Friday, May 28, 2021

Darkside of Xeen: Th Thr Twrs

I'm not sure this is quite the honorific the authors think it is.
        
The Great Eastern Tower was a confusing maze of stairways and the occasional teleporter, but the monsters were easy. Most of them were mystic mages, and their electrical attacks couldn't even damage us with "Day of Protection" going. They died in one hit. There was a gamma gazer higher in the tower, but even those aren't much of a threat at this point.
    
This is opposed to those other scientifically-grounded mages.
       
Other than monsters, the tower was chock full of stuff. I found the Jewel of Ages and two energy disks. A "Fountain of Minimal Abilities" did nothing for us, but I suspect it raises your attributes to a minimal number if you haven't already crossed it. I should have visited here earlier in the game. There was a fountain that raised us +1 level in exchange for 50 years of our lives, and a book that gave us +5 levels but wiped out all of our secondary skills. Both were easily repaired by dropping a "Lloyd's Beacon" and teleporting back to the Clouds side. In the first case, I ran the ring of druids again and lost those 50 years. In the second, I took a mirror to Shangri-La and paid 100,000 gold (per character) to learn all the skills again.
    
A Book of Fantastic Knowledge gave 50 intelligence to my sorcerer, who already had a lot of intelligence, so that was odd. The only mystery was a mirror that "didn't respond"--which, when you think about it, is normal behavior for a mirror.
     
Like, if your daughter came running up to you and said, "Daddy! My mirror's not responding!," you'd think something was wrong with your daughter, not the mirror.
        
I returned the jewel to Thaddeus the Fountain Keeper, who said it restored the waters of the fountain, so now we could drink from it to remove magical aging. I guess I could have saved myself the trip to the druids. Now that it's so easy, I probably will never get magically-aged again.
    
I decided next to finish clearing the maps, starting with A1. It was a volcanic hellscape full of gamma gazers and lava dwellers. I used the multiple gamma gazers to try out a variety of spells, but honestly, physical damage seems to carry the day in this game. I use my sorcerer mostly for "Day of Sorcery," "Jump," "Teleport," and "Lloyd's Beacon."
         
Three at once is a little dicey, even for my party.
      
In the far corner of the map, we found a fountain that raises hit points by 2,500. This definitely goes on the buffing list if we need it. Not long after, we found a +100 might fountain in D1.
     
It might be worth setting up a "Lloyd's Beacon" right here.
       
In the middle of the lava was Castle Alamar. Even though it seemed premature, we entered, only to be stymied by gates. My ninja couldn't pick them and my two front characters couldn't bash them. I made a note to "return when stronger," but that seems to be a silly thing to write at this stage of the game.
   
I moved on to C1 and soon discovered that, although it wasn't on my list, I had also not explored D1. I did them both together in long east-west strips, moving north. C1 had numerous battles with griffins. They die in one hit but are fast enough to go first, and they concentrate all of their attacks on my knight. D1 mostly had giants. I burned a couple of their lairs. But when I met Guradel the Giant on his couch of snows, he was friendly enough. He said that Alamar intends to "move Xeen away from the sun so that he may return to the world he came from." Even now, Sheltem's mind is still bent on Terra. He also gave us two energy disks.
       
Dialogue options when speaking with Guradel (le guard?).
       
We were now up to six energy disks, so we returned once again to Ellinger. He took them and said that Castle Kalindra is now fully restored. He said we should get the key to the Great Pyramid and take the Orb of Pharaohs back to the Dragon Pharaoh. Then, claiming that "other matters require [his] full attention from now 'til the completion of the prophecy," he took off.
    
The last level of Castle Kalindra to open was the third. It had a full set of services, including the first trainer I've found capable of training above Level 50. I got my characters to 58, but that brought me down to about 1 million in the bank, and I decided to save more training for later, after I figure out the financial situation.
      
In this universe, whether you contract or retain vampirism is just a matter of willpower.
      
The other side of the level had Kalindra's bedchamber with her crown, some barrels that increased might and personality by 10 (permanently), and a dial that let me re-activate the mirror portals. So far, the only one I've seen is in the Great East Tower, though. With the crown, we returned to the dungeon of Castle Blackfang. Wearing the crown was somehow enough to reverse Kalindra's vampirism, and she gave us the key to the Great Pyramid before flying home.
   
Next was the Great Northern Tower, which we had found in D1. Bosco the Dwarven King, camped outside, had given us the key and asked us to find the Chalice of Protection within, as a seer told him he would die from drinking poison. The only enemies in the tower were slayer knights, who die in one hit.
       
They look pretty tough, though.
      
