The results of attacking 65 Devil Kings. Each one has 5,000 hit points and is worth 30,000,000 experience points. I would wager that this battle is impossible even at the highest levels. I couldn't even kill one.
Well, I really stretched that one out, didn't I? 53 days from the first post to "Won!" Of course, I wasn't playing during this entire stretch, but that's a long time even to have a single game on one's mind.
Might & Magic I remains my highest-rated game so far, largely because of the variability in equipment, the strong economy, the variety of quests (it was the first game to feature real "side quests"), and the overall quality of gameplay. The gameplay in Might & Magic II is largely identical to MM1, but with a different plot and better graphics. (It would be a good idea to review my rating for that game before reading this.) Hence, I wouldn't expect the score to be a lot different. Let's see.
1. Game world. The game benefits from a large world, many dungeons, varied terrain, and terrain-specific encounters. Its backstory is interesting, although the plots of the main villain are not well integrated into the game itself. I dock a point for basically repeating the first game's twist (the world is really a spaceship) and for featuring the same villain (but without providing much more information about him), but I have to add some points for doing a better job reacting to the player's actions: NPCs remember your deeds and react accordingly. The blend of sci-fi and fantasy remains unusual, and I still don't find it very convincing--see my questions at the end of yesterday's posting. Final score: 6.
2. Character creation and development. The Cuisinart thing really bothered me. Most of the game, you're struggling for each experience point, and battles in which you net 50,000 or 75,000 experience are a real reward. Then, suddenly, you face a foe that earns you 7,500,000 experience, and sends you up several levels every time you fight him. It makes slogging through dungeons much less rewarding when you know you could just skip all that, pound the Cuisinarts a few times, and get the same result. The selection of races and classes are nothing special, but aside from the Cuisinarts, leveling is swift and satisfying. The class-specific quests are also a welcome touch, although the developers removed any role-playing based on alignment (as in the first game). Final score: 5.
[Later edit: I realized I neglected to talk about the skill system here. It's a good step for the series, but it's not implemented very well. The reason I forgot about it is that you generally select your skills early in the gameplay and then never really think about them again. There is nonetheless some strategy associated with the choice of skills, and while it's not enough to advance the score, it's worth a mention.]
3. NPC Interaction. Still the weakest part of the series. You encounter kings, lords, merchants, and other NPCs, but none of them offer dialog options or any real opportunity to role-play. Interaction is all one-way. Final score: 3.
4. Encounters and foes. Andrew Schultz's walkthrough of the game lists an unsurprising total of 255 different monsters. They were extremely varied in their attacks and even more so in their resistances. Some are resistant to certain sexes, some to various types of magic, some to melee weapons. A good player needs to take careful notes or have a good memory. I wasn't a good player. I kept forgetting if it was the Cursed Corpse or the Coffin Creep that drains your magic, and whether it was the Iron Wizard or the Warbot that casts eradicate. It doesn't help that many use the same icons. The game allows you to encounter up to 255 enemies at once, which is a lot more than the first game and provided a unique challenge in the beginning stages. In later stages, mass encounters were generally fodder for the CTRL-A combo, although going back to the Tundara dungeon and casting "Holy Word" on 200 Killer Cadavers was definitely a high point. There's a good balance between random encounters and fixed encounters, and rarely did it seem (unlike The Bard's Tale III) like there were too many encounters. Final score: 6.
5. Magic and Combat. I detailed the combat system in a posting in March an the magic system a couple of days ago. Since you only have to survive one combat at a time, it's not quite as tactical as Wizardry. I actually liked it better in the beginning stages, when every passage felt potentially dangerous, than in later stages when I was CTRL-A'ing my way through battles with demons. There are plenty of combat options, though, from different types of attacks to spells to uses of magic items. What I didn't like was the imbalance between outdoor combat (which became laughably easy towards the end, thanks to Moon Ray and Starburst), and indoor combat, in which you never get a mass healing spell. Final score: 5.
6. Equipment. Largely unchanged from MM1, but still very good. You can equip six items and carry six others, and there are many, many types of items to find, some of which provide attribute increases, cast spells, provide resistance bonuses, or just do mad damage against your foes. There seemed to be no upper limit to the +s that a weapon or armor could achieve. I liked that even non-spellcasters could use magic items, turning my thief into an emperor of electrical destruction when I filled his pack with Storm Wands. The "Specials" at shops always provided a good selection, even at high levels. I also liked that items were mostly randomized within the game world, but there were some fixed item locations. One of the best CRPGs of the era when it comes to equipment, the game lacks only descriptions. Final score: 7.
