Saturday, April 29, 2017

Magic Candle II: Keep it Burning while You're Yearning

In disguise again, my party explores a troll village. The enemy monsters continue to be polite and verbose, if still evil. Oh, note the useless hand icon floating on the screen. That'll be there from now on.
This session began with a success and then proceeded with a series of failures.

First, I downloaded version 2.0 of the game, cautiously loaded my saved game from 1.0, and was grateful to find that everything worked as it was supposed to. Using the white scroll at the Candle of Despair in the dungeon of Dorak caused the Elden to be released. (If  you've lost track of the main plot, Gia is out to determine what became of the "four and forty" who guarded the original magic candle. It turns out that the "four" were all Eldens, a vanished race, and they were kidnapped by Zakhad's forces. One escaped; three were imprisoned in magic candles.) He identified himself as Zifar and said we should meet him in Wanasol Hall once I similarly rescue Zulain and Zewinul. At that point, they could probably locate the escaped Elden Zidoni and presumably do something to bring the game closer to the end. Later, when I returned to Ziyx, he had dialogue related to the pink scroll that he didn't have before.
Once again, the passive voice robs me of proper credit.
Version 2.0 brought along a couple of unwelcome features. First, the "bug" that allowed me to swim across bodies of water was fixed, so now I have to rent ships everywhere I go. Although you control the ships in this game (unlike the first one), they'll only sail within a fixed range, at which point you have to abandon them for others. You also have to pay a daily rate, and since it's impossible to really know how long you'll need the ship, you almost always end up over-paying. 
We're on Gurtex, captain. There is no "safe."
Version 2.0 also incorporates mouse support, meaning I now have to ALT-TAB out of the game window to write notes or draw maps. I hate that. I have no problem with mouse control in games where it serves a purpose that the mouse does best, as in modern first-person games where the mouse looks and the keyboard moves. But in this game, you just use it to click on menu commands and character names. Is there anyone who really finds this faster and more satisfying than just typing "1" to select the character and hitting "U" to use an object? And before someone tells me that you can turn off the mouse in the configuration: the option is there, yes, but it doesn't work. I have it set to "no," and the mouse is still captured and functional when I reload.

I think maybe the graphics are updated with a little more detail, or perhaps I was just exploring areas that lent themselves to more detailed graphics.
I don't remember this much foliage previously.
After freeing the Elden, the only strong clue I had was to visit the village of Wanasol, in the swamps of Sariss, to research the Candle of Anguish for which I had the pink scroll. I'm not sure I really understand the whole scroll/candle thing. I get that the Forces of Darkness entrapped the 3 Eldens in magic candles, much as we had entrapped their leader Dreax in the first game, but what do the scrolls have to do with it? Why are they found in the possession of the ghosts of the original candles' guardians? 

In any event, after a trip back to Telermain to go through my usual routine of purchasing, I hit the seas and lands again, aiming for Sariss. On the way, I stopped at Shann once again to follow a lead I'd received in Drakhelm about a buried treasure. It turned out I had already found it on my first visit, so the side-trip was a waste of time, although I did confirm that the dungeon had not respawned.
Thanks to Tolkien and that MELLON nonsense, every dungeon has to have a password now.
I also returned to the town of Ussa, as I had a "to do" item to give a ruby to the ship captain Tomak. I had avoided selling all my rubies just for this purpose. He told me how he had once rescued a nomad named Blackwolf, and that Blackwolf knew the password to open the dungeon of Martul.

At length, I came to Wanasol, researched the Candle of Anguish in the library, and got the ritual written down on the pink scroll. So when I find that candle, deep in some dungeon, I'll be able to free the second Elden. The library also had some things to say about the Orb of Light, including that Zakhad fears it and that to use it, I would need to find three individuals with the marks of star, moon, and sun. An NPC in Wanasol named Wartow had the sun mark on his hand.
Gia researches "Orb of Light" in the library at Wanasol.
The town had a teleportal house--the first teleportal chamber I've found outside the dungeon--and I learned a few new teleportal combinations from the NPCs. I'm just a little confused as to how this village exists or who is living there. It's supposed to be an old Elden village, but are the people living there now Eldens? If so, there's no particular dialogue to that effect. If they're humans, where did they come from? How does it survive on a continent populated by monsters?

I had intended to hit Wanasol and continue exploring the rest of the continent in a roughly counter-clockwise pattern, to include the islands that the game map showed south of the continent. Exploration is tough in this game. A lot of structures only appear when you're one square away from them, so you have to explore every other square. Random combats are annoying and frequent, and I use "Teleport" quite liberally get away from them (you see a skull and crossbones when they're one square away), but that makes it tough to explore in a consistent pattern. Of course, walking around so much depletes your energy and burns Sermin mushrooms fast. I confess I've been reloading if a particular path of exploration has just wasted time and not produced any finds.
I'm not sure what the last word was, but so far Zakhad's plans don't sound too bad.
On the other hand, Gurtex seems smaller than The Magic Candle's Deruvia. It probably isn't, in terms of the raw number of squares, but Deruvia had more mountain and water dividers between areas, and you had to find ships or teleportals to get from one place to another. That's less necessary in Gurtex. The second game also lacks the time limit of the first, so the time you spend wandering around feels less threatening.
My travel route during this session. Only because I kept running into obstacles was I able to explore so much.
The map above shows the rough order of my exploration (I forgot a few tangents for visits to places like Ussa), and everything I did after Wanasol was a series of failures and obstacles. Namely:

