Part 23: Hot in the City
There are a few different ways we can get to Blistering Heights, the game's fifth town. The Town Portal spell from Swamp Town's magic guild is a relatively easy option that will drop you just inside the town gates. Sorry about the blurry text on those buttons, but it's not a screenshot problem: that's just what the game looks like.
Casting Nature's Gate on a Foursday also works, although that drops you just outside the town gates, meaning you'll need to survive taking a fair chunk of damage from the lava on the Isle of Fire. Using a Teleport spell to get to the Isle of Fire from the surrounding ocean doesn't work: the spell is disabled in that area. Same with Etherealize.
If we don't want to waste any spell points, the final way in is to use the mirror portal code we got from the Swamp Town cavern.
"Considering how it's in the middle of a giant lake of lava and all, this actually looks like quite a peaceful little--"
Fire Lizards can actually damage the PCs, since their attacks do fire damage and therefore bypass armour. They hit respectably hard, too, doing 2-50 damage twice a round from range. One or two would be no problem, but there are a lot of them in town and they do gradually wear away at the party's HP.
"Perhaps the inscription on this statue will provide valuable historical information pertaining to this town."
"That's way better than some old history book! Statues that help me not get burned to a crisp by lizard-men are my favourite kind of statues!"
This is a temporary +60 boost to fire resistance for the entire party, and it couldn't come at a better time. There are also statues here that give resistance to cold ("To the freezing wind you shall not bend!"), electricity ("The shooting spark shall miss its mark!") and poison ("The killing ale shall not prevail!"), but they're somewhat less relevant to our present situation.
"So this city in the middle of a lava pit is inhabited by golems? Makes as much sense as anything else, I guess."
Blacksmiths become kind of irrelevant pretty quickly in this game, except as a place to sell unwanted gear. There's always the chance of a couple of random items showing up that might be made of a decent material or have some useful property, but standard items top out at Steel. Steel is a great early-game material, but in the normal course of the game it'll be mostly obsolete by the time you get to this town.
More importantly, having access to the final town means we have access to the final trainer, and can reach levels above 25. I think the maximum possible level in this game is 200, but a normal playthrough won't get close to that and won't need to. It's possible to do so by grinding for XP in the arena for ages while leaving a whole bunch of gold in the bank for a decade or so and using it to pay for training, but why would I want to trivialise the rest of the game for myself?
"That's some terrible posture, you know. You're going to end up with serious back problems later in life if you keep going around like that. I mean, I'm about to break your back and thus render the issue moot, but even so."
Mini Dragons' ranged attack can hit the whole party for 50 fire damage, which is quite a bit even with our boosted resistances, so Caelas is putting up Protection from Fire like he probably should have done when we first got here.
"That's what I'm here for! Not like the statues are going to miss it."
There's some excellent treasure in Blistering Heights for a sufficiently talented thief to take: a chest adjacent to this holds 5000 gems. We've already found the main place to spend gems in the game (Arachnoid Cavern), and we'll see some things worth spending gold on soon enough.
Other chests contain Ancient Artifacts, one of each alignment, which we'll trade in for experience after the update.
"What is that, a shovel? At least bring an actual weapon if you're gonna fight us."
With the party's current equipment, the Major Demon is actually the least dangerous monster in Blistering Heights, despite being a kind of miniboss. 6 attacks with a chance of paralysis might sound threatening, but all of those attacks are physical, which means they just bounce off the party's obsidian armour.
"The demon appears to have been guarding this box. I see no lock on it: I suppose he considered his own presence to be adequate security."
"Free admittance to the most prestigious guild in Terra? Woo. Go us."
"Until about thirty seconds ago, there was a demon in this room leading an army of lizardmen occupying Blistering Heights. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
"You know, there's a saying about gift horses. Run along now."
"Oh look, a tavern. Do you have any cider, he asked, already suspecting what answer he might hear."
"You know, apples don't even exist on Terra. I'm not sure how you got a taste for cider in the first place. Hell, I'm not sure how I know they're what cider is made from."
"That's a ripoff no matter how magical your food is. We'll pass."
This tavern also offers some useful tips...
... some obvious tips...
... and some that are just for laughs (at the party's expense).
