Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Magic Candle II: Burning Bright

This sign wasn't kidding. I probably cast 200 "Repel" spells in this dungeon.
   
For this most recent session, I basically looped the same track as the last one, crossing items off my "to do" list and correcting the previous mistakes along the way.

Knowing I needed an elf to find favor with the goddess Oraniana, I decided to return to the Elven village of Llendora. I was getting sick of Subia's ineffectiveness by now, and I wanted to replace her with someone with better charm and capable of casting spells. After cycling through several elf options, I settled on Lupi, who came with strong music skills (in case I ever wanted to explore that), and some magic and bow skills. Her charm was high enough that I could propel it to 12 with the "Glamour" spell (see below). More important, she had her own little side quest to retrieve a lost magic bow, "Darkfinder," from some monsters' "catacombs." I knew of only one town with "catacombs" in them, and I was headed there anyway.
       
Don't be; I'm just min-maxing.
     
I felt bad about getting rid of Subia for role-playing reasons, but then I rationalized that choosing the best team for the job is role-playing.

At this point, I noticed it was October, when Ziyx said he'd be done with his new "Emenad" spellbook. I returned to him, but there was a glitch. Though he bragged in several dialogue options about having finished the book, when I asked for it specifically, he kept saying it would be done in October.

I returned to Ussa, where a mage was selling the book, and was able to buy it for quite a bit of money. I gave it to Lupi and started having her memorize its powerful spells, although ultimately her magic wasn't powerful enough to make the most use of it, and I transferred it to Eflun.
     
Like her player, Gia is colorblind and not always sure what she's talking to.
     
Before Ussa, I stopped back in Telermain and briefly picked up Perin, who has been slaving away the entire game at a metalworker's. He had over $6,000 by now, enough to make up for the cost of the spellbook. It's worth pointing out that I haven't been dealing with my multiple party members as efficiently as possible. I could have left Perin with a mindstone so I could contact him remotely and give him orders. I could have had him meet us at one of the many strongholds on the continent with his proceeds, rather than trek all the way back to Telermain to see him. But in a game with no time limit, the need for such efficiency isn't as pressing.
       
Hey, Perin. I'll just be taking everything you've earned in 3 months.
      
Back to the trail we went. With Lupi "Glamoured" high enough in charm, I talked to a few NPCs in Wanasol I couldn't talk with before. From a mage named Pharus, I got a song called "Sambali" which is supposed to help with doombeasts, if I ever face them again.

We woke up the goddess Oraniana south of Wanasol, and since I had an elf in my party this time, she looked on us with favor and increased our dexterity, agility, intelligence, and resistances. Unfortuately, I still didn't have the right password for the god sleeping in a temple above the chasm. I have one I haven't used (KIMYABIN), but I'm not sure who it goes to.
     
It's about time a god did something for me in this game.
     
And with a ruby now in hand, I was able to bribe the goblin leader in Deadwood and get the password to the catacombs. They were one level, but very large. In them, I found the magic conch shell that will supposedly get me to the southern islands and Lupi's "Darkfinder" bow. Ironically, she's too weak to actually wield it. I'll have her hold on to it in case I find a god who increases her strength.
     
Is this really "your" bow, Lupi?
     
Someone else in Deadwood (I took bad notes) gave me the password to the fortress at Maratul, and an anonymous comment about maximizing "Teleport" range with a Turpin mushroom turned out to get me to the island. For some reason, I had been under the impression that "Teleport" always just presented a 3 x 3 grid. Boy, was I wrong.
        
Enhanced by a Turpin, I can "Teleport" anywhere.
     
Most of this session took place there, in a dungeon of 8 levels with an insane number of teleporters, spiders, and snakes. I hate the spiders and snakes because you have to keep casting "Repel" to get rid of them, and you have to do it for every damned one in case he happens to be blocking a key teleporter or treasure square.
     
One section of Maratul had me teleport away every time I got near this chest.
     
To pass the time, I decided to experiment more with spells, especially now that I have (I think) all the books. I spent about 7 days resting and continually memorizing a variety of them and then tried them on monsters I was in no danger of losing to.

The spell system in The Magic Candle II is unchanged from the original. There are 7 spellbooks with 5 spells each, and you have to possess the physical book (it's a tradeable object) to memorize the spells within it. If you don't own a spellbook, you can rent one at a couple of wizards' lodges, but resting there is a pain. You can also occasionally get batches of spells from magic fountains in dungeon rooms.
      
Memorizing a spell in "camp."
     
Memorizing spells takes from minutes to hours--time when the rest of the party is usually sleeping--so mages spent a lot of time hopped up on Sermins to restore their energy. The time it takes to memorize a spell is dependent on the characters' magic skill, as is the power of the spell when cast, as is the amount of energy needed to cast it. A Turpin mushroom will cause the next spell to cast as if the caster has 99/99 in magic.
      
