Part 8: Wizards, No Sense of Urban PlanningUpdate 08: Wizards, No Sense of Urban Planning
I must admit I'm excited to see the Bracada Desert.
How come? A desert's just sand.
Ah, but you see, the Bracada Desert is also home to the foremost mages and sorcerers in Antagarich! Imagine the wonders they'll surely have built.
Huh, when you put it that way, I guess with unlimited magic they could do just about anything.
Welcome to the Bracada Desert. It's got sand!
A welcoming committee of gryphons!
...did anyone think to ask Hothfarr where the Red Dwarf Mines were, exactly?
Not as such, no.
I suppose we'll just have to risk life and limb in the desert looking for it, then. Tsk, tsk.
I'll later discover that, having hopped over the ridge just south of the entry road to dispose of the first batch of gryphons, I was standing with my back right against to the Red Dwarf Mines as of the taking of this screenshot, but never thought to turn a full circle and look at my surroundings.
...that's an odd thing to find in the desert.
Catbirds probably swooped right down and lifted the owner out of his boots while he was counting his money.
That's very reassuring.
Or maybe the heat drove him mad and he ran barefoot into the depths of the desert, never to be seen again.
Please stop trying to explain this.
Before you get too excited about our imminent demise, I'm seeing a structure up ahead.
What an unhelpful inscription...
Hey, you said wizards were all over this place. Maybe it's a teleporter and we just gotta step on.
Hm, beats dying of heatstroke while Zina narrates our demise.
The Bracada Desert is the worst town in the same until you have access to Fly, and then it's still the worst, just less awful. Rather than, say, building some sort of concise, well-planned town, the wizards decided they were too smart for urban planning.
So instead they just dropped down a patch of teleporters in a random canyon, scattered connecting teleporters around the desert seemingly at random, and hoped that people would build their homes and businesses near them. Oh and then they sent in golem cops to patrol for anyone wearing a black robe and having more than one skull with them.
If this is what the best and brightest of Erathia come up with, then I think I'm going to pass.
The golems are thankfully not hostile, because we haven't broken any wizard laws.
They're extremely beefy, hit like trucks, can bust misc. items, armor and weapons depending on their tier. On top of that they're resistant or immune to all damage types(except for dark magic and including physical damage) and explode for 4 to 40 points of Earth damage when they die. They even have a ranged attack, though it's less powerful than their melee attack, so just staying airborne or at range isn't necessarily safe, either.
Well, standing around here isn't getting us anywhere. Maybe one of these portals will take us to the Red Dwarf Mines.
Just for extra fun, only some of the portals are even vaguely labelled(stables, temple, etc.) while the rest could take you just about anywhere.
One of the locations is this odd sculpture. If we were farther in the story, it would take us to Celeste, the wizards' equivalent of Deyja's Pit, i.e. where all the super cool wizards with the big beards live.
Hey, what gives? How come we're not allowed in?
Probably we aren't big enough nerds for Celeste.
Another teleporter takes you to the "docks" by which I mean it takes you like twenty feet above the docks and lets you plummet to the ground.
I'm starting to come around to the point of view that these wizards are not, in fact, super-smart.
Maybe they can't afford proper urban planners because everyone who used this teleporter sued their coffers empty.
While we're here, though, let's see how the locals live! After Deyja, I'm sure these locals really live in opulent, wizardly, lux-
...I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn't this.
Pretty sure those people livin' in tents in Avlee had swankier digs than this.
Another teleporter just like, drops you in the middle of the sandy parts of the area out of sight of the nearest teleporter.
The stables are thankfully normal.
Hey beardsly, where the hell are we this time?
If sorcery makes this place seem like a good idea, no.
Damn, dude, your home is bad enough to make Zaggut mildly sassy, that's some shit.
So they just... lost their best spell.
Maybe they tried to teleport it somewhere and got the address wrong.
While browsing the teleporters, I notice there's a chest in the corner.
I'm starting to be kind of glad that teleporter to Celeste was barred, we'd probably have arrived with our heads on upside down.
Hey, is that a scroll of Flight at the bottom of the chest? If we use that, we can pretend these teleporters don't exist.
And so we take to the skies! Let's take a tour of all the dumb wizard homes scattered around Bracada.
A few of the locals are living in acceptably wizardly ways, but no one's got it as cool as the residents of Deyja.
A bit sinister for what's ostensibly a "temple of light."
