Monday, September 9, 2019

Game 339: The Magic Candle III (1992)

           
The Magic Candle III
United States
Mindcraft Software (developer and publisher)
Released in 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 7 September 2019
      
It's something of a paradox that we take naturally to narrative material organized as trilogies--so much so that "trilogy" feels like a natural word, whereas the comparative terms for two and four installments sound clumsy and foreign in our mouths--and yet the third of something is usually the worst. It somehow feels tacked-on and perfunctory even though we all expected it. There are plenty of exceptions to the rule that no sequel outperforms the original--that is, plenty of Part 2s that are better than Part 1s. But in what series is the third the best of the lot? Arguably Lord of the Rings and then . . . I'll wait.

There are, on the other hand, plenty of examples to confirm the rule. Most people name The Return of the Jedi the least of the original Star Wars trilogy. And that's probably the most controversial of them. Following that is a long list of Part 3s for which no one would advocate: The Dark Knight Rises, The Godfather Part III, The Matrix Revolutions, Smokey and the Bandit 3, Heaven & Hell (the third part to North & South), and we could go on for ages. Note that the same rule doesn't always apply to the third installments of things that went on for a while longer (Ultima III, Might and Magic III, Fallout 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, A Storm of Swords), just things that were conceived as trilogies in the first place. Maybe it's a good thing that we seem unlikely to ever see the third Kingkiller Chronicle.
         
Dutch Elm Disease is rarely a setup for an epic adventure.
          
All this was on my mind as I began The Magic Candle III. I don't like to go into a game with a bias, but there were some ominous signs. Before I wrote a word about The Magic Candle, it was mentioned in 55 comment threads on other entries. Before I wrote about The Magic Candle II, it was mentioned in 22. Commenters have only brought up The Magic Candle III four times, none of them offering anything substantive about it. It is the only one of the trilogy not to have its own Wikipedia page. It also, unlike II, doesn't have its own subtitle, which always strikes me as the creators saying "#$@* it--here's another one," without any attempt to give the new installment its own character. A general sense of this game being "tacked on" pervades the introductory sequences. Where I thought the plot of II flowed naturally from I, III definitely feels less necessary. It depends, quite early, on lands and people that are remarkably close to the events of the first two games but mysteriously went unmentioned within them.

You'll remember that in The Magic Candle (1989), the protagonist and his (later retconned to "his or her") party of locals scoured the land of Deruvia to find the items and rituals necessary to renew the magic prison (a candle) of the demon Dreax. In ancient times, Dreax had come across the sea from Gurtex with an army of invaders, but he had been bound to the candle by a ritual created by the now-mostly-lost race of Eldens. After the party's success in the first game, King Rebnard of Deruvia decided he was sick of living in fear of the demon lords of Gurtex. He gathered his armies and took the fight to them, crossing the ocean and landing on Oshcrun Island--on the way, conquering the island of Maramon as told in The Keys to Maramon (1990).
           
A map of the "Solian Lands."
         
In The Magic Candle II (1991), the hero of either the first game or Maramon or both continued the effort by helping the invasion of Gurtex from Oshcrun. At first just interested in discovering the fate of the "four and forty" guardians of the original candle, the party ended up rescuing Prince Jemil, Rebnard's son, from the clutches of the demon Zakhad. While the demon himself was immortal, Jemil was able to send him "far, far away" using a magic orb. (The plot ended up getting pretty ridiculous by the end, which you can see in my entry on winning that game.)

The third installment picks up four years after The Four and Forty. Despite some lines from the second game saying "Zakhad's pall of darkness has departed from Gurtex completely," Rebnard is apparently still trying to subdue the continent. My character, Gia, is back in Telermain, on Oshcrun Island, protecting Queen Alishia and Prince Jemil. A "strange blight" has begun to affect the forest, and the queen asks Gia to go investigate.
                     
The queen kicks off the quest.
                  
The import process works very well, almost too well. "Gia" came through from The Magic Candle II with none of her attributes or skills reduced. Her average attribute is 9.4 versus 6.8 for a newly-created character. She comes with magic weapons and armor, plus 1000 coins instead of a new character's 500. She has practically a full set of spellbooks. More important, many of her skills are already maxed or near-maxed, including 99/99 for "Sword," 70/80 for "Archery," 87/99 for "Researching," and 50/99 for "Leadership." Later, after they joined my party, I discovered that other NPCs who were still with me at the end of II also retained their equipment, attributes, and skills.
            
None of Gia's skills were diminished by the intervening years.
            
The game opening gives you the option to pick 3 of 8 potential volunteers. I was in the midst of evaluating their strengths and weaknesses when, I don't know, I hit the wrong key or something and ended up with Silva, Kark, and Bollo by default. I decided to just roll with it.

We started in the middle of a dark, twisty forest, with a skeleton on the ground in front of us. As we began to move around, one major change from the previous two games became clear: the Magic Candle III party happily takes itself out of formation to get around obstacles and to conform to narrow passages, instead of requiring the player to micro-manage the formation to, for instance, make the lead character poke out one square so he can search a 1 x 1 area. To be fair, The Magic Candle II managed to make something of a game of the formations, requiring the player at various points to figure out the most convoluted formation necessary for navigating a trap-filled hallway. Still, I'm glad to be done with it.

As we walked along the path, we were ambushed by a group of "Blightmolds" and "Blightworms." An orc named Garz stepped out of the trees to join the party's attack against the creatures.
                   
The combat screen.
         
