Part 35: Terminus
"We can't just let you leave with those orbs, you know."
"You worms seriously think that you can stop us? Take one more step and you're gonna be a half-elf!"
"This is the part where we ask you to surrender, and then you refuse, and then we kill you. If you'd prefer, we can skip the formalities and get straight to the killing."
"Do we really have to do this? Can't you just let us go? I mean, we don't wanna hurt you specifically. We just wanna bring about a world of evil."
"D... don't go any further! I'll fight you if I have to!"
"Oh look, it's Martlin. You should change your name to Milton, 'cause you're about to be a fried man!"
"Is that the best threat you could come up with? I had hoped that the forces of evil would at least be menacing, but you're just pathetic."
"Shut up! You'll see just how menacin' we can be! It's time for you to take a wet nap!"
"... do you mean 'dirt nap'?"
"No, see, because we're in a swamp, so... aw, forget it. The one time I try to say somethin' smart and nobody gets it."
"This discussion is pointless. It can have no end but violence. We are mongoose and cobra, retiarius and secutor: mortal adversaries."
"Okay, I understood like three of the words you just said in that last sentence, and two of them were 'we' and 'are'. But if you're saying we gotta fight, that's fine by me!"
"Stop! All of you, put aside your weapons and listen!"
"Are you suggesting there is a way for us to resolve this dispute without resorting to murder? If so, I am most interested. Not that I fear death, of course; I merely--"
"Can it, Flowers. I've got a hunch about what Caelas is about to say, and no matter how much you love the sound of your own voice, you're gonna want to listen to him right now."
"Indeed. Before I make my proposal, you must know that no matter what happens, I have no intention of fighting."
"What in the world is the meaning of all this? Do you intend to betray us, at the moment when the stakes are highest for all of Terra?"
"Betray you? No, just the opposite. What I do now is the only way I can avoid betrayal. I have fought alongside members of both parties gathered here, and found loyal allies on both sides of this conflict. And I refuse to take up arms against my friends, on either side of this battle. If any of you should wound or kill another, I will heal and revive the fallen as many times as it takes before you listen to reason. If you wish to stop me, you will have to slay a noncombatant -- and all you will do is exhaust yourselves before the battle against your true enemies. Would you risk granting King Malefactor victory?"
"Have you gone totally insane? Fine, speak your mind before we fight. But if this ends in King Malefactor taking over Terra, it's going to be your fault."
"I have no love for King Malefactor's dreams of conquest -- but nor do I trust King Zealot, and his grand plans to drive all that is imperfect out of Terra. Only King Tumult can be trusted with the Orbs, for only he will leave Terra as it is, wild and beautiful. There are those in both parties who think as I do."
"Hey, Caelas, maybe that kind of 'you-wouldn't-slay-a-noncombatant' crap works against the good guys, but I'm totally fine with killing you whether you defend yourself or not."
"I think that's where the rest of us come in. There's six of us and only five of you, even counting those hirelings -- and do you really think they'll fight us to the death just for money?"
"Six? Ah, I see you are not aware of what has happened to Cyrus. He is ours now."
"Oh yeah, about that. He was faking the whole evil thing all along so that the rest of you would trust him again, and you wouldn't notice when he went through your packs and grabbed the Ultimate Power Orbs. Guess training under the Master of Deception paid off after all, huh?"
"What? You're bluffing! He-- this is impossible! The orbs are gone!"
"Minty, even you're turning against me? Dammit! This isn't fair! I'm supposed to win!"
"I'm sorry, Tianas. I just don't think that standing by and watching people suffer is the right way to give life meaning any more. In fact, it sounds like a really stupid idea compared to, y'know, actually helping my friends."
"I... I just got outsmarted by Minty and Cyrus. I'm never gonna live this down."
"Charity, can't you see we're in the right here? Think of how King Zealot treated you! You trusted him, and your reward was to be abandoned and imprisoned -- for failing in the suicide mission that he sent you on! Is that your idea of justice?"
"... There is some truth in what you say. If the choice is between you and the lackeys of King Malefactor, then I will throw my lot in with you."