A statue in the lobby proclaimed the slayers as members of the "Order of Voweless Knights." So began a shtick that if I didn't know it was from Might and Magic, I almost certainly could have guessed. Seven alcoves held books containing familiar phrases without the vowels. We had to type in the missing vowels, earning 500,000 experience points for every solution:
     
  1. H wh lghs lst lghs bst
  2. Lt slping dgs l
  3. Th nds f th mny twgh th nds f th fw (one of the series' billion Star Trek references)
  4. Lv f mny s th rt f ll vl
  5. f wshs wr hrss bggrs wld rd
  6. fl nd hs mny r sn prtd
  7. Dnt lk gft hrs n th mth
         
This answer is, coincidentally, Hawaiian for "tuna sandwich."
       
A couple of them gave me pause, but overall I thought they were pretty easy. I was disappointed to find the solutions under beds on the top floor. Players should have to work through these on their own. The only one that gave me any trouble was the fifth, and this is because the authors apparently think beggars is spelled with a second e instead of an a. In the final alcove was the chalice that Bosco sought, and to get it, I had to type, predictably, AIE, the missing vowels in CHALICE. Bosco gave us 1 million experience points and 100,000 gold pieces.
   
Also in the tower were a set of five thrones. Four of them were labeled "Emotion Throne" and gave my characters some kind of negative condition--depression, insanity, and so forth. But the fifth, the "Euphoria Throne," bestowed 2 levels and 5 bonus points to each attribute if I had sat in the previous four.
    
We emerged from the tower on the skyroad and decided to take it to the Great Western Tower. We were attacked by griffins as we made our way west. We soon came across a wagon occupied by the "Merchant of the Elements." "Between air and earth I constantly travel; a simple clue to unravel," he offered. This puzzled me for a while. I tried several options before finally getting it right with (DUST) for 250,000 experience. As you'll see, I was later asked for what is "between" earth and water, water and fire, and fire and air (there were no riddles for fire-earth or air-water). I got them all right, but the logic differed a bit among the answers.
    
That's not really how mixing elements works.
         
"Danger! Mega Dragon," a sign proclaimed a bit farther along. When we failed to encounter it, I backtracked and noticed a platform floating south of the walkway. We teleported to it and were soon all dead at the hands of the mega dragon.
   
Nonetheless, I was slightly encouraged. We'd at least been able to hit it, which is half the battle. I decided to use the opportunity to try the Ultimate Buff: +15 levels from the shrine in C2, +100 resistances from the fountain in B1, +100 might from the fountain in D1, and +2500 hit points from the fountain in A1. These of course have to be done in one day, with plenty of time left over for the battles you want to fight.
       
Even towards the end of this session, this still increases my effectiveness by 20%.
     
A key question was whether the mirrors that I re-activated work like the mirrors on the Clouds side--specifically, whether they can take you to miscellaneous towers, dungeons, and map features in addition to towns. It turns out they can. After some experimentation, I discovered that the following sequence works best:
    
  • Just after 05:00, cast "Lloyd's Beacon" in front of a magic mirror (I used the one in the Great North Tower).
  • Take the mirror to the DESERT OF DOOM in C2. 
  • Cast "Teleport" three times to get to the +15 level shrine and use it. Cast "Day of Protection" and "Day of Sorcery" any time afterwards.
  • "Lloyd's Beacon" back to the mirror and take it to CASTLE ALAMAR in A1.
  • Cast "Teleport" twice to get to the +2500 hit point fountain and use it.
  • "Town Portal" to NECROPOLIS in B2. Three "Teleports" gets you to the fountain in B1.
  • One final "Lloyd's Beacon"/mirror trip to MAGIC MOUNTAIN, from which it's one "Teleport" and two steps to the +100 might fountain.
     
By this time, it should be no later than 11:00, giving you 18 hours to enjoy the buffs. So enhanced, I returned to the mega dragon and soon got my ass kicked again. The problem is that he has like 65,000 hit points, which would take my buffed characters at least 20 rounds to whittle down. But he has an "eradicate" breath that has about a 1 in 10 chance of working on each character each round. The math is thus against us in the long run--for now, anyway. I made a note to return when stronger.
      
The mega dragon's animation has him fading in and out of view.
       
Reloading, I continued west and made it to the northwest corner of the skyroad. "Fire Zone," a sign proclaimed. There was a patch of lava in the middle of the platform, and a voice asked "what do you seek?" I didn't seek anything, but it seemed logical to say FIRE, so I did. And thus were we dropped into the Elemental Plane of Fire, which I had no idea was even a thing in this game.
    
All I can say is, I couldn't have picked a better time to have buffed with +100 resistance, because the plane was basically a sea of lava, crawling with enemies called fire blowers. A shrine in the north asked if we would "accept the test of fire." I said yes. Nothing seemed to happen except the "heavenly choir" sound effect that usually accompanies a temple healing or blessing. On a throne, someone called the "Fire Sleeper" had this to say: "The Guardian has not informed me of your status as Chosen Ones. Much as I would like to, I am unable to fully awaken." Around this time, we ran out the clock on our buffs, so I returned to the regular world (via "Lloyd's Beacon"; I have no idea how to do it otherwise) and decided to save the elemental planes for later.
         
