Monday, March 8, 2021

Clouds of Xeen: Circumnavigation

 
"Flying feet" is exactly the sort of thing this series would introduce.
       
Conscious of the need to eventually return to the Temple of Yak, I continued to area D4, which on the game map showed several branches of a river spilling over the edge of the world, a giant cyclops, and a city called Nightshadow. The map started with the party rescuing Celia the Maiden from a shack where some zombies had tied her up. I've never known zombies to do that.
        
These were the kidnapping-and-ransom type zombies.
      
You may recall I had tried this map before only to be deterred by "Stingers." They were no longer hard enough to bother me. Neither were "Killer Sprites," although they were capable of casting "Curse," which I can't cure yet. Of all the games of this era, Might and Magic seems to be the most eager to keep the characters continually inflicted with some condition or another. I can't think of many other games in which characters can be slept, poisoned, diseased, weak, drunk, cursed, or insane.
   
It was seeking a cure that I entered Nightshadow before finishing the rest of the outdoor map. I was immediately attacked by a "Bat Queen," which looks pretty cool. A lot of the monster portraits in the game are well done, if a bit goofy. The city was swarming with them, but they died quickly to physical attacks. If they occasionally got in a hit, they were capable of weakening the targeted character.
    
Nightshadow turned out to be a small 16 x 16 map. The town had no services except a magic guild. It was in the grip of a vampire named Count Draco, and the bat queens as well as a handful of gnome vampires (quite hard to hit) were his minions. I had to retreat from the city (fortunately, it had a magic mirror) to return to Vertigo for healing and blessings a couple of times during my explorations.
       
Nightshadow is the first city that wasn't quadruple-sized.
        
I came to three gravestones in the northeast corner of the city. One said, "Open his coffin and bid him farewell; only then can you use the magic of the well." This is a petty complaint, but this is the umpteenth time that the Might and Magic series has offered some kind of rhyming ditty (if you consider rhyming "well" with "well" a rhyme), and the umpteenth time that it has paid no attention to meter. The first line is good--it has three dactyls followed by a single stressed syllable: O-pen his COF-fin and BID him fare-WELL. But the second line is just a mess of too many syllables and inconsistent stresses. This was an easy problem to solve with a thesaurus and a little creativity. I know I've commented on this before; I think it's safe to say it's one of my "pet peeves."
 
Anyway, the other two stones said "a stitch in time" and "lives of a cat," both pointing to the number 9. Another stone: "If the dials are properly set, the count will definitely be upset." There were three sundials in the northern part of town that I turned to "9" (I'm not sure the creators really understand how "sundials" work if they think you turn them to point to specific hours). This allowed me to open the Count's coffin, located in the northern part of a treed area, at night. I lost my first attempt but won after I made the circuit of buffing wells. Between the Count and his gnome vampires, I got a lot of gold, gems, and useful equipment in the town, plus 50,000 experience points for beating the Count.
      
Well, that's an original name.
    
Shortly after clearing out Nightshadow, I took a magic mirror back to the city, just because it was closest to where I wanted to go outdoors, and guess what: the city had respawned!  At least partly. Gnome vampires didn't return, and all the coffins remained open, but bat queens roamed the streets again. I didn't know that was possible in this game.
     
I forgot to even note where I got this. Things move fast in this game.
       
The west side of D4 had a few new items. In a pile of bones, we found "Ligono's Missing Skull"--that must tie in to a quest we haven't been given yet. We had to fight off a few "Swamp Things," which look like living trees. C4 has even more swamp things and killer sprites, plus "Evil Rangers," who seem to have a particular hatred of my druid and can poison my characters with their missile attacks. There's one dungeon and one tower in this area, neither of which I have the proper items to enter.

B4 started to get into the icy wastes depicted in the southwest corner of the game map. There were ice trolls and evil archers--one-hit kills when I had the +10 levels from Nightshadow active. When it wore off, I couldn't even penetrate their armor class. I pressed through it but started to feel uncomfortable with my plan; I don't like fully relying on buffs. As usual, destroying the monsters' headquarters got me experience, gold, gems, and special items. I found a Holy Book of Elvenkind on a pedestal--another quest item for which I do not yet have a quest. There was yet another dungeon for which I need a stone.
     
"Identify Monster" helps confirm that I'm not doing any damage even though I'm hitting him.
     
The northwest corner of this area brought me to something called the Cave of Illusion. The cave was four levels, each full of water and teeming with water golems. The "illusion" part was that every visible trap or treasure turned out to be hallucinations. However, there were numerous skulls in alcoves that were very real. They offered permanent attribute boosts in exchange for gems; specifically, boosts of +2, +3, +5, and +10 for 5, 10, 50, and 200 gems, respectively. There was also one skull who offered the key to the Tower of High Magic for 300 gems. I spent literally every single gem I had, except for about 25, on these increases. 
      