Absolutely a teleporter accident.
You know, I've been thinkin'
Deyja's kind of a blasted shithole, and so's Bracada, right?
No debate from me there, monster birds in both places, too.
So I'm thinking that maybe wizards are just careless dickheads.
While I'm bound by several NDA's, I can reveal that they're absolutely a boon to the insurance industry.
Blah, I keep gettin' grit in my mouth while we're flyin'. Can we put down and take a drink?
Sure, no prob, we'll come in for a landing and you can wash down all that healthy, delicious dirt with some water.
No no no no no! Get away from that well!
Unbeknownst to me, this isn't a mere water well, it's a fucking wishing well. They're intensely cursed things. Tossing 100 gold into this well gives you a random pull from a list of events which are:
Temporary resistance boost
Temporary stat boost
[redacted status effect]
Sucking down 50 points of Body-type damage
Never, ever fuck with this thing. There's another one later in the game that's 5000 gold a pop, which has the following list:
Remove all magical aging
Temporary resistance boost
+10 skill points
Temporary AC penalty(likely reducing it to 0).
Since there's nothing affecting these rolls, not like with, say, a genie lamp, a known pro strat is to just savescum for free skill points at this particular well. The much wiser choice is just to pretend it doesn't exist, however. You'll never be that hard up for skill points, gold or XP simply to beat the game.
I've just about had it up to here with wizard towers. Where's that damn mine?
Let's just head back and ask Hothfarr.
Ah, I see, right back where we started. That's not infuriating at all.
Welcome to the Red Dwarf Mines, coincidentally the same name as what's probably the first dungeon most players of Might and Magic 4 would have encountered, just outside of Vertigo. With MM7 dungeons generally being smaller than MM6 dungeons, the Red Dwarf Mines are one of the first larger dungeon areas we come across. It's still not a scratch on some of the insanely-sized MM6 dungeons that were almost as large as an exterior zone, but it's still nice to have a slightly longer dungeon experience.
I'm not sure why MM7 dungeons are in general shorter than MM6 ones, mind you, I suspect it's a combination of more detail requiring more time, the game having a dev time of only a year and perhaps player feedback that some dungeons like the Tomb of VARN and Castle Darkmoor were just absolute dogshit.
The mines also look more complex than they are because, once again, this is a two-level dungeon in 3D using a 2D map.
Our first contestant is slimes. A far cry from the caves back in Harmondale where we couldn't even scratch them, with Master-level Fire Aura on the team's melee weapons, we're doing more than enough damage to chunk them effortlessly before they do anything more than trivial damage.
The occasional Fireball helps, too.
Our main objective here is to find the seven stoned dwarves standing around the dungeon in various locations. There's no fanfare when you've got them all, so you have to keep count on your own.
Sadly, six out of the seven say the exact same thing when unstoned. It'd have been an easy place for a bit of scene-setting or atmosphere/world-building.
The first level, besides being filled with slimes, is also littered with potions of cure paralysis. It's also worth noting that most of the mine carts can be looted like chests, though it isn't immediately obvious and I can imagine a lot of players not even bothering to try. In fact I'm pretty sure it's the first playthrough of mine where I realized it was an option at all.
Nice of 'em to keep writing their diaries even while being chased down by medusas.
Also, once again: Not a single one of these ore walls has hurt me! I'm even gonna refuse to quicksave before using them from now on, because clearly any insistences to the opposite are wrong.
If you can handle the slimes as trivially as this party can, the first level is, well, trivial. There are no surprises and nothing that can really scratch you up.
One, two, three... that's all seven of them!
Alright, so I figure we can just hop off now.
We could, except...
That diary said the good stuff's downstairs. As your financial advisor, I suggest you clean this place out.
Of course I'm not gonna pass up on the second level, even if it didn't have loot, the Archer promotion quest requires us to visit it, and even though we have no Archer, it contains delicious, delicious XP for us.
And right off the elevator, a medusa starts firing arrows at us and generally being rude.
Medusas are reasonably beefy opponents for our level, all of them coming with total immunity to magic, but zero resistance to physical damage, meaning that they still go down relatively fast since our main damage output is physical. Normal Medusas can paralyze, Queens can Stone and Empresses can also Stone. However, since some people told me that the odds of getting Paralyzed or Stoned here were so low, I decided not to put on Protection From Magic before going down.
Also on this level the omnipresent white anti-paralysis potions are replaced with black anti-stoning potions.
