Thursday, February 18, 2021

Game 403: Might and Magic: World of Xeen (1992-1994)

 
      
Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen
United States
New World Computing (developer and publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS, 1993 for FM Towns and PC-98
        
       
Might and Magic: Darkside of Xeen
United States
New World Computing (developer and publisher)
Released 1993 for DOS and PC-98, 1994 for FM Towns
  
        
Might and Magic: World of Xeen
United States
New World Computing (developer and publisher)
Released 1994 for DOS and Macintosh
Date Started: 8 February 2021 
    
We'd seen expansion packs before, but no one had ever done anything quite like this: two games, released separately, but ultimately meant to be paired, with additional content if you pair them. It's as if you could install Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim and explore half the world of Tamriel in the same game session, jumping between each game's quests at your desire.
    
I went back and forth on the best way to approach it. By strict chronology, I should play Clouds of Xeen first, then Darkside of Xeen, then the shared content. It would be one thing if Darkside was just an expansion pack, requiring Clouds to play, but it isn't. It's playable as a completely separate title. Playing it this way would highlight some elements and frustrations that players of the combined game never experienced, including level caps in Clouds, a fairly difficult time getting started in Darkside, and buildings in both games that cannot be entered without the other title. Finally, playing them separately would have allowed me to number and rate them separately.
  
On the other hand, evidence suggests that New World intended the games to be paired from the start. Clouds was released in the fall; Darkside in the spring. Players would have only had a few months to play Clouds by itself (unless, of course, it was the only one they purchased). Playing it strictly by chronology would have mimicked the experience of some 1992/1993 players, but not the experience of nearly everyone who has played it since. It's not even clear that New World intended them as two separate numbered titles. Officially, the two games have no numbers; only by numbering The Mandate of Heaven as VI does it become clear that the company regarded the games as distinct. Actually, it's not that clear even then: for all we know, New World thought of the Xeen titles as two halves of IV and the separate World of Xeen as V, or Swords of Xeen as V.
   
Ultimately, I was persuaded to play them together by two factors. First, most of my Patreon supporters said that would be the best way. The second reason was pecuniary: I discovered that I'd already purchased the joined World of Xeen package from GOG years ago, as part of a compilation that includes all the games through Might and Magic VI. This means, however, that there are some aspects of the original game that I won't experience (including one that we have to address almost immediately). It also means that I won't be numbering and rating the games as separate titles.
      
Blah, blah blah. Here's character creation in Xeen. It's the same as Might and Magic III except that there are "skills" where the alignment used to be.
         
The imagery and documentation that come with both halves of the game make it clear that Xeen is a flat world with two sides. Rather than slavishly explore one side and then the other, I'll probably approach this more organically, spending most of the early part of these entries on the Clouds side before transitioning to the Darkside, but I won't necessarily insist on completing all the Clouds quests before making at least some initial forays. We'll see. What I will do is save the Darkside manual until my first substantial Darkside visit.
   
It's worth recounting some events from the first three Might and Magic games even though their impact here won't become clear for a while. (In saying such things, I don't want you to get the impression that I remember a lot about the Xeen games. I don't. I just remember this much.) The series has almost always centered on a band of locals who become swept up in events of galactic importance. In Might and Magic I, that group slowly learns that their world is in fact a space ship on which an alien named Sheltem has crashed. The party follows the footsteps of a mysterious figure named Corak, who died in pursuit of Sheltem. They discover Sheltem is masquerading as a local lord; they expose him; he flees.
      
The party assembles at the inn. We'll get caught up eventually.
      
In Might and Magic II, the same party discovers that not only is their world a space ship, it is only one of four nacelles connected to a central module called CRON. The lifeforms on the ship are intended (by a mysterious race of "Ancients") to populate the planet of Terra, of which Sheltem considers himself the ruler. To stop the ark from making it to his world, he breaks into CRON's control room and aims the ship for the sun, but the party manages to avert disaster.
   
It's a bit unclear what happens after that. When Might and Magic III picks up on Terra, the CRON from the previous game has crashed on the planet and "most" of its denizens have been lost. The fate of the party is unknown, but I like to think they founded the castles of good, neutral, and evil. The ship that held the CRON and the VARNS lies under the continents of Terra, waiting to be awakened. Sheltem is somehow alive again, as is Corak, and the party arrives in the ship just in time to witness them fighting each other. Sheltem escapes the fight and flies off in a ship. Corak follows. The party mucks around some more and learns that Sheltem and Corak are both creations of "the Ancients." Sheltem was supposed to oversee the colonization of Terra, but he rebelled against his orders and decided to protect the planet from the Ancients' experiment instead. Corak was created to eliminate Sheltem and take his place. Having been defeated, Sheltem is apparently seeking to take his vengeance on one of the Ancients' other project planets. The party in III blasts off in a third ship, chasing Corak and Sheltem, but something goes wrong and we don't hear from them again until Might and Magic VII. Clouds of Xeen starts on Xeen with a fresh, clueless party of natives. 
    
The clueless natives discover that the armory isn't exactly packed with equipment.
    
The members of this party have all been sharing the same dream lately. In the dream, they are sent a message by Crodo, advisor to King Burlock. Crodo relates how Burlock's long lost brother, Roland, has recently returned after a long absence looking for the "land below the land" (clearly the Darkside of Xeen). He is obsessed with finding something called "The Sixth Mirror," which allows for easy transport between places. Spying on Roland, Crodo observed him in his room talking with a demonic figure. In the ensuing battle, Crodo failed to kill Roland, who appears to be undead and now calling himself "Lord Xeen." Roland imprisoned Crodo on Baron Darzog's tower. Crodo implores the recipients of the dream to make a weapon capable of slaying Lord Xeen "in your laboratories in Newcastle." Recently, Newcastle has been destroyed by a bolt from the sky, and the dreams have ceased. The party has gotten together in the city of Vertigo to set out to deal with the threat.

The original Clouds program has a voiced, lightly animated introduction, not present in the World compilation, in which Crodo narrates the backstory [ed.: My mistake. It is in the World compilation from the main menu, under "other options"]:
  
Crodo: I am Crodo, overseer of the land known as Xeen. Many years have passed since the glory days of King Burlock.
Burlock: I am the king!
Crodo: When times were good and there was much rejoicing.
Peasants (deadpan): Yaaaay.
Crodo: But now, imprisoned in this enchanted tower by the sinister, self-proclaimed Lord Xeen.
Lord Xeen: (Laughs maniacally while his "pet" also chuckles)
Crodo: I am unable to help you in these dark times. It is now up to you, adventurers, to right what has been wronged.
Lord Xeen and Pet: (Laugh again)
            
As you begin the game, you can select from two difficulty levels, "adventurer" or "warrior"; I went with the latter. The game starts in Vertigo with a default party, but I naturally turned around, went into Geraldine's tavern, signed in at the desk, and deleted everyone. 
     
Money does grow on trees!
     
As usual, Clouds has you create six characters, male or female, from human, elf, dwarf, gnome, and half-orc races. Attributes and races are remarkably consistent across the series (the full list can be seen on the screenshots). The only thing that has changed since the third installment is that there are no more alignments and that some skills (e.g., "Swimmer," "Danger Sense") can be assigned on creation. There are also no slots for NPC hirelings in this game, meaning each player will have to do without at least four of the 10 available classes.
         
Oh, right. An NPC already made that joke.
      
