The Let's Play Archive

Might & Magic: World of Xeen

by Thuryl

Part 73: Just Deserts

Update 39: Just Deserts

"This time, we're going in prepared. Protective magic: check. Food and water: check. SPF 30+ moisturiser: check."

The extra levels we've gained since our first brief foray into the desert have been enough to turn Vulture Rocs from deadly enemies into speedbumps. They can still hurt us, but as long as we keep buffs active we can easily overpower them, even in groups.

"Hm. Impressive that ogres manage to survive on this side of mountains."
"Well, now that we're here, it's more like managed, past tense."

Destroying this ogre fort is worth 100,000 experience for the entire party, but no treasure.

"Perhaps there will be a genie inside!"
"Don't be ridiculous. Assuming for the sake of argument that genies exist, what are the odds that somebody would just leave a lamp lying around with--"

"I didn't say anything. It doesn't count as being wrong if I never finished the sentence."

"To be obsessed with money is the sign of a small mind. My mind is large and burly, and I wish to be filling it with experiences!"

Those rewards would all be nice to have, but an instant half-level's worth of experience for whoever rubs the lamp (only a single character, unfortunately) is very tempting. Plus, I already have more gold and gems than I know what to do with.

"Ow. Plant-thing bite Flench on arm. Time for weed control."

Sand Flowers are very weak by the standards of desert monsters, with only 100 HP. They have five physical attacks per round, but only for a feeble 5-25 damage. According to the manual they're supposed to be able to inflict the In Love status condition, but that condition appears to be bugged so that monsters can't inflict it in combat.

Anyway, I had to deliberately use weak damaging spells to get this shot of their "taking damage" animation, because even Vandesloof's melee attacks were strong enough to one-shot them. If you can get far enough into the desert to see them in the first place, they'll be no threat at all.

"Hello, talking rock!"
"One presumes there are other boulders somewhere to provide the rest of the riddle. In any case, the sixth letter of our answer is either a G, S or I."

"And the last letter has to be an N, obviously. Is it just me or do these boulders look kinda... mournful?"
"You'd be sad too if you had to sit around in one spot in the middle of the desert for centuries."

In most of the desert it's not possible to rest safely without the Super Shelter spell, but the little stands of trees scattered around provide enough shade to rest. This is a good thing, because the desert is huge and enemy encounters can easily wear the party down over time, especially when we need to recast buffs every day as they wear off.

"So that makes the third letter of the answer A, L or E."
"Somebody spell out ALE? Where? Where?"
"And that's why I told you all we shouldn't teach Fubar how to spell."

"How appropriate! We do not quail from danger; it is a lark to us! Also, that is meaning that the fourth letter is an L or an A."

"Wow, what a lousy clue. None of the letters in 'wind' are in 'gale'! It could be any of them!"

"That makes the first letter P, E or A, but we're about to have more pressing concerns than solving a riddle."
"Fubar have to eat vegetables? That mean dessert after, right?"

"Aw, look at it. It's kinda cute how it's trying to bite our heads off."
"You are one weird lady sometimes, Trish."
"Hey, I didn't say it'd still be cute if it succeeded."

Iguanasauruses have 2500 HP just like Vulture Rocs, but their much lower AC makes them significantly easier to kill. Their attack is a bit stronger, doing 10-500 physical damage if it lands; worse still, it can inflict insanity.

Luckily, their speed is low by Darkside standards, at only 30, so we can get a full round of pre-emptive attacks in on them. With all combat buffs active, that's usually just enough to take a single Iguanasaurus down, and they rarely appear in groups.

"Is Pyramid of Dragon Pharaoh, ruler over all monsters on Darkside. Probably good idea to go in and see him about situation with Alamar."

"It appears we'll need a formal introduction if we wish to visit."
"Well, that or a better set of lockpicks."

"Right then, back to the talking rocks. This one's obvious: it's an A."

"Looks to me like you're a boulder."

"Fine! My friends are all cooler than you anyway!"
"Be serious, Trish. Let's put together the clues we know. The first letter is A, P or E; the second is A; the third is A, L or E; the fourth is A or L; the fifth is W, I, N or D; the sixth is G, S or I, and the seventh -- assuming there were only seven letters -- is N. Two vowels in a row seems less likely than a vowel and a consonant, so if we assume the first letter is a P and the third is an L... hmm. I can think of one word close to my heart that fits all those clues..."

"Are you perhaps a paladin?"

There's a further hint to this puzzle in Sandcaster, by the way: I didn't show it in the update, but one of the NPCs in town mentions that a dying paladin hid his armour under boulders.


I hope you took note of where all the other clue-boulders were, because we can now revisit them all for treasure!

Not just any treasure, either: a full set of obsidian equipment, including a long sword. This isn't quite gamebreaking -- if you're strong enough to survive in the desert, you're likely strong enough to get obsidian gear from other sources -- but it's still awfully nice.

While it's fun to see just how high I can get Ms Swallow's AC by stacking all that obsidian gear on her, I end up spreading it around to cover weak spots in the party. The platemail stays with her, though, since she's the only party member who can wear it.

"Wow, those griffins do not like Sloof."
"Either that, or they like him a little too much."

