Tuesday, February 23, 2021

World of Xeen: Tired of Getting Sand Kicked in Your Face?

 
RPG combat or Broadway production?
       
One of the joys of the entire Might and Magic series is that it exemplifies the atavistic desire, inherent in RPGs in general, to get knocked down, get stronger, and get revenge. All of the games in the series have moments when you come face-to-face with enemies who used to scare you--sometimes hours later, sometimes only minutes because in the meantime you managed to level up twice, or find particularly useful fountain, or learn a new spell. Such moments, promised by Charles Atlas ads, are maddeningly elusive in real life.
    
This session began as I wrapped up the starting city, Vertigo. Most of it took place in two areas: the interconnected mines of the Red Dwarf Range and the city of Rivercity. I had access to the former because it was right outside the gates of Vertigo, and the latter because each city's magic mirror will teleport you wherever you want to go if you know the name of the location. I knew about Rivercity from one of the tavern patrons in Vertigo.
  
I tried the outdoors first. The gates of Vertigo dumped me into overland map area F3, at coordinates 10, 12. The game maps shows this on the far eastern side of the map. For the first time in Might and Magic history, the world map doesn't wrap. [ed. I was wrong; it doesn't wrap in MM3 either, but the world there is meant to be spherical.] Instead, a black void forms the borders of the roughly-square land. The center of the map has a large lake with Castle Burlock on the northeast shore and Darzog's Tower on an island in the middle. From there, the map is divided into quadrants--a desert to the northwest, a volcanic wasteland to the northeast, an icy tundra to the southwest, and a forest to the southeast. There are depictions of elemental lords in the corners, and I wonder if they'll play a role here as they did in Might and Magic II. There are also representations of creatures that are probably real creatures, like a giant in the tundra and a pegasus in the desert. In other words, it's the usual colorful, densely-packed Mike Winterbauer map.
       
The light side of Xeen.
      
I couldn't explore it openly yet because my characters lacked sufficient skills in "Pathfinding," "Mountaineering," and "Swimming." The first two require only two characters in the party to be trained; the latter requires all characters to have it. I had only found the trainer for "Pathfinding" (in Vertigo), and he wanted a hefty 2,500 gold pieces. 
     
Yep, that looks like a mad dwarf.
     
So instead of immediately lawnmowing my way around the area, I just started poking around the areas I could reach. I immediately started getting attacked by orcs. They were harder to hit than I imagined, though I did start with some pretty miserable "Accuracy" statistics. They also had some kind of breath attack that didn't seem to do anything to me, so perhaps it was just an animation.

Picking my way along the mountains, I found the entrance to a dungeon. As I approached, a dwarf appeared on the screen and announced, "Step right up! This way to the action-packed, treasure-filled mines of the Red Dwarf range!" The mayor in Vertigo had said that the dwarves were facing an invasion from the "Mad Dwarf" clan and had asked for help, so I entered.
       
Once was funny; every time I entered, not so much.
       
The mines were a good introduction to the game's dungeoneering conventions. They consisted of five regular mines and four "deep" mines, none of them terribly large or hard to navigate. The mines were connected by mining carts that say, "Where to?" and ask you to type in a location. Scraps of paper found amidst bones have the codes for the upper mines: MINE 1, MINE 2, MINE 3, MINE 4, and MINE 5. There's one scrap of paper in each of these that has part of the name of the first deep mine, ALPHA. From there, you find scraps of paper with the names THETA, KAPPA, and OMEGA, although once you figure out the pattern, you could probably guess your way there. I found that the mirror back in Vertigo will happily take you to any mine, but to get back, you need to return to MINE 1 and take the exit.
        
This guess didn't work out.
        
All of these areas had roughly the same features:
   
  • Monsters. They consisted of mad dwarves, giant bats, giant spiders, and tiger moles. None of them were very hard, but accumulations of battles were enough that I couldn't complete more than a level or two at a time without returning to Vertigo for rest and healing. I don't have a "Cure Poison" spell yet, so every poisoning (from giant spiders or traps) means a return to town to a temple. Also, the mad dwarves concentrated their attacks on my own dwarf, Suss, which got her knocked out and her armor broken quite frequently.
        
Tiger moles come bursting out of a box.
      
  • Barrels, full of liquids of different colors. Drinking gives you a +2 permanent boost in the attribute associated with that color. This can only be done once per barrel. These barrels first appeared in Might and Magic III, and they will continue to appear, with the same color associations, through at least Might and Magic VIII. My typical approach is to try to balance the party by giving the barrel to whoever has the lowest figure in a particular attribute. Since personality (blue) and intelligence (orange) are wasted on non-spellcasters, I generally only let spellcasters drink those barrels.
        
In Might and Magic VI, these barrels will actually respawn.
         
  • Crates. Wooden boxes appear plentifully among the upper mines. I got sick of messages saying I was too weak to open them, and I ended up letting Saoirse, my paladin, drink all the red barrels until she was strong enough to do it. A strength of 24 turned out to be sufficient. Most of the crates were empty, but some had caches of weapons and armor, and some released tiger moles.
        
I would think that our weapons would be enough.
         
  • Mining veins. Ends of corridors often had sparkling veins of gold that I could mine, sometimes three or four times, for various amounts of gold. But there's a chance of a damaging cave-in each time you try to mine the ore.
         
