Part 13: Back On TrackUpdate 013: Back On Track
I repeat myself, what now? We've attained phenomenal power compared to where we started out and we're rich. I kind of lost track of why we were doing this.
Well, we were going to defeat the devils for burning our homes down.
But because that's a tall order even for us, we wanted the Council to let us at the Oracle to tell us how to do it. But they're demanding a bunch of busywork from us.
We couldn't just take all this gold and sail off to Erathia?
Deadeye, you funny joker. We're on a noble quest! And I know you'd never abandon one of those!
Ha ha... yeah... a joke...
First stop, Blackshire, to retrieve Lord Kilburn's shield for Wilbur Humphrey.
Like the promotion quests, the difficulty on the council quests is... varying. Some of them technically don't even require you to fight anyone.
Sometimes it's not about what we have to do, but what we want to do.
Boom, there goes one council quest. You could effortlessly lead the werewolves away from their chest, circle around and come back and crack it if you wanted to pacifist this game for some inscrutable reason.
Even I've got to admit, that was pretty easy.
Hmmm... you know, I wonder, if we go back to Humphrey with this, he'll ask where we found it. And we'll tell him we took it from some werewolves... he'll probably be quite cross if we didn't do anything about the danger they pose to Blackshire.
Oh! Oh! I think I saw their cave on the way here!
Literally in someone's back yard. By the gods.
Adventuring with you guys really brings me to the classiest places.
Welcome to scenic Lair of the Wolf! Also known as one of the first areas to kick my ass in a while. This one actually has a number of mean tricks, as well as some enemies that are actually a danger to the party and take more than a stiff breeze to knock down.
The enemies here are a pretty even mix of werewolves, swordsmen and slimes, which is slightly complex to fight because the swordsmen and werewolves love to run into melee while the slimes spit acid from afar(and the slimes can shoot through their colleagues without causing friendly fire), and our best weapon against slimes remains Fireball(because of the splash damage), which we can't shoot through enemy front lines. So positioning has some importance.
The real danger starts showing up a couple of rooms in, though, as Greater Werewolves join the fray. As mentioned, they can KO party members in one shot if they land a hit and the party member in question fails a save. Since this instantly reduces them to zero hit points, it can take out a huge chunk of health from what Shared Life has to redistribute. There's also the constant threat that a KO'd party member will become a dead party member if another enemy whacks them before I get them back up. The AI does seem to de-prioritize KO'd characters for targets, but I know it can happen.
It also takes two actions to get KO'd characters back up again, since Shared Life will not react if they're at 0 or below 0 HP, so first I need to cast a Power Cure or something else, then follow up with a Shared Life.
It can get real rough if more than one character eats it in a row.
As this is the first dungeon where I've consistently had Hour of Power and therefore Haste up, this is also the first dungeon where I have to deal with the party becoming Weak when their magic meth runs out and they need a shot of detoxing Body magic to fix it. Mind, I think it's an odd choice for a side effect considering that Cure Weakness is literally a bottom-tier Body spell and effortlessly removed by either it or just taking a nap. I suppose it could be a minor issue if it happens in the middle of a fight, but otherwise not really.
This evil altar isn't breaking just because I'm touching it.
Well shit, guess this is one cult that actually sprung for some quality. Uhhh... maybe there's a switch down one of the side passages?
I'm not really seeing any altar-destroying switches...
Ooooh, maybe that guy knows where it is!
So, like John Silver back in the Silver Helm Stronghold, this guy only pops up when you get real close. Unlike John Silver he doesn't just guard a bit of exposition, but both some XP and an explanation of what you have to do next.
Of course, a magical pearl destroys the altar, how foolish of me to think otherwise.
You're just salty because for once you aren't unholy enough to destroy a religious artifact just by touching it.
So it's back to the main chamber and... is it just me or does this SPOOKY WOLF ALTAR, when seen from the side, look like a fucking pogchamp emote? It definitely looks silly.
Not exactly the height of spookiness.
So at first glance this is just a little dead end full of slimes and swordsmen for you to gleefully mangle.
