|The lands of Deruvia are large and varied.|
Going to The Magic Candle directly from Bloodwych throws into sharp relief the difference between these two fundamental categories of CRPGs. We call the latter the "dungeon crawl," and its virtue is its relative simplicity. You get a backstory--quite frankly, it can be almost anything--and then you're released into a terrain limited in both geography and plot. The point of the dungeon crawl is hack, slash, heal, move forward. No one fills a journal playing Dungeon Master. Please trust that I'm not saying this in a negative way. There are times that such a game is exactly what you want.
I don't know that the other type of game even has a specific name, but it's what you get with Ultima IV and V, The Elder Scrolls, Might & Magic, and The Magic Candle: games in which you don't simply map, but discover. While I'm always up for a good dungeon crawl, exploring a new CRPG land that really demands exploring is one of the better experiences of being a CRPG addict. When you enter a new level of a dungeon crawl, you wonder how tough the monsters will be and how many navigation obstacles the developers will throw at you. When you enter a new town of...whatever you want to call this type of game...you wonder who you'll meet, what they'll say, what kind of quests they'll have for you. It's a wonder that we even think of them as the same genre.
Over the last couple days, The Magic Candle showed me a few more of its innovations and a lot more of its lore. I still don't have quite enough experience to give you a thematic posting on combat or magic, so I thought I'd just recount my experiences in chronological order and we'll see what unfolds. Next time, I might be able to organize the posting around something.
|Giauz prepares to die.|
At the end of my last entry, I had resolved to walk overland to Soldain, just south of the Royal Castle, where I had a number of people to meet. Fairly soon, I discovered that heading to Soldain in The Magic Candle is not like walking from Britain to Trinsic in Ultima IV; Deruvia is a lot more dangerous than Britannia. After getting bloodied several times by the Forces of Darkness, I turned around and went back to Port Avur to spend my last bit of gold on a bigger arsenal and brawnier characters.
It turned out there wasn't much I could do about weapons. Most of my characters already had the best weapons that their strength allowed them to carry. One exception was my ranger, Nehor, who was able to buy a "brom bow" (I have no idea what "brom" is). Thus, I decided to concentrate on a little training and a bigger supply of mushrooms. Checking my cash (which had been bolstered by a few successful battles and a little gambling), I found that I had just enough to one day of combat training for everyone. I split my party into three groups--three melee fighters, two archers, and the wizard--and sent them to respective schools.
|Lest you think I'm rich, this was before I remembered to split up the gold.|
It turned out the wizard didn't have quite enough...
...so I sent him to the inn to sleep and memorize spells. He was sad.
With the money I had left, I invested in every mushroom I could afford, focusing primarily on Sermins, which restore energy, and Gonshi, which increase combat movement speed. I couldn't afford much by this point, but he training had done its job.
|In my mind, I heard, "Huh-Huh-HOO-ah!"|
My party reunited at the front gates (I really am enjoying this party-splitting thing) and I headed out.
|"Hey, Eflun! How did your training go?...Why are you looking at me like that?"|
Bolstered by my training, mushrooms, and Delmoko's tip that I could pre-cast magic shield spells on my characters, I returned to my journey to Soldain. The game is nice about giving you an image of a skull and crossbones just before you're about to stumble on a pack of enemies. Inevitably, this happens in a chokepoint that you can't get around without some magical ability to cross mountains.
I had to fight six battles on the way to Soldain, and not one of them was easy. I had assumed that Gonshi mushrooms increased movement speed throughout combat, but they only last for one round, so I can't blow through them too fast.
|Using a mushroom. And to answer the obvious question: sometimes he gets cold at night.|
The biggest combat difficulty was the Zorlim spellcaster that always appeared in the back of the orcs, wolvingas, or whatever other footsoldiers occupied the front ranks. I lined up my archers and tried to take him out as quickly as possible (it generally took to long to get someone in melee range), but he usually had the chance to blast the shields and stamina (i.e., hit points) of a few of my people. Annoyingly, they just vanish when they die and don't leave any treasure.
