Sunday, May 2, 2021

Darkside of Xeen: Here Today to Introduce the Next Phase

Terrorizing people wherever he goes.
     
After that rambling entry on finding the right exploration pattern, while waiting for your responses, I started re-exploring the Clouds side, including clearing out the towns and doing a loop around the roads just to see if I could. I ended up re-purchasing most of the skills from Clouds and frankly many of the spells. I realize this goes against the experience many of you wanted to read for Darkside, but I guess the fundamental problem is that the two games seem like one game, and thus it seemed silly to take five huge leaps backwards.
    
At some point, I realized that if I didn't cut it out, I would probably end up just re-exploring Clouds again with a new party. So I reloaded with the party I ended Clouds with and decided to continue with them. They probably provide a greater challenge than training up a new party, since a) I have non-optimal classes; and b) I sold all their items at the end of the game, so they're starting Darkside with nothing.
     
The short-lived "new" party cleans out Nightshadow before I came to my senses.
    
I discovered one amusing thing along the way. In Clouds, I made liberal use of the +10 level fountain in Nightshadow. A lot of you thought that was overkill, opining that you had never used the fountain. This confused me a bit because I was barely winning some battles even with the bonus. However, I realized during this last session that I hardly ever had the bonus at all. My usual M.O., after getting the bonus, was to return to Vertigo and go to the temple to get the temple bonuses (eventually, I got "Day of Protection" and "Day of Sorcery," but I rarely cast them because I became paranoid about wasting gems). But because the +10 level fountain had increased my maximum hit points, I also usually paid the temple for "healing" (i.e., bringing my actual hit point total up to the new maximum). What I didn't realize was that getting healed at the temple, for whatever reason, removes fountain bonuses. Through the entirety of Clouds, I was using fountains to buff and then immediately undoing the buffing before entering battle. No wonder I didn't notice a significant difference.
      
Wiping out the goblins and gremlins in Castleview again.
     
I thus re-cleared Castleview with the old party and re-contacted Ellinger in his tower. I had missed a secret area in the tower the first time, which led to the clouds above it. This side of Xeen also has explorable areas and walkways above its towers. However, where these areas were isolated on the Clouds side, they're interconnected on the Darkside. A "skyroad" winds its way around the entire map and provides access to its towers from the top down. There was at least one suggestion from an NPC that I might have to use these pathways to reach towers for which I can't find a key. I explored for a little while but didn't linger.
      
The skies of the Darkside are more linear and connected.
       
Castleview is in A4 along with Castle Kalindra, which as per Ellinger's intelligence was "out of phase" with reality and thus inaccessible. A bottle in a nearby river held a message from Queen Kalindra: "Help! I am being held captive in Castle Blackfang!" Nearby, another bottle had a message from Xanthus the Sorcerer, inviting us to visit him 25 squares west of Castle Blackfang.
        
I thought the Dragon Pharaoh was the ruler of Darkside.
    
The area is full of fields and plains swarming with "electropedes," which weren't too hard. Almost immediately, I found an encounter that I would not have enjoyed if not for finishing Clouds: Falista the Unicorn had relocated to the meadows of the Darkside and restored my magic points every time I visited.
       
We should domesticate and harness the power of these creatures.
    
I got 500,000 experience points for saying PALINDROME to another Drawkcab Monk named Reger. A fountain raised my armor class by 10 temporarily; another gave +25 might and a third offered +100 luck. Luna the Druid asked me to recover three stolen golden statuettes that she needs to use her healing powers. The thieves in the Great Southern Tower probably stole them; I can get a key from the keeper of the fountain near Venom Pond.
   
Area B4 started with more meadows. In a hut, Nibbler the Monkeydog asked me to recover Mongo Melons for him. Fortunately, I'd already found a bunch in A4. In return, he suggested we visit the dungeon in the Sprite Forest, and he gave us a key.
         
For a small world, Xeen sure does have a lot of sentient creatures.
      
In Might and Magic III and Clouds of Xeen, I had complained that the small 16 x 16 maps didn't allow enough terrain space for the different points on the map to be memorable. I doubt anyone remembers the "Barbaric Mountains" or the "Land of the Giants" of the Clouds side because they only occupy a single small map. Perhaps aware of this, the creators did something a bit different on the Darkside. There are fewer distinct geographic zones, and thus these are larger, stretching across multiple areas. The "Sprite Forest" starts in B4 and extends to F4, although it is called the "Aging Forest" by the time it gets to the far east side. Four maps in a row were mostly dense thicket that prevented us from seeing into the next square (the need for the "Pathfinder" skill was perhaps more justified). 
      
