Sunday, October 14, 2012

Magic Candle: Final Rating

The Magic Candle
United States
Mindcraft Software
Released 1989 for DOS, C64, Apple II; PC-88 version followed in 1991 and NES version in 1992
Date Started: 2 September 2012
Date Won: 12 October 2012
Total Hours: 70
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 52
Ranking at Time of Posting: 67/75 (89%)
Ranking at Game 455: 430/455 (95%)

Since I started this blog, I've played a lot of games in which I've doubtless been affected by the nostalgia factor. I remember Ultima IV, Ultima V, Pirates!, the Zork series, and other games so fondly that I don't doubt they've colored my views of how well the games play today.

Playing The Magic Candle, for the first time, I experienced a sort-of déjà-vu nostalgia: the sense that I'd played the game before and remembered it fondly, even though I never had. It probably had something to do with its similarity to the two previous Ultimas, plus the copious comments you've all been feeding me since roughly the beginning of my blog.

There were aspects of The Magic Candle that I really enjoyed: having to talk to NPCs to learn about the quests and characters; the skill development system; the party-splitting options; and the permancy of death of monsters in dungeons. But there were aspects I didn't like, too, including the repetitiveness of combats and the overall speed of the game. Even though it dragged in the latter stages, I did have a lot of fun with it. Let's see how well my GIMLET reflects that.

1. Game World. Lots of points here for a manual and game world full of lore and history. Dreax has an interesting back story, the land has geographic enclaves with their own populations and character (i.e., a dwarven region, an elven region, a halfling city). The manual rivals the Ultima series for its detail and attention to story, and your character's origins and place in the world is very clear. The game world is persistent: enemies stay dead (outdoors, they respawn every 90 days, but indoors they never do), traps stay triggered, and magic walls stay dispelled. I wish there had been more attention to the evolving game world when it came to NPCs, though. Most of them say the same things no matter how far you are in the game.

There are times that the interface doesn't live up to the world. In many ways, The Magic Candle occupies a weird space between the realism we start to see in an era of more disk space and processing power and goofy arcade-game tropes of previous years. We have dungeons with unique characters (an orc town, a wizard's tower) but silly maze puzzles and snakes that have to be "repelled" with a special spell. Neat encounters coupled with chutes and ladders. Plus, the "gods" system really doesn't make a lot of sense (why are they sleeping?). Score: 7.

A page from the lore-filled manual, courtesy of Canageek.

2. Character Creation and Development. It's refreshing to play a skill-based system now and then, but like the game world there were some oddities. You don't create a character in the game; every potential PC comes to you with a defined set of statistics, and you interview and hire them. The only real choice you have is naming your main character. Development comes in a lot of ways:

  • Melee, missile, and magic skills improve through use and can also be trained up to a certain level at academies.
  • Learning skill and charisma can only be trained--charisma, only by a single trainer.
  • Hunting improves only through use.
  • Strength, maximum stamina (the game's version of "hit points"), agility, and dexterity improve through a multi-stage process by which you awaken gods with their chants to increase your maximums, then find fountains in dungeons to increase the actual number.
  • Speed improves when you visit elven maidens and request their unique songs.

I think I forgot to cover elven maidens earlier. There wasn't much else to them, though.

On the one hand, these various things give you a lot to do in the game; on the other, some of them don't really make a lot of sense. I might have preferred a more purely use-driven system rather than one that uncomfortably combines elements of Rings of Zilfin and Wasteland.

My biggest complaint is that you max your skills too fast. Halfway through the game, almost all my characters were maxed in combat skills (admittedly, I might have added to this via over-training). I also don't like that you can only awaken each god once. Improving statistics like strength is vital, and if you awaken a couple of gods with certain characters, you're locked into those characters unless you want to live with significantly lower statistics. [Later edit: It seems I'm wrong about this. See Four Hands's comment below.] I'm not sure how much having a second roster of PCs at Crystal Castle really added to the game.