Quick rundown: the Stealth Cape, Thief's Pick, and Looter Knife increase thievery. The Sapphire Pin increases luck by 15. The (B)ronze Chain Mail boosts fear resistance (as well as armor class). The Storm Wands cast Lightning Bolt, the Flaming Sword and Fireball Bow cast Fireball, and the Freeze Wand casts Fantastic Freeze.
7. Economy. Until I found the magic well in the Luxus Palace that converted gold to experience, I thought the economy was horribly imbalanced. It still is, really. Except during the first town, you almost never hurt for gold. The game could have done a better job with this, offering lower gold rewards and making things like NPCs, healing, and blessings cost more. As it was, the only time I worried about money was when a Leprechaun (nasty bastards) zapped it all away, but even then it only would take me 20 or 30 minutes to recover millions. The first game was a little tougher and more fun. Final score: 6.
8. Quests. The Might & Magic series continues to shine here. It remains the only series in this era with a strong selection of side quests as well as a compelling, multi-stage main quest. The main quest was slow to reveal itself, just like in the first game, but it was one of the more interesting main quests of the CRPGs I've played, and it fit well with the game's back story. Every map featured a side quest or two, and the class-specific quests were a very nice addition. My only complaint is that many of the quests relied a little too much on notes scrawled on dungeon walls. Still, in my opinion, this is the best aspect of the game. Final score: 8.
9. Graphics, Sound, and Inputs. The graphics are much improved over MM1. They are detailed, animated, and nice to look at. Nothing like modern games, but certainly not distractingly bad. Sound continues to consist of bloops and overly-repetitive victory music. The set of keyboard commands is probably the best of any game I've played: quick and intuitive. Final score: 5.
10. Gameplay. Another way in which the series excels is its nonlinearity. In fact, one might say that the game is nonlinear to a fault: you have to explore extensively before you even realize what you're supposed to do in the game. Towards the end, the game started to feel a little easy, but most of the time it felt just right. As in the first game, a new selection of transportation spells deliver themselves every time you start to feel like exploration is a drag. I personally felt that it lasted a bit too long, but I think that had more to do with my erratic playing schedule than the fault of the game. The only serious drawback to gameplay is a lack of replayability. Final score: 7.
The final score is 58. That's two points lower than I ranked Might & Magic I. If you want to howl in protest, believe me, I understand. From a purely objective standpoint, it seems like II should be better than I--if only for the graphics alone! But, to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed the first game a little bit more. I think the quests had a little more depth, the game was better balanced, and the plot was more original back then. It's still the second-highest ranked game in my blog, though, and I did have a lot of fun playing it.
I spent some time tonight reading Schultz's walkthrough to see what I missed. In case anyone is interested:
- The different meals you can purchase in the tavern do a lot more than I gave them credit for. I knew that eating roast peasant and cream of kobold soup led to some encounters with angry relatives, but I didn't realize that other meals were necessary to get NPCs.
- Finishing the Gourmet's quest (you have to eat every item in every tavern) apparently clears your palate, and makes sure the aforementioned peasants and kobolds stop attacking you. I must have eaten again after I finished this quest because they were still attacking me at the end.
- I forgot to top the bartenders at each tavern, and it's from the tavern tips that I would have learned when the circus is in town (Days 140-170, apparently; I ended the game at Day 93, so it would have been a long wait).
- Drinking in the bars provided attribute boosts. I never noticed.
- In some of the dungeons, there are places that boost your attributes by 10 points permanently. I didn't realize that you could keep returning to these locations and get more boosts. It seems like cheating.
- I completely ignored skill potions because I didn't understand what they did. Apparently, they increase your level and cause you to do a lot more damage and make it more likely that enemies will flee. You can use them multiple times to really pump yourself up. Whoops.
- The guardian pegasus's name was Meenu. Solving the quest would have netted me 100,000 gold. Hardly worth it.
- Killing the elemental lords wasn't necessary.
- Apparently, there really was no other way to get the Orb out of Dawn's Mist Bog. Schultz was aghast at it, too.
- The reward for completing the Dragon's Dominion (which I didn't) was an extra 1,000 hit points. Wow. Turned out I didn't need them, I guess.
I think it's actually cool that there were some things I never found or finished. It's a sign of a complex game.
I don't know what Moraff's Revenge is, but it's up next!