Monday, August 14, 2017

Game #71: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (SNES) - A Game Unwinding (Finished)

A final score is strange to see in an RPG, but I suppose this indicates what quests I've completed
KTOW? Anyone have any idea what this might do?
It was difficult to gauge just how close to the end I was, and how difficult the final maps were going to be. Especially in a game like this where I expected I would need more pearls, a few more years to cure the loveless princess, and maybe even solve all the pyramids to unlock the fountain of youth. I first went to the Tomb of Terror, which was merely rooms filled with undead monsters. Luckily known of them aged my characters. Even the fight with the vampire king couldn't stand up to all the buffs.
I guess I went through these dungeons in the wrong order -- I forgot to return after becoming an Ultimate Adventurer
The Diabolical Maze was a bit tougher with minotaurs around nearly ever turn, although the buffs made even those battles a cake walk. Both dungeons allowed for teleport, so getting through them if you know exactly which squares to hit is rather quick. I picked up both hologram cards I was missing, and 6 orbs in total (the maze had 4). King Tumult provided the Blue Priorty Pass Card, and the title of Champion of Good.
I guess this is just another level of access, but I was expecting a bit more to happen after I drank from it
With that card in hand I went straight for the pyramid on Fire Isle. The only hazard to this area were the terminator enemies with seemingly only a single weakness: Implosion, which has a chance of doing 1000 damage. This led to a lot of party wipes if they happened to kill off my sorcerer. Through many reloads, I pushed forward, and finally stumbled upon Corak and Sheltem dueling. As I entered the area, Sheltem escaped as Corak was distracted by my presence. They both entered tubes, and I followed using the passwords received from Greywind and Blackwind.
A short cutscene showed an escape pod leaving Terra as we followed Sheltem and Corak
The tube led to a pod where we learned Terra was an experiment of the Ancients to create a land commanded by the four elements, where settlers could live. Sheltem was to act as custodian, preparing the land; however, something went wrong when the first settlers arrived. Sheltem treated them as invaders. Corak was created to correct Sheltem, and they've been warring ever since. The party, Sheltem, and Corak flew on to the next experiment, and the next adventure.
I'm not sure which shrines this was referring to
The final score followed the cutscene in the pods, but there was another hallway with even more terminators that I save-scummed down in order to find the statues that gave me the password to provide to the Ancients. I'm guessing the game originally came with a postcard to send back to New World Computing with that password and score. Of course, if I were going to do that I might have explored more to find every secret the game has to offer. But, there's a long list of games ahead of me, and this isn't the version I'd want to do it with.
This terminal offered some additional information, but wouldn't accept any of the passwords I had... a secret for another time
Elapsed Time: 2h49m (Total Time: 60h53m)

Combatant - The Might and Magic series, and this title is no exception, offers a very binary challenge. Fights are either too easy, or impossible. There's rarely any middle ground. Spells offered some variety, although it was difficult to gauge their effectiveness against each enemy. Once the right combinations of fountains were found though, all combat became trivial, and enemies rarely lingered long enough to enjoy their differences.
Rating: 7
The credits were found at a second terminal at the end of the hallway of terminators, and this is where I stopped the timer
Admirer - The variety of classes was nice in the beginning, but by the end there wasn't much difference between the fighters (except the knight who seemed capable of killing even minotaurs in a single hit). Portraits rarely changed to indicate status effects. The only ones represented were stone, death, and eradication. Spells remain locked to specific classes, so it was nice to have extra sorcerer and druid spells. This version takes some hits by the laggy controls. Party composition could take any form really, although I definitely don't recommend a party of robbers. A sorcerer allows for the quickest travel.
Rating: 4
Someone actually tested this game?!
Puzzler - The puzzles are the best part. Some are a little cryptic. Others are downright unfair (I still don't understand the Queen's countersign), but for the most part very enjoyable. I'm sure there's some way to reason through them all. Not knowing if something is on the main quest or just a side quest for additional rewards is a running theme to this series. This makes it seem there are multiple ways to get through the game, but those really necessary bits aren't too bad. Everything fits well into the world mostly because the story is based on being constructed. I went through a couple of pyramids after beating the game, and there were some plainly detailed answers to some of the puzzles.
Rating: 7
This one didn't seem like much of a puzzle
Instigator - The main story doesn't come to light until the end. Still, the puzzles drive towards answers that lead the party to the quest. Notes gathered while exploring eventually detail where the end game is, but the real revelation doesn't come until much later. The hints from the taverns are helpful in opening up the world for further exploration. In the end, the story felt present only for the need to put the puzzles into some context.
Rating: 5
Evidence that this game is less about the story, and more about the accomplishment
Collector - This game has one of the worst inventories, and worst economies that I've ever seen. Constantly dealing with a full inventory was the most annoying part of the game, even beyond the lag of transitioning every screen to get there. Add in key items that can't be traded or discarded, and it's completely unmanageable by the end. About the only thing this game does right is include a way to identify the strength of items. It also might be the first game to include achievements to mark a character's progress. There are 3 lines that I'm not sure what they are for, but I'm not going to play this version for another minute.
Rating: 5
In the final map I found an interspacial tranport box that enabled the party to jump to any map -- still a horrible mess to play
Explorer - Exploring the game was fun, really fun. I wouldn't have played for 5 hours at a time if it wasn't. The graphics and music were well done. The sound effects cut in and out, but weren't distracting. Finding strange things scattered through the world encouraged an unquenchable desire to explore more. The game is completely open from the beginning, and can probably be beaten very quickly, if you know what to do.
Rating: 8
The exposition that comes at the end details the whole story
Final Rating: 36 [60%]