I think we were here too early.
       
Sky golems harried us as we headed south. Another cart had a second Merchant of the Elements; he wanted to know what travels between fire and air. I got it wrong with ASH and then right with (SMOKE). Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the top of the Great Western Tower. The opening led to a small passage with no connectivity to the rest of the tower, but the passage held a pile of bones with the key. We took it, went back up to the skyroad, fell to earth, and entered from below.
    
The tower was an entirely linear affair in which we carved our way through a couple dozen clerics of Mok, killed the heretical high priest, and retrieved two energy disks and the golden pegasus statuette.
       
I have no idea what race these guys are.
         
With the three statuettes in hand, I returned to Luna the Druid. She rewarded us with +5 permanent levels, which annoyed me, so I reloaded. I'm sick of wasting free levels when I still haven't reached the maximum level allowed by my current experience points. After selling everything I'd accumulated this session, I had about 2.5 million, including what was already in the bank. I put everything there and gave a year of my life to working odd jobs for 50 gold per week. I calculated that at 1% interest per day, I should have about 85 million by the time I was done.
     
Well, I was disappointed. In several ways. First, I forgot that there are only 100 days to Xeen's years, so what was supposed to be one year of work turned out to be closer to four. Second, when I went to check my balance, I only had about 3.5 million. You don't earn 1% per day; you earn 1% per week. I must have just always tested it on the last day of the week, so when I saw it 1% higher the next day, I figured it was every day. And since a week is 10 days in Xeen, and there are thus only 10 weeks per year, your effective interest rate is only about 10% per year. The bank was definitely not going to be my savior with this problem.
        
This was, unsurprisingly, a scam.
      
Sighing, I withdrew about 1.5 million, took it to the trainer in Castle Kalindra, and trained until I ran out, with my party at Level 70. I reloaded and trained with just my paladin and found that she was eligible to reach Level 92. This really annoys me, although I'll save discussions for how much for the end of the game.
   
With my new levels, I returned to the basement of Castle Kalindra and cleared out the dragon mummies, although this got me nothing except more experience.
 
Miscellaneous notes:
     
  • No "Levitation" is required for the skyroad, although you do need it for some of the miscellaneous clouds alongside it.
  • It never gets dark when you're on the skyroad. Between that and the fact that the "Darkside" isn't really dark, and both sides are dark or light at the same times, I have no idea what to make of this world's position in relation to its sun. Perhaps it's an artificial sun like on CRON or VARN, even though the world does seem to orbit a sun.
  • The surface of the world is littered with broken pyramids--the same type that transport you to the Darkside from the Clouds side. I assume the idea is that Alamar broke them.
  • Missile weapons are simply useless in this game. My volley of four arrows never seems to kill the weakest of enemies. 
  • I've talked about my color blindness many times. Oddly, I have no trouble distinguishing the green, yellow, and red used by the health meters beneath the character portraits. Color blindness can be weird sometimes.
     
I finished the session by exploring the rest of the skyroad network, or at least as much as I could. It basically consists of a ring of road that goes around the perimeter of the world, with portals in each corner to the four elemental plains. There are platforms in the middle of the north, east, west, and south sides for each of the four Great Towers. I had to clear out dozens of sky golems, green dragons, and cloud dragons as I made my way around. I was glad to find that I was more than a match for the sky bandits (who turn into cloud dragons when you refuse to pay their 10,000 gold piece "toll"). 
        
A green dragon with a cloud dragon behind him.
       
Studying the automap, I realized there were single-square miscellaneous platforms at various places, and I managed to reach them with very careful use of "Teleport." Many of them had genies in lamps who offered 2 million experience, 200,000 gold, or 2,000 gems. This time, I naturally took the gold. There were a couple of bad genies who offered less favorable options, the best of them resulting in experience but death for the person who rubbed the lamp.
     
"Evil genie" options. The second two result in the deaths of everyone and no reward. If I choose the first one, the character who rubbed the lamp gets killed but also gets 500,000 experience. Death is pretty easy to "cure" at this point.
     
There was a large sky lake in the southern section. It had a few tents where craftsmen offered to make scarabs of protection for gems. These sell for around 2000-3000 gold each, and I suppose it's a very, very long way I could turn gems (of which I have plenty) into gold. There was also a message in a bottle from someone trapped on a sky island in C3 at 7,0. I couldn't figure out a way to get anywhere near this area, but there were a couple of places I couldn't visit because I wasn't worthy to use skyships of the gods. Presumably, the "gods" are in Olympus, and now I'm wondering exactly who I'll find there.
           
