The Let's Play Archive

Might & Magic: World of Xeen

by Thuryl

Part 43: Magma Cum Laude

Update 23: Magma Cum Laude

"At last! It is time to be raiding Lord Xeen's secret volcano lair and vanquishing him once and for all!"

"Holy crap, I'm just going to shut my eyes now and you guys can tell me when you've thrown that thing's body back in the lava."

Demons hit the entire party for respectable amounts of fire damage and can attack from long range. They have a solid 300 HP, but they're fully vulnerable to all damage types except fire. Protection from Fire plus Power Shield mostly neutralises them as a threat.

Demons aside, you're going to want Protection from Fire up anyway. It's possible to get to the end of the Volcano Cave without walking through any lava, but you'll miss out on a couple of very nice rewards.

"Bad skull! No skull laugh at Fubar and get away! Fubar break skull into skull bits and rearrange skull bits into skull collage!"
"Technically, skull mosaic."

This demon skull is well-hidden in an alcove behind a bunch of lava, and gives a quarter of a level's worth of experience to any party that can get through the lava and fight off a few demons to reach it.

"Aw. Wait, I see some more chests down that passage to the left. Maybe there'll be something special in those!"

"Well, that was certainly something special."

Most of these chests contain no treasure and do a very hefty chunk of physical damage to whoever tries to open them.

This one in the far corner has a very decent haul of gold and gems, although it can still hit you with a trap as well if your thief is unskilled or unlucky.

"Back, foul creatures! We've slain dragons -- do you think we're afraid of you?"
"To be fair, dragons don't have freaky laser eyes."

Meet Devils, the second monster type in the Volcano Cave. Statwise, Devils are very similar to Demons, but with higher Speed, slightly more HP, and an attack that does Cold damage instead of Fire. They may take you by surprise if you didn't have Protection from Cold up because you reasonably expected nothing in the Volcano Cave to attack with cold, but apart from that they're no more dangerous than Demons, really.

This devil skull is the same as the demon skull, too: an easy 250,000 experience points to the whole party for smashing it.

Near the end of the first level of the Volcano Cave, we run into a series of stepping stones across a lava pool. By jumping from stone to stone, it's possible to cross without taking damage...

... reaching the path to the second level at the far end.

"In our search for Lord Xeen we shall be leaving no stone unturned and no switch unflipped! We shall be known as flippers for the ages!"

Flipping all four switches in the starting area of the second level causes stepping stones to rise from the lava in the next room, making your life easier.

After that it's a long but straightforward path to the third level, with a few demons and devils here and there to break the monotony.

The third level is a puzzle area of sorts, where you have to work out the right sequence of jumps to get across each partially lava-filled room. None of them are particularly hard, and the amount of lava is small enough that you can just suck up the damage and walk through the lava anyway. Of course, there are more demons and devils floating around to keep you on your toes.

"Ugh. Turns out demons don't look any better with their mouths closed."

"How deep does this cave go? Is it just gonna be more lava and demons the further we get?"

"That... not look like lava."

"A park at the bottom of a volcanic cavern? What travesty of urban planning is this?"
"This isn't even Astroturf, it's real grass! How's it growing down here?"

"A thousand thanks, helpful tree! If we did not already know this piece of advice, we would be noting it downwards!"
"What? Nobody's going to comment on the fact that there's a talking tree lounging around on the park bench?"
"Hey, even trees have to relax."

"That explains all the plant life, then. I guess this is as good a place for a mythical city as any other."

Our reward for finding the hidden town of Shangri-La is a worthy one indeed: that's the equivalent of a million experience points, and in fact it's even better because it lets Trish gain a level despite having hit the cap for Clouds.

By the way, it's possible to get here right at the start of the game just by entering "Shangri-La" into a mirror portal. You probably shouldn't try it until you have at least enough money to buy Lloyd's Beacon or Town Portal from the local guild and warp yourself back home, though.

"It seems unlikely that Lord Xeen's lair is anywhere nearby, if the locals are so freely advising us on how to defeat him. Still, this information should prove most useful for when we do find him."

"And it looks like King Burlock's search was doomed right from the start, at least until we can kill Lord Xeen. I wonder if this whole Sixth Mirror thing was a scheme to distract him from how his kingdom's kinda falling apart."
"If so, it's working. Sometimes it feels like we're the only people in Xeen who actually get anything done."

Y'know, this line is both funnier and creepier in 2012, when every second laptop has a tiny camera above the screen and scandals about them being used to secretly record people have made the news.

Shangri-La has most of the usual amenities for a town: a temple, a blacksmith (which, disappointingly, sells items of the same quality as Newcastle), a tavern, and a magic guild. No trainer, so if you were holding out hope of exceeding level 20 you're out of luck for now.

"I guess even people who live in caves know how to party. Good for them! Hey, you think there's a roller disco in here?"

"I'm not sure if I'd call this tavern a stately pleasure-dome, but I've seen worse."

This is either flavour text or a relic of a discarded gameplay element: you can actually travel freely to Darkside and back at any point in the game.

"Fubar parents say always good to save up for rainy day. Maybe need to expand dungeon later!"

Several New World Computing games feature a character called Murray, and he's usually a wealthy eccentric. An old friend of lead designer Jon Van Caneghem, perhaps?

"Oh, so that's what all those secret messages strewn around Newcastle were about. Makes sense."
"Learned all we can from customers. We drink now?"

"Milk? What, you have cows down here too?"
"That's the least unsettling of a number of possible explanations, so perhaps we shouldn't inquire further."

On one hand, 100 gold is pretty cheap in absolute terms, and the free food barrels in Newcastle only fill your packs for 20 days. On the other, even 20 days of food is overkill: you're never going to need to rest more than 60 times in a row without being able to return to town.

