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.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Game #35: Might and Magic: Gates to Another World (Genesis) - Shouldn't That Be in the Manual?

I feel like the map is trying to tell me something
I continued my assault on the caverns below each town by attempting to find the snow beast of Tundara. Beneath the town was a strange dungeon with sparse clues, random troves of items, and a teleport square. The map also seems to have the coordinates 13, 12 inscribed, but all I found at that location was a stash of herbs. I cleared the place without any sign of a snow beast. I searched the town as well, and found nothing behind the barrier, and the frozen monsters were nothing more than small distractions. Around the perimeter of town was an anti-magic area with rather difficult enemies. I did manage to walk away with an Invisocloak for my sorcerer, so it wasn't a complete waste of time, but I didn't completely search that area. Still looking for the snow beast, and the emerald ring reportedly on someone kidnapped by it.
Such an intricate puzzle, bypassed by walking backwards into the square
After Tundara, I decided to explore Sarkin's Mine. I heard rumors of a couple hirelings stuck in a cave-in. I found them to the south of that square pictured above. Using the teleport spell I skipped the whole puzzle before I realized I could walk backwards through the trigger. I can only guess the intention was to enter while food supplies were low. Sarkin's spirit also haunted the place. My first attempt failed as I could not harm him with weapons, and I had run out of spell points. I then died searching for the fountain of youth to regain the many years lost fighting his ghosts. When I went again, I made sure I had spells enough to vanquish him. Beyond him was a fountain, which said it rejuvenated my party, but I was still years beyond my natural age. A spell of the same name is said to restore aging, so I'm not sure exactly what this fountain did.
Found a random high level encounter during my explorations, the Lich Lord has 2000 HP while most high level monsters I can handle are 300 - 400
During my frantic search for the fountain of youth I stumbled upon something that would have sped up the game up to this point. Much like I found holding the 'A' button engages auto-battle, I found that pressing the left direction on the d-pad advances the combat turn to the next character or enemy. This allows me to skip to the end of a spell, or even jump through the enemy turns without worry that I'll accidentally auto-battle through my own party. Both controls would have been a nice addition to the manual, but I've reviewed it again and it's not listed. This would have easily cut off a few hours by this point. Combat is the largest time sync of the game.
Preparing myself for class quests, I used skill potions to gain multiple attacks, and made sure everyone had a way to heal
When I came back to the game, I decided it'd be best to pursue the class quests. To give my guys a fighting chance I made an extra four robbers to tag along. The first quest I tackled was the dread knight. I bought some supplies (magic herbs, lava grenades, and skill potions), secondary skills so I could traverse forests and mountains, and a witch's broom to fly to each buffing fountain. Party buffs remained in effect, so my water walk spell remained in effect. With my fully buffed up party I easily took down the dread knight, barbarian chieftain, and Baron Wilfrey (for my archer). After the first quest, all the robbers jumped to level 19 from the 5 million experience gained from completing the robber's quest, which is only to accompany another class.
A conjuror as backup? That's basically fighting alone
With four classes taken care of, I was left with cleric and sorcerer to attend to. I attempted cleric first since I hadn't quite found the starting location for the sorcerer's quest. The cleric's--to return Corak's soul to his tomb--was by far the hardest. I still have yet to succeed. Finding the soul among a group of ghosts was easy. Gaining access to the tomb inside Corak's Cave was easy. However, the final battle against some high level undead in his tomb proved formidable. I believe the easiest way to deal with them would be to gain the last spell level and use Holy Word, which I've already discovered near Woodhaven. I tried to turn undead, but even at level 39 it was not enough. I was easily wiped out, incapable of keeping my buffed stats this deep into a dungeon, and not finding any other spell to disable the undead. My attacks were useless. I'll return when I've reached spell level 9.