Isn't every cloud basically a "sky lake"?
       
I solved the riddles of the last two Merchants of the Elements (MUD and STEAM). Upon reaching one distant platform, I got a message that I'm a "Super Goober." I remember getting a similar message in other Might and Magics, but I can't remember if they were earlier, later, or both.
    
Next time, we visit the Dragon Pharaoh and, I assume, win the game!
    
Time so far: 31 hours

84 comments:

  1. "The problem is that he has like 65,000 hit points"

    With high hit point monsters like this, opening with a Cleric's (or maybe Paladin?) Mass Distortion spell can shave off 1/2 HP in a single hit. A few of these spells lobbed at the beginning, if you can survive long enough turns the tide of the battle.

    Without a Cleric you'd need superior tactics and really high damage output. Probably lot more levels will be required. Energy attacks are harder to resist, a high Luck attribute can also help here.

    "I put everything there and gave a year of my life to working odd jobs for 50 gold per week."

    Yep, temp work. The bank interest is an excellent money maker, but as in real life you have to have a lot of money to begin with to make it worthwhile. The gem mines can net you a lot of cash, selling crafted gem plate armors is the preferred method.

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    1. Bloody hell. That's a CLERIC spell. I was looking for it among my sorcerer's spells, and when I couldn't find it, I juat assumed I was mis-remembering and it didn't exist in this game. Well, as you'll see next time, I ended up just doing it the hard way.

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    2. Well Bank + odd jobs worked for me, you had the right idea... The magic is composite interest. With your 2.5 million, after 1 year you get 3.5. But down the road, starting with 2.5M, down the road you get:
      After 5 years: 13.4 Million
      After 10 years: 72.3 Million
      After 15 years: 389 Million
      After 20 years: 2 090 Million

      You'll have just a bit older (and now very rich) adventurers, and of course the world will still be there to be saved.

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    3. Xeen has a serious money problem. I think if you're insane and masochistic, you could use the default party, work odd jobs until they're ancient, toss it in the bank, and create a new group to actually play with. That'll take until the sun turns into a chunk of coal, but you may have enough cash by endgame to train up.

      I think I made a UGE module to edit my gold number after beating WoX for the 10th time, just to see how high a level I was. I forget how high I had gotten, but it was some 40 levels above where I beat the game at.

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    4. I'd say it has an experience problem more than a money problem. The characters don't need to achieve anywhere near the levels they can achieve.

      Georges, I don't get the same answers that you do. If you figure a return of 1% per week, 10 weeks per year, I show:

      After 5 years: 4.1 million
      After 10 years: 6.7 million
      After 15 years: 11.1 million
      After 20 years: 18.3 million

      You probably need 18.3 million to pay for all that training, but I don't really want to artificially age my characters until they're 50.

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    5. Is it really a problem that you can't level up as much as your experience allows? I mean, most games give you plenty of gold, but limit the amount of experience or have a level cap (pool of radiance, I'm looking at you). Here, gold is the limiting factor, but the result is the same: at some point, you've reached your max level.

      I think this game does well with its leveling system. As a player, you can choose between "greedy" leveling (spending gold as soon as possible, always grabbing +x level bonuses as soon as you can) or "max" leveling (money in the bank, odd jobs, leaving the +x bonuses until the very end). Or anything in between. You'll end up anywhere between level 70 I think and level 200, and your game experience will be very different, but either way you can complete the game.

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    6. As for the money in the bank calculations, I get the same result as Chet, 18,3 millions after 20 years.

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    7. Ah I misread Chet's post, I thought he started with 2.5M and had 3.5M after training a year. But it was after FOUR years. Indeed, that's less spectacular, but I still remember working enough years last time I played to have enough gold for all my training, don't remember the numbers obviously.

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    8. Someone with more time than me should figure out at what point in the game you have peak gold, at which point you should take a decade or two off to let it grow. At what point is it required to spend at least as much on gold to train to only earn the same or less back from adventuring?

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  2. The Megadragon is best killed with the Xeen Slayer Sword as the Dragon has a 90% damage reduction against physical attacks that the Xeen Slayer Sword ignores. The same applies to Dragon Mummies.

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    1. I remember how that battle seemed impossible to me. Last playthrough I did a couple of years ago, I kept it for the end, maxed my level with full training and all +level rewards on top, and when I finally arrived, ready for battle, I killed it with one hit. It was kind of anticlimatic... :(

      It's still a good fun challenge! I like games which have optional ultimate skill-test outlets that give you reason to go on and manage char and equipment development past the point where you are overpowered for the main quest. Like late-game "money sinks", that's late game "level sinks" or "experience sinks".

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  3. "You feel like you could take on the world." That's a reference in a 1994 game to 1993's Lucasarts graphic adventure Day of the Tentacle -- what Purple Tentacle proclaims after sipping some toxic waste that mutates him into an evil genius with stubby arms. So it's a little funny to see it in response to drinking from a fountain here!