A lucky lode late in this session.
      
  • Chests. More significant treasure was found in these.
  • Locked doors and grates. You can bash these, taking inevitable (but small) damage, and earning no experience--or you can try to have the robber or ninja pick them for experience but also the risk of significant damage, sometimes even death. I've never been sure how the thief is taking damage in these situations. Does she slip and stab herself with the lockpick?
  • Secret doors. These must be bashed. You identify them automatically with the associated skill, which causes the little lizard on the lower-right part of the view window to wave his arm frantically.
  • Traps. The most infuriating parts of the game are the invisible, unavoidable, undisarmable traps that you have to cross, sometimes repeatedly. The ones in Might and Magic III at least had blades on pendulums and such, so you could see them. These just shoot fire or gas out of the ground, often both damaging and poisoning the party. "Jump" is supposed to help you cross them safely, when you know they're there, but it failed every time I tried to cast it.
          
A trap gets me again.
       
The mines beat me down after a while, so I took a break from them to explore other areas. I met an herbalist named Myra who offered me potions for Phirna root. I killed some more orcs and got special experience for destroying their "observation post." Most important, I found a couple of fountains near Vertigo's entrance, one which gives you a temporary 25 hit points, and the other of which gives you a temporary +5 boost to armor class.
      
These would be nice in real life.
     
These fountains, plus the bonuses from donating at temples, proved to be key to clearing these early areas. You have to time them right. Enhancements always disappear at 05:00, so you want to get them immediately after that to get a full 24 hours out of them.
   
I activated one of the pyramids and found my party transported to the city of Castleview on the Darkside of Xeen. I immediately hustled to another pyramid to get back, but not before Myra's counterpart, an herbalist named Zelda, shoved a Dragon Pharaoh's Orb in our hands and said we should take it to someone named Ellinger.
        
Whoops! I think I'm here too early.
      
Back in Vertigo, I took the magic mirror to Rivercity, which a Vertigo tavern patron had assured me was "full of action." I immediately met that town's primary opponent, insane beggars, which have a melee attack that drives characters insane. To avoid bankrupting myself at the temple, I adopted a "shoot first" policy, the moment I saw them in the distance. The city also had a lot of robbers--much harder enemies that I couldn't defeat without the fountain and temple bonuses.
       
Trouble with a capital "T," and that rhymes with "B," and that stands for "beggar."
      
The robbers were cash cows, delivering 200 gold each. That wasn't quite enough to keep up with the excellent training offered by various desks and tents in the city, including "Armsmaster," "Bodybuilding," "Mountaineering," "Navigation," and "Swimming." The latter was pretty cheap, though, and I did ultimately give it to all my characters so they could finish exploring Rivercity itself, which has a large harbor, including a back entrance that leads to the ocean outside. A brief foray outside showed me that the city is in map C3, at the south end of the world's central lake.
          
So, like, 10 feet?
        
The town's quest involved the recovery of a magical pendant for Barak the Sorcerer. That name seems familiar, but I might be thinking of Baruk the Sorcerer from the Malazan books, or perhaps a former U.S. President whose first name was "Barack." He said it was stolen by some "sorceresses." (There was some slightly deeper plot involving Barak, as tavern rumors said that the tavern had hired the sorceresses to run him out of town, but the reasoning behind this was never explained.) They were in the northwest section of town. They were capable of casting a fireball spell that damaged all my characters, so it was important to close quickly with them, avoiding walking in the same column or row when they were in the distance. Once in melee range, they were pretty easy.
       
Probably best not to make any comment at all.
       
In a room full of treasure chests that each imparted 1 gold and 1 gem, I found one that had Barak's pendant, which I returned. My reward was the "Enchant Item" spell. More important, he removed the poison from Rivercity's central well, which now gave a 100 point bonus to spell points, making the rest of this area (and the mines) much easier, as my paladin and druid were able to cast a lot more "Cure Wounds" spells before having to rest.
    
In the southwest, blue robbers gave way to black "robber bosses." Defeating them all netted me a chest with 5,000 gold and 100 gems and a second chest with 1,000 gold and Princess Roxanne's Tiara. That's one quest I'll be able to solve immediately.
          
This early in the game, this is a nice reward.
        
The mid-west section of town, behind the training hall, had a bunch of fearsome foes called "yang knights" that I was unable to touch, let alone defeat. Saving them for later, I leveled up, drank from the bonus fountains, got blessed by the temple, and returned to finish the mines.
        
I'll be back.
      
The deep mines were much the same as the first five, although more spread out. There were a couple of corpses that somehow gave everyone "Danger Sense," "Direction Sense," and "Cartographer."
          
This is a skill I naturally have. I think it comes from all the years working with maps.
      
The vein walls got a lot more lucrative, some delivering over 5,000 gold their first try, and descending amounts after that. The final battles were in deep mine Omega, where I met a number of mad dwarf clan sergeants and ultimately the clan king. After I killed him (I forgot to take a screen shot, but he looked like a regular mad dwarf, just a different color), we returned to Vertigo's mayor for our reward: The Red Dwarf Badge of Courage and 50,000 experience points.
     
