Friday, October 12, 2012

Magic Candle: Won!

Eternal imprisonment in a candle feels like cruel and unusual punishment, even for an arch-demon.

I know, I know. Last posting, I was remarking about how much of the game I still had to play, and now I've gone and won it. Believe me, I'm disappointed. I still had "Snuffed," "Flicker and Dim," and several as-yet-not-worked-out plays on birthdays and "can't hold a candle to" to use as posting titles. But I was getting a little fatigued with the game (and frankly, judging by the drop in comments and traffic, I think you were, too), so I made a major push to get it done before the weekend. The "major push" involved about 20 total hours of gameplay over the last 48 hours, which was a little excessive even for me.

There were no consequences.

The Magic Candle ended up having two major "halves." The first half is a process of game world exploration and character development, culminating in the discovery of the Zirvanad, the book that describes the ritual we need to restore the Magic Candle. The second half of the game is a process of traveling around the land and gathering the various rituals and items specified in the Zirvanad. When I last posted, I had discovered about half of the items, and I slowly assembled the other half while visiting the large island of Upper Deruvia and several dungeons.

To make a long story short, I:

1. Returned to the unicorn on the island Heavenly and, using Sherro's High Call, summoned her and got the Green Ring of Order.

2. Explored the dungeon of Bedangidar. On an upper level, I found the elven sorceress Somona and rescued her, sending her back to her queen at Theldair. On a lower level was a magic sword called Brennix, once owned by the warrior Zilbann, that I gave to Giauz. It was, as far as I can tell, the only magic weapon in the game. It did up to 99 damage per attack, which was far superior than the long sword I'd been wielding previously.

You'd have to be really committed to role-playing to say "no" here.
 
3. Returned to Theldair and got the Elven Dream Dust from Somona.

For some reason, Somona had been trapped as a bird in a gilded cage.
 
4. Took a boat from Merg to Kraken Bay on Upper Deruvia. Explored. Found both the temple and the sleeping area of a god and got some statistical boosts from him.

5. Went to Shiran, the city of wizards. I was told I need a magic circlet to get Shir-Aka ash. I searched my notes and found references to it being in the possession of the Ogre King. Bloody hell--why didn't I notice that when I was at his tower? I returned to Shadrun, which turned out to be a good thing because a scroll in the tower had the words for the Bubble of Captivity. I got the Ciclet from the Ogre King, returned to Shiran, and got the ash.

Technically, I got twigs from the Shir-Aka tree, which turned into ash.

I also picked up a Zoxinn spellbook while there, which had a lot of mass-damage and mass-heal spells, most of which I hardly used.

The mass-damage spells were very draining but occasionally fun.
 
6. Explored the tower of Thakass on Wizards' Isle. At the top, spoke to the "Mad One" and got the Blue Ring of Power.

It was a real struggle.
 
7. Wandered around and spoke to various NPCs until I got the clue I needed to the cloak in Kharin. Found the cloak in Crezimas, which I had already cleared. At this point I needed to get to the dungeon Sargoz. I had a teleportal combination but no origin point. Based on an obscure note I had taken, I tried it in Thakass and it worked.

8. Defeated Sargoz--the longest part of this journey. It was very hard. There were tons of water locations, snakes, magic barriers, and tough enemies. There were no stairs from level to level, so I had to find and map teleporters. I had to keep resting in rooms to replenish spells. I kept running out of "Fear" and "Freeze" which were the only things protecting me from high-level enemy spell-casting demons. I ran out of arrows and some mushrooms. The toughest battles of the game were at the end of the dungeon, and in my state I had to reload three or four times.

A difficult battle against Dreads and other demons.

I finally made it to the Furnace of Hades, used the cloak to protect myself from heat, and got the White Amulet of Light.

I felt like something by Orff should have been playing here.
 
9. Journeyed to the three "brick houses" containing levers needed to raise the Sunken Isle. Left one party member at the first two, pulled all the levers simultaneously, and reversed the journey to pick up the party members.

What are we supposed to make of an island raised by three levers? Is it just a bit of goofiness, or is Deruvia a world constructed by a superior technological civilization?

