Part 6: A Circu(s)tuitous RouteUpdate 006: A Circu(s)tuitous Route
Goddammit! I'm angry! We wasted our time!
So what's new?
I'm not going to be able to think straight until I do something about this.
Oh, is it a weekday ending in Y?
Wizard Eye, find me someone I'm allowed to hurt!
Couldn't we just wait for the circus to open?
Good luck making him listen.
Or we could go to the Mire of the Damned...
Not a bad idea, then we'd only have to wait half as long.
Let him get a bit of blood and when he calms down, we'll suggest it.
I decide that my first move is going to be clearing out the Cannibals and their ilk in Bootleg Bay(at least on the mainland) to get some money and XP and also just so I don't have to watch out for them all the time. It takes a few runs at them to wear them down, but I'm leaving most of that out.
Their camps also have this lovely decor, and yes, before you ask, every single impaled body you can find is a scantily clad woman. Because of course it is.
Bobelix, grab those.
Yeah, I hear there's some rich weirdo who's paying for bones.
...but they're someone's bones.
Not like they're using them any longer, is it?
There are a few NPC's around that'll pay for random collectibles. Bones, amber, musical instruments(or at least gongs) and a few other things you'll find around the place. Bones are unique in that turning them in gives you a reputation hit, appropriately enough. It'll be a while before we get there, but it pays to be prepared!
Besides bones, the cannibal camps also have chests, and Deadeye's as competent as ever at dealing with them. Killing off all the mainland enemies also earns the party another level-up. Of note is that we're now getting six skill points per level, rather than 5. I'm not sure exactly where the break point is, but I believe it takes about ten or twelve levels for each.
You can't still be angry, Deadeye, you just had an entire warlike society for lunch.
It's just not filling unless I'm getting paid to do it, and that old geezer at the temple was going to pay us for getting violent in here.
I'll break it to Richmond and Bobelix.
Yeah, he's still not done.
Well, at least we'll be doing a good deed in here, Winston said the crystal was evil.
Things can be evil? I thought it was just people. And monsters.
Mostly just crystals, for some reason, oh and altars.
Imagine if you sat down on a chair and it was an evil chair...
Why's Bobelix mumbling to himself about "evil doors"?
The Temple of the Fist has the distinction of being probably the third-smallest, or least third-least-complex dungeon of the game. Only a small number of combat encounters and loot, appropriately, but the combat encounters it does have are doozies.
And for anyone who might still have moral qualms about busting into a house of worship and killing everyone on one old man's say-so, I don't think any benevolent religion or sects are likely to decorate their church with literal piles of skulls.
The left path has no real opposition, if you still have trouble and need distance to deal with rats, you're probably in here way too early and I'm impressed you managed to get here so fast.
Oddly enough all the barrels are non-interactible. Normally they're just "empty barrels" if they don't contain magic gatorade. Take note of the three in a line in the second store room, however, walk around them and...
Very subtle. Though it's a lot more easily spotted with mouselook, in the original game you had to clunkily look up and down in increments from keypresses.
This opens the door marked in purple on the map.
The right branch hurts more than the left branch.
The enemies over here are Novice, Initiate and Master Monks, in brown, blue and red robes respectively. All of them equipped with ranged attacks. Novices and Initiates are relatively fragile and roughly as hard to deal with as the first and second tiers of Baa Acolytes, but go down fast once you get a bead on them. Master Monks, on the other hand, are mildly terrifying. They're even tougher than Priests of Baa, immune to Magic type damage, mildly resistance to multiple other types and pack a very strong attack. It's hard to tell how strong since, once again, it's a magic attack and I have no idea what skill level the AI casts spells at, but it's enough power to drop any member of the party in two casts and almost one. Just one blast puts Agnes down into red hit points with only a sliver of health left. They also have "keep away" tactics that means they don't come to you but instead tend to hide in corners and force you to come in and expose the party to all their firepower at once. Oh and just to finish it off, Master Monks can inflict weakness.
On the bright side, this place displays an upgrade in loot power! I own the heck out of the first room and loot the dresser in the corner...
Which gives us our first proper bow upgrade.