Combat takes place on the same tactical, turn-based screen as the previous games, with each character getting a certain number of actions dependent on his or her movement points. Combat seems a bit more streamlined here, and more in the Ultima VI mold. There's no pre-combat round, no positioning of characters, and less distinction between the exploration environment and the combat environment. Then again, I might just be noting the distinction between wilderness combat and "room" combat in the last game. I'd have to fight a few battles to check. I'll have more on combat details later.

The battle was pretty easy. At its conclusion, "Garz" introduced himself more properly as Garzbondgur, Crown Prince of Kabelo. He said that his land has been affected badly by the same blight, and that he came to Oshcrun to ask for my assistance. Just as I was wondering where "Kabelo" was, he continued that his father had forbade the trip, as the people of the "Solian Lands" don't normally trust "northern folk." I don't know if any previous Magic Candle had addressed these "Solian Lands," but I don't think so. It's the first major crack--the idea that a large collection of landmasses could lie south of Oshcrun and have gone unmentioned in the previous game.
                 
A suitably orcish-looking orc.
             
Garz remained a member of the party as we continued on. (For some reason, the game asks me to explicitly confirm that I want to include him when I distribute things to the party.) We met some more worms in a battle that left three characters poisoned, so I had to look up what mushroom cures poison (Loka). Fortunately, the game started me with a few of them, as well as a few memorized "Healing" spells. A third battle gave us "Blightboars" as well as molds and worms.

Pretty soon, we were out of the forest and on to the Oshcrun overworld map. Nearby were Oshcrun Castle and the city of Telermain.
           
Between the castle and the city.
       
I entered the castle first. Instead of the sprawling, multi-storied structure that I could explore on my last trip, for this game (or, at least, this trip), I was confined to the throne room. There, I had a lot of trouble distinguishing people from furniture. The conversation proceeded much as in previous games, through the "Greet" and "Talk" commands. As usual, the game offers some stock selections while allowing the ability for the player to type in a keyword to ask about a specific subject or person.
           
Stop being so dramatic, Carl. It's called "jock itch."
         
Almost immediately, a servant said that, "There is talk of Blightlords, fierce, deadly, and ruthless creatures, emerging as the new rulers of the lands down south," thus providing me with more intelligence than the entire backstory and summary of the problem given by Queen Alishia.

A notepad stores all of your major observations and conversations, and it's been significantly improved. It no longer erases when you quit and restart the game; it lets you add pages to type your own notes; and it has a "Search" feature. This might be the first game where you can do all your documentation in-game.
            
The throne room. Jemil is as helpful as ever.
          
Two companions joined my party in the throne room, replacing two of the rank amateurs who had accompanied me to the forest. (I assume you can keep them if you want, but their skills are in the single digits.) Rimfiztrik the Wizard and Sakar the Dwarf I remember well from previous games. A third potential companion named Marsa offered to join, claiming to be skilled in the martial arts, but she's a hireling who you have to keep happy with gold, so I declined to take her. In inviting himself to join the party, Sakar noted that the Solian lands are dangerous and I'd need a good fighter at my side. I guess everyone in this game knows where I'm going but me.

In contrast to the castle, Oshcrun was as large and complex as I remembered it, with numerous NPCs and shops, and their availability changing depending on the time of day. I think they may have kept the same map from The Magic Candle II; at least, most things were where I remembered them. I stocked everyone up on food and bought some mushrooms and potions. I'm a little annoyed that the third edition still hasn't fixed the pooling/distribution problem. (Since no character can pool more than 99 of most things, there's no way to evenly distribute all of a particular resource once you earn above 99 of them.) It would have been nice if the developers had regarded food, mushrooms, and gold as party resources rather than individual resources.
            
Buying individual food in the shop.
           
As with the first two games, there are locked houses at which you can knock at the door, but you have to have some clue as to the occupant's name. There are trainers and tradesmen where you can ditch party members to learn or work for a wage. I soon found Eneri, my hero from Maramon, in the Eastern Breeze tavern, so I ditched the novice Kark b'Dang at the metalsmith, as he had some skill in that area, to make money for us to take later. This always feels a little mean.
           
For some reason, the Maramon character appears as "Ralle" until he or she joins the team.
            
I saved selling my gems and purchasing any weapons or armor for later, deciding to explore the rest of the island first. I soon remembered how quickly stamina runs out in the wilderness. You basically have to have everyone chew Sermin mushrooms every dozen steps or so. What particularly sucks is that energy depletes at inconsistent rates for the characters, so that when some of them get to 0 others are still in the 60s. But unless you want to micromanage levels for each character, you just have everyone eat at once, wasting a lot of potential energy.

I found the stronghold on Oshcrun (places where you can rest safely and send party members), and then a "brick building" with a much more elaborate teleportal than I remember from the previous games, and then finally the little halfling town of Ketrop. A mayoral election was underway between candidates named Miko and Punnik, but that didn't develop into anything. I replaced Silva with a more experienced halfling named Tuff; he seemed to remember Gia, though I don't remember him from the previous game.
              
The teleportal chambers look more high-tech than before.
          
I considered dithering around Oshcrun longer, selling excess items, buying more mushrooms, perhaps gambling a bit, getting better armor for some of my characters--but I decided screw it, the new islands will have those services (probably), and I might as well get to it. (I assume I can return to Oshcrun at any time, too.) Thus, I hired North Star, a ship parked near Telermain, from Captain Turgut, and we sailed south. Actually, I tried sailing east to Gurtex first, but the captain told me it was "unsafe to sail in that direction."
          
Making landfall on a strange, southern shore.
         
