Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Game #71: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (SNES) - A Port for Whining

This item definitely sounds like it would be cursed in any other game
It felt good to finally make progress. So good, that I spent more than double my normal play time this past week. With all that time, I've come to realize that this port, on the SNES, is the worst way to experience this game. The lag between movement or actions make it nearly unplayable. There are even times when the game will appear to freeze, not accepting any commands (although the mouse cursor still moves), then up to 40 seconds later it will finish whatever processing it was doing and resume the game. Enemies seem to have been rebalanced in strange ways (e.g. goblins are pushovers, but orc warriors will obliterate a low level party two steps later). Hirelings no longer have their own slots, and instead take up one of the six party slots, so they've become useless.
Beating the first quest leads to more quests, these much more vague
Despite all that, I'm enjoying the game. After finding enough silver skulls I returned them to Skull Miser. He gave me a password to get further in the dungeon, and after finding a few secret passages I faced off against the rat overlord. Releasing Morphose revitalized the fountains, which now produced strange riddle-like quests (e.g. "With the presentation of one past ten, two shall be forever vanquished. Their strongholds felled and kingdoms barren, Your title of Champion established.") I now need to branch out into the world, discover its secrets, and decide its fate.
This is going to take a while
In the dungeon under Fountainhead I found a statue that taught everyone how to swim. Using that I traveled along the river, then cleared out the tall grass sections in A2. The map is cut into sections up to F4. The first isle stretches through all of A and parts of B columns. Castle Whiteshield, shown on the map above, didn't allow me access until I had the crusader title (something a paladin would start with, so that's one benefit to that class). Baywatch, the second town, offered up the skills of Mountaineer and Pathfinder, which allowed the party to cross mountains and forests (respectively) if two or more characters had the skill. Using these two I increased my riches 10 fold as there were many hidden caches of gold, gems, and items. Those skills also allowed me to take out many monsters from safety as I fired arrows down on them in the next square while they were unable to scale the mountainside.
Another example of Nintendo of America censorship
The next major quest line I followed started with someone named Alpha in Baywatch, then Beta in the caverns below, next Gamma in Wildabar (which took some time to locate), Delta below that town, and finally Zeta in the Arachnoid Cavern. Connecting all the messages suggested I could find a small island south of Castle Blackwind where a portal opened only on the 99th day of each year that would spit out a sea shell stolen from Athea, a siren of the sea. While I waited for that day I continued my adventures. I found a boat ride to Swamp Town.
This game sure loves its riddles; I have yet to solve this one
Beyond combat, which has either been incredibly easy or impossibly hard, the game offers up riddles that often require piecing together in order to solve. Inside the Arachnoid Cavern were lords that had a math problem involving features of the Cavern including the number of crystals, gongs, and thrones. Once solved, Lord Might (who was the only lord not named directly) rewarded the party with 1 million experience, and offered to recharge the crystals there that conferred stat bonuses for 5,000 gems (I have nowhere near that amount). Each of the castles (Whiteshield, Free Reign, and Dragontooth) have passwords locking their dungeons with riddles throughout the castle that lead to the answer.
There's a general lack of skill description; not even in the manual, I have to guess what benefits the navigator skill imbues, and how many characters should have it
After exploring B1, which had many fountains that temporarily raised stats for a day, I've fallen into a pattern of hitting each fountain before entering a dungeon. It's made progressing much easier, so long as my entire party doesn't get paralyzed/stoned/immobilized in some way. I've mainly been exploring locations mentioned by hints, but eventually needed to start branching out into the other dungeons, like the one near Fountainhead that granted everyone the crusader skill. With Lloyd's Beacon learned by both my archer and sorcerer, it's been much easier to set a point at the dungeon, teleporting back to Fountainhead to gather all the buffs before porting back to the dungeon. I suspect the game will progress faster now.
A snake munches the display when the party dies; I'm not even sure how they died here since I can't check character status in combat, and character portraits don't change with status effects like DOS -- my best guess is gargoyles turn characters to stone on touch
One of the more bothersome aspects to this game is the inventory. After completing the brother's quest, I found myself holding a Quatloo Coin from each of them. They're worth 0 gold, so they might turn out useful for a quest, but take up 5 slots I could otherwise use. Add in other quest items like keys for dungeons, artifacts to return to each of good, neutral, and evil castles, plus the ultimate power orbs that I later need to decide who to give them to... it's a bit overwhelming to manage considering all my armor pieces plus the ability to wear 10 rings and 4 medals. Each character has 14 item slots. I really wish the bank had a vault for these. Maybe there's a pack mule skill that will allow them to carry more.
The way these posts are situated on top makes me think there's some kind of hidden message
My biggest victory so far was fully exploring under Swamp Town, and returned the evil artifacts I found there to Castle Dragontooth. The caves below had some strange trap that looked like electrical fields; however, no matter what elemental protection I enabled, it still did 50 HP per hit. I managed it without many buffs at the time because I had tried to teleport, which failed, so I figured Lloyd's Beacon wouldn't work either (later found out it does). I rested before each trap, bashed the wall in front of it, was attacked, then the trap triggered again after combat before I could move. Those enemies behind each wall also magically aged characters with every hit, which meant I couldn't drag out combat to heal. I admit, I saved and loaded after every successful step forward.
I'm not sure what Born: 2/482 means, but he took a hit and magically aged... characters can die from old age
At the end of two different passages I found altars. I paid homage to the goddesses, and was granted a boon to strength for one and endurance for the other. The remaining dungeon served up treasures as well, but those stat increases were the best rewards. If only I could find such altars for speed.
These were permanent increases, well worth the extra years
With my extra endurance I spent some time in the Swamp Town tavern where I picked up all the tips. One provided the mirror portal password to Blistering Heights, the final town. I noted that I should go back to each town's tavern to ensure I have all the clues. On the 99th day I picked up the shell, and returned it to Athea for a large reward that left the male characters with an In Love state. I then randomly stumbled upon a brokenhearted princess outside Swamp Town that removed that status. Although she remained melancholy, my quest status suggests with enough love she'll recover.
There are huts all over with different interactions, this one rewarded me for donating to each temple
I'm still not sure where the main quest is, or which dungeons might lead to the greatest rewards. I have plenty to explore. I'd really like to find a permanent speed boost to ensure my full party can act before the likes of that gargoyle can lock me down--at least I've found a fountain to get me by. Most dungeons aren't limited to a 16x16 map, making exploration of take longer than expected. It also makes looking at the full map impossible since I'm not making my own. A small price to pay for the hours of time saved. Hopefully it doesn't come back to bite me in some way.

Elapsed Time: 20h46m (Total Time: 33h43m)

2 comments:

  1. One annoying thing about III and Xeen was how complicated the items were; I remember I accidentally ordered the hint guide for III but it was a godsend in figuring out the powers were of all the weapons and armor. They reused the system in Xeen. Although I guess if you identify enough stuff you can figure out what each word does.

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    1. They remind me of Diablo names, but it's more annoying to check out what they actually mean. It's not so bad anymore, I have enough funds to identify everything basically.

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