Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Game 409: Might and Magic: Darkside of Xeen (1993)

 
This image, which is showing the Dragon Pharaoh's pyramid on the dark side, suggests that there's another planet in very close proximity.
      
Might and Magic: Darkside of Xeen
United States
New World Computing (developer and publisher)
Released 1993 for DOS and PC-98, 1994 for FM Towns
Repackaged with Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen and released as World of Xeen in 1994
Date Started: 20 April 2021
    
I decided it was time to jump right to Darkside of Xeen and pick up some momentum, despite some commenters who felt I should still dither longer with Clouds. I would have preferred to post again on Mission: Thunderbolt first, but that game is giving me all sorts of trouble.
    
To recap what we covered a couple months ago, Darkside of Xeen was released in 1993 as a standalone game, although players who installed it in the same directory as Clouds of Xeen could enjoy both games at once, plus some special endgame content that involves both sides of the world. This is naturally what I will be doing. Although I'm nominally playing Darkside, I will have to return to the Clouds side several times. There are two towers, one dungeon, and a sphinx that all require keys from the Darkside, plus I have vowed to finish the Dragon Cave and the Volcano Cave once my new characters are up to strength. 

The Dragon Pharaoh learns that his ally has become a vampire.
      
The backstory of Darkside is told in both the manual and the opening cinematic. The Dragon Pharaoh, who seems to rule all or part of the Darkside, is excited about the upcoming fulfillment of a prophecy. One night, he sees two meteors crash into the world, which he initially regards as a good omen. (I'm not 100% sure, but I'm willing to bet that the two "meteors" are actually Sheltem's and Corak's ships from Might and Magic III.) A dispatched agent fails to return from the crash site, and the Dragon Pharaoh's readings of the omens start to go haywire. In his journal, he repeatedly expresses his confidence in fulfilling the prophecy in exact percentages, which drop alarmingly as events unfold.
     
There's that planet again. What are we to make of it?
     
The pharaoh soon learns that one of his allies, Queen Kalindra, has taken in a "mysterious but charming guest named Alamar," which is of course the alias that Sheltem used in the first Might and Magic. Alamar usurps and imprisons the queen and somehow turns her into a vampire. Scouts return to the pharaoh with reports of a rebel army amassing near the crash site. One by one, the pharaoh's allies abandon him for Alamar. Soon, his very pyramid is under siege. In desperation, he magically seals off the last level of his pyramid, keeping himself safe but also trapping him inside. He entrusts a magic orb to a winged familiar, but the creature is blasted out of the sky soon after it leaves the pyramid, and the orb falls to the ground. It is found by Zelda the Herbalist and given to the party immediately upon their arrival on the Darkside. 
        
The little creature doesn't get very far.
      
As I began the game, I considered the recommendations from various commenters and ended up doing something odd. Although I didn't have to combine things this way, I was curious to see how fast I could win Clouds. An anonymous commenter linked me to a speedrun where the player had done it in less than five minutes. Winning this quickly requires prior knowledge of the maps and names of places, but it's still legitimate. I was prepared to try to win even faster by using the I LOST IT cheat at a mirror to get the Xeen Slayer Sword. 
      
An NPC lives up to his name.
         
In my first attempt, I started with a new party, ran up to the mirror, grabbed the sword, and asked the mirror to take me directly to LORD XEEN. Alas, my characters were unable to hit him, and he soon slaughtered all of us. My next thought was to try the leveling fountain in Nightshadow before going to Xeen, but the problem there is surviving the vampires on the way to the fountain. (Ed: I later remembered that this fountain doesn't work until you clear the town anyway.) My party would need either a quick means of leveling up or a quick 1,000 gold pieces to afford the "Teleport" spell in Shangri-La. Unfortunately, having the teleport spell is only half the battle. You also have to have enough spell points to use it, and the starting sorcerer doesn't. The +150 spell point fountain in Rivercity isn't available until you complete the town's quest, so that's out. You also need gems to do all that teleporting. Because of terrain and monsters, the +250 spell point fountain in the Land of the Giants isn't reachable unless you already have a boost. Neither is the +50 accuracy fountain. The +5 level fountain near Vertigo lets you hit Xeen a couple of times but not defeat him.
   
