Part 1: Seeing GreenUpdate 01: Seeing Green
So! I looked over everyone's submissions, considered the arguments, carefully curated them and then went with my gut after deciding "this party's gonna have at least two goblins and no goddamn elves." Primarily because people convinced me that having some goblins in the party was funny and once I had two goblins, at least one other race was gonna be left out.
Don't mind my fucking up the two first names, they're supposed to be Zina and Zaggut, as per the suggestions, I only discover that I got them wrong after like an hour of play and had to use a save-game editor to fix them, because I'm good at making mistakes that require disproportionate interference to un-bone. For double comedy, both of them are of the least optimal race for their classes, since they're both using primary stats that goblins get a penalty to, thus eating up a good chunk of the party's bonus points on patching that up.
Then there's Owen (Deathstalker) the human Knight and Stashley the dwarven Thief. Oddly enough, thieves don't come with Disarm Traps built in, so I had to grab that with one of her bonus skill picks. Bow for both her and Owen were extremely obvious since otherwise there wasn't a hope in hell of keeping this party alive through the early game. The bows are gonna run out of usefulness semi-soon, though, as neither Heroism or Armsmaster boost ranged attacks, and no one in the party can learn Bow to the point where the skill gains a damage bonus.
Zina I decided was gonna need Alchemy from the get-go since it's all-round a ton more useful in MM7 than MM6 and for Zaggut I just decided to get him as much free magic learning as I could, since in the early game learning new schools of magic is absurdly expensive.
After finalizing the party, we then get the cutscene above with the intro to Emerald Island.
And then we're dumped right on to the docks.
-so this kid walks past with his mom, points at me and goes: "mom, why are goblins evil? do they have names? do they have families?"
Damn, what a brat.
I know, right, so I get down on one knee, look him square in the eye and tell him: "kiddo, maybe the real evil is humans."
You mean you thought of doing that after they'd already left.
...yeah alright, you got me. I did mumble at them a bit, though.
What's taking Owen so long, anyway?
There you are! I found one!
Heeeeey, there, new best friends and adventuring buddies!
She's got a great resume.
Lemme have a look at that... expert thief, lockpicker supreme, broke into... I can't help but notice that none of these heists are dungeons.
Pff, breaking into a dungeon, breaking into a bank, how different can it be?
If she turns out to be trouble we can always feed her to a monster. Let's get going before someone else wins that castle, shall we?
Before the party gets moving, maybe we should look at the UI a bit. I already mentioned it, and I generally like it, but I want to point out the one thing I hate. Absolutely hate. Remember how in MM6 the spellbook pages were a nice, easily-parsed grid with low-level spells up top and high-level spells down low?
Look at this fucking mess. In MM7 they're just kind of tossed on to the page.
Anyway, the moment we take a step anywhere...
We learn that MM7 actually has a tutorial! Kind of! Margaret won't tell us how to play the game, but she'll explain what shops are and that clicking on things interacts with them. She also introduces us to our current objectives.
I actually think it's perfectly possible to soft-lock the intro sequence here during this scavenger hunt, though it kind of requires intentionally being a moron to do so. I wonder what happens in that case, whether the game has any sort of emergency setup to deal with it, or you're just stuck for six months until the map regenerates and respawns everything.
So what can the rest of you do? I know Owen can cut people in half.
Well, I can heal people... and blow up monsters with mind bullets...
I'm an expert on all things natural and magical, especially bees.
Those fools at the Apiarists' Guild might disagree, but I'll show them all.
I'm sensing some animosity towards the Apiarists. Lay some backstory on me.
Please don't ask-
Those fools disagreed with my thesis paper, "On The Use Of Alchemy In Beekeeping," said it was "too dangerous" and "insane."
I'm compelled to ask for details!
She forced me to read it once before. It's a theoretical plan for rearing a population of bees on a specific combination of potions to turn them into a race of powerful, loyal bee-men.
Obviously their hives will be too big to simply keep in a back yard, hence: Castle Harmondale...
I'm going to do some scouting before I hear any more of this.
Don't go into caves, avoid big bugs. Got it.
And the local beer's alright, too, important fact, there.
MM6 generally had skill learning confined to various themed guilds(fighters, thieves, pirates, etc.), while in MM7 just about every store can teach you stuff. Potion shops teach you alchemy, magical trinket stores teach you ID Item, temples teach you Merchant, Learning and Body Building are out of the level-up halls, etc.
Damn, even the water's got a kick to it! This place is pretty alright. So, uh, where we going?
