Saturday, June 25, 2016

Game #57: Might & Magic: Secret of the Inner Sanctum (NES) - In Search of the Mysterious Messages of Gold

That's because I have no idea where to go
This is the largest amount of play time I've gone between postings, and I still wasn't able to wrap the game up. I'm close though, at least closer with some direction. The key to making further progress, and discovering the Inner Sanctum, is finding gold messages hidden inside dungeons: nine in total; I've managed to find four. I may be able to piece it together with less, and that may be necessary as I'm running out of caves to explore.
By the time I retraced my steps to the arena under Sorpigal it was very disappointing
Last I left, I was beginning to explore the castles for clues. There's a silver message in each one, and the quests from Blackridge North and South were simpler than the ones from White Wolf. One quest directed me to look under Dusk where I discovered a clue from Corak (YICU2ME3 -- no clue what it meant), stat bonuses for speed and accuracy, and an oracle that provided a couple useless items. I'm not sure a +1 battle axe would ever be relevant at this point since level 4 sorcerer spells are required for some of the traps.
I then discovered a clue that broke open the Zam and Zom quest line
After delving into Dusk and Dragadune for the castle quest lines, then getting stuck on solving the riddle of the ruby (I hadn't even found the ruby at this point), I went back to thoroughly searching the towns for info with my newly acquired teleport spell. There I found the note above, which oddly pointed to Zom, whom I'd already found at 1,1 in Algary. That meant the other note in Portsmith wasn't Zam's clue, but a clue to find him in Portsmith. I teleported to the coordinates, and found him, the only living male in town. His clue pointed me to C1-15,15.
I'd already mapped this location, but without the two clues this chest with the ruby whistle wasn't here
The enchanted stronghold provided a great number of clues. This was the first time I'd found a gold message, two in fact. There was a checkered room that I felt had something to do with that sign of the same pattern, but didn't find anything to do there. Below the first floor was a Minotaur's Maze. Defeating him seemed to do nothing more than acknowledge that the stronghold's leader was vanquished. I think the main attraction was a sable dog statue that I chose not to desecrate. My reward was a gold key (which I hoped would open the gold door in Doom), and 10,000 experience. I thought about grinding some experience here by tossing the key and discovering this again, but didn't bother.
Thanks for telling me, I wouldn't have guessed otherwise
Before heading back to Doom I mapped out the forest areas in B4 and C4. There I discovered a portal to the fourth level of the City of Gold, buried in E4. I left it alone for now as I wasn't certain I needed to go there, and four levels seemed daunting. I mapped Korin Bluffs and found the wizard Ranalou with portals to each castle. He told me to decide the fate of the six prisoners, then stand tall on judgment day. I tended to each prisoner, although my actions didn't seem to have much lasting effect.
Behind the gold door was the true king of Alamar
With the Eye of Goros now in hand I was ready to attack the imposter residing at Castle Alamar. One problem though, I hadn't found the king's pass yet. Back to exploring I suppose. In Sorpigal, I found an eighth statue that described black and white checkered rooms. I needed to find the right pair to discover the key. In addition, I learned that the seer Og had lost his sight, and idols would end his plight. Inside Doom, behind some hidden walls guarded by many monsters, I found the interleave sequence for the silver and gold messages finally. The silver message pieced together showed me the way to all the stat increases, which I'd already found on my own (except for the scales of judgment, which were nice).
Hawkseye Cave has what looks like a magic square puzzle, but I have yet to solve it correctly
My explorations eventually brought me back to the section of A2 that was unreachable. What I thought were pirate caves that would lead there turned out to be coves with hidden troves of gems (unlimited no less). The way in was through A1, and the only thing of interest there was a druid named Percella that provided the king's pass. With that in hand I faced the imposter expecting an epic battle. Instead, I was thrust into a maze where the only escape was to learn the alien's true name. Mapping the place using a sign marked 0,0 (since the locate spell failed), I found it spelled out "help, my name is Sheltem."
I'm apparently now rank 1, and must now find the Inner Sanctum
Up to this point, I'd received no clues about where the Inner Sanctum could be, or where to start looking. The King, now on his rightful throne, only intoned the same message, "seek the Inner Sanctum." He then wished me to live long and prosper. Back to random exploration once more. I raised my level high enough to gain access to the Astral spell. I mapped that place out, opened five gates there, and then found myself barred from the final door. It had a slot, but before I could try any items I was banished back to Sorpigal.
Shortly after, I found the ice princess that granted me a diamond key for answering her riddle, but it's only an alternative entrance to the astral plane
Three levels of caves below Dragadune only provided a single gold message, two checkered rooms (no idea what to do there), and a southern cleric that requested I ring three gongs. Ringing the gongs and returning to him found me worthy, which enabled my party to gather the stat increases once more. It's possible I could do this multiple times, but there's really no reason to do so currently. I explored the Raven's Lair for another gold messages, checkered room, and the ruby riddle that I haven't been able to solve. The cave near Sorpigal had a bronze key. White Wolf cave provided only a Medusa Head Hacker requested. Quivering Lair was such a pain to map that I teleported around rather than use the proper paths. I stumbled into Okrim's lair, took his ring, and returned to Hacker for the final quest. I suspect there may be a gold message there that I missed.
And this is how he rewards my service
Rather than lose all my items I chose to reset, and continue exploring. Fumbling with the access code below Erliquin I tried the message left behind by Corak. It worked, but only gained me more treasure. I had four of the five trivia question answers, so didn't bother trying to guess the last one. Then there's the Jolly Raven which I'm not sure serves any purpose. The natives guarded a volcanic cave unlocked via the coral key. I wondered then if I would ever find a use for the bronze or silver keys. Inside the volcano I found a woman chained that I hoped was the beautiful one, but once freed she became the volcano god (renamed giant... thanks NoA) and trounced the party.
This was not a fun place to map
I mapped most, but not all, of the volcano before I thought about the two dials near the beginning. They only accepted a single character, and then I remembered what the dog had told me. Entering BJ caused every teleporter to lead to a giant that asked me to choose between clue, riddle, or attack. The clue was a checkered room with "Move to Kings-1" written on a sign. To the riddle, "who was brave, yet failed?" I answered "Corak", then was dumped in Sorpigal for my trouble. I wasn't sure if that was right or wrong.
My only lead on the Inner Sanctum lies in these messages
Having only four gold messages makes it difficult to gather much information from the clues I have. I'm hoping, based on name alone, that the majority of the remaining messages are in the city of gold that once stood over the swamp. There are at least four floors to explore, plus the volcano and quivering lair not fully mapped. If I don't get them all from these I'm not sure where else to look. I have yet to find messages 8, 1, 4, 6, and 7. This is what it looks like so far (each underscore is a missing word):

