Sunday, February 1, 2015

Game #35: Might and Magic: Gates to Another World (Genesis) - Might I Have Some More?

Game 35

Title: Might and Magic: Gates to Another World
Released: 1991 (Reviewed in the Nov. '91 Dragon Magazine #175)
Platform: Genesis
Developer: New World Computing
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: RPG
Exploration - First-person
Combat - Turn based
Series - Might and Magic


Nice logo
I have a confession: I have no idea what I'm doing in this game. I've never played a Might and Magic game seriously before this one (I dabbled with the first game). I remember we had it in the house growing up, along with Bard's Tale and Wizardry, but I mainly played Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds. My brother on the other hand might remember this one. The series is one of those old school PC RPGs that doesn't hold your hand. In fact, it slaps your hand away and berates your reaching. This is actually the second game in the series, and while the first was released on console (NES), it wasn't until 1992. Playing them in release order for console means I play them a bit out of series order. From what I'm told, this won't have a great impact on the story.
If there's ever a game that drives you to drink
The history of the world was scribed in the manual by Corak, and tells of the formation of the world of CRON (it's in caps, I don't know why). Four elemental lords all desired to rule over an unclaimed area between their planes. The water king spilled a sea and claimed this central area. While the fire and air lords fought against the water king, the earth emperor laid a foundation of rock and dirt made of his army of earth elementals. The world of Cron was thus formed as water tried to drown, fire attempted to burn, and air failed to carry away the earth. Humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes soon appeared from unknown whereabouts, but they came with the power to turn the elements towards their will. They also had the power of magic. The earth emperor, Gralkor, grew wary of these new creatures' power.
Mean? They're just walking down the street
Gralkor fought this invading force, but his minions were no match. Soon a group of humanoids met on the Isle of Ancients to forge an Orb of Power and four talons to hold it, one for each element. The struggle came down to a single young prince after other veteran warriors fell before the orb and talons were ready. His name was Kalohn. After a long struggle, he was able to banish the elemental lords back to their planes and erect barriers to keep them out. To do this he placed a talon in each elemental zone, but kept the orb in Cron. The area of this battle is known as the Dead Zone. But, even in banishment the lords still had influence, and Gralkor combined his power with the fire lord, Pryannaste, to form a dragon. Many years had passed, and Kalohn had grown old, but he met the dragon in battle on the Savannah of Plenty. Both fell during battle, the king's last act was to flood the savannah just as the dragon's breath incinerated his body. The dragon drowned, the orb was lost, and the savannah is now known as the Quagmire of Doom.
Can you just add everyone? That's my party right there
The land entered a dark age. The vanquished king's daughter, princess Lamanda ascended the throne; however, with the loss of the orb, the barriers that held back the elementals were weakening. Other lesser dragons have already been seen near these borders. If the orbs and talons could be reunited again, the barrier could be renewed; otherwise, all is lost.
*Plop*
With a back story like that I couldn't wait to dive right into the main quest. Unlike other console games, the characters are a bunch of blank slates. Random characters put together by me, assembled from whatever history I imagined. I used names either based on those in chat, or suggested by them. Shor is my knight, basically a fighter. Morri is a sorcerer. Padfoot a robber. Hope was going to be a paladin, but he opted for barbarian instead. Celdia designated herself as a cleric, and Dryz is an archer. Ninja and paladin aren't represented, but neither excel in any direction. I selected races I thought accentuated the classes, balanced alignment with two of each (good, neutral, evil), and split the party in half between male and female. The manual said there were no differences in gender, but I've noticed that some undead can't be hit by certain characters, and gender is the only common factor I've found. I haven't figured out why.
This is about the only direction the game provides: go do quests and fight stuff
So far I've used the manual for three things: the history, the controls, and the listed descriptions for spells, items, and character abilities. I've avoided the more spoiler pages that describe objectives and provide maps of every area. Mainly due to the previous owner deciding it best to jot notes down in pen directly in the manual. I hope I'm not missing out too much on valuable information.