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    1. I believe that's a common saying, not a reference specifically to DOTT :)

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    2. Nah, definitely a reference to DOTT. You don't just say that in a CRPG without reason.

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    3. Eh, I'm kind of with Anonymous on this one. It's a very common saying that was around long before Day of the Tentacle. Unless the Might and Magic series makes a habit of referencing adventure games, I'm not convinced it's anything more than a coincidence.

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    4. The specific idiom "take on the world" vastly predates DOTT. (The Judas Priest song of that name came out in 1978 and obviously relies on the phrase being well-known at that point.) And "feel like you could take on the world" is not such an idiosyncratic usage of it that it makes sense to think that DOTT coined it.

      The M&M games are nerdy, and they DO love references - but given that DOTT came out in June 1993 and MM5 came out in September 1993 (and likely went gold at least a month earlier to allow for publication and shipping), that's a relatively small window for the devs to have bought DOTT, played it, and decided that it needed to be immortalised through a reference in Xeen.

      I think it's unlikely that this is a DOTT reference.

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  4. Hmmm. The "Super Goober" award actually shows up in another place in *this* game as well, and it's not easy to get. I had no idea there was a second one available simply for reaching the right cloud space. You'll see, probably.

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  5. "Missile weapons are simply useless in this game. My volley of four arrows never seems to kill the weakest of enemies."

    Interesting that you have issues with Missile Weapons. I rarely have melee combat except against the toughest opponents...missile weapons kill everything before getting to me.

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    1. That's been my experience as well.

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    2. Maybe it makes a difference if all six characters can shoot, or maybe I just haven't found good weapons. None of them are obsidian yet, the way my melee weapons are.

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    3. I only have 4 shooters, and they worked pretty well even before Obsidian bows.

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    4. Well, I don't know what to tell you. Using the bows is a matter of hitting "S" on the keyboard; it's not like there are any ways you can screw it up.

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    5. I'm pretty sure bows can't be obsidian, which limits their damage potential. I believe it is possible to get gemstone bows from the mine crafters though. Diamond is close.

      I also don't think bows get multiple swings either. At level 50 your melee guys attack something like 10 times per turn, which leads to big damage multipliers you don't see with bows.

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    6. There's also a lot of enemies you don't want to trade ranged shots with. Better to strafe or jump into them and instakill with melee.

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    7. You can get obsidian bows only from the clouds sections on the Clouds side. Don't know if you can get them in every cloud section, or if it's just one specific place. They're random drops, so you have to savescum to get obsidian now for all your party members. Any other place that can give you random obsidian weapons will never drop bows.

      (oh, and I learned that from a walkthrough; I don't understand how the people who write those walkthroughs figure out these things)

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    8. Six ranged attackers would just get you two extra attacks, which is a 50% increase over four, but the main problem as mentioned is that you don't get the multiple attacks per round from melee, nor do you get to add your Might bonus, both of which are substantial by now. The only scaling ranged attacks benefit from are their material bonuses, and those can be hard to find.

      (Also, if you play on the easier Adventurer mode, everything down triple damage, so that might make ranged stand out for longer.)

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    9. Ah, I forgot about the easier Adventurer mode. That might explain Envy, Rick and Bruce's experience. I didn't realize the difference was so stark.

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    10. I planned my M&M 4/5 party so that everybody could wield a missile weapon and be effective in melee (Warrior, 2x Paladins, 2x Archers, Ninja) and I remember my experience being closer to Chet's.

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    11. If I remember well, my experience with missile weapons was not so bad. Ok, they were not better than melee attacks, but they were not completely useless. And yes, I played Adventure mode.

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  6. stepped pyramidsMay 28, 2021 at 5:23 PM

    "Players should have to work through these on their own."

    If a game is going to have puzzles like this that are based on familiarity with a specific culture and its idioms (and that's a big if), I think it should have some alternate way to discover the solutions. Especially in the era before GameFAQs. The infamous "baseball maze" in Zork II is a good example of how much of a pain this can be.

    https://www.filfre.net/2012/05/zork-ii-part-2/

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    1. That's a fair point, but it seems to me that it would be relatively trivial to localize the MM puzzles for different releases of the game. Plus, it's not like you really need the experience. Sometimes I think RPGs would be more interesting if there was less expectation that the player will succeed at each quest.

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    2. Personally, puzzles that rely on outside knowledge are the sort of thing that immediately get me to look it up, because I'm never able to actually figure them out myself. I've always felt like an RPG wanting you to use outside knowledge instead of having everything in the game is outright bad design, because at that point you're requiring someone to have specific knowledge with absolutely no guarentee that they'd actually have the knowledge required

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    3. Secret of the Monkey Island 2's 'monkey wrench' says hello...