Hard to pass up.
       
The bottom of the dungeon had a plug, but I was too weak to pull it out. I made a note to return when I have more strength or a strength buff. 
      
This sort of message is getting discouraging.
     
I did get enough strength increases to open the crates in the Temple of Yak. I cleared out those crates and, with the help of the +10 levels from the Nightshadow fountain, finished off the Yak Master. The crates had nothing but skeletons, so that was mostly a waste of time.
   
I next became curious whether the Tower of High Magic, for which I now had a key, was the tower in C4. It was. It was a difficult place. Enemies were flying feet--literally disembodied feet with wings--and sorcerers capable of mass-damage spells. The tower was full of traps that shot gouts of flame, electricity, and poison at the party, plus numerous squares that sapped all of our magic points. I had to use "Lloyd's Beacon" (after resting to replenish magic) to warp out of there several times to heal and refresh my buffs. The top floor had a chest that, when opened, released a dragon. It took me a couple of tries, but I managed to kill him.
     
My first attempt didn't go so well.
        
The tower's rewards were significant. There were magic potions that conferred permanent increases to fire, cold, electricity, and poison resistance, and the tower's loot helped replenish my stock of gems. Books on the top floor taught the "Prismatic Light" spell and the "Prestidigitation" skill, which increases magic ability for my sorcerer. Finally, I got a key to Darzog's Tower.
    
Like the Witches' Tower, the Tower of High Magic connected to the "cloud" layer above the land of Xeen. This time, there were numerous sorcerers milling around the area, and I had to kill them. I spent some more time experimenting with this "second level" of the game world. You need "Levitate" active to walk on the clouds; otherwise, you go hurtling (usually fatally) to the ground level. However, "Levitate" doesn't do anything if you step off the clouds and on to spaces of open air. Thus, it doesn't appear that you can fully explore the cloud layer. However, there were single-square clouds heading off into the distance from the Tower, suggesting I could use "Jump" to move across the cloud layer to some other destination. I was discouraged from too much exploration because some of the squares had lightning bolt traps, but there was a pile of gems in one square and a drum in another; I'm not sure what it did.
      
Stepping off the clouds transitions you back to the ground level.
A trap--or a predictable result of walking around clouds encased in metal.
    
A4 had no dungeons. It was an icy tundra full of combats with snow beasts and cyclopes. There was no one huge giant the way the map depicts; it's clear now that the beasts on the game map are just decorations, not indications of special encounters the way they were in the first two games. An altar offered a temporary +50 boost in cold resistance, and a fountain gave 250 spell points. Destroying the cyclops camp got me a message that "Glom will be pleased." I wasn't sure who that was, but I didn't have to wonder for long; he was a few squares into A3. Glom the Gnome King. He gave me several treasures, plus experience, for destroying the beasts.
       
The monster portraits in this game really are terrific.
       
A3 continued the wintry theme in the southern squares and then became more mountainous. I met the Winter Druid, who said that he could give me the Last Snowflake of Winter if I could give him the Last Fallen Leaf of Autumn; that's clearly some questline I'll encounter later. Enemies in the area were barbarians and ninjas; I was rewarded by Kai Wu the Monk for destroying the latter.
  
More important, A3 offered the fourth city: Winterkill. As we arrived, Randon the Mayor told us that ghosts had driven out the city's population. Sure enough, we started encountering barely-visible "spirit bones." They were the first of three waves of undead we had to face. We had to completely clear the city of each wave, then bang a gong, then talk to Randon. After the spirit bones were gone, "polter-fools" appeared, followed by ghost riders. They were all pretty tough, but the town offered plenty of bottles of "Holy Word" that we could throw at the enemies for instant deaths. I tried to save the potions for when we faced three at a time.
   
A ghost rider momentarily becomes visible as we blast him with a lightning bolt.
You'd think that this would be enough to level up. Guess again.
       
Banging a few gongs activated a fountain that provides +50 might. Between that, the fountain in Nightshadow that offers +10 levels, the fountain in Vertigo that boosts hit points, the fountain in Rivercity that boosts spell points, and the temple blessings, I can gather a pretty powerful series of buffs by just using the magic mirrors.

A2 and A1 transitioned into a desert landscape, with sandworms, giant scorpions, and sand golems. A sphinx said, "You do not have my amulet. Be gone!" A guy in a wagon named "Saul the Prayermaster" taught the "Prayer Master" skill for 10,000 gold. Arie the Apprentice, living in a tent, asked me to avenge his master by killing the wizards of Castle Basenji and retrieving the Insight Scroll. A shrine offered temporary +50 energy resistance, and a fountain in the far northwest corner of the map conferred +250 hit points.
      
A Basenji is a hunting dog; the castle has werewolves.
      