No items on the ground, no chest, no obvious hidden doors... if you hadn't learned from the ghost that there was supposed to be a pearl here, you'd probably stop halfway down it and turn around. But you shouldn't do that because...
Boom. If you squeeze yourself right into the end of it, it teleports the pearl you need to access the rest of the dungeon(and get a small reward from Humphrey back at Castle Ironfist) into your hands. Far as I recall no other place in the game does this, possibly because most of other places in the game are comparatively better designed.
Bobelix is, by the way, the official Keeper of Quest Items because he won't try to sell them and Richmond is the keeper of every note we find because he's the only one I trust to actually be able to read them.
Altar gets bopped with the pearl and dissolves and...
The obvious door down the wolf's "throat" opens. Dare we enter their magical realm?
Well, that's inviting.
Also, every few steps in here, a bunch of wolf howl SFX play. Sometimes they're just there to put you on edge, other times they indicate that the dungeon designer wanted to fuck with you and you should be on edge.
The lower level of the Lair of the Wolf generally isn't so bad, since Greater Werewolves remain mostly uncommon.
This is the worst prison I've ever been in.
I'm not letting that one slide, you're going to have to elaborate.
Every other prison we visit has treasure or secret doors. This one just has skeletons and they're already looted!
Visiting this prison triggers one of the devs' little surprises, because if you turn around to go back the way you come, the door's closed and...
A small group of werewolves have spawned behind it.
There's also this werewolf pantry full of all the corpse models they couldn't cram into the cannibal camps in Bootleg Bay.
More slimes and another trigger that spawns enemies in the same room that the other trigger did! C'mon already, devs!
And there's a trigger somewhere that also refills the first intersection with more werewolves. This dungeon is not low on enemies, and Richmond got a lot of practice setting up beacons so the party could warp out to the temple and back in.
And while the Greater Werewolves are the big problem, this is what a swarm of plain Werewolves did to the party's health and spell points.
Anyway, down the other path!
Simple room full of swordsmen, right?
Wait, what happened to Richmond?
When you turn the corner, which you likely do in advance to strafe around it and face the new enemies, a door opens off to your side with a Greater Werewolf and a few buddies behind it. It's a very mean trick. Also a very effective one.
This... is a large number of werewolves.
It's more damn people than even live in Blackshire! What the hell? Where are they all coming from?
At some point you'll hit some stairs leading up, which takes you to the disconnected-looking part of the map in the bottom right, and things suddenly start looking less cave-y and more building-y.
This place is really big, I hope we don't get lost.
I'm more worried about us getting killed, resistance has been growing the deeper we go...
Hah, what's the worst that could happen? Charge! These fursuiters can't stop us taking their stuff!
Now what lies down this corridor and to the left is the toughest fight so far and if you come at it head on, it's almost sure to kick your ass.
Like so. The place is just CRAMMED with Greater Werewolves, and I simply wasn't able to take them down faster than they'd keep KO'ing everyone. Instead, it's time to use our brains.
By running past the entrance and turning around, repeatedly, it's possible to lure the enemies inside out in manageable chunks. I could also cheese them with Ring of Fire, but A) I'm trying to cut down on that and B) it would take a while and also be really boring!
The exciting part is that once you clear out the first room, what's past it is another room that's exactly the same and set up to fuck you in the same way.
Hiding somewhere inside all this chaos is...
This fucker who's responsible for it all! Somehow! Thankfully he's not really a boss as such, no weird tricks or huge damage, he just has about another 50% hit points over what a normal Greater Werewolf has, which is still enough to make him require a good deal of hitting to die, though.
And once you have this, you're good to leave the Lair of the Wolf any time you're feeling it, which usually means "after looting everything" but in this case you can skip over about half the loot containers since they seem to be poorly adjusted and spawn stuff of about the same caliber as you'd find in fucking Goblinwatch. There are a couple of properly set chests that are really worth it, though, back in the basement.
This area with the straw floors(of course repopulated because of some fucking trigger somewhere).