"These cave dwellers sure are well-informed about the outside world."

The tips and rumours in other taverns are of varying quality, but most of the ones in Shangri-La are genuinely helpful gameplay advice or hints on how to solve quests. I'll showcase some of the more interesting ones.

More evidence of a dropped gameplay mechanic? Was travelling to Darkside originally meant to work something like time travel in Might & Magic II, where resting would randomly send you back to the present?


Sloober posted:

The text about the moon alignment and traveling to darkside is a relic from when Darkside wasn't released. Clouds came out in 92 and DS in 93 - so you could be exploring Shangri-La but unable to travel to the other side. If I recall those days well enough you would get some version of that text when you tried to use a transit pyramid in clouds as well, although it's possible they were just destroyed versions - I don't really remember since it was so long ago. Basically their way of saying you'd have to wait for the expansion/sequel game to come out before you can go to darkside.

Yeah, this explanation pretty much makes sense. Thanks, Sloober!

As far as I know, mirrors in Clouds can't be used to travel to Darkside at all: you travel through pyramids instead.

"Seriously, these people know way too much. Should we trust them?"
"I don't see any reason for them to lie. If Baron Darzog is in league with Lord Xeen, it does make sense for the two of them to stay close to one another."

"Good to know Lord Xeen didn't just kill him so he could take his place, I guess. Not that knowing he's alive helps anyone if he's still missing..."

"... thanks for the newsflash?"

"Is this true? Then from where has he come, and how?"

I wouldn't swear to it, but I don't think this particular plot point comes up again. It's one of the first hints in Clouds of Xeen of the backstory linking the Might & Magic series together, though: the worlds of the first three games were actually space colonies built by the Ancients, a galaxy-spanning civilisation. Most of the problems in the series up to this point have been the result of Ancient technology going wrong. There's more to say about this, but I'll save it for later.


Fun piece of trivia: Jon Van Caneghem abandoned his pre-med degree in favour of computer science and borrowed tens of thousands of dollars from his parents to make the first Might & Magic game. His relationship with them became increasingly strained over the years it took him to develop it, and they weren't on speaking terms by the time it was released. Hopefully they've reconciled by now!

"Wow, Shangri-La sure makes some strong drinks. I can feel 'em going to my head already..."
"Lightweight. I'm ferfectly pine."
"Woooo! Fubar have twice as many friends now!"

"Wait, we're signin' up to the guild now? When'd that happen? I better not remember doing anything I regret tomorrow."
"When is it ever a bad idea to manipulate the mentally funded forces of the universe?"
"I just said, it's a bad idea when you're drunk. Weren't you listenin'? Nobody ever listens to whiny old Anleisa. Fine, see if I care."

Membership to Shangri-La's guild is free, and it sells every spell in the game. There are exactly two spells, one for Sorcerers and one for Clerics, that can't be bought or found anywhere else in Clouds.

Sun Ray costs 150 SP and 20 Gems and does 200 Energy damage to all enemies in front of the party, meaning it's kind of a shitty clerical version of Star Burst. I guess it's potentially useful against enemies that resist physical damage.

And for 100 SP and 20 Gems, Implosion does an incredible 1000 Energy damage to a single enemy, which is a guaranteed one-shot kill on nearly every monster in Clouds. If you want a single enemy dead right now, Implosion is the spell for you.

"Ooh, Fubar always want higher education! But Fubar parents say Fubar already have diploma from school of hard knocks."

"Yes! Fubar give all gold, get all smart!"
"Wait! Isn't someone going to stop him from giving our money away? Trish, you're good at holding onto money even when it isn't yours! Do something!"
"I would, but c'mon, we're all curious to see what happens."

"Now Fubar know everything! Can be dermatologist or district attorney, or even management consultant!"

When Jack Alltrades says he teaches everything, he means it. In exchange for his exorbitant fee he teaches every skill in the game, even Tracker, a dummied-out skill that does nothing and can't be acquired by any other means. Unfortunately, unlike in Might & Magic III, you don't get the Thievery skill by doing this, which means you can't pay an early visit to Jack as an alternative to having a Robber or Ninja in your party. As a result, Jack isn't all that useful: by the time you can afford to waste 100,000 gold, you've explored enough of the world that you probably know most of the skills you want already.

"Flench bored with town now. Go out, explore, see more of world."
"Any deeper and we're going to start walking upside down."

"I have a bad feeling in the pit of my intestines, and I do not think it is just that I have taken too much drink. Perhaps we should be turning backwards."
"Yeah, we've adventured enough for now anyway. I wanna go home to our castle an' get some sleep."

While technically considered part of Clouds, Shangri-La has two exits, and acts as a passage between Clouds and Darkside. Unfortunately, the Darkside exit comes out in an endgame area -- and given that this is Darkside, that means it's balanced for parties of level 50+. If we try to explore here we'll get our hapless lowbie asses handed to us in short order, so let's not.

Between Shangri-La's well and the experience gained from the Volcano Cave, Fubar and Anleisa have hit the Clouds level cap, while Trish has exceeded the cap by 1, and the rest of the party are about 300,000 XP away from their final levelup. If I were planning out this playthrough instead of being batted about like a cat toy by the whims of goons I'd have saved the well until after Darzog's Tower so I could get everyone to level 21, but it doesn't really matter.

Speaking of Darzog's Tower, you've all got a decision to make again: should the party clear out Darzog's Tower now, or stop by the Dragon Cave first and deal with the plot later? Whatever you decide, we're now a mere three updates away from the end of Clouds and the beginning of Darkside. Vote while you still can!