Part 17: The Final CountdownUpdate 17: The Final Countdown
It feels like we're starting to near the end of this mess, the big payday.
Assuming we survive this.
Ehhh... after the Titans' Fortress and the Land of the Giants, how much worse could this be?
Think about it. At the center of the Pit, one of four people to dethrone Archibald.
He'll probably be guarded by traps, liches, undead dragons, multi-liches-
Like a hydra, but undead and with liches for head.
Damn, you think they got those?
I don't want to bet they don't.
My point is, we have to be prepared for anything! Anything could be in there! Even-
How about one guy with one of those weird weapons we couldn't figure out?
Ah, yes, but maybe when Owen hits him over the head again he'll turn into-
That. Well. Hm.
Tolberti/Robert the Wise are pretty unremarkable enemies. THEORETICALLY they could be scary since their attacks are, aside from the Mega Dragon, the only ones in the game that have a chance of causing Eradication. Which makes it even weirder that being able to cure it is Spirit Magic's apex spell considering how you'll basically never have to deal with it! Weirdly he's also 100% immune to Light and Dark magic, can cast Hour of Power and Power Cure, and has a small chance of sometimes attacking three times with each normal attack. It feels like he might've originally been intended to have a security team of some sort, since a lot of enemies boosted by Hour of Power would suddenly get a lot more scary, and if they didn't die fast, Power Cure would allow them to live a lot longer.
A lot of bother for a little chunk of metal.
Well, I'm glad I was wrong. At least we didn't have to battle through some sort of oversized dungeon the size of a city for it or something.
Place is a bit empty for a royal advisor, isn't it?
There isn't even a chair! Or a bed!
Maybe the advisors are from another world that hasn't invented furniture yet, and they're here to steal our chair secrets.
Let's just get back to Celeste before these fantasies of world couchquest go overboard.
Remember, no one mention furniture when we hand in the cube.
All Robert does is clap us on the back and shove us on to Resurrectra in Castle Lambent, as well as giving us the usual history log update.
This one is a bit weird since it doesn't actually acknowledge what we did, just tell us about what the other side were doing regardless of us. In general it feels a bit disappointing that the other faction in most of these quests just doesn't seem to be... doing anything. Like, say, maybe some hostile necromancers could be raising hell in the Bracada Desert or there could be an angel ambush in the Hall of the Pit or some such.
Anyway, off to Castle Lambent with us.
Wait, didn't we already kill him?
...you did what?
Yeah, uhhh... I forget why, exactly. Zaggut? Stashley?
We happened to be in the neighbourhood while looking for the 15th obelisk.
And then we coincidentally got a telepathic call from Archibald.
One thing lead to another and, well, you don't gotta worry about any devils on Antagarich any longer.
I'm not sure whether to be impressed or terrified but...
It's nice to be appreciated.
Yeah that's nice but can we just pay make note of the fact that we're working for aliens?
Here to steal our precious ottomans!
No. Aliens here to give us access to thousands of new worlds.
...thousands of new things t' fight!
Thousands of new potions to brew!
And thousands of new things to steal.
I don't get out of this one, do I?
'course not, Zaggut. We need our moral compass! If you ain't complainin', we'd be thinking we were doin' the wrong thing.
I'm still here, you know.
Free guns for everyone? This goes against everything I hold dear.
...I mean, if it wasn't weapons, it seems like it could be some kind of enlightened society where everyone worked according to their ability and were rewarded according to their need.
Can you two argue later? We're gonna do some sea-fightin'.
So, this is also where we finally get access to the Blaster skill. I believe it's actually the "fight the devils"-quest that gives us it, and definitely Team Dark could've greatly used it for dealing with the Land of Giants, but it's still super late. Even compared with MM6 you're very likely to only have the very last quest before you get access to it, where at least MM6 had a decent amount of non-storyline content you could've laughed while smashing your way through with blasters.
Then there are the wetsuits.
