Friday, March 5, 2021

Magic Candle III: The Whole Ball of Wax

This is a first: Instead of attacking us, the game's villain just exasperatedly tells us to go away.
       
As I wrapped up last time, I was contemplating doing a detailed blow-by-blow of the dungeon called Hitmos. I ultimately decided to do it, but we're going to pick up on Level 2 rather than Level 1 because I already blasted through Level 1 while I was contemplating things. Level 1 was moderately-sized. There was one staircase that went from Level 1 all the way to Level 7, but just to a section that didn't lead anywhere else. An apparition of Alvirex (the wizard supposedly behind the Blight) threatened us. We had to return to Level 1, fight through some rooms, and find our way to a separate set of stairs to Level 2.
   
As we begin the second level, Sakar speaks up and warns about "teleportals and other traps." His warning is well-placed. The level is a giant cross. We entered from a stairway on the left end of the cross. The other three ends all have (invisible) teleporters leading to other levels. In the center of the cross is a skeleton whose skull recites, "Your path onward lies towards the nearest pole. Beware the false jump, lest your journey be lengthened."
   
This short speech gives me a chance to carp about something that annoys me in the interface: whenever anyone has a dialogue that lasts more than a few lines, it extends off the bottom of the screen and your only option (activated by almost any key) is "Cont." However, two things are actually going on: the dialogue continues off the screen and continues onto a separate screen. To read all of it you need to hit the down arrow to scroll the rest of the initial text, then hit "Cont" to continue on to additional text. They should have just picked one or the other. It's very easy to skip by the off-screen text; in fact, I nearly always do it. The only thing that saves me is the notepad recording everything.
           
Again with the "mortals."
      
I don't know where it's ever stated whether The Magic Candle takes place in the northern or southern hemisphere, or whether the Solian Lands (despite the proximity to the main continent) is supposed to be the southern hemisphere. Either way, I assume that the south pole is the closest. I would have tried south first anyway because following in a right-most path is so deeply ingrained in me that it feels very alien to do otherwise.
    
The teleporter takes us to a section of Level 2 in the northeast corner, outside the borders of the cross. There's a room right next to us. (It's technically along the "left" wall, but I poke my head into all rooms that I pass; the "rightmost" rule is just to determine the direction of travel.) There's a battle and we find some stuff in a chest. All right, technically I did that already, too, but I promise from this point forward you're getting live action results.
   
Further down this corridor, before we reach its end, another invisible teleporter activates and takes us back to the stairway to Level 2. At first, I assume that north must be the correct way to go, but the teleporters at the north and east end of the cross both take us to the dungeon exit back on Level 1. So we go south again, get teleported to the northeast corner, and this time I carefully avoid the teleporter while moving north to the end of the corridor. Teleporters typically occupy only one square, but the whole party is affected if any member steps on one. Like ambushes, if you know where they are and can't avoid them through normal travel, you can sometimes avoid them with clever party configurations. This one, in fact, requires a party no more than 2 abreast, but that's my default anyway.
        
This happens a lot in this dungeon.
     
A few steps after the first teleporter, another one also sweeps us back to the stairway. But I try again, avoid that one, too, and finally reach the end of the corridor, where a third teleporter finally takes us to a new area--the southwest corner of the level. There's a door to a room here, and as we approach, Fiz speaks up: "Back in my days at Wizard School, some of the elders whispered of rumors that Alvirex had learned how to make rooms with secret exits." That's going to be useful momentarily, but there's a greater revelation here. Rimfiztrik knew about Alvirex? Why am I (speaking as Gia, I guess) just finding out about him for the first time, then? Suddenly suspicious, I Google the word on my own blog. Ah! I'm not just hearing about him for the first time! He was the villain in The Keys to Maramon! How has no one mentioned this before?! It somehow never occurred to me that he didn't show up in The Magic Candle II. The authors were laying the groundwork for this game a long time ago. This makes me feel better about the whole thing.
   
Back to the action. We enter the room. Combat hasn't been hard enough in this dungeon yet to justify taking mushrooms before entering every room. (The useful "Vision" spell, which told you what enemies were in each room ahead of time, has been removed for this game.) The room has three zombies, two tigrets, and one hibliss. The zombies and tigrets are purely physical creatures, so they're no problem, although the zombies are going to require "Restsoul" after I knock them down. The hibliss is a bit more threatening in that he can cast "Freeze," "Fireball," and "Disappear." (The book doesn't have a bestiary, but a good player takes notes.) I'm frankly more worried about him becoming invisible and unnecessarily prolonging combat as I track him down than I am about him doing any serious damage. I also know from experience that he'll take four or five hits to kill. The others will go down in one.
   