"Hey, you take that back or I'll punch your lights out!"
"Go ahead and try it, buddy."
"You asked for it. One heapin' helpin' of pain, comin' right-- ow! What was that?"
"I'm made of stone. What did you think was gonna happen?"
"As a seeker of knowledge, how could I refuse such an offer?"
"I've got two more spells to learn here, and this is the worse of the two. Maybe it does 200 points of electrical damage. Maybe it does 10 points of cold damage. It's like a magical grab-bag of prizes, except half of them jump out of your hand and bite you in the ass. Whatever it decides to do, it hits everything in a straight line in front of us. If I'm gonna blow 60 spell points and 10 gems on a spell, I want something more reliable."
"Well, this is the last spell I'll ever learn. It does 150 damage of an element of my choice to everything in front of me, for 100 spell points and 10 gems. Trouble is, 150 damage isn't really all that much against the strongest monsters, so it's mostly good for clearing out groups of weaker enemies that we could have just slaughtered without magic. At least I've got my sword to fall back on."
"For 60 spell points and 10 gems, this spell inflicts up to 30 points of energy damage on all enemies in sight of the party, and heals the party for a like amount. Regrettably, its effect is too weak to be of much use in a pitched battle."
"This spell has a chance to halve the current health of a group of foes for 75 spell points and 20 gems. It can be a most effective weapon against powerful enemies."
"This is the only spell capable of curing an Eradicated party member, but its cost is severe: 125 spell points, 20 gems, five years of unnatural aging for the caster and a point of permanent Endurance loss for the recipient. It would be better not to let one's allies become eradicated in the first place, but we must prepare for the worst as we hope for the best."
"All enemies ahead of the party receive 200 points of energy damage when struck by this spell. Energy damage is seldom resisted by monsters, but at 150 spell points and 10 gems, the spell is expensive for the moderate damage it inflicts."
"For 30 spell points and 20 gems, this turns a normal weapon or piece of armour into an item with some kind of special material or property. The higher the caster's level, the more likely it is to make something good. Trouble is, it can never churn out the really good stuff, like Obsidian. I guess you could buy a bunch of crap at the blacksmith's shop in Fountain Head, enchant it all up and sell it at a profit, but don't we have better things to do?"
"Now this is a spell for real adventurers. 6-14 damage to a group of monsters, and it's physical so most things won't resist it. In the hands of a really good sorcerer, this spell has the potential to do more damage than any other spell known in Terra. Only trouble is, at 3 spell points per level, it ends up costing more than any other spell, too."
"Nice and simple. 250 Fire damage to a single target for 35 spell points and 10 gems. Perfect for you need to use magic to deal with something quickly but anything stronger would be overkill, like when you're fighting ghosts."
"40 spell points and 10 gems to do 150 Electrical damage to a group. I'll be honest, wiping out groups of enemies that are all immune to physical damage is kind of a niche use, but it can come in handy here and there. It's better value for your spell points than Lightning Bolt, but Lightning Bolt eventually does more damage."
"75 spell points, 10 gems. It's like Mega Volts, except it's stronger and fire-elemental. Or like Incinerate, except it targets a group. Not much else to say."
"1000 Energy damage to one enemy, just like that. That's enough to wipe out almost any monster on Terra in one shot. Of course, for 100 spell points and 20 gems, you'd hope it was good enough to be worth the cost."
"Only 500 damage compared to Implosion's 1000, but it hits everything in front of the caster, and for some reason it's physical damage so it's pretty reliable. At 200 spell points and 20 gems, it's not a spell you cast casually, but it's great for crowd control if you've got a very rough crowd."
This is the exact point in the game where Sorcerers officially blow Clerics and Druids out of the water in terms of magical damage, mostly thanks to Implosion and Star Burst. You can see why I've complained about Druids for most of the game now: they were actually pretty good when Fireball was still one of the best damaging spells around, but they now have worse healing and worse damage output than Clerics, let alone Sorcerers. Utility spells like Walk on Water never really outlive their usefulness, and another backup source of Stone to Flesh and Raise Dead is never a bad thing to have, but both those jobs are done just as well by a Ranger as a Druid.
"Now that we have all these new spells, how 'bout we go and find something to try them out on?"