I noticed a little island off the edge of the map in the northwest corner. I reached it with "Teleport." A sign called it the "Air Reflector" and I was asked if I wanted to activate it. I left it alone for now. I suspect these little islands were there in A4 and F4, too, and I just didn't notice them.
       
At first, I thought there would be a portal to the Air Domain.
     
I end this session having just entered the aforementioned Castle Basenji in A1. The place is crawling with werewolf guardians of the wizards. Once I complete this area, I will have explored the entire southern row and western column of the map, although with two dungeons and a few other items in my backpath.

These are the burliest werewolves I've ever seen in an RPG.
       
Miscellaneous notes:
  
  • Early on, I made some noise about changing party members, but I never did. Even now, I recognize I don't have the "best" combination, but I think I'll stick with it anyway.
  • You cannot fire into mountains, but you can fire out. One easy way to kill wilderness enemies is to sit on a mountain square and fire outward until they die. They apparently don't have "Mountaineering." 
  • So far, only the starting town of Vertigo and Rivercity have offered services. The other cities have no training, inns, temples, taverns, or equipment shops.
      
Based on your advice, I'm banking as much as possible--not that these guys look very trustworthy.
      
  • I could do without the "broken armor" mechanic. Rarely does everyone have an unbroken set.
  • I haven't been talking much about them, but equipment upgrades have been regular. It just feels like equipment in this game doesn't matter quite as much as innate attributes. As with Might and Magic III, there is a wide variety of weapon and armor types, each made from different materials or blessed with a different enchantment. Some of them make no sense, like "leather plate armor" or "silver sling" or "wooden boots."
  • Wow, did leveling slow down once I hit 11. I didn't level up once this entire session.
  • Time is passing fast. My characters are 21 in real years, three years older than when I started. Some of them have magically aged beyond that. I discovered belatedly that every time you visit a service in town, it costs an entire day. I had been in the habit of popping into the store, identifying some equipment, popping out, rearranging it, going back in, and so forth. Now I'm much more careful about visiting as rarely as possible.
     
The malaise I felt last time I played has mostly lifted. I'll never not wish the game didn't take itself more seriously, or that it tried harder to construct a believable world, but I can still live with the result. Xeen is packed with content. It's rare to complete more than two rows or columns of one of the game maps without a treasure or special encounter. This will always be the primary strength of the series.

Time so far: 19 hours.

96 comments:

  1. Armor breaks whenever a character gets knocked out in combat, so that's what you want to avoid. Really sucks when you get diamond/obsidian gear and it's hella expensive to repair. So nice when they added the repair skill in MM6.

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    1. Unfortunately, my sorcerer often gets knocked out in the first round. It's hard to avoid.

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    2. Yeah, the game doesn't give you many options for this since enemies can target whoever they want (no blocking with tanks) and they often have class-hatreds leading them to gang up on one character.

      I guess I could be more aggressive about using powerful magic and resting frequently to recover. Or using the best fountains more. Or making sure to always tackle the easiest areas first.

      If you know some characters are going down no matter what, does it make sense to just unequip their armor?

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    3. My solution (which is, of course, imperfect) is to prioritize the sorcerer for any armor upgrades she can equip. Once you start getting high-ranking robes and such, the squishies don't go down quite as easy.

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    4. Armor breaks if hitpoints fall below -9 or a character dies, just getting knocked is not enough for this to happen.

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  2. On the topic of vampires with predictable names, I give you this clip from Rick & Morty:

    https://youtu.be/vfWxORracT8

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    1. And also, https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Alucard

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    2. ^ The Drawkcab monks approve.

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    3. Although I recently found a book with an Alucard who turned out NOT to be a vampire. I was so confused it took me half a book before I believed it.

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  3. Nightshadow's respawns may be a bug, but there are some areas in this game where there's an intentional mechanic of monsters respawning unless you've destroyed all their outposts or nests.

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    1. I haven't found that outdoors, oddly enough, the way it happened in MM3. I think I had just missed one bat queen in Nightshadow. After I took another long run through the city, the place remained clear.

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    2. Supposedly the same bug can kick-in in Vertigo, too. Just a mild annoyance, though. As for intentional, keep an eye out for it when you more fully explore the 'clouds' levels.

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  4. You know, there's lighthearted and whimsical and then there's just plain dumb, and I'm pretty sure 'Flying Feet' fall squarely into the latter.

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    1. To add to that, I don’t think there’s any relation between lightheartedness and whimsy, and the quality of worldbuilding.

      Xeen’s worldbuilding is a cacophony of fantasy nouns, adjectives and tropes. Take the city names for example: Winterkill; Rivercity; Nightshadow; and Vertigo. Vertigo is a passable name for a city on the edge of the world (is it though?) but how much thought went into the others? 