I needed a way to gain at least a few legitimate levels. After some experimentation, the fastest way I could find was to actually complete the Vertigo quest. You don't have to kill all the monsters; you just have to return with proof that Bob's Extermination actually caused the infestation. That's enough to get everyone to Level 3, which provides enough points for the sorcerer to cast a couple of "Teleports" and maybe a stray "Lloyd's Beacon."
       
I rolled a new party for Darkside.
      
To implement this plan, I created a new party so that I could experience Darkside without all the levels and skills and spells from the first game. But as a concession, I decided to curate the party rather than relying on random rolls. Thus, I ended up with:

  • Saoirse, human female paladin. She was the only character from Clouds I really liked.
  • Gnaart, half-orc male knight.
  • Glean, gnome female ninja.
  • The elf brother-and-sister archer duo of Shaft and Feather.
  • Sasha, human female ranger, short for "Sashayer" (cf., Walker, Strider).
     
Not having a pure sorcerer created a problem, because my best archer only just had enough spell points for a "Teleport" at Level 3. But I was able to slay Lord Xeen by:
     
  • Clearing out Vertigo and getting the associated reward.
  • Using the reward money to purchase "Water Walk," "Lloyd's Beacon," and "Teleport" in Shangri-la.
  • Using the +5 level fountain near Vertigo (you have to kill some orcs on the way).
  • Using the +50 luck fountain near Vertigo.
  • Using the +50 accuracy fountain in B3. This was the hardest. To get there, I had to use the magic mirror to go to the CAVE OF ILLUSION, "Water Walk" north 4 squares, and "Teleport" west 7 squares. That gets you to the fountain, but you only have a couple of turns to use it before nearby ninjas start blasting you with electrical spells, requiring you to "Lloyd's Beacon" back to Vertigo.
         
"Winning" Clouds with about the lowest score possible.
     
Even with these advantages, it took me about 10 tries to kill Xeen, then about 10 more to kill him and have enough characters left alive that I could afford to raise the ones who Xeen killed. I also made a lot of mistakes along the way, such as drinking from the fountains too late in the day, so that the 05:00 rollover wiped them out. Because of all of this, a planned video of my "speedrun" fell apart, and I ended up spending far more time than if I'd just copied the YouTuber and done it the longer way.
         
Zelda gives us the Dragon Pharaoh's Orb as we arrive.
          
Nonetheless, as I began Darkside, my party had accomplished nothing on the Clouds side except clearing Vertigo and killing Xeen. What makes me happy about this is that the various attribute-raising barrels are still around if I decide I need them. But otherwise let me know if you think having accomplished virtually no quests in Clouds will be a problem, and I'll start over with my saved game. As you've pointed out, I can still create new characters.
   
This new party entered Darkside at around Level 5, but with no decent equipment, no spells except the ones I bought in Shangri-la, and no skills. Thus, I could not immediately start lawnmowing my way through the dark side. Theoretically, it should make for a more challenging, interesting experience.
         
I thought this was a pretty cool image.
        
Darkside gameplay began in Castleview, a large 30 x 30 town with the usual services, a sprawling sewer beneath it (Darkside restores the Might and Magic tradition of a dungeon beneath each town), and a tower belonging to the mage Ellinger, to whom the Dragon Pharaoh had intended to send the magic globe. Castleview had been invaded by goblins and gremlins, looking here like no goblins and gremlins you've ever seen before. Mayor Snorfblad wanted us to clean them out. 
     
This puzzle required me to close the chests in an order that spelled PITCHFORK. I had to use an online anagram tool to figure it out.
      
The entire town seemed designed to level the party to Cloud levels as soon as possible. I got 100,000 experience points for solving a letter puzzle for Miles the Cartographer. He gave a string of gibberish letters and then asked us to eliminate letters based on the dark side's physical features (e.g., "if the Great Northern Tower is east of Lakeside, cross out all S's and D's"). Rescuing a man named Jasper from prison netted another 10,000. Two chest puzzles--one involved opening chests in a particular order, the other closing them--earned me 300,000. Another 25,000 came from simply talking to a succession of five "Drawkcab Monks," all of whom have palindromic names and speak in palindromes. Some of them were clever:

  • I moan, "Live on, o evil Naomi!"
  • Do nine men interpret? "Nine men," I nod.
  • Eva, can I stab bats in a cave?