The guardian of dungeons on this side.
     
Encounters held across multiple maps, too. Early in B4, the party tumbled unceremoniously into a "troll hole" and found themselves fighting trolls (grunts and chiefs) in the dark. There were about eight such holes. I tried to avoid falling down them by keeping "Day of Sorcery" (which includes "Levitate") active, but time passes so quickly outdoors and spells wear off. Usually, falling down yet another hole was my reminder to cast the spell again.
    
It's hard to imagine how these two things are connected.
    
Each troll hole was a small dungeon with dead adventurers. There were notes indicating that the trolls had stolen gold from the thieves' guild, and the suggestion was that many of the dead adventurers were thieves who had died trying to reclaim it. A few chests held gold and gems. The best part of the troll holes was a series of barrels labeled "troll juice" that poisoned the character drinking it but raised all attributes by 1. Eventually, in the last troll hole, we met Hobstadt the Troll King. We had options to surrender to him or fight. We killed him, of course.
           
Here's a troll in the light.


I like that the series is doing more of this, but come on.
    
For B4, C4, and D4, the primary enemy in the outdoor map were "medusa sprites." They sound like they have some kind of paralysis attack, but they died so easily that I never experienced it. A hut in the forest belonged to Sharla the Sprite, who wanted our help rescuing her sister from "the orcs." I had options to help, help in demand for a reward, or try to rob Sharla. Again, it's nice to see more role-playing choices in the series, even if I did the obvious thing (offer to help). She's supposedly located in the Temple of Bark, which is just a few steps from Sharla. It wasn't until later that I got the key from Nibbler, and I thus haven't visited yet.
   
Throughout the forests, all the way through E4, were a series of huts that offered "forbidden fruit." Sometimes, these caused some effect--unconsciousness, confusion, insanity--no matter what. Usually, though, they provided a permanent +10 boost to some statistic to whoever ate the fruit. There was no way to tell ahead of time what the statistic would be, so I just gave them all to my paladin.
      
This one didn't work out for us.
     
C4 had the South Tower, for which I didn't have a key on my first pass. A well offered +50 elemental resistance (temporary), and an altar offered +10 to all statistics (temporary). 
   
As we got into D4, the medusa sprites were replaced with dark wolves. They weren't very hard, either. But E4 and F4 confronted me with much more difficult enemies: mantis ants and giant killer cobras. These were the first enemies in the game so far clearly meant for higher-level parties. Both were hard to hit and took several rounds to kill in melee, particularly the cobras. Mantis ants caused poison, and the cobras' special attack magically aged the characters by 5 years. Fighting both of them let me to experiment more with spells. I really like "Shrapmetal," which does a fair amount of damage but uses no gems. If I'm willing to sacrifice some gems, both "Fireball" and "Lightning Bolt," which scale with the caster's level (as does the cost) do a fair amount of damage. However, my experience with them reinforced what most commenters have said: this is a game of physical attacks. It's rare to find a spell that outperforms a physical attack, and when you do find one, it's almost always a very high-level spell that wipes out half (or more) of your spell points. The only problem with physical attacks is hitting. The game does some steep scaling of THAC0 (or whatever this series calls it) by character level. 
     
The toughest enemies so far.
     
Character level, in fact, seems to matter more than anything else for combat success. As I mentioned, I started this session with no equipment. I slowly gathered some as the session progressed, but by the end I still didn't have a full set of armor pieces for every character, and only three of the four characters capable of wielding a bow had actually found one. None of it really seemed to make any difference. Fighting with their fists, my characters seemed to do nearly as much damage as they did with swords. When I had trouble hitting the killer cobras and mantis ants, a visit to the well of +50 accuracy barely helped. A visit to the well of +10 levels, on the other hand, helped a great deal. I'd love to work out the specific math, but it appears to me that levels provide a significant multiplier to the other statistics.
      
This is some bull@#&.
        
There fortunately weren't that many killer cobras and mantis ants. F4 brought a stupid and annoying "encounter" in which characters would get randomly brained by low-hanging branches and knocked out, no matter how high their hit points had been before. There was also a "Venom Pond" that poisoned us when we stepped in it. As promised, the nearby fountain keeper, Thaddeus, gave us a key to the Great Southern Tower. We had to promise to try to find the lost Jewel of Ages, which will restore the life-giving waters of the fountain.
     
