Sunday, February 21, 2021

Magic Candle III: Burned Out

Just looking at this map made me want to quit the game.
       
This entry was mostly a waste of time, and although it was mostly my fault for not remembering aspects of the game, I left the session feeling annoyed with the game.
    
It started in the dungeon of Wesgar, where I ended the last session. I had forgotten how annoying dungeons are in this series. There are just so many combats, and there's really no way to speed through combats in The Magic Candle. Every one is a fight to the death. Failure to have the right mushrooms, or enough of a "Shield" going, can be disastrous. Every room has at least one combat, and there are ambushes at fixed places in the halls (though they seemed to have reduced those to a minimum in III). They get harder as you progress to higher levels, and pretty soon you're swallowing every herb and mushroom you have before entering any door.
   
I made it all the way up to Level 7, but in some combat there, Rimfiztrik cast his last "Restsoul" spell. No one in my party has the spellbook ("Felmis") that contains that spell, even though, according to the manual, Rimfiztrik invented it. Thus, I had to backtrack out of the dungeon until I could find the book, because without it there is no way to permanently kill undead creatures.
         
This battle alone is going to require 5 "Restsouls."
        
On the way out, I took a wrong turn and stumbled into the room with a sleeping god, which was cool. He or she responded to one of the keywords I'd written down. Although I don't know his or her name, he or she blessed my entire party with increases in strength, agility, resistance, and leadership.
     
I returned to Telermain because I wanted to check and see if the wizards at Castle Oshcrun had the book. They didn't. (Lavinha in Urkabel sold only "Sabano" and "Demaro.") While I was in the area, I stopped in the herb seller's to replenish my stock. Buying and distributing things in quantity is perhaps the most annoying part of the game, or so I've been thinking ever since the first Magic Candle. The problem is that each character can only carry 99 of something. If the party collectively has more than 99 of something, there's no way to evenly distribute it because no one party member can collect it all for distribution. That means that each character has to buy their own herbs individually, which is a pain and takes a while. I realized late in this session that you can keep distributing so that the character doing the distributing eventually gives away her entire stock, thus making it possible for one character to do all the buying. Nonetheless, it would still have been better if the "Distribute" button had evenly distributed the entire party's supply and not just the active character's. 
   
I hadn't replenished many herbs and mushrooms before I nearly ran out of gold. I remember the previous two games being quite generous, and I'm not sure I'd ever run into that problem before.
   
Still lacking the needed "Restsoul" spell, I moved on in my systematic exploration to the large island in the center of the Solian lands. It was covered in blight patches, and I soon found a town called Voliplan that had been completely destroyed by the blight. I spent a while searching the town and found absolutely nothing but random combats in its ruins.
      
Gia continues to mistake furniture for people.
      
Unfortunately, as I slowly made my way east, I kept running into combats that included "necromants," which are a type of undead. I had to reload whenever they showed up. I found a tower and dungeon for which I lacked passwords, a stronghold to rest, and finally a city called Eisheim on the south coast.
  
Eisheim had a library, and I had two revelations while using it. First, I discovered that when you research keywords at libraries, the resulting text does not go in the notebook! That's some of the most important text of the game. Second, I was suddenly reminded about wizard's lodges. I had forgotten about them entirely. The lodges are places where you can rent spellbooks and memorize them while the rest of the party goes off and does something else. There wasn't one in Eisheim, but there was one in Telermain and another in Urkabel. 
        
Evixa settles in to learn "Felmis" spells at the Telermain library.
      
All of a sudden, I had issues getting back to Telermain. The ship that had brought me here had run out the clock and left. I wandered up and down the coast but couldn't find any others for hire. There was a teleportal on the island, but I lacked the three skulls necessary to reach Oshcrun. I ended up reloading from Telermain and only then remembered that there's a spell called "Caravel" that will summon a ship to you. One of my characters had memorized about five of them. Remembering things after they'd have been valuable is one of the themes of this entry. I would have made it the subtitle, but I couldn't make a candle metaphor out of it.
     