To defeat the gremlins and goblins, I had to contend with Gettlewaithe the Gremlin King, who sits in a tent in the midst of a field. For I believe the first time in the series, I had dialogue options when I talked to him, but all of the options seem to ultimately provoke a combat, so the choice is illusory. He agrees to stop bothering the town once you wipe out his guards. The mayor provides gold and 50,000 experience points.
     
The Gremlin King is a bit full of himself.
 
Dialogue options for the first time in the series.
The result of any of the dialogue options.
           
In the sewers--where I found a few endurance and strength barrels--Valio the Simple gives 25,000 experience for killing the Queen Rat.
       
Valio is actually an evil wizard. I wonder if the "School of Evil Wizardry" is something that I can find.
       
Both the town and sewer combats were moderately hard, particularly since I couldn't afford any useful spells yet. Temple blessings got me through most of them, but I had to do a lot of healing and armor repair with the limited funds I was earning.

Madam Oorla the Gypsy told me that I needed to take the orb to Ellinger, but his tower required a key to enter. On the dark side, the tower guardian is a cyberpunkish chick who says, "You need a key, orc breath" before you have the key and, "How did you get a key?" after you have one. The key was held by Nadia the Hoarder, who first wanted me to retrieve her lost onyx necklace from some sewer rats. That gives you another 100,000.
         
Once again, this is not how "keys" work.
         
I have to return to Ellinger's Tower at some point. There were a few items I didn't pick up because I had to walk on lava to get them, plus a button puzzle I never solved. (Ellinger seems to have a fetish for boots. Most of the treasures you find in his tower are boots, and he's written an Ode to Boots.) But I did make my way up to the top of the tower to talk with the wizard. He laid out the main quest: To save the Dragon Pharaoh, I'll need to enter his pyramid with a key. The only key is in Queen Kalindra's Castle, but Alamar did something to move the castle "out of phase" with the world, and to correct that, I'll have to find 20 energy discs. I already got three from Gettlewaithe.
        
Ellinger explains the main quest.
       
Talking with Ellinger got us a final 250,000 experience. By the end of the episode, we had enough experience to get everyone up to about Level 12. The greater problem for most of this session was money. I had to bypass the mage's guild, a guy offering a treasure map, and trainers providing the "Pathfinder" and "Swimming" skills because every penny I made went to healing and leveling up. Only at the very end of the session, when I found a few hidden treasure chests and got Ellinger's treasure, did the situation change.
     
It was pretty pathetic not to be able to afford this.
       
A few miscellaneous notes:
     
  • I expected the dark side to be dark. But the daytime sky is lit, if a bit dim, and a tavern tip suggests that its towers have their own walkable clouds.
      
Exploring the somewhat-dusky side of Xeen.
      
  • Ellinger's full name is Ellinger J. Hofenhager. "Hofenhager" sounds like a real last name, but a Google search suggests that it's never been used except for this game.
    
I'm going to need a drink to go along with this game.
      
  • One negative consequence of using the magic mirror to get six Xeen Slayer Swords is that I can't drop them or sell them, so I have six fewer inventory weapon slots. 
  • The tavern screen includes a character who looks so much like a Dr. Seuss figure that I assume it must have been intentional. In general, the dark side seems to be populated with monstrous races, only a few of which are ever identified.
           
I swear I saw his guy in Horton Fireballs a Who.
       
  • I finally have a party in which everyone can wield missile weapons, but I've been very slow to acquire them. At the end of this session, I've only found two, and both were in stores.
   
Thus, while my party certainly isn't as powerful as its end-of-Clouds counterpart, I head out into the larger world of Darkside much more powerful than I expected.
   
Castleview is in area A4, in the southwest of the overall Darkside world map. The map shows a little less terrain variance than the Clouds side, with the center dominated by the Desert of Doom. (I originally wrote that this was "odd, given that the world receives little to no direct sunlight," but then it occurred to me that the sun has nothing to do with making sand. In fact, it's the other way around: lots of sand "causes" more direct sunlight by offering little water vapor to be condensed into clouds. Also, this is a manufactured world.) The map suggests that from Castleview, I can either go east through a forest and ultimately to the city of Sandcaster, or west to Castle Kalindra (no point in visiting there yet, I guess) and the Great Western Tower.
      
