Part 3: Bonus Update 1.5: VertigoBonus Update 1.5: Vertigo
Now that we've finished exploring Vertigo, let's look at the map from the hintbook.
The advice in the book is pretty comprehensive, and contains solutions to many of the game's puzzles. As the monster stats from the hintbook show, the enemies in the first town are pushovers, but their high speed means it's a good idea to take them on from a distance with missile weapons to keep them from getting an attack in.
As I mentioned in the main update, there are some classes we didn't include in the party: Knight, Ninja, Druid and Ranger. Let's take a quick look at them.
Knights are a pure physical combat class. They have slightly less HP and weaker combat skills than Barbarians, but can use all weapons and armour, and begin with the Arms Master skill, giving their attacks an innate accuracy bonus. They have some advantages over Barbarians early on, but fall behind a bit at high levels.
Ninjas fill the same party role as Robbers, but are oriented more toward offence. They have worse HP and armour, somewhat weaker thievery skills, but better combat skills and an interesting selection of weapons. Robbers tend to make life a bit easier at low levels due to their higher resilience and more reliable thievery, but Ninjas catch up once they have a few experience levels under their belt.
Druids have poor HP, very limited weapon and armour selection, and weak combat skills (only slightly better than a Sorcerer on all counts), but can cast a mix of low-level spells from the Sorcerer and Cleric list. They can seem quite impressive at the start of the game, but after a certain point they hit a brick wall and stop learning new spells. Druids also begin with the Direction Sense skill, which makes the direction the party is facing appear in the purple gem above the character portraits; it's nice, but kind of redundant if you have a Cartographer.
Rangers are a Knight/Druid hybrid, combining decent combat aptitude and toughness with Druidic spellcasting. They're significantly better than Druids, since they still get a range of good utility spells and can fall back on melee once their combat magic becomes mostly obsolete: the only question is whether you can justify fitting a Ranger into your party instead of another melee or hybrid class. Rangers also start with the Pathfinder skill, which can save a nice chunk of money early on.
There's also one race we didn't include: Dwarves. They get a small bonus to HP and a corresponding penalty to SP, and make decent Robbers and Ninjas. They also start with the Spot Secret Doors skill, which gives us a hint as to when a secret passage is in front of us. This skill is handy to have, but don't worry: we can still learn it later on.
There are some handy charts in the game manual, presenting the advantages and disadvantages of each class and race for easy reference:
Druids will get +1 SP/level if they're Elves or Gnomes, -1 if they're Dwarves and -2 if they're Half-Orcs.
Speaking of spell points, I also promised you guys a writeup on the spells we currently have access to, so here it comes! Plaintext is the spell description from the game; italics are my comments.
Vertigo Cleric Spells
Awaken: 1 SP. Pulls all sleeping party members from their slumber, cancelling the Sleep condition.
If you're careless enough to try to rest within sight of monsters, you'll be attacked in your sleep, putting you at a serious disadvantage. A couple of monsters can also inflict Sleep. This spell will get everyone back in the fight... provided you have someone awake who can cast it, of course.
First Aid: 1 SP. Magically cures one character of 6 points of damage.
The most basic healing spell: Clerics start with it, and Paladins should learn it as soon as possible. It provides cheap and efficient healing, although you'll want something stronger once you've gained a level or two.
Cure Wounds: 3 SP. Magically cures one character of 15 points of damage.
Slightly less SP-efficient than First Aid, but heals a much bigger chunk of damage. Gets obsoleted by even stronger healing spells before too long, but for now it's our most important source of in-combat healing.
Flying Fist: 2 SP. Deals a light blow to a monster, inflicting 6 points of Physical damage.
A fair source of damage for Clerics early on, especially if they have flimsy noodle arms like Anleisa. Enemies resistant to physical damage do exist, but aren't too common, so this is a nice reliable attack spell. Careful about spending all your SP and having nothing left for healing, though.
Light: 1 SP. Fills a dungeon with a steady, soft light until the party rests.
Essential for exploring dark areas like caves: you can't see a thing without a Light spell or an item with an equivalent effect. Fortunately, all spellcasters start with it, so you'd have to actively try to not have access to it.
Pain: 4 SP. Stimulates the pain centres of your opponents' brains, inflicting 8 points of Physical damage.
A bit spendy in terms of SP, but does more damage than Flying Fist and hits a group of up to three enemies. A solid low-level attack spell.
Protection from Elements: 1 SP/level + 1 Gem. Reduces the damage the party receives from the elements. The caster can choose which element this applies to when the spell is cast.