The game offers an adjustable random encounter rate; it defaults to cautious, which seems to eliminate them... I'm fine with that in this game
With basically nothing to go on, I set out to map the first town, Middlegate. In it, and every other town, I found a tavern, an item store, an inn (where I started), a temple, a training area, a mage guild, some skill trainers, and a teleport portal to the next town. The first thing I noticed about my newly minted characters were their complete lack of armor and gold. They had weapons at least, but this was a small consolation when facing well armored troops. Without random encounters, the game only had static ones that lay directly in my path to explore every square. The first couple didn't seem so bad, but after dying for the fifth time to the third fight and still having no gold to my name, I started to consider my choice in game.
Okay, maybe they're a little mean
Combat difficulty is all over the place. One battle could be a cake walk, and the next could have each  enemy one-shotting everyone. There doesn't seem a good way around this issue, and I've been dealing with it as best I could. Saving after every moderately successful battle was key, and in those unsuccessful, party death was nearly guaranteed. Certain enemies dropped a chest after battle (invisible until searched), but if you're unlucky then you may not get any gold the first few fights. To make matters worse, chests are usually trapped, and my robber's ability to disarm them was so low that I wondered why I even had him in the party. At least resting is freely available, and always safe with the current disposition. Running from battles has a high success rate, but places the party on a specific square based on the map (towns put them near the inn, caverns near the stairs, etc.)
Taverns are the information hub, listening to rumors or paying tips can give helpful information, and it changes somehow, so visit often
By the time I had enough experience to gain second level, I only had enough gold to level up two of my guys. Everyone except the mage classes (archer and sorcerer) leveled at the same rate. I also scrounged for armor when I could, but my focus was on levels. Shortly after getting everyone up a level was when I finally got a handle on the game. This was mainly thanks to fighting some burglars, which netted 500+ gold each, over 20 times what I'd received so far. If only I'd stopped by the mage guild to purchase some spells, I might have had an easier time. Some cleric and mage spells are automatically available at each level; however, others are either bought from the appropriate place, or found in the world. To purchase mage spells required joining the guild, which meant paying a rather shady looking mage. I didn't do this at first, and I regret not picking up the sleep spell sooner.
Healing or curing my party after a battle requires me to remember who is low on HP as it's not shown on this screen
While exploring the town I found skill trainers: mountaineer, forestry, and cartography. The first two required two party members to have the skill, but allowed the party to walk through tall mountains or thick forests; however, they were very expensive (2,000 each), so I passed until I had more funds. The cartography skill enabled the auto-map feature. It's a nifty tie-in, and cheap at that, only costing 20 gold. There seem to be caverns below each town, but there's a steep spike in difficulty. I was easily wiped out by a party of ghouls. I spent a good amount of time grinding in the first town after that.
You'd think having a first quest like this would mean I was ready to explore, but no... not at all
It was a long time before I felt confident enough to enter the cavern. In between bouts of grinding and leveling up, I visited the other towns through the teleportation service. I noted each town's tavern tips, available equipment, and skill trainers. I found each town also had a key for sale. So far I bought the green, yellow, and red; however, the black key is 50,000, a little outside my current buying power. I'm not sure what use they have; I thought maybe they opened up the castles, which requested a key to enter, but no such luck.
I met this creature after stepping outside for the first time, great guardian leaving me all alone
I suppose that's another quest to solve. I followed the road north, and then west to the castle of Pinehurst; however, my entry was barred by guards that required a key. None of the colored keys seemed to work. I ran across a sign for a circus, and then some wagon tracks. Looking for the circus I found a strange message titled "green message 3," and the wagon tracks led to a cave (another cave!). I was fairly sure I shouldn't be messing around outside, and confirmed it by being ambushed by 50 goblins. This was before I had the sleep spell, so I was easily overwhelmed. I continued to grind until I could solve that first wizards quest. From the tavern I knew the coordinates to retrieve the goblet, and coordinates of some children.
