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.