Might and Magic, Book I: Secrets of the Inner Sanctum

 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.

4 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

 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.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Yeah, you're not cheating. What you are doing is bringing the game to a state where you are capable of playing it, something no amount of hint books would be able to do for me concerning this game. People who played this game back when it came out were probably pretty crazy, and considering that you could send in your score to get a signed certificate from the developers, I think finishing it was considered a momentous task. The difference is that I could probably finish World of Xeen if I sat down and soldiered through it (after all, I'm already done with the cloudside). I couldn't finish M&M1 or 2 for the life of me. But to be fair, I think the second game is somewhat less hateful on the obscurity end.
 
As for me, do I admit to occasionally looking at walkthroughs in regards to some of the old games I play? Certainly. Because aimless wandering (or, as some people would put it: "Exploring the world and taking in the atmosphere") isn't my style, as is building a dead end character (or, as some people would put it: "Trying out different options")  Is this the voice of someone who's first real RPG was Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic? Yep.

Posted by Egge

Cheating or not, when I played Wizardry 6 and 7 a while back I unabashedly relied quite extensively on user-made maps as well as walkthrough solutions for all puzzles (since I absolutely despise puzzles in all gameplay contexts). That way I could focus entirely on what is so awesome about those kinds of old RPGs; i.e. the sophisticated turn-based combat and multi-layered character development systems which, unlike those things which I didn't bother wasting any brain power or precious free time on, are actually worth figuring out on your own and endlessly experimenting with throughout the game.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Egge: I can't say I hate puzzles by themselves, but it depends on how they're implemented. There's this one browser-based puzzle game that is basically convoluted logic puzzles, where I feel if I just get the mathematical principle down, or intuit the answer, I'll solve it in seconds.  I tend to hate stuff like that, because...  well, I guess I like to feel clever.  Maybe that says more about me than it does about those puzzles.  I do have more patience for puzzles than I used to have, though.  I think I probably didn't get into a lot of games back when I was a kid because I felt like puzzles were more painful than rewarding.
 
The character and combat depth is one of the aspects of the old games I find fascinating, too.  I guess Wizardry actually had a lot of combat options, didn't it?  I have yet to play a single Wizardry game, unfortunately, though I want to.
 
@ArbitraryWater: Darkside was superior, I feel. The graphics had a bit of an upgrade, and the tone was more interesting to me. I actually spent most of my time on Darkside, then went back to Cloudside as a god among mortals because Darkside was the part you were supposed to see afterward, and I'd leveled so much there that most of Cloudside was boring.  
 
I'm OK with exploring, but the dead-end character business is something that bugs me. Character creation is supposed to be the player personalizing their game experience, so if you let them make the choice, you're saying that it may not be optimal, but it's an option.  If I find that it later doesn't work, it's the same as presenting the player with a sprig of grass that you later can't get to, which would be required to solve a puzzle.  If you don't pick it up before you know it's important, you're screwed.  What a horrible thing to do to a player.
 
I never finished Might and Magic II for the Genesis way back when, in part because I wasn't a big fan of the cartoony graphics, but I was also afraid to get punished by the traps and the supernatural darkness and the monsters who could eradicate my party beyond the ability to be resurrected. I'm a bit more willing now to suffer in order to see the sights of these older vistas than I was when I played it last.  Apparently.