10. Visited Sunken Isle and read the Ritual of Awareness in a book in a brick house there.

Can you make anything out of these words? I don't think they're anagrams.
  
11. Re-stocked one last time and headed to the Hidden Vale to defeat Dreax.

Hidden Vale is surrounded by mountains. I had to teleport in.
 
I was surprised to find that the room with the Magic Candle wasn't at the end of a dungeon or something. You just wander into the castle in the Hidden Vale, and there it is. You don't get any kind of dialogue with Dreax, which is too bad.
 
The ritual takes a while and proceeds through multiple stages of using items and bellowing chants. The Zirvanad outlined it fairly clearly, and the only problems I had related to misspelling the long, foreign words. The ritual basically created a "Bubble of Captivity," transferred Dreax from the Candle into it, restored the Candle, and transferred Dreax back.

The Bubble of Captivity. Ignore the screen corruption on the right. That started happening late in the game every time I saved.

When I was done, I didn't even get a "NOOOOOOO!" from Dreax--just a whisk to King Rebnard's castle, where the court feted us, the king designated us "Heroes of the Candle," and we received warning of another archdemon raising forces in the lands across the seas. I was sorry that Min and the PCs I used as cheap labor couldn't be part of the proceedings, but otherwise, as CRPG endings go, it wasn't too bad. The trend lately (I mean lately on the blog) has been to dump the player onto a "You Won!" screen without any fanfare.

Couldn't it be "Heroes of the Flame?" That sounds cooler.
  
If you're interested in a half-hour video of the final stages of the game, here it is. It starts in the middle of Step 9 above. If you want to skip right to the restoration of the Magic Candle, it's at 23:30.


You'll see me avoiding almost every combat. After Sargoz, I don't think I fought more than three. There was no point. My characters were already maxed, or nearly so, in their skills, and an abundance of gems had long removed any need for money. In this, the game reminds me unfavorably of the Questron series, including Legacy of the Ancients, where the only reason to fight anyone was that they were standing in your way.

The teleport spell helped to avoid mind-numbing combats.

As you can see, I was needlessly worried about the number of days left to finish the game. I started with 999 and ended at 718, which means my quest took 281 days. Even if I'd started on "hard" level, with 600 days, I would have ended at 319. And, as it's been pointed out, there is a sorceress in the Royal Castle who can give you more time. I can't imagine what I'd have to do to need all that time. I do confess, though, that there were times in which I hauled my party all the way across the continent to get some clue, then restored a save rather than hike all the way back. In retrospect, I guess that was a kind of cheating, but even then I don't think I would have come anywhere near to running out of time.

I couldn't finish up without experimenting with the ways to fail in the game. They are:

1. Full-party death or death of the lead character ("Lukas" by default, "Giauz" in my case) without resurrection in time. They amount to the same thing, since when the full party dies, so does any hope of resurrecting the lead. (I didn't cover this much before, but when a character dies, you have to cast resurrection pretty quickly. Otherwise you're off to one of the castles for a replacement.)


2. Time runs out. When this happened, I expected that the game would give me some kind of  message about Dreax rampaging across the land, but it doesn't. In fact, you can still go into the Hidden Vale castle and find the completely-melted Magic Candle:


The game still lets you perform the ritual--up to a point. You can trap Dreax (I guess he didn't have anything better to do but hang around the fireplace), but when you throw the Shir-Aka ash and chant the ritual necessary to restore the candle, "Nothing happens!" The only way out of the game at this point is to break the bubble as in #3. Thus, the end of the counter puts you in a "walking dead" situation rather than ending the game outright.


"So...um...hey, Dreax. This is awkward."

By the way, it took bloody forever to check this out. It's not easy to run down the timer for 700 days. You can put the characters to sleep, but they wake up every 80 or so days complaining about hunger and you have to go buy more food. If you're sleeping outside, there's a risk of ambush; if you're sleeping at an inn, the owner kicks you out every two weeks. It took longer to run out the clock than it took to write all of this posting and most of the next one.

3. You get Dreax imprisoned in the Bubble of Captivity but then walk into the bubble, breaking it. Dreax escapes and immediately slaughters your entire party with spells.

