April 29, 2015

Might and Magic - End Game

The vast majority of caves/ruins had multiple levels, usually two but could go as high as four.  I'm glad I waited until reaching the higher levels before exploring these areas as Cortex's Teleport and Warp spells came in very useful in preventing location-altering traps from throwing me off too much.  Most of the caves don't utilize every single tile in their layout, but the party can still access these "dead zones" via Cortex.  I really felt like I was in the crawl space of the dungeon, skittering about and raising the concern of the local denizens.

"Get the traps, Glorgax.  We've got adventurers again."

Amidst all this spelunking, a few puzzles raised their hands and wanted some attention from the Shenster.  Initially, I was intrigued as I'm quite fond of most types of puzzles but, since this is Might & Magic, I was apprehensive about the various ways it could fuck it up.  The cave of Hawk's Eye is essentially one big magic square puzzle.  I hadn't done one of these in a long time but was somewhat disappointed when I figured it out within a few minutes and set about to enduring the random fights as I traversed the entirety of the dungeon, spinning polyhedrons to their correct position...  or so I thought.  When I pulled the lever to confirm my settings, I was informed that it was incorrect.  I double-checked my work and saw nothing wrong so I fiddled with the numbers some more and came up with another solution... which was also wrong.  I was mad.  How could M&M have one solution to a puzzle with multiple solutions?  Oh, that's right, that's exactly what M&M would do.  I was just about to try a third configuration when I realized I had completely forgotten about the diagonals in the square also needing to sum up.  Whoops!  My apologies, M&M.  Another puzzle was a lot grander in scale.  Each of the six castles has a message hidden somewhere within its walls.  The message itself is gobbledygook and at first I thought it was going to be a sweet cryptogram puzzle.

Right, where's my Enigma machine?

Turns out that this puzzle is just a sequence of six interleaved messages and is a simple matter to work out once the order code has been found.  Since this was a world-spanning puzzle, I thought that its final solution would be of paramount importance to finishing the game.  Alas, it just revealed all the locations where the party could increase their stats.  Locations, mind you, that I had already found on my own through diligent exploring.  I missed one message in one of the castles I had already explored (obviously not diligent enough), and so this information came far too late.

The other party members may take
umbrage to such a statement.

Battles starting getting significantly more difficult at around level 15.  We were still winning battles but we couldn't cut them down fast enough to prevent large HP losses.  After combat healing is a real pain in the ass since the Cure1 (the second Cure1 ;) ) spell only mends 15 HP.  Sure, I could use the Cure3 spell to speed things up considerably, but that spell uses up precious, precious gems and I'm a hoarder by nature (at least in games).

This may seem like a lot of gems, but
that counter does go up to at least 999.

Our saviour to this dilemma came in the form of a random weapon drop.  Our weapons up to this point were merely of the +X variety.  We had found some more flavourable weapons but they were either cursed or anti-evil.  Both Gitch and I used two-handed weapons exclusively, favouring the higher damage output.  Strangely enough, we both also had been using a flamberge for the last bunch of levels.  The random weapon drop in question was none other than THE FLAMBERGE.  That's all it says and it says it all.  When I equipped myself with this obviously god-tier weapon, my stats were boosted and I started getting crazy mad criticals all over the place.  While it was great that I had become die ├╝bermensch, I felt that perhaps I hadn't taken things far enough.  You see, Cortex's highest level of magic contained a costly 100-gem spell that could duplicate any item.  Grinning evilly, we soon had another THE FLAMBERGE for Gitch to wield.  No creature could withstand either one of our attacks; their only hope was that we'd only hit two or three times out of a possible six (unlikely).

Even an extra set of arms couldn't save this T-Rex.

A few dungeons were also home to some boss boss battles, notably Okrim the Omnipotent Wizard and Lord Archer.  Archer came at the end of a dungeon where five trials had to be overcome.  I was expecting a reward from this stately noble for completing his trials but was given the option to either submit to his "take from the rich and give to the poor" scam or be riddled with a thousand arrows from his master archers.  I nervously looked at my crew and they hastily avoided eye contact and stared at the ceiling while whistling.  They knew as well as I that we each had about seven thousand golds held within our bags with a '$' stamped on the side.  Submitting to Archer was disastrous as he ganked almost all our gold and teleported us back to Sorpigal.  At this stage in the game, gold was more valuable than experience as half the party had enough XP to level up but not the funds (each level costs a flat 4K at this point).  I should have gone back to a town somewhere along the way, but with a full 40 units of food and the massive amount of healing magic from Baby-D and myself, we were pretty self-sufficient out in the field.  At any rate, this setback set us back so far that I couldn't purchase levels for three of the characters (half the character classes have lower XP requirements).  Experience rewards from monsters increased dramatically during the late game and those characters actually got three "potential" levels ahead of our funds.  I was only able to overcome this disparity later after I gamed the game by having Cortex duplicate a suit of magic armour worth over 12K multiple times.  Just before completing the game, I took us back to Archer and totally kicked his ass the second time around but apparently he had already given most of our 42,000 golds "to the poor".  The battle with Okrim was less interesting other than it was a magically intensive brawl and quite fun.