If you want a sad story, read about the life of Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage (1895).
        
I had well over 75,000 gold by now, so I visited all the trainers in Vertigo and Rivercity, and got the party trained in the navigation skills they need. I also visited the two guilds in the cities and got caught up on spells. I couldn't quite buy all of them, but I got the vital "Cure Paralysis," "Power Cure," and "Cure Poison" spells for my cleric spellcasters and "Lloyd's Beacon" for my druid. I also got "Day of Protection" for my paladin and "Day of Sorcery" for my sorcerer. These are extremely useful high-level spells making their first appearance in the series. "Day of Protection" simultaneously casts "Light," "Protection from Air," "Protection from Earth," "Protection from Fire," "Protection from Water," "Heroism," "Holy Bonus," and "Bless." "Day of Sorcery" simultaneously casts "Light," "Levitate," "Wizard Eye," "Clairvoyance," and "Power Shield." I'm astonished to have them both this early in the game.
    
Miscellaneous notes:
   
  • It occurred to me during this session that neither Rivercity nor Vertigo has a dungeon. I think this is the first time in the series that its cities don't have dungeons. 
  • The Rivercity trees mostly say, "What did you expect, money?" when you search them, which is making fun of the trees in Vertigo, I guess. But occasionally one of them does have money. Screw you, Rivercity trees.
  • I think the mad dwarf/clan sergeant/clan king trio might be the first appearance of the famous Might and Magic "triad." If we had something that fits the bill in III, let me know, but I don't remember any. These triads are groups of progressively harder enemies that have the same icons, but with slightly different colors or decorations. By Might and Magic VI, every non-unique enemy in the game will be one of three flavors.
  • I'm not sure the developers didn't over-do it a bit on the sound. Was III this loud? If so, I must have played with the sound very low or off a lot of the time. Every combat is a cacophony of clangs, screams, and thuds.
  • My characters all ended this session at Level 8 or 9.  
          
My paladin at the end of the session, before we bought all the skills and spells.
       
  • I found modest item upgrades throughout the session, including the first accessories (e.g., steel necklaces, iron rings), some of which might not do anything. I've found two attribute-enhancing items: a rapid broach [sic] and a chance charm. Suss has a shocking hammer, which does some extra electrical damage, and Grey Witch has a frost dagger. I haven't found any missile weapons that my druid or sorcerer can use.
  • I haven't tried it yet, but apparently saying WARZONE to the mirrors will take you to an arena.
  • As you can see, I didn't make any changes to my starting party after the first entry, no matter how much good advice you may have given. This is because I scheduled that entry to post almost 10 days after I finished writing it. I got impatient waiting for it to be published and played this second session. I may still replace a character or two; I can probably make up experience in the WARZONE.
  • In the next paragraph, I use the phrase "more bad-ass." My grammar checker wants me to replace it with "worse-ass."
      
With no active quests, I have to decide how next to proceed. I'm trying to think of an original approach. I could lawnmow using a variety of patterns and from a variety of starting points. I could role-play and try to head directly for Darzog's Tower and the source of my dreams. I could go to the magic mirror and start feeding in destinations from the game map. I could even use the pyramids to try out the opening city in Darkside. Whatever I do, I'm sure I'll be too weak for some of the areas, but I definitely feel a lot more bad-ass at the end of this session than when I started.
     
Time so far: 7 hours

96 comments:

  1. MM3 doesn't have triads (that I remember) but does have dyads in that most monster kinds have a "boss monster" which is the same graphic with slightly higher stats.

    As I recall, in MM3, a steel ring or medal or necklace or anything would boost your armor class by the same amount as steel armor; whereas in MM4/5 only armor and shields boost your armor class, and the material adjectives on jewelry/accessories don't do anything. Other adjectives (like "rapid" or "chance" or "shocking") do work. This was probably because MM4/5 allows you to equip more things at the same time.

    And the map doesn't wrap because XEEN is indeed flat with a flipside, whereas Terra is a (toroidal) planet.

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    1. Agreed with you, but Terra is not toroidal.No planet in CRPGs is ever torooidal.

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    2. Maybe some day you'll explain your aversion to toroids :)

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    3. Now that there's been two replies, I can't delete my weird misspelling above.

      I don't have an aversion; they just don't make sense either logically or mathematically. Logically, as Odin points out, where do you put the sun? Why doesn't the sky change to show the underside of the inner ring? How would such a planet even form? Why wouldn't you become weightless as you reached the inner ring?

      Mathematically it wouldn't work for several reasons. Most commonly, the CRPG world map has the same north-south distance as it does an east-west distance. It is not possible to construct a torus in which the "girth" of the torus is equal to the cicumference of the ring.

      "Circumference of the outer ring" actually doesn't make any sense, which brings us to the second reason that it doesn't work mathematically. A loop around the inner part of the torus's ring is shorter than a loop around the outer part of its ring. That means that the distance across the game map will be different depending on the latitude. That introduces a new problem and doesn't solve the old one.

      If you want to test it, do this: roll up a piece of paper so that you have a cylinder, then try to connect the ends to make a loop. You can't do it without collapsing the ring. The reason is that the outer edge would have to "stretch" and the inner edge would have to contract, the same way it would if you tried to take a globe flatten it into a paper map. When you suggest that a video game map is a torus, you are not only suggesting that the planet is shaped like a doughnut, but you are also creating the same problem that your absurd example was designed to solve.

