Part 3: Arcomage the AssemblingUpdate 03: Arcomage the Assembling
I'm done with that dusty old ruin. Let's have a look at the rest of our lands, maybe they're in better shape.
Good idea, we should assess their taxable value.
Perhaps we can even help some of the locals with their troubles.
...are those locals or troubles?
Considering what they just did to Stashley's kidneys, I'm gonna vote "troubles."
At least my Body Magic training wasn't wasted.
So Harmondale has a goblin problem.
Huh, they appear to have built a fortress armed with magical weaponry in the middle of our lands.
Okay, let's upgrade that to A Goblin Problem. There's pretty much a war going on just outside the town limits, with goblins engaging badly outnumbered swordsmen for control of this weird bunker-like structure that can fire Fireballs and Death Blossoms in four directions. While it's manned by the goblins, it kind of fires indiscriminately and randomly, and they usually end up wiping out a bunch of their own buddies with it.
Considering the fact that the weapons are neither aimable nor controlled by intelligent actors, however, they're not really much of a threat to us, and we can just storm in and start cutting their brains open, then mashing the buttons as much as possible to cause carnage around the fort.
We should get one of these for the front gate.
In case of sieges?
I was thinking door-to-door salesmen, but that too.
In the middle of the fort there's a hatch containing a chest with this little fragment of a diary. As soon as you open the chest, note the minimap, it just spawns in some big clusters of enemies. If you're fast, lucky and observant you can use the weapons to blast away the majority, but you're still liable to get aggressively mobbed by the survivors.
Being neither lucky or observant, I have to beat a quick retreat. The issue isn't that the goblins are very strong, in just about any fight of attrition I'll take them out, the problem is that unlike in MM6, where enemy targeting priorities were sort of vague hints, in MM7 they're more like divine commandments, and every single hit from the goblins will be aimed at Stashley because she's a dwarf, ensuring that she's constantly redlined in terms of health. This would make things easier if I had some sort of very effective defensive spells to toss on her, since I could just focus them on her, but for the time being I'm still muddling around in purely Basic-level spellcasting except for Zaggut's Spirit Magic(I got him Expert training early so Bless would be full-party target).
I hate to be a wet blanket, but do we have a goal here? We're just running around shooting arrows at every goblin in sight.
I thought we could get a nice look at our new lands, but those goblins are all in the way.
Considering all the goblin arrows in me right now, I think it's a bit of a revenge thing.
The next half hour or so is me running around clearing the plains east of Harmondale/Welnin of everything with green skin because they won't stop stabbing Stashley.
Well, in case anyone wants to do something productive, I went ahead and prepared a map.
Huh, that's not bad work, Zaggut.
I'm waiting for the follow-up where you turn the compliment into a sarcastic rejoinder.
Hey, can't a man just earnestly appreciate some well-annotated cartography? Way to ruin it by being overly suspicious.
Most of Harmondale is in the red square in the upper left, and then there's a little sub-village at the crossroad south of it. The hill at 13 is where the goblin artillery bunker is.
Oh hey, I don't think we've introduced ourselves to these people here yet. Let's go tell them about the new tax regime.
So I just kick down a door, right?
You've got the gist of it.
What the hell, monastery?
Show me a rule that says a monastery can't be a cozy living room with a nice fire.
...alright, I will grant that you've already displayed greater enlightenment than most monks. Please, share your wisdom.
...and telling us to go hang out in a haunted grave is just a way to get us killed so you don't have to share your wisdom, right?
We still get a reward if we succeed, right?
Sure, let's go with that.
There are a couple of people around Erathia like this guy, they sell one commodity and buy another. The commodities have no other purpose and, as far as I remember, can't be found lying around in dungeons. Filling up everyone's inventory with these trade goods will make you, at most, a thousand gold or so, requiring travelling across multiple zones, and even just walking around the wilderness of Harmondale and exterminating goblins easily nets us a couple thousand by itself. I guess maybe if you had a pair of Lloyd's Beacons set in the right places and a lot of patience, I guess you could make infinite money, but goddamn, it is just generally not worth your time.
Engaging in capitalism sucks, instead we should steal from the bourgeoisie, got it.
Awesome, let's see what other wacky characters are living in this village.
Are you serious? First black person we meet on Erathia and he looks like this?
Keeping up the sensitive depiction of various races and creeds there, Might and Magic. I think it's entirely possible he's also the only black person on Erathia, since I seem to remember every other person as being pasty white. At least we're not busting into black people's religious grounds and murdering them by the dozen any longer! Now we're doing it to green people instead.
