Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Might & Magic II: An Urban Tour

Fresh air at last!
Damn you, readers. If it wasn't for you, I could be playing Might & Magic II at 2:00 in the morning instead of writing about it. I suppose I could use the break, though; otherwise, I'll be viewing these wall textures in my dreams.

Between last night and today, I visited all of the cities and their associated dungeons. I didn't finish all of them--some of the encounters were too hard--but I got 90% of the mapping and exploration done. Each of the cities was accessible from the others via teleportation services, so only in the last few minutes of gameplay tonight did I venture into the open air.

Each of the cities had a theme associated with its surrounding terrain. The walls and textures of the cities didn't change, unfortunately, so the changes were mostly reflected in the names of the stores and some of the creatures.

A quick tour:

Sandsobar had a desert theme. One section of town was labeled "The Slums," in which I found such enticing encounters as this:

I guess this is a "role-playing" option.
There was also this bit of graffiti on the wall. I couldn't really puzzle anything useful from it. The message written backwards ("Help me. 15,1") sounds like it should have been something, but I didn't find anything at those coordinates in either the town or the dungeon beneath it.

In the dungeon, a "master thief" taught pilfering to my rogue and theoretically boosted his thieving statistic, but I didn't notice any difference. None of the skills that say they boost an attribute actually show an increase in the attribute's statistic. It must happen behind the scenes. In one place, a zombie came out of nowhere and gave me a pass to Corak's Cavern:

"How did you get this?"
Tundara was the third town, with a snow theme. Messages on the walls told of strange disappearances and mutilations of townsfolk, and there was this ominous warning from a beggar:

Apparently, the snowbeast damages one's socioeconomic status.
The perimeter wall of the town was closed off until I found a secret door right next to an invisible barrier. A march around the perimeter took me to a button that turned off the barrier, and when I made the return trek, I came face-to-face with the snowbeast.

Or "beasts," as it happens.

I died in about six seconds, so I made a note to return when stronger. This encounter takes place in anti-magic zone, so there's no hope of using fireballs or other flame spells, nor any hope of healing downed characters.

The Tundara dungeon had a lot of useful messages (more on that in a minute), but also a memorable encounter with 200 killer cadavers:

Since killer cadavers explode, doing damage to the entire party, and I don't have any kind of party-heal spell, this battle is going to have to wait until later. I didn't even come close to winning.

Vulcania had a lava theme going. In the center of town were four statues that each had part of a message. The entire thing spelled out: "Water, fire, earth, and air. All have a king within their lair. They hold the talons you need to find to save Cron before its time."

One wonders what the townsfolk think of these statues.

The dungeon had a host of bubbling lava pits, which you only have to wander into once to be reminded to keep a "levitation" spell active while exploring dungeons. At one point, the game had me encounter a "lumbering giant singing a ballad." By staying to listen, everyone's endurance increased by 10 points. The first game also had places where you could achieve a one-time increase in each statistic.

I also rescued some more NPCs in the dungeon, including a ninja named Harry Kari (nice cultural sensitivity there). Since I didn't have a ninja in my party but did have two knights, I booted the knight NPC, signed up Harry, and immediately equipped him with a Naginata +4 that I had been saving just for that purpose. You are wondering what a Naginata is, and I am happy to show you, courtesy of Wikipedia.

It looks like it hurts.

The last town was Atlantium, which had a Greco-Roman theme. The most notable thing about the city was how expensive everything was: 4,000 for healing, 50,000 for the black key, 50,000 to join the mage's guild, and so on. I got most of my characters the hero/heroine skill, which supposedly boosts all statistics.

There were more statues in Atlantium, and they indicated that the game features class-specific quests. Paladins have to slay a dragon in the Forbidden Forest; ninjas have to slay a villain named Dawn; barbarians must slay a barbarian chieftain named Brutal Bruno, and so on. I think this is the first game to offer such class-specific quests unless you count that small dungeon in Demon's Winter.

And apparently I can resurrect Corak.

Atlantium's dungeon was impossible at my level--which, by the way, only rose once in four towns. I think the game made it easy to get up to Level 7 because that's where you were expected to start if you imported characters from the first game.

A few notes common to each town:

  • Each of the towns boasted a locksmith that sold a different colored key. I bought them all except the black one in Atlantium, which cost 50,000 gold. I have no idea what they do.
  • The shop in each town sold a different colored arena ticket, although not every town had an arena: only Middlegate, Sandsobar, and Atlantium. It appears the difficulty is tied to the color or level of the ticket and not to the town. I was able to win the first three battles but no the last two levels yet. According to a message I found, I need to win the highest level (black) to achieve an audience with the queen.
  • The taverns in each town had unusual selections of drinks and food. I don't know why I would want to pay 5000 gold pieces for a meal of "pickled pixie brains," but I figured I'd better try them all in case I'd miss something otherwise. From a note I got in the Vulcania dungeon, I suspect that having the meal of deep-fried troll liver got me access to two NPCs: Thund R. the barbarian (yes, seriously--we need to have a talk about this in a minute) and Ariel the sorceress, who were said to like the dish.