Dreax stands triumphant over the slain party. My, he looks bad-ass.

I confess I was a little disappointed with the ending, for reasons that weren't the game's fault. In my YouTube video on gameplay, a commenter said, "Dreax might be a nice guy, you never know [sic]." I thought he might be spoiling the ending and that there would be a twist in which it turned out that Dreax was unfairly imprisoned. I also thought that maybe the gods would show up and have something to do. I'm also a little disappointed by the lack of a final battle before facing Dreax. I feel like I did a lot of character development for a combat system that peaked 8 hours before the endgame.

But while it was a little anti-climactic, I did enjoy the process of the ritual. Most modern games wouldn't allow you to screw it up, and would make the overall process a lot simpler. I liked that I had to take extensive notes and consult them for the proper order of things. I only wish Dreax had offered some reaction rather than simply dancing around.

On to the GIMLET!

64 comments:

  1. The ending does seem very underwhelming. I just figured all these freed gods and interesting bits of lore would lead up to something incredibly climactic, like in Starflight.
    Oh well, the next time you return to the Magic Candle series it will be in the Keys of Maramon, an interesting game that I suspect you will nevertheless look upon far less favourably.

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    1. For both our sakes, I hope I defy your expectations. I read Barton's description, and it doesn't sound half bad. Brisker than MC.

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  2. Woohoo! Congratulations, I see you have at last succeeded in finishing Magic Candle 1! :) Huzzah!

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  3. Congratulations! You finished without having to take a break.
    I had much the same experience as you; that at some point there was no longer any point to the combats and they just became a nuisance. So I took a break from the game, which helped.
    I still think Magic Candle is a great game and one of the classics of the Golden Age of CRPGs, but if the amount of combat had been turned down it could have been a masterpiece.
    Looking forward to your Gimlet.

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    1. I don't do breaks well. I almost always forget what's going on, and I end up starting over. Not such a problem with NetHack, since the entire game is ABOUT starting over, but it definitely would have gone badly with The Magic Candle.

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  4. Overall I think this game, or rather making this game, was a dream fulfilled. You have a standard no twists from the beginning main quest and tons of optional content. Trying to discover how to accomplish the main quest will rum you through a lot of the optional content. If you didn't have access to the game virtually at all times, maintaining enthusiasm for the game like a PnPer maintains interest in more infrequent RPG sessions may have been more possible (this probably could apply to all stat-raise/quest-structured games). This game really was pretty special (and I'm not just saying it because I got to have an awesome sword).

    Great playthrough, CA!

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    1. I'm glad you liked it. You were one of the most enthusiastic about it. I'm not sure I agree there was a lot of "optional content," though. Almost every location was necessary to visit at some point; I just did some of them out of order. The only exceptions I can think of are the three enemy towers in towns and a few of the extra dungeon rooms.

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    2. I think I got swept up in the commentors' mentions of red-herrings, NPC deceptions, and walking into sidequests you later realize were beneficial but not required. Perhaps these features' abundance was overstated by nostalgia and the defects of memory?

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    3. Yeah, I'd have to say so. I can't think of a single thing that would have qualified as a "red herring."

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    4. What about the rumour about traitor(s) in the King's Castle? Did you ever find out anything about that? Assuming you even heard the rumour (I don't recall you mentioning it)?

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    5. Okay, I guess that would be a "red herring," although it didn't require me to actually do anything. I was thinking more along the lines of something that I had to chase down and that took some time.

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  5. That was me commenting on the videos before I realized you had a policy of not replying :)
    What was grammatically incorrect that you had to put [sic] on the end :D/

    Well done for reaching the end, it seems like the middle part of the game was the main challenge and the ending was just.. an ending.






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    1. Sorry about that, Chunk. That was a little obnoxious of me. It was just that you had a comma separating two independent sentences instead of a semicolon or period. It was minor, and it was silly of me to call attention to it.

      You did have me hoping for a more interesting ending, though. Once I encounter more of them, I'll have to do a posting on twist endings.