  • The Wanasol library also had a lot to say about a "prophecy." I didn't write it down, trusting to use the in-game notepad later. But I forgot that you lose the notepad every time you reload, and I lost it. I'll have to visit again.
  • The islands directly south of Wanasol held the temple to the goddess Oraniana and a structure with the sleeping goddess herself. I woke her up, but she wouldn't do anything for me since I didn't have an elf in the party.
  • I couldn't sail to the islands furthest south because the seas were too rough. Apparently, I'll need to find a magic conch shell to calm the rough seas.
It's small channel. Are we in a canoe?
  • I found numerous mushroom patches in the swamps, but I had just recently paid to get the maximum number of mushrooms for each character.
  • The center of the eastern half of the continent is taken up by a huge chasm (Mandarg) with a mountain in the middle. This is probably Zakhad's home. There's a dungeon entrance on the north side of the chasm, but I didn't have the password.
Even if this were possible geologically, I'm not sure why the mountain is snow-capped.
  • There was a tower in the middle of a lake--likely the "Maratul" I later heard about. I couldn't find a way to cross the lake to get to the tower, even after I found the password.
'Teleport" won't quite get me there.
  • I found another temple to a sleeping god, but I didn't know his name or password. Later, in the town of Deadwood, I found out that his name is Fronnoxx.
This keeps happening.
  • I spent a lot of time exploring the Swamps of Karlomugg in the southeast corner, but I found no structures--just patches of mushrooms I didn't need. 
  • In the goblin town of Deadwood, which I entered using the "disguise" spell, I discovered that there are catacombs beneath the town. The goblin Kurgu knows the password, but he would only tell me for a ruby, and I had given my last one to Captain Toruk. Deadwood also had a goblin named Kuygunna who would only speak to a character with 11 charm, the highest threshold I've ever seen. My Subia has 6. I'll have to scout for NPCs to swap.
The only thing that seems to differentiate humans from goblins is the latter's lack of dedication to housework.
  • In the troll town of Hugda-Hag, I found the password to a nearby dungeon called Ruz. Lacking any other ideas, I explored it. It was two fairly large levels, but nothing complicated. One of the rooms had a treasure chest with a weapon called "Doomslayer," but I don't know what kind of weapon it is. I assume it's a sword, as Eneri has been wielding it with proficiency. Kuz had yet another god chamber for which I didn't have the name or password. The dungeon culminated in a room with a magic candle. After defeating the various demons in combat (it was the same as the battle in Dorak), I discovered that it was the Candle of Pain, for which I have nothing.
I won the final battle in Ruz long before I needed to be here.
  • My session ended in the nomad camp in the middle-north of the map, where I got the password to Maratul, but I still have no idea how to get to the island.
But how do I cross to the tower?
I don't mind being a little clueless. I feel good about having taken at least a cursory pass through most of the game's structures and villages, although because they don't easily appear on the map, I might have missed some. And I'm not completely out of ideas: I have to return to Ziyx for the Emenad spellbook, return to Oraniana with an elf in the party, return to various NPCs in Wanasol and Deadwood with a character with higher charm, return to the god Fronoxx now that I know his password, and bring a ruby to Kurgu in Deadwood (I found a couple in Ruz) to explore the catacombs. Nonetheless, I suspect I'll be making a second loop of all villages and towns at some point, re-talking to almost all NPCs, finding the clues and hints that I missed the first time.
Speaking of NPCs, this troll offered some useless nonsense somewhere in Ruz.
I'm facing a weird paradox on combat. On paper, I like the system, and I can't place my finger on what makes it notably different than the Gold Box games. The Magic Candle II even allows some options, particularly among its spells and mushrooms, that the Gold Box series doesn't. Enemies are just about as varied, and feature similar AI and special attacks and defenses. But I'm heartily sick of combats in this game, whereas I rarely ever tired of Gold Box combats. I think it perhaps has something to do with the lack of character development. All of my characters have achieved their maximum statistics in their primary weapons, so it feels like they're fighting for nothing. The enemies are just in my way. At least fleeing is relatively easy, and I've been doing it whenever I don't simply evade enemies in random wilderness combats. Dungeon room combats are just getting tiresome--I may quit if it turns out that dungeons like Ruz respawn--and ambushes are actively infuriating.
The party avoids wasting any more time.
Miscellaneous notes:

  • I haven't really talked much about the auto-map feature, which requires dropping a blue pearl into a "map flask." Blue pearls sell for quite a bit of money, and most of the levels are easily mappable by hand anyway. I don't use it very often.
  • The game would really benefit from a "fill everyone to maximum" option for the food and mushroom stores. Instead, everyone has to buy his or her own allotment, which involves a lot of tedious in-and-out of dialogue.
  • So far, I haven't had much use for mindstones. I can use one to contact King Rebnard, but we can't have a conversation or anything.
This is as much as I get.
  • If you're not keeping track, so far I've found 5 gods, but I've only been able to awaken one of them, in the first dungeon. 
  • Strongholds scattered throughout the wilderness--just one-room houses--offer safe places to rest and memorize spells. Once you find them, you can also tell party members to go there.
I can send my characters to a number of strongholds.
For the next post, I should have all of the spellbooks, so perhaps I'll try to overcome the tediousness of combats by forcing myself to experiment more with different spells. I'll discuss their various contributions then. I also hope that by the next post, the end of the game will at least be in sight. I don't mind if it takes a little longer--I'm still having fun in the balance--but I don't want it to stretch much past the 50-hour mark.

Time so far: 39 hours


  1. Dammit. This was supposed to post TOMORROW at noon. I can't believe how often I screw that up.

    1. If i recall correctly the dungeons never reset but wandering patrols do every few months. You should never have to fight any patrols anyways if you use locate and teleport with a high magic character often.

      What magic is the char that cast teleport on the screenshot? That island should be easily reachable by any char with 50+ magic or so and probably by a lower magic character if they use a turpin first. There is an alternate way to get there though.

  2. My very vague recollection is that mindstones let you give commands to people you've left behind, e.g. working or researching. There might even be a way to tell people to go to a certain stronghold if that is more convenient. But this is a 25-year old memory so I could easily be wrong.

    1. You're not wrong. You can dismiss people and use the stones to command them meet you at groves?

  3. I know when I play magic candle 1 if I click on the title bar of dosbox it doesn't capture my mouse but it still lets me use keyboard controls, does that work for you? I find that less annoying than alt-F10 every time I want to click on excel to make a note and go back.

  4. please add 'autolock = false' line to your Dosbox.conf file.
    DOS-Box helpfile says:
    autolock = true | false
    Mouse will automatically lock, if you click on the screen.
    Default is true.

    1. Yeah, autolock is always the first thing i change in a dosbox file. Can't stand not being able to move back and forth at will without alt-tab or alt-f10 every time

    2. In this forum thread somebody posted a utility called MOUSEOFF which disables Dosbox's mouse support. That way you can get clean screenshots.

    3. Yes, fine, that solves it. The mouse is still stupid.

  5. He identified himself as Zifar and said we should meet him in Wanasol Hall once I similarly rescue Zulain and Zewinul.

    Zewinul? Mercy, mercy, mercy. (Or maybe "Marcy, Marcy, Marcy"?)

    BTW I keep reading "Wanasol" as a compressed vulgarity, i.e. one in which the "n" is its own syllable.

  6. Don't you know the mouse should be used whenever possible? It's a new peripheral device, it's REQUIRED to be used! Do you have any idea how angry people would be if they bought a new game and it didn't have MOUSE support? Even if it doesn't need it?

    Even better would be a MOUSE-ONLY game! Because the keyboard is old tech - obsolete! For typists, office workers, and other deplorables. Who cares if the mouse is a suitable input device or not, PEOPLE WANT TO USE IT! Because it's new and they're BORED!

    1. I remember games getting negative review comments back in the 16bit days because they used "old fashioned" keyboard commands and text menus. One of my frustrations with playing old PC and Amiga games is the frequent use of confusing icons and mouse control. I don't have a good memory when it comes to remembering what specific icons do.

  7. Based on the screenshots I wondered whether limiting the size of many rooms to the size of the game window might make dungeon rooms feel repetitive.

  8. My intuition about goldbox vs magic candle, and note that my whole knowledge comes from your excellent reports in form of blog entries, is that SSI specializes in combat, that is strategic games, whereas The Other Company does not. Maybe that's it?

  9. I think its the lack of progression mostly. I've never finished MC I because I kind of plateau about 80% through the game it just seems like a grind. Even when progressing you're not really unlocking too many new tactical options after maxing your spellbooks, and enemy variety is fairly low so it gets repetitive fast.

  10. A lot of the best games of this era kind of had that issue with little to no character progression towards the end of the game. The Magic Candles, and most of the Ultimas and Gold box games all had this problem to an extent. The main blobber series in Wizardry, the Bard's Tale and Might & Magic didn't though, as they had unlimited levelling and/or rare drops you could farm for if you so chose.

  11. Not sure if you noticed, but when you couldn't see the last word from one of the conversations, there were little arrows on the side of the text box. Maybe you can scroll down to see the rest of the text.

    1. Yes, I meant that in this particular case, I hadn't screen-shotted or written down the rest of the sentence. If I hadn't figured out how to arrow down in dialogue by now, I would have missed about 8/10 of the dialogue in the game.

  12. Ahh... The glorious Troll town of Hugda-Hag, sister Wolvinga town of Screwda-Shrew.


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