Sunday, February 4, 2024

Bloodstone: An Epic Dwarven Tale: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

 
Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation . . .
        
Bloodstone: An Epic Dwarven Tale
United States
Mindcraft Software (developer and publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 23 October 2023
Date Ended: 2 February 2024
Total Hours: 54
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)
    
Summary:

The fourth, last, and arguably best game in the main Magic Candle series, Bloodstone is a prequel to the first game, telling a story set in the ancient past, only centuries after the primordial gods created the world and populated it with its first inhabitants. The dwarves of the land of Tarq are beset by the monstrous Taldor, and it is the destiny of the main character to unite the dwarven kingdoms by collecting a set of fabled artifacts, including the great axe Khalmakhad (which appears in later games). He assembles a party and explores a top-down, iconographic land full of cities, towers, and dungeons.
    
Bloodstone makes no interface improvements from The Magic Candle III (1992) except that characters don't lose energy while walking. Otherwise, the strengths of the series are all here: tactical combat that requires detailed knowledge of a couple dozen spells, an open-world approach, relatively interesting NPCs with detailed dialogue, tons of lore (kept organized for you in a journal that records everything), and a variety of skills and attributes to develop. Unfortunately, character development is a little inconsistent and the game is a little miserly with its equipment upgrades. Still, the pluses outnumber the minuses, and the series definitely went out on a high note.
    
*****
    
After the last entry, I only had one dungeon remaining, but it took a while. After giving all of the artifacts to Rakan, chief of the Morin, I returned to Castle Entemar. As I had already cleared it, I just headed directly for the throne room and got teleported to a series of vast ice caverns.
   
Returning to the endgame.
    
The caverns turned out to be four levels, with a ton of rooms, and honestly I don't think a single room was necessary until the last one. I started by exploring the levels completely and entering all the rooms, but after a while, the combats got so hard that I didn't bother to re-enter if I lost. If the room didn't have another exit or otherwise indicate that it was necessary, I was liable to poke my head in and skip it. I don't know what treasures I missed by doing so, but I certainly didn't need any more money or mushrooms.
  
Aside from the rooms, Levels 1-4 offered a couple ambushes and a few places that I had to use "Walkwater." On Level 1, I found the sleeping chamber of Rohrkhad and used the password (GARTHUME) I had found ages ago. He awoke and increased everyone's endurance, charm, dexterity, agility, and resistance.
      
It's too bad we couldn't have had more of a conversation with him.
    
The caverns didn't get honestly hard until the fifth and final level, which took me far longer than all the other levels combined. The level was a large circle with about half a dozen concentric "tiers" leading down into a room in the center. There were a couple of optional rooms around the outer ring. As we worked our way around the circles and down the few flights of stairs, we were beset repeatedly by ambushes--impossible ambushes full of windhir, ghosts, yetis, firelords, necromants, and skeletiers. You don't know what those are, but suffice to say that most of them have enormous armor and hit point totals, devastating spells, and deadly melee attacks.
   
Ambushes usually result in "surprise" for the monsters, who then get to act first. Such a situation was instant death for my party members. The "Sense" spell detects the ambushes and avoids the surprises, but there are only so many times you can cast that before you forget or run out. I had an embarrassing number of reloads. The first ambush alone, with five windhirs, three necromants, and five ghosts, took nearly two hours to win on its own before I finally figured out the right combination of spells, in the right order, to keep enough characters alive to survive to the end.
      
A very nearly impossible battle.
      
Very late in my exploration of the level, I remembered a trick from the earlier games in which you could change party formation to avoid ambushes. Since ambushes are triggered by a single square, you just have to avoid that one square. A combination of formations and dismissing and re-enlisting party members can let you "leapfrog" that square, but of course only after you've reloaded a bunch of times to figure out exactly where it is. I used the technique for the last couple of ambushes, but probably took as long as just fighting the damned battles.
    
I should point out how different this situation is from the previous Candle games. In those games, just pumping the characters full of mushrooms and casting "Jump" to send them directly into melee range was enough to win every battle, unless there's one I'm misremembering. Here, enemy hit point and armor totals are so high that you absolutely need those mushrooms and "Jump" spells for each battle, but you need a lot of other strategy, too. Although I suppose it sounds like I'm complaining a bit here, I did ultimately enjoy the challenge. The Candle series always had the potential to be extremely tactical but ruined it by making the battles too easy. Bloodstone finally lives up to that potential.
 