The game world.
       
I think I'm going to pretend that I don't have "Pathfinding" yet and see where the eastern road network takes me. That's if I don't start completely over with my old save game.
    
Time so far: 3 hours (Darkside content only)
 

45 comments:

  1. Palindromes always remind me of "The Poisonwood Bible," the worst "literature" I've ever been required to read. It's a dull, miserable book. The worst part was the obnoxious inner voices of the characters, one of whom came up with a palindrome (Live I was ere I saw evil) and repeated it constantly.

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    1. I love this novel, and I've never met anyone who didn't like it, but it certainly is depressing.

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    2. Okay, I'm glad to hear somebody likes it—I bought a copy a while ago and never got around to reading it but intended to someday, and Alex's comment was kind of making me concerned that I'd wasted my money. I guess I ought to get around to reading it so I can form my own opinion...

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    3. Much less cultured, but it always makes me think of the Weird Al style parody of Bob Dylan, "Bob" (which uses a couple of the ones Chet points out above)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUQDzj6R3p4

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  2. Characters created in Darkside (as well as the pregenerated party in MM5) start at level 5, so your party is about as powerful as a freshly created one. If you don't abuse the teleport spell before you can buy it won't affect the gameplay.

    I recommend creating a storage character at the inn to get rid of the six Xeen Slayer swords, you don't get or need them in MM5.

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    1. Oh, duh. That's a solution that should have occurred to me.

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    2. Your relationship
      With the readers of your blog.
      A thing of beauty.

      Probably works better as ink on parchment.

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    3. Lbh qb va snpg arrq gur krrafynlre fjbeq, orpnhfr na bcgvbany dhrfg gnxrf lbh gb n snpgbel gung trarengrf ybeq krraf. Ab frevbhfyl; lbh trg gb svtug n ubeqr bs gurz.

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  3. The idea of all those uncompleted quests over on Clouds makes me itch just reading about it, but I can't offer a *rational* problem...

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    1. For an actual issue, from what I remember there's some Darkside content that requires some Clouds things to have been done. I don't remember how much or how big of an issue that'd be though, considering it's been a while since I played

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    2. Nothing 100% necessary, I think, there will be some empty huts is all. although I’m curious if that lack of champions or whatever designation from the unicorn might be an issue?

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    3. You should be able to play Darkside stand alone, so that should all be okay. But as mentioned above you'll miss some small easter egg content from quests you finished in Clouds affecting things in Darkside. And then way down the line when you get to the combined endgame there might be issues, but I don't know for sure.

      I personally wouldn't risk it (or even missing that minor combined content along the way) and just continue from your original game with Clouds mostly finished but with new characters.

      This got me thinking though, is it even necessary to kill Lord Xeen? Is there something that that actually unlocks?

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    4. Another consideration is that you'll not have access to the millions you have stored in the bank from finishing Clouds and that will eventually limit how much you can level up. Hopefully you'd still get enough to finish the combined game, and it might make it more challenging in a good way, but it's hard to say.

      On the other hand, you can't go back for the attribute enhancements on Clouds. But I'd guess that this would be okay? There are diminishing returns as you raise your attributes, and Darkside probably has enough attribute enhancements to get you most of the benefits.

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    5. Hafhecevfvatyl, gur pbzovarq raqtnzr pbagrag erdhverf gung lbh qrsrng krra naq nynzne svefg.

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  4. There are, of course, absolutely no woods near the dragon's pyramid, and neither is it on the edge of the world. Just a small continuity thing that bothers me. Plus the fact that Zelda immediately hands this important-looking orb to a bunch of total strangers, and that there are tons of monsters between the city and wherever the orb was.

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  5. Alamar is a wuss. Where Lord Xeen flat-out destroyed a castle with his skybolt power, the best Alamar can manage is to move a castle "out of phase", and his bolt from the sky only manages to kill a tiny dragony creature.

