By ahoodedfigure 4 Comments
You know that story about how Captain Kirk cheated on the Kobyashi Maru test, and they let him pass because he was being all inventive? I bring this up in part because I know some things about the Secrets of the Inner Sanctum in this game, and that's actually pretty appropriate, but also:
I cheated. I downloaded the hint books and looked at the Might and Magic I book to see how the hell I could get to another town. I'm not too much of a simulationist, but I do like it when characters will at least reference other towns in role playing games so that it feels less like a bunch of random islands that all exist in the same game world. After some experimentation and a lot of dying, I was tired of coming up empty. I figured out a decent enough path, and found the icy caves of Erliquinn (spelling?), a town nestled in the northern wastes. I had actually roamed pretty close to the city at one point, but without any trail or sign you're going in the right direction, one place was as good as another.
I also used the hintbook to decipher what items were better than others. In the other games, as far as I knew, the information was pretty straightforward, so that you could gauge a flamberge vs. a halberd and make an informed decision. Without that, I was left with a game that made me feel a bit numb, like I didn't have enough sensory input coming from the game to make that informed decision. From the sequel onward, this would get a lot better, but I've come down to a fundamental principle regarding my continued love of retro stuff:
One has to get a decent return on one's investment, be that investment in money, or in time.
Even failing to solve a puzzle can still be fun, so thinking hard on a conundrum can be rewarding even if you don't get anywhere, but I had reached a point with MM1 where I felt like the default was to wander randomly and die, take notes, and start again. Since there's no reset button, when faced with getting a cursed item or being saddled with a health condition that I didn't want to pay to heal up, I would send my party on suicide runs through the forests to try to find new stuff. Once in a while these payed off and a few times I even saved it despite my vow to just explore.
I've gotten past a hump of sorts, especially now that I've explored the icy town and now a inherently hostile port town, roping a lot of decent loot (plate mail abounded at just the right time, which was nice). I made the mistake of creating two fighter characters that have poor accuracy (argh), but at least one of them is now armed with a weapon that improves her chance to hit, and she can actually crush her enemies, drive them before her, and hear the lamentations of the husbands.
I still like playing it, despite the constant keypresses and sudden, irritating increases in difficulty that wipe out an innocent romp (minor demons are my bane right now. Can't wait to see their older cousins), and general opaqueness of the non-cheaty side of things, but I'm looking forward to moving on to play the sequel, whether or not I stick with this game, and whether or not come to rely too heavily on that hintbook.
As for Arcanum, what with the 7.0 release of ASCII Sector and playing MM1, it hasn't crossed my mind much, but I don't think I've given up on it yet.