I can't think of anything less appealing than "cream of kobold."

  • There were dozens of messages in the dungeons that I don't really understand, but I'm sure I will eventually. Among other things, I recorded the castles and locations of three strange-sounding devices: J-26 fluxers, M-27 radicons, and A-1 todilors. There were clues to the locations of more NPCs (although I can't imagine needing them), various spells, and the four elemental discs I need to get the four talons. There were some coordinates concerning the locations of various people in history.

  • If you donate enough money at temples, you get all buffing spells cast on you at once, at levels beyond the capabilities of your characters. This is a good way to prepare for a tough battle, although the amount of money you have to donate before it happens varies--I think I was out more than 3,000 gold once.

Yesterday, I talked about crazed dwarves and how much I hated them. Well, it turns out that they're only one of several types of creatures that do massive damage in the process of suicide-bombing you. The others include crazed natives (yes, they're back), mad peasants, and the aforementioned killer cadavers. Basically, my party needs to have well over 100 hit points before I can survive encountering parties of these bastards.

I want to know why they don't damage their own party members.

The game is fond of luring you with a false sense of security. You'll have explored 90% of a dungeon, facing nothing more serious than parties of six orcs, and then suddenly you blunder into a random encounter with oh, how about fire-breathing earth wyrms that do 65 points of damage per character per round?

Some would find this very frustrating, but I think it's part of the challenge of the game. You have to constantly weight the odds and decide whether to gamble another 10 squares in the dungeon before returning to the surface, or whether to play it save and map the rest of the dungeon on another trip. Decide wrong, and everything you've achieved in the last 40 minutes disappears.

I continue to get valuable equipment upgrades almost constantly. The game identifies your findings immediately--if you find a fire sabre +5, it's listed as such when you pick it up--none of this "unidentified weapon" nonsense that other games give you. But there's still an "identify" option in the shops; this selection tells you more about the item, such as its specific powers and charges, and who can equip it. Here, for instance, I was delighted to find that my ray gun, in addition to casting the "energy blast spell" (sorcerer spell 1-3), also boosts the accuracy of anyone that wields it. I wouldn't have thought to equip it otherwise.

So I'm still having a lot of fun. I just wish the game took itself more seriously. I don't have any problem with humor, but there's a difference between humor and goofiness, and Might & Magic II leans a bit too far towards the latter. I increase my endurance by listening to a singing ogre. We have NPCs named Thund R., Harry Kari, Sir Kill, Jed I, and Spaz Twit. A zombie, for no apparent reason, gives me an admission ticket to Corak's Cave. I fight armies of cripples. The tavern leaves the "h" out of "roasted pheasant" (ho, ho). A statue references wizards named Ybmug and Yekop (read them backwards). Add this to the nonsensical existence of clues written randomly on dungeon walls, and you have a game that makes it hard to suspend disbelief and just enjoy it. It's always stopping to say, "Hey! This is just a game! And look how clever we are!"

If you don't groan reading this, you didn't grow up in the 1980s.
That doesn't make it not fun--it's still probably the best game I've played so far in this blog--it's just not quite as fun as if it took the world it created seriously and populated it with more realistic and interesting NPCs

Oh, I almost forgot. I donated at each of the temples and got a "Fe Farthing," which I tossed into the fountain in Middlegate and was rewarded (somehow) with a castle key.

Is it a key to a fabulous castle, or is the key itself...oh, never mind.
With this, my only active quest ends and I have no specific direction except to follow my dungeon clues and look into some of the class-specific quests. I look forward to seeing what the surface of Cron has to offer.


  1. Haha, I remember the view in the first screenshot. Thanks for the excellent postings!


  2. I never played the game very far back in the day, but the name Spaz Twit became a running joke in my D&D campaign for years. Thanks for the memory.

  3. I think much of the silliness of MM2 went over my head when I was a kid, but I still remember the name Gene Eric (the pregenerated Cleric).

  4. I never played MM games, althought I have always liked CRPG:s. So after this blog I HAD to try MM. Started MM1 last weekend and Iam totally hooked. Ashtray(*) the paladin is adventuring again :). Thank you for the great blog.

    (*) It was 80's, I was young and tried to invent name for player character (don't remember game anymore, Demons Winter maybe). As non native english speaker I thought that Ashtray sounds cool, it has to be some kind of RAY that destroys everything.. yeah.. right. Ashtray has been one of my player characters since then in every RPG I have played.

  5. Do you have foresters and mountaineers? And the spell water walking? Are easily accessible at this point, and open up the game world dramatically.

  6. I'm not sure how 2 is compared to 3, but I don't know if you were supposed to teleport to towns, or rather attein them by outdoor exploring - this would probably explain why you encounter much too tough enemies, have nonpertinent clues and everything costs too much.

    How does the teleport system works? In MM3, you have to use a code word for each town, which you only find in the town in question (so you have to visit it first): maybe they implemented this code system to fix this MM2 potential breaking issue?