Last guy in the town I'm only showing off because of his name. Chadric Townsaver, that's a fucking name and a half.
Coming up on the White Cliff Caves according to Zaggut's map.
Dibbs on drawing the map next time.
...so you can get attention for it or so you can charge us for directions?
I'm thinking both.
This is down at 9. I don't check ahead of time what's in the caves, but I feel like I'm having enough trouble putting down the goblins fast, so I want an advantage before I go in. I decide to head back to town and clear out most of the map before I go there.
I appreciate a good hike as anyone, but how come we're climbing this hill rather than taking the road?
Maybe you should ask yourself why we walk along the road rather than climbing this nice hill.
There are a few things hidden away on this hill.
An advanced stat "game." It requires a minimum of 50 in the relevant stat, so we're not gonna be scoring those free skill points any time super soon.
And then there are a few mountain hermits!
Like the subtly-named Grandmaster Water Magic trainer(the Grandmaster Fire Magic trainer is named Blayze. ).
Well, that was right hospitable of him.
You mean the opossum stew and the offer to stay the night in his basement?
Yeah, that's what I call neighbourly.
How the hell did you even survive to adulthood?
So the stop back to town features three big purchases:
Expert Body Magic for Zaggut
Buying Regeneration(Expert Body spell) for Zaggut
Buying Fire Aura for Zina
What I really wanted was Heroism, but it's expensive, at 2800 gold even with Stashley's Merchant skill. Considering that it'd add +9 melee damage for everyone, the +1d6 fire damage from Fire Aura isn't quite as good, but it still helps. It also has a really great duration.
I also learn that Regeneration is a spell that I grievously undervalued on previous playthroughs.
After that brief shopping trip, the adventure resumes.
So I got to thinking.
About those signal fires.
You want to light the signal fires.
We need to light the signal fires.
Why do we need to summon an army of goblins to fight?
Well, it's not like lighting the signal fires just makes them appear out of nowhere, is it? Like they just get created by the signal fires. They're gonna be a danger no matter what, but if we light the fires, we know when and where they are.
Also you want to fight the goblins.
I need to fight the goblins.
Because these goblins aren't enough for you.
They're enough for me! This getting victimized is really getting old.
Dropping a Regeneration on Stashley actually turns out to be enough to make her need almost no active healing while fighting the goblins, it makes her remarkably hard for them to kill, plus it has a crazy long duration even at a low skill level.
As per standard, every overworld area in MM7 has an obelisk featuring a seemingly-pointless chunk of text which will, towards the endgame when we've found them all, point us towards amazing, fabulous treasure of some sort. This one declares "pohuwwba."
Is that a word? A name? A title?
Maybe it's graffiti. It might be some new thing, for the kids, that we don't understand.
The signal fires are all at the "10" points on the Harmondale map.
Also, funnily enough, when lit, the like, two logs in the circle instantly burst into a huge proper fire.
The hilly area in the lower left contains the second signal fire the party lights. It actually looks pretty nice, the entire gameworld should be this pleasantly hilly, it looks a lot more real when the ground isn't just flat.
They're lit! It's time!
Bring the goblins! Lemme fight 'em!
...nothing's happening, Owen.
But... I wanted to fight the goblins...
C'mon, Owen, we can go find a children's card game in some caves instead.
I mean, what's the worst that could be in here? A bear?
...those are an awful lot of bears.
Still ain't the same as fighting a goblin army.
Uh, Zina, these don't look like bears to me.
As an authority on all things natural, I declare that these are merely smooth bears.
Troglodytes are slightly beefier than goblins, but have no ranged attacks, and their queens(third tier) can poison characters on hit. They have no important resistances, and only one quirk that makes them slightly interesting here in the White Cliff Caves. But I'm not sure if that quirk is specifically for this map, or always in their programming. Their mid-tier Troglodyte Soldiers are stronger than Goblin Lords, so they're a step up compared to goblins. Once everyone's Blessed, Regenerating and Fire Aura'd, however, they just slice right through them like it's no one's business.
The slightly greener one in the back is the Troglodyte Soldier, and the only one that doesn't go down in seconds.
Whoah! Is that money just lying around on the floor?
Smooth bears, free money. If the landed nobility thing doesn't work out, I might move in here.
It's hard to see in the darkness(because Zina has yet to reach Expert Fire Magic that makes Torchlight not just function as a lit match.), but the trogs up ahead aren't headed for the party. Instead, they've found something more important to do.