One bad fight, even at level 5 can wipe out my whole party, each monster swarms and hits each party member.
It's clear now this is going to be a long game. Longer than any I've played so far. I thought the talk of 80 hour RPGs were only because people would take their time to explore. Here though, I'm already a 1/4 through that estimate, and I feel like I've only scratched the surface. I found a clue in Sansobar, the second town, to enter a certain location to receive a second level cleric spell. There I found a druids' grove, and booming voice asked for a password. I answered DRUIDS based on the letters written on stones surrounding the grove. Unfortunately, even though I had level 3 spells, I still seemed completely underleveled for the cavern I appeared in after speaking the password.
20 damage to everyone for each step, and turn
That was all I accomplished before I spent many hours gaining more levels until finally at level 7 I had the spells to manage most enemies in the first cavern. Actually, once I was past the first battle, the others on the way to solve the quest were simply orcs and goblins. Easily slept, easily defeated. I retrieved the gold goblet for the wizard. He directed me to Nordonna, who asked me to save her kidnapped (adult) children. They were in another easy section of the cavern... easy once I'd gotten past that first battle. Turned out they were the first hirelings. The party is normally limited to six; however, hirelings can fill slots 7 and 8. They don't gain gold as part of battles, and cost money each day. Eight is better than six though.
I also found a bunch of clues written on the walls
Nordonna directed me to donate to all temples and then visit the Feldecarb Fountain, which I'd found in Middlegate tucked into the northeast corner. Going through and donating to all temples, including the one in Atlantium I'd failed to visit on my previous rounds through the towns. At the last temple I received a Fe Farthing. Flicking the farthing into the fountain allowed me to find a fabulous castle key. With it I entered Castle Pinehurst. It was filled with more enemies, and no sign of Lord Peabody. Instead, I found a message written above certain doors inside the inner chamber: beware the time traps as the world will end in the year 1000. I made my around one corner and barely defeated some wraiths, a gargoyle, and a group of cripples. I thought I was safe opening the chest as my robber had found a stealth cape and a thieves' pick, increasing his thievery to the high 70s. Even so, traps had done minimal damage.
But not this one, it caused at least 60 damage to everyone... once again I felt underleveled even after grinding for hours on end
So, I once again went back to my old stomping ground to gain some levels. This time though, I decided to thoroughly map our the cavern below Middlegate. Finding every clue gave me a couple more things to look into, but still no tie-in to the main quest of finding the orb or talons. I then explored the towns again, and found a riddle: "Water, Fire, Earth, and Air; All have a King in their Lair; They hold the talons you need to find; To save Cron before its time." I figured I needed to find a way to the elemental zones eventually, but I really don't feel ready to do so. I'm not sure I ever will at this point.
The auto-map has been very handy... that grey area is an anti-magic zone that prevents all healing and turning of undead, I'm not ready for that yet is a running theme
I tested the waters once again in Castle Pinehurst, and found a couple new things. On the other side of one battle, I found a clue that the queen's triple crown could be won by taking a black ticket to the three arenas (The Arena, The Colosseum, and The Monster Bowl), and winning fights. I'd already won fights with the green ticket, but the enemies get progressively more difficult with each color (green, yellow, red, black). I then found a time warp trap, and lost a year in the process. It was now the year 901... only 99 more to go until the end of the world. I found Castle Hillstone near the druids' grove, and once again met with fierce resistance. From one battle I received an odd item called an Admit 8 Pass, whatever that means. The castle guards forced me to leave after a couple of tough battles.
You'd think castles would be friendly locations
With the first town and cavern explored, my only option is to start branching out into the world. I found a message on how to interpret the green messages, but I need to find the other three. I suppose I'll check off the main road for different sights. Maybe I'll get lucky and stumble upon the main quest. Right now I'm a bit overwhelmed with options that are blocked by my inability to survive. Still, I'm having fun piecing it together, even though it's slow going.