Ouch!  Right in my 20% magic resistance!

Spending all this time in the dungeons almost made me forget about the unfinished quests I mentioned previously.  After attacking and then releasing each prisoner in each castle, the giant with the scales of justice deemed us worthy and gave us a nice reward.  He didn't seem to mind that we berated each prisoner before letting them go, or perhaps he approved of our evil shenanigans.  I was correct in assuming that the alien disguised as a king was past the point where I needed the King's Pass.  I acquired said item in literally the last remaining 0.5% of the unexplored surface world.  I already had the Eye of Goros which I knew would reveal the bastard but was taken by surprise when he warped the entire party to the Soul Maze.  The only way to exit the maze was to find the alien's true name hidden within the walls.  Judging from the large number of oddly placed walls, many of them being long, thin single lines, I knew that I'd have to map them out in order to reveal the name.  With the low level of random encounters, I thought that it wasn't so bad but then was hit with a teleport tile.  Then another.  Then many, many more.  By the end I had such a jigsaw pile of partial maps that it proved difficult to assemble them into something that made sense.  I eventually got there, however, and also discovered that the teleport tiles weren't teleporting me at all; they were merely wrapping around to the opposite side of the map (well, I like making things harder on myself anyway).  Completing this quest ousted the imposter and reinstated King Alamar to his rightful place.  He thanked me by saying I should find the Inner Sanctum, as if I hadn't been doing just that this whole bloody time.  Yeah, thanks, buddy.

"I have been, and always shall be, your friend."

Restoring Alamar ended a long string of seemingly unrelated quests and the path to the Inner Sanctum in the Astral Plane was now open.  But before we get to that, let's have one last entry in ye ole bitch list:
  • creatures that regenerate at the end of a round will often end up with less HP than they had.
  • can't see doors to the immediate left or right, which means wasting turns glancing around after coming through a door, teleporting, etc.
  • stockpiling more than 255 units of light causes the counter to reset back to zero (just cap that isht, yo).
Speaking of 255.

Well, after spending a record-smashing 91.5 hours on this epic beast, wouldn't you think that the endgame would be equally epic?  Oh, you stupid, stupid idiots, haven't I taught you anything about Might & Magic?  Before reaching the Inner Sanctum, the Astral Plane must first be navigated not once, not twice, not thrice, but sixice, disabling one astral projector each time.  And what, pray tell, kind of monstrosities dwell within the plane?  Hordes of githyanki?  A mindflayer or two?  Nope, there is nothing except what is, perhaps, the most fearsome of all the M&M monsters.

Invisible walls as far the eye can't see.

Wow, what a great design choice to make the final dungeon nothing but tedious mapping (at least there weren't any teleporters).  After injecting my daily pot of coffee directly into my veins, I was eventually able to reach the Inner Sanctum and face the final boss.

Man, I hope its second form isn't
an archway or I'm done for!

Just beyond the door, further progress was only made after I took a nap and entered my dreams, which is where the real Inner Sanctum was all along!  A scientist named Data Keeper congratulated me, dropped half a million experience points on dat Shen (but no one else), and informed me that the Gates to Another World could now be accessed.  Before doing that, I went back to my main trainer, Otto, to see how many more levels I could get.  Here's my final character in all his glory:

Err, I mean her glory... when
the heck did that happen?

Entering the gates gave another congrats as well as password to be used in Might & Magic II, which was released on the SNES.  Too bad it was only released in Japan and Europe; I guess sales weren't good enough in the old N of A.  I'll be playing the Genesis version when I get to it since the SNES has more than enough love for RPGs already.  Might & Magic: Book 1 ends with a blatant self-promotion for its future nonexistent sequel; a strangely appropriate ending for a game that messed up so many aspects of itself.