On the plus side, the results of skill increases are palpable, whether it's finally being able to talk to a PC because you increased your charisma, or spells taking a lot less time to learn because of "learning" increases, or more damage done in combat due to weapon bonuses, or being able to wield a better weapon because your strength went up. Score: 6.

Giauz at game's end. I guess I could have worked on his magic some more.

3. NPCs. God help me, I have a weakness for games where you feed NPCs keywords, learn things, and have to take notes. In some ways, this game goes Ultima IV-V one better by giving you NPCs you encounter randomly on the roads, too (dwarves that sell gems, farmers that sell food, merchants that sell teleportal objects, and knights, wizards, elves, and other characters that just have things to say), plus characters who stay in their houses and have to be roused by knocking on their doors--but only if other NPCs have told you their names.

An NPC in his home, with intelligence vital to the main quest.

But, as with everything else in the game, there were slight annoyances. I didn't like how NPCs disappeared at times, and you had to loop around a city multiple times to make sure you caught everyone. I didn't like that the NPCs never asked you anything back, giving you no roleplaying options. And I didn't like that almost everything they said was plot-driven. Ultima IV-V had NPCs who would chat with you a little bit, too, offering words of wisdom or funny observations. Magic Candle NPCs are also a bit soulless, even when you ought to be able to differentiate them based on things like race and job. Still, The Magic Candle outperforms almost every other game of the era when it comes to NPCs. Score: 6.

This clue was vital. Most NPCs respond to each prompt only once. Without this, I would never have known to keep asking the mad wizard the same term until he finally gave me the ring.

4. Encounters and Foes. Different types of monsters are described in detail in the game manual, and they do have different attacks and behaviors according to type. But with the exception of high-level and rare creatures like Dreads, I did find them somewhat unmemorable. There were no scripted encounters and no real role-playing options at any point in the game. Outdoor areas respawn after a few months; indoor areas don't. Normally, I regard respawning and grinding opportunities to be good things, but in this game there were far more monsters than necessary. Score: 4.

5. Magic and Combat. This is a tough one. On the one hand, as I described in an early posting, there are a number of tactical options in combat, ranging from party deployment, to intelligent use of mushrooms, to figuring out whether to use swords or bows, to casting the right spells. It's much more fun at the beginning, when your characters are undeveloped and your resources are limited. Towards the end of the game, you have enough money to keep a full supply of mushrooms stocked, which eliminates a lot of the need for careful planning: you can just go into every battle loaded up with mushrooms, cast all the spells you want (Sermins will restore that energy fast), and not worry too much about the consequences.

The magic system, as I covered recently, is interesting and well-balanced. Even when I got the mass-damage spells from the Zoxinn book, I didn't think they were overpowered; indeed, they compensated for the multiple-enemy part by reducing the potency of the spells. It's not as intricate as the D&D spell list, nor is spell use something that you have to manage as carefully as the Wizardry series, but it outperforms most games of the era, including the Ultima series. Score: 5.

Towards the end, combat was only really fun when the enemies were hard, and you had to bring all your resources to bear.

6. Equipment. Not the best part of the game. You have a selection of a few melee weapon types, two bows, and six or seven armor types. You upgrade your weapons when your strength allows it and your armor when you can afford it; both are rare. There is one magic weapon to find but otherwise you rarely get any development through equipment upgrades. There are a few other plot-driven equipment types, like shovels, ropes, boots, and teleportal objects, but once you have enough money you just buy some and don't really think about it after that. I didn't think the "wear & tear" system really added a lot to the game.

What would otherwise be a low score is redeemed a little by the mushroom system. There are eight mushrooms in the game, each with a different purpose, and using them in the right combinations is vital to surviving combat and navigating the wilderness. In some ways, it's not much different than a lot of other CRPGs, if you substitute "potion" for "mushroom," but it's still interesting. I'm not sure why the game made such a fuss about being able to find mushrooms in the wilderness, though. They're not that expensive to buy, and about mid-game you have more gold than you know what to do with. Score: 4.