This screen shows some of Eflun's memorized spells, how many minutes it will take to memorize them, and how much energy they will consume when cast.
      
A lot of spells are binary--they either work or don't. "Repel" is one of these, as is the "Pierce" spell that makes magical energy barriers go away. I guess the game's nuclear option, the "Destroy" spell, also falls in this category. A good strategy is to have lower-magic-skill characters memorize these.
    
"Repelling" a corridor full of snakes.
      
Up until this point in the game, I had barely experimented with offensive spells, mostly because the combination of Mirget and Gonshi mushrooms plus the "Jump" spell turns my party into an unstoppable force that can wipe out most enemy parties in the first round, and none of these resources costs much to replace. No offensive spell, even at max power, improves upon a good warrior with a Mirget mushroom (which causes max damage in the next attack) in her system.

There are a handful of exploration spells without which the game could not be won. If you don't have "Repel" to get past the magic spiders and snakes, "Pierce" to get past the magic barriers, and "Walkwater" to cross ponds and streams in the dungeons, and "Disguise" to enter enemy-controlled towns, you simply wouldn't be able to win the game. "Soulspeak" is also necessary to talk to a few NPC ghosts, and "Restsoul" is essential to permanently kill undead. Otherwise, you'd have to flee combats with them because they keep getting up every round until the spell is cast.
     
In the midst of an ambush, a "Restsoul" permanently kills a skeleton.
     
Part of me rebels against the idea of mandatory magic in the game. Even though I wouldn't dream of playing a game that offers magic without a magic-using character, I resent a bit that I must have magic ability. I like the idea that a game can be won with a party of just fighters or something.
     
It's mandatory, but the game gives me a choice anyway.
     
A few spells make travel and exploration a lot easier. "Locate" shows you the positions of enemy monster parties so you can avoid them; "Confuse" keeps them from attacking. (Monsters are easy enough to flee without them, but it feels cowardly that way.) "Teleport" gets you to hard-to-reach places. "Glamour" elevates a character's charm ability and lets him talk to NPCs who would otherwise ignore him; I forgot about it until just recently. "Sense" warns you of ambushes in dungeons; I'd almost call it essential.
      
I don't think anyone requires charm higher than this.
    
The most useless spell in the game is "Vision," which you cast before you enter a room, and it tells you that there are enemies there.
      
In other words, it's the same as every other dungeon room.
     
There are a few combat spells that are not essential, but I wouldn't want to live without them. "Jump" is chief among these, instantly putting melee fighters in hacking range of priority enemies, who tend to start way in the back. It's almost game-breaking, really. Without it, you'd have to strategize a lot more, and perhaps use a greater variety of spells. "Shield" is necessary to create magic shields around party members to protect them from magic damage. At this point in the game, I find that I use "Heal" and "Resurrect" only rarely, usually when I've screwed something up or forgot to cast "Sense" often enough to detect ambushes. I'm glad they exist. "Energy" is an odd one that acts like a Sermin spell and restores the character's energy to 99. Since casting it takes less energy than it restores, it feels like it ought not to work, like a perpetual motion machine.
     
I'm glad this spell exists, but I'm sick of having to cast it every 10 steps.
     
On the offensive spells, my experiments confirmed my belief that the non-damaging offensive spells are just a waste of time. "Fear," "Weaken," "Freeze," and "Drain" all perform as promised, but not better than jumping a melee warrior next to the same enemy and hacking away.
     
They probably wouldn't have done him much good in the first place.
      
Similarly, the damage spells mostly underperform melee attacks, even with high magic skill (or a Turpin). "Fireball" is probably the best, but we're talking 50 damage to more than 60 from a good melee attack. (And melee attacks don't run afoul of enemies' shields.) "Shatter" and "Acidball" suffer from the same problem.

For these reasons, even the so-called "powerful" spellbooks fail to impress. The "Zoxinn" spellbook has a bunch of spells that duplicate other spells in the game but affect everyone instead of just one character or enemy, usually at lesser power. "Zapall" is "fireball everyone"; "Zengrl" is "heal everyone"; "Zishoxe" is "shield everyone"; "Zefoar" is "area-effect fireball"; "Zutyun" is "weaken everyone." They're impressive, but they take so long to memorize and cost a lot of energy and I simply find that I rarely need their power. 

One spell that I admit I like is "Forget." Gaem demons often cast it against my party members as their first action, when they've ambushed me and I don't get an opportunity to kill them first. It causes the recipient to forget all copies of whatever spell he currently has in memory, which sucks when you've just spent 8 hours resting to memorize 60 "Jump" spells. It can even make a battle unwinnable if the spell in mind is "Restsoul" and you're facing undead in the same enemy party. Anyway, getting hit with it is so infuriating that I occasionally like to cast it back on the Gaems, causing them to "Forget" their own "Forget" inventory.
      