See how evil that rock is, it's menacing
I had yet to find the Isle of the Ancients, but then I remembered a way to find them; I chartered a boat in Middlegate for 5,000 gold. A trivial amount at this point, but beyond reason when I first discovered it. They were located to the east of Atlantium. The clues necessary to navigate the maze-like castles of good and evil were in the cavern of Middlegate, but the evil one seemed off (or I didn't note it correctly). There was a strange clue inside the castles themselves about an alphabet being in reverse, which didn't actually seem to be the case. A-B-C was still A-B-C. The directions included numbers, and then letters, which corresponded to engravings above each door. Once I reached the hold of each wizard, I was a bit confused on the hints to enter the numbers 32, 64, 23, 46.
I thought of spelling them out, but numerals are possible by scrolling through the entire alphabet (upper and lower)
Once I'd figured out how to enter numbers, I easily released the good and evil wizards, and realized the completion of the sorcerer's quest. With most of my party obtaining their pluses, I attempted to get the triple crown. Said to be a simple task of purchasing three black tickets and then winning battles in the Arena, Monster Bowl, and Colosseum. I've done that though, multiple times, with no mention of winning the triple crown. I then went and did the same thing with all the colored tickets (green, yellow, red, and black in that order), but still nothing. I wonder if all my characters need to gain a plus.
I arrived here by the ship that took me near the Isle of the Ancients, still not sure what use it has
Before I ended for the night I started to explore the cavern under Atlantium; I managed to find an encounter that allowed me to raise my intelligence to 50+, but perished while attempting to explore the elemental plane of air shortly after, so I lost all progress there. I also decided to repeat the encounter with the thief under Sansobar a number of times, but didn't catch any visible benefit. It's strange, but the stat increases don't seem to happen right away. I have a number of other caverns to explore, including an ice cave, the cave of Dawn (although meant for the ninja quest, it might have some clues), and the fabled Gemmaker volcano. I can also continue exploring the great outdoors. Soon I'll come up to day 140 when the circus opens, and day 180 when I'm supposed to find more tips in all the taverns.
Also, there's another set of messages to decode, if only I could find the proper order, but interleaving doesn't seem to be the key, unless some aren't used at all
I still have no leads on where to find the Grand Axe. I did however manage to collect the Sword of Honor, which I assume is another prize Hoardall will request. I realize now though that I've yet to actually find and speak with Lord Peabody. I'm curious to find out what quests he has to give; however, when I went to Lord Slayer he wouldn't give me a quest as I was already on one for Hoardall. By far the longest game so far, but maybe not had I known about speeding up combat from the beginning. I'm enjoying making incremental progress, but does the game really go on for 80 hours?

Elapsed Time: 8h42m (Total Time: 44h04m)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Game #35: Might and Magic: Gates to Another World (Genesis) - Fabulous Fountains For Frolicking Frivolities

Let's brawl!
It's interesting how much time I can sink into this game and feel like I'm not really getting anywhere. In other games I'd probably be done, or at least have sense of how far I've come. Here, I have levels that matter only a bit; I've unlocked nearly all spell levels, but I've only finished a handful of quests. I also find myself facing full party annihilation more than I thought I'd face at my current level. I'm not going to go into great detail with this game due to the sheer size of it, but I'll continue to mention the highlights. The bar brawl above opened up more possibilities as I learned the trick to getting tips from the taverns.
I still have yet to reach day 180 for the next set of tips, I hope I don't miss one
Taverns are great for a drink, some food, and tips. The food enables different encounters. One meal in Vulcania, the fire town, caused a riot with easy enemies. Once defeated, a couple of hirelings appeared, but I was happy with my current set. Other locations in the world map were triggered after eating a meal. One of those was the nature's gate spell given to me by a druid after eating red hot wolf nipple chips, and hinted at by the smell of them when I passed him in his grove. The drinks are said to boost stats, but I've tried them all multiple times with no such benefit.
Who can say no to such a name?