We soon made landfall on a large island. The journey was quick enough that it defies logic that these "Solian Islands" are being mentioned here for the first time. The island turned out to be the island of Kabelo on the game map. This is Garz's kingdom, and indeed as soon as I entered the first city I saw on the island, Garz welcomed us to Urkabel.
           
Garz jumps the gun (apparently) in welcoming us to his home city.
         
I think I'll leave off there for my first session. So far, it's been a pleasant game, but with all the weaknesses of the Magic Candle II engine in addition to the strengths. I should have a stronger opinion after a few hours of combat and dungeon exploration.

Time so far: 4 hours

113 comments:

  1. Agreed, the Dark Knight rises was TERRIBLE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was that the one with Bane? If so, it was ungreat indeed.

      Delete
    2. First half of that movie is cool, second half absolutely dumb. My onion.

      Delete
    3. Pretty much, but I still enjoyed the introduction of Robin.

      Delete
  2. I suspect the lessening interest in the Magic Candle series may be due to how the industry rapidly expanded. The first game was fun and innovative for its time, but players had a lot more games to choose from when the second and third game was released, both providing improved, but not new, experiences. Maybe tastes had simply changed over time.

    Bloodstone, a 1993 game using a slightly improved MC3 engine, is supposed to be a pretty decent though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I played a bit of bloodstone. Seemed fun, if broken. You can earn an arbitrary amount of money almost immediately, and buy extremely good gear, which completely distorts the sense of progression.

      Delete
    2. Tristan, is it a bug? An exploit? Feel free to use ROT13 to explain :)

      Delete
    3. It's just how 'working' is implemented. You get money for waiting, essentially, and the speed didn't seem to be tied to the cpu clock, so when I played on a Pentium, my character accrued money quickly. I'd go red a book for half an hour, come back and outfit everyone in meteoric iron plate, or whatever the best gear was called.

      Delete
  3. When I was a kid, I found MCIII at a computer store in the local mall on discount. It was the only RPG I'd found in ages that would actually run on my stone-age computer, so I bought it with tremendous excitement.

    When I got home, I discovered that it was bundled with two copies of disk 2 and zero copies of disk 1. I remember throwing one of the worst tantrums I ever threw as a child because I was so disappointed. For some reason, my mother (who usually responded to such things with a belting) was very patient about it.

    #90sproblems

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ouch :( And it wasn't easy to swap disks back then. What did you end up doing?

      Delete
  4. Regarding trilogies, I think many of your examples were not conceived as trilogies originally (like the Godfather I think). But if something is popular, you (or someone else) will likely to continue it. And if even the third game/book/movie is successful, there will be a fourth and the fifth as well. (Especially with video games.)

    But if we are strictly talking RPG trilogies where the third game is the best and there were no sequels (yet) here are my candidates:
    -The Witcher 3
    -Soul Blazer-Illusion of Gaia-Terranigma
    -Mother
    -The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
    -Shadow Hearts
    -Zill O'll


    If we're talking other categories:
    -Super Mario Bros.
    -Amped
    -Populous
    -Game Center DX
    -Zone of the Enders
    -WarCraft
    -N
    -Pikmin
    -Street Fighter III: Third Strike

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait a second. If you count Terranigma as sequel to Soul Blazer, then obviously Super Mario World is a sequel to Super Mario Bros, as well as Starcraft to Warcraft.

      Populous has a fourth game, as do Zill O'll and Pikmin. Street Fighter III is actually the fifth installment in the series (after Alpha and EX), has two sequels of its own. And for that matter SMB3 is the fourth game in the series.

      I don't see how any of those count as "third game is the best and there were no sequels".

      Delete
    2. Witcher 3 and Mother are both still valid.

      By Chet's own rules his Return of the Jedi example isn't valid as there have since been a number of sequels, prequels and expansions, unless you count the original three as their own unit. (As an aside, I really like Jedi while appreciating that Empire is the better film.)

      Halo 3 had the worst single player campaign in the series until 5 came out.

      Everybody loves Super Metroid, which is the third game in the Metroid story and did not receive a direct sequel until Fusion many years later.

      Delete
    3. I'd guess it's pretty rare for any major projects to be originally conceived as a trilogy. There's just too much uncertainty, and it's hard enough to have just one success.

      And then yeah, if you have some success, there's a lot of motivation to just keep going as long as you can. If the 3rd Indiana Jones movie was terrible, how likely would we have ever had a 4th?

      In addition to the Godfather, I'd suspect that the original Star Wars and Matrix trilogies were also opportunistically expanded into triologies after the success of the first film.

      You have to have some confidence of success, like with LotR and the following Star Wars trilogies, to just set out to make a trilogy in the first place.

      As for video games, cut Laszlo a break, I think they are rarely planned past the current game. By strict standards there would be almost nothing to discuss.

      On the NES, I'dd add that Castlevania 3 is arguably the best. But I'm also in the minority that thinks SMB2 was the best out of that trilogy.

      Delete
    4. But... Trails in the Sky has had numerous sequels. There are Trails In The Sky 1,2 & 3. The story is continued in Trails To Zero and Trails To Azure and is then further expanded upon in Trails Of Cold Steel 1,2,3 and 4....

      Delete
    5. Terranigma is a single entry and not part of any series. This isn't the case of a sequel being obfuscated during localization, it's an original game with an original setting. I'm aware of the fan site that pushes the "trilogy" conceit with curious obsession, though.

      Delete
    6. Original Star Wars trilogy absolutely is it’s own thing. You don’t need the prequels or sequels it stands alone, that’s the only criteria.

      Delete
    7. Populous II was a masterpiece. Is III really that good?