April 03, 2015

Might and Magic - Pen is Mightier

Might & Magic has already shattered the previous record for longest time spent playing a game (Dragon Quest III at 36.5 hours) and will easily double that by endgame (possibly even trebling).  The world of Barn is as big as a barn!  I am quite impressed with how much content is crammed into this little cartridge.  If only more time had been spent polishing up the innards, this could have been one of the classic RPGs for the NES.  As it stands, however, there are too many errors to be given such a title.  A bunch of minor glitches may be forgivable but there is one huge flaw that I just know is going to ruin all the major battles yet to come.  During combat, if one of the characters should happen to go down, the round is reset and any characters yet to act lose their turn.  Since most of my damage-dealers act later in the round compared to most monsters, this can have a domino effect where the enemies get to continually pound on the party as long as one character falls during their assault.  In the case of locust plagues, they are guaranteed one per round.  In an earlier post, I had thought that they got up to three attacks per round, but it was actually three attacks over three rounds, just with no one else acting.  Creatures with group-damaging abilities are now that much more dangerous as they can chain their attacks, ensuring complete party decimation.  The only silver lining in all of this is that the thief, Shank, usually gets to act first in a round.  The lining is tarnished, though, since Shank does crap damage and is only useful to the group as a disarmer of traps.

Well, useful may be too generous a term.

Getting pwned by the occasional trap isn't too terrible, though, as M&M is mighty generous in regards to camping and recuperating.  Most places are open to pitching some tents and building ye ole campfire and it's quite rare to be attacked during the blissful slumber.  Characters are limited to 40 days of food each, which is more than enough for extended journeys (except in the desert regions where each step drains one day worth of food, even when just turning).  With each new dawn brings the recasting of all the available protective spells for the party (I'm currently up to eight).  This could have been quite annoying other than the fact that I'm so well acquainted with the spell menu.  The most powerful healing magic repairs 15 HP of damage and, in a party whose hit points range from 63 to 144, this means spamming the second level Cure1 spell (not to be confused with the first level spell OF THE SAME EXACT NAME) over ten times after each tough encounter (or trap).  [Okay, so as I was typing out those last few sentences, I was checking the manual to verify the identical spell names.  As I did so, my gaze glanced over a first level spell that I had completely written off since starting the game, based on its description in the manual (oh, how naive I was back then).  The Cure3 spell description says that it restores 1-10 HP, while the Cure1 spell of the same level restores a flat 8 HP.  Due to that, I've only been using the two Cure1 spells but now that I've weathered M&M's tomfoolery for so long, I decided to test out Cure3 and, yeah, it cures way more.  The clue lay in the spell's cost which states "1 MP per experience level + 1 Gem" (i.e. it cures 1-10 HP per character level).  I love it when writing the blog ends up helping me out in-game!]  As my characters have been gaining spell levels, I've only been reading the descriptions after they get access to the level.  Just when I thought the manual couldn't set the bar any lower for itself, Cortex attained mastery of the fourth level.

Just wow.

The manual is only 22 pages long but it still made for good enough kindling to get my fireplace going.  From now on, I'll just test out the spells myself.  That fits in better with M&M's sandboxy atmosphere anyway.  That same atmosphere has been making exploration an utter joy.  I am completely enamoured with just how open-ended the entire game is.  Most of the quests are simple affairs, doled out by various kings, each having their own theme (e.g. one wants the party to visit various locations and then report back).

While another just wants some 0-day warez, d00d.

Another quest involves freeing a single prisoner from each castle (the king doesn't seem to know or care).  When the first captive was discovered, we finally had the opportunity to flex our sinister sides as it gave the option to attack as well as free.  Each member of the party evilly smirked as we slowly pounded one fist into an open palm and chose to attack.  Unfortunately, all that happened was that the prisoner cowered from our imposing visage so we just let him go.  We've repeated the same process for each prisoner we've come across but the result is always the same.  We haven't found all the prisoners yet but do know where to go when it's complete.  A giant with a set of scales hidden in a mountain has informed us to find all the prisoners before being judged.  I really hope that an actual judging does take place and not just getting a reward for releasing the jailbirds.  Speaking of being evil, we eventually went back to Erliquin to steal that town treasure I mentioned before.  It was just an okay amount of gold (maybe a couple battles' worth) and not some sweet magic items like I wanted.  We seemed to get off scot-free but then were arrested by the town guard.  We thought we could handle a few guards but they turned out to be freakin' diamond golems.  Well, now we knew why the town treasure was so low; they spent it all on the guards.  Still, I want to do all the evil things possible so we'll still come back to avenge our former dead selves.  So, while Erliquin was a bust, the town of Portsmith seemed to have a lot to offer initially.  The town is packed full of honies running all the shops and services and there's nary a Y chromosome to be found.  Since I'm not only a paladin, but a gnomish one at that, it was up to me, the pulchritudinous Nung, to work that high Personality stat to charm and enchant the fine femmes of Portsmith.

