Saturday, July 3, 2010

Might & Magic I: Getting to Know You

These sound scary and tough. They are.

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.

This is almost sad.

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.

Beneath Sorpigal.

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.

Nice use of the passive voice. Who is going to reward me?

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.

Leveling up is neither too quick nor too slow.

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.
At this point, I have a few options for my next steps:

  1. Leave the town and explore the outdoor area
  2. Go back into the dungeon and see where that portal takes me
  3. Give a gem to a gnome I found in a secret room and have him teleport me to another town
#3 seems to be the best role-playing option, since I received a quest to deliver a package to the city of Erliquin. I think what I'll do is explore the five main towns and their dungeons before venturing outside.

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.


  1. I'm glad to read you're enjoying the game so much. It's still one of my favourites even after all these years. To answer some of your questions:

    1. There is indeed an Arena in every Might and Magic. I think they are only relevant in 2 (part of the main quest) and 7 (part of a promotion quest).

    2. The maps indeed don't wrap, one of the originalities of the series (and there's even a plot reason for it too!). The only game where the map does wrap is 2 (and that contradicts the plot explanation I just mentioned...).

    3. To go back to your comment from the previous post, I don't think there's any way to find secret doors other than bumping into the wall (I don't remember there being a spell). But I do remember now that in many cases the "secret" areas are inaccessible - you need the Etherealize spell to go through the wall. I don't think there's anything of interest in most cases, but I could be wrong.

    I won't give any suggestions as to where you should go next. Part of the beauty of this game is that you can go where you want, see what you want, whenever you want. You've already started picking up some of the main plot threads, follow whicever you feel like, it'll make sense eventually.

  2. Thanks, Ziad. It sounds like you really know this one. Sounds like I'm going to have to hit all these towns again once I have etherealize, then--never hurts to be sure. In the meantime, I suppose I should stop blacking out those squares.

  3. "...don't you love that feeling you get when you really get into a game's groove..."

    Yup. Had it like that with M&M VI, one of the very first crpgs I played. That game sparked my interest in crpg. I've never played the earlier games in the series, though.

  4. Torben, I'll always remember M&M VI as the first CRPG I played after I took a long hiatus from games when I went to college. It was jaw-droppingly good: continuous scrolling, enormous, action-packed. I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, even though I see some of its weaknesses now.

  5. I'm at this excact stage in the game myself and I share your feelings.
    Based on MM1 so far I agree that it deserves a better rating than the other classic CRPGs from the same era: Bard's Tale 1, Ultima IV and Phantasie 1.
    It has the best combat system of these game, it has a very high fixed to random encounters ratio and it has just the right degree of difficulty; making every point of XP, every gold piece and every item you find valuable.
    And there is the feeling of a huge world to explore.
    Most frustrating so far is fixed encounters in non-magic areas, and encountering those pesky Sprites. I didn't have any problems with The Jail, but needed three tries to beat the anti-magic square south of The Arena.

  6. It was fun to see the characters from "Heroes of Might & Magic II" make cameos in M&MVI. Also, the promotions you got for your characters in M&MVI mimicked the troop upgrades you got in HoM&MII (Cavaliers-->Champions, Paladins-->Crusaders, etc.)

  7. See, that's what I'm talking about. I want to play HoMM games now so I don't miss any back story.

  8. I have beaten every game in the Might & Magic series, even being paid to review IX(!) ... but since I started with II as a child, I never played I. Nice mixing of Roman numerals and self-referents.

    Anyway, Might & Magic I kind of functioned as my "brief mindless thing to do while contemplating graduate studies" diversion, and despite having never walked more than the distance from the starting inn to the training arena, I think all my characters are level 7 or 8, to give you an idea of how many groups of sprites and orcs and other things that frequently give no treasure I have killed.

    My greatest weakness, I think, was never understanding making your own maps. Ultima III was the first RPG I ever played, and Might & Magic II was not too far behind--and with the cartography skill there. I was too young when playing Ultima III to even comprehend making a map, and then Might & Magic II just mapped for me, so I never actually had an experience where I enjoyed (or really even needed to get into) mapping. So Might & Magic I is basically terrifying to me, and it is little wonder I have walked in all of about 15 squares total, haha.

    1. That's an interesting perspective. Starting in the era that I did, I got so used to making maps that I didn't understand why games wanted to take it away from me. When I fired up MM6 for the first time and saw that it was continuously-scrolling, my first thought wasn't "wow!" but " am I going to map?"

  9. As I already said via e-mail, I've been playing the game right now and also drawing my own maps. Luckily, I do it via excel, so I can go back and edit them, which I frequently do because I suddenly think "damn, I should've tried that on that one spot".

    Right now, I'm thinking "damn, I should've tried the jump/fly spells in the corridor of infinite encounters in that cave in C-2 (near Sorpigal). Sadly, I'm stuck in Portsmith right now because I mistook the inn for the tavern and accidentally saved my game there. Since it's in B-3, I'm hoping I'll be able to find my way back.

    In case anyone's interested, here's a link to all of my articles about the Book One. Some of them are queued, some of them are in progress and if you're reading this long after June of 2013, the game is probably completed or (very unlikely) abandoned.

    There's maps, there's accumulated data and there's a whole lot of dying.

    Also, since I got through Sorpigal as well, here are direct links to the two postings about Sorpigal and the dungeon or cave below it:

    I hope this isn't considered spammy.

    Also, just to let you know, your feed seems to be working OK now. It was probably some weird issue on my side.

    1. It's fun to read your postings since you go into a lot more detail (and you figured out the color issue early on).

      My maps for the game suggest that "jump" works in that corridor very well. There are encounters at 5,15; 9,15; and 12,15, but you can walk/jump on the rest. But the "reward" at the end of the corridor is just a minor clue, so don't kill yourself with it.


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