Overall, this is a great game, and I recommend everyone give it a shot (on DOS, or some other PC version). There is a lack of feedback, but that could be a version thing as well. I'm not even sure where I used the hologram cards, if I did, or why I needed all 6. I didn't even use those passwords from Swamp Town, although they probably would have been useful in other pyramids. Even though I've beaten the game, I'm still thinking about it, and that's a sign of a memorable experience.

I probably won't say the same thing of the next game, Ninja Boy 2. It's difficult to determine where in the timeline this might fall (before, after, or an aside to the SNES game), but it's another adventure with Jack and Ryu. This year has been a bit slow on gaming, but I feel with this completion the remaining titles won't seem so long.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Game #71: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (SNES) - A Key Divining

I've really been overthinking this game
This time after being eradicated, and resurrected, there were no negative effects. Maybe due to already going through the process he's now paid his due, or it's random. Moving on, I started to go through the rumors at each inn, but noticed how little they told me. I stopped after Baywatch. Using the red and green keys I went through both dungeons, and gathered 2 Ultimate Power Orbs and a hologram card from each. It makes me think there are two orbs in each colored key dungeon, and a hologram card. Rather than try for all orbs, spread out to all kings, I'm focusing on the neutral king Tumult.
6 keys + 6 hologram cards is nearly an entire character's inventory
I tried to create a couple of characters to hold onto quest items until I found a use for them, and to offload keys to dungeons I've already completed. I then remembered that I'm unable to discard these items. To trade an item, you first have to choose discard, select no, then select yes and pick a character. Problem with these quest items: the option to discard them is disabled completely. This also means even if I found a hireling with a key, I would need to take them along in the dungeon.
The game still surprises me with random bugs as I somehow stepped outside the bounds of the map -- luckily etherialize brought me back in bounds
After completing the red and green dungeons I looted the castles (except Whiteshield's password locked chests as I still haven't solved the countersign puzzle). As I suspected, most of the treasures in the castle led to more gold and gems rather than quest items. There were some ancient artifacts, which got me experience for characters of matching alignment. I also freed up some inventory slots by selling off items that only offered 4 or less AC as I'm running 70+ AC due to mostly obsidian gear.
I'm pretty sure I don't need anymore treasure at this point -- I can probably live off the interest
Now done with most dungeons, I went back through the riddles I had noted. Yud in Swamp Town was the oldest. I tried lake, mountain, town, things that might go up and down without moving. I thought the answer might be something that exists in the game since Yad's answer was. With someone in chat asking if I had just tried ladder, my mind went nearly directly to stairs, which I can't recall actually being represented in the game. So, a small hint, and I received that password, which I still don't know how it'll help though I'm certain it's near the end game.
Did I just find the main quest?
Having avoided the main lands for too long, I decided it was time to fully populate the auto-map on every isle. The swamp land had the most clues. Once a king had 11 power orbs, I would receive something I needed to take to the pyramid on Fire Isle. There I would present the hologram cards. It makes me wonder if the remaining 20 power orbs are spread throughout the other four pyramids. On the Frozen Isles there's a fountain that increases all attributes 100 points, and combined with a well that increases effective level by 50 (which stacks), I temporarily overpower my characters with buffing spells. I managed to tear through three dungeons before the buffs ran out.
There are some statues that say they'll remember me, but even after activating them all I got this same message
Dragon Cavern produced a couple more orbs and a lot of treasure. The Magic Cavern on the desert isle produced the golden key, and the Cursed Cold Cavern delivered the black key. With those I should be able to access the last two dungeons in the swamp land, and gather up the last two hologram cards. I delivered all the quest items I gathered, and returned to the Cathedral of Darkness to get the hologram card there.