"I believe The Raven is saying that he wishes to take our side as well. I trust he has his reasons."
"So this is how my glorious dream is to end -- with an ignominious death in a swamp, my grand alliance having turned against itself, the knowledge of how close I came to ruling Terra serving only to torment me."
"Death? Nah, we don't have to kill you. We just have to leave here with the orbs. And wouldn't you know it -- I've got a Lloyd's Beacon prepared right in front of Castle Blood Reign. See ya!"
"Yay! You saved us all! Thank heaven for small Murphies!"
"Whew. I gotta admit, I'm kinda glad we didn't all have to kill each other back there. If things had gone just a little differently, we'd be fighting now."
"Oh, Murphy, I would never harm such a vision of loveliness as yourself. If you would only permit me, I would regale you with my finest and most witty compliments: it is the least you deserve."
"Oh, this oughta be good."
"Ahem. I wish I were Saddam Hussein, so that I could force you to join my bath party."
"The sad thing is, I can easily believe that is one of your finest and most witty compliments. Let's just go turn in the damn orbs already."
"Anarchy shall be the rule, and the Crimson Grail shall be its standard!"
"Hey, sweet, a commemorative card. You could at least have put our names on it or something, though."
As you've probably guessed, we're gonna need this card to win the game, and we only get it once we help one of the three kings to victory. It doesn't matter which one -- the only difference it makes is some flavour text. For completeness' sake, here's what the other two kings say:
"The orb you now present is the final step to victory! My foes can harbor no hope of overpowering me now. The banner of the White Wing will forever fly over the homes and hearts of the people of Terra."
"And now I possess the power to make real my nightmare reign! None can surpass me and those who try shall hang like trophies from my castle's wall. Go now as Champions of evil and seek your destiny below the pyramids."
"I still don't get what's so special about these pyramids, but there's definitely something weird about them. Plus, the pyramid on the Isle of Fire is the only place on Terra we haven't explored yet. So that's a good enough reason for me to go there anyway."
After giving 11 or more Ultimate Power Orbs to one of the three kings, the entire party's alignment immediately changes to the alignment of that king. You chose for the Neutrals to win in something of a landslide vote, so that's what I've done. Here are the final voting results, for the benefit of the curious:
Neutral: holy shit, 87
"Murphy, before we leave here, lend me your ear for a moment longer!"
"What do you want?"
"I wish I were the Motion Picture Association of America, so that I could plug your analog hole."
"Ugh. Can't you find someone of your own species to annoy?"
"... do you think we did the right thing?"
"We did the only thing we could. King Malefactor was a madman who had to be stopped, and however good King Zealot's intentions were, we couldn't let him make all of Terra into some boring, safe provincial village. The best things in life mean nothing if you don't have to fight for them, and even if you never succeed, there's more dignity in being a failure than in being a pet."
"Wow, Murphy! You actually sounded like you cared about something just then!"
In addition to the party alignment change, the castles of the two kings you didn't support are utterly destroyed once one king wins. This means it's no longer possible to turn in Ancient Artifacts of those two alignments, or to loot the castle dungeons -- any treasure you missed is gone forever. It's also no longer possible to turn in Ultimate Power Orbs: if the party hasn't collected them all at the time they hand in the eleventh one, any remaining orbs will go to waste.
"Before we go loot that last pyramid, there's one more thing I wanna try out now that we're Ultimate Adventurers."
"This does not appear to be a very auspicious place to 'try things out'."
"Just trust me, okay?"
"These thrones just eradicated people before, but I bet they do somethin' great now!"
"I can feel the power! This is the best thing ever! It's -- wait -- it's too much -- what's happening--"
"Why me. Why is it always me. Bluhhhhh."
Each throne in the Tomb of Terror gives a massive one-time-only bonus of +20 levels to one character with the Ultimate Adventurer title, but also reduces all stats to 3 (excluding item bonuses and bonuses/penalties from aging). It's still worth it for a permanent +80 levels, but the stat drain is a nasty surprise.
"Relax, Cyrus. It's okay. We can fix this."