All bows have a base damage of 5d2 and all crossbows have a base damage of 4d2, which makes crossbows of equal tier fundamentally worse. But a +3 to damage and to hit from these Accurate Crossbows inches them slightly ahead of the longbows that the party's been using so far.
I get lucky and this lone Master Monk had no real places to hide and only half killed Agnes before I took him out. The dresser ahead also has something mildly interesting in it.
This feels like a bit of a dropped quest line or something, since we don't really know what the Church of Baa wants except to help the bad guys and foment chaos. I don't think we ever get any hints of something they'd be on the hunt for that they might mistake the crystal for.
Which, if anything is, I guess, probably the one thing I'd say is a bit lacking about Might and Magic 6(and, honestly, 5 for that matter), which is that while there are clearly indicated Bad People, they never really seem to... do anything. You're not interrupting the lair of Baron Bad just moments before he activates the Bad Ray. Generally if they're doing anything bad, they've already done it and now they're just sitting around inspecting their own bellybutton lint and waiting for some adventurers to show up and cut their brains open.
So while the gameplay loop drags you in, the story... eh. We'll have to wait for 7 on that one.
So anyway, the only real stumbling block in here is the last chamber. It's a merciless meatgrinder. You duck in, fire off a few shots, and if you're unlucky half your party's dead before you make it out again since there's three or four Master Monks in there(hard to get a clear count when their sprites overlap and they love to hide in the corners).
Thankfully you can go rest at the entrance, it's barely out of range, if they only half-own you, and I think enemies only recover health if you leave the dungeon entirely. Though resting does also reset their positions, giving you a second shot at blasting them before they get to hiding.
This is the usual outcome of rushing into melee with the entire doomstack of bad guys. Ow.
I don't think I have any ribs left.
Broken bones build character, now let's just grab th-
-let's just smash this crystal, yes, I intended that.
Winston gives us a nice bucketful of gold and the XP needed for another level-up, heck yeah. We're rolling in it.
I guess there's nothing for it but to start heading for the Mire. Damn.
We're finally going to the circus! Again!
July's only just started, though, hm. Maybe we can afford to take the long route...
Okay, tell me what your dumb plan is before you do it.
I was thinking we could visit Free Haven on the way.
Well, both Falagar and the Seer both thought we should see the Council.
It's a center of magical learning, too. Not as big as Mist, but still.
My mom always said the fountains in Free Haven flowed with free beer and even the sewers were as wide as roads!
Seems like it's settled, then, we're off to Free Haven.
Ah, scenic Free Haven!
Mind enjoying the scenery after we've dealt with the welcome committee?
The only enemies you kind of have to deal with on arriving in Free Haven from Bootleg Bay and hoofing it along the road are the generic Apprentice Mages that we've met back in New Sorpigal who are, predictably, not much of a real threat unless you do something really boneheaded.
It's also the most urban center in Might and Magic 6. You might have thought that Castle Ironfist would be it, but nope, it's Free Haven, rivalled by Silver Cove which we'll visit at a later date(Castle Ironfist isn't even the fourth largest, really). It's also, like Castle Ironfist, the location of one of the six rulers of the land.
Nice little workout to wake us up. Let's go check out that castle, maybe we can make off with some of the furniture while no one's looking.
Sadly none of the non-hostile castles actually have modelled interiors, so we're a bit limited in how many shenanigans we can get up to... until MM7.
Check out this guy, if we had been silly enough to recruit any Knights, they'd be begging this fella for a promotion so they could become even beefier.
Classes that aren't the right class to get promoted by promotion quests, instead get an "honorary" promotion that doesn't impact them any, but still gives them a fat load of XP and qualifies them for any relevant training. For instance, Bishop Inquisitorio at Ironfist requires people to be promoted Clerics to teach them Grandmaster Spirit Magic, but Druids or Paladins who're honorary promoted Clerics still qualify. This is a very lax regime compared to what we'll meet in the later games.
Finally we're somewhere civilized.
How do you figure this is more civilized than Castle Ironfist and New Sorpigal?
Well. It's bigger, and they've got more than one well, and they've got more magic guilds and they have an actual sewer network.
Trust you to get excited about pipes full of shit. Maybe we'll meet someone who organizes tours.
Nah, I'm with Richmond, this place is awesome, I just found a shop selling magic bows and I bought some for everyone.