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    2. Right now I can only think of Starflight and the "bad" ending of Ultima 5 (it felt so profound how you could doom the world so spectacularly; really Lord British, Mondain's Amulet, and you as the vehicle for all of it were the cause of much more face-palming disaster than anything The Guardian could ever hope to achieve).

      I don't think, just using your own experience of the first two games, Might and Magic as having series-wide plot twists has come into its own yet. I can understand if finding out about its secret sci-fi elements could count for you, but I believe at the time you felt not much of it really made sense.

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    3. I have no idea what you're talking about on U5. You mean if you forget to bring the sandalwood box?

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    4. Maybe "twist endings" is a bad way to think about it. Just "twists" would be better. Baldur's Gate had a good one, as did Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Morrowind had so many that I'm still not sure what the game was about.

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    5. Yes, I meant the sandalwood box. Without it, the world is doomed to Blackthorne's misuse of the virtues, which only was able to come about because of Lord British making them up, the Shadow Lord's from Mondain's amulet, and you breaking the amulet and being the poster boy for the virtues.... and by forgetting that darn sandalwood box...

      Anyway, I think those two listedin the previous comment are the best twists you've come across on the blog so far.

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  6. Well done for finishing the game. I've enjoyed reading these posts. I know what you mean about taking breaks - even if a game doesn't have much of a story I still find myself struggling to remember where I was and how well developed my characters were.

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  7. Sounds like an interesting but too long game (in terms of the amount of combat you need to do). The candle ritual is a nice touch although I do think a modern game would allow you to screw it up since it would be implemented using quick time events.

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    1. Are QTEs really that common in modern CRPGs? I've never encountered one, but then again in the last 10 years, I've only played Dragon Age, Oblivion, and Skyrim.

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    2. I can't think of any that have QTE in them. More common in FPS and adventure games.

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    3. There are QTEs in The Witcher 2. Mass Effect 2 and 3 has some QTE-similar stuff.

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  8. Great gaming achievement for finishing the game! I thought you would interrupt it with nethack because it's pretty long going. How many hours went into playing the Magic Candle?

    About the combat: I remember when I started playing the game that I avoided combat in the wilderness as often as I could right from the start. This way the encounters felt less annoying for me I guess.

    But I was in for a big surprise when I entered my first dungeon Dermagud! After that my next "quest" was getting as much mushrooms as I could find/buy, get better equipment and train my chars as much as possible. Fun times hitting that wall!

    This was probably another reason it reminded me of LotR; first succesfully avoiding combat whenever possible like the fellowship and then in the first dungeon getting roflstomped by large numbers of heavy encounters (similar to Moria).

    Another question; did you complete "The Book of Flame and Wax"? It would be of great help for me because I decided to crossreference the series together with the other Mindcraft games hoping to create some sort of timeline and history (Bloodstone, MC1-3, Maramon, Siege+addon, Ambush at Sorinor).
    Did you found any similarities/connections to Rings of Zilfin? I found only the mushrooms, some creatures and the mentioning of Bihun.

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    1. It took him 70 hours to finish it according to his game rankings list.

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    2. Hey! You're not supposed to look at that yet.

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    3. Morkar, I gave up on the encyclopedia once I realized that most NPCs were just one-offs and it wasn't important to track them all. I just started taking quicker notes in a notepad.

      But I could see how it would help understand the larger universe. Sorry I couldn't contribute to that.

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    4. Sorry about that, haha.

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  9. Another notch on your gaming belt! I'm looking forward to Dark Heart of Uukrul, a game I probably played as much (or little) as Magic Candle, but DHoU seems much more "accessible" to me. Hell, it even has a decent auto-map. I think that however the GIMLET winds up for Magic Candle, you'll look upon DHoU more favorably.

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    1. YES! DHOFU is one of my favourite RPG's from the era : )

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    2. I'm also looking forward to DHoU and Chet's take on it. This is a very unique CRPG in that it is on the one hand streamlined/modern in a console-y, JRPG sense (no class selection, "save points") - and on the other a very challenging, maybe even unforgiving game.

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  10. For a game that has so much going for it, reading all these postings gave me an overwhelming sense of tediousness regarding The Magic Candle.