_ Scoop: For Successful _ _ _ One, _ _ The Tasks That _ _ _ Riddles _ _ Di[s]coveries And Training, _ _ _ Value _ _ Your Rating. The _ _ _ You _ _ To Be Worthy _ _ _ You _ _ Return From The _ _ _ 5 _ _ The 6th Visit _ _ _ Card _ _ Your Frustrations! Yet _ _ _ Must _ _ For The Inner _ _ _ Claimed. _ _ Dreams To Reality, _ _ _ Dreams, _ _ Is In Order, _ _ _ ... _

From this it seems that I have to try something 6 times before I get some card. I expect it to be clearer with a couple more messages.

Elapsed Time: 29h27m (Total Time: 70h40m)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Game #57: Might & Magic: Secret of the Inner Sanctum (NES) - Will It Make Sense Eventually?

Probably not
By this point in any other game I'd expect to have some handle on the situation (in fact most would be done), or at least some inkling about the trouble I should be righting in the world. Instead I'm left wandering a vast world with nary an end in sight, let alone a beginning. When things do happen, I'm lucky to get any acknowledgement. Take the above for example: somehow my cleric gained a max of 256 MP, but it went back to normal after I rested. I tried to reproduce the effect, but other than recently visiting the cleric's retreat I couldn't think of anything that may have done it (and a revisit didn't trigger it).
I found a list of tourist traps on top of a random island
Might and Magic definitely isn't one to hold your hand. I think I've said it before regarding the second game in the series, but there's something engaging about finding my own path through the game, knowing that the particular order of events that unfold are fairly unique. Still, I'd rather have some feedback. Enemy spells in particular are rather ambiguous. Sometimes they'll reflect and disperse, or reflect and cause damage, and other times they only specify "affected" or "not affected" without telling me what spell was cast. I found one person that had some answers though: there's a fortune teller in Algary that lists individual character resistances. Using this I could potentially figure out added resistance from equipment.
Well this is a thing, but is it the thing I was supposed to be looking for?
Finally the desert wandering paid off. I stumbled to the east of the cleric's retreat and came upon a wrecked alien ship. The alien told me his prisoner escaped, and is disguised as one of the nobles. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to determine which one, so I continued my fumbling. This quest could also be related to Ranalou the wizard at Korin Bluffs that's supposed to direct me to the six castles.
And now for something completely different
Before I got to that though, I continued to explore the world. I answered the man above correctly (apparently auras change every day though), and gained a coral key. I picked up a silver key in B1 as well. I found Zom, but his clue (1-15) wasn't helpful in combination with the note I found from Zam. I discovered Portsmith is controlled by a Succubus Queen, but didn't live to tell the tale. I found the Jolly Raven, a sign that notes the queen as the (current) piece, castle Doom, Blackridge north and south, Raven's Lair, the Dark Rider, Og, some ancient ruins, and a number of other random things.
All these have one thing in common: I have no idea what to do with any of them
On the brighter side I found places to increase my endurance and intelligence by 4. I climbed those trees from last post and received cleric beads. I found some fountains that increased my available spells (all of them unlocked) and put my might at 50, and continued to gain some easy levels from a pack of red dragons in A2. Eventually I came across the merchant pass in the C1 area. In Castle White Wolf, Ironfirst required me to venture on a few quests. I had already found Raven's Lair and Kilburn, so two quests were quickly satisfied. However, when he asked me to discover the secret of Portsmith, I was stumped. There was no way to defeat the Succubus Queen, and I had yet to find any  secret other than her.
Less answers, and more questions keep piling up
It really doesn't feel like much progress, but I have large portions of the world mapped. Up to this point I've made small progress. The fly spell helps, but the combat seems to drag on without large party clearing spells. I've been avoiding exploring most caves, but it may be time to map those out too. First I'm going to focus on the castles though, and see if I can figure out which lord is the fake. I may find the one clue that pieces this all together and then progress will finally cascade like an avalanche. I've increased my play time this past week, and next post will cover a large chunk of the game (possibly through to the end if I may be so bold).
Please be more vague
Elapsed Time: 17h13m (Total Time: 41h13m)