  7. I followed a Let's Play of the first three Mights & Magics, and I distinctly remember Peasant Under Glass being part of some sidequest somewhere, or at least a special encounter. Actually, I think all of the silly food items get you something for eating them.

  8. Georges--In MM2, all of the towns are easily accessible via teleporter, no code word necessary. Trekking to them across land is in fact prohibitively difficult until quite high levels. The only restraining element is the rather small amount of gold each teleporter demands.

  9. Anon, Ashtray is an awesome name--though it would be better for a wizard than a paladin, I think. I wish I had Steve Erikson's way with names. Read the "Malazan Book fo the Fallen," and you come across such arresting names as Whiskeyjack, Tattersail, Burnt Rope, Caladan Brood, Dunsparrow, Feather Witch, Gaunt-Eye, Iron Bars, and so on. Maybe next time I need a party name, I'll just cast my eyes about the house. Dim Lamp. Backpack. Razor Blade. Nope. Can't do it.

    Aelfric, I forgot to mention, but yes, I did give those skills to my characters. I found Water Walking outside Middlegate.

    Georges, I think MM2 actually is set up to encourage you to explore the five towns first. It's quite easy, and it helps to get a sense of the game world and quests.

    Jonathan, as you'll see from the next posting, eating the "peasant" turned out to have real consequences. Also, I encountered an "epicurean" who insisted on speaking to someone who loves food as much as him. I wonder if that means I need a single character to eat all of the meals.

  10. I found this blog a couple days ago while procrastinating at the office (sorry, boss!), and I just wantes to say that this project is awesome and I hope you keep it up.

    I've been hooked to CRPG's since the late 80's, though there were just a couple of games available for my platform (or maybe just one, Bloodwych, the first CRPG I played). Those were the days when I could have killed for an Amiga and a copy of the Bard Tales games. Sigh...

    I think no other genre back then was so addictive and rewarding as CRPG's. Exploring, leveling, solving puzzles, etc.

    Anyway, I just can't wait until you get to play some of the games I played those days in my prehistoric PC (man, you're going to love "The Dark Heart of Uukrul"; just hope you don't mind the lack of sound, but playing it hearing some New Orleans jazz can't be bad at all).

    As I said, pretty awesome (and funny and well written) blog. Thumbs up!!!

  11. Glad you like it Caronte. Don't get fired because of me, though.

  12. I'm now at the same point as Mr Addict was at the time of this post. I too found the Atlantium dungeon too hard. Fast Necromancers killed most of my party with Fingers of Death and Seductresses paralyze most of my party. Seductresses are a real pain, since not only do they have magic resistance, but they can only be hit by females and my onle female is the Cleric.

    The 200 Killer Cadavers were not that difficult though, if you have lots of weapons that cast Fireball or Lightning Bolt. By killing the 10 on screen each round the rest don't get to act. Weapons can be activated even if not equipped, which is convenient.

    My party is now approaching lvl 11 and so far I've only had to reload once. And wouldn't you know it? It was my old arch enemies the Crazed Natives that killed my party. That Frenzy attack is seriously overpowered, especially when those Natives come is such numbers!
    I've had to Time Distort my way out of some battles, but only Crazed Natives make my party run away screaming like little girls.

  13. Nice to find people playing this ancient game! Here I got this message in Pinehurst Castle: you must buy a black ticket and play in the Arena, Monster Bowl and Colosseum. Then return to X2,Y8 to take the Queen Triple Crown. I have opened the door on the top right side. But beware. Don't go further or your time will run 1 year.

  14. The time traps were stupid, since it had no effect on the game world whatsoever (although it may lead to Game Over if you don't finish by the year 1000). Even the Pegasus who would help the party once each year didn't notice that it had been several years since last time he helped the party.

  15. Does the world really end in in 1000? I tried to make it happen, but nothing seemed to work.

  16. Admittedly, when I read screenshot #2, I immediately thought it was asking if you wanted to help the rats do some gnawing.

  17. it's taken me a little while of careful navigating - the manual strongly suggests bringing your characters from mm1, where they'll be downranked, some - or getting new characters up to that point - but i've been trekking through all the towns, myself and have only just - for the first time, today - started venturing outside.

    so far, might and magic 2 has proven to be quite fun. there's something very pleasant to it's idea of an "open world" that i wish more games would replicate.

    it just tells me about co-ordinates and it's up to me to go and investigate them, learning - as i go - whether or not i'm strong enough to be in a given spot or not.

    i've also rather enjoyed the game's freedom in the sense that i feel like new world computing /probably/ did a number of tests with a number of parties to make sure that everyone who picked an out of the way party /could/ finish the game. about the only two required classes are a cleric and a robber. [though i suspect that if you wanted to do without a robber, you could likely get a hireling at some point to do the class quests.]

    so far, i'm having a blast and am grateful i stumbled across this blog's glowing retrospective of the game. [or i may just have kept shrugging at it - like i'd been doing since the mid-80's.]

    do i think it's a little goofy? sure. but it's just a fun time, and i wish more games were built with that essential backbone of "fun first" in mind.


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