Back in Telermain, the annoyances continued. While I was right about the wizards' lodge, I had forgotten that you can't choose a particular spell. Your chosen character just memorizes spells randomly or systematically from the book. I had wanted both Rimfiztrik and Evixa to memorize "Restsoul," but the place only had space for one person. As I left Evixa in the lodge, I wondered what to do while she was studying. I thought I could make some money by putting Sakar to work metalworking, and I was surprised when I got there to find that an NPC named Kark was already slaving away on my behalf. I'd forgotten about that. He had made about 450 gold pieces so far, which I greedily took. 
        
Sakar is a good fighter, but apparently he's more valuable as a gemcutter.
       
I never did much with the "work an honest wage" system of the previous Magic Candle games, but those had been more generous with money and mushroom patches and so forth. This is the first time in the series that I've really felt low on cash. I suddenly became seized with the idea that I should make more of the system here. I left Sakar with the gemcutter and Tuff with the tailor in Ketrop. Fiz, Gia, and Eneri had no skills, so I took Fiz to the wizard's lodge in Urkabel. They didn't have "Felmis," but I put Fiz to work studying "Alasol" spells, which include "Cure" and "Caravel." 

Soon it was just the heroes: Gia and Eneri. I decided to see how far I could get with only two mouths to feed. I started experimenting with the second dungeon password I had, and it turned out to open not a dungeon but an underground dwarven town called Borhelm on the northwest side of Rastanna. Inside, the first place I found was someone teaching "Gemcutting." I dropped Eneri off there to learn the trade--and perhaps later practice it in Urkabel--while Gia explored the city.
          
You don't hear about magically-sealed bulkheads often.
        
This is the seventh city I've explored, and I keep expecting to hear something about the Blight or its cause--something that will point me along the route of the quest. But I haven't found it so far, and I didn't find it here. I did get the password to the actual dungeon on Rastanna--an old set of dwarf mines called Tarrak. I also met a dwarf named Yolick who offered to join, but he made it clear he was a hireling, not an NPC, so I left him alone.
  
After three days, I picked up Eneri at the gemcutter's and we headed to Tarrak, which I had previously marked (it's about three steps from Borhelm). "A wondrous treasure awaits those who brave the horrors of the lower levels," a dwarf offered as we entered.
         
Gia and Eneri look at each other and high-five.
             
The first couple of rooms went very well. I had thought that the presence of only 1/3 of my party would be a disadvantage, but I forgot to account for the fact that Eneri and Gia are the only two competent members. Without the others to protect, heal, and resurrect, combat took about half as long. Unfortunately, I soon realized I'd left my lockpicks with Tuff, and he's the only one with enough skill to open a chest anyway. Reluctantly, I left the dungeon.
   
On the way back to the ship, I kept getting attacked by parties with ghouls, which forced me to flee or reload since without "Restsoul" I can't defeat any undead.
   
I sailed back to Urkabel, dropped off Eneri at the gemcutter's, went outside camped, and had Gia memorize the spells she already knew. I switched to having her sleep when she needed to, and occasionally hunt for food. I started this process on 21 December. By the time I was done, it was 30 January. I went back into Urkabel and picked up Eneri, who had earned 844 gold. I started to salivate over the larger amounts that the other characters must have earned.
       
Gia goes camping while everyone else is making money or studying.
       
But then disaster struck: Fiz was gone from the Wizard's Lodge. I figured he'd gone home to Oschrun, but I couldn't find him there. Meanwhile, Evixa had also disappeared from the lodge in Telermain, and I couldn't find her back at her home in Serivu. Growling in frustration, I reloaded a game from when Eneri and Gia were in Tarrak, went back to Telermain, and still couldn't find Evixa. So if I wanted to have the wizards back in my party, my only option was to reload a game from when I was exploring Voliplan five hours ago, forgetting about studying at wizard's lodges, and forgetting about having my characters work for money.
   