Rather than try to min-max things or deliberately create a challenging party (all druids!), I did what I've been doing more and more lately: I left it to fate. Using random rolls for all of the decisions (specifically, I rolled for the portrait, which determines the race and sex, then rolled for the class, then hit "Roll" until I had attributes that allowed that class), I created the following party:
     
  • Saoirse, a human female paladin with "Crusader" and "Swimmer" skills
  • Cathbad, a human male druid with "Direction Sense" and "Swimmer" skills
  • Suss, a dwarf female ninja with "Danger Sense" and "Thievery" skills ("Thievery" is the only skill with a numeric value)
  • Mica, a gnome male knight with "Armsmaster" and "Spot Secret Doors"
  • Grey Witch, a half-orc female sorcerer with "Cartographer"
  • Dorcas, a human female barbarian with "Swimmer." The "human female" part is provided by the game, but the portrait is one of the oddest in the bunch and is certainly up for interpretation.
     
Without a pure cleric, this might leave me light on healing abilities, but I hope the druid and paladin can make it up. We'll see. I was about to say I can always create new characters, but I think this game--like the last one--has a fixed number of enemies, so you could get to a point where there isn't enough experience left to elevate a new character.
        
One of our first combats. Beats rats.
       
Characters start with no equipment, so finding an armory was a priority. There was one across the way from the inn. We fought our first battle against a green slime on the way, which must be disgusting to kill with your hands. The armory didn't even have enough weapons for all of us, and the few that it did have took almost all of our gold. I equipped myself as best I could and started poking around Vertigo.
   
Mechanically, this is the same engine as Might and Magic III. The graphics may be a little more detailed; there's less ornamentation around the view window; and the spot for NPCs has been replaced with a "GTFO Panel." The button that brought up "Corak's notes" in III now links you to a little module that keeps track of quests, quest items, and "auto notes" (no more writing down passwords). There are snippets of voiced dialogue when you enter shops; for instance, the armorer growls, "What do you want?" and the bank clerk chirps, "Safe and secure!" Otherwise, nothing as much changed, which is mostly a good thing. The interface is wonderfully intuitive. All options have redundant mouse and keyboard commands, and it doesn't make you back out of sub-menus (including shops) to switch between characters.
         
I wonder what the next town's excuse will be for empty streets.
      
There are a bunch of things that may be new but may already have been in Might and Magic III. I'd have to go back to that game to remember.
    
  • Vertigo is 30 x 30. I thought I remembered that the towns in III were still limited to the 15 x 15 standard.
          
The automap works pretty well.
      
  • Everything can be searched--beds, crates, furniture, even trees--by hitting the SPACE bar.  In the tavern, hitting SPACE on top of tables brings up lines of dialogue from the patrons (who you otherwise cannot see). Searching trees usually produces a few coins for some reason.
  • If you try to open a grate and fail, the character takes a lot of damage, sometimes enough to kill her. But successful opening conveys more experience than any enemy in town, so much so that I was able to level Suss the Ninja up to Level 3 while the rest were still stuck at Level 1. Bashing wastes this experience.
    
Vertigo had an armor, a tavern, a ranger teaching "Pathfinding" for 2,500 gold, a magic guild, a separate guy selling memberships to the magic guild, a guy teaching "Cartography," a magic mirror (I assume you need to know the code for where you're going), a bank, and a training facility. The town was overrun with slimes and giant grasshoppers (technically "doom bugs"). The mayor (living in a tent in the plaza) and some tavern NPCs conveyed that the infestation had driven most of the population out of the city. The mayor hired someone named "Joe the Exterminator" to deal with the problem, but it didn't work.
 
Temples are always a key resource in a Might and Magic game. I have no idea who we're worshiping, though.
      
I don't think combat has changed at all since the last game. It's still turn-based, but with sound and animation that makes it sometimes feel like there's some action going on. I didn't have a lot of resources at the beginning. Grey Witch could shoot one magic arrow (her default spell) before she had to rest, but she also spawned with a Rod of Pain. For most of the area, I had just a single bow, in the hands of Suss, which actually worked to kill most enemies from afar. If the enemies got up close, they were capable of knocking my characters out in one hit, which meant I had to rest or visit the temple, as I started with no healing spells.
   
As usual, the game offers a few opportunities for the party to get a leg up. A healing well took care of my hit points between battles, and donating 50 or 60 gold to the temple will cause them to bless you with a group of buffing spells. This latter option made us essentially invincible to the monsters.
     
Shooting grasshoppers in Joe's warehouse.
     
We found Joe's warehouse, crawling with pests, and in one of the crates found a note that indicated Joe was breeding the monsters rather than exterminating them. After we killed every last beast, the mayor rewarded us with 5,000 experience points and 4,000 gold pieces. The latter was enough for us to get trained up to Level 3 or 4, purchase guild memberships, and buy a few spells for the characters. I gave "Jump" and "Wizard's Eye" to the sorcerer and "Cure Wounds" to the paladin and druid.
     
As he rewarded us, the mayor noted that he'd recently received a request for help from the dwarves in the Red Dwarf Range. Their mines have been invaded by the Mad Dwarf Clan. The bartender had previously told me that the entrance to the mines is in the hills west of Vertigo.
        
No experience or gold will beat the "outstanding citizenship award."
      
I think I'll stop here and take opinions on my party before I go forward. I've heard there are some really tough combats towards the end of the game, and I'm wondering if I can afford to waste three slots on characters with no spellcasting ability (knight, ninja, and barbarian). Would one or both be better served with a pure cleric? Does the druid really make any sense? On the other hand, maybe I remember those battles being hard because I over-valued spellcasters and didn't have any strong melee fighters.
    
In my summary of Might and Magic III, I noted a couple of problems with the series, which I otherwise love. One is ongoing, one developing. The ongoing problem is an inability to take itself seriously. If I'm going to spend several dozen hours in a fantasy world, I don't want it to be a parody of a fantasy world. Might and Magic rarely goes completely over the edge, but there are times that it's pretty silly, and the whole "Joe the Exterminator" quest doesn't really bode well.
 
The second problem is the developing one: as the game gets more graphically detailed and more mechanically impressive, certain elements of realism are hard to ignore (I dubbed this paradox "Cabbage Theory" in the linked entry). Towns empty of visible NPCs were fine when the graphics were all abstractions; you could imagine that they were there somewhere. But now that the graphics are showing me trees and park benches, the emptiness of the setting is more keenly felt.
       
The bartender gives us a clue for the probable next quest. Note there are lots of people on this screen.
     
Might and Magic isn't alone in that regard. The Gold Box wrapped up in the same year without ever showing enemies in the exploration window, let alone NPCs. The Wizardry series has shown a small number of named, wandering NPCs, but the environments are still unrealistically sparse. But this era is visibly coming to an end, heralded by games like Ultima Underworld and Legends of Valour. (Games with third-person views were generally ahead of their first-person counterparts in this trend.) Going forward, I'll accept wireframes with no people, but I don't know if I can accept tables and chairs with no people.
   
This issue doesn't reduce my enjoyment much, though. Might and Magic still stands out from its contemporaries in one major area: content. The developers pack their maps with treasure, clues, and encounters. If they lead the industry in anything, it's in the concept of "side quests." Few other games would even bother to have a list of "quests" because there would be only one quest for the entire game. I look forward to seeing what the World of Xeen has to offer.
   
Tme so far: 2 hours

151 comments:

  1. Your party is fine. I'm pretty sure the paladin can cast every cleric spell, it just costs more spell points. Pump personality. I usually run with a cleric and an archer instead of a sorcerer, since archers can use way better equipment.