They're not kidding, you can't even wear rings or gauntlets or other misc. equipment while wearing these. You can only hold items in your hands, i.e. melee weapons, blasters and shields.
Now, while the party treks to the shore to try this out, let's have a read in our updated journal!
I feel like we should have had whoever's writing this in the party. He knows what we're doing almost before we do.
Imagine the sort of person who just spends their free time writing about what other people are doing, though. They'd probably be completely insufferable.
I feel a bit of trepidation about this.
These suits are not for anyone with self esteem issues.
Damn thing's more skin-tight than my own skin.
And all we can bring are these... blasters. I feel like we should test them before we go down there.
Alright, everyone on three. One... two... three... blast 'em!
Folks, I hate to say it, but this is better'n a sword. It's better'n two swords.
...I do feel a certain sense of power madness creeping in. An urge to laugh maniacally.
Try not to have too much fun, Zaggut.
In a game where Fly and Water Walk hadn't been accessible for about half the game, having access to some gear that would replace it seems useful. There are random "water walking" items, but they're rare enough to only be useful if you don't mind 3 out of 4 characters drowning. But in any case, it's literally the only way to get to The Shoals. Strap on suit, walk into the water west of Avlee and...
...I expected the seafloor to be more interesting.
Perhaps some coral or seaweed.
Some valuable shells.
I kind of wanted t' pet a turtle or somethin'.
I'd love to compare this to being underwater in Wizardry 8.
Wizardry 8: Limitations on magic(no fire magic), a decent amount of decorations, some degree of varied sea enemies.
Might and Magic 7: No magic at all(even to the point of clearing out all buffs you cast before embarking, even if they last longer than the travel time), zero decorations, one enemy type.
The one enemy underwater is sharks, like we met "swimming" around in the Arena. They're not fundamentally tough enemies, but you're suddenly bereft of the buffs you've been casting since level 2(Bless, Heroism, etc.) and you can't even use magic to heal, only potions. So really the only proper response is to just leg it past them before they're unfun to fight. Even with the blasters, you're losing a lot of your surface damage output by not having access to Haste.
Are these sharks shooting at us?
Maybe someone fed a bunch of wands to sharks and set them loose in the water to get revenge on someone at sea. Theoretically.
I feel like this explains a lot 'bout some of the things we fight.
Thank the Gods, if we didn't find a single treasure-filled shipwreck down here I was going to scream.
...really, tourist tat?
Well if you don't want it, I'll have it. I think there may be something interesting to it.
This is just an ocean of disappointments. Let's... let's just get moving.
I'm seein' somethin' up ahead!
It's real cool an' all, but where's the damn way in?!
So, we've ALREADY seen the way in, but I've failed to identify it and needed to browse ancient forum posts for half an hour to find out where it was. While you consider that, lemme bring up another mystery: What the hell is up with that dome and tower? The devils built something similar in Sweet Water back in MM6, but there are no devils under the sea here... but maybe once there were meant to be? Perhaps the final stretch was a rush to beat the devils to the Overthrust Oscillator, failing, and then storming Xenofex's hive to get it back from him? Hard to say. Might've been interesting. Or perhaps just a sign that the Shoals were originally meant to have another minidungeon.
Anyway, ready for the reveal of where the entrance is?
That's right! You're meant to psychically guess that the right, and only the right engine nacelle can be entered from the back! Super, super easy to figure out.
I can't even see my own hand in here! Zina, some light?
Let's hope they were wrong about how dangerous that security system is...
The mecha mall cops have gotten a revamp since MM6, but they're thankfully also a whole lot less scary. No more constantly braving a risk of getting Eradicated whenever we look at them funny. Like us, however, they're packing Blasters, which means un-resistable Energy-type damage and they can do a lot of it. A top-tier droid, an Assassin Droid, does 40 to 120 damage per shot, and a random percentage of attacks are triple shots, meaning 120 to 360 damage hurled the party's way. Owen, the beefiest party member, has 933 hit points, while Zina as the most fragile has 388. That means that these bastards can almost one-shot a party member through pure damage, not even using something cheap like a chance of causing Dead, Eradicated or KO.