I don't know what we expected.
    
On the far east side of the bottom row, we met Celia and Derek. We had saved Celia from zombies on the Clouds side. They had relocated here and they gave us a platinum sword. 
     
An encounter I wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't played the previous game.
    
Having finished the bottom row, we returned to the Great Southern Tower. There are three other great towers on the Darkside map. This one was inhabited by rogues, who fell before us by the score without even touching us. A logbook indicated that they had stolen Luna's statuettes and the Jewel of Ages and sold them to various people throughout the land. There were a number of trapped chests that required reloading (they wiped out my entire party), plus some kind of puzzle involving buttons that I'm not sure I solved. I did find two energy discs, though, which brought my total up to five.
    
The thieves on the other side looked more menacing.
      
The skyroad above the tower had a combat with an "air golem," which wasn't hard. But then a group of "sky bandits" ambushed us and demanded money. When we refused, they turned into dragons and wiped out the entire party in a single combat round. We'll have to return there later.
      
If you just appeared in this form, I'm sure more people would turn over their money.
     
With the energy discs in hand, I returned to Ellinger, who used them to restore the first floor of Castle Kalindra. We explored it, but there wasn't much. A number of locked cabinets had magic items; in a weird dynamic, the cabinets had combination locks, but the game told us what we "sensed" was the number, and in all cases, it was right.
      
How do we have any idea? Is this a check against thief skill?
       
There were a number of NPCs at tables and such. Kenneth the Butler thanked us for freeing them, as they were about to run out of food. Audrey the Cook said they survived on sun-dried lizard innards. Terry the Waiter said that Alamar stole the Cube of Power. Jones the Spy said that he heard Alamar claiming to have Prince Roland (from the Clouds side) in his basement. There were trainers for "Armsmaster" and "Danger Sense," but of course my party already had those. The throne was empty.
        
Of course. The queen is in another castle.
           
As we finished the first level of Castle Kalindra, we took stock of our open quests and noted the following. The ones with asterisks (*) we could do right now; the ones with pluses (+) are waiting for a higher level; the ones with at symbols (@) are waiting for an item; and the ones with question marks (?) probably have some kind of precursor, but I don't know what it is yet.
           
    @ CL A2 11,9: Southern sphinx; need key.
    @ CL B3 11,0: Tower for which I don't have the key.
    @ CL D1 10,15: Tower for which I don't have the key.    
    @ CL E1 14,12: Dragon Cave.
    + CL E1 15,2: Volcano Cave.
    + CL E3 3,4: Dungeon for which I don't have the key.
    @ DS A4 13,15. Return to Luna with the three golden statuettes.
    * DS B2: Recover griffin statue from Sandro in Necropolis.
    * DS C4: Explore the Temple of Bark and free the sprite.
    @ DS C4 1,7: Return after freeing sprite.
    * DS E1 1, 11: Location on treasure map found in Castleview.
    * DS E1: Visit Xanthus the Sorcerer.
    ? DS F1: Castle Blackfang. Free Queen Kalindra.
    * DS F2: Get dragon statuette from head witch of Lakeside.
    @ DS F3: Recover the Jewel of Ages from the Great Eastern Tower.
    @ DS F4 6,7: Return the Jewel of Ages to Thaddeus.
    ? Find energy discs and bring them to Ellinger to restore Castle Kalindra. 
    ? Get the pegasus statuette from the "head heretical cleric."
    
A few miscellaneous notes:
   
  • The series seems to have abandoned the idea of "lairs" (monster headquarters that you could destroy for extra experience and items). Although the Clouds side had them, I haven't seen any here.
  • I keep stashing excess money and gems in the bank. My gold total is over 2 million, and I have almost 40,000 gems. (These totals include the big haul I got below.) So far, training has escalated to about 4,500 gold per session, so no problems with money yet.
  • There are no special elemental "corners" with reflectors on the Darkside. Whatever those are, only the Clouds side seems to have them.
  • While I was playing Clouds, I made a joke that there are hardly any elves and dwarves to be found in the game world, let alone the other official races. I'm not sure you ever meet a single gnome or half-orc who isn't part of the party. This session made me realize how many other sentient creatures exist in the world. We've got talking monkeys, unicorns, leprechauns, minotaurs, fairies, dragons, and various humanoids pictured in cut scenes. It feels a little overcrowded, frankly. Where are the other "monkeydogs?" Is Nibbler the only one? If so, is he immortal? Where did he come from otherwise?
  • This game seems to really love button puzzles. About four of the dungeons I've explored so far have numerous buttons. I just hit them and hope something happens, but I rarely get any confirmation that it does. For all I know, I've missed half a dozen secret areas.      
      