This was a lot easier when I took the clues as they were
Again, I was overthinking this puzzle. I thought I needed to apply the key to the full phrase Mighty Moose, which didn't include 'ighty'. I also copied down each letter in the surrounding rooms on a single line, not considering until this time that it was a substitution key where the columns matter. The puzzle of the five heads, however, continues to confound me. I'm just not sure what combination of north, south, east, west, would unlock the orbs. I might be able to brute force it, but time involved is too great. I also try not to do that if there's a clear clue.
I'm just not sure how this applies
So, I feel like I'm staring down the end game. With the fountains and wells at my disposal, it's really only riddles that could hold me up. My next goal will be the two dungeons: Tomb of Terror and Diabolical Maze. Then I hope I have enough orbs to enter the fiery isle pyramid. If not I might need to explore another pyramid for them. Either way, I expect to wrap it up this week.

Elapsed Time: 11h02m (Total Time: 58h04m)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Game #71: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (SNES) - A Note with Rhyming

I'll be honest; I have no idea what I'm looking at
There are many reasons to avoid this version, and I've found a few more. The only reason I'm still enjoying the game may be that I don't know any better, having never played Might and Magic on PC. While exploring the Slithercult Stronghold I came upon a statue that asked who sent me. It took some piecing together to find the answer. What led me to Epsilon was the cache of Quatloo Coins there, and that the Greek brothers Alpha -> Zeta gave me the same coins. In one of the fountains of Fountain Head there was mention of six brothers, and one was lost. Referencing the Greek alphabet, I was reminded of the missing letter, and guessed that.
A wrong answer had no consequences
What's missing from the dungeon, in fact from all dungeons, are notes written on the walls. I only know this as I was streaming the game, and someone commented on the lack of them. A direct hint of a message was present on PC that read "the missing brother sent me." The lack of wall messages has me a bit worried; however, I know others have completed the game, so while uneasy I have faith it's possible. There are some hints in dungeons, from statues and old bones, but the game might be just a bit easier with the full story as intended.
The reward for passing that section was slot machines that buffed might, endurance, and accuracy at the cost of one of the coins
I was in a dungeon crawling mood, so I continued into the Fortress of Fear, said to be home to the Mummy King. I cleared out all the enemies, and was left with a message that suggested I should turn four corners into statues, but I didn't quite understand what that meant at the time. My first problem was I kept teleporting around the place, which reset the statues replacing the energy field in the center of the map.
The real mystery is why the game thinks there's a head here when it clearly doesn't show one
My second problem was that the puzzle is bugged, and doesn't properly reset. So, stuck and unable to complete the puzzle, I attempted to teleport randomly into the walls searching for the Mummy King. Luckily this worked.
At least this sounds like a very important item
Next, I stopped by Castle Whiteshield, to see what I could learn from the dungeon there. Spread throughout were old bones that gave me rhyming passages. They seemed to culminate in a limerick, or I could have possibly missed a line (ordered by myself in what makes the most sense):

-The good King Zealot was quite a knave.
-To his wife and her lover a box he gave.
-His wive's young lover was an Orc named Smello.
-With dark-hound's breath and hair of yellow

-The Queen was shocked by her pine box.
-For the open end had golden locks.
-Smello's box sent him reeling.
-And wooden planks were his last feeling.
-The countersign lies in the Queen's box.

