I tell you, I was in a bit of a CRPG funk before I started playing Might & Magic. This game has revived me. As I wrote last night, it's hard to put my finger on exactly what I like so much about it. It probably has to do with the neat things that populate the game world, and the sense of mystery about the main quest.
I spent about four hours playing today, exploring Sorpigal (incidentally, "New" Sorpigal from Might & Magic VI suddenly makes more sense) and its dungeon, mapping walls, clues, and encounters in Excel. I use letters on the map to indicate special encounters. In Sorpigal, I got all the way to the letter "R"; in The Bard's Tale, I don't think I ever got higher than the letter "G," and The Bard's Tale maps are 89% bigger than Might & Magic. In other words, Might & Magic has more interesting stuff in it.
Among the items I found in Sorpigal are numerous statues with inscriptions that provide hints as to the game and the game world. From what I can figure out so far:
- There's a quest involving five brothers, one in each of the main towns. Since I received only one quest in Sorpigal, this must be it.
- If I slay four major beasts scattered about the game world, I'll get a special prize when I find something called the "wheel of luck."
- I need to find some idols to help a blind ancient seer named Og.
- If I can find a wizard named Ranalou at a place called the Korin bluffs, he'll give me a quest that involves visiting six castles, including a difficult one named Doom.
- Somewhere in the enchanted forest is a castle ruled by a minotaur.
- The reason Sorpigal (and presumably other towns) are indoors is because a proliferation of dragons made it too dangerous to have outdoor towns.
Like Wizardry, Might & Magic features some squares on which you always find encounters. One of these is in a jail (6,12 on my map above). If you get by this, you can find a secret door that takes you through a darkened hallway and deposits you at another fixed encounter (4,15) which is quite difficult. My party was slain several times here before I finally beat a group of centaurs. Once I could do that, I headed down into the dungeon which, as you can see, features slightly different textures and colors.
Dungeon critters killed me frequently, and I finally got into the habit of returning to the town and saving at the inn after every three or four battles--or whenever I found a particularly good item. The problem with this is that returning to the inn resets all the maps, including fixed encounters, traps, and locked doors.
The dungeon had some neat features, including several squares where I encountered a message saying "don't turn around!" Ignoring this generates difficult battles. There was also a shimmering portal that I decided to save for later--no telling where I might end up--and an "arena" where I can fight difficult battles against various foes but for no particular reward that I can discover. This makes me wonder if every Might & Magic game has an arena; I remember them in VI and VII.
Finally, in a far corner of the dungeon, I encountered an old man who asked me to take a scroll to a wizard named Agar in another town. Does this kick-start the main quest, or is it an example of one of the first side quests in a CRPG? And aren't there a series of annoying creatures in Might & Magic VI called "Agar's pets?" I love it when stuff like this clicks.
Might & Magic, at least at these early stages, features something that I love in a good CRPG: steady character development. As I mentioned previously, you start out with literally nothing: no gold, only a little food, and only clubs for weapons. Ever so slowly, you build experience and cash and start to find items or get enough gold to buy them. I love the feeling of replacing my short sword with a great axe, having enough money to buy a crossbow, and acquiring a few new spells when I level up. Almost all CRPGs offer this, of course, but the pacing seems particularly good in Might & Magic.
A few other miscellaneous notes:
- Poison. Why does every game have to have poison? My characters keep getting poisoned from traps and troglodytes, and it's going to be ages before I can cure it. Every poisoning requires a trip to the temple to waste precious gold.
- Money has been tight so far. At any given time, I'm usually broke because of the costs of leveling up and healing characters. Monsters routinely give only a handful of gold pieces per battle.
- I discovered the hard way that some encounters depend on the direction you're facing, so if you wander in to an area from the east, you may have to turn north to read an inscription. This means I spend a lot of time in dungeons spinning fruitlessly in circles.
- There are many locked doors which are trapped, and my thief (or "robber," as the game has it) really blows at disarming them. I did find some "robber's tools" that helped a little, though.
- Unlike Wizardry and The Bard's Tale, the maps in this game (at least so far) don't wrap back on themselves. This makes more logical sense to me.
- My characters age fast, from both sleeping and training. When I started everyone was 18; now they're 20 and 21. (Imagine spending three years of your life wandering around a single city.) I can tell that rejuvenation spell is going to be required at some point.
- Leave the town and explore the outdoor area
- Go back into the dungeon and see where that portal takes me
- Give a gem to a gnome I found in a secret room and have him teleport me to another town
Last night, I said I'd talk about combat tonight. Give me one more night on that. I think it will be more meaningful once I have a better selection of spells.
Fellow CRPG players, don't you love that feeling you get when you really get into a game's groove and realize you're going to be up most of the night playing? That's what I've got. I really like this game.