I finished off this session by going to the Temple of Bark, which is guarded by some kind of minotaur-like creature. There were orcs inhabiting the place, looking nothing like the orcs from the Clouds side, though I guess this is true of all the shared monsters. Neither the orcs nor their shamans were capable of doing any serious damage to us, although there were a number of spear traps that occasioned a lot of swearing and healing. I freed the sprite plus several other prisoners held in cages. There were two energy discs.
          
These orcs look more serious than the other side's.
     
The dungeon was full of attribute-boosting bonuses, including potions and barrels (which unfortunately also had a magical aging effect). A button and lever puzzle that culminated in drinking from a fountain gained us +19 to all attributes! My characters started this session with many attributes still in their 20s and ended with hardly anything below 60. There were also some fountains that provided a +50 boost (permanent) to all elemental resistances.
        
Even better: each of these potions could be used twice.
     
The more interesting part of the Temple of Bark was the lore, as provided by numerous books. As often when it comes to Might and Magic, a lot of it is silly and perhaps I'm reading too much into it. The Temple of Bark was dedicated to a primordial being called Bark or Barkman. His own history claims that he was the first living being on Xeen, sharing the world with Sky and Sun. (To add to the oddities: one of the prisoners I freed was named Sky.) Seeking other living things to speak with, he convinced Sky to rain on him and Sun to shine on him, and all the living beings of Xeen grew from spores that he dropped. Later, the Weed sought to corrupt other living beings.
         
The age-old saga of the battle between Bark and Weed.
      
It could be just a bunch of nonsense, but there's a line ("something was not 100% confidence") that suggests Bark may be another Ancient creation. Perhaps his origin myth preserves some truth about how the Ancients seeded Xeen with life. More interesting, a document about "morning ceremonies" tells the Disciples of Bark to:
     
Take ye then the Bark of the Tree, and sprinkle it with ash. The ash symbolizes the Yak, the Bark the Moo. March ye congregation in a circle about the Tree, directing the half of them to chant "Yak" and the other half "Moo." After three circuits of the Tree, command the worshippers to sit where they are and clasp hands, all the while continuing the holy "Yak" and "Moo" chant . . . then plant the Holy Bark of the Tree (with the ash sprinkled upon it) into the ground next to all the other Holy Bark implantations.
     
It's hard to know what to make of this. There was a Temple of Moo in Might and Magic III and a Temple of Yak on the Clouds side. Remove that silliness from the ritual, and basically you have instructions for taking cuttings from a tree and planting it in ash-rich soil to make another tree. Did the Ancients convince primitive beings to seed the world with trees by turning it into a ritual? Are the Temples of Moo and Yak examples of cults that lost their original purpose? As usual, it's tough to determine if there's deep stuff below the surface here, or if the authors are just screwing around.
        
Evidence, perhaps, for the latter.
         
Bark was encountered in the flesh on the lowest level of the dungeon, a sprawling area shaped a bit like a tree. There had been warnings not to feed the "branches" (the northern extremities) but rather to feed the "roots" (the southern ones). Feeding the roots enabled the fountains that caused the +50 resistances. But I fed the branches, too, which brought Bark out of his secret area in the center. He had 37,000 hit points. My first battle with him went poorly. My spell points had already been low, and my casters were unable to keep up with "Power Cure." We succumbed after about 15 rounds. I reloaded, "Lloyd's Beacon-ed" out of there, rested, buffed a bit, and returned. We killed him in about 20 rounds.
   
His death unlocked some treasure chests, which gave us 25,000 gems and 2 million gold pieces, the largest treasure haul in either side of Xeen so far. 
         
Prepare to be depressed, economy!
           
I ended with a quick visit back to the Clouds side to run the circuit of the four druids and thus cure our magical aging.
   
I probably won't continue to explore the Darkside map in rows; instead, I'll do it by quest. Either way, I've fretted enough about exploration patterns. Might and Magic games pack their areas with so much content that you really never feel bored even if you're over-leveled and exploring "artificially."  
      
Time so far: 10 hours (including 5 spent with previous party)
    

78 comments:

  1. You wouldn't have gotten the encounter with Celia and Derek in the sense that it would have made no sense with a new party that hadn't done Clouds, or that Darkside checks to see if your party encountered them in Clouds and if you have a new party they don't appear?