      Delete
    8. @Radiant: Populous DS is simply the port of the first game and Zill'Oll Infinite Plus is the PSP port of the second game. Yes, they both have some upgrades, but they are not new games in the series. Hey! Pikmin is an entirely different spinoff, so if that counts then we have to scratsh off Witcher for Thronebreaker, Battle Arena, Adventure and Gwent, WarCraft for WoW, ZoE for the VR remake and maybe Shadow Hearts too, for Koudelka. SF3 Third Strike is the third game in the SF3 trilogy. They are very different from SF2 or EX or anything else. I'll concede the Quintet games and if you want, SMB too, though.

      @Robert: yes, there are many Trails games, but TitS is a trilogy, and one of the few that was originally planned as a trilogy from the get go.

      @Gerry Quinn: well, that's obviously subjective, but I like it more. I have friends who still play it in multiplayer.

      I didn't mean the list as something definitive, just my opinion. And it's very hard to find good game series with exactly 3 games, especially if we count spinoffs, remakes, mobile versions, enhanced ports and the like.

      Delete
    9. @Lazlo: I love Mother / Earthbound 3 too! I hope when Chet gets to 1994/5 he plays through Earthbound (not my favorite but still so many feels) and the English fan-translation of Mother/Earthbound 3 which is fantastic - I've played a ton of commercial games whose translations have not had the love and care that the (unpaid) team put into Mother 3.

      Delete
    10. Games which are third and best in the series: The Witcher 3, Demon's Crest, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Super Punch out if you count Power Punch 2, Energy Breaker, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose, Spellcasting 301.

      Delete
    11. Well, I should have guessed that my writing prompt, meant as a simple segue into the main article after weeks of not writing much of anything at all, would produce more discussion than the game that followed. Rather than argue point by point with the comments, I am glad to modify my argument to say that the third installment of MEDIA THAT I HAPPEN TO CONSUME seems to be lesser than the first two, but I recognize that might just be a fluke. Also, if three films come out in a period of 5 years and then a fourth comes out 15 years later, I don't think it destroys the unity of the original three as a "trilogy."

      Delete
    12. According to the authors, "Soul Blazer" is set in the same universe as "Actraiser" 1&2 and "Solo Crisis". "Illusion of Gaea" is a spin-off using the same engine and mechanics.

      That trilogy thus goes: 1. Illusion of Gaea, 2. Terranigma, 3. The Granstream Saga (the latter with a new engine, but the same mechanics)

      SOURCE: Strategywiki.org/wiki/Category:Actraiser

      Delete
    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    14. What are you considering as the third Shadow Hearts game? Covenant, or New World? (This depends how you treat Koudelka, which is arguably "Shadow Hearts 0.")

      Delete
    15. @Addict,to be fair, people have managed to come up with a surprisingly little amount of suggestions for series where the third title is the best and even then, many picks are fairly debatable... And I prefer Two Towers to ROTK, surfin' Legolas and the long ending kind of spoiled the latter for me.

      Helm's Deep siege on the other hand was by far the most epic scene I ever saw in a movie to that point.

      Delete
    16. There just aren't very many pure, originally conceived trilogies out there. Among the handful that exist, I think 3rd movies do pretty well. Statistically they should only be the best about a third of the time.

      For all the other cases: a series that happened to end after three installments, I think the important force is just that final installments tend to be bad. Success encourages sequels, and failure brings things to an end.

      There's nothing special about 3. I suspect that if you look at 2 part series or 4 part series or whatever number that the final installment is more likely to be worse than chance would suggest.

      Delete
  5. Technically, I would say that Magic Candle isn't really a trilogy because there's also Bloodstone, which acts as the prequel to the series. You'll be delighted to know that the fourth installment finally got rid of the "energy drains while walking" annoyance - though it made a number of equipment items potently useless. I'd say that for the first around 3/4 MC3 is a pretty great MC game, but the last part... well, you'll see it when you get there.

    Looks like the importing process severely breaks the game - both the economy, which is supposed to be much harsher - so harsh in fact that Scorpia threw a whole tantrum about it, and character development. You still have something to discover though, like a whole new spellbook. But it's very clear that the game was supposed to be played with a newly created party.

    A warning: Garz has a bit more autonomy than the rest of your party members. Any items you give to him, he won't give back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and I think the justification for Solian Lands not being mentioned before is that they belong to monster races, like orcs and goblins, and there's not much diplomatic relationships between them and the human lands. They just got really desperate because of the blight.

      Delete
    2. I'm relatively confident that the justification is that nobody had conceived of them until TMC3 was being written, but good for you for coming up with a Watsonian interpretation.

      Delete
    3. I meant diegetic justification. I have no doubt that the series' setting wasn't planned that far in advance.
      And frankly, I prefer the MC3 approach - even if it breaks the continuity somewhat - to the Ultima way of reusing (and retconning) the same cities and dungeons over and over again.

      Delete
  6. Coming off Treasures of the Savage Frontier, the orc royal showing up to help your party reminded me to adjust my perception for how the Magic Candle games have treated this species.

    ReplyDelete
  7. LOTR I is better than III (you just can't beat that prologue).

    That being said, the best part III ever made is quite obviously "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually like Per qualche Dollaro in Piu (For a Few Dollars More) the best out of the trilogy!

      Delete
    2. I think The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the best film of the original three, but the moment in For a Few Dollars More where Lee Van Cleef lights his match on the back of Klaus Kinski's neck gets my vote for the single best scene of the series.

      Delete
    3. My deleted post up above was saying exactly this. I'll accept being late given the consolation that others agree with me.