The mold problem does seem a bit out of hand, though.
Liquid bears are a known health hazard!
The Oozes in MM7 are much like the Oozes in MM6: Immune to physical damage, immune to Body magic, immune to Spirit magic, immune to Mind magic. This means that only the 1d6 damage from the "of Fire" weapons and Zina's Fire Bolts can do any damage to them, which just isn't gonna cut it, especially since these squishy dickheads can break the party's weapons. So I make the sagacious choice and simply walk past them while the Oozes and Trogs fight each other. They both do so little damage to each other that they'll be locked in a fight for as long as the party's in here.
Even shooting a few Fire Bolts at the Oozes to test how fightable they were did not disrupt the fighting.
Back to stealing the Trogs' spare change.
This also means there are very few forced fights aside from the first entry fight which, I suspect, you could probably wriggle past and run away from if you tried. The trogs aren't tough enough to require that, though, at least not with this party.
Look! Cave barrels!
I'm not going to cure you if you get dysentery.
You're absolutely going to cure him if he gets dysentery.
Can't you at least let me pretend to be a hard-ass sometimes?
Coming down this path terminates in a secret door hiding a few chests that all roll terrible trash for me, thanks a lot, RNG.
The leftmost tunnel from the starting chamber features a few more trogs, a few cave dollars and a troglodyte queen. She takes a lot of hits to go down.
Even with Regenration up, it does a good deal of damage, especially as troglodyte drones keep running up and getting in the way of my attacks so I have to beat them down first before I can get any swings through to her. These smooth bears ain't nothing to fuck with.
Trog Queen goes down, I continue and...
Ugh, whichever one of you keeps smacking your lips, knock it off.
More of a... glooping sound, than a lip smacking sound.
Ooze ambush. Time to rush to the end!
It's obvious in the screenshots, but in the murk of the cave during gameplay, I completely missed those gold/ore veins on the back wall and thus didn't interact with them. In a strangely un-MM-like twist, interacting with it would have zero chance to kill or mangle the party, but would instead just yield some ore. Ore chunks come in different qualities and can be traded into a couple of "merchants" around Erathia for weapons, armor or misc. items, so kind of like golden circus pyramids in MM6 but less exploitable.
Hey, can we focus on the corpse we're about to loot?
Sorry, yes. So there's a deck of trading cards that will in no way lead to a horrible minigame/gambling addiction and a letter.
Imagine getting eaten by bears just so you can write an unfinished players' guide to a collectible card game.
Well, his brother won't be happy to hear this, but at least it'll give him some closure.
In any case, time to run like hell before the oozes add the party to the bone pile.
All in all, the White Cliff Caves fits in pretty well as a starter dungeon. It teaches you that you don't need to fight everything, it shows off monster infighting and if you DO choose to fight everything, it's largely doable as long as you have, say, a Sorcerer, like a competent party.
Still not hearing any goblin war horns.
Well, I think I hear some more angry goblins around the corner, if that'll delay you dragging us into an international incident.
It's distinctly strange, but despite the only difference being Fire Aura, which should be a relatively negligible power upgrade to the party's killosity, the party's suddenly just tearing ass through these goblins. Hits are landing consistently and generally they're one-shot kills.
This is the intended way to reach location 11 on the Harmondale map.
Huh, I didn't think anyone would be living all the way out here.
Let's try not to startle them, they might be on edge, with all the angry goblins out here and all.
Turns out the Arbiter out here is just the Seer from MM6's cousin, here to give you hints in case you get lost in what you're trying to do. He's less necessary than in MM6, because the game has more of a clear story you're trying to follow(for instance, right now, our story objective is to get the raccoons and rubble out of our house), but not a bad thing to have in the game.
Fit to rule, huh? Here I thought being a noble was just about being a big thieving bastard.
I was counting on it. Well, if we want to appear legitimate, we can just send Zaggut out to apologize any time we steal people's stuff.
So the reason that nothing popped up on the map because of the Signal Fires was, at first, that they don't until you light the signal fires AND then reload the map(i.e. enter an interior zone like the White Cliff Caves or Castle Harmondale), then return to Harmondale. Some sites also imply there might be an additional time trigger. The second thing is that the goblins pop up in the most out-of-the-way and missable part of the Harmondale map that they possibly could. Just to make it more easily missable, there's also no sort of warning that they've arrived. No pop-ups or NPC dialogues or anything of the sort.