While the early game stores are more generalist, soon they become specialist stores, with specific ones for bows as opposed to all weapons, single schools of magic rather than all elemental and all divine, etc. I shop everyone up to Accurate Crossbows while Deadeye gets the next tier, a Magic Bow(which, despite the name, isn't technically enchanted, it just hits better and harder than the other kinds).
And, of course, I also stop by the local stables to pick up some more horseshoes. Free skill points are always handy!
Free Haven does have a few oddities, though, like the house straight ahead. See, in general the game never places a door on a house if it isn't interactible, while Free Haven has multiple houses that have no purpose. Not just in the sense that they have just chatter NPC's inside, but that they can't be interacted with at all. I figure either cut content or just them slapping down some more houses to make Free Haven feel larger without having any content to go in those houses. It always tricks me, though, because one of the houses is this star-shaped thing that always makes me think its a shop, temple or magic guild.
Damn this place is big, I could use a drink.
That's the Adept Guild of Water, Deadeye. Who knows what's in their... trough? Fountain?
I figure if anyone knows how to do clean, safe water, it'd be water mages.
See? 's perfectly safe! Fuckin' delicious, actually. Never tasted water this good in my life!
I suppose a sip can't hurt...
Ooooh, magic water!
Looks like the cards are coming up Deadeye.
So yes, this is a publicly accessible drinking fountain in the middle of Free Haven that gets you instantly and cripplingly drunk. Enjoy the goofy faces.
Oof, world's spinning a bit... we should ask for directions.
Whoah, watch your step, this guy must be hosting one of those sewer tours Richmond wants to go on.
Free Haven has a not-immediately-obvious dungeon in that several houses just have entrances to the sewer system big enough to fit the entire party, in case they should feel like catching an exciting new number of diseases and wading around in filth.
There are also a couple of quests to pick up in otherwise unassuming houses. Sure, let's go pick up a cursed ancient artifact stabber for this guy when we get the chance.
And this guy just casually wants us to go murder an ancient lich for him for his hobbies.
Feels like we've been walking... for hours. But there it is! The Council!
Alright, nerds, we need to see the Oracle! Let us in!
Obviously, since these guys don't know us from dirt, they're not letting us in until we complete a quest for each of the kingdom's six regents. We've already met two, Humphrey in Castle Ironfist and Temper right here in Free Haven, but there are another four located in Silver Cove, Mist and the Frozen Highlands(which contains two of the six).
Having been denied by the Council, the party drowns their sorrows in Mystery Barrel Juice.
And Free Haven also has the well that takes you up to minimum 15 Might, which is handy for Agnes and Richmond in case they ever actually have to get their hands dirty in a fight.
Feels like... no one takes us seriously.
Like we're jokes.
Like we're stupid.
Like we majored in something just because we were passionate about it even though it'll never get us a job.
We should go spend all our money on powerful spells and show them all.
Spell seller! Sell me your most powerful spells!
High-Level Elemental Magic
Haste: Haste, as expected, massively reduces the amount of cooldown between actions. The only downside to it is that it leaves everyone in the party Weakened afterwards, but since you can just nap that away or cure it with one of the first Body spells you learn, that's a very minor thing. Expert level affects the entire party at once, Master level just increases the duration.
Fireball: It does 1d6 damage per skill point compared to Fire Bolt's 1d4, but also explodes. It's not ideal in dungeons since, yes, friendly fire is on, but it's great when you're outside, especially if you can shoot at enemies from the air, since it allows you to really rip open enemy formations. It's not for every situation, but I like it. At twice the cost per cast of Fire Bolt, though, you need to hit multiple enemies per cast for it to be a decent return on your magic investment. The party bought this for Richmond.
Ring of Fire: Does an AoE fireblast centered on the party that doesn't hit the party. At Expert level it has a bigger AoE. Doing only 6+skill damage for even more MP than Fireball, it seems like a terrible spell, except that the AoE ignores walls. So once you have it at Expert level, it's wonderful for cheesing enemies by weakening or entirely destroying them through walls and doors. I love being a cheap dickhead, personally.