The problem is that I still need "Restsoul." The only one I can be sure won't leave the lodge is Gia, and the game won't let her rent the space for some reason. Finally, in desperation, I turn to the official game cluebook to find out where I can get a "Felmis" book, but the cluebook only insists that Rimfiztrik has it, which he doesn't--he has "Demaro."
   
I finally go back to Telermain, drop off Rimfiztrik at the wizard's lodge memorizing "Felmis," and have the rest of my party do nothing but wait for a day. We then check in to see that Fiz is still there, and he is, so we wait for another day. It turns out that his maximum threshold is about a week, after which he goes gods-know-where. I reload and grab him before the week is up. In that week, he's managed to learn 17 "Restsoul" spells and a lot of other junk from "Felmis" that I don't really need. I repeat the process with Evixa, learning another 21.
       
I tried standing here to ensure that he didn't leave, but the registrar wasn't having any of it.
        
And thus the party sails back to the Outsiders and into the tower of Wesgar, right where I started this entry, having essentially accomplished nothing in between except paying 400 gold pieces for 37 spells. I still have to "officially" visit Borhelm again.
  
If it turned out I need "Restsoul" only for one more battle, I would have been pretty irked, but I ultimately need to cast 21 of the 37.
     
Releasing a necromant's soul during an ambush.
      
We fight our way to the top of Wesgar tower, finding a few gems along the way which will undoubtedly heal our financial woes in the short-term. By the time I reach the top, I'm a master of Magic Candle combat again, which relies heavily on a six-step model:
   
  • Swallow Gonshis before you enter the room. Gonshis give you 4 actions during your first round.
  • Make sure everyone has "Shield" cast to 99 points.
  • If things are really going to be tough, swallow Nifts (protects against three physical hits) and Mirgets (strength), too. I find that Luffins (accuracy) are pretty useless, though. My characters hardly ever miss.
  • Have a spellcaster with plenty of "Jump" spells. The first round, have that spellcaster "Jump" all the strong melee fighters (I have three) into melee range of the most dangerous enemies.
  • When those fighters get their turn, they make four Mirget-enhanced attacks on the strongest enemies.
  • Mop-up from here.
  
The game offers a lot of other tactics, including the ability to try to "Rally" your party before battle, or to scare the enemy, or demand their surrender, or cast a lot of different offensive spells, but the Gonshi/Mirget/"Jump" combo works so well for 99% of the battles, you really don't need to focus on much else. 
       
"This day is called the Feast of Basil . . ."
      
The final battle nets me a candle mold, so I assume the main quest is going to involve recreating the original Magic Candle and imprisoning whatever demon is causing the Blight. I also find a magic sword named Bloodthirst in one of the rooms; I give it to Eneri.
      
Of course, the mold for the magic candle is like 6 feet tall.
     
A portal leads us from Level 8 directly out of the dungeon. Rather than go back to Telermain to restock, I decide to visit Borhelm and then try Tarrak again. I think I have just enough resources to make it, if it's the same size as Wesgar, although not if it has the same number of undead.
    
Tarrak turns out to be four levels, but the first two are enormous mazes, very hard to map (which I usually don't do with Magic Candle dungeons anyway). It takes me about five hours to fully explore. Given that amount of time, I wish I got more copy out of it. This is one of those times where time invested doesn't necessarily mean a lot to say, since the dungeons in The Magic Candle tend to be uniform in their contents: rooms, all with enemies, some with chests, some with spell fountains; ambushes in the hallways; teleporters; and the occasional NPC who tells you where to dig or who tells you ask another NPC where to dig. This one was a bit odd in having a lot more rooms than usual on some levels, and actual mazes on others.
        
Only a small part of the first level.
     
On the second level, a dwarf named Bartek tells me to dig in a specific alcove for a platinum key, which I do. The key later opens the way to the resting place of an old dwarven king named Daglar. From this area, I get a magic axe called Khamalkhad and a magic mirror. I have no idea what the latter does.
       
The mirror is buried south of the sign; the axe is behind that door.
      
The apex of the dungeon is the resting place of the goddess Olkanis, whose password I found in her temple on Kabelo. She awakens and bestows us all with increases in dexterity, charm, resistance, and endurance.
       