    Melee and buffs are kings of this game, with pretty much the sole exception being pink armadillos which are vulnerable to a specific spell.

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    1. It doesn't cost more SP, but it does cost twice as much gold to buy them. Paladins also have far fewer spell points.

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    2. Ah that's it. It's not like healing is super useful anyway, the spells do not keep up with player HP levels. Just need to rest more.

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    3. Cbjre Pher qbrf gjb gb gjryir urnyvat cre yriry bs gur pnfgre. N yriry bar uhaqerq sbegl punenpgre jvgu urnivyl obbfgrq raqhenapr jvyy unir nebhaq guerr gubhfnaq svir uhaqerq UC. N yriry bar uhaqerq sbegl Cbjre Pher jvyy qb orgjrra gjb uhaqerq rvtugl na gjb gubhfnaq rvtug uhaqerq rvtugl urnyvat. Gung'f abg arprffnevyl nqrdhngr sbe va-pbzong urnyvat tvira gur qnzntr bs yngr-tnzr zbafgref, ohg vf zber guna tbbq rabhtu sbe n dhvpx gbc-bss.

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  2. "This means, however, that there are some aspects of the original game that I won't experience (including one that we have to address almost immediately)." => I am not sure which one it was ? The lightly animated intro ?

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    1. Yes. I guess I should have made that clearer.

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    2. Have they really taken it out of the version on GOG? What a travesty.

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    3. There IS an animated intro in World of Xeen but it's the one for Darkside.

      I do remember managing to view the Clouds intro too, though, when playing WoX. I first played it 12 or so years ago and never played the standalone games, so it must be in there somewhere. It's probably accessed from the main menu.

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    4. World of Xeen has both intros, they're just under "Other options" for some reason

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    5. Yeah, find it under the initial menu when you start the game

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    6. It is. Click "other options", and you can view "Clouds of Xeen intro" and "Darkside of Xeen Intro"/

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  3. There are some weird inconsistencies with species abilities compared to the prior game. In MM3, dwarves had natural poison resistance and gnomes had magic resistance. The manuals for 4 & 5 continue to say dwarves have poison resistance. But in game, it's Xeen's dwarves that are resistant to magic while gnomes are resistant to poison.

    The inate skill for dwarves in MM3 was "danger sense" and for gnomes was "spot secret doors." The Xeen manuals say the opposite - "spot secret doors" for dwarves and "danger sense" for gnomes. With the default Xeen party members, this is indeed the case. But bizarrely, if you delete them and roll your own (as you've seen) your dwarves will have "danger sense" and gnomes "spot secret doors," like in MM3.

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    1. Also, in MM3 there was a separate druid / ranger spell list. 4 & 5 cut back to just having two lists, sorcerer and cleric, with druids & rangers having access to both similarly to a Wizardry bishop. The spells previously unique to druids & rangers have been divvied up between sorcerers & clerics, when they haven't been cut entirely.

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    2. As I recall, the druid/ranger list in MM3 is nothing special either, other than Water Walk. MM1 and MM2 don't even have druids.

      Given that the attack/defense/spell mechanics seem largely the same throughout MM1-5, as do the spell lists, adding a whole new class in MM3 probably wasn't such a hot idea.

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  4. Wow Xeen and MC3 simultaneously! Very exciting. I find some humor goes a long way to enliven a gameworld (Lord British and the diapers) but the tone of Might and Magic has always seemed a bit strange to me. I still think it's a nice contrast to some of today's incessantly "grimdark" titles.

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  5. I think the default starting party has basic equipment. I remember trading all that equipment to one or two of them, and then adding some of my characters and trading it to them before getting rid of all of the originals. It makes the start more reasonble. Too bad they didn't make the process easier since I figure most players want to make their own party.

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  6. MM4&5 certainly aren't going for immersion, but I sort of appreciate it as an alternative to what other games are going for. It just gets straight to the stats, combats, side quests, level-ups, and treasure, and it's all densely packed in, balanced, and varied. NPC dialog is rare, short, and to the point.

    Immersive games like U7 and Ultima Underworld are great, but it's nice to have an option when you just want to directly work through the challenges that MM4&5 excels at without any other distractions. The emptiness and artificialness of the world actually makes it something I'd be more likely to play today.

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  7. And of course,there's a very famous pair of games on the Genesis that did basically the same thing two years later. So,Sonic 3's "Lock on system" isn't as revolutionary as we thought.

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    1. Eh, personally I'd argue that even if the concept wasn't entirely original, it was also something that hadn't been done on consoles, and would have been considerably harder to do than on PCs.

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  8. If I recall correctly, Sheltem is never actually killed in the earlier games, he just runs away each time. Corak starts the series dead, but resurrecting him is part of MM1.

    Playing the game with three non-casters is fine. I've never tried it without a cleric though. In this game, the druid is a cleric/sorcerer hybrid that doesn't get the higher level spells from either; whereas the paladin is a cleric/fighter hybrid who does get all the spells but much less spell points. (likewise, archer is a sorcerer/fighter; ninja is a robber/fighter; and ranger is a cleric/sorcerer/fighter).

    As the intro movie suggests, this game takes itself about as seriously as MM3 does.

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  9. PLOT SPOILER: Gur sbhegu tnzr vf n fgnaqnybar gvgyr. Lbh frg bhg gb qrsrng gur rivy ybeq, naq gung'f cerpvfryl jung lbh raq hc qbvat. Gur fvkgu zveebe vf arire sbhaq. Ab cybg gjvfgf, ohg va gur raqtnzr, gur ehyre bs qnexfvqr erirnyf ur jnf oruvaq nyy guvf. Ur vf pnyyrq nynzne, naq gur ovt gjvfg bs gur svsgu tnzr vf gung ur'f npghnyyl furygrz. Ceboyrz: vs lbh unir cynlrq gur rneyvre tnzrf, gura lbh xabj guvf; ur hfrq rknpgyl gur fnzr nyvnf va gur svefg tnzr. Vs lbh unir abg cynlrq gurz, gura gur anzr furygrz vf zrnavatyrff.

    Gb qrsrng uvz, lbh unir gb genafcbeg gur fbhy bs pbenx, juvpu vf pbcvrq sebz n dhrfg sebz gur svefg tnzr. Nsgre qrsrngvat furygrz, lbh trg gb ivfvg ryrzragny cynarf, juvpu vf pbcvrq sebz gur frpbaq tnzr. Gura gur arkg tnzr fjbeqf bs krra erirnyf gung n pbzchgre anzrq "gur fbhepr" jnf npghnyyl oruvaq furygrz. Guvf vf n snatnzr, fb vg pna or sbetvira sbe abg univat zhpu bs n cybg.

    Birenyy, V'q fnl gur nccrny bs zvtug naq zntvp vf gur tnzrcynl, nf nyy svir tnzrf unir onfvpnyyl gur fnzr cybg; naq juvyr gur fpvsv natyr vf pbby, gur birenepuvat zrgncybg qbrfa'g fgnaq hc gb pnfhny fpehgval.

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  10. It is interesting that you mention the inability of the game to take itselft seriously, because that was what it prevented myself and my friends to play this game after the first try.

    Towards the mid-nineties, I remember one of my friends showing us to me and other friends a CD-ROM with some kind of compilation of computer games (probably they were all New World Computing games) which included "Clouds of Xeen" and/or "World of Xeen", and we tried it with some curiosity because we knew that it was part of a famous saga. The comedic silliness of the intro caught us off guard (I remember one of my friends saying: "the... the dragon... is laughing", and after being attacked by a giant grasshopper which emerged when we searched a crate, we said "this is ridiculous" and existed the game.