Let's just keep casing the place for now.
...did you mean to say "scouting"?
If it makes you feel better.
A couple of the houses here have memberships for the elemental and divine guilds present on the island(fire, air, body and spirit), and I snag those up while I'm here. They're only 50 gold a piece, which is still the entire party's starting budget, but I'd hate to be missing them when I actually want to buy something.
Hsst! Everyone hide! It's the fuzz!
Uh, what's up?
Sorry, I'm just not used to guards that aren't coming for me.
Another new thing for MM7, town guards! These are actually semi-competent fighty dudes that'll get hacking at hostile creatures(or you, if you hassle the peasants) if they stray too close. Likewise, hostile monsters will attack both guards and peasants, so we no longer get the Darkmoor thing where a bunch of peasants are walking around humming to themselves while an eight-foot Skeleton Lord is towering over them.
Guards are actually decently dangerous if we get into a fight with them, being effectively level 17 combatants that primarily target thieves.
It's discrimination, is what it is!
Say, isn't this where Lord Markham is camped? We should go introduce ourselves.
I have no idea how that well is meant to work, it did nothing for me nine times out of ten, then the tenth time it just randomly gave me 1000 gold and never again, also check out those red berries, they're a red ingredient for alchemy. Things have been changed up a bit with regards to ingredients. There are now different tiers of ingredient that give different levels of potion "power," which is again boosted by the creator's Alchemy skill. It does a lot to keep, say, bog standard Healing potions competitive.
Poor souls, well, since they probably ran into those dragonflies... or the dragon, we should probably just watch out for ours-
Oh no you don't, if there's a reward, we're getting that reward.
Look on the bright side, Zaggut, it's probably a good deed or something.
And stop bullying Zaggut, that's meant to be my job.
A couple of the items for Thomas here can be a bit hard to find, but there's no actual time limit on finding them as none of the other contestants are actually in danger of making any progress.
Just off the docks were the local inn and blacksmiths(you might've noticed the big anvil), the tent on our right is the local temple and up the hill ahead is the local magic section, with spell sellers/teachers, the potion shop and the magical gewgaws shop.
The well on the left provides a limited number of +2 luck boosts, just like the one in MM6 in New Sorpigal, but unlike New Sorpigal we'll never be able to return to Emerald Island once we're done with it, and thus we can't abuse it by starting everyone with rock bottom luck and being patient in the same way.
This pedestal, and others like it, provide buff spells. Unlike fountains and wells, they always tell you what they do in advance and never have negative effects. A couple of them are exceptionally useful.
The portrait effect for being hasted is pretty good, though.
Oop! This place is dangerous!
Huh, how can you tell?
The bit around our portraits just turned yellow!
Just a bunch of big bugs, we can handle that.
You shouldn't underestimate bugs!
Say, what's that glow?
I told you! I told you!
Maybe we should make a tactical retreat.
The basic Dragonflies are weak, really weak. It's actually funny that they're so weak, a single arrow or dagger swing can take them down, compared to MM6 where even a starter rat or goblin warrior would take multiple blows or spells to bring down. Of course, they have stronger versions. Fire Dragonflies are harder to put down and can, as seen, shoot fire at us from a distance. Queen Dragonflies, the top tier, actually serving as something close to midbosses at this point, requiring multiple rounds of combat and most of the party's SP's to kill.
...hey, did they stop chasing us?
Running away from them, they end up tangling with one of the guards who's vastly superior to basic dragonflies and even fire dragonflies, and just hacks them apart. On the one hand, this is unfortunate as we miss out on XP. On the other hand...
While I hate to say guards are good for anything, this guy made himself real handy. We should lead some more dragonflies to him.
Maybe you shouldn't say that while he's standing right next to us.
There isn't a whole lot of wooded area on Emerald Island, really only this little low swampy section but... it still looks so much better than the trees in MM6. They're dense enough to actually feel like a wooded area, the sprites are better and there are enough decorative sprites to just make it kind of work!
Oh yeah, and that's a Queen Dragonfly incoming. Time to run away again.
Especially when another Queen and a ton of normal Dragonflies backing it up.
Uh, doesn't seem like the guard's winning this one.
Hah! All guards are bastards, he had it coming.
I think he was, uh, the only thing keeping the dragonflies from coming for us.
I leg it and the bugs re-prioritize their targets to... everyone else.
Lucky for us since that means only one Queen focuses on the party, which is just about what we can handle.