The Blistering Heights cavern has some more Scorpias, which at this point are only notable for the fact that they were created and put in the game purely to insult a reviewer. Seriously, I cannot get over that.
The magma vents are more of a threat, doing heavy fire damage whenever you step on them, turn around while standing on them, or look at them funny. Keeping Protection from Fire up in this cave is almost mandatory.
Fire Stalkers can't really damage the party with their protection spells up, but they have an irritating range of resistances: they're totally immune to physical attacks and fire, and heavily resistant to electricity. Cold-based spells are obviously the best way to extinguish them.
"Well, that bartender said something about 'statues of protection'..."
"Ow ow ow! I don't feel very protected!"
"Actually, now that the initial shock has worn off, I do feel rather more resilient."
There are six altars in the cavern, one for each of the resistance types. If your resistance is below a certain threshold (about 20-30%, depending on the altar), you get a permanent boost to it with no drawback. Very cool.
"Looks like we found the big brother of that demon from town. I think it's high time we reunited the two of them."
"By which I mean we kill him like we killed the other one."
"Yeah, I kind of got the point already, but thanks for explaining."
The Major Devil attacks 4 times per round for 250 physical damage and a chance of instant unconsciousness, which sounds seriously dangerous until you realise that even he can't hit us through all our armour.
"C'mon, everyone, time to see just what this demon was protecting!"
"Easiest million gold we ever made. Not that I'm complaining."
There are two more of these in chests as well, which we can trade in for gold and experience next time we run into the Pirate Queen.
Oh, and scrolls for Raise Dead and Incinerate, both of which we already bought in town. Whoops!
"They don't make demons like they used to. The terrain down here was more of a danger to us than any of the monsters. Of course, you know this is just fate saving up so it can throw something really horrible at us later on."
"Hee hee, bedrock. That's pretty appropriate. Um, I mean, yeah, we'd like to get some rest now."
Blistering Heights has two hirelings just sitting around in the inn, waiting to be picked up: you don't even need to do any sidequests to unlock them! What's more, they're by far the strongest hirelings in the game in terms of starting stats and level.
Lord Bruno's the weaker of the two, if you can believe that. He has excellent stats across the board and he far outlevels anyone in the party right now.
His equipment is nothing special at this point, but that can be fixed easily enough.
He also has every skill in the game (except Thievery), including Tracker, a dummied-out skill that doesn't actually do anything as far as anybody can tell. Of course, the catch is that it costs 32,000 gold a day to keep him in the party: that's not a trivial sum of money even now.
The Raven is even more terrifyingly powerful. He has incredible stats despite being as old as the hills -- the age penalties are already factored into his stats, so what you see is what you get. And you get what you pay for: in this case, we need 50,000 gold a day if we want to use him.
He's got some pretty interesting starting items too, and he's one of the two ways to get an essential key.
We won't be using either of these hirelings until the parties have gained a few more levels, not so much because of the cost but because it'd be just plain unsporting to take them along right now.
"Between the fountain of youth, those resistance altars and the elite training in Blistering Heights, I feel like a new dwarf! Nothing's gonna stop me now!"
"I'm not doing so badly myself, even if I can't quite cast my strongest attack spell yet. Eh, not like it's much good anyway."
"I might not be able to cast spells, but in melee I can fight just as well as Belvenath or Blind Eagle, and I'm pretty tough, too."
"I have learned Star Burst, the pinnacle of the sorcerer's art, but it may still be a while before I can summon the reserves of mental energy needed to cast it. On the other hand, I can cast Implosion right now, and that is more than enough for most troublesome situations."
"It should not be very long before I am finally capable of calling for a Divine Intervention. In fact, a visit to the Arachnoid Cavern to improve my abilities may be in order before our next adventure."
"Pfft. Amateurs. I can already cast all my strongest spells."
"Though my magical skills are significant by any objective measure, I am still but a novice compared to my travelling companions."
Whew. So ends another update, and with it a significant boost in capability for the good party. Now, it's time to see how the evil party will try to catch up. Should they raid the dungeons of one of the kings, try to solve the mystery of castles Greywind and Blackwind, or try their luck at looting another cavern? Vote now!