I wonder if there are any gods who hate being woken up and reduce your stats accordingly.
         
Overall, the dungeon delivers enough treasure--principally in the form of gems--that I am able to return to Telermain and purchase enough mushrooms for probably the next three dungeons. While I'm in town, I'll probably have Evixa and Fiz spend another week in the lodge studying "Felmis."
       
Buying mushrooms back in town.
       
I think that this entry illustrates why I generally feel negatively about The Magic Candle and why I wasn't looking forward to picking this one up again. Amidst mechanics for combat, inventory, character development, and dialogue that are generally good, the game manages to hurt its experience by annoying the player in a thousand small ways. In addition to all the ones I've covered in this entry (disappearing NPCs, difficulty finding spells, difficulty distributing goods), there are a lot of others. Suddenly running into an ambush or invisible teleportation square in the dungeon is infuriating, for instance--much more so than I can convey in print. There are particularly annoying menu choices, like the way you have to "Greet" or "Talk" to an NPC once for the initial greeting, then "Talk" again for the actual dialogue options ("Greet" has absolutely no independent purpose that I can see). The way that you have to sheathe your weapons to talk to anyone, then inevitably forget about the fact that you've sheathed them, then have to waste a turn drawing them in the next combat. The way characters have individual inventories for everything, so you're constantly having to shuffle things around. The speed at which energy runs out. As you walk through dungeons and towns, the characters generally adjust the formation to get around obstacles, but the selected character always has to have a clear path in the direction you want to move; otherwise, the whole party gets stuck. So you constantly have to switch the active character to one who can move down the narrow hallway or around the bend.
   
Most of all, the game is always beeping at you. Yes, I grant you that most of those times, it's because you're not paying attention and doing something wrong, like trying to move through an obstacle, or trying to move when someone is out of energy, or trying to select a menu command that isn't available now. All I can tell you is that I don't seem to have this problem with other games, or if I do, they're less obnoxious with their error tones.
   
Time so far: 17 hours

38 comments:

  1. "Remembering things after they'd have been valuable is one of the themes of this entry. I would have made it the subtitle, but I couldn't make a candle metaphor out of it."

    Leaving the lid off!

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  2. Quite the ordeal! The Magic Candle III was the first RPG I bought with my own money. I found it to be really too difficult at the time. I'd put it down for a year or two and try again on and off. The mechanics really try to grind you down. I can never decide if it's an actual fun game or just about the challenge.

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  3. Maybe the less positive reviews (from what I saw when last checked on mobygames) whith each new MC game and your experience reflect that the annoyances were OK with the first one, but became more unforgiving with each new entry in the series because the developers could have fixed them already since the first. What's OK for a 1989 game is maybe unforgiving for a 1992 one.

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    1. Yes, but also they piled on more maintenance/simulation features in each entry. The whole "I'll only do this for a little while before I get sick of it and wander off" wasn't in the first game, for example.

      An RPG based on this sort of experience is potentially cool, and the first one had a good balance (even if the interface could have been better). But it was just too much by game number 3.

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    2. I definitely agree that MC1 > MC2 > MC3, but I don't think it is by comparison with contemporaneous games. I played them all in the late 90's and actually started with MC2. I think the difference is MC1 was more carefully balanced and paced.

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    3. Agreed. I think MC3's graphics are pretty solid for 1992 and the fundamental game design is still good for the time (I'll take any MC over an Eye of the Beholder). MC3's problem isn't datedness, it's a combination of balance and lack of originality.

      The starting MC1 characters are really well balanced to find Pheron (the starting region) a threatening but not overwhelming challenge, and the geography funnels you towards Dermagud, the easy starter dungeon. In MC2/3 your starting party's power level is all over the place and you get a ship pretty much immediately, letting you put yourself in pretty much a random amount of danger especially if you're not following a walkthrough.

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  4. Greet is for making a conversation with another NPC without going back a menu.