"The first thing we're gonna need is a whole lot of gems. You don't mind if we go ahead and drain the other party's bank account, do you?"
"Right. The next step is to visit the altars under Swamp Town, and fix your Might and Endurance."
"And now, we go spend all those gems in Arachnoid Cavern to fix the rest of your abilities. Except Speed. Not much we can do about that one."
Remember this fountain in Fountain Head? We can trade gold for experience on a 1:1 basis, and we might as well, because all that money isn't doing us much good just sitting around in the bank. I'll distribute most of the experience to the party's spellcasters, because melee fighters aren't much use in the final dungeon except as meatshields.
One problem with Cyrus being so insanely overlevelled now is that training costs become unreasonably expensive. For comparison, levelling up for the rest of the party costs about 60,000 gold a level.
Finally, there's one last thing I forgot to show off until now.
If we donate at every temple in the game, we're awarded the "Blessed by the Forces" title.
Remember this shrine from near Fountain Head, that told us to go donate at all five temples before we could do anything there?
If we go there now, we get a bunch of random items.
... really, really mediocre random items. Yeah, there's not a whole lot of point in doing this unless you make a beeline for all five towns at the very start of the game.
"Well, shall we travel to the Isle of Fire now? It seems there is little else for us to do."
The elemental resistance shrine conveniently located on the Isle of Fire is a good place to visit before entering the final dungeon. The extra +50 resistance to energy in particular is a godsend where we're going.
"Murphy! Before we go to meet our destiny, there is one more thing I must say to you!"
"What is it this time?"
"I wish I were the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation, so that I could dump my toxic waste in your love canal."
"... seriously? How is it that you have this many pickup lines and all of them are both terribly offensive and offensively terrible?"
"Wait! I also know a number of amusing limericks! There was a young Terran factotum..."
"Hey, Flowers. You think of yourself as an aristocrat, don't you?"
"But of course. Why do you ask?"
"Well, why don't you make like George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, and go drown in a butt?"
We're finally ready for the endgame. In addition to the Blue Priority Pass Card and the Golden Pyramid Key Card, we need to make sure we have all six Hologram Sequencing Cards from the dungeons of Terra. Without these in our inventory, we could begin the endgame but we'd have to turn back to get them at the very end, which would just be frustrating.
We also want to put on as much energy resistance gear as we have, especially on clerics and paladins. It isn't absolutely essential, but it reduces our chances of getting horribly killed in the final dungeon.
"... what the hell are those things?"
"They appear to be magical creations of some sort. I do not think they will pose any great threat to us."
Death Agents can inflict some inconsequential amount of poison damage to the entire party, if they actually survive long enough to attack. Even if we came here much earlier in the game, they wouldn't be a real problem -- and if they somehow were, the enemies just a little deeper in the dungeon would totally wreck us.
This dungeon is full of bashable walls and difficult locked doors, so we need characters with high Might and preferably a high-level thief in order to get anywhere very far in this dungeon. Fortunately, we have both of those things!
"I don't like the look of that thing one bit."
Meet Terminators, the reason why we wanted so much energy resistance. Their speed is high enough that you've got almost no hope of acting before they do in combat. Their armour class makes it hard to hit them in melee, and even if you do hit them, they're totally immune to physical damage anyway! In fact, they're immune to everything except energy and magic. Their attacks only hit a single target, but have a chance to cause eradication -- and even if they don't, they do a mind-boggling 1000-4000 Energy damage.
Unless you held onto a weapon that does Energy or Magic damage and have enough attack bonuses to hit with it, the only viable way to deal with Terminators is to spam Implosion as soon as you see them. They'll die in one or two hits.
For our trouble, we get 3 million experience points and 200 gems for each one we kill.
"Ooh, I remember something about this!"
"In one of the other pyramids, there was a message telling us to enter CREATORS at the Central Control Sector. Let's try it!"
There are several database heads in this dungeon. They're not necessary for anything, but they give some interesting background on the plot of the series. Let's see what the others say!
The Ancients draw their power from the heat and light of stars to create intricate mechanisms of society, then send these civilizations to cultivate developing worlds.