As we finally reached the central chamber, Maxon spoke up: "Khamalkhad lies beyond this last door. Although we are weary, we must fight and triumph one last time so we can return the axe which will unite all the Dwarven tribes under one leader!!"
     
Maxon recaps the plot in case we forgot.
      
I loaded everyone with mushrooms, even those they didn't need. (The thought of multiple Turpin mushrooms sitting in the stomach of my one non-spellcaster, never doing anything, bothered me until the end.) I made sure every shield was set to 99. I drew my blades. I entered.
   
The final battle was with seven "keepers." They have almost 1,000 hit points, armor of 100, and shields of 99. They can cast "Imbecile" on your party members and stop them from casting spells. Even worse, they can cast "Revive" and resurrect, with full hit points, their fallen comrades. The player doesn't even get that spell. It was absolutely imperative to keep any of them from casting in any round. But they also attack three times per round for 70 damage each, enough to kill most characters in a couple of hits once their Nifts run out. I had faced 10 of these bastards in a previous room. They killed me in the second round, and I declined to re-enter when I reloaded.
         
The end of the first battle.
      
The final battle took me three tries. My winning strategy was to cast "Timestop" in the first round so I had two uninterrupted rounds, "Jump" three characters into melee combat where they could all hit the same keeper, "Sharpen" their swords, and "Weaken" each of the keepers to remove their armor. I then had them concentrate on a single enemy at a time, swallowing Mirgets between every hit. They were able to kill two in the first round. 
     
When they cast it on me, they get me for like four turns. This seems unfair.
      
In the second round, I had two spellcasters cast "Imbecile" on each of the remaining five keepers, preventing them from casting. I also had a fourth fighter "Jump" into range, but he had to use a couple of his turns casting "Weaken" on the next couple of enemies, and I also had to use a couple of random turns casting "Jump" on the original three characters so they wouldn't have to walk down the line. I was able to kill two more in Round Two. Then the keepers took their turn and killed Maka by overwhelming him with attacks.
  
Still, by then it was won. Round Three was more "Imbecile," "Weaken," "Jump," and Mirget-fueled melee attacks. I killed the last keeper on my last action of the round. So it wasn't the most difficult battle of the game, or even the dungeon, but it was challenging enough.
        
Only one party member lost!
     
The game had us search their bodies for no reason, since it ended immediately afterwards. I didn't even get to open the chest. 
       
This looks like a completely different game.
        
Unfortunately, the end--told in a series of static images--was a little bugged:
       
Danat returns to Haraza with Kahamalkhad. But Torongo is jealous of Danat's power. Danat's "reward" is being thrown in a dungeon for life. But Danat escapes with help from his loyal companions. Danat returns to his ancestral caverns in secret. Danat never forgets how Torongo treated him. Years later, he returns with a band of mighty followers. Danat destroys Torongo and becomes the ruler of the Tamar.
     
If you hadn't just rescued me, I'd be mocking you mercilessly about your skirt.
     
Through generations, Danat's knowledge of shipbuilding is passed down. His descendants build a mighty fleet of galleys. They embark on a great voyage, landing at last in the land of Deruvia. And the rest is history.
     
Hey, this is where we came in!
      
It's not a bad ending except I didn't give the other artifacts to Torongo; I gave them to Rakan. I have no idea why the game decided I had favored the other leader. I tried watching some videos to see the other ending, but I couldn't find any that featured it. In one of the ones I watched, the creator commented that it had given him the wrong ending, so perhaps that happened for everyone. An Andrew Schultz walkthrough says that Rakan gives Danat part of his lands to rule; the second paragraph is the same.
    
Aside from the story issue, the artwork is a little odd in the final scenes. I never got the impression that the dwarves of this game were toga-and-sandal-wearing types, nor that the game took place in a world of sand and ziggurats.
   