Some spells, like this one, increase in both cost and effectiveness with the caster's experience level. In this case, the higher your level, the more elemental damage is blocked. If you know you'll be fighting monsters that use a particular elemental attack, this is an excellent spell. For example, all the monsters in Vertigo attack with poison, so casting Protection from Elements and selecting Poison will significantly reduce the damage you take.
Revitalize: 2 SP. Removes the Weak condition from a character.
Characters can be afflicted with the Weak condition if they go too long without resting. It slightly lowers all stats, but is usually not worth casting a spell to fix, since it gets better on its own with time or rest. However, a very few monsters can also inflict Weakness, and if they stack a few levels of the condition on a character in combat it may be worth curing.
Sparks: 1 SP/level + 1 Gem. Envelops the monsters in an electrically charged gas cloud, inflicting 2 points of Electrical damage per level of the caster.
Clerics' first elemental damage spell. As efficient as Pain (although with an added gem cost), and it scales with level, keeping it useful for a bit longer.
Suppress Poison: 4 SP. Slows the effect of poison on a character, but does not remove the Poisoned condition.
In this game, status conditions can vary in severity. Suppress Poison reduces the severity of the Poisoned condition by up to 3 ranks, to a minimum of -1, meaning that it only reduces the victim's stats by 1. The poison will worsen again over time, so this spell isn't a permanent solution unless you want to keep recasting it forever, but it can keep a character alive and functional long enough to get them healed properly at a temple.
Vertigo Sorcerer Spells
Awaken: Same as the Cleric spell.
Energy Blast: 1 SP/level + 1 Gem. A bolt of pure energy is fired from the caster's clenched fist, inflicting 2 to 6 points of Energy damage per level of the caster.
Energy damage is one of the less commonly resisted damage types, so this spell can be a good way to hit monsters that seem to shake off everything else. It hits only a single target, the damage is okay but not great and it starts to get expensive to cast at higher levels, but it has its uses.
Insect Spray: 5 SP + 1 Gem. Coats a group of monsters with a poison specially designed to kill insects.
This spell inflicts a very solid 25 damage on a group of insects or insect-like monsters. There are quite a few early-game monsters that the game considers to be insects, so this spell is very much worth picking up.
Jump: 4 SP. Puts enough strength into the legs of the party to jump over one square, provided there are no walls of matter or magic. This spell cannot be used in combat.
A useful spell for bypassing traps and other hazards in dungeons. It can also be used for outmanoeuvring monsters: fire arrows or cast attack spells until they're nearly in melee range, then turn around and Jump away to put some distance between you and the enemy, and repeat as necessary.
Light: Same as the Cleric spell.
Magic Arrow: 2 SP. Fires a magical bolt at one opponent, inflicting 8 points of Magical damage.
Magical damage is another damage type that's seldom resisted by monsters, and there are only a small number of ways to inflict it. This is quite a nice little spell against certain enemies in the early game, although it becomes obsolete quickly.
Shrapmetal: 1 SP/level + 1 Gem. Sprays a group of monsters with sharp metal fragments, inflicting 2 points of Physical damage per level of the caster.
The Sorcerer's answer to Sparks. Probably a bit more useful, since electrical resistance is more common than physical resistance.
Sleep: 3 SP + 1 Gem. Puts a group of monsters to sleep until they overcome the spell or are damaged.
I don't usually bother with status ailment spells in Xeen, but I had some good luck with them early on in my M&M3 LP, so I might give them a try this time around too.
Toxic Cloud: 4 SP + 1 Gem. Surrounds a group of monsters with noxious gases, inflicting 10 points of Poison damage.
Slightly more SP-efficient than Shrapmetal, although it doesn't scale with level. Poison resistance is pretty common in the early game, but the spell still has its uses.
Wizard Eye: 5 SP + 2 Gems. Gives the party a bird's-eye view of their surroundings. The view will appear in the upper right corner of the game screen.
While the radius it shows is fairly small, unlike the automap it shows places the party hasn't yet walked over. This makes it helpful for locating secret passages.
Finally, I've included a copy of The Sixth Mirror, the introductory story from the manual that explains the plot of Clouds of Xeen. It presents similar information to the in-game intro video, but goes into significantly more detail. It's not mandatory reading, but I found it interesting.
And that's it for tonight's bonus update. The votes are in and the result is clear, so for the next main update the party will be exploring the Red Dwarf Mines. See you there!