    BTW, one of the reasons for the apparent decrease in comments could be - I'm not saying it is - due to the

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    1. OK, damn. Sorry about this. Continuing.

      ... due to the fact you now have to 'prove you're not a robot'. It can be a bit annoying, though I understand perfectly why you had to do it.

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    2. Oddly enough, I'm still getting tons of comment spam. It's been reduced a little, but not much. How is it getting by the CAPTCHA? Are real people actually typing in:

      It's perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it's time to be happy.
      I have read this publish and if I could I desire to suggest you some attention-grabbing things or tips.
      Perhaps you can write subsequent articles relating to this article.
      I wish to read more things about it!
      Feel free to surf my web page

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    3. I honestly have no idea. If only the internet as a whole was as efficient as spam is... :))

      One thing that was nice about Wordpress - back when I was blogging myself - was that you had the option to approve the first comment someone posted on your blog. Once you did that, all subsequent comments by that person would automatically be approved; it worked based on the e-mail or Wordpress account that person used when commenting on your blog.

      It didn't stop incoming spam, but it did mean that it didn't actually reach the comments section since you had to approve each initial comment. It also didn't affect regular posters. I haven't used Blogspot, but maybe it has a similar function?!

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    4. Yeah, that is very nice. Basically, there are ways around the Catchpa. Either there is a flaw in it, or right now the computers are winning in the war between computers reading catchpas and the people making the catchpas.

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    5. The only other way I could stop it is to block anonymous comments, but I don't want to do that. I guess I'll just have to live with all the spam. Blogger susses out that it's spam, so it ends up being more of an e-mail problem than a comment problem.

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    6. Catchpa was broken a while back and most spam bots are aware of how to crack it. I have heard that the new thing is to have some kind of mini game to prove your humanness.

      Will our fight against spam and people programming spam-bots to appear more human be what finally passes the Turing barrier? And when the singularity happens will the new child take its personality from the shit we put online?

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  11. Hehe, so when you were trapped on the water tile with no more Walk Water scrolls, waiting for the timer to run down wouldn't have ended the game after all.

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    1. No! Imagine if I had just held "(P)ass" through all 700 days, having to hit the SPACE bar 6 times every day to acknowledge that my characters were starving, and then nothing happened at 0. I would have been very angry..

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  12. Congratulations! I didn't expect the next post to be this, I'm glad you finished up when it started getting tedious.

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  13. Congratulations on finishing this rather epic adventure! Inspired by your posts, I've bought the first six M&M games on GOG.com (there's a sale on!). Haven't played any except the last three and that was ages ago. Looking forward to playing the first few now!

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    1. Since people keep posting about GOG on my site, let me ask you something: when you order something like MM1-6, do you literally get the original files, or have they adapted them for modern OSes? Have they removed restrictions like having to have a CD in the drive?

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    2. All games are modified by GOG so that they will run on modern systems. Most DOS titles come with a custom DOSBox, for the older Win9x programs their coders usually have to invest more time to make it work smoothly.
      Copy protections, optical drive dongles and other DRM measures are either removed or circumvented.

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    3. Wow. Cool. I guess I should start using them.

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    4. They will sometimes break copy protection, so it will take any password instead of just the one from the manual.

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    5. Yes, GoG really are the site you should go to for older games, although you are still probably looking at games too early for them unless they are part of a series like Ultima or M&M. I recently played Ultima Underworld 2 again by buying it from GoG, just because the simplicity of double clicking an icon on my desktop and having it work without any efort was worth $5 to me even though I had a hard copy somewhere! Here is a good interview with one of the GoG managers, worth a read.
      http://truepcgaming.com/2011/09/20/relive-the-classics-drm-free-gog-com-interview/

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    6. That was an interesting interview. Thanks, Mikrakov!

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    7. Yes, the games from GOG are all brilliantly adapted to work. That alone is worth the money, but having that nice (albeit virtual) shelf full of game boxes at their site is nice too. And being able to download whatever game you want quickly without any DRM troubles at all. Love it!

      Of course, they've mostly got stuff that is owned by big publishers still around today, as they need someone who can license the game to them.

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  14. Some games are more fun to read about than to play, others are more fun to play than to read about. This one seemed to be the latter.