      I suspect it came down to design priorities. Quantity and variety over coherency. Xeen is a playground for adventurers; any narrative elements are afterthoughts. Such barely-disguised grinders are usually not my cup of tea, but if you’re just after the itch-scratching, it delivers.

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    2. Yeah Xeen is a playground, and a very good one at that. Doesn't really feel like a "grinder" either because there's so much unique content to discover. Grind to me implies going through the same random encounters over and over again - Xeen doesn't even have random encounters, everything is handplaced, and the level design is pretty good overall. Just heaps of fun.

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    3. Maybe the vampires thought Nightshadow was a nice name for a town.

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    4. I thought Nightshadow is a town of the undead. Not as in "cursed by" or "overrun by" the undead, but founded, built and permanently inhabited by the undead. Did I understand that wrongly? To me Nightshadow sounded OK.

      Vertigo is built on a mountain range, though those 6 feet mountains don't inspire much vertigo to me. Still, I can see where the name comes from.

      Rivercity and Winterkill are built by a river and in the frozen wastes respectively, so while I don't get thrilled by the names they do make sense to me.

      I think for all its sillyness, MM4's world building is OK. Not great, but at least I can imagine people living in that world. There could be trade between cities, there's a ruler who is more or less involved with this world, there are multiple places that are somewhat safe...

      By contrast, in MM3 I think only Fountainhead qualifies as a place where a normal person could live. All other places seemed far too extreme and hostile. For this reason, MM4 felt like a step forward. Ultima 7 it ain't, but then again, it doesn't have to and it certainly doesn't pretend to be.

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    5. About the cities names, this is yet another varn, right? For what we know, the cities could have created and named on half an hour during the ancient's tea time

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    6. It's definitely another manufactured world, but it's not quite the same as VARN. VARN was one of four nodes attached to a central CRON, sent flying through space and intending to intersect with Terra, a real world. Xeen seems to be stationary in its system, orbiting a real star.

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    7. @Jarl: I tend to include unmemorable crafted content within the umbrella of grinding. When the content of any given location is essentially interchangeable with the content of any other, you're essentially doing the same thing over and over again with different graphics. eg World of Warcraft and Borderlands have quests, but the quest-related narrative is so forgettable that many players never bother reading it.

      But grinding is a bit of a subjective experience.

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    8. While I enjoy a good narrative, I don't require it to enjoy content. As long as the level and encounter design is good, it doesn't matter too much to me.

      I really enjoy plopping a fan-made Quake map into that old FPS game and slay some monsters. These maps usually don't have any story at all. It's all about the architecture, encounters, secret areas, and flow of the action. There's a quality to good hand-crafted content thst just makes it fun to play, more so than randomized content.

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    9. @Jarl: Oh for sure, there are good dungeons, and there are dungeons you feel you are trudging your way though.

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    10. Names like "Winterkill" and "Rivercity" are perfectly believable real-world names, though. The only difference between unmemorable phrases like those, and the exotic words we think of as good names, is that the good names are those same unmemorable phrases in some other language, sometimes even a long-dead language.

      Like, if you look at a map of Japan while knowing some Japanese, it's full of uncreative names like Wideisland, Longcape, Capital City, and East Capital. (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto, Tokyo respectively.) Japan is a bit unique because the native language the ancient names come from has never been wiped away by colonization, so they're still mostly comprehensible in modern Japanese.

      See also the Atlas of True Names of locations in North America.

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    11. There are probably a hundred cities in Germany going by the name of "Newcity" (Neustadt) because people who founded a new city used to be very creative. Most German cities have very simple names like that, but over the centuries they were contracted to be quicker to pronounce. That is especially apparent in cities founded by Romans and originally named in Latin.

      Take Köln, for example (Cologne in English). It was founded by Romans as Colonia Agrippina (basically Agrippina's colony). Then in the middle ages they just shortened it to Colonia. And in the local dialect it got shortened even more until it turned into Köln. You can still see where it comes from if you know the history, but taken on its own without context, it seems like a unique city name, even though it's basically just a contraction of the Latin word for "colony".

      When new cities are founded, names are either given by
      a) geographical features (something like "River Crossing")
      b) name of the founder (Jackson's Village)
      c) an event that happened there (Frankfurt basically means ford where the Franks once crossed over)

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    12. I have to wonder what the Spanish were thinking as they settled North America. They gave towns names like "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles" and "La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís." Did they really think people would say all of that?

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    13. I don't know about the American settlements, but we have some long names for villages in Spain. Usually they get shortened on regular talk; for your 2 examples, maybe something like 'Reina de los Ángeles' and 'Villa Real' would suffice

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    14. In America is the same with the addition that already existent towns had saints added. For example, Bogota became "Santa Fe de Bogota".

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  5. These were pretty advanced zombies. They seem to have mastered the art of food preservation

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  7. To be fair, I'm not sure I would understand how a sundial would work on a flat, rectangular world constructed by techno aliens.