Zina blazes away with Toxic Spray, Zaggut casts Mind Blast, Owen and Stashley hack away with their sharp objects and eventually they take the Queen down, it almost scores some kills, but they manage to pull it off without anyone even being KO'd, plucky little fellas.
...are you going through that guard's pockets?
Yeah? What else are you expecting? Should I just leave him here? To rot?
For shame, Zaggut, expecting him to go to waste.
The dragonflies, interestingly enough, seem to prioritize the guards over the civilians, so there are these clusters of dead dragonflies around every single dead guard and then usually a trail of dead peasants leading away.
It's sadly too late for most of the peasants by the time we catch up to the second Queen Dragonfly who's gotten murderous in Emerald Island's main streeet.
Oh, yes, another addition is that sometimes dying enemies leave a big red splotch on the ground. It doesn't really add anything gameplay-wise, but it makes the fighting feel a bit more impactful.
Oh gods, you're even looting the peasants.
Magical experiments won't pay for themselves, and if you think about it, the more looting of the dead we do now, the less looting of the dead we'll have to do later.
I don't know whether the dead peasants or your logic are making me feel more nauseous.
Score! This one had a scavenger hunt object!
If we'd found her before she had a dragonfly-related accident, this NPC would've offered to sell us her lute to satisfy the "musical instrument" part of the hunt for an obscene 500 gold. Alternately we could have killed her(and thus angered the guards who would likely pulp us) or used Stashley's Stealing skill to lift it out of her pockets.
So just from that, MM7 is already miles above MM6 by actually having multiple approaches to a quest sub-objective, and it won't be the last time, either.
Hey, someone's still alive over here, must be a tough one.
Sir! Are you alright? Do you need healing?
Malwick here makes us a completely not suspicious offer which will obviously have repercussions later if we accept it. I turn it down for now, since the wand isn't actually all that useful except for selling, but consider accepting it later since it does open up a later sidequest and thus a bit more content. Unfortunately he had, along with most of the rest of Emerald Island, an unfortunate monster-related accident shortly thereafter. That did mean I got to pick the wand off his body for free and sell it, though, so no real harm done.
Yeah no, I ran a scam like this once, we'll owe him twenty fireball wands before the month's out.
Who needs magic anyway when you've got swords?
Well a sword can't, for instance, stitch your head back on after you get it cut off.
With the fog rolling in, even this little swamp looks cool. Mind, notice how much better the fog looks in 7 vs 6.
This trip into Dragonfly Territory ends like the others. I think there's like one unfortunate guard and zero peasants left after this.
...maybe if we go hand in some items to Lord Markham, someone else will have solved the dragonfly problem by the time we're done?
Wow, that's some cowardice!
Hey, I meant that as a compliment! Cowards survive and profit.
While I was outside, I also squeezed those red berries from Markham's doorstep into a potion bottle.
So now we're missing: A seashell, a fancy hat, a tile from the temple of the moon and a longbow. Handing in those first two objects and the dragonfly killing we actually participated in also gets everyone up to level 2!
I'm confused, here, by the constant hostile yellow markers and dragonfly sounds when nothing seems to be attacking but...
It turns out to be two dragonflies who get stuck in this doorway together.
A seashell for the scavenger hunt!
And a big hammer for Zaggut. Now he can start lifting his weight in fights.
Do I... do I have to? I thought I could just use magic.
A bit of blood and brains spattered in your face will make a man of you.
The bow is, sadly, just a crude bow, not the longbow we need for the quest. The rose petals are handy, though, they're base power 5 red reagents, vs the red berries which are base power 1.
Hrm, so that's most of the island searched. I think I can guess where we'll get a tile from the Temple of the Moon, but a longbow and a hat?
Well let's focus on what we know. We go looking for the tile and see what we learn along the way.
MM7 generally feels a bit more forgiving about climbing slopes than 6, and we could easily have walked up the hill behind Markham's HQ to reach the Temple of the Moon, but we're obviously intended to go this way around, plus it lets us meet some nice people on the way!
Who the hell is Brent?
Trading Brent a potion for the hat is optional. We can also just murder him, but he seems like a nice enough guy, or find a hat elsewhere since it's one of the items that has multiple copies scattered around the island. I think the lute, the title and the longbow are the only ones you can only acquire in one place.
So with that in mind, let's be nice to Brent. Thanks to the plot, he can't actually beat us.
Say, what's that at the top of the hill? Some sort of monument?
Oh no, my friend, that's better than a monument.
