A Brief Jaunt Through: NWC's Might and Magic VII (Part 2)

And so, dear readers, we revisit our team of anagramatic future ne'er-do-wells as they continue in their deadly quest to find a bunch of items on an island. Only complete badasses compete in video game scavenger hunts, everyone.

Part 2: This Is Probably How Luigi Won His Mansion Too

Yeah, holy shit, it's a dragon. I might have foreshadowed this a little too hard last time. I really ought to work on my timing. This is one of the many fun "real-time" puzzles the game presents: Because you can, at any moment, pause everything that happens and enter a turn-based mode, you can use that feature to side-step traps and other areas that need precise timing. But here, the dragon can wipe out the entire party in four rounds in turn-based, yet he has trouble hitting a moving target in real-time mode (plus the game helpfully distracts him with a few rats) so if you're quick you can grab an optional quest item (there was a bounty to look for missing contestants) and book it out of there. If you're really quick/stupid, you can run around the rest of his cave and grab some reasonably high-level loot lying around the place.
Here's what we purloined while the dragon was distracted. That longbow on the left is part of the quest (you can also buy one in the blacksmith store), but our Archer can make use of it until it's time to hand everything in.
Here's the shield you need. It's right in the entrance, so you're fairly safe. Even so, it's not necessary to win the contest and continue the game.
Rather, you just get this handy 1000 gold reward for giving it back to Santa here. That money can go towards the lute/bow, or you can (wisely) buy the leather/bow skill for anyone who doesn't already have them.
Here's the singular dungeon on the island. Not much of a temple so far.
As you can see, it's... wait, maybe you can't.
As you can see, one Torchlight spell later, this is more of a cave. A cave with bats in it. Don't worry, there are rats and spiders too. I know it would blow everyone's minds if the starting dungeon didn't have any of those things.
Aw hell. (Note: Red areas are actually trapped treasure containers.)
Now this is a real find. Treasure kind of follows the Diablo protocol of random loot: You take the item name and add a modifier to it if it's magical.
While I'm in the inventory explaining shit, here's how skills work: Every level you get five skil points. You spend these points on skills, which are all currently on level 1 for Evilcarny here. Each skill costs its level plus one to level up, so everything here takes two points to level and then three points to level again and so on. At every four levels, you can find a trainer to upgrade the skill level for added benefits (in magic's case, you get access to stronger spells and existing spells become more powerful). Finally, when you see yellow skill levels, it means you need to upgrade the character's class (which is like a big mid-game deal, sort of like in the original Final Fantasy). Red means that character class can never reach that level of skill.
So after a few caves, the landscape starts getting way more temple-y. We're here to look for a tile, but there's no harm in robbing this place blind. Good old video game moral relativism.
Like these chest of drawers for example. How does one pluralize "chest of drawers"? Chests of drawers? More importantly, why am I debating semantics when there's loot to be looted?
Oh sweet! As far as I know, this is the only way to get a wealthy hat, one of the scavenger hunt items.
The only other place to check is the library. However, like in true Doom fashion, this red wall is a tell-tale sign that there's a secret door here. Most secret walls are way better hidden, and you'll need a high Perception skill to find them.
And here's our floor tile. Apparently this is the only one that counts, all the other floor tiles must be stuck down pretty hard. Also, this means we finally have all our items! We can finally hand them in and...
Aw, goddammit. While I have time to burn, I'll explain the colored portraits down there. When it's green, like now, there are no enemies around and it's safe to rest. Yellow means there's enemies nearby, but they might not necessarily know you're there. Red means there's an enemy in melee range and you should probably be in turn-based mode.
One quick stay at the inn later (and all our health/mana replenished) we can complete the first major quest of the game.
Completing quests (and killing all those monsters) gave us plenty of experience. In the weird old-fashioned way M&M7 is, you have to find a local trainer and pay to level up. Yeah, it's a little weird.
One quick Rocky montage later and we have skill points to spend. I generally prefer to get vital skills to level 4 ASAP, so they can be upgraded to "Expert". Most skills are made slightly better with higher numbers, but it's really hitting Expert (and later Master and Grandmaster) that grants the most benefits. The difficulty is finding the NPCs that will train you in those skills (though the journal will helpfully remember the locations of skill trainers once they've been found, so get in the habit of visiting houses whenever you're in a new town).
Hooray! We're off Tutorial Island! See you later, suckers, we're set for life!
Wow! What a dump. And thus the game begins proper: Harmondale Castle, its town, the surrounding lands and the entire world lies before us. What are we waiting for?

And so I feel I've given this game it's due, and hopefully is sated for the time being. At least until I get around to playing those two big strategy games he was kind enough to gift me. Might and Magic VII really does a grand job balancing the idiosyncrases of the really old CRPG paragons like Wizardry, Ultima and, indeed, Might and Magic while still managing to be a modern-ish game that is relatively easy to figure out and fun to play. Really, while there's some odd rules that I've elaborated on here, there isn't nothing like the sort of byzantine barrier to entry that usually depreciates these older CRPGs. Just equip everyone with bows, enter turn-based mode whenever enemies are in sight and kite everything until you've gotten a grip on combat, and everything outside of combat can be picked up at one's own pace. For a paltry six dollars on GOG, it's an easy game to recommend.

