Thursday, February 26, 2015

Game #35: Might and Magic: Gates to Another World (Genesis) - Why Game, Why? (Finished)

I wasn't quite expecting to delay this post until I won, but with what little content was left I'm glad it worked out this way. When I left off last Friday I was close to the end, but for some reason every time I'd dismiss the hireling with the orb they would not have it when I retrieved them. I'm still not sure what was preventing me; it turned out that's exactly what I should do. For whatever reason, having Big Bootay or Drog in the party prevented hirelings from keeping the orb. Having just Nakazawa as the only hireling allowed me to retrieve the Elemental Orb from his inventory back at the inn. Is there another way to get the orb out? Why were my two normal hirelings unable to do so? Where is the hint to do this? So many questions surrounding this, and I would have tested, but the game's save feature activates whenever I visit the inn.
The only confirmation that I had achieved the black triple crown, why do you do this game
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself for 22 hours though. I completed the exploration of Atlantium's cavern, and found a hint about bishops locked away behind colored doors. I sought them out in each castle, and gained a bit of experience. While exploring the castles, I found an elixir in Woodhaven and Hillstone that removed the Lord's quest. Now that I've finished the game, I read through the heavily noted sections of the manual and found a third lord mentioned: Lord Haart, never to be found in the game. I'm guessing he was cut from this version, or in one of the dungeons of the castles, one of the few places I didn't explore. I removed Hoardall's quest until I arrived at a special weapon I actually had. It didn't happen until after I tackled the dragons' lair.
Ah! Yes, the Inner Limits... which are... where?
The extra experience from the bishops put me over the top for my clerics. Having Holy Word for the cleric's quest made it pathetically easy, but I can't figure an alternative way to bypass all that high level undead. With Corak's Soul returned, my clerics gained their plus, and I was finally able to have an audience with the queen.
When a pretty lady asks you to time travel and save her 100+ year old father, how can you say no?
Back in Pinehurst, I was befuddled by the warning that I should avoid the unmarked doors. I had explored all the marked ones though, and still no Lord Peabody. Turned out he was in the lower left one, an unmarked one, and I should have ignored that warning. He tasked me to return his boy, Sherman, to him for a proper reward.
Is this standard humor for Might and Magic?
I had no clue where Sherman was, so I went over the encounters I had yet to find. I explored the Gemmaker Volcano and collected hints for the elemental Talons, as well as the Enchant Item spell (at the cost of 10 years of the character's lives). There was a stash of gems as well, 500 each time I collected it, and I abused the combination of that new spell with this unlimited cache. I didn't go overboard, but with at least +20 most enemies were now a breeze. With my newly minted power items I found and disposed of the Snowbeast(s) and retrieved the Emerald Ring as well as some hirelings. I also defeated the Lich Lord and rescued Mr. Wizard.
And at the height of hubris I received a reality check
As luck would have it, I was following up on a clue for the Frenzy spell when I ran into Sherman, a prisoner of the amazons. With his return I received access to the time machine. I took out Spaz Twit for no other reason than to take his Phaser (a mostly useless item). I then tested out a few eras with a focus on finding the one where the crumbled castle was whole, and ended up in 800. Once I arrived, it was announced as Xabran. I quickly leaped through the castle with teleport. I noted in the hall of spells and the hall of hirelings different locations, even though I'd found all the spells and most of the hirelings by that point. I collected a disc of each element, unsure of its use, and found the correct way to decode the yellow and red messages. Red messages I hadn't even found yet.
Even though I could have come here very early, it's at this point I knew I was nearing the end
I visited Murray's Resort once again and found the rejuvenating springs that lowered my age. So low for some that they were below the starting age. There was also a cave on that island where I found hints for the location of the swords Lord Hoardall sought in the lord's quest. Also, there was some hot oil I rubbed on. The oil increased each character's HP by 500 (both current and max) for 1 day. This buff allowed me to plow through a few high level encounters like 1 Devil King (that still killed one of my characters), and the Dragon's Dominion's two Ancient Dragons. Luck shined on me with those dragons, as I also found a glass box that once broken increased my HP by 1000... permanently. This gave me a lot more confident to enter the elemental planes.