Stop gaping and cast your damn spells, Zaggut!
On it! On it!
There! Day of Protection and Hour of Power!
Damn! That's some spicy welcome! These fellas are more dangerous than dragons!
Are you excited about this?
Hell yeah I am, haven't been in this much danger since we fought Minotaur Lords in Nighon.
Hm, no opening this door.
Kind of funny how with all this magical artillery we're lugging around, we can't ever just blow up doors.
Prob'ly 'cause it'd be real rude.
Let's go find the lever that opens this. There's always a lever.
I'm not sure why the dungeon starts this way, with almost every door locked, because there's only one way you can go while it's in this state, and there's no real challenge to doing it either.
Ooooooh. Strange alien 'chinery!
Let's hope it works just like ours, with only one function when you poke at it.
That's completely implausible. Advanced technology from another world certainly has multiple functions and requires complex understanding to use!
Ha ha, of course it doesn't.
It would honestly be more interesting if even the security systems started in a powered-down state or something, and re-powering the ship was also what populated it with hostile enemies or... something. It just feels a bit wasted, is all.
I think these are meant to be escape pods, sadly unlike in MM5 we can't fire any cool spaceship guns.
Messing around with some buttons in the entry bay drops down a chest containing these babies.
They're like blasters but more. I think I'm in love.
A flat upgrade to normal blasters in every way, with 3 out of 4 party members carrying them, the minor threat that the local robot security formerly posed has been downgraded to zero threat.
This cargo elevator is an alternate route forward once you've got the power on, even though what separate "routes" there are don't really differ much.
And of course the local treasure chests, such as they are, contain items specifically local to the world that there's no way the "Advisors" could have picked up before splitting up, since it sounds like they never returned to the Lincoln after doing so.
There's also this button in the corner...
Which doesn't do anything except make this little ceiling trolley scoot along the ceiling. Considering how useless it is, it feels like the sort of thing you'd put in a tech demo, not a finished game.
This... ship... feels barren. No decoration, no colours, no-
No furniture. My chair-based theory still stands.
There's a big central room with smaller rooms radiating off it that all routes lead towards before you can finish up the Lincoln and head home. Some of them are a bit odd.
For instance, this room appears to be entirely blocked by geometry, even though the map indicates there's an interactible inside. I wonder if it's a bug or if there's some semi-hidden button somewhere to un-fill the room(those gray-on-gray buttons aren't very easy to spot).
This Star Trek-esque medical bay.
As the party enters this room and guns down the local droids, what I assume are beds start unfolding from the walls but...
Is that skin?
I'm not gonna find out! These aliens are weirdos!
Yeah! I wonder if this is a mis-placed texture.
But since most of the rooms are just a rectangle with some droids in them, let's head for the bridge.
Nice, this place gives you a real feeling of power.
If I had one of these I'd park it on Lord Markham's mansion.
Found their mcguffin in this pool of deepest darkest void.
It doesn't feel like the, uh, ship liked that. Something tells me we won't have an easy time getting back to the entrance... Zina?
Gotta find a corner to scoot into where there's nothing threatening around before I can Town Portal us.
Once you snag the Overthruster, a bunch of explosions start going off in like... two locations across the ship, which seems very unscary but gets the point across. Unfortunately when you only have Master Water Magic, rather than Grandmaster, you need to run around the ship killing off every last robot before you can use Town Portal to clear out. It's a pretty annoying limitation, to be honest.
Hard to believe we're this close to the end of things.
We've come a damn long way from bein' afraid of a couple of goblins or giant bugs.
The days when curing my tetanus broke the bank.
Or when a rusty sword that didn't break until the second swing was an amazing weapon.
I think my favourite bit so far was fightin' Wromthrax, that really got my juices flowin'.