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  5. Sounds a bit MMO-like, the kind of MMO that wants you to grind for money, so you can buy stuff that is absolutely necessary to defeat the bosses. The kind of MMO that inflates playing time with constraints so you pay more for it (oh, packing your bags, making space for all the reagents, I don't miss WOW...).
    However, MMOs also suck you in with incentives, rewards, and so on, not to forget the social aspect. But 1992 was not yet the time to completely lose yourself in a game, to "live" your character through professions, or base-building à la Fallout 4.

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    1. I mean... I tried several MMOs, starting with WoW back in 2006 when I was 17 or 18. I quit it 3 weeks in because it got repetitive real quick, even though most people in my age group really got sucked in by it.

      I tried other MMOs over the years, mostly free to play ones, but it was always the same story. Fun for a week,then I realized how much mandatory grind there was and that the entire game would consist of repetitively fighting similar mobs over and over, and I quit, never to return.

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    2. The repetition is ... kind of ... true for every game, but MMOs don't want you to leave, to get to the end of the story. At least with the games on the blog, you get something new after 20-30 hours.
      Ideally, MMOs also offer you a story that you can play for a week or so - before the grind begins. Elder Scrolls Online wasn't bad, for example, though I didn't play a lot of it. WoW, after a while, especially after the magic of leveling up for the first time was gone, was basically a job.

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    3. I've never heard of an MMO where solo questing was the main appeal. It's not meant to be the part of the game you spend the most time on; that's what PVP, raids, guilds, and all the actual multiplayer content is for. If all you do in an MMO is level through the zones by yourself like it's a single-player story mode, of course you'll get bored and disappointed. That's like playing Morrowind without ever accepting a quest or reading the dialogue.

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    4. @Alex Well, I had a lot of fun with The Old Republic in that regard. I'm aware the game isn't meant to be played SP only but that's exactly what I did, and besides being too easy in regard to quests etc. I really enjoyed the lore, the different worlds and also the story. I have to say I'm a SW fan, too, so maybe I'm more forgiving than others who aren't.

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    5. Some people do like solo questing in WoW, even when they are max level. But I think it's a minority pursuit. Though I guess if you really hate it, you probably still have to grind a bit for supplies and repairs.

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    6. I'm one of those people who play each new WoW expansion until I've explored all the new zones and dungeons and have played through most of the new PvE content. Then after a few months at most, I get bored and waste my time on something else instead.

      I'd also like to say that there is actually a very substantial amount of solo content in most "recent" MMOs, like FFXIV, WoW, ESO and SWTOR. To me, it's a lot like playing a single-player game (though not exactly like Morrowind) with plenty of quests and dialog to read, plus the occasional multiplayer dungeon when I feel like it. It may not be the way the majority of players play those games, but the solo portion must be considered important enough to justify the resources required to add all that content to those games.

      The repetitive combat and relatively low difficulty make them perfect for listening to audiobooks or catching up on youtube videos on the side.

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    7. I do like multiplayer but am more into PvP than co-op. Going on dungeon raids with random people never held much appeal for me, I'd rather 1v1 a friend in Age of Empires or jump into an FPS team deathmatch with 3 pals. The additional problem of MMOs versus other multiplayer games is that you need to play all the time to keep up with everyone else. Took a week-long break from the game? Too bad, now all your friends are ten levels above you and you can't play the same content together. Meanwhile if I take a week-long break from Age of Empires or Quake, there's barely any difference in my playing skill, and I can keep playing matches against the same people.

      That's my main gripe with MMOs. They feel like a job, more so than any other genre. They force you to grind, more so than any other genre. It gets very repetitive very quickly, and you can't even take a break unless you're okay with having all your regularly-playing friends out-level you.

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    8. Also, repetitive content and low difficulty is extremely off-putting to me. I can't listen to audiobooks or youtube videos on the side when playing a game. I do either one or the other. Playing a repetitive game with zero risk while listening to something has no appeal to me. I may as well do the dishes instead, that's about as much fun but way more productive.

