away from danger. If he does die, make sure he’s in a rez cloud and take care of him when he comes back to life.
Eventually you will kill the boss, and will likely have the monsters left over. Once you’re at that point start trying to box them in and use the perpetual heal spells to do long term damage to the creatures. They still have powerful magic, so don’t risk your mage too close to the others. Your magic damage spells won’t end up doing a lot, but every little bit helps.
Eventually you’ll wear them down, it took me around 10 -15 minutes. Don’t take risks, save during the combat if you are doing well so you don’t have to start over at the beginning. Don’t let your guard down, your party can get wiped in 15 seconds if you aren’t watching.
Good luck! Let me know how you did, or if you have any other secrets that make the job easier.