      Delete
    4. I also prefer For a Few Dollars More, but there's no denying The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the popular favorite.

      A few more trilogies where I think the third is often considered the best - Andrzej Wajda's war trilogy, Marcel Pagnol's Marseille trilogy, and Wim Wenders' road trilogy.

      Delete
  8. The stamina drains at different rates depending on the clothes your characters are wearing.

    And Garz counts as a hireling which is why it asks you if you mean to share items with him.

    The choice of characters is critical in MC3.

    Great game, was really happy when I finally won it. It does require a patch to fix a treasure item.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hang on, all the films you mentioned were never originally thought of as a trilogy. The Godfather 3 happened because the director enjoyed not starving. The Matrix sequels were both thought up after the original. TDKR and Smokey and the Bandit 3 both went through extensive rewrites. TDKR due to Heath Ledger dying, and Smoke because nobody understood what was going on in the original, called Smokey is the Bandit. Which I guess would change the point from "the final film in a trilogy is never good" to "a film thought up years after the first two is never good".
    The only exception to the original rule I can think of is Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, yeah, yeah, part of a series, but a lot of people actually like that one compared to the other prequels. Besides, LOTR wouldn't count either, since its part 3 of 6 now. I think Back to the Future and Mad Max might also qualify as an exception to the rule? I'm not really familiar with what people think of those.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it occurred to me right after this that the perfect answer to it would be Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski's Three Colours trilogy. Probably more than a few arthouse kind of films that would qualify.

      Delete
    2. Revenge of the Sith is a great example of the third film being the best of a conceived trilogy. It's just that it's a terrible trilogy and the "best" is really only the least bad.

      I think LotR and The Hobbit should count as two separate trilogies. There's only a little overlap between the two.

      I'd guess the 1st Back to the Future film would be considered the best, and the 2nd Mad Max. I suspect that Mad Max was also made up as it went along rather than being a conceived trilogy.

      Delete
    3. The Pather Panchali/Aparajito/World of Apu trilogy also comes to mind. No dropoff in quality there.

      Delete
    4. LotR still counts, since LotR and The Hobbit (which I presume is what you consider when saying it's part 3 of 6 now) are two independent trilogies that were never conceived as a united series, neither by Tolkien who wrote both as separate single books, nor by Jackson.

      It's more like, separate stories in the same world that share some characters and items (the ring features in The Hobbit) but stand as separate individual stories.

      Delete
    5. Jarl:I know, that LotR and The Hobbit are separate. I'm just pointing out that if each individual Star Wars trilogy doesn't count, that neither should that. So far, at least, each are just as separate as each Middle-Earth series.

      Asimpkins: I wasn't aware if people thought of MM 2 or 3 as the best one. For Back to the Future, I was more curious if people thought of 3 as being better than 2 rather than the first one being the most beloved. I know that 1 is much beloved.

      Finally, I also neglected to mention the Samurai trilogy staring Toshiro Mifune, but that could just be because I'm not a fan of that. (also the Dollars trilogy, but I hear that's something that is only a trilogy because of American distributor, don't know if that actually qualifies because of it)
      Also, There's a fourth Matrix film, which also throws some shade on the idea of The Matrix being a trilogy....

      Delete
    6. I'd actually count Star Wars too, since originally it was a trilogy with a self contained story arc, a prequel trilogy was made which had a connected story arc that nevertheless also works on its own without the original trilogy.

      I haven't seen Disney's Star Wars movies yet, but no matter how they're built up, they don't change the fact that both the original and the prequel trilogy were originally planned as trilogies, still exist as trilogies and make narrative sense as such. You might call them trilogies within a series.

      Funnily enough there are also some trilogies within the extended universe. You might call the Jedi Knight games a trilogy, but that's just because they're stupidly numbered (Dark Forces, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, Jedi Knight 2, Jedi Knight 3). Plenty of people like JK3 the best (personally my favorite is Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight).

      However many additional works are added to a series, if there are trilogies within the series that were planned as such and make narrative sense as such, they count in my book

      Delete
    7. Okay, it sounds like we're agreed on that.

      From what I seen, spoiler-wise regarding the sequel trilogy, it was originally planned as a trilogy but nobody knew how they were going to get from point a to point c, or even what point c was. I guess that would put it on the same point as the Matrix trilogy, minus the animated movie.

      Oh, yeah, Jedi Knight was the bomb, I played JK1 so much. I agree that one is the best, but JK2 does have better lightsaber play. There were a lot of great shooters released by Lucasarts, not just related to Star Wars. Their regular flight sims were the bomb too. But you kinda forgot Mysteries of the Sith. Those games felt like a sequel trilogy before the actual sequel trilogy came out.
      Plus Star Wars also has a lot more trilogies in the extended universe. The KOTOR series...technically. Definitely wouldn't fall under Chet's challenge. Thrawn trilogy. Probably more book trilogies that I'm not aware of, some of which probably meet the challenge.

      Delete
    8. The Jedi Knight series was one of the first I got truly addicted to. I beat JK2 and 3, but sadly never Dark Forces 2 or Mysteries of the Sith; they're fun but too long for their own good IMO.

      I have a hard time calling KOTOR a trilogy, but only because I'm extremely bitter about KOTOR2 being rushed and TOR being an MMO released far too long after the fact.

      Delete
    9. George Lucas had originally planned to make a 12-part series, in homage of the serials he loved as a child. Then it was changed to a trilogy of trilogies. Then it sat on the shelf for 20 years. Then George Lucas actually made it and ruined everyone's childhood forever.