So weirdly enough, despite gunpowder not, as far as I know, ever featuring in M&M or Heroes at any point, Emerald Island has a cannon pointing out to sea. You can fire it, too! But what's it aiming at?
Sadly it's aimed a bit short. I seem to remember, from cheaty save-edited games in my youth, that there's nothing out on the ship anyway, it's basically just there for decoration. Its "projectile" is also actually a Death Blossom spell. In M&M6 it was Earth magic's shoddy variant of Starburst and Meteor Shower that just fired a single large projectile that would never hit anything. In M&M7 it is, instead, a big ol' MIRV that launchs into the air and hits the battlefield below with shrapnel.
The pedestal next to the cannon is also a Day of the Gods pedestal. Clearly the smart way to play Emerald Island is to head counterclockwise, climb up here, use the Day of the Gods shrine and then employ that boost to clear out the Dragonflies without surrendering any XP to the guards. At this stage it literally triples the party's base stats, which makes for a massive boost in max HP, max SP, attack bonus and melee damage overall.
Down here at the far corner is a totally not suspicious dragoncave, a fire resistance pedestal(useful against both the dragonflies and the dragon!) and a lady who offers to sell us a seashell for 100 gold, meaning that you can entirely skip the Dragonfly Zone and pacifist the entire exterior of Emerald Island.
The hut's just her mother's home with a bit of fluff writing in it. Let's not go into the dragon's cave for now.
Haven't seen one of these before.
Oh, I know these! Owen, go put your hand in the flame.
Scattered around the M&M7 world are the Games of [stat] which, depending on the area, tests your stat and rewards you with skill points for beating the threshold(per character). They reset every year or six months, and the tougher the area, the more skill points you get. Games of the same stat operate off the same cooldown. In this case everyone can pass this one because of the Shrine of the Gods pedestal. The req here is 25 Might, most other games have a threshold of 50 or 100, and supposedly the stat they correspond to per map regeneration is randomized.
Also since we can see Markham's house from here, let's go hand in the hat.
Only a longbow and a tile to go!
It's also hard to tell from screenshots, but unlike M&M6 where all water was just "static," here some water actually has a direction of flow animation. Like the little channel running downhill has a clear direction of flow downhill. It doesn't change the gameplay, but it's just one of the many ways in which M&M7's world is more detailed which helps makes it feel fun to explore.
I'm starting to regret not being a Sorcerer now, then I could have lit this place up.
I feel like not being able to see what's in here is a mercy.
According to various sites, Giant Bats are still able to Disease the party like in MM6, which would be very bad at this point in the game. But in practice, because they now go down from one arrow, stab or spell, I never find out if this is correct, as I don't suffer a single hit from them at any point.
In a corner we also find this, which is yet another new MM7 feature. Occasionally the party will be able to "spot" secrets and they'll blink like this. I think here on Emerald Island, they're all visible by default(probably to introduce you to the idea of them, since you can't get off the island without finding at least one secret), since no one in the party has Perception and they're all blinking red anyway, but elsewhere in the gameworld they have a minimum Perception threshold to spot. It also has the same issue as ID Monster, ID Items, Disarm Traps and Stealing in that nothing in the game explains the mechanics behind it in any way, so good luck knowing how much you "need" in order to get a use out of it.
It's not something I can even find a real answer for on any of the MM7 fansites out there or any discussions about the game.
Rats are literally bats but not flying, die in one hit, a theoretical chance of diseasing someone, but they literally never get a chance to land a hit on anyone. Even their biggest variant, gets flattened in two hits at most, thanks to having Day of the Gods on.
Hrm, that's a problem. These bugs survive more than one arrow each.
Alright, bug girl, tell us all about these.
Well they're spiders and they're super gross. Kill 'em? I know bees, not bugs.
Giant spiders are probably the toughest thing on Emerald Island outside of Queen Dragonflies. They can take multiple hits and actually do a bit of damage. Even with Day of the Gods buffing the party unreasonably, they only get through this one intact because Zina is mixing potions mid combat and distributing them to the rest of the party. Since this takes up her action, rather than the recipient's, it raises some questions about how this works in-setting.
Having a bottle full of healing medicine broken over your head is the worst way to recover from a poisonous spider bite.
They pull through, though, covered in spider guts up to their knees.
Even in the darkness, it's clear that the textures are just nicer.
Why's all the wildlife so aggressive?! Animals aren't supposed to behave like this!