      There. Now I have a comment I can link to every time this comes up.

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    4. And if anyone starts talking about fourth dimensions and non-Euclidean space, I swear to god I will take this blog offline permanently.

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    5. Agree is not possible to correctly map a toroid to a flat map, but it is also essentially not possible to correctly map a sphere to a flat map. The distance across the game map should also vary depending on your latitude on a planet. Can we say that no CRPG map is ever spherical (or ellipsoid)? What if you can't see the map at all, could one construct a hypothetical CRPG in which your character was, in fact, forced to wander the surface of a toroid?

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    6. I suppose you could view the latitude issue (in a flat map of either a globe or toroid) as an aspect of abstraction similar to how these games are representing mountains as ten feet high, and cities, castles, towers as being akin to doll houses. The other issues (sun, sky, etc) still stand, though.

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    7. It's not a CRPG, it's a text adventure, but Eric the Unready had an explicitly toroidal planet: Screenshot from Mobygames

      Of course, it is a parody game.

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    8. As far as the sun, the inside of the torus could be in perpetual shadow or perhaps perpetual twilight while the sun orbited around the outer ring. Or, because this is a fantasy world, perhaps there could be multiple light sources. In real world physics of course it would be a mess. Perhaps the toroid could be roughly perpendicular to the sun and then orbit around it while revolving around the perpendicular axis (as if the north pole were simply on one side of the toroid, rather than in the center. Of course, gravitation is a serious problem; the center-of-mass of the toroid would mean that objects on the inner ring would likely actually fall into the space in the center. Any atmosphere would have to be a cloud around the entire object, leaving the outer ring with a less dense atmosphere than the center. But again, with fantasy physics all of that is moot. Spelljammer ships retained an "air envelope" and so could a toroidal planet inside a crystal sphere that is spinning around a central "sun" made up of a giant flaming brazier on the backs of infinite turtles.

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    9. The only reason to postulate a torus in the first place is to make the map make sense in regard to real-world physics. If you're going to bring "fantasy physics" into the equation, it's much better to simply argue that there are teleporters at the edges of the map--or better yet, that moving the party from the north edge to the south edge is just an abstraction to make it easier for the player, when in real life the party used other means to get there.

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    10. There are real physicists who will argue in all sincerity that the universe is a 2D hologram.

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    11. If I saw a toroidal planet showing up somewhere, I'd simply assume it was an artificial construct, and any suns I see are probably artificial, too.

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  2. You get bonuses from attributes for every 2 points up to 21, at which point it jumps to every 4 points until 40, so it mostly makes sense to spread the barrels around like you did.

    I don't think Clerics, Druids, or Sorcerers can use any missle weapons.

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    1. No, they can't. That's mildly surprising, considering in most D&D-like games, the sling is a standard weapon for clerics and druids.

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  3. I gotta say, I know it's an abstraction and game balance and whatever, but nothing bugs me more in games than the "clearly wooden crate/door that can't be opened without the correct item/stat despite the characters having access to plenty of tools/magic/etc that could affect it".

    This is taken up to 11 in the 3D Fallout games, where you can be walking around carrying grenades, dynamite, and a couple of tactical nukes and still be stymied by a broken screen door.

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    1. How about: the dungeon is guarded by a weird blue-skinned humanoid that appears at every dungeon but nowhere else in the game, that only lets you in if you carry a rock, is impervious to all your attacks for no explained reason, and blocks bashing, lockpicking, and teleportation magic.

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    2. I agree, Ian, and at times like this, I like to imagine what stops me from doing such things in real life and how a video game could implement a similar solution. It sometimes gives me clever ideas for how video games should work, especially in the area of law and order.

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    3. The more advanced games become, the more this irks me. In 80s games where you know the computer has so little memory the devs have to put journal entries into the manual, heavy abstractions are fine and weird game mechanics can be accepted as tech restrictions.

      Even today, I'm fine with some needlessly restrictive game design decisions as long as the game is abstract enough. In a Dungeon Master clone (or these days, Grimrock clone) you know the dungeons are designed as puzzles so not being able to bypass a locked wooden door even though you got a 100 strength barbarian armed with a giant flaming axe is fine.

      But any game that at least pretends to be simulationist should give the player options like bashing in doors. Thief (even though it's not an RPG) does this very well. Wooden doors can be bashed in with a sword, metal doors can't. But it's a stealth game so you don't wanna make any noise, therefore in most situations you'd rather find the key. But the option exists (as well as a good reason not to use it).

      I think a big problem there is developers wanting to prevent the player from breaking carefully scripted scenes. Can't allow the player to get past that door too early or he'll break the intended sequence of the main quest! And instead of fixing the structure of the main quest or adding an alternative path if the player manages to skip ahead, we'll just make that door entirely unbreakable and unpickable until the player has found the McGuffin that opens the door!

      A rather misguided way of designing RPGs, in my opinion. Just implement as many interactive systems as you can, then let the player go wild. That's much more fun than a carefully crafted linear main quest with a dozen easily broken scripted scenes, that have to be artificially protected from being broken by cutting down player freedom.