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    1. Oh, it gets sillier than that. N jvmneq arrqf cvrmbryrpgevpvgl pelfgnyf. Na rys cevrfg anzrq Gvgb arrqf lbh gb svaq uvf ubyl obbx. Jurer gur guveq tnzr unf gur grzcyr bs zbb, abj jr frr gur vqragvpnyyl-ybbxvat grzcyr bs lnx! Gb ernpu gur svany pnfgyr, lbh zhfg cynl snvetebhaq tnzrf gb jva n phcvr qbyy. Gur raqtnzr unf n znpuvar gung trarengrf pybarf bs gur ybeq krra obff. Fbzr bs gur rarzvrf ner znsvn-fglyr guvrirf jvgu fhatynffrf. Fghss yvxr gung.

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    2. I love the silliness in IV & V, although I'd say it's less jarring than in the Wizardry series which presents itself as a standard medieval fantasy world while M&M is just plain weird.

      VI & VII have plenty of silliness to find, but I think it stands out less and most people have no problem with them. Plus there are tons of people running around in towns, which should make Chet happy.

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    3. That intro is legendary. Up there with the voice acting from Ultima Underworld for all-time quotability.

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  11. "The original Clouds program has a voiced, lightly animated introduction, not present in the World compilation, in which Crodo narrates the backstory:"

    It's there, just hidden. At the title screen, go to Other Options->View Clouds Intro

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  12. I'm psyched you're up to this game. :) I've been waiting for years.

    I've tried to play Xeen several times, but never made it far past character creation. It was too old, the interface was too creaky, and there were some design decisions I really didn't like (I hate the "[material] sword" stuff. Just say "+2 sword". Ugh.) But it has a great rep, and I loved MM6 and 7, so I decided that when you got to it I'd play along.

    I'm on vacation, but when I get home on Saturday I'm going to fire it up with a new party. Looking forward to it!

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    1. Leather sword! Wooden flamberge! Steel leather armor! Yeah!

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    2. OK, I did it! My party is (1) Half-Orc Barbarian; (2) Half-Orc Knight; (3) Dwarf Ninja; (4) Human Paladin; (5) Elf Archer; (6) Gnome Archer.

      I've decided to go heavy on melee ability. No pure spellcasters, no robber. I feel like many of these older games took to heart the D&D approach to magic-users. Your wizard casts a couple magic missiles, and then is a useless sack of meat you drag around until you rest. Hope this is balanced enough.

      I left the Inn and I'm walking around, and I've got my first question: is there a way to get feedback on combat? How much damageyou're hitting for, particularly?

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    3. I believe the size of the bloodsplat on the main window when you hit something indicates the kind of damage you are doing; the bigger, the more it is. Unfortunately, you get no numeral feedback. Also, once you are in melee combat, the color of the enemy's name in the upper corner changes from green, to yellow, to red, depending on how damaged they are.

      That's all I can tell you about it.

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  13. World of XEEN wasn't my first Might & Magic (that was the port of 2 for the Sega Genesis), but it was the first one that I actually beat. After that I managed to beat 6, then 3. None of the rest, though I've enjoyed playing them all so far (except 9 which I haven't gotten to yet, though I do own it on GOG).

    Really looking forward to this playthrough. That class composition is actually pretty close to the kind that I would typically choose.

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  14. I'm probably in the minority here but I actually don't like side quests - or any quests for that matter in the sense of specific tasks given by specific NPCs. They just inevitably make game more linear, with events having to happen in a certain order, and the exploration, more limited, with quest-related areas locked before you get a quest for them. Besides, the games just starts to fell more formulaic, because how many tasks that don't boil down to fetch, deliver, kill or escort can you think of.

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    1. As long as the side quests are optional, how do they make a game more linear? You can do them or not, or change the order you do them in, etc - I'm confused how that would make a game more linear vs a game that just has a single main quest that you'd have to do in the same way every time.

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    2. It's also very possible to have quest locations be availible and the quest goals doable without ever getting the quest in the first place. Linearity isn't an inherent trait of quests, it's just one way they can be designed

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    3. That only works for very barebones quests, like go to dungeon X and bring me mcguffin Y. Once quests become more elaborate, you start getting multiple quest stages that have to be done in specific order, and locations/objects/NPCs start becoming plot-locked so you wouldn't break the quest logic.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. If you design your quests well, you will consider the ways players cam break them and allow for it.

      Delete
    6. And even if side quests are done poorly and linear... adding more linear parts still makes an overall less linear game compared to just one linear part... as long as there's not a linear order of main quest and side quests enforced, which makes them no side quests anymore.

      Delete
    7. See, Envy's comment highlights my biggest issue: once you start thinking in terms of quests, you forget that other ways of structuring the narrative exist. A game without side quests doesn't have to be linear - the main "quest" (or main path to be more precise) can be as non-linear as the difficulty curve allows. Just look at, say, Dragon Wars or Magic Candle for a shining example of this.
      And then, not having side quests doesn't mean not having optional content. For example, the gods' tombs in Magic Candle aren't quests per se - in the sense that nobody tells you to go there - but they provide you with a fairly involved side hustle. Ultima 7 was also full of mysterious side dungeons that you just stumbled upon in the course of exploration.

      @JarlFrank - question is, why, what's the point? If offering proper non-linearity with quests takes a lot more work than without, why bother?

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    8. Quests can give direction where you'd otherwise just be wandering around lost not knowing what to do. While I'm sure plenty of people like that, for plenty of others that's just boring and makes the game not worth playing, even if it's otherwise good.

      Delete
    9. Linearity comes from trying to do narrative storytelling in games. Quests are just a convenient framework to connect gameplay and narrative. True narrative-free sandbox RPGs haven't been very popular with players over the years.

      I'm not sure what Dragon Wars or Magic Candle are supposed to illustrate. Both of those games are on the sandbox-y side, but they certainly have quests, and Dragon Wars has plenty of side quests. Any game where your actions can have effects on the game world is going to be linear in some sense.

      Delete
  15. Dorcas the swimmer - Book of the New Sun?

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  16. I can still hear the "Where to??" of the magic mirror in my head plain as day, and I haven't played Xeen in decades.

    The humor didn't really bother me... I find M&M is a game of numbers and exploration, not as much realism.

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  17. As far as I remember, Rangers and Druids can only learn the "lower" half of sorcerer/cleric spells, so to avoid being locked out of the really good high-level spells, I'd advise using "pure" spellcasters.

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  18. I'm conflicted. I love the idea that two games combine to make one super-game, but that same feature makes it pointless to play just one or the other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They reach separate individual endings. Like the end of a series season without a big cliffhanger

      Delete
  19. This one is going to run a good 20 posts... Sounds like a long one.

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  20. World of Xeen is one of my favorite DOS RPGs. It's basically M&M3+++
    It takes what made 3 good, adds a whole lot of new content, and some wonderfully convenient utility spells for that maximum QoL goodness. Day of sorcery is so damn good... it's a high level spell that casts ALL the commonly used buff spells at once, and it lasts until sundown. Best spell ever!

    I love the atmosphere on Darkside. It looks a lot more exotic and surreal than Clouds (which is more of a classic generic fantasy place) and the music is awesome.