The purchase options in the general store.

7. Economy. A little unbalanced. You get paltry gold from melee combat (more of it might have made battles less annoying) and heaps of gold from finding gems in dungeons or buying them from wandering dwarf traders. Mushrooms, spellbooks, and training are so vital that I was hoarding pennies during the first third of the game, but I never worried about money again after I started exploring the first dungeons. I like the gambling mini-game, but I never got a handle on a good strategy and it didn't help me much. Score: 4.

8. Quests. I do like the main quest. Although it's a variation of  "stop the big bad," it's an original one, with a unique ending. I like the multiple stages that you have to progress through to get to the end, and how after finding the Zirvanad, it's basically non-linear. There are only a couple of things that we might call "side-quests," like finding the sword Brennix or cleaning out enemy towers in towns. Although I normally like side-quests, I'm not sure they'd serve a significant purpose here, since you don't really need the extra development or cash--which is more a problem for those categories. I just wish we'd finally break into the era in which there are some choices and multiple endings for quests. Yes, we've had a few of them before, but it's still not a regular part of the CRPG experience.

I'm also going to toss in a point for the timer system, even though it hardly mattered. There aren't many timed quests in the era, and this system keeps you from completely abusing the game mechanics by, say, resting until your spellcasters have memorized 99 of every spell. My score of 4 for this category seems low, but I'm hardly ranking anything high in this era, and I won't until quests start offering some real role-playing.

I don't think this quite counts as an "alternate ending."

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. The iconographic graphics are reasonably good, and I like how occasionally you switch to a side-view for a special encounter. They certainly don't detract at all. The sound effects in the DOS version are awful. I think we're just on the cusp of the era when the PC speaker gave way proper sound cards like AdLib and Sound Blaster, and I look forward to hearing better sound soon.

The interface swiftly became second-nature to me, so no complaints there, except perhaps with the conversation system, which has two separate commands and boots you out of conversation after every successful keyword. I also find the inability to move diagonally (especially when enemies can) a bit unforgivable. Score: 4.

10. Gameplay. The Magic Candle features a large world, all of which is explorable from the beginning of the game. Although there is a natural geographic progression, the game is completely explorable from the outset, leading to a real tension as you extend yourself further from a comfortable home base. Features such as teleportals and ships keep from having to do too much backtracking over land. The dungeons, though perhaps a bit too large, are interesting to explore.

While I found the overall difficulty moderate, the combats are simply exasperating by game's end, and it drags on a bit too long because of this. I also can't see much replayability here. Yes, you could try a different party of PCs, but aside from a little extra challenge in combat, I think you'd have basically the same game no matter how you played. Score: 5.

The score stands at 49 right now, but hang on. We have to award some bonus points for something that doesn't fit into the other categories: the party-splitting option. Although Wasteland offered it first, this is the first game that truly makes use of it. I love how you can set a character to working a day job while his compatriots adventure; how you can keep a mage holed up in an inn memorizing spells while your fighter trains at an academy while your halfling wanders around town talking to the populace. It caught me by such surprise that I didn't really optimize how I used it until almost a third of the way through the game. I can't think of a single modern game that offers this option at this level (admittedly, I haven't played them all), and I liked it enough that I think it's worth an extra 3 points, giving a real final score of 52. That puts it in the top 14% of games and ranks exactly where I would have placed it in my preferences: above most games, but below the last two Ultimas, the two Might & Magics, Starflight, Wasteland, and Pool of Radiance.

I liked party-splitting far less when it was necessary to navigate dungeon corridors.

Although a lot of people seem to have forgotten about the game in the modern day, it was very well-received at the time. In an April 1989 Computer Gaming World article that combines plays on "flame," "wax," and "paraffin," Scorpia positively glowed about it. While noting the slow combat system and a few other negatives, she praises the game-ending ritual: "There is something very satisfying about a finale that does not require an anti-climactic battle or the passive reading of text on the screen." (Scorpia was never shy about spoilers.) She concluded that it was a "well-balanced CRPG with several good and original features." More than that, the magazine gave it its RPG "Game of the Year" award in October 1989--which really says something, because Pool of Radiance was another nominee. (While I agree with their praise for The Magic Candle's skill system and party-splitting, I can't even begin to agree that it's a better game than Pool of Radiance.)