Overall, though, I had a lot of fun with Bloodstone, certainly more than the last couple Candle games, and perhaps even more than the original Magic Candle, although I played that 12 years ago, so my memory might be foggy. The Magic Candle had an unforgettable ending, no question, but I felt like this one had a tighter plot and more challenging combat, as well as the interface improvements introduced in the sequels. I just wished the developers had fixed the issue of uneven character development. All my dwarves ended with maximum values in their primary weapon skills but hardly anyone gained any points in other skills, particularly "Magic," despite using it constantly. I could have made more use of trainers, but trainers always have seemed a bit cumbersome. And the system of increasing attributes by waking up gods never really clicked with me.
       
There was one god I never woke up.
     
Still, I expect a high GIMLET. Let's see:
    
  • 7 points for the game world. I really enjoyed the setting in early history, civilization just establishing itself, the wars of the gods still in recent memory. The backstory and the character's role are both clear. Every location and most objects have lore attached to them, delivered through NPC keywords or library books. Some of it is a little banal and derivative, as is the norm for the era, but overall the game (and the series) offer better worldbuilding than 95% of titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. You don't really get to create your characters, but you do get to choose from a large number of them. I just wish the various races and backstories of the characters played more of a role in the game's encounters and dialogue. As noted above, development is a little inconsistent and less palpable than in many games, with equipment upgrades and mushrooms doing far more for a character's effectiveness than his inherent skill.
  • 6 points for NPC Interaction. That's about as high as it goes when the interaction is so one-way. I like the variety of NPCs and the lore they impart. We'll have to wait for later games to introduce true role-playing into these interactions. 
       
The evil wizard who loves flowers is an NPC I haven't met in a previous RPG.
       
  • 4 points for encounters and foes. The series has always created its own bestiary, and it's up to the player to learn from experience the strengths and weaknesses of various enemies. Every battle is fixed in both location and composition; I could have done with a little more randomness here. And there aren't really any non-combat encounters or puzzles.
  • 5 points for magic and combat. A nice, challenging, tactical system with a good variety of spells and some fun touches like the ability to attempt a rallying speech. It would have been nice to have a few non-magic tactics like flanking bonuses, backstabbing, and parrying, but it's still better than many games of the era.
     
The need for "Restsoul" adds some complexity to combat.
      
  • 6 points for equipment. There are a lot of usable and equippable items in the game, although I thought it was a bit too miserly with magic weapons and armor. (I ended with only two Mithril suits and only half my characters had magic weapons.) I could have done with some more randomness in the distribution of items. Nonetheless, equipment upgrades are a major part of the series, and this game in particular excels in usable items--mushrooms, potions, throwing weapons, map flasks, and the like.
  • 7 points for the economy. Until the very last expedition, there were still reasons to make money (if only to buy every spell totem for every character), and in the beginning of the game, the economy offers an authentic challenge. I also like the complexity of the economic system. Characters can work for a wage (with many of the skills oriented to this), trade, or gamble.
  • 4 points for quests. In addition to a main quest with (theoretically) two endings, we have a few side areas and optional dungeons and side-quests with artifact rewards. 
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. You can win them all. Most of the credit here goes to the interface, which does a nice job with keyboard and mouse redundancy. The notebook is brilliant, and there are some intuitive touches like the ability to switch between characters without backing out of the inventory screen. As for the graphics, they're serviceable, but they make the mistake common to this era of trying to depict too much without enough pixels, with the result that I was constantly missing important features and NPCs and accidentally talking to furniture. The sound is too sparse to even bother reaching for the headphones.
   
The comprehensive, searchable notebook is one of the best features of the game.
    
  • 7 points for gameplay. We end on a strong note by recognizing the game's general nonlinearity, its modest replayability (with different character choices), its near-perfect difficulty, and a length that mostly fits the content.
      
That gives us a subtotal of 51, but I'm going to subtract a point for the ending bug to get a final score of 50. Once again, my GIMLET demonstrates a fundamental consistency as it ends up being almost exactly the same as the original Magic Candle's 52 (I promise I didn't look at the previous game's rating until just now), to which I gave a 3-point bonus. Thank the gods for Bloodstone and Ambermoon. No other game has scored more than 50 points in almost two years.
       