      Delete
    10. I wouldn't call KotoR a trilogy. I like 2 better than 1 (Chris Avellone's unconventional writing is just great and unique for a Star Wars game), but the MMO isn't a numbered sequel, all it shares with the two KotoR games is the setting of Republic era Star Wars. Not to mention that it's an MMO and therefore a completely different genre. Nobody would claim that World of Warcraft is a sequel to Warcraft 3,either - it's a spinoff.

      Delete
    11. I think asimpkins is right, and the Mad Max films were not conceived as a trilogy. Also, there are four of them now. ;)

      Delete
    12. thekelvingreen: That was a reboot!

      MorpheusKitami: I'm pretty sure Road Warrior (#2) is seen as the greatest in most circles. It has the best imdb scores, and it's the only one I ever recall seeing mentioned on essential films lists.

      Delete
    13. On KOTOR and TOR. I was saying technically because it was what the intended KOTOR 3 was rewrittened into, and I think it has Revan in it? Which I realize is a small link.

      Delete
    14. "a film thought up years after the first two is never good"

      Army of Darkness?

      Delete
    15. I really liked Jedi Academy's ability to create and customize your Jedi in an action game versus the rpg's prior. Storywise the game was weak sauce though.

      TOR is an MMO sure, but all of the non-group content (and even group content in story mode can be soloed). Play the Jedi Guardian storyline through the KoTST storyline and you have essentially KOTOR 3, without being forced to play with another player if you don't want to. Of course the standards are much closer to modern Bioware writing standards than classic Bioware (probably because it is modern Bioware)

      Delete
  10. I imagine the issue with the new land was no one thought there would be a Magic Candle 3 when 1 and 2 were being made so they didn't bring it up then. It's common in sequels that I've seen.

    ReplyDelete
  11. So, this is a game I've made the attempt to play in the past, having gotten it with a software package called "Fantasy 5". I believe this had copy protection, like the rest of the titles in the package, and that the manual that I needed was electronic and on the CD, thus it was nearly impossible to search it to find what I needed. Further, I think the copy that I could install off of that CD was corrupted, because when I would access the notetaking of the game, it would be full of glitchiness and utterly unusable. There were other things that make me think the game was busted, but I won't mention them yet in case it turns out to be a spoiler...

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time, I know you had a hard time with 2 by the end but I really enjoyed reading it. I wait with eager anticipation.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "Maybe it's a good thing that we seem unlikely to ever see the third Kingkiller Chronicle."

    Ugh. So true, but so painful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I still check every now and again if the third kingkiller is out yet, but with lower expectations each time. Did enjoy the companion book about the girl whose name escapes me...

      Delete
    2. Well, it has a name now at least.

      Delete
    3. Our only chance is that it'll actually turn into a longer series instead of a trilogy. Yes, that means the rest will probably not get written in our lifetime, but then the third one is going to be great.

      Delete
    4. Yup, I think he was being a little overly ambitious when he decided it was only going to be a trilogy.

      Delete
  14. People have mentioned The Good the Bad and the Ugly and
    Revenge of the Sith, can possibly add Toy Story 3 and Bourne Oldtomato to the list.

    I think Avernum 3 is the most popular in the trilogy (both original and the remakes)

    ReplyDelete
  15. MC1 was a breakthrough idea. MC2 kept things afloat. MC3 was when the boat started to take in water. Some big titles came out in 1992 eg Star control 2, Dune, Fates of Atlantis, Wolfenstein 3d, Ultima Underworld. My suspicion is Ali and the team couldn´t get the right support to make a great sequel.

    ReplyDelete
  16. OK let's do the opposite: which trilogy of RPGs has the third as the very very worst by far?

    Ishar 3 is a candidate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never played the Beholder trilogy, but I've seen 3 referred to as the worst pretty often.

      People are already ready to crucify Baldur's Gate 3 for not being an 800x600 2D game for Windows 95, complete with ultra-compressed audio and blurry FMVs.

      Delete
    2. Not a common opinion, but I thought EoB3 was superior to EoB2. Better (outside) areas, more interesting NPCs, better interface (that All Attack made all the difference) and, more importantly, never found a walking dead scenario.

      Delete
    3. Story-wise? Mass Effect 3.
      I don't have one to call worse gameplay-wise, but ME3 is a decent shooter marred by a story that rotates 3480 degrees. That's not a typo. I can't actually think of any 3rd game in a trilogy/series that was worse gameplay-wise than the preceeding entry.

      Delete
    4. Underworld Ascendant: According to the reviews, a buggy, broken, unchallenging, repetitive, joyless mess with no characters or story.
      Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest: Takes an exciting action series and turns it into a boring, repetitive, unchallenging R.P.G. with nonsensical puzzles, nonsensical hints, frustrating dungeons, tedious grinding and easy bosses.
      King's Quest 3: A tech demo for the worst copy protection system ever with horribly designed puzzles, tedious time limits, frustrating mountain paths where you constantly fall to your death.
      Morrowind: The previous games had interesting open worlds with fast travel, exciting combat, lots of interesting features and activities and a great style. This, however, has a boring open world with no fast travel, frustrating combat, far fewer activities, and constant attacks by cliff racers.
      Renegade 3: The previous games were bad, but this was a monstrosity, with a frame rate that approaches seconds per frame, choppy scrolling, terrible combat.
      Robocop 3: A horribly tedious game in which the character moves at a slow crawl, killing enemies and avoiding attacks are frustrating and hard to control and there are annoying mazes.
      Gothic 3: Constant bugs made this virtually unplayable.
      Ninja Gaiden 3: The other games, despite their difficulty are usually fair and well designed. This, however, is a frustrating mess with awful level design, enemies that can only be avoided by trial and error and luck and bad controls.