Finally, the magazine re-visited the game in a superlative-filled November 1996 issue, in which it won the "Most Rewarding Ending of All Time." "Instead of fighting a massive battle at the conclusion," it says, "you enact a detailed ritual using--you guessed it--magic candles." Well, no, CGW; the final ritual involves only one candle, and you don't really "use" it. But while I liked the ending of the game, would it have been too much to ask for a massive final battle and the ritual?

(Incidentally, I was happy to see that Sentinel Worlds: Future Magic topped the list of "Least Rewarding Endings of All Time": "You win and immediately drop to the DOS prompt.")

This is the second game from developer Ali Atabek and the first from his own company, Mindcraft Software. His first game, Rings of Zilfin (which I won over two years ago), seems to have been set in a different game world but with many of the same terms, including the names of mushrooms. Mindcraft would go on to make 12 more games but only four CRPGs, and all of them set in the world of The Magic Candle: The Keys to Maramon (1990), The Magic Candle II: The Four and Forty (1991), The Magic Candle III (1992), and Bloodstone: An Epic Dwarven Tale (1993). That means I'll be returning to this campaign setting every year for the next four years.

Atabek went to Interplay in 1994 and only worked on one CRPG after that: a 1997 adaptation of the film Waterworld. It looks like he left the game business around 1998 and has held a number of consulting and software development jobs in various companies since then. He's currently an application developer with Eyefinity, an Irvine, California company that specializes in software for the eyecare industry.

And with that, it's time to move on. I think I need to make a NetHack posting or two before I forget how to play the game.


  1. I thought it would be rated higher, but I guess it is what it is. Lots of interesting games coming up for 1989, but lots of dreck and dross too. Fire King was fun and massively overlooked.

  2. Nice write up.
    I'd given "Magic and Combat" a higher score, "Equipment" a lower and "Gameplay" a higher one.

    The combat is really one of the better ones of the era, IMO. Apart from the Gold Box games I can't think of many games that had significantly better combat. I'd give it a 6.

    The "Equipment" was for me the biggest letdown, with no drops from monsters, very sparse selection of weapons and armour, and only one magical weapon to be found. Also, no rings or other enchanted equipment, and no wands or similar. I'd give it a 2.

    1. I've only rated games that low that barely had any equipment at all. This game had a limited selection, but at least you could easily evaluate it, and I gave it a point for the mushrooms, which were original. But I agree: it's on the edge.

    2. I would rate Magic and combat higher as well. Gameplay would get a higher score from me, too.
      I wouldn't give 3 extrapoints for party splitting but I see it more as a well received part of gameplay instead of a worthy bonuspoint-section.
      Equipment score is alright for me but no real loot was the biggest letdown in the game. It's as poorly as the ultimas in this regard. I'm not a fan of diablo-like lootsystems but here it negatively influences gameplay with such a poor selection. M&M series is still the best and most rewarding in this regard.

    3. Hey, now. Ultima V was one of the best loot games we've had so far.

    4. Compared to Wizardry, M&M, BT and Goldbox games I think the Ultima series counts to the limited loot games. But I agree that later Ultima aren't as worse as MC on second thought. Technically I see MC as a U4.5 if you want.

  3. Thanks for the great coverage! It seems that Magic Candle has everything to make it a very enjoyable game for me, especially as I'm a big Rings of Zilfin fan and can see a lot of a certain "cute" & charming writing and design that carried over between the two games, Magic Candle being a mature product where RoZ was a draft.

    The lenght and "tediousness" factors put me off however - I doubt I will have the time in the near future for the required involvement, or if I actually want to devote so much time to it. So... reading about it was great!!!