Looking at the November 1993 Computer Gaming World--there's that damned Spear of Destiny ad again--I was disappointed to see that Scorpia didn't like it. She called it a "disappointment" because of "design flaws and inadequate playtesting." I see what she's saying in the review, though. She played a female character but all the cut scenes still show a male and use male pronouns. She also apparently got Khamalkhad without giving any artifacts to the dwarf leaders first, which apparently caused the game to "make a default choice" of leader. She had other problems that I didn't experience. Moreover, unlike me, Scorpia never really liked open world games. She considers it a negative, for instance, that you can accidentally wander into a difficult dungeon near the starting point. I never mind writing "come back later when I'm stronger" in my notepad.
     
I wish I'd found out what these devices are about.
      
Mobygames's summary of other reviews shows similar low scores, with a median of 58%. The best was an 80% from the German Play Time, the worst a dismal 33% from the equally German PC Player, which recommended it only to players who "don't value a coherent story, good atmosphere, attractive graphics, or user-friendly operation." Ouch. Well, I liked it regardless. Matt Barton, at least, agrees with me. In Dungeons and Desktops, he wrote: "In my opinion, it's a great game for novices as well as more advanced fans wanting to try something different."
     
One month before Scorpia's review, CGW offered a profile of Mindcraft and its founder and CEO, Ali Atabek. The article describes how Atabek, a corporate programmer, decided to create his first RPG (Rings of Zilfin) after getting hooked on the Ultima series. Zilfin had been published by SSI, but Atabek and his wife, Ugur, formed Mindcraft to develop The Magic Candle and its sequels. The company struggled for years with unlucky distribution deals before becoming its own publisher in 1991. The article suggested a rosy future for the company, with a number of planned titles like Walls of Rome (a strategy game based on the engine from the previous Siege), a 256-color strategy game called Dominion, a 3D RPG called Gryphon Master, and a sci-fi strategy game called Mechamender
      
Ali Atabek in 1993, from Computer Gaming World.
     
There's nothing in the optimistic article to suggest that the company would be bankrupt by the following summer, most of the titles never seeing the light of day. But even in the CGW article, Bloodstone was described as "the last game to be set in [The Magic Candle] world," so it's not the company's dissolution that ended the series. Atabek went on to spend four years at Interplay (he has a minor credit on 1997's Waterworld, which is on my list) before leaving the entertainment industry at the end of the 1990s. As far as I can tell, lead Bloodstone developer Anthony Osterman never worked on another game.
   
As we say goodbye to Mindcraft and the Candle series, it occurs to me that it is perhaps the only series of its size (four games--five if you include The Keys to Maramon) to which I had no exposure when it was new. The titles didn't always knock it out of the park, but they have certainly been (for me) some of the better discoveries to come out of this blog.

50 comments:

  1. Congrats on another win! This was a really fun series and very consistent in its quality. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. If you look again at Torongo's dialog graphics, it's clear that the Tamar dwarves were always intended to have a vaguely Mesoamerican theme to them.

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  3. Nice! Knocking these things out one after the other. I'm glad the MC franchise could end on a high note; so often not the case as diminishing returns set in and everyone involved decides to quit while they're not ahead. I have to admit, giving all the items to one NPC lord only to have the other be the subject of the ending was quite the twist. I Danat see that coming.

    So, I notice Dungeon Hack's on the upcoming schedule. Curious what you'll think about that one. I played it a lot when I was younger but there's a certain... lack of substance to it. (The high degree of customization is a plus though.)

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  4. I remembered getting a different ending in my playthrough, and luckily I had still the game installed, so I reloaded the last save before the final battle and won it again.

    Indeed, it was the Rakan one, which I recorded (I think the one you got is cooler, though):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmBPVJozX_k

    I have a vague memory of trying to share the treasures equally between the two chiefs (which I admit, reading your coverage does not make much sense), but I don't remember which one got most of them in the end.

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  5. "As we say goodbye to Mindcraft and the Candle series, it occurs to me that it is perhaps the only series of its size (four games--five if you include The Keys to Maramon) to which I had no exposure when it was new."

    Have you played any of the Spiderweb software games? There were four in the original Exile series (I, II, III, and Blades of Exile); seven (!) in the remake series Avernum,; 3 in the reremade Avernums; 5 in the Geneforge series; 3 Avadons; 2 Queen's Wishes; and Nethergate (remade once). I suspect strongly that you will really like pretty much all of them, if and when you get to them.