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  6. Wouldn't it be neat if that map with all those heroes and monsters on it were actually to scale? You walk into the desert and the first thing you see is a wizard 100 miles tall whose feet are the size of entire cities.

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  7. There is 3 places on the Darkside where game acknowledges completed quest from the Clouds. The new party will miss them out.

    As I said before, and confirmed on my own playthrough, there is not much difference if you just use a party from Clouds. Developers intended that. After the Castleview there is a difficulty spike what makes а 20-level party just as viable as the party created anew for the Darkside.

    And that puzzle in Ellinger's Tower, you probably haven't solved that one because it is simple to the point of not being a puzzle.
    ROT13: Whfg chfu nyy gur ohggbaf, rkprcg sbe gur pragre bar, juvpu erfrgf gur bgure ohggbaf.

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    1. And, I am assuming it is not a surprise, the lava is not a "plus" issue, it is solved by the button riddle.

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  8. This reminds me of Eye of the Beholder 2: that game, like this one, has pacing issues if you import a party from the previous game. In EOB2, an imported party starts so high (in level and items) that there's just not a lot of room for growth; in MM5, an imported party has all spells and skills already so misses out on growing into them in this game.

    I think it likely that EOB2 would have scored slightly better if you'd started with a new party, and that MM5 would score slightly worse if you'd kept your level-20 party from MM4.

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  9. Amazingly (and regrettably) I only found out about your blog this last January. In the evening of January 15th, to be more precise. Awesome work! I've read all entries since then and a few older ones. I started reading the Ultima series in order, given their prevalence in the highest rated games, but the more recent Might and Magic games (Xeen) sound more like the type of game I'd enjoy. More dungeon crawly, it seems, even if all that daily buffing may detract from it a little, while Ultima seems to have more complex gameplay, with all the runes and mantras and virtues and whatnot. Also, it looks like the Ultima games, although standalone, are more enjoyable when played in order, at least from III onwards, and I don't really have the time to play hundreds of hours in a short enough amount of time that the story would not be forgotten. So, I'm left with a conundrum: do I play the better games, or the one I'm most likely to actually finish?

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    1. Certainly play whatever game you enjoy more. The early Ultima games can be a bit unpolished and difficult to "get into" if you weren't raised on those kind of games.

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    2. You can get Might and Magic 1-6 at GOG for $10. 1-2 for prehistory, 3-5 for the ones Chet is playing now, 6 for the first of the 3D ones. A recognisable M&M spirit runs through all of them, for better or worse - and indeed they are all about the dungeon crawling.

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    3. @Mauro - some people consider the older Ultima games to be the better ones, it all just depends. Most people would probably suggest to start with U4 (a very good suggestion for a first time player). The first three are basically prologue to the rest anyway, though U3 is great in it's own right. Underworld is probably a good start too because you don't need to know much history of the first six games, but it might bias you against the older games due to its superior graphics and 3D environment (though the old games still stand up even today, even if the tech is dated).

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    4. If you've played older games and liked them, play more like them. (Or let the thread know what you've liked, and we'll help.)

      I do think Might and Magic 4 and 5 are certainly a lot more accessible to a modern gamer than a lot of the other highly-rated games on Chet's list, many of which have obtuse control schemes, poorly explained systems, or allow you to enter a walking-dead state without warning.

      Definitely play the games you'll actually enjoy. But it depends on what your goal is, too. If part of your enjoyment is knowing you have an appreciation of the history, then Chet's top-rated games is a pretty great starting place, warts and all. If you just want to play the best and most enjoyable RPG you can play, as a gamer who's alive today and playing today... then, depending on your tastes in RPGs, you're going to be looking at Morrowind, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, The Witcher 3, Disco Elysium, something by Oblivion or Beamdog, one of the Fallout titles (which one is a hot topic), or one of the leading JRPGs (which is its own discussion).

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    5. I said "something by Oblivion" but I clearly meant "something by Obsidian". Wish we could edit these.

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    6. I do have a bunch of unplayed modern RPGs, but my feeling is that they take longer to finish and need longer playing sessions, but maybe the latter is not really true.
      Also, I'd like to have the experience of playing these older games. From what has been said so far, it looks like M&M 4&5 would be a good one (or two). Am I really correct in assuming I won't miss anything, storywise, if I start there?