One of the tips led me to rescue a cleric and archer from the local Atlantium jail. I was just thinking how I'd like to have a second cleric in the party, so I bid Sir Hyron farewell. I explored Atlantium a bit more, and came across eight statues that described tasks for each class. Finally! Some semblance of a main quest presented itself. Looking at the stats of those I was supposed to take on led me to believe I wasn't quite ready to take any of them on. So, I started looking for easy ways to grind. I went to each arena with green tickets, and while it was working at first, it was slow going after a level or two. At least it helped Big Bootay catch up. So, I spent some time aimlessly wandering the countryside.
After some questionable soup this party of ghouls was now afraid of me
I stuck to the main roads and short side paths off it. One of the biggest discoveries I found was fountains that enhanced my characters (and a few that debilitated them). The one behind the ghouls for instance set my spell points to 200, for every character. I now had no reason to rest and waste days to regain my strength. At about the same time I started exploring my spells, and found the fly spell to be exceptionally useful. I then went back through the taverns on day 60 to collect the 30th day tips from all the towns.
In one of the castles I actually found a king, Hoardall, that wanted me to help him collect some items, the first... a dagger
Getting a dagger for Hoardall was a simple task. The squire's level quest was for some S Splint Mail, a bit tougher since it can't be bought at a store. I continued to explore the land seeking other fountains that would aid me. One enhanced accuracy to 40 for one battle. In fact, I found a lot of these one battle buff or debuff fountains. One reduced my effective level, and another raised my spell level. I found another while seeking out the rest of the green messages. It seemed to set my might to a random value. The most helpful though was the fountain that set my max HP to 150. My highest character at the time was barely pushing 70. With 150 I felt like I could take on the world, and unlike other fountains this was an effect that lasted a full day.
I even tried taking on the black triple crown challenge, and failed miserably
Near the starting town I found gatherings of orcs and merchants, which I broke up and looted. A hermit named Mark asked for his keys, but even when I'd collected all four colors he instantly killed one of my party members before disappearing. I unlocked a few more spells as well, including water walking, but it wasn't altogether necessary as Big Bootay already has them all unlocked. There were a strange set of islands with prisoners tied to them. I tried to free them, but paladins showed up and I was no match for them.
The Horvath drops good gear; I only wish I could grind on him more
With my added HP I took on the ancient druids' well. I would map out a portion, head back to the fountain, and then avoid any squares I could that might have a snare trap. The well was separated into four elements, so I started to run into air, water, and fire snares as well. By this time my sorcerer had the teleport spell, which allowed me to easily bypass most traps. I found some cans of spinach that upped all party members' might to 50+ after a few expeditions. At the end of one section I was told I would receive some great magic if I brought The Horvath to justice. He was an easy battle, only stoned my party. Strangely only three of my party members were susceptible to turning to stone. I'm not sure what governs status effects, or how I could improve my protection, but it always seems to be the same three that would fall to it. I fought Horvath three times before I returned to the druid and gained Divine Intervention, a ninth level spell. Here I was hoping for the second level Nature's Gate. In any case, sadly, when I tried to farm Horvath more he was only repentant of his actions and would no longer battle.
I visited the Jurors Mount described in the robber's quest after not receiving a reward for defeating the jouster
I spent some time grinding instead on a group of three barbarians near the HP fountain. I then ran across another very useful "fountain", a sewage outlet near Atlantium. This one raised all party stats to 100, but it only lasted for one battle. Still, 100 everything is great. I set out to find the dread knight, and instead found a Jouster, not sure if they're one and the same. While he could, and did, fell my characters in one hit, combat works in such a way that this wasn't hard to handle. Enemies always attack through the party in order, and the first hit to bring them below 0--no matter how much under--only knocks them unconscious. The last character attacked carries between battles, so if they attacked the first four, then the fifth would be attacked the following round or next battle. It's a strange system, and calls into question the advice in the manual of fighters in the front and mages in the back. The manual also fails to mention some status effects like stat, level, and experience draining. At first I didn't know if these were permanent, but I've discovered they aren't. The magical aging is however. So, I beat the jouster by healing any character he dropped, which revived them ready for battle, and continued to beat on him. So where are my 5 million experience points?
