Friday, May 13, 2011

Might & Magic II: The Land Explored

A composite map of CRON, pieced together from 20 screen shots.

First off, I know I haven't been great at keeping a solid posting schedule lately, but the last two days isn't my fault: Blogger has been down. It was rather infuriating having something to publish and not being able to publish it. It also looks like Blogger's problems caused a lot of your comments to get deleted. I have a number in my e-mail from May 11 and 12 that don't appear in the threads. They're not in the spam folder, either. But we'll just have to grin and bear it.

I've already covered the major outdoor features in a previous posting, but the other day I finished my exploration of the surface of CRON, minus a 3 x 3 square on one map (upper right) that contains a "Dead Zone" which melts the skin off my characters every time I enter it. This must be the location where Kalohn defeated something (see the back story in my first post on the game). You can see the elemental plains in the four corners, the ice tundra in the northeast, the desert to the east, and the major roads that connect the cities.

Might & Magic II joins other games like Ultima IV on shaky cartographic grounds. The game world wraps around itself, so that if you go off the map's north edge, you find yourself on the south edge. You don't have to have training in geography and map projection (and I do) to know that this simply doesn't make sense. The only way to render a spherical surface on a two-dimensional map is to generate significant size distortion at the poles, much like the Mercator projection of the Earth:

Hint: Greenland is not actually as big as Africa; Africa is 14 times larger.

But this doesn't work on the MM2 map, because the four elemental planes are clearly supposed to be in the "corners" of CRON; it makes no sense that I can hop from the Plane of Fire to the Plane of Water in one move, and yet I can. It makes even less sense given that CRON really isn't a planet, but rather a bioengineered spaceship.

The "Eagle Eye" spell in the upper right shows the "Four Corners" of the elemental planes.

Suspending disbelief and moving on, though: The furthest corner square in each of the four corners contains a portal to the "Time" of that element. I expect I will have to journey to these locations to get the four talons that make up the Elemental Orb, but I haven't precisely been given that quest yet. In the meantime, wandering around these four areas leads to encounters with air, earth, fire, and water elementals, who are reasonably tough customers.

Fortunately, however, on one of the maps is a fountain that raises all your attributes to 200 for the next battle. Although it's surrounded by difficult combats, it's a fairly simple matter just to fly to the map and teleport to the precise location of the fountain. If I use this to buff before combat (often in conjunction with "Lloyd's Beacon"), there's almost no combat that I can't win.

This resulted in a severe game imbalance with a trio of foes on Map B2 called "cuisinarts" (presumably because they slice and dice you; I believe the enemy makes a re-appearance in Might & Magic VI). They do devastating damages to my characters--more than 1,000 hit points each. But here's something about combat in Might & Magic that I'm not sure I made clear: when a character is knocked down to 0 hit points or less, he doesn't die; instead, he is rendered "unconscious." If at that point he takes any more damage, he dies, but melee opponents don't target unconscious characters. Thus, the only real danger is 1) if all the members of your party are knocked unconscious; or 2) if your foes have a "party effect" attack like fire breath or acid spray, which will turn unconscious characters into dead characters.

Thus, as long as I can keep healing unconscious characters at the end of each round, I can keep my party alive no matter how much melee damage the enemies do. Since I got the "Moon Ray" spell (which heals all party members, as long as they're outdoors), I can do this. In consequence, staying alive against enemies as tough as cuisinarts is simply a matter of killing them before they can knock my entire party unconscious, which is basically only possible if they get both of my healers in the same round. With the aforementioned attribute boost to 200, that isn't possible even for them.

Killing the cuisinart trio nets me 7,500,000 experience points. To put this in perspective, the highest experience point award that I typically got before defeating the cuisinarts was about 50,000. In four combats against them, my characters went from Level 20 to Level 36. All my characters have max spell levels and my fighters have multiple attacks per round, doing serious damage. This is not very good game balance, and I've resolved to leave the cuisinarts alone rather than make it worse.

I would never have solved these two encounters, on different maps, if not for meticulous notes.

In other outdoor news, Might & Magic II has a lot of special encounters on the game maps, just like the first game. I still haven't solved them all. I don't know the name of the guardian pegasus, and somehow I need to find a cupie doll to give to a raving old man. One notable map location was Murray's Resort Isle in the southwest. I first encountered it just exploring the map and nothing happened for me there. But I later found if I purchased a ticket from the travel agent in Middlegate, it led to a series of attribute-boosting encounters.