  4. Hey, that is not the way Sentinel Worlds ended. "Many grand stories will be told of your deeds," etc. You're told you'll be put in cryogenic suspension for the trip home. There's even another screen after that. Well, look here:

    The bad thing about the ending (other than the disappointing "energy battle,") is that they told you to stay tuned for Sentinel Worlds 2, which a bit premature to include in a game for which sales are an unknown.

    In other news, you really did finish this a lot sooner than I thought you would. What I've always found unclear: What is the upper limit of these individual scores? It might help to mark the scores as 6/6, for example. I'm sure you've explained it elsewhere, but sometimes I can't for the life of me remember what I had for dinner last night.

    1. I think 10 is the upper limit for every score, but I don't think there has been a game that's warranted that in any category yet.

      It will be interesting to see how the GIMLET changes as the technology behind the games improves.

    2. Yes, 10 is the highest value. I've given a few 8s, only one 9 (for Pirates!'s game world), and no 10s so far. Keep in mind that the categories comprise several individual elements that I covered in my first posting on the GIMLET ("Ranking and Rating")--I plan to update this soon.

      I guess you're right about Sentinel Worlds. I even have that last screen shot. My memory was affected by other aspects of the ending (e.g., the energy battle that you mention) plus a few other games lately that have ended abruptly. Now I wonder what CGW was thinking. They also thought the Magic Candle ending involved multiple candles, so they clearly lack a certain attention to detail.

    3. Oh, I knew they all added together. I just wasn't sure how high a score could get for an individual element, or if they all had equal weight in the overall score. It's good that you're reserved with the high score. Many people are too willing to put 10s on things just because they liked it.

  5. Considering how long some of the comments indicated the game was, I was somehow expecting The Magic Candle to be even longer than it ended up being. While it was the longest game you've played do far, it's only a little longer than Might & Magic II.

    Then again, it's funny how "a littile longer" means 5 hours in this case... since many modern games aren't much longer than that.

    1. I know it's an accurate assessment of the time, as I keep fairly careful logs, but for the life of me I can't figure out where all of that time went. It doesn't FEEL that long in retrospect.

      It isn't the longest game so far, though. I spent longer on both Rogue and Wizardry V. I suspect NetHack is going to top them both.

    2. Sorry, you're right. In fact I saw that Rogue and Wizardry V took longer, but a part of my brain refuses to associate the first 5 Wizardry titles and the rogue-likes with the term "game". It's probably the part of my brain that also deals with pain. I honestly don't like them.

      And by "don't like" I mean hate. To each his own.

  6. Well congrats! This does sound interesting, apart from the mind numbing combat. That is whats keeping me from beating U5 after all these years ...

    Still, in U5, you have a couple of role play options.
    If you get caught in Blackthornes Castle, you can have perma-death. Also, if you give up a name of the resistance, that person is gone. Finally, with each mantra given away, a shrine is destroyed.

  7. I love how you take the time to research the current status of the developers of these old games! I hope you send them all links to your coverage of their games; if we're lucky, some of them might comment here :)

  8. Well hey and boy howdy, nice score. Good game, good score. Still wondering if I should try playing it. Probably still be windering when I am on my deathbed... with a huhe backlog of unplayed games. Death comes too early!

    I don't want to die.

    1. I say that you should try these old games, but don't overstress about not being the intended audience if you are not gripped by a game (sometimes I stress about not being part of the CRPG crowd, too, but I still very much appreciate the games).

  9. I admit I have never played Magic Candle (although I may try it for a bit...but right now I'm going through the Might & Magic series and want to at least finish the game I'm on). That said, whenever I see the GIMLET scale and your ratings, I keep thinking how Darklands is just going to demolish it, at least the 1st, 2nd entries....and probably the combat section since you really liked PoR's combat. The char creation is IMHO unmatched from any RPG I've played (although there are a lot I have not played), and the game world is fairly unique.

    So, now that your near-term anticipation for Magic Candle is over, let me give you another one close to the horizon to look forward to a different experience...Darklands!