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    4. This kind of thing doesn't bother me *generally* - games are an abstraction, and in systemed RPGs especially I'm expecting that abstraction - but it bothers me when it's not consistent within a single game.

      Like if the game normally lets you at least try to fight overpowered enemies, but then an enemy that it looks like you could maybe beat takes you captive in a cutscene without letting you try.

      Or when you can attempt to bash down every locked door in a dungeon, but in another context you *have* to have the key.

      Etc etc.

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    5. GregT, that's a good point, but I have to point out here that World of Xeen kinda fails here then - why can you bash a door open, but not a crate?

      (and yeah, the whole "losing in a cutscene" is also pretty awful. Actually, that's something else Fallout 3 did that really bugged me.)

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    6. Doors and crates are just different entities here with different rules.

      In game design, you usually assign certain properties to certain entity groups. The entity group door has several possible interactions, but the devs didn't put those interactions on any other entity types. That's acceptable.

      The bad thing is when suddenly, for no reason other than story gating, the devs remove various interactions that work on all doors in the game from one specific door. Then it feels really artificial.

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    7. @JarlFrank: I think both approaches to designing RPGs can be fun. Some people want to make toyboxes, other people want to tell stories. Both have their place.

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    8. Fireballs could burn through wooden doors in Dungeon Master.

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    9. @JarlFrank - sure, I get how it works from a programming perspective, but from a in-game or real-world perspective, it makes no sense - what's different from a wooden crate vs a wooden door that prevents me from breaking one but not the other?

      It's even more frustrating because there's an easy fix - instead of a wooden crate, tell me its a chest made of stone/metal/adamantium that can't be broken. Or instead of a wooden door, its a magic seal that requires the correct key. But if you show it as a wooden crate, you should be prepared for people to treat it, you know, like a wooden crate.

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  4. You start Darkside on level five if you play that game alone, but it is way harder than the start of Clouds. If you want to explore that part you are ready to go, though.

    This leads to the biggest flaw in World of Xeen in my opinion. As both games need a working progression individually, the combination inevitably has some parts that are trivial.

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    1. Yes, if you play either of them separately, they are pretty rough in some spots balance-wise, and require quite a bit of well management. If you combine them, your party can essentially kill twice as many monsters per level, and you will constantly be overgeared and overlevelled, making the latter half of the game fairly easy.

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  5. That Yang Knight looks like he's out to vanquish the Ninja Turtles and take over New York City...

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  6. Somehow never realized before that the fountains in this game are based on the New World Computing logo. Cheeky devs.

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  7. I thought the map in MM3 didn't wrap either, but maybe I'm confused with a different game.

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    1. I'm pretty sure it doesn't. I can't remember ever circling around the world in any M&M and I only played III-V.

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    2. Some of the dungeon maps in MMI wrap but the overland maps don't.

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    3. You are correct. I misremembered. However, the map just stops to show you ocean in all directions, and the world is three-dimensional in cut scenes that show you the entire thing. In this one, you can actually walk up to the void.

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    4. I can't remember which one, but in at least one of the MMs where you can walk up to the void, you can cast jump to end up in it.

      It ends up just how you expect it would.

      Also, I think the jump spell moves you a specific amount of spaces. So it will always fail if it can't move you that amount.

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    5. That is correct. Jump moves you two squares forward, Etherealize moves you one square, and Teleport lets you pick a number up to nine. XEEN allows you to teleport into the void, with predictable effects.

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  8. The Dwarf Mines are the most boring part of the whole game, in my opinion. Any time I replayed the game I always hated that part, and tried to leave it until I was powerful enough to just blow through it as quickly as possible.

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    1. My most vivid memory of XEEN is probably the quips from the NPCS. Specifically, those those mine carts saying "Ware-Tew?" in that funky little accent. I can still remember that 20+ years later.

      Honorable mention to the raspy/husky barmaid saying "hello traveller", and the Goat-Bro training saying "YEW, wanna train !?!".

      Still one of my all time favorites. Xeen is just FUN!.

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    2. Agreed 100%. These games are so FUN. The cartoony graphics, the silly audio clips, the non-serious nature of a lot of the characters. The game drops you in Vertigo with a vague quest to save the world and you go and figure everything else out and do whatever you want.

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  9. My first thought when you mentioned "Barak the Sorcerer" was of David Eddings' Belgariad, which contains a character named Barak (mostly a burly berserker type) and Belgarath the Sorcerer. Not sure if you've read those books, but personally, right around the time these games were coming out, I would've been reading the entire 10-book dual series (Belgariad and Malloreon) on a loop. So it's possible it's a reference...

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    1. Barak also appears as one of the recurring recruitable heroes in the Heroes of Might and Magic series, so that could be what Addict was thinking of.

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  10. The Red Dwarf Mines is the most popamole dungeon I've ever explored.

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    1. The dungeons in this game in general are pretty bad. There was only one "puzzly" dungeon that I kind of liked

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  11. This is why you're the CRPG Addict and I'm a mere human. I'm playing along with you, but I still haven't done half of what you've completed in two sessions.

    I've cleared out the Dwarf mines, which I thought were a ton of fun. I love mapping. I've started to explore the countryside, and found a quest to rescue somebody or other from the witch's tower, and also found said tower and am in the process of tearing it down. Also fun. And I like the silliness of the game so far. It's just the right amount.

