Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Might & Magic: Won!

Might & Magic ends with a shameless plug.

Well, damn that took a long time, but in the wee hours of this morning, I completed Might & Magic: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum, easily the largest and, hence, longest game I have played in my blogging project so far. In fact, I think it's safe to say that it rivals modern games in its overall number of game hours.

My last hours in the game were marked by stupid mistakes and laughable errors, starting with the revelation--after I had won the game--that I had missed the graphics setup executable in the game folder. Instead of seeing this for the past 50 hours of gameplay...

...I could have been seeing this:

Oh, well, the important part is the gameplay, right? We'll get to that.

When I last blogged, I was working to fill in pieces of each map and stop dying all the time. This was helped greatly as my spellcasters advanced and got hold of the more powerful spells, some of which could completely obliterate large groups of enemies in one casting. I was able to finish most of the surface and all but a few of the underground maps at this point. I solved two of the more important side quests, one of which involved slaying four big bads in each corner of the map and then spinning a wheel of fortune to get gold, gems, and experience as a reward. The second involved visiting each of the castles in the game world and determining what to do with prisoners found there. This quest was kicked off by a wizard named Ranalou who I met in a cave:

The quest offered some real (if basic) role-playing choices that had to jive with your alignment. Among the prisoners you found were scared children, helpless maidens, and vicious demons. I had to decide what to do with each one and then head to the "Statue of Judgment" after dealing with all of them. Good characters were rewarded if they tormented the demon but set the other prisoners free. Evil characters were rewarded for tormenting everyone. Neutral characters were rewarded for walking away from each prisoner. Since my party had a mixture of good, neutral, and evil characters, no one got the full reward. If I were to play again, I would stock my party with characters of a single alignment.

As I covered in another recent posting, sex turned out to play a role. In one town--Portsmith--male characters were drained of hit points every time they walked through certain (unavoidable) intersections. This turned out to be the work of a succubus holed up in a secret room, and in due course I was able to find and kill her and her minions. But to even stand a chance, I used a magic pool in the town's dungeons to change the sexes of all of my male characters so they wouldn't be drained before the big battle. Then, in horrible show of non role-playing, I never got around to changing them back. "Redbeard" the dwarf fighter, and all of his compatriots, ended the game as females.

I spent a lot of time fighting my way through the four levels dungeon of Dragadune to find the enigmatic "Clerics of the South," who rewarded me with this message:

I had absolutely no idea what this meant, and I was a little annoyed at having worked so hard for it. Only after winning the game and checking a walkthrough did I find that this meant I could return to various spots that boosted my stats and get them boosted again, as well as complete the Statue of Judgment quest again. Oh, well.

In the Castle of Doom, after battling my way through hordes of tough monsters, I found this message scrawled on a wall:

I remember the Star Trek episode of the same title, and at first I thought this was just a geeky reference to it (the M&M team is well known for its frequent Star Trek references, including "Q" in VI). But it turned out to be an important plot point in the game, as we'll soon see.

In the corner of another map, in an area accessible only through the use of the "etherealize" spell, which allows the party to pass through walls, I found a "Land of the Lost" in which dinosaurs roamed.

Battling through them, I found an "Hourglass of Time," which reverted all my characters to the age of 18. Many of them had been pushing 50 by then, which means that in game time, my party had been adventuring together for 32 years. That's quite a quest.

My dungeon explorations allowed me to assemble the two strange "messages" that you find in pieces around the world. The first was singularly unhelpful, only telling me where the various fountains and pools and other sites were that raise each of your stats by 4 points each. I had already found them all by the time I figured out the message. The other one spelled out the game:


A little helpful, I guess, but nothing I wouldn't have figured out on my own. "JVC" is the creator, Jon Van Caneghem, who I think is still in the business. Jon, if a little ego-surfing leads you to this blog, you made a hell of a game.

The toughest quest leading up to the endgame concerned the blind seer Og. One of the first clues I got in the game, from a statue in Sorpigal, was that I needed to restore his sight with two idols, and this was somehow connected to a black and white checkboard pattern I kept finding in dungeons. Well, I did find the pattern a lot, and in two of the locations, searching yielded the necessary idols. I took them to Og and got this...

Now, if I'm not mistaken, this is another Star Trek reference--specifically to the unexplained three-dimensional chess that they sometimes play in the original series. At least, it's the only way I can explain "levels." To solve this, I first thought, the creators wanted me to know the rules of 3-D chess from Star Trek? Jesus.