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  21. The default party actually has a decent set of weapons and armor. Unless you deleted them after replacing them, the gear should still be there.

    Xeen, IMO, is the pinnacle of the traditional "Wizardry" style. Yes, the Gold Box games did combat better (than most RPGs period), but World of Xeen was as good as the Wizardry style is going to get without going either 3D like M&M VI or Real Time like Dungeon Master (and/or having a completely separate combat system like the Gold Box games). .

    That said, it does have plenty of moments where it isn't taking itself seriously. Much like prior entries in the series. I also don't like one glaring flaw the series has as a whole; you can't disarm traps in the environment. You either have to bypass them, or tank them, and often as not you have no choice in the matter.

    As to your party, Xeen isn't a difficult game (er... games), at least unless you do some of the optional high level dungeons. I've beaten it a few times on Warrior with two-man parties (Pathfinding and Mountaineering REQUIRE two characters to have them. Yes, they still won't work with only one. I tried).

    That said, Druids suck in this game, as do Rangers. They only have access to the low to mid level spells of both Sorcerer and Cleric lists, and no unique spells. They still require two stats for their spell points. Like the Hogan, they are the Jabronis of Might and Magic World of Xeen.

    Ninjas trade a little thievery skill for a little combat skill. You won't notice a difference there outside of occasionally having to heal/retry chests.

    I think Barbarians have a little bit less choice in weapons, but they still get the best one so it doesn't matter.

    If you were to start over/swap a character, toss the Druid for a Cleric. The rest you won't notice except for lacking Loyd's Beacon slots. Otherwise, if you do start over, consider ditching either the Knight or Barbarian for an Archer (lovely lovely Lloyd's Beacon!).

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  22. TBH I've never had the silliness in the M&M games bother me too much. I've never really felt them to be any more silly than most of the ultima games. Then again I'm on of those people who gets their immersion broken by it not being clear how all the towns are getting food. And I know a lot of people just don't care about that in fiction. So probably its just one of those things.

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  23. Darkside of Xeen's XP bump will make everything in Clouds trivial. My memory (quite old now) is that Darkside and the merged content are significantly tougher, but I finished both games back in the day without a walkthrough of any kind, and I'm not the most hardcore of players, so I think you'll be fine, especially given that you're much more willing to get every available edge out of your buffing spells etc than I ever am.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely. I think Clouds has a level cap of 20, and Darkside of 100? Doing a few starter areas in Darkside will put you at the level cap of Clouds, as NWC expected new Darkside players to import a max-level Clouds party.

      Delete
    2. Top training area on the Darkside trains at least to level 200, if I remember correctly. The main problem is amassing enough money to train the characters. Almost impossible without always putting nearly all money in the bank and savescumming to make diamond plate armors from the gemsmiths, recharging the mines by paying the mountain god.

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  24. It may also be worth mentioning that World of Xeen is one of a small group of games from this period that had memorable content *in their installation process*.

    Probably the king of this small weird subgenre is the Command & Conquer / Red Alert series, but years after the fact I still remember that when I installed Darkside of Xeen, the install application went through a whole thing where it detected Clouds and then showed the logos (or something) of the two games linking together with a satisfying "crunch" to form the connected World of Xeen.

    Given that *most* installation apps of the era were just white text on a DOS screen, or a blue system window with an option to configure Sound Blaster, it was quite a treat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an evolution of the loader screens you would get on some C64 and Spectrum games. Developers knew games would take a couple of minutes to load, so gave players something to look at and listen to while they waited.

      Here's one example.

      Delete
  25. I remember when I played this for the first time a few years back I had massive issues with the game crashing on me. I feel like now I have the perfect excuse to replay both with a newer computer and not on the CD version, and hopefully one of those fixes the problem.

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  26. We got dark side when we saw it in a Babbage's because we loved 1-3, not knowing about clouds. It was quite hard. It was also a good year before we found a copy of clouds in the software section of a Barnes and Noble (or possibly a Borders) while we were on vacation.

    It strikes me that this is a way of experiencing media that is totally lost in the modern world.

    Clouds always seemed like the easiest to me, and dark side never seemed as hard as it did the first time after playing clouds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It strikes me that this is a way of experiencing media that is totally lost in the modern world."

      The demise of physical media means that future generations are going to have a fundamentally different experience. The age of taking your carefully horded pocket money to the store, pouring over a shelf full of agonizingly appealing options, then excitedly reading the manual for your choice in the car or bus on the way home is all but over.

      I personally suspect that this is a reason I spend less of my spare time gaming as I grow older - I just can't muster up the same excitement I once had, and still have with library books and such.

      Delete
    2. My main way of getting games as a teen was piracy. I got most of my games through a Romanian friend who went back to his home country during the summer break, and when he returned he always brought a ton of cracked games on burned CDs.

      Most of the time, neither of us knew much about the games, other than "the cracker said it's good". We'd install a new game from a CD that was blank but for the game's name written on it with a sharpie. Arcanum, Morrowind, Baldur's Gate 2, Warcraft 3... all of those were just blank hand-labeled CDs that contained a lovely surprise.

      Nowadays that mystery is gone. I buy games through Steam or GoG and get a bunch of screenshots, a description, and user reviews as soon as I open the store page. Even piracy isn't as mysterious anymore - I only pirate abandonware that's no longer available these days, and all the sites for that also contain screenshots and descriptions.

      I guess the only way to emulate that experience of my teens is to buy mystery bundles on Fanatical, which contain random Steam keys... but most of those are shovelware anyway.

      Delete
    3. I think the Addict still has something close to this experience, since well in many cases he has NO idea about what the next game will be about, except a few resources on the Internet.

      Delete
    4. I guess with some of the really obscure 80s games he still gets surprises. For myself, I tend to look at least at the mobygames article, or see screenshots of the game on the abandonware site I get it from, before playing. So that's nowhere near as pure as getting a CD with "Baldur's Gate 2" written on it and not even knowing what it is, other than roughly knowing it's an RPG. I didn't even know it was based on D&D when I installed it!

      Also I assume Chet reads through all the information he can get on the developer before jumping into a game. Most of his first entries are prefaced with some info about the game's development.

      Delete
    5. I prefer to go into games as blind as possible, but if I don't at least set the game in some kind of context, I get scooped by my own commenters before I can fully research the developer in time for the "Summary and Rating." So I do tend to scan the Wikipedia article and maybe the MobyGames description before playing.

      Delete
    6. We have this argument in relation to movie trailers. Some people prefer to not see trailers. That's their choice. From my perspective, the marketing for a film is a deliberate attempt by the creators (or at least, people adjacent to the creators) to set your context and expectations for the movie, and it's at least part of the intended experience, if not necessarily a vital part.

      Ditto marketing for videogames. Part of the fun of "Gone Home", for example, derived from the gap between the expectations of people who went in knowing it started life as an Amnesia mod - and the game plays on those assumptions. People who play now, and are aware of the critical discussion about it, are probably expecting something different.

      Delete
    7. I'd rather my movie experiences had less input from producers than they currently have - certainly don't want Jeff-from-marketing's 90 second hype piece as an intro!

      Delete
  27. I'll take packed, fun content over repetitive dialogue with non-distinct city dwellers any day. :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh, in terms of "these are two separate games but they're meant to be played together and it would be idiocy to review them separately", the other contenders in this space would be Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons, the Mega Man Battle Network games, and basically every core generation of Pokemon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Zeldas particularly, as they're genuinely separate games, rather than two versions of the same game, that each have their own complete plot and climax, and can be played in either order, but then (as with Xeen) have a third climax that requires interaction between the two games.