Thanks for sticking around. I really ought to consider recording these things. I'm hearing video is the way of the future?

Other Brief Jaunts
Master of Magic - Parts 1 - 2 - 3
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos - Parts 1 - 2
Dungeon Master - Parts 1 - 2
Captive - Parts 1 - 2
Might and Magic VII - Parts 1 - 2
7 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by Mento

And so, dear readers, we revisit our team of anagramatic future ne'er-do-wells as they continue in their deadly quest to find a bunch of items on an island. Only complete badasses compete in video game scavenger hunts, everyone.

Part 2: This Is Probably How Luigi Won His Mansion Too

Yeah, holy shit, it's a dragon. I might have foreshadowed this a little too hard last time. I really ought to work on my timing. This is one of the many fun "real-time" puzzles the game presents: Because you can, at any moment, pause everything that happens and enter a turn-based mode, you can use that feature to side-step traps and other areas that need precise timing. But here, the dragon can wipe out the entire party in four rounds in turn-based, yet he has trouble hitting a moving target in real-time mode (plus the game helpfully distracts him with a few rats) so if you're quick you can grab an optional quest item (there was a bounty to look for missing contestants) and book it out of there. If you're really quick/stupid, you can run around the rest of his cave and grab some reasonably high-level loot lying around the place.
Here's what we purloined while the dragon was distracted. That longbow on the left is part of the quest (you can also buy one in the blacksmith store), but our Archer can make use of it until it's time to hand everything in.
Here's the shield you need. It's right in the entrance, so you're fairly safe. Even so, it's not necessary to win the contest and continue the game.
Rather, you just get this handy 1000 gold reward for giving it back to Santa here. That money can go towards the lute/bow, or you can (wisely) buy the leather/bow skill for anyone who doesn't already have them.
Here's the singular dungeon on the island. Not much of a temple so far.
As you can see, it's... wait, maybe you can't.
As you can see, one Torchlight spell later, this is more of a cave. A cave with bats in it. Don't worry, there are rats and spiders too. I know it would blow everyone's minds if the starting dungeon didn't have any of those things.
Aw hell. (Note: Red areas are actually trapped treasure containers.)
Now this is a real find. Treasure kind of follows the Diablo protocol of random loot: You take the item name and add a modifier to it if it's magical.
While I'm in the inventory explaining shit, here's how skills work: Every level you get five skil points. You spend these points on skills, which are all currently on level 1 for Evilcarny here. Each skill costs its level plus one to level up, so everything here takes two points to level and then three points to level again and so on. At every four levels, you can find a trainer to upgrade the skill level for added benefits (in magic's case, you get access to stronger spells and existing spells become more powerful). Finally, when you see yellow skill levels, it means you need to upgrade the character's class (which is like a big mid-game deal, sort of like in the original Final Fantasy). Red means that character class can never reach that level of skill.
So after a few caves, the landscape starts getting way more temple-y. We're here to look for a tile, but there's no harm in robbing this place blind. Good old video game moral relativism.
Like these chest of drawers for example. How does one pluralize "chest of drawers"? Chests of drawers? More importantly, why am I debating semantics when there's loot to be looted?
Oh sweet! As far as I know, this is the only way to get a wealthy hat, one of the scavenger hunt items.
The only other place to check is the library. However, like in true Doom fashion, this red wall is a tell-tale sign that there's a secret door here. Most secret walls are way better hidden, and you'll need a high Perception skill to find them.
And here's our floor tile. Apparently this is the only one that counts, all the other floor tiles must be stuck down pretty hard. Also, this means we finally have all our items! We can finally hand them in and...
Aw, goddammit. While I have time to burn, I'll explain the colored portraits down there. When it's green, like now, there are no enemies around and it's safe to rest. Yellow means there's enemies nearby, but they might not necessarily know you're there. Red means there's an enemy in melee range and you should probably be in turn-based mode.
One quick stay at the inn later (and all our health/mana replenished) we can complete the first major quest of the game.
Completing quests (and killing all those monsters) gave us plenty of experience. In the weird old-fashioned way M&M7 is, you have to find a local trainer and pay to level up. Yeah, it's a little weird.
One quick Rocky montage later and we have skill points to spend. I generally prefer to get vital skills to level 4 ASAP, so they can be upgraded to "Expert". Most skills are made slightly better with higher numbers, but it's really hitting Expert (and later Master and Grandmaster) that grants the most benefits. The difficulty is finding the NPCs that will train you in those skills (though the journal will helpfully remember the locations of skill trainers once they've been found, so get in the habit of visiting houses whenever you're in a new town).
Hooray! We're off Tutorial Island! See you later, suckers, we're set for life!
Wow! What a dump. And thus the game begins proper: Harmondale Castle, its town, the surrounding lands and the entire world lies before us. What are we waiting for?