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    7. M&M isn't really about the story and can be started at any point within the series.

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  10. So do people actually restrict themselves to new parties and to one world at a time when playing the Xeen games? I thought that everyone hops between worlds on a whim. I always do Castleview after Vertigo, and then back to Clouds and then back to Darkside every now and then. That's what creates that lovely World of Xeen experience. But this approach will give the player a completely different experience, and I fear, a more boring one.

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    1. I did everything I could in Clouds first, including the Volcano and Dragon caves, and then I went to Darkside. I only came back to Clouds to visit the World of Xeen dungeons.

      I don't know if playing them in order, with the same team, makes the game more boring. Clouds is tailored for level 1-to-20 characters, Darkside is the usual M&M with character levels easily going over 100. If you go to Darkside soon, I would think Clouds becomes too easy.

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    2. I also finished Clouds first (except most of the northeastern part including the Dragon Cave, but I found the Vocano Cave and Shangri-La).

      Although I had played it before 25 years ago, I was actually surprised about the low finishing character level.

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    3. Personally, I also played Clouds, then Darkside, then the extra stuff. I had already heard that doing pretty much any Darkside content makes Clouds a complete joke, and I also wanted to somewhat replicate the original experience

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    4. First time I played the games I stuck to Clouds until I won, then went to Darkside. On replays since I strategically hop over to Darkside to power level and get OP items.

      Chet's approach will probably keep Darkside more interesting since he won't be able to faceroll mobs for a long time, and he won't have the full spell list already unlocked.

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  11. Hofenhager is what a non-German might think of as an authentic German name, but to German ears it sounds like a made up name that's supposed to sound German (it has a Bavarian vibe, specifically) but is obviously not real.

    Kinda like that one Japanese baseball or football game that gave characters names the Japanese considered "American-sounding" but make anyone familiar with American names chuckle: Bobson Dugnutt, Glenallen Mixen, Dean Wesrey, Sleve McDichael, Jim Milliams... that's what Hofenhager sounds like to me.

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    1. "Hagenhofer" is an actual family name from Austria.

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    2. Why isn't this a suprise?

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    3. Hagenhofer sounds a lot more real than Hofenhager. Many Bavarian and Austrian names end in -hofer, but Hofenhager sounds like someone just switched some letters around.

      Kinda like those American names from the Japanese game that sound like they could be real but feel weird. Milliams? Mixen? McDichael? They sound like the developer knew Williams, Nixon and McMichael and then just changed some letters.

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  12. One thing I liked about Darkside of Xeen is the music. Yes, it's early '90s Sound Blaster, but I throw it on randomizer/repeat when playing Gloom of Kilforth and it captures the tone quite well. A bunch of the tracks are in 3/4 time.

    I bought the World of Xeen CD-ROM box set back in the day, and the audio tracks alone were the NPCs' dialogue. I thought I remembered a track in which Gettlewaithe backs down, so perhaps your party needs to be stronger for one of the dialogue branches to deescalate him.

    As for me, I picked the fight and blasted all the gremlins away with Star Burst. Probably the only time I used it.

    Chet, thank you for taking on this game with a new set of characters so you're not loaded with gear, skills, and spells. I'm curious how the experience differs from bringing a maxed out Clouds party to Darkside.

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    1. The Castleview theme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdSvBeHH35Y is one of my favorite pieces of music from that era of PC gaming. I could listen to it (almost) all day long.

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    2. Yeah the soundtrack of Darkside is top notch. Really love it. Too bad Chet plays games with the music turned off

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    3. "You're not loaded with gear, skills, and spells." That was the idea, but so far I'm mostly just annoyed by the lack of them, especially when I know that I can acquire them with just a quick teleport back to the Clouds side.