    But I'm sure someone here can work out the maths. ;)

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    1. Well, as the game demonstrates, you just turn the dials yourself ;-)

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    2. Did anyone notice Xeen has no day/night cycle at all?

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    3. Xeen does have a day/night cycle. It gets dark and light at 12-hour intervals. I don't know if it's lit by a real sun or if all the lighting is artificial. If the former, then a sundial should still work the same way it works on Earth, even if the arc is different.

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    4. been a long time, I must have mistaken it with earlier entries then. apologies for dumb post.

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  8. -Its worth the time and effort to get drinks and tips at both Vertigo and Rivercity taverns. Leave for awhile and come back to get more until you cycle through all of them. Takes time but you can just reload. Do this for every tavern in the game, its basically an in-game hint book.
    -Don't venture into the desert unless you have the requisite skill, otherwise an enormous amount of time passes with each step.
    -You're a bit early for Darzog's tower and should at least head to Castle Burlock first. Darzog's tower is pretty far along in the 'main' quest line and will be quite tough at your level.
    -Don't die or get knocked unconscious. Either status can cause armor to break, and its gets costly to keep repairing. You can reload and explore an easier area to get experience.
    -Actions you take in the clouds above, can impact the world below.

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    1. The skill for normal speed desert travel (Navigator) was in Rivercity, so presumably he has picked that up already.

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    2. Thanks for the tips about bars. I have been mostly neglecting those.

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  9. I definitely share the pet peeve of doggerel that pays no attention to meter. In my memory, the MM series is one of the worst offenders among video games.

    A nice bit of continuity is that MM4 shares several monsters with MM3. They have new art and somewhat different stats, but their main "shtick" is the same. For instance, Evil Rangers in both games fire arrows and hate druids. Sorcerers hit the entire party with cold damage; wicked witches curse your gear; skeletons hate clerics; mummies cause disease, and so forth.

    None of that appears in MM1/MM2, so I'm not sure if this is intentional world building, or just lazily copying statblocks from MM3 to MM4. Oddly, a few monsters share a name with a different monster on Darkside. E.g. ogres and gargoyles have different stats (and graphics) in MM4 than in MM5.

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    1. Also, priests of Moo are the same as priests of Yak.

      Oddly, none of the above applies to MM5: any MM5 monsters that share a name with MM3 or MM4 are completely different. So I'm leaning towards laziness as an explanation, instead of intentional coherency.

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    2. I mean, it would make more sense for MM4 and MM5 to be consistent than MM3 and MM4, so laziness seems like a better explanation.

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    3. Speaking of meter, I'm reminded of my favorite limerick:

      There once was a man from Lyme
      Who wrote poems in his spare time.
      Although he tried,
      broke down and cried,
      he never could get them to work out very well in the end for some reason.

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  10. I notice you keep the automap off in most of your screenshots. Keeping it on helps with exploration... and casting Wizard Eye makes exploration trivial as it reveals all the secret areas, hah.

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    1. And Day of Sorcery also includes a wizard eye.

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    2. I usually keep it off to see which terrain I've already covered. It's more useful on dungeons to see other parts of the map I can bash or teleport to

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    3. That's why I keep it off, too. I'm mostly not using "Day of Sorcery" yet because of the spell point and gem cost.

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    4. The automap window has three stages
      one completly off
      two normal only showing where you have been
      three wizard eye showing everything
      just click on the window to shift between them I usually use the normal automap even if I have wizard eye active

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    5. Yep, clicking on where the wizard eye automap appears when the spell is off changes the Might and Magic logo to an automap that only shows you the explored tiles.

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  11. I love this series and I do like these games but I don’t know why but 4&5 just don’t appeal to me as much as 3. What really is the difference?

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    1. MM3 still makes a (half-hearted) attempt at being a coherent fantasy world, e.g. with the notes by Corak the Explorerer, the conflict between the castles, the intro movie, and at least some of the quests. It still gets pretty silly, but at least it's trying.

      MM4 is not; it drops all pretense of being a world, and focuses on being a game. This difference is tangible.

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    2. I agree and would also add as many others have done that the pacing for when you get the explorer skills work much better in MM3 and also the maps in MM3 have much more content a lot of treasures you can go back and find when you have the right skill some puzzles you won´t be able to solve unless you return later etc
      compared with MM3 the xeen maps are rather empty

      I still really like the game/s just not as much

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    3. Edit:
      I still really like the Xeen game/s just not as much as MM3

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    4. @anonymous
      I disagree. Without spoiling, I can say that Xeen is a well thought continuation of MM3's story arc (as well as MM7, but you'll learn this).
      As mentioned in my post during the last posting here on the blog, the MM series has a consistant story from part one to at least part 8, including the links to HoMM 2 and 3. Only HoMM4 and onwards as well as MM9 and MM-X Legacy show a different lore

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    5. Ah, but whether MM4/5 continues the story from MM3 has nothing to do with whether MM4/5 is a coherent fantasy world.