It has these cells with odd little wooden squares on the floor(litterboxes for werewolves? dog baskets? I don't know).
If you look at the minimap, though, you can see a couple of loot indicators floating in the void off to the east of this one, which means... secret door!
And featuring a ring with the best type of enchantment in the game. See, what this does, specifically, is that for the wearing character, they're treated as though they have 50% more skill ranks in the magic skill it affects. Spirit Magic is, sadly, not the best choice for it(though it will make Bobelix's Shared Life casts really kick ass), but something like this for, say, Air Magic, would be another 6d10 damage on an Implosion cast, or for Dark or Light magic it would make our big buff spells hit insanely much harder.
Now to get out of here...
You know, once we clear out the enemies that have started respawning in huge fucking hordes.
Wait, we can't leave just yet! We promised Balthasar we'd bring him the Pearl of Putresence!
He's a ghost, what's he going to reward us with? Ghost gold?
A promise is a promise, Deadeye.
Just roll with it, it's like a two-minute detour and you'll never get him to budge.
Fiiiiiiiine. But only because you've healed me like twenty times in this dungeon.
It does get us XP, so of course we're doing it. Now we can leave.
Time to cash in with the people who can give us real money for our work.
I guess it's implied that the Werewolf leader was the local regent, but nothing seemed to indicate it until this point. They could've at least had a lore scroll about it lying around in the dungeon or something. Now, someone else owes us a reward, two rewards, in fact... time to head back to Castle Ironfist.
A town portal back to New Sorpigal, walking to Castle Ironfist, and then flying to the castle itself.
That's certainly an odd way of phrasing it...
Something tells me getting access to the Oracle may be a bit more complicated than we know.
Hmmm... we've got that errand for Loretta Fleise. My checklist-
Of course he has a checklist.
-my checklist says the only coach company we're missing is in Kriegspire.
Lord Temper wanted us to bust some devil heads in Kriegspire, too.
Oh! Oh! And Stromgarde wanted us to stop winter, which is weird because I love snow, doesn't everyone love snow? And I talked to someone who said a mystical weather wizard lives in Kriegspire who could solve it!
That last part isn't bullshit, it's a quest that has ZERO hints from Stromgarde himself but it can be a random topic of NPC conversation that there's a weird weather hermit west of White Cap, and the first province west of White Cap happens to be Kriegspire.
Kriegspire it is. Richmond?
We can't hop straight to Kriegspire, but we can go to Free Haven-
-where the friday coach goes to Kriegspire.
It's subtle, but Kriegspire feels just a bit more desolate than the other regions of Enroth so far. I think it's the different colour palette on the trees and the total absence of grass or open water.
Kriegspire itself is a small village on the south side of the mountain range. Like Darkmoor, it lacks certain basic amenities associated with being a town in MM6, having no temple and no spell shops or skill teachers.
First things first, let's help Loretta form a cartel. Now, let's check out the village.
Feh, a trough that just contains water? This town sucks.
This well is weird, usually any well that gives the LOOK OUT message spawns some enemies around you, but this one...
...I guess this well just makes Deadeye twitchy and paranoid.
Look, it yelled inside my brain while giving you phenomenal power, okay?
As debated before, temporary +levels is kind of eh for a few reasons, but can be situationally viable if you can be bothered to deal with it.
Wow! A real scholar! This guy knows so much! He's just like you, Richmond.
Ha ha holy shit.
Better keep sharp objects away from Richmond for the rest of the day.
Alright, so that's two safe fountains, I bet this o-
Oh no, I know how this goes. Same thing back in Blackshire. Third fountain turned you to stone.
This fountain is, in fact, REALLY evil, because it teleports you deep inside Castle Kriegspire, in the middle of a circle of like twelve or sixteen high-level monsters.
Astrology, what rot. I'm not afraid of no planets. Watch, I'll drink from the next fountain we come across, without fear!
Wouldn't you do that anyway?
Yes, but now I have an excuse. Look! There's another one!
