The Let's Play Archive

Might & Magic: World of Xeen

by Thuryl

Part 45: A Taxing Journey

Update 24: A Taxing Journey

"Fubar not scared away by bad smell! Fubar kill monster every day before breakfast! And Fubar eat breakfast early!"

"That's not a promising start. Who ever heard of someone leaving a dragon's cave poorer than they came in?"

If you've been following the thread, you may have noticed a lot of people complaining about this dungeon's gimmick: here it is. Nearly every intersection has an urn at it, and every time you step on an urn you lose gold and gems. It's not actually a huge amount of gold and gems by endgame standards, but it's the principle of the matter, you know? Use Teleport or Jump to avoid the urns when you can, and sidestep out of corners so that you don't get hit a second time when you turn.

The second trick to this dungeon is illusory walls. The Spot Secret Doors skill will detect them, but they're a bit different from the normal false walls: if you try to bash into them, instead of breaking them down you'll pass right through.

"I don't see any dragons around. Perhaps they've gone out to hunt..."

"Or maybe they think there's plenty of fresh meat right here. Look out!"

You won't get far in Dragon Cave if you can't efficiently kill dragons. Stay buffed, keep your elemental protection spells up, and close to melee range as soon as possible. It helps a lot if most of your party outspeeds the dragons. With careful movement, teleportation and our powerful, well-equipped party, we can usually kill a single Fire Dragon without taking damage.

"They're ganging up on us now? That's hardly sporting."
"It's still two against six. We'd have the advantage if they weren't, y'know, dragons."

Frost Dragons are a little scarier than their fiery counterparts: they have more HP, higher Speed, and even heavier damage output -- and of course they do Cold damage, not Fire. Our party can still handle one, but a group of dragons merits powerful magic like Implosion or Star Burst, both of which will easily one-shot them.

"No matter! If a thousand dragons rise upwards against us, a thousand will fall!"

"Heh, nice work. Nothing left of 'em but a pile of... what is that blue goo on the ground, anyway?"
"Ughhh. Taste like battery acid!"
"But is actually free-range acid."

It's not obvious, but the blue stuff scattered around the cave isn't just for show: trying to search it does poison damage to the party and occasionally gives them 20 gems. It's probably less trouble to leave it alone.

"Now this is what I like to see."

There are several treasure rooms hidden behind illusory walls in the dungeon. Some of the treasures contain loads of gold and gems, while others contain less wealth but also have multiple high-level random items.

After looting a couple of rooms our inventory looks something like this. Most of that stuff is no better than what we've already got, but those Emerald Nunchakas are the second-best weapon we've found so far, and are going straight to Ms Swallow (she's the only party member who can use ninja weapons).

"I saw a glowing book over in that corner. What's all that about?"

"Aha! A chance to learn more about the magnificent creatures that we have been slaughtering en masse!"

"But this is only the most introductory of material on the most ordinary of dragons! Now I am bummed outwards."

"I'm impressed you could read it at all. I can barely even tell what language this is written in."
"Ooh! Ooh! Maybe Sumerian? Fubar parents give Fubar Sumerian tattoo for birthday once. Mean 'freedom'."
"You always say Sumerian. Only dead language you know name of. No, Fubar. Not Sumerian. Never Sumerian."

There are five books like this in the cave, and each one gives out an award and some experience: in increasing order of experience awarded, they're Loremaster of Worms, Lizards, Serpents, Drakes and Dragons. Each volume also has an increasing Intellect requirement to read it (up to 150 for Loremaster of Dragons). Unless you've collected a lot of Intellect-boosting gear, you'll have trouble getting to 150 Intellect even with temporary stat boosts; you may have to come back after picking up some more bonuses and better equipment from Darkside of Xeen. Luckily we're already so close to the level cap that it doesn't really matter anyway.

"Ha! You may think you have us outfooled, dragon, but we shall get the drip on you this time!"

This is one of the few situations where Detect Monsters can be useful: if you're being warned by the top gargoyle that there are monsters nearby, but you can't see them due to a door or other obstacle in the way, then you can pinpoint their exact location and teleport straight to them without enduring any ranged attacks. It's a niche application, but anything that saves us from getting breathed on by dragons is good.

"Only one dragon in this cave? No friends? Too easy."

"Dammit, Flench."

Say hello to the Dragon King.

"We're not really going to fight this thing, are we?"
"Fubar never back down from fight! Victory or death! But prefer victory."

The Dragon King has 2000 HP (the highest of any monster in Clouds), 45 AC (second-highest), 40 Speed (tied for fourth-highest), and attacks the entire party for 400 Energy damage -- enough to one-shot anyone except Fubar from full health, if they don't get lucky and resist the damage. Worse still, he's 100% immune to all damage types except physical, so we can't just implode him to death. Star Burst and Mass Distortion should theoretically be able to work on him, but he's so high-level that they failed every time I tried them.

