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.