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    1. As a fan, I'm also looking forward to seeing Spiderweb Software games here, but Exile only came out in 1995, so we're some years away still. Also, by the time we get there its obsolete visuals and horrible UI (I think inventory screen only became usable some time around Geneforge 3?) are going to seem like a major throwback compared to contemporary titles.

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    2. I should have qualified that statement by saying something like "before I went to college." There are plenty of longer series that came out post-1992 to which I have no exposure.

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  6. Candle is a series of 6/7 games, if you include Siege and Ambush at Sorinor :)

    This was a good read all along, which was unexpected; in general, my favourite articles are those covering the worst games.

    Walls of Rome was released and was very, very good. I commented thus in another article, but the game certainly deserves to be praised twice here.

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  7. "Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation . . ."

    Indeed. How did your character come to wear what in form and colours resembles quite a bit the "skirt" of your companion whom you would have been mocking mercilessly about the same if he hadn't rescued you...?

    Congratulations on the double win - this one sounded and sounds much more appealing (at least to me) than WoL.

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    1. I thought this was a reference to a movie or series that I just couldn't remember. Turns out it's just a common trope used in a lot of movies. Still can't think of a single instance, though I'm pretty sure I've come across it before.

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    2. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 5, 2024 at 5:09 AM

      Funny - I thought the same thing.

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    3. It's an older trope - I can identify recognizable forms at least as early as '80s action-adventure TV (I think The Fall Guy used a form in a lot of its cold-opens), but the specific formulation that became a meme appears to originate with "My Name is Earl"

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    4. The earliest I can think of is in Sunset Boulevard which starts with the narrator floating dead in a pool, and then he recaps how he got in that position. So that’s 1950 - it’s a pretty old trope.

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    5. I had the more specific trope in mind (freeze frame on the protagonist, followed by the "That's me" quote). "My Name is Earl" fits that perfectly, but, unlike Sunset Boulevard, I've never seen it before. Must be my mind creating a memory.

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    6. Fight Club (the movie) did this before Earl, though the quote may not be as exact.

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    7. Another example that comes to mind is the post-title opening scene of 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang where the narrator Harry is at a party and two bits of his starting narration are "That's me there." and shortly thereafter "By now you may wonder how I wound up here, or maybe not."

      My initial comment was just a little tease I couldn't resist given Chet's other caption which I indirectly quoted ;-).

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    8. "My name is Ash and I am a slave..."

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    9. Although it doesn't use those exact words, it's how Thor: Ragnarok opens, for one recent(ish) and prominent example.

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  8. Congrats on another finished game.

    As I was reading this entry and the previous one, when you note difficult fights, I was reminded of the other times you did, on Ambermoon, Fate, The Return of Werdna, others; and I wondered if you have kept a top ten like list of the most difficult encounters ever encountered through your journey on CRPG Addict. Just curious.

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    1. I wish I had kept one, honestly. I'd have to comb through my entries.

      But there are different levels of "difficulty." I don't mind this kind of difficulty, where you just have to find the right tactics from many potential approaches. I mind the kind where you just have to keep trying until the dice go your way or the kind where you have to fight an enemy for 10+ minutes without making a single mistake on the keyboard or controller.

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    2. Of course, you're right about being there difficulty and sheer bad design; it would be nice to crown a few of the former kind of encounters as being the most hard, just from the archival pow.
      Not that I'm asking you to do it, I mean you've written several books worth of posts by now. :)

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  9. I cannot say that I'm looking forward to the upcoming crpg(?) 'Waterworld' (1997), I somehow got a bad feeling there...

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    1. You get a "sinking" feeling, eh? ;) Nothing to worry about though, the Waterworld game by Interplay is an RTS and doesn't really contain RPG elements (unless I'm misremembering something), so I doubt it'll ever be covered around here.

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    2. Waterworld? The Atari 2600 game? It is AMAZING!!!!

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    3. I heard it was a good game. Dunno if that's because they were expecting it to be horrible and it was better than expected or if it's genuinely good.