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    1. Falista's hut in A4 was just empty when I visited it with the new party. I can't get them all the way across the map to try with Celia and Derek, but I assume their hut is just empty, too. So I mean that Darkside checks to see if the party encountered them in Clouds.

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    2. Is this the first example of such "continuity" between games of a series, i.e. actions you make in one game affect some quest or other interaction in a following one if you carry the party over? It is a rare beast if I am not mistaken.

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    3. It is certainly rare, but Quest for Glory did it earlier.

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    4. Hmmm. Anonymous is correct that your character class in QfG2 affects the opening cinematic and some of your character options in QfG3, and how you won Wizardry VI determines how you start in the sequel. MM4/5 might be the first games in which there are ENCOUNTER options determined by actions in the previous game, though.

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    5. The ending in Wizardry VI determines your faction ratings in Wizardry VII, and thus has an impact on NPC encounters and how certain factions treat you.

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  2. Personally, I'm one of the people that's glad you decided to keep using the Clouds party. While it could be interesting to see an effectively Darkside only playthough, at that point it'd just be ignoring the whole combined game thing that makes Xeen fairly unique.

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    1. I think we're getting to realize that "he whole combined game thing that makes Xeen fairly unique" is more marketing hype and less substance.

      Because I think there's only very few huts (etc) on Darkside that get occupied after a Cloudside quest. The Addict found two of them this session, it's quite possible that that's all there is.

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    2. Marketing hype or not, it's still something that no other game did that I know of, and that alone should be reason enough to play it as the combined game. Otherwise why even play World of Xeen, just get the seperate games and play them seperately instead of trying to recreate that sort of experience with the full game.

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    3. Yes, jump between worlds whenever you want. That's the only proper way!

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    4. It really depends on how much you value feeling challenged in combat, because it's easy to get 10 or so levels ahead of where you are expected to be and just roll over enemies by spamming the attack button.

      Which is too bad because freely moving back and forth between the worlds with a single party is a neat idea. They just didn't pull off the experience balance.

      Another option might be deliberately rationing your level ups, so that you hold off reaching certain levels until you finish certain parts of the game. It would be an interesting thing to plan out. I guess the game designers could have enforced this by being more thoughtful and stingy about the trainer level limits.

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    5. Hmm. For me, the whole unique "World of Xeen" thing was not jumping between the two halves during their separate main quests; that's not much unlike jumping between two hubs in modern games. Instead, I was more impressed by how the two halves indeed felt like separate worlds, but shared the epic unification quest. Maybe it's just a flavor thing, but I found it a much more impressive way of handling "two sides of a world" than Ultima VI did, for instance.

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    6. That's a good point actually. The gargoyle world in U6 feels pretty much like an afterthought; it's pretty small, has only one city, and you really don't spend a lot of time interacting with the gargoyles.

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    7. Spamming the attack button is a long-held Might & Magic tradition...

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  3. Mongo Melon sounds like an insult a ten year old would say and feel smug about.

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    1. I think that's underestimating ten year olds

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    2. It sounds to me like a terrible flavor of gum marketed at 10-year olds (but failing to actually appeal to them).

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    3. Mongo ist a kinda Rude insult in German, essentially calling somebody a "downy" (as in Downs Syndrom")

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    4. Hi Marc, it's the same (or close) in English, but it's one that's fallen pretty far out of favor--to the point that I don't think I've ever heard anyone say it other than as a historical reference, even someone trying to be rude or edgy.

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    5. Some edgy Kids Ma still use it nowadays, but it's kinda one of the few very Rude insults in German, it will maybe a bystander provoke to remind you that's nothing you call anyone

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  4. Note, the fruits are correlated to attributes by color (might = red, etc)

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    1. Also, in regards to governance of the Darkside, my understand was that the Pharaoh rules the monster races and the Queen rules the non-monster races.

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    2. Oof. I should have thought of that.

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    3. I will point out that there is a way to tell which of the Fruits will hurt you, and which will not. One of the spells cast by Day of Sorcery and otherwise available in the Sorcerer's spell list is Clairvoyance. Ol' Clair is a good girl, she'll nod both her heads if it's good for you, and shake them both if it's bad.

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    4. You know what's weird? I am aware of those heads, and yet I don't trust them. I feel like I need to check out everything for myself anyway.

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    5. Can't say the heads have ever led me astray. The utility spells alone make Day of Sorcery worth keeping up every day once you've gotten beyond the need to hoard gems. Never going to miss out on secret areas!