      I should note that MM3 doesn't really have a story arc: Sheltem appears in the intro sequence, is then irrelevant and not even mentioned for the entire game, and he briefly appears (without even a graphic!) in the endgame sequence, where he flees.

      In MM4, nofbyhgryl abguvat unccraf jvgu ertneqf gb rvgure furygrz be pbenx. Gur svsgu tnzr qbrf raq jvgu gur qrsrng bs furygrz, ohg gung'f n pbagvahngvba bs gur frpbaq tnzr; abg gur guveq be sbhegu. Gur friragu tnzr unf n pyrire fubhg-bhg, naq gung'f vg; gung'f abg n pbagvahngvba rvgure. Gb pnyy nal bs gung gung "jryy gubhtug" vf ernyyl fgergpuvat vg; vg'f zber bs n unys-urnegrq ersrerapr, naq arvgure punenpgre vf cnegvphyneyl qrirybcrq va nal jnl.

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    6. I think, JVC has created a very coherent fantasy/partial-sci-fi world with XEEN:

      ntnva, V jbhyq qvfnterr urer:

      va ZZ3, Furygrz rfpncrf Green ba na rfpncr CBQ, sbyybjrq ol Pbenx. Gur Urebrf bs ZZ3 sbyybj gurz va nabgure irffry, bayl gb ynaq sne njnl sebz KRRA ba Renguvn (frr vageb bs ZZ7, jurer gurl hygvzngryl orpbzr gur tbbq naq rivy ehyref bs Renguvn nygubhtu vg vf abg irel jryy aneengrq)

      Furygrz'f hygvzngr bowrpgvir va gur frevrf-fcnaavat fgbel vf gb thneq / ehyr Gren nf vgf Thneqvna. Gur perngbef frag Pbenx gb fgbc uvz fvapr ur boivbhfyl ybfg uvf zvaq naq zvfvagrecergf uvf gnfxf nf Thneqvna.

      Jura ur vf sbeprq gb syrr Green sbe KRRA, uvf cevznel bowrpgvir vf gb hfr KRRA nf na vagrecynargne irffry (gung'f jung ur'f genafsbezvat Krra vagb qhevat uvf ehyr anzvat uvzfrys Nynzne) gung gnxrf uvz onpx gb Green, jvyyvat gb xvyy nyy yvsr ba Krra jura ur syvrf vg vagb Green'f fha. Guvf pna or yrnearq ng gur pbzchgref va gur gjb rfpncr cbqf ba gur qnexfvqr bs Krra. Ol fgbccvat uvz, gur urebrf cerirag guvf, Pbenx qrfgeblf uvzfrys naq Furygrz bapr naq sbe nyy. Nsgre gung, gur svany gnfx vf gb erhavgr obgu fvqrf bs Krra nf bar Jbeyq bs Krra

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    7. What you describe is not a coherent WORLD. What you describe is a (minimalistic) PLOT that spans several games. Yes, we know that later games in this series make references to earlier games. That's, you know, what makes it a series instead of a set of independent games.

      And that has nothing to do with the fact that the WORLD, the SETTING, of MM4 and MM5 doesn't even attempt to be a coherent fantasy setting. It is purely a set of RPG mechanics against a backdrop of lame jokes.

      Good mechanics, admittedly, hence it's a fun and addictive game. But "we create worlds", this is not.

      Jung lbh jevgr urer vf abg n fhzznel bs gur cybg. Jung lbh jevgr vf gur ragver cybg, gurer'f abguvat ryfr gb vg. Urapr, zvavznyvfgvp. Nyfb, guvf cybg vf veeryrinag gb gur guveq tnzr rkprcg va vgf ynfg svir zvahgrf, naq gur ragver sbhegu tnzr unf abguvat ng nyy gb qb jvgu guvf cybg.

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    8. I think, the two opions are valid. Apart from pure game mechanics (which I believe ist very good in the entire MM-series), really coherent world building didn't take place in CRPGs until the late 90ies/early 2000s, not even the Ulitma series achieved this. Therefore, what makes any game in any scenario plausible to me is the story that drives the game. And from that point of view, I don't think that MM only has a minimalistic plot. The most problematic part on early RPGs is always the amount of irrelevant grinding quests (which MM has a lot of) with no further impact on the main storyline. The only way for a game designer to justify this is to make it work properly in the game mechanics. And this is where MM does a good job. You're constantly discovering something new, although it's not fitting into the world design all the time.

      BTW, for me personally, the reference for world building for the last 6 years has been Witcher 3, where every small detail fits into the world like in no other game before and after. Prior to that, I can't remember any game even coming close to that.