Red messages and talons retrieved, although I somehow missed the elemental lords
After gathering the talons, I then spent many hours trying to figure out the key to absconding with the Elemental Orb. Dawn's Cave disabled teleportation and other spatial spells. I couldn't even use the Jump spell (advances the party 2 squares forward). Both exits gave the same message, "the Orb denies you exit!" I then had an idea, let's put the orb on a hireling and dismiss them. Will they keep it or not? When I tried it with Big Bootay or Drog, the answer was no. I even tried with No Name, although Drog was still in the party as well, but to no avail. I was out of ideas. Might it have had something to do with accidentally casting Enchant Item on the orb instead of recharge? Maybe... but I had no way to test that idea since visiting an inn to see if the hireling had the orb saved my characters' state.
I really didn't, but at least I maxed my base stats to 100
While looking for something to do I found the pool located in the Inner Limits. I gathered from the pool description that this would now allow me to gain stats from the circus (based on the yellow coded message). With nothing better to do, I rested until day 140 for the circus to return, and maxed my stats. I then found a cave near the desert, and collected more useless clues. A few helped me finish Lord Slayer's quest. The last place to look for clues were the dungeons of each castle; however, before I dove into three dungeons, two levels deep each, I tried to retrieve the orb with a completely different hireling, Nakazawa. I'm not sure what was different enough, but it worked. He had the Elemental Orb in his inventory when I picked him up. Oh, I also completed Murray's quest to kill Dawn, but I don't think that contributed. Taking the orb and talons to the battle between the old king and the dragon allowed him to overcome his adversary. It's strange I needed the orb at all since by legend that's all he had.
With that I unlocked the end game... not quite the ending, but nearly
Back in the present, 100 years later, old King Kalohn was still kicking around handing out quests. He provided the password WAFE, and bade me attend to matters at the cave of Square Lake. With my buffed out party, I blew through most of the battles there. Some I had to run from to ensure I had a reasonable amount of enemies to fight that wouldn't kill me outright (I'm looking at you 90+ Hatchet Men). I then came to the final door, and 66 Devil Kings that bowed to the Chosen One (that's me... or someone in the party). For some stupid reason I didn't realize this was an optional battle at first, even with the yes or no option to attack. When I failed miserably to vanquish them, I grinded on Ancient Dragons until level 75. I was about to attempt the fight again when it hit me to just say "no."
At the end of a long dungeon I was ready for the final battle
Finally, the final boss. I looked up Sheltem in the manual... what's this, only 300 HP. There must be some kind of catch. The Devil King has 5000, and I already beat one of them (only one). Ah well, let's finish this thing. Charge!!!
Wait what... Oh, I know this one!
WAFE, the password given by the king was entered, and peace returned to the... wait what's this about an error. An internal override program took over as I tried to disable the system. A prerecorded message from Shetlem was then received. Apparently the world was really a construct of some ancients for an unknown purpose. Sheltem devised a test to ensure that the VARNs of this CRON were of sufficient intelligence to inherit such a paradise.
Did we mention it's a timed puzzle?
I'm sad to say I failed it the first time. It was late, I was a bit flustered about what to do, and I tried to solve it by writing it down in the dark. I solved the cryptogram portion within 10 minutes after trying to think how the answer was used to decode the message. The code above is what I entered to solve the cryptogram and receive the winning screen. I got hung up on the clues from the good and evil sanctuaries about a reversed alphabet as well (I'm still not sure as to what those referred). However, in the end, I only had a minute left to understand that I should do something with the solved substitution cypher and the answer. I had the whole walk back through the cave, all monster encounters restored, to think about it. I got it first try on that second attempt. After the end, it's possible to keep playing, so I saved my characters and stopped. 67 hours is enough for me though, and I don't think I'll come back.
With no other ending screen I guess I'll just use this
Elapsed Time: 22h41m (Total Time: 66h45m)

Another game comes to its conclusion. This was quite an adventure, but after such a long trek, I'm glad it's over. I don't think I'm sold on Might and Magic, but I'll hold of judgement of the series until the third game. Let's get on with the review.