    And also, a brief warning for a somewhat near-term upcoming game. I really enjoyed Windwalker (at the time, around 1990) because it was so different from other RPGs, and it is not a very long game, but there ARE floating severed heads in that game too. So, build up your floating heads tolerance! I do think it is superior to Moebius at least (although some people don't feel that way). It is one of the first games I remember where the people kept a schedule independent of yours, which at the time was kinda cool and different...and the setting was different (although sorta similar to Moebius, but I didn't know Moebius at the time).

    1. I've just started Darklands again, created my party and slaughtered the first few city bandits! I really hope I'll get to finish it this time around.

  10. "I just wish we'd finally break into the era in which there are some choices and multiple endings for quests"

    Damn you must wait till Fallout, I suppose. And crpg with multiple way to solve quest never had an era.

  11. Looking forward to more Nethack, and DHoU. I read a LP of he latter last year--don't recall much except that it was fun!--and I think you'll like it.

  12. Great! Looking forward to the upcoming Dark Heart of Uukrul sessions.

    And just an advice for DHoU: don't search for any sound configuration. There is no sound in the entire game, not even a beep. Still a great game though.

  13. A quick reminder that Nethack 3.0 does NOT have substantial amounts of the content that was added in 3.1 and became integral to the game. It also makes the game more fun in my opinion. The 3.1 version was not released until 1993 though. My point in mentioning this is that I would hate for you to burn yourself out on 3.0 and kill your enthusiasm for later releases. I'm not sure if that's a concern, but I wanted to put it out there for your consideration.

    Version 3.1 added the class-based Quest system, the Gnomish Mines, the Wizard's Tower, exercising and abusing your attributes, special levels for the named Demons, the Bell, Book, and Candle ritual, and the Elemental Planes. It also allowed monsters to start using weapons, wands, and scrolls, and implemented a proper "line-of-sight" system. It is a VERY different, and much better, game than 3.0.x

    1. I might very well burn myself out on 3.0, but it's hard to imagine that I'd still be burned out by 1993.

  14. Now, the time has come at last to summon the mighty Uukrul!


    1. I imagine you saying this while moving family matters to the top of your Netflix queue.

  15. There was a CRPG based on Waterworld? Oh dear.

    1. On the plus side; It can't be worse then the movie, right?

    2. I'm tempted to jump ahead eight years and play it next.

    3. I'm one of five people who actually enjoyed the movie. It really captured my imagination. Then again, I'm such a pushover for anything post-apocalyptic.

    4. I have never seen it. I've only heard about it.

    5. I can recall enjoying it at the time (I am also a sucker for post-apocalypse), but I was pretty young and I've never rewatched it. The general reputation it has suggests my standards were probably just low back then.

    6. I've seen it at least ten times. "He's like a turd that just won't flush." ;)

    7. I really liked Waterworld and always wondered why it got such a bad rap. It may have lost money because it had a disgustingly large budget, but all in all I thought it was great.

    8. The fact that it lost so much money and bombed at the box office probably has more to do with how people see it than its actual merits. I thought it was ok and I hate Costner's style of one expression acting. I hear the book it is based on was good but I have not read it.

    9. There are lots of post-apocalyptic themed movies that'd make Waterworld seem masterpiece going down the withered branch of Mad Max's family tree - Warrior of the Lost World, New Barbarians, Steel Dawn...

    10. But with those B movies you know they didn't have the budget to do anything more than cheesy fun. So to enjoy them you have to be in the mood for some cheese.

    11. Oh, I know that now, but didn't during first viewing at 80s.

  16. A well written review of the game. I expected higher scores, not mainly perhaps because of your playthrough but for the hype from all the comments.

    I am really looking forward to follow your playthrough of Dark Hearth of Uukrul in which I myself played last winter but never had the time or patience to finish.

    Saintus from

  17. Long time listener, First time caller:

    I've been reading your blog for over a year now, but this is my first comment. Anyway My first CRPG was Temple of Apshai, so I've been at this for a while.

