A Brief Jaunt Through: Simtex's Master of Magic (Part 1)

Hey guys. I'm a little stuck for content to give you this week, since I didn't really play enough Dragon's Dogma to form any cogent opinions about it. Though I feel I should elaborate by saying that I actually poured quite a few hours into it, it's just that I got so very little done because of how intensely ponderous that game is to play. What I would've have given for a horse or a jetpack or something to get around with. I also played a little Pullblox, which I'm loving, but I can't really think of any way to form a cohesive blog around that either. Best deviations of Sokoban?

Instead, I'm going to do this mini half-LP/half-guide/all-cop for a DOS favorite of mine - Master of Magic. Follow the link for a further clarification, but it's essentially a fantasy-based Civ clone from the same people that brought you the Master of Orion games.

Reason being is that the GOG sales are in full swing and because they're running a popularity contest of sorts for which game gets the better discount, I'm going to do my part by exhibiting some of the better titles they may or may not include in future contests to convince folk to vote for (and purchase) them instead of something stupid, like Fahrenheit Postal 2 nothing in particular. Perhaps I'll make it a temporary blogging theme while these sales are on, though conventional wisdom might suggest that I only cover the games that are actually on sale right this moment. "Pfah!" is what I say to you, conventional wisdom.

(Though for the record, you should probably vote for Arx Fatalis this week. Gothic is likely as not going to be in the imminent Steam sale with at least two of its sequels, since it has been before.)

Part 1: Introductions

Well, I guess I'll start with how the game chooses to introduce itself: A short movie that is sort of what this game is about, sort of.

In short, a hero (who are traditionally not as magically-inclined as the wizards they serve) decides to antagonize a wizard with glowing red eyes, who has grown so powerful that he has learned the spell that wins the game. It goes about as well for Fu Manchu as could feasibly be expected.

As for the actual game itself, though, I'll just jump right into the pre-amble here:

Here's the settings menu for setting up your game. All of these are self-explanatory, except perhaps for "Magic." With this option, you can mitigate or intensify the effect magic will have on your game; it ranges from low fantasy like Game of Thrones all the way up to Apocalyptic. The cursor is pointing there because I am 12.
This is the list of available magicians. Merlin's your basic Life and Nature mage (hence the little books under his name with trees and ankhs on them). He's also a Sage Master, which increases the speed with which you research spells. A goody-goody hippie overachiever, basically. Sounds accurate for the big M if Disney's The Sword in the Stone is any indication. He's a good pick for newcomers, especially those who going for the Spell of Mastery victory (which is this game's equivalent of the Technology victory)
You can also make your own custom guy, which is a good idea if you know what you're doing.
Those familiar with the game might recognize most of what's happening here as "the Munchkin route to utter domination". I won't elaborate too much on that, but I should point out that the Warlord trait automatically makes all my troops one rank higher (yes, everything has levels in this game) and therefore more effective. This will be important later on.
After selecting your magic books (I took 7 Life and 2 Sorcery, the latter mostly for color), you're given some freebies based on your expertise. I took Phantom Warriors because they can be fierce in the right situation.
You also select the race you want your initial village to be populated by. The Myrran races are unique to this game's whole alternate universe thing it has going on. It's sort of like the Underdark of the Forgotten Realms universe: Very dark, lots of magic. I'll show it off too somewhere down the line. For now, let's select the most fearsome, martially powerful race available.
Hell yeah the Halflings.
I was considering an equally intimidating town name for this whole unstoppable conquering army angle I'm setting up, but I really doubt I'll be able to come up with anything as fear-inspiring as "Honeypool".
And here it is. The world map and the town map are very Civ-like, so it's no biggie getting acquainted with the UI in this game. That big purple eyesore sitting in the middle of that picturesque village is my personal wizard's tower, which signifies this town as my residence. For now.
Here's the world map again. Hitting F1 gets you a nifty guide for getting specific topological data (handy it you're looking for a place to park settlers - this game will automatically found your first town for you, however). We can see that the game helpfully sat us in the middle of the desert, which isn't exactly great for harvesting crops, but at least we have a few forested squares to make that deficit up. Special features include some useful iron ore (that bloodstain looking thing on the left), a cave with monsters in it (probably) and the pool-like Sorcery Node. We'll want to tap that node for magic gathering, so to speak, so let's go clean it out and claim it for ourselves.
Fun fact: Entering a location with enemy forces, such as this node, will give you a "scouting report" about the enemies you'll encounter. It told me that there were "Phantom Warriors" in the node. It neglected to inform me exactly how many there were. Eep.