Also on the way down the coast, I ran into a new kind of encounter and interface:
Fortunately, I had a rope:
|Was this really the safest way to do this? Eflun is pretty old.|
At length, I arrived at Soldain, home of the dwarves, and began exploring. It was a small town. Other NPCs had primed me with the names of several doors to knock on (as I mentioned previously, you can't just barge into houses; you have to know who lives there), and I learned a little more about the hoyam essence I need to lure the White Wolf who carries the key to the vault containing the Zirvanad which tells how to restore the Magic Candle.
But here's where there was another neat thing: I had been told to visit a scholar named Rabbonkar, and he offered me "knowledge of the dwarfish tongue." I would have guessed my dwarf already knew that, but whatever. I expected to get some sort of attribute note, but instead I got an actual list of words in dwarfish. Clearly, these will be useful for some puzzle in the future, so I dutifully recorded them in The Book of Flame and Wax.
|When I see "YOZU UMEN GRU DAHAR," I'll know to turn around.|
I had to wait until 18:00 to enter the council hall and visit with the dwarf councilors, who told me they'd be happy to give me some hoyam essence if I would return the Hammer of Thorin, an artifact of the king who ruled the dwarves during the age in which Dreax was imprisoned. It had recently been stolen from Soldain, probably by orcs, and one of the dwarves thought I should ask the orcs imprisoned in Port Avur. Dammit, I just came from there!
|Isn't that racial profiling?|
I was going to have to return to Port Avur to get passage to Keof--my next major stop--anyway, but on the way back I thought I'd try to find the dungeon of Dermagud, where a god named Valon is rumored to sleep, and to which I had just gotten the password needed to get in. I don't really understand the "gods" issue yet. Apparently, there are eight of them, they're all sleeping, and I need passwords (or "prayers") to wake them up. I'm not sure if the places they're sleeping are the same as "temples," or whether the passwords to get in are the same as their "prayer words."
Dermagud was said to be an old dwarven mine in the mountains of Uberion, through which I had to pass on the way from the Royal Castle to Soldain. Since Soldain is a city of dwarves, I went with the idea that it might be close to the city and started to explore the mountain range just north. Anyway, I never found Dermagud, but I did find, guarded by some evil thugs, a Sermin mushroom patch. Warned by Petrus, I picked, but not too greedily. My understanding is that the mushrooms only grow back if you leave a few.
|And I just learned the term "mycologist" today.|
My plan now is to head back to Port Avur and see if I can get a bead on the Hammer of Thorin, then take the boat to Keof, where a monk knows more about the vault containing the Zirvanad. Finding the Zirvanad seems to be my biggest main quest at this point. I also want to get to the halfling village Bondell (also, I think, reachable by ship from Port Avur) so I can train up my charisma, but I think I need to grind up some gold first. All my explorations so far have taken place in a tiny sliver of the northwest corner of the map.
Lest I give you the impression that it's all roses, there are a few things I don't like about the game. Movement is extremely slow, both because of the combats but also because there's literally a pause after you press the movement key before your characters actually move. These add up. I find it very easy to accidentally waste a turn in combat because I think I'm still moving one character when it's switched to another. NPC dialogue is a bit annoying in that every time the NPC tells you something useful, it kicks you out of the dialogue and you have to re-initiate it. Since each party member can only carry 99 of a lot of things (mushrooms, arrows, food), it's difficult to equalize everyone's stuff by having one character pool it and then divide it. The sound is piercing and awful. Most of all, I don't like having to continuously worry about each character's "energy," which depletes every movement, combat action, and spell (though, to be fair, the Sermins help with that).
But this is also a game that has left me eager to see how the plot unfolds and palpably nervous every time I step into new territory. It is, more importantly, the first game since Wasteland--almost a year ago--that I'm playing because I want to, and not because it's on a list. This wick is going to burn for a while.