Fire Blast: Almost twice as expensive as Fireball, it does 4+(skill)d3 damage, but works rather like Sparks in that it shotguns out multiple projectiles. 3, 5 and 7 depending on your training level. So if you hit an enemy with two of the blasts, you're doing as much damage as fireball, meaning you'd need to hit with four sparks to justify a cast of this compared to a Fireball that hits just two enemies at once. For single large targets in cramped conditions, especially once Mastered, it might well be the superior choice. But overall I'd rather have Fireball.
Meteor Shower: An outside-only spell that basically rains Fireballs down on an area. 8, 12 or 16 meteors that do 8+skill worth of damage. It's great for wiping out mobs of bad guys, but not always cost-effective.
Inferno: Indoors-only, it hits all visible enemies for 12+skill damage for roughly the same cost as three fireballs. There are some open, enemy-filled areas in some dungeons(like the rattley boy hall in the Temple of Baa) where it would be greatly useful, but even low-tier enemies are often at 30+ health at this point, so the game's insistence that it can easily clear out rooms in a single cast are a bit overrated since I would not expect anyone to reach 18 Fire magic any time soon.
Incinerate: 15+(skill)d15 damage to a single target. Incinerate is great for when you just need one asshole dead, right now, no arguments. It can be very swingy, due to the d15's, but by the time you have the MP to use this more than a couple of times per rest, your Fire magic skill will make it really fuck up anything without considerable Fire resistance. Sadly, Fire resistance is relatively common in some areas.
Feather Fall: Negates all falling damage, very useful in some dungeons and some overworld exploration. Should be self-explanatory. The party got this because it was damn cheap.
Shield: Halves damage from non-spell ranged attacks. In my experience a lot of the game's ranged attacks are spells, so I'd be kind of hestitant to bother with this in a lot of areas. Still, once I have the money for it and the SP to keep it up at all times, there's no reason not to use it.
Lightning Bolt: 1d8 damage per skill point and only slightly more expensive than a Fireball. It has about half the damage potential of Incinerate, at a third of the casting cost, and electric resistance is less common than fire resistance, too, so this would definitely have been a smart spell to buy. I am not smart and did not buy this.
Jump: Works both outdoors and indoors and just slams the party upwards(in a showing of uncharacteristic mercy, it comes with an integrated featherfall effect, even), something that none of the dungeon designers have kept in mind, thus allowing you to break some of them in unintentended ways, either putting yourself out of reach of enemies or circumventing nasty puzzles.
Implosion: 10+(skill)d10 damage done to a target at the cost of two Lightning Bolts. This would seem like a stupid cast, cost-effective wise, except that it does Physical damage and thus almost nothing is ever going to resist it. At some point during the endgame you'll always choose to cast this rather than Lightning Bolt.
Fly: Outdoors only but does what it says, letting you fly as fast as you can otherwise walk, with almost six degrees of freedom(the game doesn't handle up and down movement too gracefully so it's always at an angle rather than totally vertical, either that or I just missed the VTOL keybind). Pretty much any chance you have, you'll want this on, as it makes it harder for enemies to hit you and makes spells like Fireball much better, since it'll be more likely to hit in the middle of enemy formations than just the front rank. The party absolutely got this.
Starburst: Like Meteor Shower, but slightly more expensive and with higher base damage(20+skill) and obviously dealing electric rather than Fire damage.
Water Walk: I have no idea why you'd ever cast this rather than Fly. I suppose it's slightly cheaper?
Ice Bolt: Bog standard (skill)d7 cold damage attack spell.
Enchant Item: I.e. the spell that lets you break the game's economy if you read a FAQ for the pointlessly obfuscated item enchanting mechanics. Nothing in-game ever tells you much about them, but the thing is that on certain dates, enchantments are much stronger, and certain tiers of items are where the breakpoints in actually getting good enchantments occur. Potentially useful if you get some top-tier gear that lacks enchantments.
Acid Burst: 50% more expensive than Lightning Bolt, and doing 9+(skill)d9 poison damage. Mostly relevant if you're up against enemies immune to fire and electricity, but not poison, or if you've just got someone whose main skill investment is in water magic.
Town Portal: At basic level it only works outdoors and drags you back to the last town you visited. Expert level it also works in dungeons. Master level it lets you actually pick which town to go to. The party did not get this because it's really only useful at its Master level setting.