    I never played Magic Candle. I was a junior in highschool when this came out, and by that point, I was too busy chasing beer and girls to be too much into games. Also by that point my Commodore 64 was beyond long in the tooth.

    I came back to games later in college once I got my first PC (486/66DX2, 8 mb ram, and 40 mb hd, it was asesome. Still not sure how I talked my parents into paying that much). Anyway, I had seen the Magic Candle game at Babbages (or whatever), and always thought it must be pretty good, because it stayed on the store shelves *forever*. I just could just not get past the Ultima III graphics on the box, and the dorky name (and the way they marketed it), so I never played it.

    I've really been enjoying your posts on this game, and was a bit surprised that it ended to soon. I'm beyond busy, so I don't ahve time to replay these games, but have absolutely loved reading along as you schlog through them.

    I was also surprised at the score this achieved. Is this game really only 1 point better than Ultima III?

    Thanks again for this great blog!


    1. Hey, Chris. Good to have you around. I agree with the appearance of the game. The box art is odd, and it would have turned me off if I'd been looking at it new.

      As for how quickly it ended, I'm afraid there's very little correlation between how long I spend playing a game and how frequently I blog about it. I know it doesn't look like it, but I have a goal to get a posting out every two or three days. If I only play 2 hours in those 2-3 days, I somehow make an entry out of it. If I play 20 hours in that time, it still probably only gets one entry. This game started off with a bunch of entries representing 2-6 hours of gameplay apiece, and then suddenly the last one was around 20. I probably could come up with a better system.

      I rated Ultima III too high. I didn't develop the GIMLET until after I played it, and I retroactively applied it to the games I'd already played without actually walking carefully through the scores the way I do in my "Final Rating" postings. However, while I think I rated it too high, I think I only rated it a LITTLE too high. U3 is a wonderfully satisfying, compact game. There is very little separating it from Ultima IV besides the size of the game world and the complexity of NPC dialogue.

    2. I think the key point is that they are both awesome games that he enjoyed about the same amount.

  18. Totally minor, but the OCD player in me is insisting that I correct on the Gods. You actually can awaken them more than once. They won't re-boost players they've already boosted in your party, but they will boost players they haven't before. So its totally valid to see a couple gods, get some folks from Crystal Castle, and then go see them again to boost the new folks. Also its really not needed since you'll pretty much max out starting characters anyhow, or at least make combat so irrelevant it doesn't matter.

    Magic Candle is a game that I love in the early and mid-game and then it really drops for the final act until the ritual itself due to how trivial and long combat takes. Its funny though, I've returned to it several times over the years whereas I've never gone back to Pool of Radiance which I definitely had more pure enjoyment out of when first played it. I think the only other game I've also returned to is Ultima V a couple of times of games from that era.

    Keep it up!

    1. That's not minor at all. That would have made a difference on my decision to take new people from Crystal Castle. I could swear that I tried it and it didn't work, but maybe I misremembered and I had already been to that god with that character. I'm not sure it's enough to justify a score adjustment, but I'll add an edit to the original note.

      I agree with your assessment of the early and mid-game compared to the late game.

  19. I note with amusement that the advertisement you posted boasts of "No on-disk copy protection!" The DRM wars are older than we think. ^_^

  20. Here is an article that might interest the addict;

  21. All the talking about sleeping gods reminded about old Amiga game "Sleeping Gods Lie"

    From Mobygames: "After the benevolent god N'Gir has given his blessings to the beautiful land of Tessera, he felt his work was pretty much done, and... fell asleep. Unfortunately, with no gods to watch over the world, an evil Archmage has gradually taken control over it, oppressing the population with his iron rule. The hero of this story lives in the town of Thurin, which is somewhat out of the Archmage's range of influence. However, when a gravely wounded kobold delivers a message to him and dies on the threshold of his house, the hero realizes that his long journey has begun - the journey to wake up the slumbering god!"