How does it feel!?
      
That brings us to the "Emenad" spellbook that I waited so long for. There's some awesome stuff in here, theoretically. "Betray" turns a foe against his party. "Summon" summons an enemy creature to fight with the party. "Terrify" causes all monsters to flee. "Double" makes a duplicate of a party member, with the same skills and equipment, for the duration of combat. "Timestop" causes the enemy to lose a combat round. Each of these costs about 50 energy but would definitely be worth it for a really tough battle. I just haven't encountered any of these yet.

Emenad's crowning spell is one called "Destroy" that simply obliterates any enemy--at the cost of every other spell that the caster has memorized. I have a couple of memorized in case I really need it, but I've yet to find a single enemy who could last a round against a couple of Mirget- and Gonshi-enhanced fighters "Jumped" next to them.
    
Killing one enemy wasn't quite worth it.
    
Two more notes:

  • I still don't understand the music system. Lupi successfully used the "Morning Mist" spell to charm some bargs for a few seconds, but since you can't take any other action when the spell is playing, that didn't really seem to help me. They were just as hostile when the spell was over. Maybe it cost them the one round? If so, the music system isn't really worth the time.
      
Some bargs are briefly enraptured by a song.
    
  • My characters have largely stopped getting skill increases even though I've switched some to secondary weapon types. I figured skills level fast when they're low (as in the beginning of the game) and slow when they're high, but now I'm wondering if the speed of leveling isn't based on the totality of all the characters' skills.
      
This is getting almost formulaic.
    
Maratul culminated in another encounter with a ghost--this time the mother of one of the doomed forty--who gave me a gray scroll to use at the Candle of Pain. I just need to find the right library to record the correct incantation, then return with it to Ruz, which I've already cleared. I'm still not sure where the Candle of Anguish is (for which I have a pink scroll), but I have some southern islands to explore, so maybe it's there. It's about time to be wrapping up, so let's see if I can push through to the end for the next posting.

Time so far: 52 hours

32 comments:

  1. "I rationalized that choosing the best team for the job is role-playing."

    There is no powerplaying, there is only roleplaying :)

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  2. "I like the idea that a game can be won with a party of just fighters or something."

    I like that idea but I suspect there are few party based games where that is a reality. I've always thought that there should never be a case where you can choose a character or party composition that makes a game impossible to complete. It might potentially lead to a more bland game but I think there could be ways to be creative and make it interesting.

    I suppose with a game like Magic Candle you are actively encouraged to exchange characters during the adventure so it's not a major issue but I do like to take a party all the way through a CRPG from start to finish.

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    1. One game you can totally play like that... Final Fantasy 1! In all honesty, why I think Chet would hate most JRPGs, I think he'd quite like FF1 because it's basically a slightly streamlined western RPG.

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    2. We're going to see how he feels about it in the future. Laxius Power for example is a fairly JRPG experience.

      And then there are actual japanese RPGs done is the western style, like the Generation Xth.

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    3. One of the testers of Realms of Arkania Star Trail told me (back then) that one of his test cases was to play the game with one sided parties, e.g. a party just with druids.

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    4. I just finished replaying might and magic 6 which you can use a fairly diverse range of classes with success, and got to thinking whether it would be possible with an all knight party. I guess it would be possible in theory but would be very tedious and involve a lot of alchemy.

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    5. I believe that there are 0laythroughs on youtube with single knight, so quite possibly all knight party is doable.

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    6. Back in the day several people reportedly played this with all knights. And other weird parties like all sorcerers or all archers.

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    7. Yeah, and it seems that most overpowered party was 4 sorcerers. In the beginning they were pretty weak, as usual in rpg, but in the end they were unstoppable, with four masters of Black (Dark?) Magic

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    8. Yeah, and it seems that most overpowered party was 4 sorcerers. In the beginning they were pretty weak, as usual in rpg, but in the end they were unstoppable, with four masters of Black (Dark?) Magic

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    9. Once upon a time, I had a lot of it on my hand and remembered that you could get 6 solamnic plates in Champions of Krynn.
      So I created a party of six Knights and hacked away at the game.
      Pure knight party, no spellcasting apart from what the knights could learn.
      Healing took ages and they all aged quite a few years in the course of the game, but it as possible to defeat each battle.
      There was some reloading happening along the way of course. But it was possible.
      I liked that quite a lot.

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    10. Ultima III with three fuzzy wizards and a bobbit cleric... once you grind a bit and obtain wizard spell P you can usually win every combat with a couple of moves!