Having thus analyzed the battlefield, I do what I pretty much always do. As combat begins, I have my two strongest fighters, Gia and Eneri, swallow Gonshis. Gonshis give you four actions per round, although I just wasted one swallowing the mushrooms. I then switch to Evixa, activate the "Jump" spell in her memory, and send both Gia and Eneri across the room into positions where they can hit the hibliss and some of the other monsters. Gia goes first, manages to score a critical hit, and kills the hibliss in three blows. Eneri kills the tigret with one and a zombie in two, getting a +1 increase in her "Axe" skill in the process.
   
Sakar, who gets three actions, moves one space and then kills the other zombie in two. Tuff draws his bonebow and fires two shots at the other tigret, but misses both times. Fiz recalls "Restsoul" and sends the two fallen zombies to their final reward.
  
That leaves one tigret and one zombie, but they're easy enough to finish off in the next round. Tuff searches the bodies and finds a skull and 6 coins. A search of the chest reveals 22 Lokas, which cure poison.
   
There's a northern exit to this room that didn't seem to have a corresponding exit outside. I guess this is the "secret door" that Fiz talked about. We take it and find ourselves (nonsensically) in the northwest corner of the level. There's a door below us, but taking it brings us to a different room than the one we just left--a room with six zombies. I'm glad we managed to find the "Felmis" book because it seems this dungeon is going to be tough on "Restsoul." Since the enemies are all physical, I let them come to me and don't bother with any mushrooms. I kill them faster than Fiz can keep up with "Restsoul" spells, but I just kill them again. Fiz has spent so much energy by the time we're done that he has to eat a Sermin. The reward is a fountain with 8 "Freeze" spells, which I can't imagine actually taking the time to cast.
        
"Jump" spells and Gonshi mushrooms will get you through 90% of this game.
      
We take the eastern door out of this room, take one step, and immediately get teleported to the southeastern corner of the level. This area has nothing but a stairway up to Level 3, but it takes me forever to figure out how to get to it because it's surrounded by teleporters that all send us back to the southwestern corner. It turns out that there's one teleporter in the northeast corner (of the southeastern area) that bypasses the other teleporters and brings you right in front of the stairs. "It would be nice if one of these many spells allowed you to detect the locations of teleporters," I write, then realize I'd better check the manual to see if there is such a spell and I've just forgotten it. There is, and I have. It's called "Detect." Gia has 42 of the damned things memorized. Oy vey.
        
This would have been useful for the last 25 hours.
        
Level 3 begins with an NPC named Toriala who has been enchanted by Alvirex so she cannot move from her current spot. She'll join our quest if we can find and defeat him. Along those lines, she offers, "The stairway by the cauldron of blood leads to treasure as well as peril, the other to the culmination of your quest." It suddenly occurs to me--that would be the subtitle of this entry if I could make a wax metaphor out of it--that Hiltmos might be intended as the "final dungeon" and we might be here way, way early. Oh, well. At least I'll clear the way for my next visit.
   
There are three rooms in fairly quick succession next. The first has venom rots, acidslimes, and rustmoss. They corrode weapons, but the damage is easily repaired. The reward is two rubies. Room 2 is a darkwolf, two skeletons, and two jerrahs. Jerrahs can cast "Fireball" but I keep "Shields" at close to 99. However, I don't have to fight them at all. I talk to them, and they agree to depart peacefully. That sometimes happens when you're overpowered compared to the enemy, and there's usually no good reason to say "no" because the characters max out with their weapon skills well before the end of the game. The only reason Eneri keeps gaining skill is that I switched her to an axe fairly late. 
        
This is fun when it works.
     
Room #3 is the rightmost choice of an area where I can also take a corridor to the east. This one has 7 tekhirs and a jerrah. That's a lot of enemies, but tekhirs are purely physical and usually die in one hit. Still, I don't want the jerrah to have a lot of time to pick away at our shields from his back corner, so I have Evixa "Jump" Gia over to him in the first round. He dies in two hits and the rest is just mop-up. The chest has some wingbones for teleportal chambers.
    
A stairway upward is on the other side of this room. I haven't seen any cauldron of blood, so I backtrack (stopping to rest and fix equipment briefly). The cauldron of blood is next to a second stairway down that east corridor, but before we get there, we get ambushed by a jerrah, two zombies, and three skeletons. I use "Jump" liberally to get my strong fighters to better positions. It doesn't take long to destroy them, but ambushes are always jarring.
    
I figure I'd better try "treasure" before "culmination." The stairway goes to Level 4, where I have no choice but to enter another room (two jerrahs, slime, rustmoss, two spiders, who agree to leave), then get hit with another ambush (two fermigons, darkwolf, tigret, two ghouls). A stairway from there goes to Level 5. There are two more rooms (same sorts of enemies as we've been discussing) before another stairway brings me to a small area of Level 6, where there's a sign and a chest. The sign reads: "Although your companion is close, he is farther away than you think--Alvirex." I have no idea what he's talking about. The chest has a diamond, "Ladaya," and two wishbones. "Ladaya" is some kind of weapon, but only an elf can wield it, which I don't have.
       