Ah, so that's it
I didn't figure for this twist, but apparently each character needs to solo their boss fight, or at least in the company of only a robber. I later pieced together the green messages, which echoed the advice except it seems to suggest I could create a whole party of knights and robbers. I don't think I really want to train that many party members though. Making an extra 4 robbers might not be such a bad idea though since they could accompany each character in turn. They don't even have to do much, just heal my mains when they drop. By this time I'd been drowning in gold, bought access to all mage guilds, and even purchased the black key. I was fairly well equipped, but it'd be much better if alignment specific items didn't exist. Their alignment rarely makes sense. One magic charm +5 might be evil aligned while another is neutral. Alignment doesn't show when identified, so it takes some trial and error equipping to find out if I can even use it.
This was a hard sell, but the wrong alignment for both my fighters
I did find some S Scale Mail at about this time. Some +6 mail I could have really used. Instead, I gave it to Hoardall, and I was rewarded with 400,000 experience, which doubled my experience at the time. Next quest is for a Grand Axe, a specialty magical weapon I haven't seen yet. Back to exploration, I followed the road past Mandagual's castle and came upon Queen Lamanda. She lamented that I had yet to achieve my pluses and the triple crown. I found some more fountains in the area, but nothing to write home about. I then ventured to the corners of the realm.
Air seems like the best place to start, with the easiest elementals
Around each triangular portion I found an elemental transmutation spell (necessary to travel to the corresponding plane) and an elemental encasement spell, which holds and damages an enemy (effectiveness based on the element I presume). I didn't feel quite ready to take on the elementals on their home turf, so I went back to the towns to explore all the caverns I'd passed over. I did find another helpful fountain near the air zone, which raised my effective skill level to 25 until after the next battle. It gave me an idea for all the skill potions I'd collected as well. Some spells are dependent on level, and some of those are buffs useable outside of battle.
Boosting effective level to 155... I'm not sure how helpful this is in general, but it might be useful for when I venture into the elemental zones (usually Forces is about equal to Magic resistance)
The cavern under Vulcania was strangely void of battles, except inside the secret passages. Some walls are false, but there's no way to know without charging headlong into them. Luckily no damage results from this prodding. I found a couple more hirelings, none I'd take with me, and a singing giant. Listening to this giant multiple times raised my endurance to 50+. I wondered if every cave had something similar, except I didn't find one like that in Middlegate. After this cave it was just about day 93, so I readied myself to use nature's gate. I ended up in the middle of ground zero, the location of the final battle between the elemental lords and humanoid lord. My reward was the spell Star Burst, another high level spell. Useful for taking out large contingents of enemies (as long as they fail their magic resistance). A lot of the high level spells seem rarely useful for the amount of resources they consume (either SP, or age).
I wonder if this is another stat gaining encounter, but I didn't notice a change when it said I felt more street smart
I then explored Corak's Cave (gained a spell and a bit more information), but reached a point where I was told only a group consisting of clerics and robbers could continue (it required an admit 8 pass as well, which further suggests a full party of clerics/robbers is recommended). Strangely teleportation failed in this cave, and spells in general failed around a special barrier protecting a final inner sanctum. I went through the caves under Sansobar as well, and only found the above thief encounter as the only thing of consequence (as well as some additional hints, and a friendly zombie handing out admit 8 passes). Even with the caves I've explored I find myself thinking I really haven't come that far. I've still yet to explore all of Tundara and Atlantium. There's also another cave I found near Middlegate that I could explore. I learned of a couple of hirelings stuck there.
I wonder how long it'd take to actually reach this level
The strange combat system threw me at first, but I've gotten used to it. Apparently it's not the way Might and Magic battles are supposed to work according to a commenter on the previous post. I wouldn't know any better though since this is my first Might and Magic game. After exhausting the town caverns, I think I'll explore the world a bit more before heading to the elemental planes.

Elapsed Time: 16h48m (Total Time: 35h22m)

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.
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.

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