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    4. stepped pyramidsMay 29, 2021 at 10:56 AM

      I don't think the Xeen games were localized for any other region, and even today there's usually only one or maybe two (US + UK) localizations for the Anglosphere. In that context, I think it made sense to throw a bone to all the Germans and so on who would be importing the game. Especially in an RPG, a genre that doesn't usually rely very much on language skills and where puzzles are a pretty marginal thing.

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    5. Speaking of Monkey Island 2, the German version had some unique dialogue with the Lucas Arts help hotline easter egg, where the guy would mention how hard it was for the translators to translate all the jokes, ha!

      I agree with outside knowledge being a bad basis for video game puzzles. Everything within the game should be solvable from within the game itself. Puzzles about idioms could have in-game idioms that the player hears in conversation with NPCs, for example (Warm Tear and Dwindlindilong!).

      If the game is discovered in a playable state by aliens on the wreck of a human colony ship, they should be able to play through it without requiring any knowledge about human culture beyond the ability to understand the language at a basic level :p

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    6. @stepped pyramids

      Both parts of Xeen were released in Japanese on PC-98 and FM-Towns. First three games also were released in Japan and ported to several platforms. And there is even a Japan-exclusive (but fan-translated) Might and Magic: Book Two, a JRPG-like re-imagining of the second game for SNES/SFC.

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    7. The catch with outside-knowledge puzzles, of course, is that the game designer rarely realizes that it ISN'T common knowledge. He won't bother getting it culturally translated if he firmly believes that (e.g.) everybody knows a baseball diamond has a "north base".

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    8. The same is true of puzzles that aren't outside-knowledge, of course. Even when all the clues are present in the game, that doesn't guarantee that the player will be able to duplicate whatever the designer used as a substitute for logic.

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    9. I think the gaming audience XEEN was intended for, around the time it was released along with the genre, the clues provided were more than sufficient for anyone to reasonably solve. Remember New World Computing didn't produce games for the mass market to consume ala candy crush. PC gaming at that time wasn't really a mature industry, more a flight of fancy that also required some knowledge of computer hardware and configurations that predated API's like DirectX, which far more than anything made games easily available to the masses. There wasn't any dedicated gaming stores beyond retail toy or hobby shops, and the RPG genre itself wasn't particularly well understood either as most folks considered a 'game' to be little more than a Pacman or Donkey Kong box at the arcade or neighborhood laundromat. Certainly an activity to not spend more than 10 minutes on.

      The various factors thus reserved early PC gaming to the more nerdy or similar, resulting in puzzles and cultural nuggets serving that audience. XEEN's fascination with sci-fi in particular Star Trek is simply a reflection of that audience.

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  7. I had to lookup the one with the beggers. Because the developers were too stupid, not me.

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    1. Nah, y'see, the actual answer is an old English expression -

      "Of washes: War Horse's! Bugger's wild rude!"

      - it being of course abouts the unpredictable behavior of armoured ungulates in military situations during heavy rain, which was a serious concern, on account of how their riders would have been wearing heavy armour too, so...

      I jest. As soon as I saw the vowelless clues though, I was filled with a rambunctious desire to make totally valid but obviously wrong "solutions" to them.

      And I would have totally spelled beggar with two e's - I was about to post that it is probably one of those English/American spelling differences but I looked it up and nope, it's with an a over here too. I would have sworn "begger" was a mendicant and "beggar" was to like, push something too far ("It beggars belief!"), but it is always fun to be wrong - it means I get to learn something.

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  8. A spelling puzzle with a spelling error is really terrible. The editor should have done his work! (although I guess at that time, games didn't have editors)

    At least the solution can be found elsewhere.

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    1. Far from the only place in these games with a spelling mistake, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. But yes, particularly egregious in a spelling puzzle.

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    2. They get it right in the dialog afterwards

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    3. Which kinda makes it worse

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  9. "I have no idea what race these guys are."
    They are...
    *examine closely*
    They are...
    *sniff*
    *frown*
    They are green.

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    1. That scene always irked the hell out of me. Data should have had a gas chromatograph as part of his olfactory system. Completely unlike Dr. Soong to neglect something like that.

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    2. Hey, there's only so much room in a Brent Spiner-sized head. Sacrifices had to be made.

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    3. Harland did you know it was a reference to a TOS scene with Scotty doing the same thing?
      https://youtu.be/FWEDZFoLmyA

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    4. In a few days, you're going to see how annoyed I got at Star Trek references in the game itself. It's ironic that they're popping up randomly in the comments, too.

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    5. The entire series is an extended Star Trek reference. Only natural that it comes up.

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    6. Oh, you are going to be insufferable after my next entry. I probably shouldn't even read the comments on that one.