It's the sight of your pudgy, whimpering body, Zaggut. It turns even the meekest herbivore into a predator expecting a free meal.
For that matter, who would build a temple underground?
Oh, you'd be surprised what people do to hide something that's full of treasure.
Huh. Why do you figure it's full of treasure?
What does everyone need? Healing. Who's charging money for that healing? Temples. All that gold's gotta go somewhere.
Once again, these little fireball traps are just a hint to watch out for similar in other dungeons, you don't even need to dodge them, just cling to the wall, and they fire regularly enough that they won't be a surprise.
I'm hearing movement up ahead.
More bugs and rats?
Nah, sounds like people.
A couple of swordsmen are staggering around back here, warning us to "watch out" and otherwise not doing anything. They also don't mind when we loot the shelves which are full of scrolls, most are irrelevant, but one of them is a Torchlight scroll that I pop immediately.
I'm glad those men weren't hostile. I feel like we've seen enough death today.
Do you even enjoy anything?
Um, helping people and a nice quiet room with a book?
I'll take that as a no.
Thank you for the warning, sir.
So, uh, should we tell him?
Nah, it's funnier when he finds out for himself.
These cabinets contain a bit of minor loot and a fancy hat. If Brent hadn't traded us one aboveground, we could have found one here. Now, maybe Sal wants to tell us something more?
But, no! He just helped us out! He just warned us!
Sure is coming to something when a brigand will just lie to his marks, huh?
Shame he and his buddies aren't as good at fighting as they are at smack talk.
I think he's trying to surrender!
Only thing he'll be surrendering is his boots and his wallet before we gut him like a fish.
Or after. Makes it easier to get his boots off, anyway.
Sal cannot be allowed to live as he carries the only longbow on Emerald Island, and thus is necessary for our ascension to landed nobility. Despite looking like guards, he and his goons are actually of a lower tier of the same family and they fold like cards after just a few hits over the head from Owen.
Look, we got what we came for, do we really need to do any more killing?
Sometimes it's not about what we need, but about what we want.
Besides, we still need to pry up a loose tile somewhere for our last scavenger hunt item.
Turns out there's a hidden wall in the corner of the library, with no indicator that it's hidden aside from the red-blink(MM7 is also a lot better about not letting the automap draw hidden corridors through walls for you so you can tell there's something there. ).
It contains more bookshelves(and these can actually have spell books as well as spell scrolls!), a couple of rats and the last item we need for the scavenger hunt. So now we can leave.
So we now have every last quest item, but we still have one last thing that needs doing here, because it's the biggest payday on Emerald Island. It's "only" 1000 gold, but that's still a lot at this stage of the game.
Much as I love killing, I don't think we can take on a dragon.
We don't need to fight the dragon, meathead, we just need to grab something from the dead contestants-
-and any other loose items of value-
-and then dip out again. What's the worst that could happen?
So all the cave contains is the contestants' shield, some incidental loot, a bunch of rats and the dragon. You CAN kill the dragon, I've done it before, but it takes a shitload of circle-strafing patience since the big fella has 1300HP and we're doing about 4 to 8 damage per arrow, assuming they get past his AC, and we've got three bows(Zaggut, Stashley and Owen).
All it yields, though, is one random high-level item and a decent amount of gold(400 to 4000), so nothing that'll really change up the game or be unique. Killing the dragon is mostly for bragging rights and also if you really want to waste half an hour of your life.
Do we really need more than the shield?
Funny guy! Just remember to serpentine!
What sort of imitation dragon hoard features old boots?
I think he heard you sassing his hoard, he does not look pleased.
On the way out the dragon manages to corner me briefly and with a single swipe he drops Zaggut into the dead book. Reviving him costs 250 gold, so it's still a net profit!
The cost for that is coming out of your share.
I'm just happy to have my head back where it used to be.
I can't wait to see this place. I wonder if it has a throne?
Maybe it has a lab for magical experiments!
A treasure room containing forgotten riches...
...a small chapel would be nice.
We're going to need titles, too.
I think we're technically going to be Dukes.
Aw, I always thought Baron had a nice ring to it.
Someone being a Baron is a clear clue they're about to rip you off, though, it's just one of those villainous titles. Like a vizier.
"A bit of a fixer-upper."
Apparently "well-ventilated" means most of the roof is missing.
There isn't even anything to steal!
Harmondale? More like HarmonDUMP.
Does the party...
Promptly evict any squatters from their new property
Despondently drown their sorrows at the tavern and check out the countryside