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  13. Wasn't Horton Fireballing the WHO an act under Trump that was rescinded under the new administration? ;-)

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  14. Following your Xeen playthrough is great fun. Just some remarks:

    - It was indeed possible to continue playing Clouds after winning. In fact, I remember that in my very first playthrough (I was like 12?) I only conquered the Dragon Cave after having already solved the main quest. I also recall getting the message "The moons are not aligned, you cannot enter here yet" when trying to enter a travel pyramid to Darkside and resting and retrying continuously in the hope of finding out the night where the moons *would* be aligned (just as in some MM3 events that only trigger once in a game year). Alas, no such luck until I got Darkside for my next birthday...
    - PITCHFORK! Oh my. I had determined a way to solve this puzzle by trial and error, but along the way I had stopped caring for the letters. At last I can rest. Note that the solution for this isn't even provided in the cluebook.
    - Yes, when talking to Gettlewaithe at first, all 3 options lead to combat. After you've slaughtered all the guards, when you talk to him again, your response actually makes a difference - you can either provoke him into fighting or intimidate him into surrendering. You will have similar choices a few times during the rest of the game.
    - Throughout just about all of Darkside, money will be a greater problem than experience. There is actually a cycle for infinite money, but it's so tedious that only a 13-year-old with wayyyy too much time on his hands would even consider it...
    - I was a little disappointed when I received the "Energy Disk" quest from Ellinger. So, again collect 20 McGuffins to restore a castle? How creative. Luckily, the rest of Darkside and the unification quest in its sheer "epicness" make up for it. Or they did for me at that time; my prior RPG experience was limited to Ultima VI and Realms of Arkania I, which are fine games but just don't have the power of the Darkside and WoX conclusions. Well, I'll be interested to see if you agree.
    - Finally, I would simply continue with the current party. The composition seems fine. The real question is whether, at some point, you'll jump over to Clouds and obtain a bunch of spells that would make certain encounters in Darkside notably easier...

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  15. If you got the speedrun recorded send it in to speedruns.com and get your nic in the hall of fame that is 3 other people that played this game fast

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  16. There's several tavern tips on the Clouds of Xeen side that suggest that the Darkside of Xeen add-on was going to be quite a bit different than how it turned out once it was in the released version...

    Tavern rumors in Clouds:

    "Roland took the key to the pyramids with him on his trip to the Darkside of Xeen."

    "One of the Dungeons, Two of the Towers, the Southern Sphinx, and all of the pyramids cannot be entered without a visit to the Darkside."

    These two rumors were successfully implemented:
    "Roland took the keys to two of the Towers and the stone to one of the dungeons when he traveled to Darkside."
    "The amulet to the Souther Sphinx is lost with Roland."


    My theory is that the original way to get to the Darkside was through the volcano and Shangri-lai. From there, the party was to find a key to operate the pyramids on the Clouds side. Then the party was to go back through that cave to the Cloud side and then operate the Pyramids. My guess is that the Darkside was divided differently, and that not every Pyramid led to Castleview, but to different points on Darkside, and that Darkside was either divided differently. It is also possible that the pyramids would have been Sci-Fi areas like in Might and Magic III. Each pyramid is also at the entrance of a town on Clouds, so perhaps there were not even any friendly towns on Darkside and it required the party to go back to Clouds to refresh.

    From another tavern rumor:

    “Xeen's scepter will allow you to stay on Darkside as long as you want when the moons are aligned.”

    ...it is also clear that Lord Xeen's scepter was needed to travel on Darkside, otherwise you could only stay there temporarily. Once this idea was scraped, it became used for a World of Xeen ending...

    My guess is that these ideas were scrapped because in the end they wanted to make both Clouds and Darkside completely stand alone games, whereas the original idea required that Clouds be purchased first, then Darkside.

    (It also should be noted that the original design was to have caverns be under the towns in MM4. This is confirmed by the staircase shown in the early demo, as well as notes from the music composer, in which the cavern music is described as "Cavern under town." I also know from a designer that lots of bosses were scrapped from Darkside, and that each enemy was supposed to have its own unique graphic. Some of these were finished, but some were not (due to time constraints) and they instead reused the graphics and gave boss monsters some sort of special effect to note them instead).

    Now there is also this other unfinished tibdit found in a Clouds tavern which is never elaborated.

    “Crodo was not born on Xeen.”

    And strangely, Crodo seems to drop out of the plot entirely after Clouds, and does not even factor into the World of Xeen ending at all.

    Judging by the backstory found in the MM5 computer logs and in the manual, it's also possible that the original idea was to carry your characters over from MM3 as well.

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