Isn't that the vine that grows in Australia?
      
We trace our steps back to Level 3 and go the "culmination" route.  Level 4 has three rooms that offer nothing new except that one has a cache of 19 medicins, which are worth a lot. There's another goddamned ambush between the second and third rooms; this dungeon seems to have more than most. Realizing I'm going to make it through this dungeon with plenty of mushrooms, I start using more at this point just to speed up the battles. "Gonshi" is the most important for the extra attacks it confers, to the extent that I'm not sure that any of the others are even really necessary. A fountain with 11 "Caravel" spells (summons a ship) means I'll probably never need to memorize that one.
    
A sign between Levels 4 and 5 says, "I congratulate your valiant, yet futile efforts. Love, Alvirex." Level 5 has two rooms that both lead to the same location; I do them both because I don't want to miss any treasure. Something weird happens as we head north along a hallway. The characters suddenly break formation and "huddle around Gia in terror." There's a "zap," and the spellcasters "shake their heads as if they have forgotten a spell!" But I check their spells and they haven't forgotten all their memorized spells, so I don't know what that's about. A wall closes behind us.
      
We don't really have that kind of relationship, guys.
       
Two steps later, there's another friggin' ambush, and the combined fermigons and hiblisses actually manage to kill Fiz by targeting basically every attack at him in the first round. I have to resurrect him afterwards, then use potions and Sermins to get us back up to speed.
        
This combat did not go well for us.
        
A stairway brings us to Level 6, which has three rooms, none terribly hard. There are some skeletons and zombies, though, and I stop for a while in one room to fix weapons and memorize more "Jump" and "Restsoul" spells.
   
A final set of stairs brings us to Level 7. As we exit the stairway, Sakar complains that dwarves practically have to climb the stairs on hands and knees while "longer-legged" races have it easy. The next step, he hits a pressure plate that opens a wall to our north. I don't know if that was supposed to be ironic or what. On the other side, we have another huddling-around-Gia-in-terror, and then suddenly all of our Mirgets are sucked out of our pouches. I wasn't really using them (they make attacks more powerful), but that was still a pretty damned expensive loss.
   
The final area is another cross-like shape with four rooms leading off of it. Each one has some of the tougher battles of this dungeon, which has not been nearly as tough as the earlier ones I explored. The treasure is good--a couple of gems, "Timestop" spells, a suit of Methreal armor. A last ambush in the center of the level has the most annoying enemies of the game: kothspawn. As battles begin, these creatures make multiple copies of themselves, most of which die in one hit. You have to identify the "real" one to kill the group. Fortunately, Gia detects the ambush so they don't get a free round. 
       
This is getting tiresome.
        
The last room oddly takes us to no combat. Instead, it's a furnished room with a firepit, candelabra, and a sign saying: "Do not disturb. Evil wizard a work." The evil wizard in question is Alvirex. I talk to him, but he simply says that he has "nothing to say to anyone, particularly a brave hero who has made a shambles of my tower." I try to ask him about BLIGHT and TORIALA, but he has nothing to say. He has no special dialogue for Eneri, the hero from Maramon. I invite him to join the party but he declines. I'm about to leave, but I decide just to go through the special items in my inventory to make sure he doesn't respond. When I use the mirror I found in the dungeon Tarrak, I get a response. The game shows some special artwork along with the narration:
     
As Alvirex stares into the Mirror of Honesty, he begins to tremble, then, as if it were against his will, to speak.

"The Blight is my doing," the evil wizard admits. "I had thought to be its master, and to use it for my own ends. But it has grown beyond my dreams, and is now out of my control. Still, the Blight makes the world more interesting. I would not destroy the Blight even if I could. The only thing that could possibly destroy the Blight would be the spell that kept the ancient Solian Empire in harmony . . . but that spell was contained in the Solnicon, a book that no longer exists!"
        
I wonder if this works on any other NPCs.
       
That's all we can do. A teleporter takes us back to Toriala. She's a hireling, and I don't want to replace one of my characters anyway, so I leave her to her freedom (I don't know how we won it). I make my way out of the dungeon. I guess we weren't here too early after all. I guess Alvirex isn't the endgame.
    
I only have a few small islands left to explore, but unless something unusual happens on any of them, I imagine I'll be spending the next few hours cycling through the cities again, asking everyone about SOLNICON. I suppose I should start at the libraries.
   
This wasn't a bad session. I wouldn't mind if there were fewer battles, but more challenging ones. I think for whatever time I have left to this game, I'm going to try harder to experiment with the various spells. 
   