Elapsed Time: 18h34m (Total Time: 18h34m)

10 comments:

  1. MM2, and the series, is quite open-world. There's easily 80+ hours of content, but the majority of it is optional. I would think someone out there has speedrun it in a few hours.

    It's a little too easy to wander into an area or a fight that's stronger than your party. The MM series sometimes puts powerful optional bosses, or portals to high-level areas, in low-level areas. Having to reload and remember "okay, I don't go there/do that until I'm much stronger" is just part of the game.

    Wow, I'm making this game sound terrible, aren't I? But I loved it back in the day, I really did, and I know I'm not the only one.

    One more tip - be careful about eating expensive gourmet meals, especially early in the game. There are advantages and disadvantages to consuming them.

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    1. Thanks for the tip, I was actually just about to go on an eating and drinking binge. :)

      I'll hold off until I get proper hints and clues. I have one about a meal being a real riot, which probably leads to a large battle. I did manage to eat some soup de ghoul, which seemed to prevent a certain battle.

      I've been enjoying the exploration, but it's just really hard to know where to go next or how powerful I need to be before I venture further. One thing I haven't tried is resting in the middle of a cavern, but even if that works there are some fights that can obliterate the party at full health.

      I'm definitely making progress, it's just hard fought and maybe that's not such a bad thing. It feels like I'm save/loading more than any other game, and that's the part I'm not really enjoying.

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    2. My first foray into Might & Magic was with the sixth game, Mandate of Heaven. I remember be amazed at being able to freely walk around an entire world and moreso when I wandered out of the starting town and into a camp of hundreds of enemies. That party didn't last long, but man was it satisfying to go back later with a new party and slaughter the whole lot of them with a meteor strike or three.

      I don't have a lot of experience with the earlier Might & Magic games. I prefer the Ultimas when I'm feeling a need for 80's RPGs, though I have been meaning to give the second Might & Magic a try one of these days.

      I'm looking forward to your play-through of Drakkhen. It's a very 'French' game in that its rather off-the-wall and not very serious, despite starting out that way. After reading the CRPGAddict's review of it, I think it would have been a better game if it wasn't weird just for the sake of being weird.

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    3. I'm also looking forward to Drakkhen; I played it on the SNES years ago. The game wasn't soul-crushingly hard, but there was one optional boss (it was an outdoor area dragon-ish thing) that I just could not beat. Also, I can't remember if there was any reasonable way to resurrect dead party members. I had to reload a few times.

      Given the Addict's horror stories of endless bugs and byzantine UI, I think the CRPG version of Drakkhen must be much worse than the SNES version. I certainly didn't encounter game-destroying glitches at every turn. Just a fairly bland RPG with some amusing puzzles and "automatic combat", which sort of played like an ultra-simple real-time strategy game.

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    4. @Raifield: Sounds fun, but Might and Magic on the console stops at the third unfortunately. I've beaten Drakkhen before, but really didn't explore much of it. It's funny, I didn't even know there was a shop in the game until I watched someone else play it. I only bought things from the wandering merchants. We'll see how the SNES version differs.

      @Victar: Some of the monsters in Drakkhen are downright nasty. One of the reasons I enjoy console more than PC gaming is how much more stable everything runs.

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  2. Have you noticed that characters get attacked always in the same order one after another?

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    1. I have, it makes the player order a little less necessary (even though the manual suggests the players in the back take less hits), but I still like putting my sorcerer in the back.

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    2. It made me in fact stop playing the Genesis version a long time ago, because I thought it was a severe bug. I'm planning to eventually start again with the Amiga port. From what I remember, characters also can't attack from the back with close-combat weapons in the computer versions.

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    3. I made sure to make note of it in the next post. It's fairly easy to work around, but very strange indeed. Distance combat isn't a thing either, which kind of makes my archer's and robber's bows a bit unnecessary.

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  3. I remember this game! It was the first open world RPG I've ever played. I never finished it, but I came close after I combined the dumbest spell with the dumbest easter egg to make myself basically invincible. Too bad that wasn't enough to solve most of the puzzles in the game. But I sure as hell killed a ton of monsters before I gave up!

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