Damn goblins are taking their time.
Did you expect them to come streaming over the borders like a mindless horde?
Kind of, yeah.
It's not what I'd do, and I happen to be a goblin. Instead I'd sneak in somewhere out of the way, marshal my forces, and then come at us.
Then we should have plenty of time to break the bad news to Temper's brother and do some shopping first. I don't feel like fighting a legion of our kinfolk with the spells and weapons we have right now.
Keep the deck? Well, I've always been somewhat curious about how it's played...
Welcome to Arcomage! And total confusion if you're completely new to it. So let's go over the interface!
On either side, you have your resources, i.e. your mana and mana generation. For instance, we have 12 green mana(beasts) and generate 2 of them every turn, likewise for red and blue mana. Then next to that is Tower size and Wall size. At the bottom are our playable cards at the moment(casting cost listed in the lower right of each card, and they always cost the same type of mana as their colour), we can't see our opponent's playable cards, but we can see all their other info.
Every ArcoMage tavern has different starting conditions and win conditions, but the three ways to win are always the same(though with different numbers): Get your own Tower above a certain size, reduce the enemy's Tower to zero or increase one of your resource pools to a certain size. Here, a Tower of 30 or a pool of 100 of a given resource is a win. Also, unless otherwise listed on the card, all damage is applied to walls first, and then only to the tower if the wall is reduced to zero or has less health than the damage done.
I doubt anyone wants a blow-by-blow of these games, since they're not THAT complex, just complex enough to be satisfying. Mostly it's about identifying, as per Temper's sick GameFAQ's document, what the fastest route to a win is at any given tavern. Here, it should be obvious that I can win just by casting Crystallize and putting myself well over 30 Tower. So obviously I completely miss that, almost lose and then end up casting Lava Jewel instead.
Victory dumps you back to the tavern screen with a small gold reward. It's not enough to make you rich, but if you play at every tavern, it adds up over time and isn't a huge time sink plus, of course, there's a larger quest connected to ArcoMage wins that has a very nice reward.
Yes! I have mastered a children's card game!
Uh-huh, really? That's interesting.
My faith in the heart of the cards was rewarded and I've found my true purpose in life!
Thank you very much, sir, we'll be sure to look into it.
Everyone, I'm leaving the party to become a full-time ArcoMage-
Sorry, wasn't listening, some guy just came up and told Owen that they finally spotted the goblin invasion force.
B-but my ArcoMage career-
Later, Zaggut, for now we need you to stitch lost limbs and digits back on.
Prior to setting out, I grab Heroism as well as some basic Cure spells(Poison and Disease) for Zaggut, and spend the walk down the road on throwing Fire Aura on everyone's melee weapon, as well as dropping Regeneration on everyone. Point 15 on the map is where the goblin legions gather.
I'm having second thoughts about this!
And it's an absolute massacre. It's amazing what a difference two levels and a few extra buffs do. The party's no longer struggling to land hits, and even Zina's dagger is pretty much guaranteed to one-shot an enemy goblin.
Dammit, I'm running out of targets! Send more goblins!
Someone slow him down! I can't even manage to loot all the bodies before he makes more!
There's only one Goblin Lord in the whole mix, which also contributes to it being an absolute steamroll. If you just mouse-over him, he's a normal one, but if you right-click him he's actually a named enemy called Grognard!
Not that it saves him from the party's weapons.
Now that's what I call good exercise.
...should I be feeling bad about helping kill so many goblins?
Well, I don't feel bad about killing humans, so I think you're good.
Mostly the goblins just drop a decent amount of gold, making up for what got spent on more spells for everyone, but Grognard himself does contain a single piece of Unique Loot(tm).
It's a plain damage upgrade for Owen and, well, if we should so happen to get into any fights against elves before this gets replaced we'll have a leg up against them.
Damn, looks like I'll have to practice not feeling bad about killing elves, too.
Gambling and killing off squatters, if that doesn't tell people we're nobles, I don't know what does.
People can consider us what they want, as long as we make a profit.
Harmondale's hardly what you'd call a target rich environment any longer, though. It's getting all... peaceful.
I'm not sure I'm cut out for this high-excitement lifestyle. I hope we do something more peaceful next.
A: Get on with the main quest in the Barrow Downs
B: Explore the other neighbouring regions(Erathia, Tularean Forest)
C: Travel to Tatalia to have words with Lord Markham
Since we got our first Expert spells in this update, it seems like a decent time to go over the selection!