Ice Blast: War crimes in water form. It throws out a central ice projectile that then explodes into multiple smaller projectiles, all of them doing 12+(skill)d2 cold damage. It's somewhat overcosted for its effect level, in my opinion. Generally the best use I've found for it is for assholes like the Master Monks hiding in corners, you can toss it into the room to soften them up.
Lloyd's Beacon: I.e. why you have a water mage at all. Lets you set 1, 3 or 5 beacons that decay in 1 hour, day or week per point of skill, that you can then use Lloyd's Beacon to warp back to at any time. Once again, mostly useful at Master level since even at 12 Water Magic, that expert beacon is gonna decay before you're halfway through a dungeon or just because you've tripped over to another province. You can technically get around this by warping back to the beacon before it expires and re-setting it, but man, that's work.
Stone Skin: Increases a character's armor class(or the entire party's, at expert). I would never bother with this, since as noted, enemies will even at max armor level hit you something like 3 out of 4 times.
Blades: 1d5 per skill point physical damage is, on the surface, very good, but Blades is one of those spells that has a chance to miss. Still, it can potentially fuck some dudes up pretty hard despite it. I got this since it was cheap and Agnes is a good Earth caster.
Stone to Flesh: The only condition-curing elemental spell outside of Awaken. You will need this extremely for one dungeon and then, I believe, not really again.
Rock Blast: 1d8 per skill damage, otherwise a lot like Fireball except missed Rock Blasts ricochet around for a while until exploding, which can have some fun uses.
Turn To Stone: Condition effects are never worth it, especially since Stoned enemies can't be hurt while they're turned to stone. Then what's the damn point? It also only hits one while costing a ton of damage you could have spent on spells that would actually kill the enemy instead.
Death Blossom: An outdoors-only mortar that does 20+skill damage in a large AoE when it hits. Theoretically good but I always had trouble making it actually hit due to its travel time.
Mass Distortion: Rips away 25+(skill*2)% of the target's current HP when it hits. I won't say it's a necessary spell to cast, but it's a very, very good one. The only issue is that this is technically typed as Magic damage which a lot of enemies have a chance to resist or are outright immune to.
Anyway, let's get back to the party now that they've shopped up a few spells. I also got some condition curing spells for Agnes and Bobelix(Paralyze, specifically).
We're magical badasses now! Agnes, take us to the sky! We're gonna land on Temper's roof and demand a promotion!
...anyone else hear something like a whooshing sound and an explosion? No? Guess it's just me, then.
Nothing up here other than the Master Plate Armor trainer. Fly also runs out while I'm up here and I decide to let the party have a nap in new, palatial surroundings before resuming their adventure.
...last time I woke up on a roof after drinking something I didn't recognize, it wasn't a castle. Guess we're moving up in the world.
I'm just gonna get us down from here.
Ahhhhh! We're gonna get burned! Dive! Dive! Dive!
So, fun thing, those "anti-dragon" defense towers that a few towns have? Like New Sorpigal and Free Haven? They also take shot at high-flying mages with extremely powerful Fireball spells. Be careful where you fly.
I think I need a change of pants after that.
How's the calender looking, Agnes?
Still got most of July left. You thinking what I'm thinking?
We go back to Bootleg Bay, fly out to that asshole captain's ship and take a dump on the deck?
...so no, then. We go back to Bootleg Bay and New Sorpigal and investigate those islands we missed before, before going to the Mire of the Damned.
The smaller Bootleg Bay islands aren't a big deal. Mostly just lizardmen, cannibals, the occasional chest and an out-of-season shrine.
And some quest objectives we can't interact with quite yet.
Cannibal camps are tasteful as always, of course.
There's also the Personality minimum fountain out here, which is nice for Deadeye and Richmond since Personality is used to resist a few conditions.
By the time we get to New Sorpigal, since it's July, everything's just respawned, which means fresh horseshoes, fresh quayside barrels of Dysentery Juice, refilled chests full of loot in the wilderness and fresh enemies to own.
It's a nice feeling crushing in one go what took me multiple trips by to whittle down before, for all its cruelty at times, M&M6 really does give you a tangible feeling of getting stronger.
And then it's off to strafe some fools who thought they could hide from me on an island!