      Love the MC II play through! Played MC I quite a bit in the day, but never had time to finish.

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  3. I'll be interested to see what happens if you take Lupi back to a god you have already woken with Subia in the parry, and see if the god wakes again and buffs Lupi.

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    1. You definitely can do this, when i played through the series like a year ago I played through and won mainly with my guys from MC1 of which I think 0 could transfer over to MC3. When i figured out which characters would also be in MC3 i grabbed a save from before the end of MC2 and went and revisited all the gods to get them the stat bonuses and it worked except for main character who would just get nothing.

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    2. I think the first god I awakened offered a strength boost, so I'll give that a try.

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  4. If I were to play through this series again I think I'd do some self imposed challenge of not using the jump spell and possibly gonshis as well. That combination is basically always the best strategy and is overpowered. Unfortunately I think using neither could well make any fight with a bunch of bigger enemy spellcasters about impossible.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. thats one difference between this and the gold box games, on paper, both are turn based games with stratagies and basic techniques, but there was never a single gold box stratagy that worked EVERY time. Probably one reason combat in the magic candle series never came close to gold box in terms of notability (I still remember the troll fights in the sewer, and the kobold cave fights over 20 years later.)

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    3. Minor spoiler ahead

      I will say a pet strategy I had that used 3 spell casters, the invisibility spell, and a lot of arrows made almost any non ambush fight trivial.

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    4. I wonder how it would be if there were monsters that jump to your caster and hit hard, or ones that cause your jump to be nondeterministic, potentially putting you inside wall and killing characyer

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    5. The first might cause rage-quit. The second would be ok.

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    6. Now that I think about it, I remember that in one of CRPGs one of more infuriating monsters was one that appeared only among other, and was casting same spells as you - this would change game dynamics quite a lot, you jump - they jump, you fireball them - they fireball you. I seriously don't remember which game it was, but it was pretty "fun", and by "fun" I mean it was challenging if your main tactics was to unleash all your magical powers onto the enemies.

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    7. there was the mimic boss in final fantasy 5, he did that, ie cast or acted how you did.

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    8. Nathan, I can guess how your strategy works, but it seems like it would take a long time, comparatively.

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    9. It did take a long time. For a young kid I was pretty proud of it though. I also have a aversion to using consumables since I always thought I'd need them later. When I replayed it a few years ago the jump technique you used was much faster.

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  5. I like the spellbook concept- they do it in Pillars of Eternity, but my favorite is in Ultima 7... There's something special about items in that game, the way they connect you with the world. I think personalized spellbooks are good for that.

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    1. I didn't really feel the spellbook system worked very well in PoE. The idea of having a few books tailored to different combat situations appealed to me, but the game wasn't hard enough (on hard) and the spell system wasn't really robust enough to make it worth my while. Maybe if I'd played on Path of the Damned.

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  6. To be fair, Lupi was the Elven princess disguised as a male archer stationed at Crystal Castle back in MC1 and was available for recruitment.

    She was pretty competent too. If you had her previously, she could definitely wield this magic bow without any problems.

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    1. Olay, just read the manual and yeah, her bow really *is* the Darkfinder.

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  7. This reminds me a lot of certain editions of D&D, when played exactly as written: You've got a really detailed combat system, some great spells and whatnot, and a lot of it never gets used as people figured out the most broken options imaginable and played those.

    Balancing a game is HARD, so it makes sense we are going to find a few RPGs where there are strategies that render the rest of the system moot.

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    1. Do you mean the table top version? The problem with buffs and debuffs stem from the fact that it's basically magic. And in the hands of a creative & terrible player, even the simplest cantrip can be abused to no end.

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    2. Yes, the tabletop edition. I have no problem with players using abilities in new and interesting ways. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of Create Water, Ghost Sound, and Mage Hand.

      However, there were also issues like them not testing the 3.0 Druid until the book was at the printers. In one of the D&D design articles they talked about how they had to put a note in the Monster Manual limiting travelling druids to 1HD/level of animal companions when the PHB said 2HD/level, and it was STILL way overpowered. (They were shocked when they did the playtest and realized that the druid had a bear that was better in every way then the party fighter, AND you got a free druid in the mix)

      I'm betting that a lot of these games didn't get the sort of playtesting modern games do, so we are going to see a lot of options that are straight up better then others. How many games have we seen with one class or option that doesn't make a lot of sense? Or one that makes all the others irrelevant?

      I'm betting in a lot of these cases this isn't deliberate. The person making the game simply never tried mixing those two options and doing a full playthrough, or didn't like playing fighters.

      So it could be the person writing this game deliberately made Jump plus four attacks the perfect strategy. Or it could be they never tried that, as they favoured spellcaster heavy approaches and didn't realize how irrelevant it made later spellbooks.

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