    But I looked for and couldn't find Rivercity. It didn't occur to me to use the mirror for it. And so my party is way behind yours in skills, particularly since I forgot to buy Pathfinder in Vertigo. I'll head back and fix that today.

    One thing I found that you missed: there's a fountain that gives you +5 levels outside of Vertigo.

    My party is: (1) Half-orc Barbarian, (2) Half-orc Knight, (3) Human Paladin, (4) Dwarf Ninja, (5) gnome Archer, (6) Elf Archer. I wanted to avoid pure spellcasters; I find them less fun in early CRPGs. Anyone have any thoughts on the party? Can I get by with only one healer, and a Paladin at that?

    Other than my worry about healing, I've really enjoyed the party so far. The Barbarian and the Ninja hit like dump trucks. I picked Archers over Sorcerers out of the assumption that I would find more use in melee fighters than casters; so far I'm right. And the fight with the Dwarf king was difficult but fun.

    So that's where I'm at so far. I'm determined to beat you to the chalice or the wand or the MacGuffin or whatever it is the quest is. What exactly IS the quest, again?

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    1. I was never a big fan of archers and I wouldn't have two in my parties, but it's not like they are a dealbreaker. World of Xeen is generally super-tame anyway. If you are stuck on one side go to the other and level up some.

      I don't remember exactly if you can learn Day of Sorcery / Day of Protection without pure casters. You can go without all other spells but not having access to these to is super-annoying, if only because they are so incredibly convenient.

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    2. I'm playing along too and still have no idea what the quest is but the atavistic aspect Chet mentioned is motivation enough (is there really any other true motivation to play an rpg?) I also got bored and stuck in the dwarf mine and detoured in order to level up when I found the witch tower south of Vertigo and found that immediately more interesting and weird! Also I feel like the sound aspect Chet mentioned is just perfect for me. I love this era of FM game music and the clangorous combat is very satisfying.

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    3. The game intro states that Crodo is imprisoned in some tower. The quest is probably to free him and then defeat Lord Xeen, yes?

      I'm... not actually sure if any NPCs in the cities mention that? Like, does anyone say "oh we are so oppressed by this evil Xeen guy", or like "yeah, the prison tower is over to the west" or something?

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    4. Maybe I'll ditch one of the archers. I've been underwhelmed by them. The main reason I have them is for Lloyd's Beacon, which seems so useful that I wanted to make sure I had at least two, but the moment-to-moment combat with them hasn't been great, even on the rare occasion I use their offensive spells.

      Yeah, the two introductions talk about the main quest a bit. But there wasn't much in the way of guidance there. And no one even MENTIONED Xeen in Vertigo. I'm not complaining; I really like the game. It's just odd that there isn't any forward momentum.

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    5. Half the fun of the game is figuring out what the quest is. But it does clearly state in the intro that you need to rescue Crodo and defeat Lord Xeen. The game plops you down in Vertigo with no mention whatsoever of either of those so you gotta figure everything else by yourself.

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    6. Paladins and Archers can learn all the cleric and sorcerer spells respectively. I always take an archer over a sorc because they can use way better equipment and the sorc's HP is so low they become a major liability.

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    7. To Lasagna42 and OdinFK.
      In M&M4-5 there is not much of a difference between paladins/clerics and archers/sorcerers. Paladins and archers have less MP and spells cost them twice as much to learn at the guilds. But otherwise, they can learn all of the spells and cast them just as good as "pure" spellcasters.

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    8. It's unintuitive to me that the class differences in spellcasting are pretty much just about MP, and also that Int/Per only affect MP and not the quality of the spells themselves. My RPG brain wants to believe that my high INT Sorcerer is doing more than just having a ton of MP.

      It makes me wonder if I overrate Clerics and Sorcerers with their low HP, attacks, and equipment proficiencies, and how a party with two Paladins and two Archers (with Kni/Bar and Nin/Rob) would work out?

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    9. Having a really deep MP battery is pretty useful given the costs of high-level spells, and the equipment issue is less important than it looks because zngrevny glcr engure dhvpxyl birefunqbjf gur onfr vgrz fgngf. Na Bofvqnva pyho vf orggre guna gur frpbaq orfg Synzoretr va gur tnzr.

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    10. Party with 2 paladins and 2 archers should work well. It will be a bit more hard on the money, but not by much, if you leave some spells only to one of the casters, at least in the early stages of the game.
      Also, it makes some sense to make one paladin and archer humans and another pair a gnome paladin and an elfen archer. That pair will lean towards heavier combat casting and buffing, while the human pair will be casting healing and utility spells.

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    11. My party was one warrior, one ninja, two paladins and two archers, as I wanted everyone to be able to wield a ranged weapon and also engage in melee effectively.

      It worked reasonably well, except that deciding how to distribute some of the stat bonuses become kind of a pain.

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  12. I don't know why the Red Dwarf Mines' "greeter" dwarf's "Step right up" spiel is etched irrevocably into my brain, but it absolutely is. The passage of 20+ years hasn't done anything to change that.

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    1. "Rah! Rah! Only those with the proper stone may enter here. Rah.... Go away!"