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    7. I guess you've finally made your peace with Tolkien references at least.

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    8. I was asking myself what would be the 2000s equivalent of Star Trek references in the 90s. Game of Thrones?

      Or maybe more strict editing and copyright fears do not allow to have nerdy references in modern games.

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    9. Oh I only made the reference because you called out the reference in the vowel puzzle. Vince there is no equivalent because nerd culture is now mainstream.

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  10. It seems to me that the scale of the game elements (levels, attributes, gold, etc.) is just ridiculous by this point. Ho hum, another million gold. What's the point of having godlike power in a world filled with godlike enemies; is there much difference between this and fighting rats with low-level characters? Oh, and congratulations on your Super Goober-hood.

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    1. I applaud the game for trying to be different. The ridiculous levels seem appropriate with some of Xeen's exaggerated goofiness, however it does remind me of some pinball games from the 90's that award scores up into the billions. It's fun but a bit juvenile.

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    2. I never got it either. After a while it's just meaningless. Plus 1000 hit points, gain eight levels in a sitting, it's just a Monty Haul system. Oh well, some people like that, I guess. Getting praise from a system is still praise, which is more than they usually get.

      Leveling is the best part of any RPG, and to take that away is robbing the player of hard-earned achievement IMO.

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    3. This was the part of my recent play through that I got bored and moved on. The game has been very easy for a while, I was just lawnmowing, and there was no meaningful character development. Most of the interesting stuff happens in the first 20 levels and then it just keeps going with nothing really new.

      That's why I suggested starting with a new level 1 party, though it probably only would have helped so much. At this point being behind 10 million experience wouldn't matter either, but it would make the first two thirds of the game more interesting.

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  11. I think the highest level I ever got in World of Xeen was 215. Saved every last gold piece and put in the bank ASAP, sold every single item of loot, and saved every free level for when I was totally broke at the end of the game. Of course it's complete overkill to do this.

    Training inflation really does suck the fun out of the endgame. I think the only way to really farm cash is to mine the gems and craft gemstone weapons, which sell for a decent amount. But at post-game training rates that still takes forever.

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    1. That is a very high level. When I finished the game in April, my robber was at level 192, barbarian at level 177, two paladins and two archers at level 153. And I've done everything, including making gold using the gemstones from the mines to make armor and sell it. And even that levels were an overkill.

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    2. I once wanted to know whether the "there's no limit to training in the last city" from the cluebook is actually true, so I ran the gemstone cycle (make armor from gems, sell it, get the mine god to restock all gems, repeat) and let some time go for bank interest until I was able to train basically forever. Spoiler: there is a level limit based on variable size ;-)

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  12. Evading eradication from Mega Dragon's breath is influenced by Luck stat, apparently. Adding a +100 Luck well near Castleview to the buffing tour may give some more edge to the party.

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  13. Just on the vowel-less puzzles - I'm glad the solutions were also in-game, because the solutions are English-language idioms, and while it might seem like a fair puzzle to you, it could be completely baffling to someone who comes to English as a second language. Plus idioms can age out of the common vernacular within a decade or two, even quite old ones, leaving you with a phrase that a large number of players may never have heard.

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    1. As a non-native English speaker, I am definitely with GregT in this.

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  14. "So far the only mirror I've encountered is in the Eastern Tower." Well, Ellinger's Tower has one as well. Not that I ever used it, at this point it's trivial to use Town Portal.

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  15. 1,000,000 gold coins, if they weighed 1oz, would weigh about 30,000 kg. Impressive lugging that around.

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    1. That's why you have 240 strength by now. D&D'esque systems tend to assume that an 18 or 20 strength is good enough for the Olympic Games.

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  16. I wonder if the riddles of the Merchants of the Elements were influenced by tabletop AD&D's Manual of the Planes sourcebook. Published in 1987, its cosmology included transitional elemental planes of Smoke, Dust, Steam, and Ooze (close enough to Mud).

    Two transitions only half-match the riddles because the Manual added energy planes alongside the elemental ones. Dust was between Earth and Negative Energy, while Steam was between Water and Positive Energy. Still, the game's creators might have liked the idea and adapted it for the more typical four-element setup.

    https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/elementary-look-planes

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    1. The "paraelemental planes" between the core four elemental planes weren't new to the Manual of the Planes; they'd actually been introduced seven years earlier in Appendix I to Deities & Demigods. The energy planes go back even farther; they were actually in Appendix IV of the original first-edition Player's Handbook in 1978.

      The eight "quasielemental planes" between the elemental planes and the energy planes were new to the Manual of the Planes, although there had been a "lightning quasi-elemental" in the 1983 Monster Manual II that likely inspired them. After all, the reasoning presumably went, if there are quasi-elementals, there must be quasi-elemental planes for them to come from. (The MM2 just said that lightning quasi-elementals "inhabit the Elemental Plane of Air and the Positive Material Plane", and of course it's between those two planes that the Manual of the Planes would later place the Quasielemental Plane of Lightning.)