Then I remembered three clues I had received in other black and white checkboard rooms. They were:

  • The first part is female
  • The second part is most valuable
  • The last part is the first
Helpful, right? Friends, I came awfully close to breaking my "no spoilers" rule. The first clue was easy enough: "Queen." The other two, I just couldn't figure out, mostly because I was thinking that 3D chess might have all kinds of esoteric moves. Answers I'm embarrassed to say that I tried include "QUEEN TO GOLD QUEEN" and "QUEEN TO DIAMOND QUEEN LEVEL" or some such nonsense. Ultimately, I realized the answer would have to parallel the challenge, with the name of a piece, the name of another piece's "level," and the number of the level. The "most valuable" piece is a king and could "the first" refer to something as absurdly simple as....yes, the answer was "QUEEN TO KING'S LEVEL 1." After all that, this is what I got:

Great, right? Except that I had already found the prisoner in Doom! So all that was just for the 25,000 experience points, which by this point in the game I was getting in three or four battles with dragons. Bloody hell.

Here was the aforementioned prisoner:

This dovetailed nicely with what the crashed aliens had told me earlier in the game, so with the Eye of Goros, I went off to challenge the fake Alamar.

Alamar revealed himself as the alien "demon" and threw me into a dungeon called the Soul Maze, where I was immediately confronted with this question:

Now, folks, if I was embarrassed at how long it took me to solve Og's riddle, this one really fills me with shame. I spent hours mapping the dungeon making sure that I turned and faced each wall. To my frustration, I couldn't find any messages written anywhere that told me my captor's name. I must have gone through it three or four times before I finally took a good look at the map I had been making:

I mean, could that be any easier to see? MY NAME IS SHELTEM (I don't know what to make of the enigmatic "HELP" in the upper left). Anyway, I gave the answer, and here's when things got weird:

Okay...well, I had a pretty good idea where the Inner Sanctum was: on the Astral Plane, which I had the foresight to have already visited and mapped. Somewhere along the line--I missed to tell ye in my tale--I found the key card I needed to get into the place, and so without further ado, I made my way.

So it turns out that the game world, called Varn, was actually VARN (Vehicular Astropod Research Nacelle)--a space ship. An alien invader named Sheltem crashed on the ship and impersonated a king. And all the monsters and undead and magic were...what?....aspects of the same technology that powers the ship? Things get weird when you combine fantasy with sci-fi. The references to Corak are never explained, and it remains unclear what happened to Sheltem. Quite oddly, there is no final battle. I expected an epic confrontation with Sheltem that never came: if if you re-visit Alamar's/Sheltem's castle, you just get tossed into the Soul Maze again.

The game allows you to keep playing and finish any side quests. There are 37 according to one walkthrough, and I think through my exhaustive mapping of the game world, I was able to complete them all.

I made a video of the end game (it starts with me killing some dragons just because I can and is interrupted a couple of times while I take screen shots) if you're interested. Otherwise, it's time for my review posting and then on to...The Bard's Tale II. Bollocks.


  1. I suspect that you've met your own minimum requirement of 6 hours of play on Bard's Tale II- if you find the game difficult to enjoy, I'd suggest moving on. 6 hours is surely enough to form an opinion.

    Of course, perhaps the break has revitalized your interest enough to complete the game. All I'm saying is that forcing yourself to do stuff you don't enjoy is fine if that's how you make a living, but doesn't make as much sense if it's your hobby.

  2. Pipe, all Might & Magic did was made me want to NOT play any more BTII, so I think I'm going to go along with your advice.

  3. I'd agree - you've given BT2 a fair play. I'm keen to see you try other games.

    I've really enjoyed your blogging of MM1. I think I'll definetly play this one as it sounds like it has lots of variety in terms of specials - nothing worse than wandering around maps with no interesting details.

    I'm sure I've only ever seen CGA screenshots of the game so I think I would have had the same graphics issue as you.

    I'm interested to see what you think of Shard of Spring if that is still next on your list.

  4. This was a really nice set of blogs for the game. I agree with the others - don't slog through BT2 at this point.

  5. As has been mentioned, nobody can say you didn't give BTII a try, but if the game proves to be stubborn or incredibly frustrating I see no point in playing through it against your will. Also, in my humble opinion, I think your readers would also enjoy if you went on to the next game. Good luck and keep up the good of works.

    Oh, and BTW: there are Mac versions of the M&M games (at least for the first three...) and they offer (in my opinion) a somewhat more covenient interface and mouse support, although that would probably mean more messing around with emulators. Just mentioning it if anybody might be interested.

  6. In the room with the data keeper (or whoever that is behind that computer), is that a tentacle? (as in Maniac Mansion/Day of the Tentacle)

    Or perhaps it's those limited pixel graphics playing tricks on my eyes...

  7. Y'all have persuaded me, and I will not be returning to The Bard's Tale II. However, I may be regressing in time for a little while. See my upcoming posting.