So I guess that's a suitably cliffhanger-y place to leave things. I'll show off more of this game tomorrow and will probably continue throughout the week highlighting some other decent GOG items you might want to consider voting for. Should they come up. You know, just in case.

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
9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by Mento

Hey guys. I'm a little stuck for content to give you this week, since I didn't really play enough Dragon's Dogma to form any cogent opinions about it. Though I feel I should elaborate by saying that I actually poured quite a few hours into it, it's just that I got so very little done because of how intensely ponderous that game is to play. What I would've have given for a horse or a jetpack or something to get around with. I also played a little Pullblox, which I'm loving, but I can't really think of any way to form a cohesive blog around that either. Best deviations of Sokoban?

Instead, I'm going to do this mini half-LP/half-guide/all-cop for a DOS favorite of mine - Master of Magic. Follow the link for a further clarification, but it's essentially a fantasy-based Civ clone from the same people that brought you the Master of Orion games.

Reason being is that the GOG sales are in full swing and because they're running a popularity contest of sorts for which game gets the better discount, I'm going to do my part by exhibiting some of the better titles they may or may not include in future contests to convince folk to vote for (and purchase) them instead of something stupid, like Fahrenheit Postal 2 nothing in particular. Perhaps I'll make it a temporary blogging theme while these sales are on, though conventional wisdom might suggest that I only cover the games that are actually on sale right this moment. "Pfah!" is what I say to you, conventional wisdom.

(Though for the record, you should probably vote for Arx Fatalis this week. Gothic is likely as not going to be in the imminent Steam sale with at least two of its sequels, since it has been before.)

Part 1: Introductions

Well, I guess I'll start with how the game chooses to introduce itself: A short movie that is sort of what this game is about, sort of.

In short, a hero (who are traditionally not as magically-inclined as the wizards they serve) decides to antagonize a wizard with glowing red eyes, who has grown so powerful that he has learned the spell that wins the game. It goes about as well for Fu Manchu as could feasibly be expected.

As for the actual game itself, though, I'll just jump right into the pre-amble here:

Here's the settings menu for setting up your game. All of these are self-explanatory, except perhaps for "Magic." With this option, you can mitigate or intensify the effect magic will have on your game; it ranges from low fantasy like Game of Thrones all the way up to Apocalyptic. The cursor is pointing there because I am 12.
This is the list of available magicians. Merlin's your basic Life and Nature mage (hence the little books under his name with trees and ankhs on them). He's also a Sage Master, which increases the speed with which you research spells. A goody-goody hippie overachiever, basically. Sounds accurate for the big M if Disney's The Sword in the Stone is any indication. He's a good pick for newcomers, especially those who going for the Spell of Mastery victory (which is this game's equivalent of the Technology victory)
You can also make your own custom guy, which is a good idea if you know what you're doing.
Those familiar with the game might recognize most of what's happening here as "the Munchkin route to utter domination". I won't elaborate too much on that, but I should point out that the Warlord trait automatically makes all my troops one rank higher (yes, everything has levels in this game) and therefore more effective. This will be important later on.
After selecting your magic books (I took 7 Life and 2 Sorcery, the latter mostly for color), you're given some freebies based on your expertise. I took Phantom Warriors because they can be fierce in the right situation.
You also select the race you want your initial village to be populated by. The Myrran races are unique to this game's whole alternate universe thing it has going on. It's sort of like the Underdark of the Forgotten Realms universe: Very dark, lots of magic. I'll show it off too somewhere down the line. For now, let's select the most fearsome, martially powerful race available.
Hell yeah the Halflings.
I was considering an equally intimidating town name for this whole unstoppable conquering army angle I'm setting up, but I really doubt I'll be able to come up with anything as fear-inspiring as "Honeypool".
And here it is. The world map and the town map are very Civ-like, so it's no biggie getting acquainted with the UI in this game. That big purple eyesore sitting in the middle of that picturesque village is my personal wizard's tower, which signifies this town as my residence. For now.
Here's the world map again. Hitting F1 gets you a nifty guide for getting specific topological data (handy it you're looking for a place to park settlers - this game will automatically found your first town for you, however). We can see that the game helpfully sat us in the middle of the desert, which isn't exactly great for harvesting crops, but at least we have a few forested squares to make that deficit up. Special features include some useful iron ore (that bloodstain looking thing on the left), a cave with monsters in it (probably) and the pool-like Sorcery Node. We'll want to tap that node for magic gathering, so to speak, so let's go clean it out and claim it for ourselves.
Fun fact: Entering a location with enemy forces, such as this node, will give you a "scouting report" about the enemies you'll encounter. It told me that there were "Phantom Warriors" in the node. It neglected to inform me exactly how many there were. Eep.