This cave is where things get spicy, as it's one of the few places we fight non-basic Medusas.
First, Zaggut gets himself paralyzed.
And then Owen gets stoned.
So to whoever told me not to bother with Protection from Magic: thanks a lot. I put it up immediately after this.
Just to rub it in, the Medusa Empress then drops this fucking thing. It seems like a cruel prank, but there's at least one other area in the game with medusas, and a notably tougher one, so this isn't completely irrelevant. It does say "resistant" rather than "immune," though, which at least is an improvement on the MM6 items that read "immune" but didn't actually make you immune.
With Protection from Magic up, I note that it does actually spend its charges only on attacks that actually proc their effect, rather than all attacks. This actually makes it a valuable addition to the team.
On this level a few toppled minecarts hint at the dwarves having had to flee rapidly. I kind of wish there was more of this, with a bit more time spent on this area, a slightly larger area, maybe even a third level, it could've built up the medusas a bit more before tossing them at you.
Damn, I think we're outta things to kill!
I'm personally pretty happy about that, I don't want to get turned to stone.
Oh, no, there's still one thing left to kill. The mine.
The ranger quest was to swap out a part of the poorly-defined machine on the wall so it'll break the elevator in one hour. Note that an hour in-game is like... maybe five minutes real-time, tops. And while you can easily make it back to the elevator in that time, it does not leave a lot of time to fuck around if you haven't cleaned out all of the tunnels on the second level yet. So absolutely do that first. Because this is an NWC game, though, there's no confirmation dialogue when interacting with the dwarven machine, the party just slaps it in there and moves on.
I don't quite understand why we did that.
Because someone's paying us to.
But he only wanted us to do it to stop the medusas getting out, and we already killed all the medusas!
Hey, I don't fuck around with the wording of a contract. Guy paid us to wreck a mine, we wreck a mine.
Now time to get back to Stone City and hand over these dwarves. Nothing interesting happens during the journey, so I'm cutting it out.
Can't wait to hand over this gaggle of bearded idiots.
So... now we rob him?
Now we rob him.
Behind the scenes I've gotten Zina up to Master-level Fire and Air magic, but I've yet to find an Invisibility book in either a store or as loot, but thankfully I have come across an Invisibility scroll.
The real joke is on me rather than Hothfarr, though, the dwarven treasury is so lame. It's a few small piles of gold on the floor, four stat-boosting barrels and a couple of chests containing, well...
Stuff that would've been outdated when we first arrived in Harmondale.
What a ripoff! That scroll was worth more than all of Hothfarr's treasury!
Royalty will always find some way to screw you over.
Maybe we should look on the bright side, our castle's fixed now! Who knows what amazing work they'll have done to it.
Maybe it'll have a moat fulla boiling oil!
An alchemy lab!
An impregnable vault for all our loot!
Hm, doesn't look like they changed much about the outside but... maybe the interior changes will astound us!
Hey! They got those stains outta the carpets! And they cleaned up all the piles of trash!
...did Hothfarr scam us by sending janitors rather than engineers?
At least the new tapestries and drapes are very nice.
Please show in the visiting dignitaries Mr., uh, Butler.
Nice of her to notice us. You don't, uh, think she wants to talk about all those dead gryphons in her back yard, do you?
This one sounds more ominous.
Claims he technically owns our land and asks us to visit. I'll be damn surprised if this one isn't gonna end up being about back taxes.
Mmm... maybe the smart play would be to take a vacation until... whatever this is blows over.
So this is probably the most decision-dense section of the game, it's also one of the few timed sections. At this point there's a timer running for about ~4 in-game months, after which events will come to a head and our decisions will have impacted what happens. Since there's a reasonable number of sub-choices, I'll just ask people to vote on general policy.
A: Side with Erathia and support them in all coming decisions.
Historically, Erathia's usually come out on top in most things. We shouldn't piss them off.
B: Side with Avlee and support them in all coming decisions.
Hmmm, Avlee's does deserve restitution for the Timber Wars... we'd be on the right side of history if we helped them.
C: Side with ourselves and scam both sides as much as possible during the upcoming fighting.
Listen to yourselves! Why are you talking about helping others when we can help ourselves instead?
D: Pretend nothing's going on and take a short holiday to scenic Nighon until matters are settled.
Politics make my head hurt. Let's just take a holiday. Howabout Nighon? I hear they do some nice hydra steaks.