    Andy, I'm pretty sure what you're looking at is just the texture on the wall, but there are a lot of weird things going on in that image. Why, for instance, does it look like there's stuff spilled all over the floor? Boy did you just give me a flashback with the reference to "Maniac Mansion," though! I'm sure I played that on my C64. Haven't thought of it in years.

  8. I'll bet the "tentacle" is a robot of some kind, given the sci-fi setting. :)

  9. So I was a bit critical when I finished your post on Bard's Tale II and you had the update that said you were not coming back to it, but after reading through Might and Magic, I have to agree. No need to go back to Bards Tale II.

  10. If you're curious, if you sent your points total to that address, you eventually received a signed letter congratulating you and telling you all about Might & Magic 2. I was pretty excited as an 11 year old kid when I got that in the mail.

  11. I'm actually more curious what would happen if you sent your points to this address NOW.

  12. Why not find out? Stamps are cheap.

  13. Where can you even get them any more?

  14. The post office? Most drug stores in Canada as well...

  15. I have to go to the post office now? What am I, some sort of wizard?

  16. You know it was one of your other Addict's addicts that got me reading her. Only my second blog mind you, but I found her shortly after this one and *!BAM!* here I am an actual avid follower of a couple blogs.

    Well I was an avid follower of two blogs but she hasn't posted in months due to working on her book. Its like your the mother and father of my blog reading and now you divorced; we moved away, and I don't get to see mommy anymore.

    Anyway great reference thanks for bringing me back to the awesomeness that is missing from all our lives. In return I will share some insanity, because without insanity we would have no internet!



    Peas shout!

  17. I like her, but I'm not a big dog person, so a lot of her postings are lost on me. Maybe that's why we split up.

  18. You ever read the Gaea series by John Varley? Fantastic series where sci-fi meets fantasy meets sci-fi. A ship approaches a giant alien sattelite, which ends up being a hollow living being with a world inside of it populated by centaurs and angels and stuff, and at the end the astronauts who got sucked inside meet the intelligence of the world itself. It seems similar to this, and man when i originally was thinking the author was named VARNey it was quite the holy shit moment. Alas its Varley and I cant make the guess that this game was based on that.

    As to the game itself MM2 has always been my favorite crpg of all time. I was too young for MM1, it was way too hard and I think my version might have been corrupted, but it had the same look and feel as MM2. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.

    1. I have not. It sounds interesting, and that would have been a great coincidence had his name been "Varney." It's still possible that JVC was influenced by this (or similar) sci-fi.

  19. This was probably the best playthrough of yours I've read so far. I just found this site about a week ago and have been skipping around, but you've already given me so many ideas on what to play next. I never did play the earlier Might and Magic games. I started with 5 or 6 I think - whichever it was that had you start off with an all human cast. I miss this series, and wish it hadn't ended on such a weak note.

    How do you feel about the sci-fi elements in the series? You seemd a amused a few times but never went into how you felt about the concept in general. I know some of my friends think it's too weird and honestly won't touch the games for that reason, but I've always been a big fan of it - especially when its as well integrated into the story as in Might and Magic and another series you'll be reviewing eventually (don't want to spoil it in case you haven't played it before, it comes as a bit of a surprise).

    1. It is intresting. They were common in the main Might & Magic series, but when they tried to introduce them to the Heroes of Might & Magic TBS spin off fan reaction was so bad they deleted everything and slapped together something new, despite the fact they didn't have the money or time to make new enemies, so they had to reuse as many units as they could, thus making a town based around elementals.

    2. Oh, those elementals were so boring.
      They should have had faith in their vision and notlisteded to a very minor, but very loud, group of fans.
      Same thing happened to a lesser degree with Thief 1 and Thief 2; all the supernatural elements were cut due to fan pressure, making Thief 2 feel slightly bland.

    3. Apparently it wasn't a small group of fans: It was *everyone* they talked too. o.0 Still, I wish Mass Effect hadn't cut anything people didn't like in ME2, I liked the Mako, so I can see your point.

    4. Man, I hated the last third or so of the first Thief game. Until that part, you were avoiding guards, stopping them from alerting each other, knocking them out, or even killing them. All of the sudden, you're dealing with skeletons, ghosts, and the like who seem to always find you, can't be knocked out or stunned, and were near impossible to kill. I don't mind a change in game play, but that one completely obliterated the whole point of the game.

    5. I'm not sure I have a problem with mixing fantasy and sci-fi, if it's well-explained and justified, but I think the MM series is a bit goofy about it. Each game is solidly fantasy for 9/10 of it and then suddenly introduces a sci-fi element for the last act.

    6. It isn't *quite* true that the sci-fi stuff appears at the last in MMI. One can find a "laser blaster" and a few other such things in special places in principle fairly early.

  20. Did they cut the scifi stuff from Heroes during development? I don't recall seeing any at all for fans to speak out against. I haven't played the first in some time.