And so I feel I've given this game it's due, and hopefully is sated for the time being. At least until I get around to playing those two big strategy games he was kind enough to gift me. Might and Magic VII really does a grand job balancing the idiosyncrases of the really old CRPG paragons like Wizardry, Ultima and, indeed, Might and Magic while still managing to be a modern-ish game that is relatively easy to figure out and fun to play. Really, while there's some odd rules that I've elaborated on here, there isn't nothing like the sort of byzantine barrier to entry that usually depreciates these older CRPGs. Just equip everyone with bows, enter turn-based mode whenever enemies are in sight and kite everything until you've gotten a grip on combat, and everything outside of combat can be picked up at one's own pace. For a paltry six dollars on GOG, it's an easy game to recommend.

Thanks for sticking around. I really ought to consider recording these things. I'm hearing video is the way of the future?

Other Brief Jaunts
Master of Magic - Parts 1 - 2 - 3
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos - Parts 1 - 2
Dungeon Master - Parts 1 - 2
Captive - Parts 1 - 2
Might and Magic VII - Parts 1 - 2
Moderator
Posted by sodacat

Just this summer I played through M&M3-5 after a friend gifted them to me. I'm really glad he did, because those games had something that I've felt is missing from most modern RPGs, but its still hard for me to put a finger on what exactly that is. I just wish I could get MM6 running, and MM7 would be right out as well.

So does 7 have a town building aspect as the game goes on, or are you put in charge of a town just for it to get blown up to show how bad the big bad is?

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@sodacat said:

Just this summer I played through M&M3-5 after a friend gifted them to me. I'm really glad he did, because those games had something that I've felt is missing from most modern RPGs, but its still hard for me to put a finger on what exactly that is. I just wish I could get MM6 running, and MM7 would be right out as well.

So does 7 have a town building aspect as the game goes on, or are you put in charge of a town just for it to get blown up to show how bad the big bad is?

Yep. While the first two M&M games are borderline unplayable, the series from III onward is quite accessible. In any case, that castle you get in Harmondale basically serves as your "home base" for the rest of the game and actually gets improved once you progress through the story. No town management needed.

I am sated. Now get on that Disciples II and Age of Wonders train!

Posted by Silvergun

@sodacat said:

Just this summer I played through M&M3-5 after a friend gifted them to me. I'm really glad he did, because those games had something that I've felt is missing from most modern RPGs, but its still hard for me to put a finger on what exactly that is. I just wish I could get MM6 running, and MM7 would be right out as well.

So does 7 have a town building aspect as the game goes on, or are you put in charge of a town just for it to get blown up to show how bad the big bad is?

Not really, your castle gets fixed up through the course of the plot, but the main thing being the Lords of Harmondale does for you is makes you important enough that the various factions of Erathia take notice of you (which winds up being the focus of the mid-game).

One hint I can give for trying to get MM6-8 working is to try and run them in Windows XP compatibility mode. Also, I think there's a patch floating around that can help things. MM8 can be really tough to get running though, but all of them should be doable if you're willing to do a little research (and it's worth it, especially for 7, it's an amazingly good game).

Edited by Mento

@sodacat: I couldn't get 7 working in Win7 (ironically enough) until I changed the video settings on the set-up to "software enabled", rather than the default hardware option. Works fine now. It's a bit too new to run through DOSBox.

Also, yeah, nothing meaningful in the way of town building or army raising. That might have been an interesting experiment.

@ArbitraryWater: Will do! Though... I think I want to keep playing M&M7 for a while longer. I should've known something like this would happen.

If you want to hear something really unfortunate, I discovered a lost copy of Wizardry 8 lying around except the third CD was cracked. That's a bummer.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Mento said:

@ArbitraryWater: Will do! Though... I think I want to keep playing M&M7 for a while longer. I should've known something like this would happen.

If you want to hear something really unfortunate, I discovered a lost copy of Wizardry 8 lying around except the third CD was cracked. That's a bummer.

Understandable. Might and Magic VII is super enjoyable. Personally going down a bit of a FTL hole myself, as it's pretty much all filling time until XCOM comes out.

And that is the saddest thing ever. At that point, I might endorse piracy. I was actually doing very well with an iron man playthrough of Wiz 8 (mostly through cheesing the way the game autosaves in that mode) and then got caught in a piece of level geometry and can't get out. Such is life, I suppose.

Posted by sodacat

@ArbitraryWater said:

Yep. While the first two M&M games are borderline unplayable, the series from III onward is quite accessible.

I've actually kind of wanted to get a mac emulator running and try out that version of M&M1. I love the graphical style of the old 2 bit b&w mac games. The game boy could at least manage three shades of black, but mac would have that 8-inch screen filled with pixels that could only be one or the other.