Griffins hang around the northern end of the desert near the mountains, and hit twice per round for 50-300 physical damage. That's a pretty respectable amount of punishment on its own, but you can expect that damage to be multiplied by two or three, since they usually appear in groups. They selectively target Knights, so if you have a Knight in the party you can stack all your best armour on them to minimise damage taken.

Their other weakness is their low health: with only 800 HP, they'll fall easily to a few good hits from a strong party. Fortunately, they can't turn party members to stone like they did back in Might & Magic 2, so we only have to worry about the damage from their attacks.

"Great power is the power in which we are interested! We have no time for mediocre power, or even fair to middling power!"

If you're having any trouble with the monsters in the desert, this shrine makes life much easier for a while. Like all temporary buffs, though, it only lasts until 5:00 the next morning.

"Um, Fubar have confession to make."

"With great power come great appetite."
"Looks like we're making a trip back to town for more food, then. And this time, we don't let Fubar carry it all."

This isn't actually related to the shrine at all; there's just a particular spot in the desert that causes the party to devour all of its food if you step on it. At least Lloyd's Beacon means that heading back to town to restock doesn't waste too much time.

A couple of the genies in the western parts of the desert offer even more generous rewards than usual. That's two whole levels, just for finding a lamp!

"I seem to recall hearing a warning about a situation like this..."
"Yes! Of course we want it! What do we look like, humanitarian aid workers? Do you see a red cross on this holy symbol anywhere? No! Now give us the money!"

If you refuse the money, the genie gives you 50,000 gold anyway. Sharing is for suckers, though: we want it all!

"Ah, that's the right stuff."

"Money is earned to be spent. Easy come, easy go."

With the Mountaineer skill finally relearned, the whole outdoor map is now open to us.

"It's surprising to see so many people living at the edge of the desert. One would think they'd choose somewhere more hospitable."
"Like where? You've seen what Darkside's towns are like."

"Of course. We always have time to assist a servant of Queen Kalindra."

"Um, we kinda came here of our own accord."

"No, those just teeth marks. Fubar sometimes get too excited when eating."

"That is just a creepy scarecrow, right? It's not gonna come to life and attack us?"
"Fear not, fair maiden! The great Vandesloof will protect you from any harm!"
"Blood! Bloooood! I need moist, warm blood to give life to my dry straw!"
"Gyaaaaaaaah! I did not sign upward for this!"
"Oh man, that was great. You should have seen your face. I'm so glad I remembered my ventriloquism skills right now."

"Who would be so foolhardy as to build a city between a desert and a volcanic wasteland? In any case, as we have no pass, we can't enter -- and I don't see any sewer entrances this time."

"Ha ha, Anleisa. Very funny. Now where'd you hide all our gold?"
"What? No! I didn't do anything!"

"It's gone! All gone! What did we ever do to deserve this?"
"What, you want itemised list?"

And that's why you shouldn't take all of a genie's money: a while later, he'll come back and take away nearly all the party's gold. We lost about half a million here. Fortunately, he can't touch anything that's in the bank.

There are a couple of entrances to the Gemstone Mines near the western edge of the desert, too, leading to mines we weren't able to reach before.

Most just contain the usual combination of gems and monsters...

... but what's this?

"We'll be sure to keep that offer in mind next time we have enough gold on hand."

Fun fact: there's an infinite money loop involving the God of Minerals, allowing you to get arbitrarily large amounts of gold and gems. If you mine all the gemstone veins, take the resulting gemstone rocks to the gemsmiths around Acid Pond, savescum to make sure you get some nice and expensive pieces of armour like plate mail, and sell the resulting armour using a character with Merchant skill, you'll easily make more cash than it costs you to replenish the gems. If you also savescum while mining so that the diamond and sapphire veins give you mostly gems while the emerald and ruby veins (which are cheaper to forge into equipment) give you gemstone rocks, you can end up with a net positive balance of gems too.

All of the above is pretty tedious and unnecessary, though. You can do fine using only the gold and gems you find during normal gameplay.

"We should pass these camps by to avoid antagonising--"

"Woooo! Fire!"
"I think we'd better apologise to the barbarian chief now."

"I guess a little property destruction among friends is no big deal. With that attitude, Yog would get along well with some of my old drinking buddies."

If you burn down the barbarian camps in the mountains before visiting Yog, he'll be understandably aggressive if you go to see him later. If you've already made friends with him, though, he doesn't even react.

"At least we clear out all ogres from mountains now. Remember caravan owner on road who wanted them gone?"

In addition to the experience, the party receives 150,000 gold for their work. Whether you fight Graalg or not doesn't actually matter; you just have to burn down the other two ogre forts in the mountains and on the edge of the desert.

The party's ended this update with less gold than it started with thanks to that vengeful genie, but we've done pretty well in terms of experience and gems. And of course, we've got that shiny new set of obsidian equipment from the boulders.

We've covered a pretty wide swath of territory this update: the entire central desert, plus the mountains to the south. Next time, should the party continue their outdoor exploration into the far north of Darkside, or stop avoiding the plot and visit Castle Kalindra? Vote now!