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    6. I try to keep both "Day of Sorcery" and "Day of Protection" going, but they wear off so fast outside.

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    7. Fair, I find them most useful when inside a tower/dungeon/sewer. There are a fair number of secret areas (cloudside and Darkside) that can only be seen via Wizards Eye then reached via teleport.

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  5. The Ancients subplot is so cool (in my opinion) that I have to remind myself it's only a miniscule part of these games, and probably doesn't amount to anything except some neat speculation.

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  6. PetrusOctavianusMay 3, 2021 at 1:42 AM

    "Through the entirety of Clouds, I was using fountains to buff and then immediately undoing the buffing before entering battle."

    I think you use a game day every time you enter a temple, shop or building.

    "It's hard to imagine how these two things [poison that gives stat increases] are connected."

    What doesn't kill you, make you stronger.


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    1. I'm not certain, but I think it's a day for using certain things in the temple. Like getting blessed doesn't, but healing does. Could be wrong though.

      Also, I believe it's per visit. You heal in the temple without leaving, and it's a total of one day whether you heal one or more than one characters. Which helps when gaining levels. You do a bunch at once and only spend one week (or however long it was).

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    2. The poison in the barrel must not be the "shut down your central nervous system" type, but rather the "throw up and go on a trip that awakens your unconscious mind" type.

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  7. I believe weapons in MM3/4/5 simply don't do much: an unarmed strike deals (e.g.) 1d3 + your strength bonus, whereas a longsword might deal 1d8 + your str bonus. Meaning that if your str is very high, the difference beween 1d3 and 1d8 isn't noticeable any more. And all of this gets multiplied by the additional attacks you get at higher level.

    What does make a difference is material bonuses; e.g. a steel weapon (any kind of weapon) deals more damage than a leather weapon (of any kind).

    So yeah, level has a big impact, material has a big impact, the type of weapon you use doesn't really matter. This also means that it doesn't really matter which classes are proficient in which weapons.

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    1. But unfortunately the type of weapon/armor plays a big factor in its price, so that can be very misleading. I'm glad I figured this out before I sold my Diamond Clubs from the gem smith.

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  8. The headline (and first caption) made my night. I don't know why I know this, but allegedly Nibbler and his Mongo Melons is a reference to a similar simian from the cartoon Pirates of Dark Water.

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    1. Ah, yes, I see it now. Niddler the monkey-bird who likes minga melons. Wow, that's obscure.

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    2. In 1992, would it really have been more obscure than Thundarr the Barbarian, Hong Kong Phooey, or Sherman and Peabody were in 1988 when Might and Magic II referenced them?

      Pirates of Dark Water wasn't a mega hit or anything, but it was reasonable popular.

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  9. The potions in the Temple of Bark (and in the Sandcaster later) can be used three times. Unfortunately, there is a bug that causes them to sometimes work only twice before disappearing. Saving before using each potion helps; the bug never reappeared after reloading in my playthrough.

    Opening of the safes is almost certainly linked to thieving skill. The character's level may be involved too. It is just more deterministic than opening grates, where you can make several attempts and get a lucky roll. Here the thief either knows the combination or not.

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    1. Oh, man. I reloaded an earlier save, and I see what happened. You can activate the potions three times, but if you ESC out, it still counts as a "use." I was using one of the three uses to see what color the potion was before then ESC-ing out to look through my character sheets and determine which character needed it the most.

      Now I have to decide if the extra attributes are worth replaying a bunch of the game for.

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    2. Your personality quirks will probably decide this, but it's not worth replaying for. You're already overpowered and will only get more so.

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  10. I can be wrong, but I am quite sure, that +50 accuracy didn´t help you in hitting monsters in any way, because accuracy influence just ranged attacks. Now I am not sure, what influence hitting by normal weapons... maybe strength? I would have to start the game and look. Levels give you additional attacks by the weapon, so like this they do bigger damage. Maybe they could influence hitting too.

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    1. According to ScummVM (which contains a reverse-engineered Might&Magic engine, among others), accuracy does impact melee attacks (but not linearly). Also, characters get a level-based to-hit bonus similar to THAC0 (i.e. warriors get +1 per level, clerics get +1 per two levels, and so forth).

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    2. The manual's description of "accuracy" doesn't limit its effect to missile weapons. If that was the case, that would certainly upend everything I thought I knew about the series.

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    3. Ok, thanks for clarification and apologies for my mistake.