      "How did YOU get a key? Alright, go ahead."

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  13. "How does my robber manage to take so much damage failing to pick a lock? Does she stab herself with the lockpick?"

    Haven't you seen "The Gamers 2", where the bard tries to stab an evil grimoire at the end and rolls a critical fail? :P

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  14. I've been running this on real hardware lately, and the volume is EXTREMELY loud compared to MM3 on the same machine. I'm not sure what audio settings DOSBOX is defaulted to, but try running the Install program and answering "no" to the "Do you want Xeen to automatically manage your mixer settings" question.

    This screws up the music volume (in my experience), but you turn that off anyway.

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    1. In the comments for the first entry about Xeen someone has mentioned that Xeen actually works in ScummMV. So I have tried this and it runs perfectly fine. You can change the volume of music/FX in ScummMV engine, which I did on the spot.

      There are two additional options, you can turn on a mod that makes armour harder to break and that shows the value of your items in inventory.

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    2. If I was willing to use something like ScummVM, do you think I'd be going to the trouble to run this on the real thing?

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    3. It was useful information for me, even if it wasn't useful for you.

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  15. If you’ve read the First Law trilogy, which I figure is likely since you’ve read Malazan, perhaps you were thinking of Bayek?

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    1. Or Bayek from AC: Origins, which I think Chet just mentioned having played.

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  16. My advice on progressing is follow any natural lead you have. Might and Magic is definitely a game that will let you find things that are "too tough" - or even "absurdly lethal" - before you're ready for them, and for that matter will also give you plot threads, ridiculous buffs, and keywords early if you find the right place, so lawnmowing risks being alternately deeply frustrating, and then potentially trivialising of later challenges.

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  17. Welcome to Xeen. Some helpful starting advice.

    If you have WoX CD version from Steam or GoG you can activate voice actors, even alongside the text if you want. The audio voice acting is actually pretty good, and persists for all NPC's throughout the entire game. Dozens of voice actors and personalities, really improves the game experience. Don't miss out on this.

    I would recommend a cleric if only for the powerful Mass Distortion spell alongside the healing. Many enemies on Darkside are so powerful and have such insane hit points that MD is the only viable way to kill them quickly before they kill you.

    Cure Poison and Cure Disease are available as quest rewards near Vertigo, no need to purchase them. Many spells can be had for free as various rewards or found in dungeons, or bought with gems. Save your cash. To get the highest levels, you'll have to be frugal about purchases and hoard cash at the bank.

    A good idea on liquids in barrels and such is to pick a party member and give them all liquids of that color best suited for their profession, not just who is lowest. You'll find areas in the game that check for low stats and improve them for free; if you're above a certain threshold then you get nothing.

    Explore the overworld for the best quests, you should be around level 10 to attempt Castleview on Darkside; if you're using Jeff Ludwig's fantastic WoX monster spawn mod, which fixes all the bugs as well then you'll never have to worry about running out of XP again. Lack of cash to level will still be the primary problem.

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    1. I don't know that I'd call the voice acting 'good'. 'Memorable', certainly. Special razzie award goes to that ghost that sounds like he's from Queens (or possibly Brooklyn, I'm not that clear on my NYC accents).

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    2. I don't agree about Mass Distortion. While it's certainly a good spell, it is by no means "the only viable way" for a decently-leveled and -equipped party.

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  18. Party makeup. Barbarian, Paladin, Archer, Thief, Cleric, Sorceror gives a good mix of both might and magic. The paladin and archer serve as backup casters of their respective disciplines. If using Ludwig's spawn mod you can substitute the barbarian and thief with the improved ranger and druid class for even better casting power and purchase thievery later on for one of them.

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  19. Do Red Dwarves have fun fun fun in the sun sun sun drinking fresh mango juice?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV0hwZwNQZc&ab_channel=zombeatle01

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    1. It would be funny if they did reference this in the M&M games :-)

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  20. In the M&M games, if you don't know what to do, it's a good idea to visit all the towns. There are always quests in and around them. You can either walk to the others via the roads or take the magic mirror.

    I believe the arena solves the problem of the game only having a fixed amount of experience, however I wonder if it would actually be possible to get to the late game, realize you have a bad character, swap them out and train the new one up to a high level through either the arena or other high level areas.

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    Replies
    1. Town Portal is a fantastic spell to know where to follow, for sure.

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  21. I can't believe you're at Xeen, Chet!

    One thing I recall liking about Xeen over M&M III was the logistics. In M&M III, each character had twenty inventory slots, but in Xeen, they had, I think, ten slots for each type of item (weapons, armor, jewelry, etc.). This meant that the party could last longer in the field before hauling their useless items back to the blacksmith for sale.

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    1. The best part about Xeen was that quest items had their own inventory. No more juggling keys and orbs and other such nonsense; everything that wasn't equipment or capable of casting a spell goes into it's own inventory.

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  22. Re: Probably best not to make any comment at all.
    How about: "That is one worse-ass loincloth."

    Sorry, couldn't help myself. :P

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    1. He should have shown her damage frame. It looks hilariously ridiculous.

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  23. "I also got "Day of Protection" for my paladin and "Day of Sorcery" for my sorcerer. These are extremely useful high-level spells making their first appearance in the series."