Fireball: 1d6 damage per skill point, giving it twice the damage potential of Fire Bolt, at four times the SP cost. Predictably it's also explosive, however, so it's pretty much always gonna be the right choice if it can hit two or more enemies at once and you're not in the splash zone yourself.
Fire Spike: Drops a magic mine. At base it's as damaging as Fireball, but Master and Grandmaster increase the amount of mines laid at once and the damage done. Probably part of some sick speedrun strat for cheesing enemies way out of the party's league, but generally you'll probably want to fight in a more straight forward way.
Haste: Absolutely an awesome must-have buff, since it vastly increases how fast the party can act, and action economy is, as in most RPG's, absolutely the winning move to specialize in.
Jump: Like in MM6, it's made largely for cheesing dungeons, especially as outdoors areas have become a lot more forgiving with regards to climbing slopes. My memory tells me that MM7 dungeons generally feature less vertical areas that Jump can be used to exploit, however.
Lightning Bolt: 1d8 damage per skill level, hits one target. Very simple and straightforward, but if something isn't fire-immune, then the Fire offensive spells have a better return for damage per spell point.
Shield: Halves damage from enemy non-spell ranged attacks, which still accounts for a hell of a lot of potential damage sources. There's no reason not to cast this once you have it.
Acid Burst: At 9+1d9/skill point damage, it's even better value for SP than Lightning Bolt, especially since Poison damage has become Water damage and resistance to it is no longer ubiquitous among 90% of all enemies. Outright immunities are in general a lot rarer in MM7.
Recharge Item: Restores charges to a limited-use item in exchange for permanently lowering its maximum charges. I... don't think I've ever actually used a wand, and rarely even a scroll, in any of the MM games. It only very rarely gives you super-early access to a spell in a way that would be a real gamechanger, and generally you're better off selling it to pay for a spellbook to learn a spell you can cast as often as you want, instead.
Water Walk: With Fly being restricted to Master-level casters, Water Walk actually has a niche now. Both for some hard-mode parties that might not have Master Air access, and simply to give you effective water-crossing means earlier.
Blades: 1d9 points of damage per skill level, and cheaper to cast than Acid Burst. It's nice that all the elemental options have some kind of viable offense now.
Stone Skin: Boosts the party's armor class. Unless I misunderstand the mechanics, however, it's almost impossible to buff your AC to the point where it genuinely makes the party hard to hit, and it doesn't serve as damage resistance, so it isn't a high-priority buff to cast.
Stone to Flesh: Curing conditions is always important, especially these dickhead conditions that take a party member completely out of the game until they're revived.
Heroism: Probably the one spell I'd miss the most if I was doing a run with no body/spirit/mind casters. +10 damage or so per swing may not sound like an awful lot, but especially when combined with "rate of fire"-buffs like Haste, it quickly amounts to a lot of extra damage put out in a given space of time.
Preservation: Prevents the target character from dying, instead replacing Dead with the KO'd condition for as long as the spell lasts, no matter how deep into the negative Hit Points they go. I guess I could see this being handy in some cases, but I think I'd rather just spend my SP on dropping Regeneration and heals on every single character. Could be worth it if you're making a panicked run through somewhere much too high-level for you, though.
Remove Curse: Curse is as dogshit awful as possible and still the worst goddamn condition in the game. Do not leave home without this spell.
Berserk: Makes a target creature go attack and aggress against everything nearby, former friends included. I still remain doubtful that condition spells have any sort of real niche, but I guess it could be handy if you could stick it on a third-tier enemy or something?
Charm: Makes a single hostile target friendly(though it presumably won't fight for you). Probably the best case use I can see for this is if you accidentally aggro an allied creature and don't want to have to kill it for whatever reason.
Cure Paralysis: Another bad condition to be stuck by, but also an oddly rare one. You'll be happy for being able to cure this, but from MM6 I remember one character getting paralyzed all of once while I was clearing Silver Cove of gargoyles.
Cure Poison: Yep, it makes people not poisoned. Good to have, but conditions from enemies feel a lot less common in MM7.
Hammerhands: Doubles unarmed damage for the target. You probably want this if you have a Monk in the party, if you don't... you probably don't want this spell either.
Regeneration: A spell I greatly undervalued in the past. It kicks ass. It sadly lacks any numbers for its explicit effects, so it's hard to tell how much faster it regens at, say, Master and Grandmaster level, but even at Expert level, I see no reason not to have it on every party member in just about every fight.