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  6. The economy is much, much tougher in this game than in previous MCs, yeah. Keep track of the loyalty stat though, or your workers might leave too.
    Also, Fiz should absolutely have the Felmis book, if you lost it somehow, you might be a wee bit fucked.

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    1. His Fiz is a uploaded character from MC2, I think that’s why he is missing Felmis.

      In either the goblin city or the elf city they will sell a copy. Evixa’s sister maybe.

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    2. a nonspecific hint to help with the economy: trade. you can 'buy low' in one settlement' and 'sell high' in another. if you find the right goods for this, you can become fabulously wealthy

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    3. The cluebook indicates that you can ask Eravqnyvf va Gnfhe (sne fbhgurnfgrea ubhfr) about Felmis.

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  7. I think the problem with Fiz not having Felmis is that you imported from MC2. That means the default Fiz was replaced with the Fiz of MC2. If you kept him in you party throughout MC2 you have super-Fiz with god-juiced stats and multiple spell books. If you dumped Fiz early in MC2 then you have more of a dud. You must have pilfered Felmis from Fiz in MC2, so it's your fault (but really the game's fault).

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    1. That makes sense. I don't blame the game for giving me the Fiz I created, but I would blame it if Felmis isn't achievable another way.

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  8. In MC2 there were mindstones so you could keep track of where your NPCs wandered off to. I don't remember if they also exist in this one.

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    1. They do. I hadn't thought to give one to the mages before I dropped them off.

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  9. Sounds like this game's really getting on your wick. Hopefully your past self didn't leave any more surprises behind.

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    1. Son of a bitch. THAT would have been a good subtitle.

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  10. I've only played the 4th MC game, when I was 13 or so, but I remember that characters earned money very quickly on our Pentium. Letting the computer run for an hour or two let me acquire all the top end gear.

    My 13-year old self thought it was great. These days...not so much.

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    1. I'm pretty sure Tristan means Bloodstone: An Epic Dwarven Tale. It used the same engine as MC3. Should be on the list for 1993.

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    2. IIRC Bloodstone is a prequel of sorts to MC series - it's set in the same world, but before the events of MC1. Which is a little bit funny because it, of course, has all the spells of MC3 - including the ones from Fiz-authored Felmis book or the Solian lands-exclusive Alasol (with some minor changes). It's sort of handwaved by having casters use dwarven spell totems instead of spellbooks.

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  11. I don't know...if you consider this a 'waste of time' you should waste your time more often, it's very entertaining :-)

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    1. Hehe, nicely put.
      Maybe Chet's next post on MC3 can be a real rant that ends with screaming at us: "are you not entertained?!"

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    2. ...while he feels a trickle of warm..bytes..running down his forehead from the game he just smashed.
      Something like that, yeah.
      I'd buy the movie :-)

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  12. Pretty light spoiler that may save you some frustration in the long run. I'd read it if I were you but I'm putting it in rot13 so you have a choice.

    Lbh arrq bar cnegl zrzore bs rnpu enpr gb qb gur svany evghny ng gur raq. Jvmneqf ner n enpr ohg lbh jbhyq unir unq bar naljnl. Lbh zvtug abg unir unq n unysyvat vs lbh qvqa'g xabj lbh arrqrq bar. Naq lbh arrq na bep gbb. Juvpu zrnaf lbh arrq Tnem. JUB VF N UVERYVAT. Fb qba'g shpxvat tvir uvz nal cybg pevgvpny dhrfg vgrzf orpnhfr ur jba'g unaq gurz onpx!!!! Ab V'z abg ovggre. V'z whfg jneavat lbh. Bu, naq znlor n yvggyr ovggre.

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    1. Also make sure the game is patched. The unpatched version is missing one of the candle parts. That’s probably why several people on this comment section say they never won MC3.

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  13. Okay, why I am unknown? This is Kish.

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  14. I remember MCII very fondly, and also importing your character from Keys to Maramon was an excellent incentive since they are unique and bring their magic weapon with.

    I especially liked one character learning only the destroy spell (since it wipes your memory once cast), and learn again frequently to gank one enemy for sure at the start of combat.

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