Part 34: Here Open the Gates of Hell
"I don't see why they call this the Maze from Hell. It doesn't look that bad. It's even got all these cute little statues of terrified animals around it!"
"See? We only just got in here and already we're finding treasure!"
"Step aside, you wimps! I've got this! I just hold down this catch, and open--"
"Ooooh. That looked like it hurt. Who knew flesh-eating bacteria could work so fast? Oh well, time to resurrect him so he can suffer even more horrible deaths in future."
Around half the chests in this entire dungeon will kill, eradicate or petrify whoever opens them. What really makes this a kick in the teeth is that the rest of the chests contain either actual treasure or items necessary to finish the game, so we just have to suck it up and either reload or resurrect when we open one of the murder-chests.
Being a maze, this dungeon is full of minotaurs. They have high AC, so you need buffs to do decent damage to them in melee, 80 speed so they'll outspeed most of your party, and they're accurate enough to have a chance of hitting us even through both our armour and a Bless buff -- which is a little scary, since each attack that connects does 3-300 damage and has a chance to inflict instant death. Their 1000 HP isn't a whole lot at this point, though: Sails and Lord Bruno can one-shot them once buffed with Heroism and Holy Bonus.
The good thing about minotaurs is that they drop a massive amount of gold, and will almost always carry a top-tier item: this was obsidian padded armour, which will be a nice AC boost for Calgon in this dungeon.
"Hey, look, this one didn't kill me! How about that."
The Maze from Hell's non-fatal treasure chests contain negligible amounts of gold and multiple top-tier items. At this point, I'm hoping for some gear that boosts energy resistance to drop, since that'll help us a lot in the endgame.
Medusae are even worse than Minotaurs. They have lower AC and only 60 speed, but that's where the good news ends. Their attack does relatively minor magical damage, but it hits the entire party at once and can cause petrification. (Hot tip: poster Boldor informs me that if you have a high-level sorcerer with Power Shield, you can cast it on everyone and consistently reduce the attack's damage to 0, which will also prevent it from petrifying you. Good to know!)
They give much less gold than Minotaurs, but they still drop top-tier items.
Also, I can't say quite why, but I love the detail that the snakes they have in place of hair intermittently poke their tongues out.
Don't let Medusae come at you from a distance, especially in groups, or else something like this can happen. Get up close to them, using Teleport to close the distance if necessary, and kill them fast. If you do get unlucky and half the party ends up petrified, hopefully at least one clerical spellcaster capable of casting Divine Intervention is still alive to get the party back on their feet.
Minotaurs and Medusae both give 3 million experience points, so the whole party will get a level's worth of XP for every two or three of them they kill. Both of them are highly resistant to magical damage but vulnerable to all other damage types, so Implosion works well. The magic resistance is a bit pointless, actually: there are no spells that do magical damage, so it's only relevant if someone has one of the rare weapons that do added magical damage, which they won't because obsidian weapons are so much better than everything else anyway.
"At last our exploration in this accursed maze has borne fruit!"
"Wait! We can't come back from the Maze from Hell with only one orb! We'd be a laughing stock! We have to clear this place out completely, finding every treasure and leaving nothing alive! And I don't care how many times we get turned to stone in the process!"
There are four Ultimate Power Orbs in this dungeon -- the last ones in the game, bringing us to a total of 31.
The whirlpools scattered around the Maze from Hell are teleporters that lead to somewhere else in the dungeon, usually somewhere we don't need or want to be. Either Jump or Teleport over them or just find a way around them.
"What's that up ahead, in the middle of the maze? Looks like... some kind of fountain?"
"Ah, Water Mane. Legend has it that he ruled Terra in the days when its people lived in great walled cities beneath the waves. Who knows? Perhaps those legends are even true."
"I don't know about any legends, but I do know that we just made it to the centre of the Maze from Hell! We're so awesome even I have trouble believing it!"
"And it looks like we used up all the fountain's power, so those do-gooders can't steal our glory! But we've still got more killin' and lootin' to do!"
"Wow, what a huge minotaur! But the bigger they are, the louder they scream!"
Like pretty much every other boss we've fought in the game, the Minotaur King is a Minotaur with much more HP and an extra attack per round. He still dies in a couple of hits. It's not necessary to fight him, but he's worth a bunch of experience and guards one of the Ultimate Power Orbs, so why not?
Plus, he drops a truly hilarious number of gems, which we can use at Arachnoid Cavern later on to boost our stats.
In one of the dungeon's chests, we find this, which we'll need in the endgame.
"What's the deal with these cards, anyway? Are we meant to collect them all and trade them in for a free sandwich or something? Because I could really go for a sandwich. Maybe roast beef with honey mustard? Ooh, or a reuben! I love reubens!"
It's hard to convey just how huge this maze is in screenshots, but to give you an idea, this map depicts about a quarter of it.
"Now we can get out of here! Victory at last! Suck it, heroes!"
"So, have you all decided how you'll commemmorate your first day as masters of Terra?"
"Well, the first thing I'm doing is going to the tavern. All that talk about sandwiches made me hungry."
"Am I the only person in this party with any ambition? With the power we're about to gain, I can crush everyone who ever looked down on me!"
"Hell, we can just wipe out everyone who pisses us off! Like people who use air quotes!"
"Indolent lyricists who rhyme a word with itself!"
"People who use the word 'fangirl', or 'fanboy', as a verb!"
"Anyone with an apostrophe in their first name! They make us elves look bad, y'know."
"It seems you were largely correct, Sails. Our allies have no ambition."
"You kids do what you like. I think I'll just relax and enjoy our victory for a while. There'll be plenty of time for murder and mayhem later."
"Off we go to bring King Malefactor the news of our glorious victory! Nothing can stop us now-- wait, what's that noise?"
(Thanks to my very good friend Nerissa for the art. Click for full size!)
And with that, we finally reach the most important turning point in this thread: who will be victorious? Will the Evil party rise to rule Terra alongside King Malefactor, ushering in a world where the strong rule and the weak soon learn their place? Will the Good party seize the Ultimate Power Orbs and realize King Zealot's vision of a future where all the people of Terra live in safety and comfort, protected and guided under his rule? Or will the Neutral party members finally break ranks with their own allies and find common ground in King Tumult's dream of a world of endless adventure and danger, filled with free spirits too strong and wild to tame? It's all up to you!
Voting will remain open for three days after the time of this post, ending when I check my email on the morning of closing day (January 16th for me, probably some time in the evening of January 15th for you). If you want to help decide the future of Terra, vote now!
Voting's closed. Stand by for the finale!