Combatant - By far the worst balance I've ever had to struggle through. It ranged drastically from a simple battle (not often enough) to absolutely no chance of winning (nearly every time). It's definitely challenging to even get a foothold. There are a good number of spells, but more than half went unused. Enemies are well detailed, and the variety keeps going right up until the end. Rewards for combat are well done; however, items could really do without alignment restrictions. I'm knocking a few points off from the straight scale based on enjoyment and strategy. There's no back row, and no particular order or formation, even though the manual suggests it does.
Rating: 5
How do you even protect from eradication?
Admirer - It's hard to score this section when I never actually see the characters. I'm going to be a bit harsh and say that by the end I hardly saw any difference between the fighter classes. Mages had spells, which were nice, but straight fighters didn't have many advantages. I enjoyed playing with secondary skills, and yeah, that pretty much covers the characters.
Rating: 4

Puzzler - It's hard to tell from an overall score, but I gave a zero to the section that covers how clearly the next goal or main quest is defined. For the first third of the game I had no idea what I should do. My avoidance of reading the full manual contributed (I blame the previous owner who wrote notes in the manual pages), but this is the first time a game has disregarded any immediate direction while playing. Side quests were great, and the puzzles were good, even if some felt a bit arbitrary.
Rating: 4
The cypher changes each time you attempt the final puzzle, so don't blame me if my answer doesn't solve your game
Instigator - The descriptions of events were well done, but the story itself fell a bit flat. In fact, there's hardly a story at all. Sure I saved a king from dying, and did something with a computer terminal, but where's the explanation for why I did those things? The game also lacked NPCs. When it did provide one, it was either a merchant or quest giver. Most random clues were found scrawled on the walls rather than communicated to the party.
Rating: 4

Collector - There is a lot of stuff in the game, and nothing is lost forever. If a key item gets stolen or burned off in an acid bath, then the party can always return to where it was found and retrieve another. Unfortunately, there's no central place to store a hoard, not even in Hoardall's place. The economy goes down the drain so quickly that it's laughable. The best way to maintain rare or unique items is to create some characters or use the abundant supply of hirelings as pack mules left at the inn.
Rating: 4

Explorer - Time for the game to shine. The world is completely open from the beginning, and there's nothing like exploring it in full. Graphics and sound were okay. Sixty hours in though and the music got a little tiresome (and sometimes stopped altogether). I greatly enjoyed uncovering each square in the auto-map; in the end I still didn't uncover everything the game had to offer. This game loaded with content.
Rating: 8
Tasks like this are easy to miss
Final Rating: 29 [48%]

A very respectable score for the age. Overall, I enjoyed getting through the game more than playing through it. Combat dragged on many times, mostly because I failed to find the auto-battle and skip turn buttons until late in the game. I'll probably still be thinking about all the mysteries in the game for months, even though I know I'll never get around to playing it again. It was nice to beat, and doing so again wouldn't take as long. Still if anyone wants to spoil a few things before I have time to look at a FAQ, then feel free to do so. Here's what's on my mind:
  • What was with that Pegasus at the beginning? I never did find him, or his name (unless it was Kilroy).
  • Why do the moonphases of Cron matter? I found a clue that says they last 60 days.
  • What's with the 13,12 clue in the cavern under Tundara? I didn't know where to apply it.
  • Were there any more clues in the dungeons that would have helped me figure out I needed to dismiss a hireling with the orb? Why did this fail when I tried it at first?
Huh, less than I thought. In any case, it's time to move on to the next game. Fatal Labyrinth will be an interesting challenge for the blog. As a rogue-like (rogue-lite?), there's not much story or puzzle elements to explore. I suppose I'll focus on my evolving strategy to get through it. Maybe I'll get lucky and beat it first try. I've never played it before, so this should be fun. First though, let's cut Mysterium. A game that defies genre classification so hard that it got thrown in with RPGs on a few sites.