      Delete
  29. Since a few people mentioned wanting to try/revisit this game for themselves, it's worth noting Xeen (as well as MM3 and Swords) is supported in Scummvm. Might offer a nice way to play the game without messing about in dosbox.

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    Replies
    1. There's apparently still some bugs in the ScummVM implementation of the engine; nothing showstopping, but some do affect game balance.

      Delete
  30. Half-orc as a sorcerer is a huge disadvantage. They get a -2 MP per level-up as spellcasters. While an elf gets +2 MP/level as a sorcerer or archer. Gnomes get +1 MP/level in all spellcasting classes. Dwarfs get -1 MP/level as spellcasters. Humans have no bonuses or penalties, as usual.

    So, at level 20 your half-orc will have 80 MP less compared to elf sorcerer, 60 less compared to a gnome and 40 less compared to a human. Make that 400, 300 and 200 at level 100. And levels in these games go even higher.

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    Replies
    1. Half-Orc sorcerer is actually more powerful on the long run than elf sorcerer since the the 4 extra hitpoints per level make him less vulnerable while there'll still be plenty of MP with high int, considerably more than an elf archer gets for example.

      Delete
    2. That's an interesting point, though I find at the lower levels I sometimes need the all the MP I can get to blast away at certain enemies. But in the long run it will matter less and less.

      One thing I realized is that I instinctually give my Knight/Barbarian type's the best armor I find so that they can tank. But since enemies can target your Sorcerer directly I realized that it usually makes more sense to give my Sorcerer the best helment, guantlets, cloaks, and boots that I find to boost his AC as high as possible.

      Delete
  31. Random notes:

    - I have never been very much invested in the role playing elements of crpgs, meaning that I usually go for the gameplay loop. So the way I approached this game back then was the same as EOB2, and I did not care at all about what character got bonuses. Just buffed myself from time to time when there was a difficult fight. And I got to the end.

    - To the end of Clouds, that is. Just remember that the characters age in here. I was leading a geriatric party in the end.

    - I get what you say about the emptiness, and that is something shared across all the computer games in existence, but you can notice it more in (c)rpgs and adventure games. Designers take funny workarounds: when you go to the university in Indy Atlantis, it is during summer when it is closed, and when you go to Paris in Art Of Murder 2 or Broken Sword 3, you go to suburbs during work days. Some of the abstractions, as the sound design covering the lack of crowds in the Infinity Engine games, work very well for me (the Baldur's Gate inns) but honestly it was not until Assassin's Creed when I felt a crowded city, and that feeling just appeared randomly on other games as the traffic chaos when the slider is to the top in GTA4. Video Games are indeed empty experiences.

    Is there any crpg that you think that has crowds, proper crowds?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh, and I love the opl music. Which somehow has a nicer mixing on the cd version (stereo!).

      Delete
    2. Some enemies magically age you, if your party is geriatric you probably need to find a way to undo that.

      Delete
    3. It was not magical age. As I said, I was playing the game carelessly, as if it was EOB2, sleeping a lot, visiting the training places very often. It was natural age. It took me almost a century in game time to beat Clouds.

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    4. "Is there any crpg that you think that has crowds, proper crowds?" Sure, The Witcher 3 and the last few Assassin's Creed games. Of course, Assassin's Creed has been there since the beginning; they just weren't always RPGs. The cities of these games are teeming with generic NPCs who might offer a line of stray dialogue. Important NPCs are distinguished by markers or highlights or some other mechanism. All the Bioware games, going back to the Infinity Engine, do a good job, too.

      But remember, Cabbage Theory isn't looking for realistic NPC distributions in all games, just an approach to NPCs that's equal to the level of abstraction of the graphics. The Ultima games, through at least VI, do a fine job in that regard. I'm even good with Might and Magic VI-IX. They try.

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    5. To be honest, to me the introduction of RPG elements made Assassins Creed worse than before. Where you used to have combat that flowed pretty well and health pools that stayed pretty reasonable, you now have tons of HP bloat which can make fights a drag unless you optimize your damage output perfectly.

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    6. I've only played Origins, and I thought things worked out pretty well there, but in any event, I don't have a strong opinion about the series' slow conversion to RPG-dom. I was just talking about NPCs.

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    7. @rising carlos: I'm 60% of the game and characters are around 23 to. Only one is aged at 25. Also, I've only played as now the clouds part and know that you can remove the artificial age. First play, btw

      Delete
    8. @shankao imagine that you played the game resting every bit of a hit, visiting the trainer every few minutes, backtracking a lot (I am a completionist gamer, so I need to visit EVERY spot and kill EVERY monster, and that includes going back to several spots many times to retry) and not caring that every visit is a day.

      To my defence: I did not even notice the age part for long.

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    9. @Risingson Carlos the only game I can think of that did crowds properly is Shenmue 2.

      Delete
    10. I'm backtracking a lot and mowing all the map and every dungeon for every spot. I still don't get how you reach those levels without artificial aging.
      And that again, is a thing that can be reversed by one quest that involves, ironically, more move around the map

      Delete
    11. Honestly I wish I had the savegame to show you, but I actually rage deleted the whole thinking "this game is too hard! Nobody told me you could age! I hate micromanaging!" when probably I was playing very deliberately bad. Well, I actually finished clouds after all.

      Delete
    12. And as a note, I double checked with previous saves and the moment I noticed that my characters were already very old mid game was the "oh..." moment. A realisation so bad, it felt as if I was mistreating them, starving them, making them bored to death with my never ending back and forth for years, making their adventurous existence just a loop of doom, condenming the default party to their most horrible fate: being led by boring me.

      Delete
    13. Can I reply here again? I am replaying the game right now, and I think what I did is to abuse the "work" guy that I found on the Darkside: he gives you 50 gold for one week of your time. So I used the time in Xeen to make my party experienced office clerks.

      Delete
    14. Lol, that actually fits. Remember not to trade your life away for some money instead of going out to adventure

      Delete
  32. Horray one of my favourite games
    Just wanted to mention that you can click on the Might and Magic logo in the upper right corner and get a mini map and when you have wizards eye going you can click there to shuffle between the revealed map and the map that shows where you have already been

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I missed the map option int his session.

      Delete
  33. I played Swords and World of Xeen, back in the days of 386.
    I don't remember playing the main quest at all, just exploring around the map and solving side-quests. But I didn't finish any of the games. They became too hard somewhere in the middle.
    But I have the set from GOG, maybe I could give them another shot.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "It's as if you could install Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim and explore half the world of Tamriel in the same game session, jumping between each game's quests at your desire."

    Which is actually possible thanks to the power of mods. At least the Morroblivion project allows one to combine and travel between Morrowind and Oblivion at will and complete their respective questlines: https://morroblivion.com/

    I haven't played it to completion (I've meant to try that for ages but never seem to find the time), but from what I've seen so far and heard from others it's pretty darn impressive.

    There's also the "Skywind" and "Skyblivion" projects that intend the same with the inclusion of Skyrim, but last time I checked (which admittedly was about two years ago) they hadn't progressed nearly as far.

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    Replies
    1. There's also a mod which merges Might and Magic 6, 7, and 8. I've not tried it out, though I kinda wish I had before getting as far as I have in MM6.

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    2. I know I'm the one who started this with that example, but all of those games (both in TES and MM) are pretty damned long already. I'm not sure what real advantage is to be gained by putting them together.