      Also, is it wonder about games from the far future day today? I sure can't wait to see Chet talk about Heroes of Might and Magic 4 and how overpowered nature magic is in that game. :)

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    4. Nature magic? I don't remember that.

      My experience was that 'Stealth' was a bit game-breaking.

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    5. Ah, it was a joke, nature magic is probably the least effective set of magic in the game. It's special ability is borderline useless.

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  10. "you absolutely need those mushrooms and "Jump" spells for each battle"

    Games that supply large amounts of powerful consumables risk ending up as mushroom games.

    Even scarce consumables make games harder to balance if they are powerful. eg You cant balance the final fight in Baldur's Gate for players who kept their wands of Monster Summoning fully charged, otherwise players who'd used theirs would really struggle. It's hard to know what the line is.

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    1. Wasn't summoning nerfed in ToTSC precisely due to this abuse?

      I mean, my ending in BG ended up being a skeleton stampede rather than a meaningful battle when I played it, but I believe the max number of creatures under control was eventually tied to something, even for wands.

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    2. And I blew through SOA without using a single charge of even the rod of resurrection, and I tried to use a summons maybe once or twice. Maybe the strength in the game is the different ways to play it?

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    3. Generally, consumes are more powerful in BG 1 since they don't really improve in BG 2 while general party power does.

      The equivalent of a Wand of Fire would probably be a Wand of Abi-Dalzim, which doesn't exist.

      On the summing nerf, I think that only happened in SoA. In the EE versions (and Tutu prior to that) it did get backported to BG 1.

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    4. The Infinity Engine games offer so many different combinations of party members, spells, and items that they create many different possibilities for beating hard battles. Naturally, when you have many different possibilities, some are going to seem absurdly easy. Overwhelming enemies with summonses is one of these, but I don't think it's how I won BG1 any of the times I've won it.

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    5. the mushroom thing kinda reminds me of how in Diablo (the 2nd one especially) I would get through fights by endlessly chugging potions.

      While the mushrooms in this are more specific in their uses, the way that you can end up just eating tons of them before (or during?) a fight makes them seem a bit too crucial to the whole experience, more so than the other general equipment.

      While I write this I recall my experience of Baldur's Gate being somewhat tougher at times because I would often not bother with buffing spells or consumables, preferring to use my spell slots on healing or damage spells to the detriment of others.

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    6. If the game requires the player to consume buff items before every tough battle, and if they're cheap enough to buy for every battle, then what's the point? The player can just use them every time. There's not much of a decision to be made. And the player is burdened with the busywork of buying and using the items.

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    7. While I agree with what you're saying, Bitmap, the mushrooms are only overabundant towards the end of the game. You do have to ration them a bit in the early game, giving the system a little more purpose.

      Even late in the game, I don't see having to load up on mushrooms so different than always keeping certain spells active during exploration in Wizardry or The Bard's Tale.

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  11. I got the Torongo ending despite giving all the artifacts to Rakan when I played it last fall, too.

    This series had a lot of interesting mechanics that haven't really felt well-designed since Magic Candle I. In particular, that's the only game of the four where how much in-game time you take matters at all, but you can still trade as much time as you like for gold, and skills, and spell memorization, and research, and fixing your weapons, and restoring energy and health. Bloodstone pushes this even further by removing food.

    Similarly, removing the energy cost for movement - also new in Bloodstone - makes energy almost entirely pointless. The Swimming skill no longer matters, and there really isn't any excuse to begin combat without everyone being at full. You'll still run out with a magic-heavy party like I ran - I got through the latter half of the game entirely through the use of Timestop, Crumble, and mass Firestorm - but Music's given free full-party energy restoration since Magic Candle 3. I don't think I ate a single sermin this game, and I definitely never cast Energy.

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    1. Yeah, I only ate a few Sermins myself. I suppose the better solution would have been to drastically reduce the cost rather than eliminate it entirely.

      I was wondering if offensive spells would work better with a magic-heavy party. I figure it would take everyone casting "Firestorm" four times per round at relatively high skills to wipe out some of the late game enemies, but if you could do it, it would trivialize a lot of the combats.

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    2. This was the tactic that carried me through the game, at least until I got confounded by the need for Walkwater in Anforn.