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    9. The difference (again) is that many games such as Ultima try to build a believable world. Sure, they're not perfect, but they're trying.

      MM4 is not trying. It makes no pretense whatsoever at being a believable world.

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    10. Regarding the plot. I think most game development usually goes something like 'lets create a game' and then 'lets make a sequel to it' and then 'lets make a third and try to link them together somehow, maybe with an overarching plotline' and then 'lets make another and try to tie it all up somehow'. That's basically MM1-5. The rest of the series 6 through whatever don't really seem related at all except for game mechanics, graphics, playstyle and possibly the engine or interface.

      I doubt NWC had some grand vision planned beforehand that would span multiple games, since they didn't even know if their first title would sell at all. The MM titles don't take themselves too seriously, they tend to poke a bit of fun at the genre while at the same time being entertaining. You really get a sense of this, the joke being on the player with the various tomes to be read scattered throughout Darkside -- yarns that go on and on only to end abruptly or present entirely nonsensical, head-scratching endings.

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    11. The overarching plots of MM 1-5 and Wizardry 6-8 are structurally very similar in that they're both series of relatively standalone fantasy stories glued together with space opera, but the Wizardry games do somewhat better at having the events of the games themselves tie into the sci-fi setting. If you removed the final encounters of MM 1, 2, and 3, you would have no idea they were supposed to be part of the same plot and, more importantly, all three games would have what amounted to a reasonable main quest and ending. All of them have a tacked-on "good job saving the kingdom/world, now go do some sci-fi stuff" part. MM 4 doesn't even get that far, while MM 5 just _slightly_ improves on the status quo.

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  12. Your last post inspired me to start a play through.
    I've confirmed that Clouds is my least favorite of the first eight Might and Magic's

    I think that they made it too easy to get pathfinder and mountaineering and because the monsters wander around the map they can't gate as well with difficultly as they could in 2. Combat difficulty and blocked passage forced a less mowing approach to exportation.

    After doing the Dwarf Mines and E3 and 4 and coming to the realization in the last paragraph I took a far different approach to exploration. I decided to fallow the roads unless I got to monsters that would kill me without buffs stopping only if I could see a point of interest (tents, dungeons, towns, etc.) As a result I ended up getting a lot of the quests before I found the items for them because many of them are just off the roads.

    The Dwarf Mines are a really bad first dungeon, they are huge and annoying.

    Have you noticed that the heads on the side of the screen tell you if it's worth opening a box if you have the Clairvoyance spell cast? You can avoid ones that are just traps or monsters that way.

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    1. I still feel compelled to open every box anyway, even if I know it's going to be a bad outcome. And what am I supposed to make of it when one head nods but the other head shakes "no"?

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    2. Good and bad, like the pots that make you insane but boost stats.

      I hear that about the compulsion I had to talk myself into ignoring the bad ones.

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    3. Oh yeah or nothing, I just search if it's not two shaking heads.

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    4. I think they're answering the questions "is this safe to open?" and "is there a benefit to opening this?". So the heads disagree for trapped treasures (and safe no-ops?).

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    5. Correct, left = is it safe? and right = is there a benefit to this?

      I really like how they used the UI to graphically represent their spells like this. Also the flapping wings for when levitate is on and the lower right creature that indicates a secret door/false wall to bash.

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  13. Since you were gushing about the art for Xeen, a lot of it was done by one of my favorite artists, Erol Otus. He did a lot of early Dungeons & Dragons artwork, as well as work on Star Control II.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I appreciate that bit about the artwork, but impersonation is not allowed on this blog.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. I had no idea Erol Otus worked on Xeen. It looks like it could be his style but the internet, including mobygames, doesn't mention this anywhere that I can find. Where did you learn this?

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    4. Erol Otus did not work on Xeen series.

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    5. Yeah, MobyGames doesn't show him even working for New World.

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    6. That's really weird - I could have sworn that he did. No idea how I got that mixed up. Stylistically it's very much up his alley.

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  14. I don't know if anyone else makes this mistake, but when you open things like the coffins and the gnome vampires jump out, you need to remember to search the same coffin again after the fight to find treasure. I frequently forget to search a second time as mentally I think of it as already searched.

    What you mentioned about the using the mountains to attack from range at a helpless enemy can also apply to water squares, at least if the enemy cannot fly, I think.

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    1. The mountains and water squares are not the only cheap shots in the game. Bugs I suppose. If you never 'face' an enemy mob, they remain unaware of your presence. You can walk backwards, to the side etc even right next to them with your back turned to bypass them. If you save and load with your back turned, they become unaware again. Facing down a room full of dragons then becomes rather ridiculous.

      Obviously this can be game breaking as it allows you to traverse extremely difficult areas to grab treasure without incident. It also allows you to engage casters and ranged attackers in melee immediately without being subjected to their ranged attacks.