    While I loved the inclusion of technology and magic in Thief, I do agree that the switch in gameplay in the first was a bit disconcerting. That's more a problem with the switch in the theme of the gameplay than the theme of the plot, however, and that's a complaint I can agree with. Though I still hold Thief to be one of the best games ever.

    1. It was for the expansion pack Armageddon's Blade. Yes, it was cut due to the overwhelming hatred they got from just about everyone. Thus the Elementals.

  21. So they just assumed you were doing your own mapping on paper, huh? I guess if you can assume that, this is a clever way to use it! But it would have been much more fair in one of the later games with the Cartography skill.

    Reminds me of the last dungeon of Daggerfall, where looking at the automap was part of the final clue.

    Great series, much more entertaining than the walkthrough. So many hours per entry, you're dedicated. Guess that's how you got a PhD.

  22. I have made a discovery by doing some reverse engineering (with freeware IDA) while playing the game. (I played the version you can get from GOG)

    Many monsters should have a "bonus on touch" that is never used. Thieves for example should be able to steal one item from your backpack.

    For many monsters the PCs should be able to evade the bonus, based on luck and level. But the result of that "roll" is not used and the function just returns. A few monsters have an unavoidable "bonus on touch". These do happen.

    I looked for youtube videos of other versions of the game (Apple II and C64) and in none of the few videos I found did one these boni happen. So this could be feature and not a bug. For the monsters you face in Sorpigal there would have been 4 that could inflict disease and one that could poison you and some with other effects.

    For a starting party that could have been really annoying.

    1. Nice find! Maybe they made a last minute decision to cut it because players were frustrated by the difficulty early game.

    2. These effects, strangely enough, do seem to function on the NES version of the game, but that's the only port I've seen them on.

  23. The bit about the re-entering the soul maze repeatedly is bizarre. In the Apple II version, the *real* King Alamar is on the throne if you return. "MY SAVIORS, YOU'RE ALWAYS WELCOME HERE!YOU SHOULD FIND THE INNER SANCTUM... LIVE LONG AND PROSPER." appears ...

    (Also, congratulations on figuring out Og's puzzle - that always threw me as a kid; fortunately the game is winnable without it.)

    1. That had been bothering me for years. I'm glad they fixed it on another platform.

    2. I think your copy was just bugged, because I just beat the PC version last night, and the real King Alamar was on the throne after the soul maze

  24. Oh, yeah. Might and Magic III is finally on the upcoming list! I haven't been so excited to see you play a game since the first M&M games. I have very recently played 3 and it was one of the tightest CRPG experiences I've have since Fallout 1. Although my play through was hindered near the end of the mid game, where my characters were irreversibly aged into their 70s. Ouch.

    1. Without adding spoilers, just to say that that age problem *can* be reversed, and can be considered a side-quest by itself.
      I finished the game yesterday myself and waiting for Chet's review of it too :)

    2. I'm actually kind of bummed--I'd been hoping to start M&M3 a bit before the Addict so I could keep ahead, but Spiderweb Software's Avernum: EftP has kept me busy since April. Looks like I'm going to have to wait a year or two to start M&M3 so the spoilers aren't too fresh.

    3. There's still time. It's still a number of games away. I'm playing through the SNES version right now.

    4. Actually, I did get to the point where you could restore character age, but that didn't work for what issue I ran into! I touched a certain group of crystals in a certain location *hint hint* that permanently increased everyone's age by passing the years in game. So it wasn't reversible as it wasn't the age that changed persay, but the years in game. Alas... No time traveling in MM3.

    5. That happened to my MM3 party as well, and unfortunately I did not notice until many hours later, after having slogged through the Maze from Hell and overwritten all saves, when characters started dying in their sleep (I tended not to rest very often by then). Of course I had to touch every last crystal in that location - what was it, 5 or 10 years' age for each? - and as I recall there was not the slightest hint of what was happening.

      Normally I'd never consider using a hex editor, but I did resort to it in this instance. It was either that or start the whole game from scratch. The age values were easy to find and revert (two per character, I think? Natural age and magically-advanced age? Monsters with an aging attack would increment only the latter). I can't remember if there was a checksum needing to be updated, but if so it was a simple one.

  25. First comment to this incredible blog.
    I just found this awesome add-on called "Where are we? An automapping retrofit for Might and Magic® 1-5, Wizardry® 1-5, and Bard's Tale® 1-3". I don't know how long this program has been around - I found it on a random reddit link, though the website looks like it would be at home in the 90's. Anyway, it's incredibly good, and if you find manual mapping tedious along with other administrative aspects of these games, I highly encourage you to check it out. https://www.eskimo.com/~edv/lockscroll/WhereAreWe/


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