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    3. The last times I have played MM 6-8 I have used the merging mod it works vey well but you have to use a difficulty slider (which is included) otherwise you become absurdly overpowered very quickly
      But it is nice to be able to play acromage in all the taverns in MM 6

      Delete
    4. If nothing else it would go along with my headcanon where my Nerevarine, Hero of Kvatch, and Dovahkiin are the same Dunmer

      Delete
    5. I've only messed with the one that puts Fallout 3 and New Vegas together, but the big advantages those mods give are a consistant experince, and being able to play earlier games with all the features and mechanics of the later ones.

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    6. I don't even see how it makes sense putting FO3 and FNV together. They take place like 2,500 miles apart. Do you just "fast travel"?

      But I understand that most people like the mods because it allows them to play old content under updated rules. I think the problem here is not everyone agrees that the mechanics of TES or FO games "improved" with later versions. From the reactions I see among most RPG players, it would make more sense to create a combined Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim game using Morrowind's engine.

      Delete
    7. A Tale Of Two Wastelands isn't really expected to be lore-friendly. There's a warp point (train station) that connects the two near the National Archives (Fallout 3) and the Mormon Fort (New Vegas).

      Engine-wise, FO3 and NV are very similar (making the project relatively easy), with NV having pretty much nothing but straight enhancements and extentions.

      Delete
    8. I have zero interest in either Morroblivion or Skywind, because I think the newer games removed a lot of what I liked about Morrowind (severely downgraded equipment system, fast travel, removal of some skills, levitation spells, etc) so unless these mods re-implement all the cut features, I'd rather just play Morrowind.

      I'm way more excited for Tamriel Rebuilt, which works on implementing Morrowind's entire mainland (which is larger than the original game area!), and the Project Tamriel mods which are working on adding the provinces of Cyrodiil and Skyrim to Morrowind - but not as they were depicted in the later TES games, but based on Morrowind-era lore!

      Delete
    9. I've never gotten people saying fast travel is a downgrade. To me being able to click an option and get transported is an objectively good quality of life upgrade, to the point where I honestly can't see why there's as much hate as there is.

      Delete
    10. The main contention is with AT WILL fast travel - it greatly reduces the degree to which you interact with the game environment.

      Systems like Morrowind had, where you hire a boat or a wagon or such to move you between two fixed points get less blowback.

      Similarly, teleportation spells such as mark/recall or Might and Magic's Lloyd's Beacon are less disliked because of the inherent limits and because you're still interacting with an in-game system.

      Delete
    11. To be fair, Morrowind is the odd one out here. At-will fast travel has been a TES feature since its very beginning in Arena.

      Delete
    12. I agree with Gnoman. Fast travel is all right, but I prefer it to require at least SOME effort and cost.

      Delete
    13. In Arena, fast travel was a compensation for the abstractness of the world- it is literally impossible to travel between cities in any other way. This tends to be more forgivable.

      In Daggerfall, fast travel costs gold. This again is generally not objected to because it has an in-game cost and interaction.

      There's still a difference between the Oblivion/Skyrim/Fallout system where you just teleport to your destination and time is advanced.

      Delete
    14. The gold cost of fast travel in Daggerfall is so negligible that the loot you bring from one dungeon expedition is generally enough to cover your travel costs for the rest of the game.

      Oblivion's fast travel was taking it a bit too far, indeed. But Skyrim arguably has a reasonable system where you can only fast travel to already visited locations while carriage services exist to get you between the major cities for a fee.

      Delete
    15. I don't mind fast travel as a concept as long as it doesn't just turn into a mindless "click here to insta travel" affair, which in Oblivion and Skyrim it does.

      At least add the possibility of random encounters during travel, like in Fallout, Arcanum, Baldur's Gate 2. When you walk to a place you get encounters, when you fast travel in these games you get nothing.

      Delete
  35. I loved this game as a kid -- I had wanted to play it for years but we never had a computer that was good enough to handle it. Finally we got a Packard Bell (lol) for Christmas and I was able to play it!

    One thing I remember is that there are ways to get quick easy XP on Darkside if you know where to look. I used to do this on replays because it made some of the early annoying Clouds dungeons (the dwarf mines especially) much easier to deal with.

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  36. I know that you could drop the druid and get a cleric or drop one of the extra fighters(you need a ninja though). I'd drop the Barbarian and put in a Cleric and leave the Druid in the party. You could make it to the end game with the current party, but the lack of a Cleric could cost character advancement and add in unnecessary time going to a temple for healing.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I forgot to mention that Swords of Xeen is probably a good game to play before you put in time to the Darkside of Xeen. SoX is unbalanced and bugged but worth a play either before Xeen or before you put time into Darkside of Xeen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder why you think so? SOX is a fangame based on Darkside of Xeen, and plot-wise it's a sequel to that.

      Delete
    2. Swords of Xeen is an inevitable disappointment if you're coming fresh off completing World of Xeen. If the Addict sticks to just Clouds and then does SoX, the disappointment is less.

      Delete
    3. When did Swords of Xeen even come out? I could swear it was sometime after 93, meaning it's not going to be a concern for a while

      Delete
    4. I mean yeah, Swords is an amateuristic fangame with no new art or music assets and barely any plot. Of course it's going to be a disappointment after Darkside, but that's no reason to play it earlier. It's also going to be a disappointment before Darkside.

      Delete
  38. Wow - 74 comments in, what, one day? Chet, I love your blog and the community you've built around it. For me as a non-native English speaker your texts have deepen my understanding of English tremendously. Thanks for that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should visit sometime when I blog about a Japanese console game that isn't even part of my official list. I have to delete e-mailed comments en masse because I can't keep up with them all.

      Delete
  39. Hello, I am looking forward to read about your time with this game(s). As other colleague readers pointed out, I would vote for one pure cleric in your party. I admit I didn´t try to play with druid, but without cleric it could be really hard I think.

    And one more thing - because you play GoG version, in Dark Side of Xeen you will maybe or probably meet the bug with energy discs. When it will happen, you can read here about it. I suspect that the save game had to be hex-edited somehow, which maybe you can handle yourself, but could be little annoying. https://www.gog.com/forum/might_and_magic_series/mm5_bug_with_energy_discs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, the guy in that thread was spectacularly unhelpful. "Email me!" "How do I e-mail you?" "I'll leave it to you to figure out how to contact me." Jesus.

      But thanks for the warning. I'll try to be careful.

      Delete
    2. He was ok guy, he made fun. I am sure after he sent him his e-mail to the messages,the same how he did with me. And after he created some tool which could help. Maybe the best would be to write the gog staff, if they can repair this bug... I will try.

      Delete
    3. He was the only one helping, just to be mocked by you for not publishing his email in the public forum. You don't know what communication was going on between those guys, and you managed to not even read (or at least cite) correctly what is visible publicly :(

      Delete
    4. You're right. Clearly, I'm missing some of the context. I was more making fun of what the conversation sounded like on the surface, but my earlier comment was too harsh. As Tygr says, he offered the needed help and doesn't deserve to be mocked for it.

      Delete
  40. This is a game where I cheat because the economy exp ratio
    not really a spoiler but Rot:
    Va gur raq tnzr gur pbfg bs genvavat trg fb uvtu gung hayrff lbh jnag gb snez pregnva zvarf n engure grqvbhf raqribhe lbh pna arire trg gur cnlbss sbe lbhe rkc
    V pna frr gur cbvag ohg va ercynlf V hfhnyyl purng naq frr ubj uvtu zl yiy pna trg nygubhtu vg vf pbzcyrgryl zrnavatyrff ng gung cbvag
    Fgvyy V unir nyjnlf ybirq gung vg qbrfa´g ernyyl unir n yiy pnc

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    Replies
    1. The economy is fine for both Clouds and Xeen. Only really matters for the World ending.