      I must confess here and now that I abused this 'feature' on a recent low-level playthrough to reach the western and eastern towers, and the downed craft early for maximum stat points. Eastern tower was the biggest pain requiring meticulous mob managment, with precise saving and loading to prevent instant death but the ordeal overall was QUITE FUN thus sadly I must recommend it. But really, you should never do this.

      My conscience has now been cleared, I apologize to the gods of Xeen.

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    2. Nf V erpnyy, gung gheavat-nebhaq gevpx vf onfvpnyyl arprffnel sbe gur svany yriry bs fjbeqf bs krra.

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    3. I absolutely do make that mistake. I had to run around searching the gnome vampire chests a second time. I'm sure there are still a few that I've missed.

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    4. In that case, these containers with enemies first and treasure second are frequent in towers and dungeons (like that dragon in a chest), so it might be worth making another pass through them to make sure you didn't miss anything.

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    5. Liberation: Captive 2 has a similar exploit: if you go one step up a staircase then turn around, you can attack any monsters below you without them being able to respond. It can be very useful in more dangerous parts of the game.

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    6. If you go up two steps, then the monsters can get you again, which leads me to think it's a bug.

      Delete
  15. The expressions of the party in the 'transitioning to ground level' image look like they're auditioning to be cast in a Gobliiins game.

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    1. All character portraits in M&M4-5 have 5 expressions. A normal one. A normal one with closed eyes, for being asleep or unconscious. A downcast one, for being weak, cursed or heartbroken. A silly one for being drunk, in love or insane. A sick one for being poisoned or diseased. Icons for being dead, turned to stone and eradicated are universal for every character.
      A silly one is also used then the party falls from a clouds or in a pit.

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    2. I love those faces. It's also quite logical after stepping off a cloud. It's a doozy of a mistake.

      Delete
  16. Open his coffin and bid him farewell/ Then you can use this town's magical well?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Sorry World of Xeen, but some of those "jokes" could be used to torture captives.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I know this game threw logical consistency out the window a while back, but I can't help but continue to wonder why a vampire would have the opening mechanism for his coffin be linked to sundials somewhere in the same city that have clues publicly written on tombstones, again in the same city. At least put the clues into, I don't know, journals written by vampire hunters or something?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's amazing! I've got the same combination on my luggage!

      Delete
  19. As a collector/painter of roleplaying and strategy miniatures, I feel tempted to find a mini that could represent a flying foot.

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    1. Take a mini of a barefoot character, preferably a large one. Cut off a foot and glue some tiny wings on it. Tadaa! You end up with a flying foot (and one crippled adventurer)

      Delete
  20. "I spent literally every single gem I had, except for about 25..."

    Chet has become a millennial :P

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  21. That whimsical cheefulness is a signature of Von Caneghem's game design. He always throws everything into a pot, whether it's fairy tales, some pop culture references here and there, a mish-mash of good-natured fun. I can remember it in all his games I've played starting from King's Bounty and ending with the recent mobile game, Creature Quest. I can never keep the smile off my face, especially that a lot of games quite often take themselves way too seriously.

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    1. Not to pick on your specifically, but since you're like the 12th person to use the phrase, I would like someone to provide me an example of one of those awful games that "takes itself way too seriously." Is that really a problem here in 1992? Were there a lot of players going, "Screw this. I want to enjoy Ultima Underworld, but I just can't deal with the gravitas of it all"?

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    2. Well, I see it as a problem here in 2021, for sure :) But I was talking about more modern games, pretty much anything starting from Bioware era - Diablo, Baldur's Gate, etc. This wasn't a problem in 1992 because not a lot of people could take seriously what was happening on the screen, and even in 2000 the variety was way better than it is now. But once the budgets got bigger and the graphics got more realistic, the humor got sidelined into action-adventures for kids and, more recently, some of the indie titles. I can only remember Legends of Amberland from the recent releases, which looks to be a straight Might & Magic 3-5 homage.

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    3. I guess my take is that while there are almost no situations in which a suit and tie is "wrong," there are plenty of occasions in which a clown costume is wrong. Between "too serious" and "too silly," I'd be happy if games erred towards the former. I certainly don't think that any of the Bioware games' sins are "taking themselves too seriously."

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    4. You misunderstand. Bioware was just an example, and it was good at what it did, but once the paradigm "we're making TRUE ART, just like the movies and books" became dominant, it became way too hard to find something more light in tone while not being marketed explicitly at kids.

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    5. "while there are almost no situations in which a suit and tie is 'wrong,' there are plenty of occasions in which a clown costume is wrong."

      Barbecues, pizza restaurants, cleaning with bleach...

      I kid. But IMO games that try too hard to be serious loop right back around to comedy, so it's the best of all worlds in that case.

      Delete

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