      Delete
    5. @Anonymous: Morrowind had tedious combat? Did you even play Daggerfall? Their combat is identical. Arena and Daggerfall only had "interesting" open worlds if you like miles of pointless wilderness with nothing to do or explore, dotted with indistinguishable randomly-generated towns and generic, interchangeable NPCs. And I'm not sure what you mean by "interesting features" unless you're referring to Daggerfall's useless, often broken skills, or Arena crashing and corrupting your save file.

      I also fail to see how Castlevania 2 is the *third* game in a trilogy, or how Ninja Gaiden 3 is the worst in a trilogy of RPGs.

      Delete
    6. @Alex, when it came out, Morrowind was indeed a huge disappointment to TES fans for its lack of ambition - the world got a lot smaller, simulationist aspects were greatly simplified, plot became linear and non-branching, and a lot of skills were dropped. I'm not saying it's a bad game, but it's a different enough game that if you approach it from a TES1-2 mindset, it's easy to see how it can be a letdown.
      It's an extremely similar - just more recent and thus more heated - situation with Fallout 3. There are huge numbers of the original duology's fans who hate FO3's guts for largely the same reasons. It's all really more of a question of mindset and values one has rather than some abstract quality.

      Delete
    7. Or some of us TES fans thought it was the best in the series and still do.

      No one person can speak for everyone's enjoyment of a game. I personally HATE Pool of Radiance, but I can concede and understand why people would think it is the best Gold Box title

      Delete
    8. It was a list of games in general, and Castlevania had a previous sequel call Vampire Killer on the MSX.

      Delete
    9. I said it was a list of games in general the first time I wrote that, but I lost the comment and forgot to add that detail.

      Delete
    10. Count me also as being OK with Eye of the Beholder 3. I remember something about the engine having to be redone and it consequently requiring a higher-end machine than EoB 1 and 2 did, but that's not relevant for the modern player.

      Delete
    11. Let me step in to defend Ninja Gaiden 3. It's not a forgiving game, but you don't end up in crazy situations with re-spawning enemies. There is a right way to do everything but it takes practice and muscle memory. The first two have infinite continues and can be beaten by anyone willing to try long enough. Three took real skill.

      Delete
  17. I think you very rarely find CRPG's intended as trilogies due to the nature of wanting to iterate on sure money making. Thus we have series of games very often, but not too many trilogies that ended that way by choice versus logistics (studios closing, games bombing in sales). Even games that are intended as trilogies often end up having more games when the devs run out of money or ideas (Mass Effect:Andromeda, anyone?). CD Projekt is talking about doing a new Witches. I think as we continue into the future and the games industry tries to edge closer and closer to Hollywood's approach we will see less and less new IP and more derivation. Which can be both a good and bad thing depending on what the derivation comes from

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Undertale, at least according to Toby Fox, is intended to be a trilogy. We'll see how that pans out sometime in the future, but it's hard to say given that Deltarune isn't even out yet and what we've seen so far is... cryptic, to say the absolute least.

      Delete
  18. In support of Chet's premise, I found a list of 33 popular movie trilogies, and the writer's opinion on the weakest link was #3 ~80% of the time.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I disagree on EOB3. I enjoyed playing it, but it is the weakest part in the series. The dungeons were fun, but the outside areas don't work. Mostly they're just vast plains, and if you go along, you don't have the feeling getting forward... The to-hit feedback isn't as good as in the predecessors, and the digitized sounds were so awful, I to turn it off, with the consequence, that I didn't realize I was being attacked from behind. I'm really looking forward to Chet's playthrough. The discussions will be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Eye of the Beholder 3.

      Delete
    2. Eye of the Beholder 3 is a train wreck. There's not a single part of it that's well-made. The ear-torturing sound would be bad enough but then it has ugly art assets and an approach to puzzle design and level layout that would make you think its creators had never played a videogame before.

      I'm a huge stan of EOB 1 and 2, and 3 is just this awful ugly insult dangling off the end of the franchise.

      Delete
    3. Regarding EOB3, off the top of my head, if you start with a new party (as opposed to transferring from EOB2) your starting weapons cannot harm the monsters in the starting area.

      The optional side dungeon "rewards" you, at its end, with an item that's only useful in that optional side dungeon.

      The plot is weaker than EOB1/2 and doesn't have any characters from the established FR setting (like 1's Shindia and 2's Khelben). Gur cybg gjvfg, gung gur yvpu vf npghnyyl tbbq naq gur dhrfg tvire rivy, pbzrf bhg bs abjurer orpnhfr arvgure punenpgre vf rfgnoyvfurq be qrirybcrq va-tnzr, naq guvf zrnaf lbhe punenpgref unir ab npghny zbgvingvba sbe gurve dhrfg. Orfvqrf, jul jbhyq n tbbq yvpu nggnpx lbh ba fvtug?

      The new spells and items are uninspiring. Naq vg'f n zvffrq bccbeghavgl gung lbh'yy arire trg rabhtu rkcrevrapr sbe avagu yriry fcryyf.

      The several wide-open outdoors areas in practice mean that you're staring at a blank screen. If no walls are within a couple of tiles, you can hardly even tell when you're moving.

      The new engine requires a (much) more powerful computer for no discernible benefits in graphics or gameplay. While not relevant NOW per se, it is poor technical design.

      The inescapable dead end zone (that you can save in!) is just mean. Also, the game cannot be completed if you don't have certain specific classes in your party, and it doesn't tell you that.