All right. Based on my notes taken over the last couple months of game play, this is what I know: I now need to complete each of the character-specific quests to get my characters their +s and thus obtain an audience with Queen Lamanda in the Luxus Palace Royale. From there, I'm guessing I'll have a quest that involves time travel (I've gained access to a time machine and have various notes about where people are in previous centuries). I assume that I will have to eventually visit each of the four elemental planes, get the four talons, assemble the Orb of the Elements (or whatever it's called), and defeat....what? That's the real question. Other than some vague notes about Sheltem (the villain from the first game), I'm not really sure what the threat to CRON is.

Unlike my gameplay in I, I have mostly not been exploring the various caves, castles, and dungeons as I come across them. My intention at this point is to map all of the indoor and underground locations, complete the character-specific quests, and then get on to the main quest.

If I have any readers in the Kansas City area, you have the opportunity to achieve your quest to buy me a GIMLET on Monday or Tuesday nights next week. (This is a quest you all assume by reading this blog in the first place.) E-mail me if you want to give it a go.


  1. "It makes even less sense given that CRON really isn't a planet, but rather a bioengineered spaceship."

    Maybe CRON was engineered to be a surface of a torus. That could explain it. ;)

  2. Topologically, the map is a torus, like a really big version of the spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  3. IIRC, it is possible to map a spherical surface onto a flat surface, while correctly representing sizes (areas). There are numerous projections (Mollweide, Eckert IV and VI, Urmaev flat polar sinusoidal, etc) that do this - but they distort angles a lot, while the area-distorting Mercator doesn't. It is impossible to represent correctly both areas and angles.

    As already noted by some commenters, the M&MII world appears to be toroidal.

  4. Is there a warning around the dead zone? Yeesh.

  5. The toroidal map doesn't work either because, even though the corners would meet, it would have to bulge in the middle to get a full wrap-around effect.

  6. Exactly, Keir. There is no three-dimensional shape that makes any sense given you can wrap both north-south and east-west.

    Anon has a point about projections that are better that Mercator, but ALL projections have to distort SOMETHING--either distances between objects, or size of objects, or the shape of objects. If you create a world projection that keeps Antarctica at is normal size, for instance, you'll need to insert a lot of extra ocean around there. There's no way around it. Anyway, the MM2 map clearly isn't a projection--distorted or not--because there's a uniform distance between squares and the elemental planes are clearly supposed to represent "corners." The only thing that makes sense is that CRON is a flat world and some sort of magic causes you to teleport from one edge to the other--perhaps the creators set it up that way so the inhabitants wouldn't run into a wall and thus know they weren't on a real planet.

    Sid, there are signs around the dead zone, yes. I had to try, though.

  7. Your cuisinarts "exploit" clealy shows why repeatable scripted encounters are - despite being a staple of early RPGs - a bad idea and one that anyway doesn't make (roleplaying) sense.

    I have really no opinion on whether I like respawning of "clearable" type of areas, but the respawning should be only for random encounters or else is open to abuse.

  8. Good point, Georges. Most modern CRPGs offer "boss" battles that net a lot of experiences, but those bosses don't show up again if you leave the map and return.

    I do like respawning of maps, but only in terms of random encounters, not fixed encounters. As you say, respawning fixed encounters makes no sense. And yet the MM series was doing that even through VIII.

  9. Well, I refer to my comment a post back. The cuisinarts were the group I exploited. And you are right, they may be hidden, but after you find them, you have already broken the game beyond repair. I never even fought them "fairly" because I never thought about how enemies don´t target knocked out characters. In my first encounter with them (they were called something like "Die drei K├╝chenchefs" in german, I think -some kind of reference to an old german commercial, but my memory is a bit fuzzy on the details) I simply panicked and disintegrated them on the spot. Afterwards I searched and found more then enough treasure to fund the necessary training after getting so much experience. A few hours later, I turned all my characters literally into invincible gods and godesses and stopped having fun. So I guess it really would have been a good idea not to repeatedly run back to the cuisinarts, but hindsight and all that...

    1. The msx2 version is less forgiving with melee attacks. If the damage is too high, the character may die, instead of getting unconscious.

  10. CRON looks remarkably like a road sign. Or maybe the image is borked.

  11. Thanks, Doomy. I don't know how that happened. I just fixed it.


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