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    4. The Might and Magic stats do not affect things linearly, but at certain break points. Adding +3 to Accuracy 25 won't make a difference, because the next break point is 30. 124 Might is no different than 100 Might for calculating damage.

      It's definitely a strange mechanic.

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    5. That undocumented to-hit class bonus is interesting, and it's strange the manual doesn't mention it along with the other class stuff because it's pretty simple and very relevant.

      I think I hunted down the right code for it, and Knights and Barbarians get +1 per level, Druids and Clerics get +1 per 3 levels, Sorcerers get +1 per 4 levels, and the other classes all get +1 per 2 levels.

      Pure spell casters give up a lot for extra spell points. If I ever played this again, I'd like to try multiple Paladins and Archers instead of Clerics and Sorcerers.

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    6. Yes, but some of the feedback (in comments and by Chet) is that the "big" spells are pointless because you can only use them once or twice before you run out of spell points... and using an actual sorcerer would help with that.

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  11. But did you have to pay the Troll Toll to get into any of those holes?

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  12. Entertaining as always. I recall that during my first playthrough, I dubbed the fountains "useless" because their bonuses were only temporary. The tricks of timing and teleporting eluded me then, but I could solve the game well without them. Imagine my slight surprise when you noted that the battles were somewhat tough even with the fountains. The Volcanic Cave and Dragon's Lair can certainly be done with a level 20 party.

    Talking about levels: As Radiant notes above, leveling increases the to-hit bonus. What it also increases, however, is the number of attack rolls. I don't think it's told anywhere in the manual, but you can see it when you click on "Level" in the character screen. Obviously, with a dozen attacks per round, even a Sorcerer will deal more damage in melee than with a single spell.

    The bandits that unleash Cloud Dragons are random encounters, they don't block certain Skyroad areas. Save & reload early on. There also seems to be an infinite number of them, which is somewhat unsatisfying since they don't give much in the way of loot - you won't be hurting for XP in this game, but believe me, money will eventually become an issue. (My first teenage playthrough would nearly have failed due to lack of funds at a certain point. This is not exactly common in CRPGs, I'd say.)

    Some safe locks in the castle can't be opened until you have received the combination, regardless of thievery, iirc.

    Finally, secret areas: Since you didn't mention it in your Thieves Tower exploration, I'd guess that you have missed a secret area with a chest that needs a silly password. In the towers in particular, space is never left unused.

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    1. I fiddled with one chest that seemed to have a password of OPEN SESAME, but I don't remember what the clue was. I can't remember if I got anything out of it or if it blew up in my face.

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    2. That chest was dubbed "Ali Baba's chest". That is it a pretty explicit hint by itself. It contains some treasures, but nothing special.

      By the way, some chests blow up the party in any case, even if they were successfully opened by a thief.

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  13. Actually the cloud dragons DO permanently reside on specific squares on the Skyroad. There are four such squares I believe, but it doesn't matter which one you step on.

    The cloud dragons are a good source of gold farming, bringing in .3125 per point of XP gained. You can farm them by remaining on the square and simply turning around on it until they 'spawn' again.

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    1. Well, they may reside on specific places, but since they appear randomly, they don't block off the rest of the Skyroads. Fortunately.

      Hmm, I'm pretty certain the Cloud Dragons didn't bring money in my '93 DOS version, maybe it's different with the World of Xeen complete edition? I'm also curious how you got that formula, repeated grinding and checking?

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  14. 'There were orcs inhabiting the place, looking nothing like the orcs from the Clouds side, though I guess this is true of all the shared monsters.'

    And this is quite an impressive feat, to be honest. How easy and convenient it would have been to simply choose a different color pattern and change some accessories from the Clouds version, but the graphic designers of the game went the extra mile and created them from scratch - and those monsters all look terrific!

    I'm someone who appreciates well made 90s graphics and applauds the effort which evidently went into MM4&5...

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    1. While I appreciate the graphical effort, from a worldbuilding perspective: if they made new art AND wildly different stats for the MM5 monster, they should have picked a new name and not reuse "orc".

      Also, I note that many of the monsters in this game ARE palette swaps; just not this one. MM4/5 design has the odd combination of being really elaborate in some areas, and exceedingly lazy in others.

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    2. Possibly due to budgetary concerns. Once you run out of cash to spend on artists, you gotta make do with what assets you currently have left on the table.

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    3. To expand on Tizzy's point, even if you do have the artists, you may have a hard deadline to (self-imposed or not) to meet. There's only so hard you can work the artists before you kill that golden goose, so corners may be cut.