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    2. doesn´t matter there either I´m only cheating for vanity which is absurd and I know it

      Delete
  41. edit: cheat in the end game which is in the rot

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  42. I'm excited about this one.

    I only found this blog in December but I'm pretty addicted myself... to the blog! Great project and endlessly fascinating.

    Since I started reading, this is the first big series one you've started and (like many of the games) it's one I have always been interested in but never played. I've got a copy from GoG and am going to enjoy playing along as this unfolds.

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  43. I actually really dig the sillier tone in the MM games - as opposed to many more serious counterparts which are usually not too well written either. In this case at least they add some humor.
    That said, I agree with the part regarding the diminishing sense of immersion. For me, the "worst" point in the series considering this particular issue is Mandate. The world works in real time, characters roam the streets, yet nobody cares to wear their own actual faces. Later ROA titles suffer from immersion issues as well. A real time 3d engine with noone around. What makes it a little better is the fact that there's still separate screens for fights, events and such, making it feel more like a goldbox game (what makes it worse are the obviously traced portraits of famous and recognisable people repurposed as NPCs.
    All in all, I don't mind silliness, if it feels like it's part of the world itself. I never had anything against soda machines in Monkey Island, but I felt weird when Roger Wilco visited Sierra in Space Quest 3.

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    1. Oh, see, I completely forgive MMVI for the faceless characters. That was still pretty cutting-edge for the time. I like how you can enlist some of them for various bonuses. I'd rather see them than nothing.

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    2. It's a matter of preference then, I guess ;)
      (now that I mentioned ROA, I can't wait to read about Star Trail here. Loved the game, but never beat it)

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  44. Sillier tone is a nope from me. I can’t reconcile silly with epic very easily. I dont mind silly when it’s not trying to be epic - QFG and Dungeons of Dredmor spring to mind.

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  45. I really like World of Xeen as a game that gives a lot of relatively mindless fun and has incredible amount of content for its era. I have a compulsive character and the game suits me well with numerous possibilities for compulsive behavior: mapping whole map grids without leaving a single unexplored square, clearing monsters that do not re-spawn, and constant inspections of new loot for better items while delving into this crazy wooden/iron/amber/obsidian system.

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  46. This is one of the games I played several times. I have really grown to the absurd story and jokes everywhere, combined with an actually interesting character development (number wise).

    I would change the characters and make an Elf Sorcerer and a Gnome Cleric. But I'm a powergamer, so...

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  47. The proper way to play the games is to play them in release order. Create a new party, go through Clouds of Xeen, then after you beat it, go to the Darkside and beat that then do the World of Xeen endgame content.

    The Darkside content is meant to be played by higher level characters. So what they do for players who only bought MM5 and didn't have MM4 was they give you a ton of EXP at the beginning to boost your new characters. But if you go to Darkside while you're also playing Clouds, your characters will get boosted up and it will make the Clouds content trivial. If that's what you want, then fine but the most organic way to play through the games is to first finish Clouds then do Darkside.

    Also, I love the silliness of the M&M series. Wizardry was a bit silly back in the day too but since the late 90s or so games have gotten super serious and it's nice to play through a game that is aware that it's a game and has a light hearted and goofy tone to it. There are lots of references too to Star Trek and Monty Python and fun stuff like that.

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    1. I was planning to play it exactly that way, but now that I know it's "the proper way," I'm having to fight the urge to do completely the opposite.

      I suppose the world can be even divided between those who say "references to Monty Python" positively and those who don't. In 11 years, I've probably made it clear which I am.

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    2. By playing "the proper way" I ended up enjoying Clouds more than DS, as it seemed to me much more balanced in terms of difficulty; getting to DS all maxed out made the early/midgame exploration and combat fairly boring (I was playing with a tryhard party, though).

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    3. I would put it this way: the developers made a combined game, and made it easy to step from Clouds to Darkside very early in the game. Nothing in the game discourages you from doing so.

      That means that it's entirely fair to judge the game on what happens if you do this. "Game X is more enjoyable if you don't do Y" essentially means that "Game X has a design flaw in that it doesn't prohibit or discourage Y".

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    4. I agree that it would be fair to judge the game based on what it allows. However, I'm still going to probably do all of Clouds before switching to Darkside just because I think it will flow better.

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    5. Personally, I feel like doing it that way would also make it easier to see what the individual games are like, even if they won't get seperate ratings.

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  48. I'm really looking forward to this. World of Xeen is one of my favorite games - I had the box as a kid (one of the first games I ever beat!) and have gone back to play it a few times in the past years. I'm holding myself back from saying "Oh you should do this and go here and there's this cool thing and that cool thing and wooooo!"

    I'll just give two minor tips:

    1. The guy who said Lloyd's Beacon is great? Soooo right. If I had to choose between that and Mass Distortion it would be a very tough choice.

    2. I encourage you to try out character creation on the Darkside, especially if you do decide to replace one of your characters with a Cleric.

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  49. I never had problems with the goofieness of the MM games as such. But for me the sci-fi twists at the end were always game breakers for me. The mix-up of fantasy and science fiction just doesn't work for me. I remember when I first played Wizardry 6. I really enjoyed playing it. But when I saw the space ship at the end... It almost ruined the whole experience for me. I love fantasy and science fiction, but mixing it up, just doesn't work for me...

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  50. Comparing Xeen to MM3, I found it a bit disappointing, but still very enjoyable. The map of MM3 with its islands is beautiful. I felt the third one more rewarding, because it is far more challenging. The colorful graphics of this 3 games aged better than the following ones in my opinion. Currently playing MM7 (along with Heroes 3 campaign), but missing the once puzzle aspects of the dungeons. It was put to a minimum after Xeen.

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  51. Shame on you for deleting Lilura's comment. It didn't violate any of your rules.

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    1. You really think I should have to make it a formal rule not to bring silly interpersonal disputes from other sites onto my blog, to impersonate someone else with your user name, and to ask questions solely designed to get me to embarrass myself because I don't know what's going on? I figured that was implied.

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    2. The more I think about the audacity of this comment, the more it pisses me of. "Shame on you for not allowing us to troll you on your own web site." What is wrong with people?

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    3. Sadly, the internet provides an ample playground for the shameless.

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  52. " Otherwise, nothing as much changed, which is mostly a good thing. The interface is wonderfully intuitive. All options have redundant mouse and keyboard commands, and it doesn't make you back out of sub-menus (including shops) to switch between characters."

    There is one other significant interface change, a wonderful, wonderful interface change. In MM3, all your items are just hapazardly thrown into a single list per character, which is not only unwieldy but can make it harder to remember what "slot" a given item fits into. Xeen has a paginated inventory that puts every carried item into "weapon", "armor" and "misc" sections. This does require a few more keypresses, but is ever so much more usable.

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    1. Thanks. I had actually forgotten that MM3 didn't separate items by category.

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    2. I had to load up MM3 to double check.

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  53. Thing with World of Xeen is that even though the combined game lets you switch sides at will, it's REALLY balanced around the idea that you're doing Clouds first, then Darkside. Some of the earliest quests in Darkside give you more XP than the final quest of Clouds.

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