  1. I'm guessing Kilroy is more of a reference to the WWI picture/person/meme and not necessarily the name of the unicorn (Kilroy Was Here)... I wish I could answer your other questions, though, but I can't remember the game well enough anymore. I know I beat it, but I'm not entirely sure how (I have a feeling I bought a walkthrough book to help me out... remember those?).

    1. I suppose that's true, but Kilroy was the only name I had to guess with at the time. I remember using the walkthrough booklets for Pool of Radiance and the rest of the gold box series to ensure I didn't miss anything. We also had an adventure game walkthrough book that had a lot of different games like the Infocom ones (Zork, Enchanter, etc.), Quest, and Wilderness. I'm not sure how many there were, but there were also a lot of games in that book we didn't have.

  2. The pegasus at the beginning barely counts as a sidequest. If you obsessively explore the game world, you'll find his name carved on a tree somewhere, and you'll find him hanging out in the middle of some other wilderness area. When you tell him his name, you get some minor benefit, or maybe just a hint. You don't get to fly around on him or anything.

    Some of the dungeons under castles were little more than places to adventure and boost stats. Especially the dungeons that barred party members of a specific race; they're just for powering up your ethnically cleansed team.

    Like most if not all MM's, MM2 is a medley of sidequests and optional goals; the more your do, the higher your score is at the end. It used to be that you could mail your score off to New World Computing and get a physical certificate commemorating your achievement. I don't know if they were still doing that by the time of the Genesis port, let alone today.

    I played Fatal Labyrinth as part of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. The game has no story whatsoever other than its intro and ending.

    I beat Fatal Labyrinth through cheating, i.e. abusing save states. The game is mercilessly random about suddenly throwing you into rooms where you are surrounded by half a dozen powerful enemies. Beating it without save states would require both strategy and a LOT of luck, I think.

    1. Best thing is to not get surrounded - stand in the doorways as much as possible. Merciless is definitely the right word. Slow and steady for this one, I think. If you get stuck, there's a few cheats/bugs that help out a bit (but probably are against this blog's rules?). Definitely wasn't a favourite, but my brain wouldn't leave me alone until I beat it...

    2. @Victar: Mailing in for a certificate reminds me of another game. I want to say one of the Ultima games you could mail in the ending screen to Origin and get a certificate.

      That's how I'll be playing Fatal Labyrinth as well, sans save states. I figured it was going to be story light.

      @Jason: Thanks for the tips. Sounds like standard dungeon crawler or roguelike tactics. Cheats no, bugs, if I run across it through normal play, then I might exploit them. In most cases though, I won't be actively trying to break the game.

    3. The reward for guessing the Pegasus' name is, I believe, 10000 gold.

    4. Good to know. Glad it wasn't anything unique. I hate the feeling of missing special items that enhance the game.

  3. The way I trivialized the battles happened after some obscure hint in a German game magazine lead me to the three cuisinarts (claiming I would get tons of exp, gold and jewels this way) and getting utterly wrecked the first time around.

    After trying again and I again, I suddenly noticed how the disintegrate-spell had a high chance of working on them. So as long as one sorceror survived long enough to cast disintegrate, the battles ended in my favour. Then I grinded on them shamelessly until I had something absurd like 30 characters with levels ranging between 70 to 100+ at the end.

    Later I noticed most bosses and hard to crack encounters were equally vulnerable to disintegration. I must have massacred enough creatures to populate a medium-sized country before I got bored.

    But the experience on the SNES-version of this game meant I later was interested enough to try another Might and Magic game: The 7th and my absolute favourite.

    1. I do remember the cuisinarts offering good experience, but I never bothered to return when I had higher level spells. By that time I wasn't too worried about leveling up.

      I've been trying to get a game going in Might and Magic III for the past month, but I've run into a bug that keeps crashing and wiping the save. Hopefully I can find a way around it. Happened recently on emulator as well.