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    4. Six months to create a whole new game isn't all that much, even if you are using the same engine. And off the top of my head, most of the palette swaps are endgame monsters, so perhaps time was indeed running out.

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    5. Looking over the release schedule of either Gold Box or Ultima 6 / Savage Empire / Martian Dreams, it strikes me that other companies have no issue with releasing games half a year apart.

      Anyway, the palette swaps are all the "improved" versions of the same monster, e.g. Troll Grunt / Troll Guard / Troll Chief. It is my impression that MM5 is well-polished but MM4 was rushed (and development of MM5 very likely started before MM4 was released).

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    6. I don't know why I say this exactly, but I've always got the impression that MM4 was a "stopgap". think of it as 3.5 and 5 as 4, or the like.

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  15. Having god-tier character get knocked unconscious by low hanging branches sounds like something straight out of the big book of anime cliches. Your character is so strong, they can single-handedly clear out an entire dungeon of demon spawn, or blow the moon apart with a single blast, but heaven forbid they encounter the dreaded low-hanging branch or poorly positioned garden rake.

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  16. Chet have you ever done a post about how you choose your parties in games? Also as story begins to become more and more important in games have you made a decision about games were multiple play throughs can yield significantly different experiences?

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    1. I think the answer to that significantly depends on both how interested he is in the particular game and how much time it costs to do so; some games branch quite late in the plot, so a convenient save point can let you experience the main endings without much fuss.

      He did a couple playthroughs of QFG 2 & 3 I think.

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    2. No, I probably have never adequately addressed that. Because of my blog, I feel somewhat compelled to do a standard variety of classes, although there are times I'd like to try something more challenging.

      As Tristan points out, I've run through all the QfGs with all available classes. Those are short games, though. Maybe when I get to something like Baldur's Gate, I'll play with a good character and an evil character or a fighter and a mage. That's a long way in the future, though.

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    3. You should try that with Planescape Torment!

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    4. I was thinking about Baldur's Gate the other day, and the issue of the original version versus the Enhanced Edition. Given the difference between versions and the number of years between them, I'm fairly certain you're going to want to play the original when you get to it, and then maybe the EE when (if) you ever reach its year...

      ... but it might make sense to do a standard good playthrough for the original and set aside an evil playthrough for the Enhanced Edition.

      We're going to reach the issue earlier than that, though - with Fallout in 1997, if not before. That's a game that not only rewards "hero" and "jackass" alternate playthroughs, but also things like a low-charisma or low-intelligence playthrough...

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    5. I doubt it's in the interest of the blog to go through all the variant playthroughs of these games. I'm sure Chet can comment on the flexibility and variability of gameplay without having to actually go through it all himself.

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    6. GregT, I was playing and enjoying the original version with a couple of mods until I got to Baldur's Gate and found myself with broken quest after broken quest after broken quest. And I read that all these very numerous broken quests were fixed in the EE. So I stopped playing, and will start again with the EE.

      Yeah, I will miss the amazing EAX (actually openAL) but missing so many items that would make the very hard Baldur's Gate easier is not something I enjoy now.

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  17. Probably not the best place to put this, but it's all I have. I've been reading through all the older posts since hearing about the Addict in a magazine (pcgamer maybe?) Anyway, does anyone know whatever happened to the william that used to comment? I've read a ton of his old posts regarding his wife's illness and passing and wonder how he is doing now.

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    1. he has an active youtube channel which you can find through his blogspot account if you click on his name from one of his comments

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    2. Thanks! I hadn't seen anything in newer posts and was hoping nothing bad happened.

      Delete
  18. Not much to comment. I actually left the world of Xeen as I was exhausted by the gameplay loop. Will probably pick it up again in a couple of years :D

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  19. "We should domesticate and harness the power of these creatures."

    Bitch you just invented Pokemon!!!

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  20. i guess the poison thing is meant as a literal "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"?

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  21. BARKMAN!!!

    I recall killing him with the help of some well placed Mass Distortions. I think he's an homage or echo of the orc gods from Might and Magic II. If you run around E2 long enough you'll eventually run into one. They're tons of fun to kill. Something I liked about Might and Magic II was that it had something to offer superpowerful parties.

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  22. Unrelated but important: as of this morning, Chrome has started warning me that this site (crpgaddict.blogspot.com) is an "unsafe site" on which it has "recently detected phishing". I got a big red scary screen that I had to manually proceed past. Not sure what's going on.

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