      All mage party + Timestop + Crumble + Firestorm en masse basically obliterated every encounter before the enemy got a chance to go. The only thing that ever really confounded that was when there were lots of enemies requiring Restsoul, as those could eat precious turns.

      IIRC, I think I might have taken more 'downtime' than you did; staying at inns or sacred groves for mass spell memorization, or to await training or work. Getting 'maxed out' was pretty trivial exploiting the groves, in particular. Nowdays, I think I'd have found your approach more overall satisfying, though.

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    3. I never managed to shake the idea that there was a time limit. I could have spent a lot more time training.

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  12. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 5, 2024 at 4:08 AM

    Congratulations on finishing this one -- what a challenge!

    > No other game has scored more than 50 points in almost two years.
    But that can't be right -- what about Dark Sun?... I thought, before checking and realizing that was finished 25 months ago. Where has the time gone?

    And finally: what was meant by "You can win them all?" This felt vaguely like a reference to something that I just wasn't getting.

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  13. Scorpia was always pretty tough and demanding on the titles she reviewed! Loved reading her column in CGW back in the day!

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  14. Hi Chet, congratulations on the win! I have some issues with your RSS feed (I'm using http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default) recently, the last entry it shows is the one for "Out Live". It was a pleasant surprise when I checked manually and found this entry and the one on Legend.

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  15. is it just me or does the god being woken up (image just before the GIMLET) look a bit like Spider-man?

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    1. Now that you mention it, yes, it does. Wonder if that's intentional / an easter egg or just some random similarity.

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  16. Andrew Schultz did not only write a walkthrough and draw maps for this game, both published on GameFAQs, he also produced a 2004 review you can find there (in which he refers to himself once as "the 2-d RPG addict") which I found an nice complement to Chet's coverage.

    He mentions that "the bartenders of disparate towns correspond to a memorable basketball team".

    Regarding the people which created it, I recently read in Felipe Pepe's CRPG book that Ed Del Castillo, who shows up in quite a few other titles like Command & Conquer, was briefly involved in Ultima IX as producer, rewriting the plot treatment significantly before being dismissed from Origin (uncredited on the game).

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    1. I remember back in the day, when Ed Del Castillo was fired from Origin, there was a massive celebration of Ultima fans on usenet. IIRC, he was responsible for U9 becoming much of a Tomb Raider clone instead of something closer to Ultima Online as originally intended. Some of the stuff he did was "pulled back" but it was too late.

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  17. Regarding Shadowcaster, I suggest playing the floppy version. While the new cutscenes (being uglier) are something you don't care about one way or another, it adds in a glitch that destroys your last save file and throws in a couple not particularly fun levels. If nothing else, I would see if there are videos of the floppy cutscenes on Youtube (there are of the intro and ending) as well as taking advantage of all the game's save slots. Also, get the cluebook (I think it's called), not for clues, but because it has backstory for each of the levels. Yeah, it's lame, but it's better than "here's this guy, go kill him."

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  18. "Imbecile" spell has a lot of possible real world applications. As far as I understand, here it is only used to silence spell casters. But I have instantly though about a situation when you are writing an exam and want to get the highest score. Just cast an "imbecile" spell on the rest of your classmates. But I guess that any other debuff spell that lowers INT stat would be equally useful.

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  19. I always had a real soft spot for The Magic Candle, thanks to playing it as a young teen on the Commodore 64, and then again as an older teen on IBM PC. I still have the original box I purchased from a second hand games store in the 90s some time - the original manual is a great read.

    In my early 20s / late 90s I tried to play Magic Candle 2, but I think even then it didn't click because of how much of a slog the dungeons felt like. I think I recall that fights were either easy, or a wipe out if you got ambushed.

    Really good to hear the series went out on a high note, have been tempted for many years now to give Bloodstone a try.

    I've semi regularly gone back to Magic Candle 1 over the years - my favourite tactic is to rush through the first dungeon (Dermagud} and teleport to near the second castle (Berbezza) which allows you to recruit the much better characters from the Knights Room there, then teleport back to the beginning area. Lots of preparation involved to make sure you have enough equipment, teleport consumables and hopefully enough to buy a spellbook at the villag enear the dungeon.

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