September 19, 2012
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?