Yeah, gimme a couple iron rations
and a pack of Player's Light™.

While having all this eye candy driving Portsmith's economy is fantastic, wandering the town was sexily hazardous as every intersection reduced each male member's HP.

Too... many... possible... captions...
circuits... overloading...

Of course, this being Might & Magic, the amount of HP drained is not reasonable at all, being around 90% of their current total.  Turning also counts so that merely attempting to take a corner will put all males at around 3 HP.  Not that it matters much since the first draining makes it pretty much necessary to camp for the night.  Thankfully, here in Portsmith, the freaks don't come out at night and all us males were able to replenish our sacks.  Our stay in Portsmith scarred us enough that we decided to stay away from the cobblestone jungle for awhile and explore some of the vast wildernesses that Barn had to offer.  A few days into the excursion we discovered some interesting ruins that were completely comprised of torn and twisted metal.  Further investigation revealed the presence of odd creatures speaking in a strange language.  Of course, being the evil mofos that we are, we attacked them on sight.

I'm not saying it's aliens, but... it's aliens.

After our predictable decimation and subsequent resurrection, we instead talked to them and received a quest to find a prisoner of theirs who escaped them and was now disguised as a Barnian noble.  I suspect I know who it is but haven't been able to talk to him yet as I require a King's Pass to get an audience with him.  Tiring of the great outdoors, we decided to visit the, as of yet unexplored, town of Calgary.  In addition to providing the regular services that any bustling metropolis offers, the municipality is also the home to Morango the Mystic, who can analyze each character and determine their current resistances to things like fire and poison.

Honey, I don't think you have a measuring
tape long enough. *wink*

Her analysis is as impressive as it is precise, with her dishing out exact percentages.  For myself, I learnt that I have an innate magic resistance of 20%.  My initial reaction was one of shock but it only lasted for a few nanoseconds as I unsurprisingly realized that the manual had jerked me once again.  For each race, the manual forgoes giving numbers for anything and relies solely on descriptive prose.  For a game that can't keep basic integers straight, this is just a train wreck waiting to happen.  El Manual states that, in regard to gnomes, "Magic Spells have no effect on these wee warriors."  Now, when I was first creating the party, I took that statement so literally that I considered making a party entirely out of gnomes (before I die, I want to at least build something entirely out of gnomes).  My reasoning was that, even if it didn't apply to direct damage spells (I thought maybe that'd be too overpowered), it would be crucial in the late game, where the most powerful monsters and bosses would have a variety of status ailment spells at their disposal, such as sleep or hold.  But, yeah, "no effect" = 20% in M&M land.  I only ended up making a mixed race group due to the blog's "requirement" that I "see" as much as the "game" as possible.

I wish.  Oh how I wish.

Oh, and that screencap just now?  That's me completing my quest from Lord Inspectron (yes, that's his name... oh fudge! maybe HE'S the alien convict!) to find Og the Seer so that he may help to "expose the villain" and "banish the alien".  Og apparently didn't get the text about the quest because all he says is the above line.  But that's okay because the quest counts as being complete anyway!  Go sense!  Now, in the steadfast tradition of M&M postings, we shall have the airing of minor grievances.  I think these are important to convey just how shoddy and unfinished the game feels.  Without further ado:
  • after attempting to select a spell in a no magic zone and being denied, if the character then makes a melee attack and kills a monster, the death animation is the same as if it had been killed by a spell.
  • doors are often locked but Shank always succeeds in opening them, so what's the point?  Maybe it'd come into play more if there was no thief in the group?  I don't see that happening as a thiefless group would be absolutely pummelled by trapped chests (and bags).
  • combat feedback will sometimes confuse differing monster types if they are asleep.  If the monster in the first slot is awake but the second slot isn't, the game will report the first slot's type as being asleep.
  • when attempting to remove a cursed item and being denied, going back to the equipment menu results in all the character's names and classes being displayed instead but only up to a certain point.  If the equipment name that is suppose to be there is longer than 9 characters, it will still display the remainder.

Here it is taking place in an
appropriately named castle.

While I'm still quite enjoying the good aspects of Might & Magic, I am somewhat eager to have it end sometime soon.  We're all either level 10 or 11 right now and have access to six of the seven levels of magic as well as about 90% of the surface mapped, though there are still quite a few caves and ruins unexplored.  Here's hoping that they all don't have multiple levels.