      All of these para- and quasielemental planes were further developed in the Planescape setting in second edition, but were pretty much dropped in later editions, which I think is a pity; I rather liked them.

      In any case, I thought of the D&D para- and quasielemental planes too when I saw those riddles about combining elements, but, while they could have inspired the riddles, I'm not convinced that's necessarily the case. There are similarities, but intermediary elements are a simple enough idea that it could just as easily have been arrived at independently.

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    2. Yeah, that. Otherwise you might as well ask if the "mystic mages" were inspired by, oh say, Terry Pratchett.

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    3. Interesting history either way. My problem with the riddles is that the logic doesn't really hold. Mud is a literal combination of earth and water, and it legitimately works as a "halfway between." Steam is not a combination of fire and water; it's what happens when you apply one to the other. Smoke is neither. It is the manifestation of one within the other; by that logic, "steam" would apply to water and air rather than water and fire. And dust is still something else--not a combination, not really an application. More like "what do you call it when a quantity of X element is small enough to be affected by Y element."



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    4. I think they missed out on having a water-air riddle and made the answer SODA. Fire-earth could be POTTERY.

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    5. In the (1&2E) D&D cosmology, between Water and Air was Ice for some reason. Yeah, okay, so I guess not all of those combinations made a lot of sense either.

      The plane between Fire and Earth in the D&D cosmology is Magma, which at least I think is a little more logical.

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    6. As funny as it would have been, making soda the answer to that would be a bad idea considering a lot of people call it pop

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    7. I mean, this idea of the mixtures of the four classic elements is as old as the very *idea* of the classic elements and you have Empedocles musing on steam being the interaction of fire and water back in the fifth century BC.

      I don't honestly think there was much original creativity involved when Gygax et al specified their "para-elemental planes" beyond the initial idea of these being "planes of reality" in the first place.

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    8. People call sugared, flavored soda "pop." Not even in the mid-west does anyone sit down at a bar and order a "scotch and pop."

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    9. Oh, yeah, "magma" is a good one. I forget sometimes that "earth" includes practically everything physical, including metals and plants as well as literal soil.

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    10. Its a bit hard to apply the same rules to each pairing, because fire is something of an odd one out - after all, the elemental plane of fire needs air! Mud, smoke, steam, mist, dust and magma would probably be my takes.

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    11. I know this is late chet but our premier in Ontario was roundly made fun of for telling people not to go out golfing during lockdown “I know what happens...you play golf with your buddies...then you go for a few pops.”

      He previously excused his brother for drinking and driving "He had a couple pops. Big deal. No one got hurt, everyone had a good time”

      He probably goes to the bar and orders a scotch and pop.

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  17. There was also a 64K-HP mega dragon in Might and Magic II, which I also recall being very hard to kill if you were up to it, even with Mass Distortion. I wonder if a luck buff like the one VladimIr V Y recommended would've made that one easier too.

    I don't know how much the M&M's math changes from game to game. I suspect it doesn't. For instance, the XP needed to train to the next level is 1000 times the current level, so the total experience required for training to a certain level is:

    [target level * (target level - 1) / 2 * 1000]

    So training to level 70 from level 1 takes a total of 2,415,000 XP. I bet the gold cost for training is based on this number and not the difference between it and the previous level, so you're essentially paying to train for XP you already "unlocked" by leveling. The difference between levels 69 and 70 is 69,000 XP. Point is, you can see why the costs accumulate quickly.

    I think they used this formula in just about every M&M and Heroes game. Incidentally it helps explain why the Learning skill in M&M6 and beyond is a waste of skill points: Even under the best conditions, the payoff doesn't come until the end game when it doesn't help.

    Relatedly, I find the "Monty Haul" and gold shortage discussions about Darkside interesting. There's a point where you can win the game without unlocking all your XP by leveling. I think games should end before the character-development decisions become uninteresting. That might be a shortcoming in some of these M&M games: Once you have all the skills and a good equipment setup, you're just moving through plot points. Whether you can win at level 95 versus 195 becomes a distraction.

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    1. "I think games should end before the character-development decisions become uninteresting." Yes. I fully agree. That's the key takeaway here. It doesn't matter if we consider the game overly-generous with experience points or stingy with gold, either way, character development became unrewarding well before the end of the game.

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  18. All this training cost inflation reminds me of Diablo 2, where HP and damage values reach ridiculous levels on later difficulties.

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  19. Well, based on this blogpost I don't regret never playing this game, and I am looking forward you moving to other games that are less popular but with a better narration (since we exhausted the "systems" a long time ago, there is only narration left, and here you are limited obviously by the material).

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