The Creators exist in a nebulous realm where they construct their plots and create vile, chaotic armies to disrupt the civilizations of the Ancients.
This mission has been code named The Great Experiment. It extends further away from the seat of the Ancients than any other colonization. It is under much greater threat from the Creators.
Because of interference created by the renegade Guardian, Sheltem, the CRON and most of the VARNs carried by this vessel were lost in the Great Sea of Terra.
"Wait. Is this saying what I think it's saying? This entire world and everything on it is all... some kind of colonisation experiment? And the legendary dark wizard Sheltem is actually some kind of rebel fighting against these... these Ancients? All of the trouble he's caused was just part of some power struggle between the people of other worlds?"
"So it appears."
"That's kind of a lot to take in."
If you've played the first two games in the series or followed the LPs, this will all make a bit more sense to you. VARNs are giant colony ships, like continents that fly through space, and a CRON is a kind of mothership that observes and guides them. Turns out the explanation for the legend about the people of Terra living under the sea in ancient times is that Sheltem, the villain of the first two games, forced most of the colony ships to crash-land in the ocean. Sheltem's kind of a dick that way.
By the way, for those of you are familiar with later games in the Might & Magic series, I'm pretty sure the Creators are supposed to be the same entities as the Devils/Kreegan that appear in M&M6 onwards. It's possible that demons and devils from the previous games are meant to be the same beings as well, but that's not as clear.
"I'm sure this is a bad idea, but when did that ever stop any of us?"
"Whoooa. I'm not sure what just happened, but it felt kinda good."
"Hey, there's something in the bottom of the chalice! What's it for?"
"When a mysterious voice asks you for a number, there's only one right answer!"
"Whoa! How'd we end up out here?"
"I am not sure, but I suppose we had best return to the pyramid and continue our exploration."
The Interspacial (sic) Transport Box can take you to any map in the game, depending on what number you enter. Of course, it doesn't come with an instruction manual, but it's got an unlimited number of charges so you can just experiment with it until you find a place you want to go.
It's more fun than useful, really. I guess if you want you can use it to enter dungeons without having the proper key, if you pick it up early on.
In addition to giving us millions of experience points, some of the chalices in the Central Control Sector also contain random top-tier items. Unless they give energy resistance, they're honestly not even all that useful at this point.
Here, in the northwestern part of Central Control, begins a long gauntlet of bashable walls and locked doors leading to the endgame area, the Main Control Sector.
"Wait, I've got this. I bet we need to use that card King Tumult gave us!"
In order to pass the final door, there are two requirements: the party must have the Blue Priority Pass Card from the victorious king, and at least one member must have the Ultimate Adventurer title from the Maze from Hell.
"I wonder what's behind the door?"
... robed figures battle among the plasm of magic so thick it hangs in the air like fog. It is Corak and Sheltem, locked in mortal combat among the sparks of their supernatural clash. Seeing your presence, Corak looks away long enough to give Sheltem the chance to pass into a nearby transport tube. Cursing under his breath, Corak beckons you to follow before disappearing into the same transport tube.
"I guess this means the great adventurer Corak was an Ancient too. Well, hey, that makes as much sense as anything else we've learned in the past half hour."
At this point, we can head to the left and enter the transport tube like Corak told us to, avoiding nearly all the combat in this area and skipping straight to the ending. First, though, we're going to do one last bit of exploring.
"That sounds rather ominous. Are we the 'intruders'?"
"Looks like it. Guess we're gonna have to bust our way through this place's security if we wanna see what's in here!"
The Main Control Sector is infested with Iron Wizards, ED-409s and Terminators. The first two really only exist to waste our time and distract us from the Terminators that are blasting us with horrible disintegration beams.
Barely visible through the glassy exterior of the statue, lights wink and small mechanisms move and pulsate.
"This place is kind of starting to creep me out."
"I keep pulling this lever but all that happens is I hear a zapping noise and the floor shakes a little! What gives?"
Pulling this lever doesn't actually do anything. There's also a Torpedo Launch Control, which is similarly inoperative.