Time so far: 25 hours

22 comments:

  1. Oh man kothspawn. I'm getting flashbacks.

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  2. Whenever someone in a game taunts me with the "mortals" designation, I get very irritated if the game does not allow me to introduce them to mortality.

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  3. Cast Sense to detect ambushes.

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    1. Yes, I always do that for a few minutes after I've been ambushed, and of course I find nothing. Then I get lax and get ambushed again.

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    2. The trick is to cast it before ambushes, not after :p

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  4. Hopefully you figure out the trick to this game on the next post, otherwise it will get pretty grim.

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  5. I really like these "longplay" style posts. It reminds me of my youth when these were often written in game magazines here in Germany, it was like a cheap way to experience a game without owning it. Like the pre internet equivalent of a YouTube playthrough. Btw I wonder if the word longplay is even used in english speaking countries or if that was just denglish (deutsch-english as in bastardized english).

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    1. Longplay is the accepted English word for, appropriately, YouTube playthroughs - specifically ones presented without commentary. (Ones with commentary are known as "Let's Plays", a phenomenally stupid term but one we're stuck with.) I don't think the term existed (in English) before the rise of recorded playthroughs on video hosting sites. Possibly it was adopted from German players.

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    2. Why is "Let's Play" a stupid term?

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    3. Can't speak for Anonymous, who is not me, but my issue with the term is that there's usually no "let's" involved. I understand that originally it was a term for letting a forum or comment section actually influence the playthrough, and sometimes it still is, but most "Let's Plays" seem to be, rather, "Let's you watch me play."

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    4. I didn't realize there was a distinction between "longplay" and "let's play," and that commentary was that distinction. I think I've always used the terms interchangeably. Well, now I know.

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    5. In the original form, which started over on Something Awful, you have a forum thread to discuss and analyze between updates be they video or screenshot, so you have community involvement even if only one person is playing the game. This is the "Let's" in "Let's Play".

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    6. I though that longplay was from the old vinyls.

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    7. RPG Codex still has some classic forum Let's Plays, in a dedicated subforum to that kind of thing and not limited to RPGs - any genre goes. Strategy games in particular lend themselves well to forum member input.

      I remember being confused when video LPs started popping up because up to that point Let's Play had the definition of someone posting a screenshot story of his playthrough on a forum, and occasionally accepting input from other posters.

      The few LPers I watch on YouTube also allow some degree of viewer input (I like to watch FenPhoenix who does Thief fan mission LPs, and I give him hints on things he missed, which he then takes a look at in the next episode).

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    8. Yup, part of the idea of Let's Plays is that the person running it will stop and ask for input from readers - what decision should I make here? What party members should I pick up? Where should I go next?

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    9. Longplay, to my understanding, is a complete game from opening animation to end. Possibly all in one session. Possibly all in one 8 hour and 37 minute session.

      I used to like them without narration, but these days I prefer a stream of consciousness narration that says what the player is thinking while he does it. Some people have the gift of gab to keep up the chatter and some don't. I like them without a video of themselves in the corner, as some of them are pretty unkempt and kind of wig me out. Faceless voice is fine.

      The ones I feel the worst about are where someone has something to say, but he has some irritating foreign accent that I can't listen to for more than a few minutes. I appreciate the fact that he want to all the trouble to learn our language, but sheesh if you're going to be a broadcaster please take some elocution lessons and practice at it. That goes for native speakers, too. The very worst are the ones that make mistakes showing they don't even know how to play the game correctly, and don't read comments in between sessions that are screaming at them "put more than the default amount of fuel in your rockets! That's why they keep crashing and you keep complaining the computer gets to colonize other planets and you can't!"

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    10. "I appreciate the fact that he want to all the trouble to learn our language, but sheesh if you're going to be a broadcaster please take some elocution lessons and practice at it."

      Harland, I appreciate the fact that you went to all the trouble to learn our language but, sheesh, if you're going to be a commenter, please take some grammar / proofreading lessons and practice it elsewhere first.

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  6. So what do you need the candle wicks for if you are stopping a blight started by evil wizard who you don’t even fight, seems strange to me.

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    1. That's definitely one of the mysteries at this point.

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    2. That's one of the things I like most about the series, the goal isn't kill an Evil Overlord and progressing through the game involves a lot of research and active information gathering. It reminds me of the Lord of the Rings, both the ending and the amount of research Gandalf had to do to figure out what the ring actually was.

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  7. I like that Magic Candle tries to create a shared universe of multiple spinoff games instead of just direct, numbered sequels. I could easily imagine supplemental lore expanding on the games, like the Halo novels depicting characters and events that wouldn't appear in the games for a decade or even later.

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