Hey Richmond, what's "sulphuric acid"? It says so on this little plate here.
Hm. They probably should have printed it in bigger font.
Set down a beacon and let's 'port him over to the nearest temple.
Being Eradicated is the deadest you can be in Might and Magic, functionally it's no different from being plain Dead or turned to Stone, but it requires bigger spells to un-Eradicate you and temples charge more for restoring you from literal ashes than they do when they've got a corpse to work with. It's clearly inherited from Dungeons & Dragons which works much the same, where being super-killed requires spells that don't need a corpse. Thankfully, unlike D&D, being revived from the dead doesn't come with any permanent stat penalties or similar bullshit. It just fucks over your wallet, not your future gameplay.
I think this is a poor idea, Deadeye.
I've still got some of your ashes in my pocket, they got everywhere.
Please, this one says "Wishing Well," you don't drink from those, you put your gold in them.
And what did you learn from that?
Not to pour a pound of gold coins into a well.
Considering the XP output of enemies at this point in the game, this is an extremely poor deal. 5000 gold is between 1 and 2 level-ups in terms of training fees, and 5000 XP isn't even a quarter of a levelup. Something like a single Greater Werewolf drops 2000XP and at most 400 gold, for reference, so gold is clearly at a bigger premium than XP in most cases.
Anyway, that's the last thing to poke at in Kriegspire village, it doesn't even have any Master trainer NPC's which is odd considering that those usually hide in the smaller towns and villages. I guess living next to a volcano is too shitty even for them. Now to go fight some devils(and then to completely forget to turn in the quest to Temper, because I'm a moron).
Kriegspire exterior is a bit low on enemies unless you venture to the north side of the mountains or visit the volcano, but it does have the occasional wandering pack of earth elementals.
The Devil Outpost is kind of like Longfang Witherhide's lair.
A single room and one NPC you need to kill for what they're carrying, though in this case also backed up by a bunch of the same devil types we've seen before(Devil Spawn and Devil Workers), who aren't really dangerous in damage output but take an awful lot of putting down because of their massive Physical resistance when that remains our best damage option.
Since there's nothing to explore inside, not even a single loot container, lets get out of here and find that weather wizard. Since there aren't really any mountains here except for the volcano, this should be an easy search...
I'll be damned, there actually is someone living up here.
Score. So now it's just back to pick up our rewards from Loretta and Stromgarde, since we can Town Portal practically right to them!
That's two outta six. Time for Loretta, and she better be paying, too.
Hot damn, she actually did pay!
I don't know guys... I feel like maybe we kind of did a bad thing here...
Turns out there's actually a reason Loretta is in Roland's employ. She does have some semblance of redeeming quality. Now... where are we going next?
Alright, Deadeye, explain. Why'd you take us here?
Last we were near this castle, I got an overwhelming feeling someone didn't want us to go inside..
Yes, that was me, you moron.
Oh, wow, there it is again!
Really shrill, too... oof.
And you know what that means.
Someone doesn't want me looting the place! Break out the crowbars, gang, we're gonna strip this place to the baseboards!
Promotion Quests: 12 out of 12
Council Quests: 4(5) out of 6
The last council quest is to bust into Gharik's Forge on one of the small islands off the shore of New Sorpigal. If there's time after Darkmoor, or if I give up on Darkmoor before I shoot myself, I'll do that one next. I also finally reached Saintly reputation. Reputation in this game does nothing except for three small things.
Saintly rep is required to learn Master Light Magic.
Lowest rep is required to learn Master Dark Magic.
And if you try to enter one of the castles while at rock bottom rep you get locked up for a year for being a huge dickhead.
You'll normally reach Saintly rep naturally just playing the game, though some things(like accidental friendly fire with NPC's, doing certain quests, casting a certain spell, getting healed by or donating at Temples of Baa...) will lower it. Reaching rock bottom rep, on the other hand... can be done very simply. I'll show it off once it's time to reach Richmond Master Dark Magic. For now, visiting Ki Lo Nee in the Eel Infested Waters just got on the to-do list.