So I guess that's a suitably cliffhanger-y place to leave things. I'll show off more of this game tomorrow and will probably continue throughout the week highlighting some other decent GOG items you might want to consider voting for. Should they come up. You know, just in case.

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
Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

As I have said elsewhere, Master of Magic is pretty rad. I could do with more specific information when it comes to enemy encounters and the AI is somewhat... lacking, but buffing the hell out of an army comprised entirely of paladins and proceeding to steamroll is one of the more enjoyable things one can do. It also helps that the game totally has tooltips when you right-click stuff, which is pretty progressive for 1994.

Also I still maintain that GOG's community is kind of stupid in that way. Really, you're going to vote for Myst despite the fact that the game is dirt cheap and The 7th Guest hasn't been on sale yet? Arx Fatalis seems like my kind of game, but I don't think I ever got more than an hour in. Probably should rectify that at some point.

Posted by Mento

@ArbitraryWater: The scout reports are meant to be deliberately vague, because there's a greater degree of risk vs reward on the harder difficulties, as you'll probably get murdered while escaping. This is, of course, ignoring the player's probable course of saving the game before going in and reloading if the battle is unfavorable, but it's still a neat idea.

The issue I have with the AI is that the difficulty is rather vertical in its spiking on harder settings. Intro or Easy is too much of a cakewalk, since they'll rarely come near any of your towns. In Normal they're aggressive but stupid. Anything higher and I believe it follows a creative strategy (i.e. cheating) to beat you every time, unless you're taking the equally cheap route I am above.

I was kind of hoping The 7th Guest would get the bigger discount too. It was on my list of games that I predicted would see the Random PC Game treatment (though that list is getting battered with its incorrect predictions. It's becoming The Amazing Criswell of lists).

Moderator
Posted by buzz_clik

"Honeypool" sounds like somethin' dirty. "Hey, girl..."

Moderator
Posted by ahoodedfigure

The big difference I see between this and Age of Wonder, substantially, seems to be the combat. Otherwise it feels like a combination of MOO2 and AoW, even of those two came later. Still, this opinion isn't really qualified by much experience (I vaguely remember wandering around through the wilderness in MOM and getting killed).

@ArbitraryWater: I think these votes may turn into popularity contests rather than smart economic decisions. So much for rational economic theory.

Posted by eroticfishcake

I'm surprised that there hasn't been any sort of real sequel to MoM given how popular it is (and for good reason). Then again the same could be said about Alpha Centauri. With CivV being a success you'd think that more 4X games would be about. I suppose most people are happy enough with the mod tools in Civ. Speaking of MoM, have toy played Warlock: Master of the Arcane? From what I've heard it scratches that itch pretty well.

Posted by Mento

@ahoodedfigure: @eroticfishcake: I'm going to have to play Age of Wonders and Warlock at some point, after reading about them. To be honest, I don't really play a lot of these empire sims. Their resource-management multi-tasking juggling is a lot more bearable than it is in RTS games, which I'm terrible at, but I still find myself swamped with options and crippled with indecision on harder difficulties. For some reason MoM just struck me the right way, possibly because it has a bit more of an RPG bent to it (especially with its tactical battles, which I plan to show off more in part 2). It's why this is less of a master-class LP and more of me just trying to promote it to people who haven't played it before.

Huge thanks for the recommendations though. I'll look into them, even if I'm not sure this PC can handle something as new as Warlock. I really need to fork out for a system with parts made in this decade.

Moderator
Posted by Russcat

I didn't discover this gem until around 1999, but it has been on all my hard drives ever since. Amazing game, tons of depth and replayability.

@eroticfishcake: I never played Alpha Centuri. Does it still hold up today?

Edited by eroticfishcake

@Russcat: It's not a great looking game then and it's not any better now but overall it's a well designed game and it still holds up very well in the game play department. Honestly the graphics are probably the only weakest part of the game. Of course, you're talking to someone who's a massive fan of the game (I'm actually playing now funny enough) so there's obviously going to be some bias but I also like to think I'm a realistic person.

So yes, you should play it, now. Furthermore, if you get the chance the to get the expansion pack then you should since it adds a lot without compromising the core ideas. If you've any other questions I'm happy to answer them for you.