    It sounded really cool, but it didn't capture my imagination. Of course, that didn't stop me from loading up your blog a couple times a day to see if there was a new entry.

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  15. I think the ending was somehwat appropriate, MC didnt really follow a lot of convetions, a big boss fight would have been too.. expected? I think its good that you can show up and top up the candle without the fight with the big bad.

    still one of my fav crpg's of all time.

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    1. I get that. I do like games that go against tropes. But to me it still would have been nice to have SOME final combat-related challenges. I mean, Ultima IV didn't end with a "boss fight" either, but it ended with a tough dungeon level where you could use your accumulated spells and skills and mushrooms.

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  16. I would have commented more on your postings, but for a few reasons. A) I feel that my comments are not valued very highly because I don't have the in-depth knowledge that most of your other posters have. Thus my comments are 'comment-lite' by default. B) I feel like I'm kind of a 'comment section gadfly', swooping in to make comments that everyone mostly ignores. You reply tomy comments so rarely it's like you don't actually exist and to everyone else °I° might as well not exist.

    I dunno 'Chet'. I'm feelin' kind of down right now so that might be it entirely. But then, maybe I am so down because I am 100% correct.

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    1. Hey, don't worry about it. I don't exactly know much about these old games either. I was 1 when Magic Candle came out; the only reason I know about it was my Dad's old manual.

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    2. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was complaining about the comments; I was just sort-of mentally processing data and correlating it with a likely variable.

      The funny thing is, I usually feel like I'm the one who knows least about the games I'm playing! I certainly don't mind hearing from people who know as little as I do.

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  17. Hey Cana, thanks- you have validated my existance. A good feeling.

    And I SHOULD know something abut these games- I turn 50 (Jesus F Christ, how did ThAT happen? Where did the years GO?) this month. I grew up, sorta, with these games. I bought a c-64 the year they came out and I bought every rpg I could as they came out. Then when I got an Amiga I bought THOSE rpgs as they were released for it. When, in 1993, I bought an IBM clone I began buying DOS rpgs as they came out and I could afford. Admitted, during the years I. was a hardcore alcoholic I spent the money on alcohol and not games, but still.

    So I Should know the games, Instead, I am a comment gadfly and usually restrict my utterances to obscure jokes and strange comments.

    Again, thank you for. validating my existance.

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  18. By the by- I turned 20 in 1982 when I bought my c-64. I had also purchased a vic-20 just before this. Nice machine too. Good memories.

    And 'Chet', thanks for the comment though it certainly FEELS like a backhanded compliment. "I like hearing comments too," he said. "Even when they're made by morons." I know that's not how you meant it but it just has a funny feel about it.

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  19. Congratulations on another game done. I was hoping it'd take you a bit longer, then I'd be able to get to Star Saga II with you.

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    1. Oh! Yes, we should do Star Saga II at the same time, absolutely. Why don't I move it down the list a bit and you can tell me when you're ready? No hurry. Holidays are coming up and all.

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  20. Congratulations! I was in high school when the Magic Candle came out. I had an Apple //e, tried to play the game, but just remember having to sleep a lot, very tough combat, and sending a bunch of characters to work in sweat shops to support my mushroom habit. In the end the game became about sleeping and mooching off of others to support my habit. I don't think it was a good game for an impressionable teen.

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    1. Or it taught you valuable life lessons. I should add a line to the "What have you learned?" entry.

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  21. I tried this back when it first came out, and I so could not get into it., It wasn't bad, just not me. I don't feel I missed much not playing it, but I enjoyed your playthrough of it.

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  22. There might be another version of #3:

    You could split the party, leaving your main-char behind and break the bubble with the rest of the party, getting them killed. But I guess (never played MC) Dreax would just sit there and do nothing until you enter the room again and he can finally kill you. And I doubt you'd get other NPC-reactions after Dreax is free.

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    1. This almost makes me want to fire it up and check it out, but I don't have a saved game close enough to the end (the last thing I did was move away from the end to the nearest town so I could sleep and "time out" the game), and I think I'd have to re-learn the various spells to get back there.

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