      So yeah, I'd say it has some problems.

      Delete
  20. I hate this so called isometric pov. Why not leave it like in part one? That was very charming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. God, I agree! One thing that majorly turned me off to the Ultima series was how (in later titles) it looked like everything is skewed for no reason. Plenty of DOS games (X-Com is just one) had an actual isometric perspective instead of weirdly-drawn tiles, why not MC3 or Ultima 6?

      Delete
    2. Exactly. Thats why i never played the later ultima titles...

      Delete
    3. Same here. I never was able to play from Ultima VI onwards due to the dizziness they caused to me by looking at their twisted perspective.

      Delete
    4. If there's a way to do an "isometric" perspective a la XCOM without tilting the grid diagonally I'd love to know (seriously!). Having an off-axis grid makes its own kind of problems with control, readability, etc and feels weirdly clinical and detached. For a good example, see Ultima 8!

      Delete
    5. (by which I mean a good example of a bad implementation of the off-axis grid)

      Delete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The stats on third entries are skewed by the nature of commerciality.

    If entry #1 isn't excellent, it often doesn't get an entry #2.
    If entry #2 is going to be the worst it gets, it often doesn't get an entry #3.
    If entry #3 was actually good, it would go on to get an entry #4.

    So I think you'll find that it's not so much that the third parts of trilogies are terrible but that the last entry in a franchise - or the last entry before a long pause - tends to be terrible.

    And we are somewhat dissuaded from seeing that fairly obvious pattern by a handful of high-profile high-marketing trilogies from the 80s and 90s that arguably buck the tend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Game companies big and small, old and new have always failed to realize how games work as an art form.

      If the last entry of a series is rushed out the door after several budget, they start thinking it was just time for that series to go. Had nothing to do with the writer being fired or starting from scratch with the newest tech as it came out, no, clearly it was doomed from the start. /s

      Delete
    2. I meant to say "budget cuts" in the above comment, sorry.

      Delete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "There are plenty of exceptions to the rule that no sequel outperforms the original--that is, plenty of Part 2s that are better than Part 1s. But in what series is the third the best of the lot?"

    Super Mario 3 is to this day the best game in the entire franchise - by a huge margin even. Nintendo never managed to replicate that magic despite trying dozens of times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. I don't know. I was never a huge Super Mario fan until Super Mario Galaxy came along (of couse one could argue it's not quite in line of 1,2,3,4).

      Delete
    3. The Super Mario series has hit the ball out of the park a ridiculous amount of times.

      The opening wiki blurb uses the phrase 'regarded as one of the best games of all time' on the pages for 1, 3, world, 64, galaxy, and galaxy 2. It would be the obvious number one video game series ever, if the same company hadn't done equally incredible things with their other flagship series.


      Delete
    4. Surely, Zelda has done quite well for them as well.

      Delete
    5. That is their other flagship series I was alluding to :)

      Delete
    6. I was always fond of World, myself (probably because it was easier!)

      Delete
    7. I think SMB3 is both a great game and overrated. I'd put SMB2 above it on the NES. Larger and more complex levels, no timer rushing you through it, finding secrets is more meaningful because of the extra hit point, your characters keep their special abilities even if you take a hit, and much better boss fights.

      SMB3 has an abundance of creative stuff crammed into it, but it feels a little squandered as it boils down to a more arcadey rush to the end of the levels and try to collect more coins/lives than you lose. And the hop-on, hop-off, hop-on, hop-off boss fights are terrible.

      Delete
  25. Happy to hear that you're enjoying your new teaching job! Looking forward to October...

    ReplyDelete
  26. I have heard Avernum 3 referred to as the best of that series, but I haven't made it that far yet. Playing through the most recent remakes, I've enjoyed the first and am currently enjoying the second.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Avernum is good, but I've gotta be honest with you, I preferred the older Exile games just a bit more. The changes they made to stats/skills/spells when they remade the games into Avernum felt like a pretty big downgrade, not to mention reducing the party size...

      Don't get me wrong, I like Avernum just fine, but it's just not the same experience.

      Delete
    2. I've never played the original exile series, only the first set of remakes, which are great (especially the original series, and the new remakes (which are still high quality, and in some ways better)

      I'm hyped for the geneforge remakes though!

      Delete
    3. that is Avernum 1-3 are great, Avernum 4-6 are a little lsess good in my estimation, and the new remakes of 1-3 a little less good still, but still strong.

      Delete
    4. Avernum 3 lets you finally explore the surface, but after a while I missed the special setting of the caves. It also had way more engine changes than Avernum 2, though I'm not sure if they were all for the better (combat was strangely easy at the beginning). Still, I thought all three games were pretty close in quality. I think I liked Avernum 2 slighly more than the rest, but nothing beats that moment in Part 1 jura lbh svanyyl svaq na rkvg.

      Delete
  27. Geneforge was amazing; there aren't enough games where summoning is your primary offensive ability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I stumbled on Geneforge a long time ago and was really charmed by it. I remember thinking that your role-playing choices seemed surprisingly meaningful in that game. Never finished it though.

      Delete
  28. To get away from Trilogy Chat and back to Magic Candle specifically, the series also had a very early proto-RTS spinoff called Siege (poor choice of name, as there's a more popular/recent game also named Siege) that has preset battles you can play through, mostly sieges of various castles. The battles range over the history of Deruvia/etc. A notable issue with Siege is that SB16 (then the most common soundcard) sound option didn't work and so most people who play/remember it remember it largely for the godawful pc speaker bleeps and bloops that would accompany combats.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

As of January 2019, I will be deleting any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.