One way to deal with the Dragon King is to drink from fountains and wells to boost your level, HP and energy resistance, Lloyd's Beacon yourself back to his lair and overwhelm him with massively powerful attacks before he can do the same to you. I already showed off that general strategy in an earlier update, so this time I'm going to do something a little more interesting.

Step 1 in our master plan is to get the tar beaten out of us and run away.

"Discretion is the most excellent part of valour, because it is the part that does not cause us to die!"

All the permanent energy resistance boosts I've been feeding Vandesloof, plus the extra resistances from his equipment, mean he has a very good chance to survive at least a round or two of attacks from the Dragon King despite his terrible HP. As long as he or Flench can cast Time Distortion, we can flee from the battle without anyone dying.

"Let's not try that again, huh?"
"You'd allow such a monstrosity to live so close to Vertigo? Think of what such a force of evil could do if left alone. We can win, as long as we believe in ourselves!"

Step 2 is to go back to fight the Dragon King again, fully rested and buffed. Lloyd's Beacon helps with this, as does Teleport.

"I'm really not so sure this is the kind of problem where believing in ourselves will help. Sloof, can you get us out of here again?"
"You do not need to be asking me twice! In fact, were you for example unconscious, you would not need to be asking me once!"

"In times like these, I find that ancient proverbs can give me strength. It is said that some people stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light..."
"That not ancient proverb. That theme from Baywatch."
"Well, it was worth a try."

Now here's the trick: if we leave the Dragon Cave or reload a saved game, the Dragon King will recover to full HP. As long as we don't do either of those things, the game will remember any damage we do to him, even if we flee and rest. We can do a couple of hundred damage with each round of hit-and-run attacks, so if we keep it up, making sure not to overextend ourselves and get killed, our eventual victory is assured.

"I guess if anything justifies asking for divine aid, this does."

Divine Intervention brings everyone back to full health, letting us get in an extra round or two of fighting before everyone has to retreat. It's not strictly necessary, but it makes things go a lot faster.

"He is wearing outwards! Just a little more! We can do it!"

"Flench the dragon-slayer? Hm. Got nice ring to it."

For such a tough opponent, the Dragon King doesn't give much of a reward: no gold, no gems, no items, and only 250,000 experience points divided among the party. Our real prize for victory is that the Dragon Tax urns are now inactive, and we can walk past them without fear of immiseration.

Oh, and of course, the treasure room behind the Dragon King has the best loot.

This cave is one of the very few places in the game where you can find top-tier items. You don't have to kill him to get there, but it'll take some fancy footwork and probably teleportation to reach it without being exposed to his attacks.

"Gee, those weapons sure would have been helpful back when we were fighting the Dragon King."
"If you look gift horse in mouth every time, one day you find horse that can breathe fire."

We got an obsidian weapon! Obsidian is by far the strongest material in the game, with the best hit and damage bonuses for weapons and the best AC bonus for armour. Fubar will make the best use of it. I just wish we'd found one earlier.

"This book way over Flench's head. Fubar, can help?"
"Nope! First secret of economics: everybody just pretend they know what they talk about."

This book grants the "Taxman Emeritus" award and works the same way as the Dragon Lore books, except the Intellect requirement is a massive 250. It does give 500,000 experience points if you can somehow read it.

Our victory over the Dragon King came at a cost: Anleisa's been aged a total of 20 years by the four Divine Interventions she cast during our battles. Also, her AC sucks because everyone's armour was broken by getting repeatedly knocked unconscious. Fortunately we can fix both of those things!

"Doesn't it feel good to vanquish evil every once in a while? Vertigo and Asp should be safe from dragon incursions now. Not that they were being attacked by dragons before, but it never hurts to take precautions."
"More importantly, we're insanely rich!"

Oh man, look at the stats on our new weapon. Obsidian gives a +50 damage bonus to each hit: for comparison, the next best material is Diamond, which gives a +30 damage bonus. Even a bad obsidian weapon blows any other weapon type away.

We're nearly millionaires after that expedition, and have enough gems to make Charles Lewis Tiffany's corpse turn green with envy instead of just decay.

Money's nice, but experience is more useful -- everyone's now hit the level cap. Barring stat boosts or further equipment upgrades, we're as powerful as we're going to get until Darkside.

No vote on what to do next this update, because there's nothing to vote on: we've completed all the sidequests and optional dungeons, and now we're approaching the endgame of Clouds of Xeen. Next time, look forward to the party's daring raid on Darzog's Tower to rescue Crodo!