I think mine was when you spent the entire Barrow Downs paralyzed.
You're no fun, you must've had some part you enjoyed.
...alright, my favourite part was when we raided Lord Markham's mansion. The man is such a prick!
Wait a moment, if this is about to be the end of the adventure, there's one thing I really want to do before we're done.
I just gotta find out what's up with this weird thing!
It's just junk, like collectible plates.
Actually I think it might be special.
Yeah, when you tip it on its side it's almost like-
What did you idiots do.
Pfff, come on, it's just some sort of extradimensional maze. We eat this sort of thing for breakfast.
I don't know, something feels more sinister about this place than the others.
The blade piercing a globe!
These ever repeating corridors and trapped souls.
Trapped forever in these soulless cubes. It's haunting.
...do you think that gate Ressurectra wants to open leads to places like this?
If'n they do, we've made a terrible mistake... let's get out of here. Zina, Town Portal still work here?
Thank the Gods, it does.
The bottled temple in the Shoals leads to the developer dungeon for MM7. The only hostile creature there this time is not Jon van Caneghem, but instead "Lord Roberts" who, as far as I can tell, was apparently a regular poster on the NWC forums at the time. I assume that's also the source of some of the more oddly named NPC's like "Mephisto" and "Wacko the Ninja."
But it's time to finish this.
Deep breaths. This is where we either save the world or get trapped in cubes forever.
I can't believe we did it. We actually saved the world rather than ending it.
Th' entire, uh, place fulla stars at our feet! We can go anywhere! See anythin'!
I'm proud of you all for not fucking this up for me. Where do you guys want to go first?
First, I think I want to take a nice long nap in my own bed.
She has a point. How long's it been since we last slept in a bed?
Tomorrow, then, we're off to see the galaxy.
What a nice, happy ending... but what happened in a darker universe?
Tolberti praises Scalise's thugs for acquiring Robert's cube and sends them on to Kastore who's replaced Archibald in the throne room, rather than supplementing him.
Once again, it's off to fight the devils which, well, this party already did as well. But Kastore's celebrations are a bit different.
Lasers! Eight o' clock, day one!
It's really no wonder that a lot of the local necromancers evacuated when Kastore's crew took over, they're a lot more bloodthirsty and less "professional" than the rest of the Dark path.
And the ultimate quest is the exact same as well. Mind, you'd think the Light side would be cheered about a rebuilt Heavenly Forge as well, considering it could pump out medicines and tools as easily as weapons.
"I think Kastore means well." What the fuck are you smoking, mister history man? This guy cackles evilly and shoots lasers at random people for fun. Anyway, the adventure undersea is much the same except that Jackie and Scalise get blasted by an Assassin Drone almost immediately on entry. Thankfully, being the team with Grandmaster Water Magic, they can get out of issues like that a lot more easily, warping back to a temple and returning fully buffed.
The Dark Side ending is pretty great, though. Just set a magical 3D-printer to produce laser pistols forever until you can shoot everyone. I like their style.
Team Dark ended up taking almost half a year longer to beat the game, which was in part because upon returning to Archibald's castle to deal with Kastore, they got arrested for ganking the wall tapestry, even despite having paid off the fine for doing so at the town hall. I guess that means justice in The Pit isn't optional for the sufficiently wealthy.
And that's MM7!
It's funny how in my memory it was a much longer game, when in fact it's actually kind of short, but it's still a game I remember fondly. I think it's the first game I ever played as a kid where there was a real choice between being good and bad and no "but thou must" if you refused to save the princess. I also wonder how much of its shortness and seeming jankiness that were the results of short development time vs how much of it was them reworking parts of the game after their HOMM plans got poor feedback and the canonical ending needed to change.
Probably in a couple of days I'll have an MM8 thread up so you can all see what happens when the developers get to make a post-MM5 game with zero connection to the HoMM plot, because as far as I'm aware, practically nothing in MM8 touches on HoMM, with zero locations and barely any characters occurring in both series.