    It was made by Empire Software also in 1989. Didn't seem to be anything other common so certainly just a freak coincidence.

  22. I enjoyed the Magic Candle posts. I spent probably weeks of evenings playing this to completion when I was 17 or so. All I could remember before the posts started was the mushrooms, leaving a character to make gold, and a general sense that the end battle was relatively easy (not that I ever minded such things). I figured that the posts would jog loose a lot of memories about the details and plot points of the game, but I have to confess that nothing you've written about the game is remotely familiar to me. Such is the power of a poor memory 20 years on! (though a general inability to remember plot points in books and tv shows is quite handy when I get around to re-reading or re-watching something I know I liked the first time around . . .)

    1. I can remember a lot about game mechanics, but I have the worst time remembering game graphics. I always think of Ultima 5 as having monochrome graphics, for instance, when in fact it's quite colorful. I was just thinking of Swords of Glass the other day, but imagining it with the same graphics as Wizardry.

  23. This is one of the games that even though I have never played was always on my radar (along with dark heart of Uuruk) and while the sound is awful the graphics seem nice and colorful and frankly the game play seems great to me.
    Oh as a side comment since you played Darkspire are you planning on playing The Summoning? It is one of the most underated games ever and favorite of mine
    and good luck with Wizardry 7, now that is a monster game and perhaps the best blobber of all time

  24. The game came out in the year exactly between ultimas v and vi. I was a huge ultima fan and discovered magic candle much later. The depth of the quest and the fact it´s not a plagiarized ultima engine are very important points to note in my view. It is a hard game, slow, but the story and depth of ideas in it, and like u4, the idea that there is no final-boss to kill, shows the ingenuity of this game. It came out when ibm-compatibles were hardly capable of much graphically and soundwise. It packed in a lot for its time. I respectfully disagree with you Chester. I´m a diehard ultima fan and also a might and magic series fan. Magic Candle is just as good as those other two series. I say it´s a draw and that a score of 69 is well deserved by ultima 4, 5, 6, all the Might and Magic series, and at least the first Magic Candle (and possibly the second). I spent countless hours on them all exploring them fully both without cheats, then with cheats and absorbing totally in the storylines/manuals. Also I have to say that giving Hero´s Quest one point more than MC is bordering on insane. HQ is not really an rpg. I´m also a big point n click gamer and if you check out adventuregamestudio with some of its best offers, or just refer to the King´s Quest games, I mean honestly HQ might be on the border but it´s just still not an rpg. It´s too shallow. Ps I do say all of this with respect and no ill will, it is all my opinion but done with whole of heart.

    1. I welcome everyone's opinions, but I find it amusing that after 8 years and 300 games, some people still think I need to be schooled as to what an "RPG" is. HQ meets all of the elements of my definition of an RPG, and many others' besides, whereas "shallowness" appears, I dare say, in no one's definition but yours.

      I agree with you that TMC has an excellent story and game world. I don't think it holds up in some other areas. And I wanted it to be over about 6 hours before it actually was, which is something I never felt with U4, U5, or HQ. If that's not true for you, great. Everything here is subjective.

  25. As I've been reading the Magic Candle posts, and reflecting on my own partial play through a year ago, I kept recalling there being something different about the way talking to NPCs felt in Ultima IV/V vs. in Magic Candle. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

    I think this part of this post nailed it -

    "I didn't like that the NPCs never asked you anything back, giving you no roleplaying options. And I didn't like that almost everything they said was plot-driven. Ultima IV-V had NPCs who would chat with you a little bit, too, offering words of wisdom or funny observations. "

    I liked how robust the story was in Magic Candle, and NPCs were certainly a big part of that, but as a point comparison I liked the Ultima style better. It was partially because I think it made for a more natural feel for NPCs to also talk to you about mundane matters or intersting-but-not-plot-related topics. And, by doing so, I felt like simply figuring out what information was relevant to the plot was an additional and fun challenge. The combination of these things made the world feel more immersive to me.


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