On the west side of the map there's a wide corridor filled with a dozen or so Terminators. It's arguably the hardest fight in the game. Luckily, we're overpowered enough and well-prepared enough that we can basically just hurl Implosions at them and wait for them to die.
We do take a few hits in the process, but that's what Clerics are for.
Include the secret word "KTOW" when you register your score with the Ancients to receive a special reward!
This is our reward for fighting our way through all those Terminators. Back in the day, you used to be able to mail your final score in to New World Computing and receive a certificate immortalizing your victory. I assume including this codeword would get an extra little note added to the certificate or something. It's a bit of a moot point now, as New World Computing has been out of business for years.
We also get to see an extra set of credits for our trouble.
"Are we sure we want to do this? I mean, Corak and Sheltem are the ones who dragged our world into their battle. Why follow after them to who-knows-where?"
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not doing this for the sake of the Ancients. But we've already seen all there is to see on Terra. Nothing in this world can challenge or surprise us any more. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready for a new adventure."
"Sounds good to me!"
This is where we need those six Hologram Sequencing Cards from the dungeons. Without them, the transport tube won't let us in.
"You all ready to go? Somehow, I don't think we'll get another chance to train or equip ourselves."
"Are you kidding? I was born ready!"
"I would be a failure as a man if I were to turn back now!"
"I can't wait to see where this tube takes us!"
"Indeed. As a sworn seeker of knowledege, how could I refuse the chance to travel to a new world?"
"So we're all agreed, then? Great. Having the rest of you along will make travelling with Flowers almost tolerable."
"Wait! Please, allow me to accompany you as well. I can hardly call myself a paladin of Terra after turning against my liege. Perhaps there is a place for me somewhere on another world."
"Even you? Wow. I guess we really are all in this together, then. Let's go."
"You tall folks might want to watch your heads. There's kind of a low ceiling."
"Look! Something just appeared in that window to the left!"
I've recorded a video of the endgame sequence for those who are interested in watching it: it's worth opening up, if only to hear the excellent pyramid music. I also left in a bit of the equally excellent title screen music at the end of the video, since someone asked for it earlier in the thread.
A badly digitised voice tells us to enter the initialisation sequence. If we enter an incorrect sequence three times in a row, we're kicked out of the tube, although we're free to re-enter.
"I bet this is where we have to use that number we got when we freed Greywind and Blackwind! What was it again? 645231?"
"I guess this is it, then. We're on our way to... wherever we're on our way to."
"It appears that if we manipulate these controls, we can access records on the Ancients. Shall we read as we wait for this machine to do... whatever it is about to do?"
This explains why the creation myths of the first three Might & Magic games involved a war among the elementals: that's how the Ancients create worlds.
"So the monsters of Terra were its native life forms, which Sheltem protected in preference to us, the colonists? Hmm. I would almost sympathise with him, if he were not utterly devoted to the destruction of humanity."
"Doesn't seem like he's done a great job of either of those things so far. I'm just sayin'."
"Hey, do you think wiping out the Good and Evil kings counts as restoring the balance of the alignments?"
"I don't know, but it's gotta be closer to it than letting either of the other kings win would have been, right?"
"So all of this was planned from the beginning? Corak wanted us to prove ourselves as heroes, and help him fight Sheltem?"
"Well, not us specifically. Somebody, sure. But we're the ones who passed Corak's tests, brought an end to the war of the alignments and rediscovered this ancient pyramid. We did all of that through our own strength and perseverance. When you think about it, we're pretty awesome."
"Whoa, I think something's happening! We're moving!"
"Sheltem, we're coming for you! Nobody tries to wreck our world and gets away with it!"
And so our intrepid heroes fly off into the unknown, following close behind Corak and Sheltem.
We don't see the party in the next game, or the one after that -- but the canonical party members from M&M3 do show up in M&M7. The implication is that their escape pod went off course and they landed on a different world. If you want to know what happened to them after that, well, I guess you'll just have to play Might & Magic 7.
That concludes the LP: I hope you've all enjoyed it. Some time not too far into the future, you can look forward to seeing my most unreasonably ambitious LPing project yet, as I tackle Might & Magic: World of Xeen!