    They are TOO convenient, IMHO, making the individual spells they cast pointless on their own. There is really no reason not to cast them after resting, and keeping them up until the next rest.

    "These triads are groups of progressively harder enemies that have the same icons, but with slightly different colors or decorations."

    "Families" of monsters sharing the same graphics with the colors swapped is something I heavily associate to JRPGs, where it has been a staple of the genre since Dragon Warrior.

    I always found it a clever "trick", but kind of lazy.

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    1. One reason not to overuse Day of Protection/Sorcery is their high gem cost!

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    2. I think it also depends on what you are planning to do. If you just need a combat boost, DoP and Power Shield is enough and you don't need DoS. Likewise if the enemies are easy, then you might just want DoS to aid in exploration. Finally, sometimes all you really need is great elemental protection and should just cast Prot. from Elements directly instead.

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    3. Gem cost becomes a non-issue fairly early, though. AFAIR gems are plentiful in the game.

      @asimpkins most of the times you really don't know what kind of enemies or traps you will be facing if you are playing for the first time. My point is that the convenience of DoS and DoP makes strategizing about what spells you need in a specific situation unnecessary, removing some challenge from the game. Or maybe I'm just lazy :)

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    4. One of the tricks in MM3 and Xeen are wands, items and such that achieve the same effect as many spells. In fact you only need one caster who can cast 'recharge item' spell, all the others can use the wands and stuff. You use these in lieu of the spells to save on gem costs, as you'll need those gems for the armorers on Darkside.

      I always try to locate items of Day of Prot, Sorc and Town Portal. Then a Lloyd's beacon item for each so each can have a buff location. You can easily find all these if you know how to manipulate the shops to sell them to you.

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  24. I don't know about magic candle III, but I would find it hard to play m+m-xeen alongside magic candle I (the only one I tried). Both games are a decent size but I just find xeen so much more fun that it makes MC seem even more of a slog, do you not find this with MC III?

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    1. I think I slightly prefer the MC games to the MM ones. But then, I play them with walkthroughs, which goes a long way to cut down their frustration factor. MM is a pretty frustration free experience but it's also... "weightless". I feel very little sense of place beyond "colorful video-gamey environment of monsters to blow up".

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  25. As for where to go from here, there's always just taking the road and seeing where it goes. Always felt like that worked well in taking me to where the next best task was.

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  26. I love how the first dungeon is 9 levels. Good idea to take a break part way.

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  27. To this day I do not understand how they went from the great, lighthearted music in Might and Magic 3 to the awful noise in Worlds of Xeen. Even on a SC-55, the music just feels off and odd. Might and Magic 3, on the other hand, decades later I still occasionally hum some of the tunes.

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  28. "I'm not sure the developers didn't over-do it a bit on the sound. Was III this loud? If so, I must have played with the sound very low or off a lot of the time."

    It's not just you. MMWoX's sound effects are too loud. It's possible that this is a DOSBox problem, but there's a fix.

    Make a file in the same folder as XEEN.EXE and call it "sbfix.bat" or whatever. Put this in the contents:
    mixer sb 25
    XEEN.EXE

    Then run it instead of XEEN.EXE. The sound balance should be a lot more pleasant.

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    1. If you use a Doxbox frontend then you can adjust the volume in settings. I used D-Fend Reloaded for Xeen, it has about a dozen or so audio sliders in settings menu for the specific sound problem you might be having, without the need to manually edit config files.

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    2. It's not a DOSbox problem; M&M was also loud on contemporary systems. Then again, most speakers at the time had a physical volume dial, so it's not exactly a big deal.

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  29. I am obsessively playing it right now and went through all the initial Cloud cities, swam a bit, got to a tower, Castle Burlock, the mines, Darkside and got the city's quests...

    The weird thing is how easy is to get to level 10 and then how hard is to advance from there. Yes, visiting Darkside must have something to do with this.

    I really love how Xeen looks and sounds. I set the bass a bit higher than usual for my headphones and I nearly forget that the sampled sounds are so low quality.

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    1. btw found the warzone by chance checking the snowy areas. There are really annoying enemies there, outside and inside.

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  30. I swear to God if there are Yin Knights...

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  31. The most blessed thing I remember about those damn mines was figuring out that you could use the magic mirror in town to avoid that bloody dwarf and his speech.

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  32. Just dropping in to say that I am so thrilled to see you play MM4/5. I know for you MM6 was the original way into the series, but for me I played MM3 to death, and then MM4/5 as a teenager, and I have so much fond memories of them. They're silly, but I think you nailed exactly what makes them so just FUN. Anyway. I would have lots to say, but everyone is already saying it, so good luck, enjoy yourself, I'll comment along if anything triggers a memory and 5 people didn't beat me to it. :)

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  33. Since you collected the Dragon Pharoah's Orb, at this point you may as well watch the Darkside intro cinematic. It will better explain what the purpose of the orb is.

    Know that level cap in Clouds is 20. Darkside is a whopping 250 or so. As you might expect you get *a lot* of experience in Darkside. Completing a single map or dungeon here can trivialize the game experience in Clouds. There's no need to make ANY initial forays into Darkside, unless you just want to ignore Clouds altogether.

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