And it turns out that every goddamn FAQ out there lied to me. You don't need to get a pilgrimage from the Seer to activate the damn shrines! +10 Luck for everyone!
The next island looks... less hospitable.
The building on the edge is a late-game dungeon we definitely do not want to even look at sideways at the moment.
The two houses aren't interesting, just chatter NPC's. but then if you approach the campfire...
It floods the island with Goblin Kings and Mages. Having Fly we can just skedaddle, but if you were a low-level party who got out of here with a Water Master to cast Waterwalking for you or something, it could be a nasty surprise.
Anyway, with all that travelling, it's almost the end of July! Might and Magic has the same days and months as the real world, but the months are only 28 days long each. This means we gotta hoof to to Ironfist and then the Mire of the Damned if we want to catch the circus!
I can't wait to get that damn kid back to his throne.
Me neither, I keep waiting for us to wander into town and see a "Wanted!" poster with our faces on it.
I can't believe it took us this long to get to the circus.
Thankfully the Circus in the Mire of the Damned is in the northeast, probably the safest place to enter the area.
Damn, I see some skeletons in the distance, let's get in and out fast!
I duck around the edges and right into the main tent.
Getting Nicolai back is easy enough, now there's the matter of the circus itself... it consists of the main tent and then seven minor ones. Each minor tent contains a stat-based test that costs 50 gold to attempt. Nothing I've found has elucidated on what the requirements are for passing the tests, but the better you pass them, the better a prize you get. If you return to Blaze with sufficient prize items, you get a reward. You can go back to Free Haven with these to get gold for them because some idiots will buy them for you.
DO NOT EVER DO THIS YOU GIANT FOOL.
Instead hang on to the damn things! There's a later game area where they, especially the 30-point gold pyramid items, can be traded in for some really, really, really good stuff. Once again, nothing in the game ever indicates this until you get there, so you can throw away thousands' of gold worth of top-tier gear in circus winnings before you realize that you have fucked up.
Oh and when I pop back outside, the skeletons have shown up to party. They get taken to the bone zone pretty quickly, but while the fighting's going on, some of their friends show up!
Ghosts are, oddly enough, not immune to physical damage, though they're somewhat hard to hit. None of the three tiers are all that hard to kill once you actually land the hits, though. Being flying, however, they can be hard to avoid if you don't want to get into a fight with them. You can't get them stuck on anything, you can really only run in a straight line. The lowest tier can make characters Afraid, the middle tier(Evil Spirits) can Age them and then top tier(Spectres) has a chance to drop them straight into a KO'd status from full health. They're not super threatening enemies outdoors, but indoors in dungeons where you may have very few options for dodging them, fighting ghosts can be a grim experience.
Alright, Richmond has me convinced. All in favour of getting the hell out of here with Nicolai before we become ghosts?
I thought you'd want to stay, Bobelix.
Oh, no, while you guys were fighting the ghosts I played the games! I won ten lodestones and got a keg of wine as a prize!
It's not really cost-effective for us to mess with the circus at this point, but later on when we have better stats, we'll be seeking it out more. In a more modern game, the Circus would probably instead be loaded with minigames rather than flat stat checks of some sort, and it's somewhat sad we didn't get to see that, because it could have broken up the gameplay a bit. Ah well, for minigames, we will, once again, have to wait for MM7. No spoilers until we get there, though, because it's a minigame I'm looking forward to gushing about.
Returning Nicolai is a prerequisite for beating the game, in the end, and also gives a decent load of XP but no gold or material rewards otherwise.
I can't believe we got out of that without getting exiled or executed.
I can't believe we have to come up with a new dumb adventure now.
Should the party focus on...
Completing Quests: Only dungeons that the party has quests for will be investigated and travelled to, whether they're in already-explored areas or new ones.
Clearing Areas: All dungeons in currently-entered areas will be prioritized, whether we have quests for them or not(excepting Corlagon's Estate and Gharik's Forge, my masochism has limits)
Getting Promotions: The focus will be on getting and completing promotion quests, other dungeons/quests will be dealt with only as necessary to level up and complete Promotion dungeons.
No matter the choice, the first goal will be to clear out every last ghost and skeleton in the Mire of the Damned, as promised.