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but the countersign is the key to opening the chests in the king's throne room. Hopefully I don't need anything from them anytime soon. With my luck they'll just be a few more ancient artifacts that merely give my party experience.
So I moved on...
I had found a clue that suggested I should sit on the seats of power in both castles of Greywind and Blackwind on their wedding days to the same water nymph. They had both been tricked, and were now locked in an undeath they wished to free themselves of, but could not alone. The seat of power in Greywind gave one character boosted stats, and in Blackwind I received some items. The dungeons, and keys to their salvation, were a little more confounding.
One in each corner, I flipped them over, rang a gong, and unlocked a fourth
Once I unlocked all four centuryglasses, I wasn't quite sure what else to do. I set them all down, all up, rang the gong, and nothing more happened. There were monsters, and a couple treasures, still locked inside walls. I'm not sure they can even be unlocked with how buggy this game has been. Pondering what else I could do, I headed back to Greywind, who told me I had done exactly what was needed.
I guess that means I need to help out Blackwind... or guess three numbers
Now Blackwind was a bit more confusing. One statue demanded 100,000 gold, which was easy enough. Another statue that demanded 1,000 gems, again easy. A third statue that demanded... well, I'm not sure.
To be pet?
I feel like I'm missing something key here. No matter what I do, this third statue always eradicates the character that touches it. I don't believe that's the solution, but then again I realize now that I never did return to Blackwind after visiting all three statues. I'm not even sure there are only three statues as the dungeon is filled with teleport squares that send the party back to the beginning. I'll have to give it another shot, maybe even recruit a character I don't care about eradicating (a fate worse than death). I wonder if I could make one of the hirelings do it.
If only I didn't have to give up a character slot
Either the game is lying to me, or subtly telling me to stop playing this version
So, I moved on, and turned my attention to Castle Dragontooth. The clues to get into the dungeon asked me how many troops survived a final battle with the werewolves, but it only spoke of troop size in legions. It wasn't until I found a life giving statue nearby outside that I could survive two wizards capable of dealing 1,000 HP with a single spell. Behind them, reachable only through use of the teleport spell, was a statue that told me a legion was 4,000 soldiers. With that, I correctly answered and explored the dungeon. It wasn't much, only offering some strange witch's brews that talked of math in the hands of time, and few others that increased my stats.
I didn't have much luck deciphering the question "if you used the key, what might the Mighty Moose be?" inside the Cathedral of Darkness
I finally made it through the dungeon locked by the blue key, and found two Ultimate Power Orbs inside, but I couldn't gather them as they were locked in stasis (my guess until I answered that question). I don't know if those letters on the map are part of the riddle, or merely John Van Caneghem signing his work. There were also five statues I could turn in each of four cardinal directions (Positro, Penetro, Dynatro, Barytro, Proto) as well as a message to "set the lock, solve the key, drink the cup, and I'll hear your plea." I moved on, and cleared out the cyclops cave, gathering the red and green colored keys.
After raising from erradication I noticed my endurance took a dive -- this happened in the cyclops cave when I hadn't saved for sometime, and I didn't check his stats until after I saved... did I mention there's only one save file on SNES?
I pressed on. Tired of my full inventory I spent the rest of that night finding the pirate lady that wanted pearls. After scouring the Fire Isle, I managed to find her off the coast. Each visit, she took one pearl, then dumped my party in Swamp Town. I repeated the process four times, and now have a quest to give her enough so she stops her marauding ways. Remembering a caravan that trained in might and endurance, I brought my knight's endurance up to a more respectable 25 while the rest of the party has 60+.
Cracking the secret of the skulls leads to knowing more about the (one?) purpose of the pyramids
Already suffered the consequences, I figure my knight can take the hit again from Blackwind's dungeon. If that doesn't work I'm not sure what else to try there. I didn't give a good effort in the Moo stronghold, although I'm not sure the ultimate orbs of power are truly necessary. At this point I have over 3 million gold, over 20,000 gems, and enough experience that my characters are in their high 20 to low 30s. I feel like gaining more isn't really gaining me anything.
This plus 25,000 gold doesn't seem like a whole lot at this point--I was more excited getting those pearls out of my hand
So, my next goals are the red and green dungeons, Free Reign castle dungeon, and another shell once the 99th day rolls around again. I suppose I should pick up the golden pyramid card, and see what lies within. Even with the quest log it's difficult to know what will lead to a major revelation, and what garners only more riches. I'm almost tempted to dump most of the gold into the experience fountain back in Fountain Head, but I'll let the bank accumulate a bit more interest before that.
I could always go for that 76th arena win the tavern says no one has done before
With no end in sight, I'll carry on with the various quests before me. That's usually how these Might and Magic games go. With or without notes on the dungeon walls there should be enough to make it through... I just need to finish everything. I still haven't figured what goes up and down yet never moves though. Not a clue on that one.

Elapsed Time: 13h19m (Total Time: 47h02m)