Part 18: Pyramid SchemeUpdate 018: Pyramid Scheme
...so what do we do with these damn pyramids, anyway?
I remember some guy back in Free Haven was offering money for them.
Says on the underside: "if found, please return to Abdul's Resort Isle."
Hmmm... isn't Abdul supposed to be fabulously rich? Pack your bags, everyone, we're going to Abdul's!
So, er, where's Abdul's Resort Isle?
...by way of Paradise Valley, Hermit's Isle...
Oh dear, Paradise Valley, everyone's saying it's really bad now...
C'mon, you wimps. How bad can it be?
Pretty darn bad as it turns out! Now, the smart thing to do would be to just fly over the mountains south of Blackshire and enter the Dragonsands from the north. But we're taking this scenic tour on foot instead, which starts with heading west into Paradise Valley!
It's a bit of an odd region in that it's the only one in the game that has no dungeons or quests associated with it at all. It does have two Master trainers, both of them quite relevant, but the stores aren't even particularly full of super gear or anything.
It also has some nasty residents, for instance, those vague pixely blobs a bit down the road are...
Hydras! They come in plain, Venomous and Colossal variants, which are immune to fire, poison and nothing, respectively, a bit of an odd progression. All three hit quite hard, being capable of dealing up to 50 damage at range and 100 in melee, but they're reasonably vulnerable to Starburst(being ground-based and not electricity-immune) and drop large amounts of gold and gear. They're the least threatening thing here.
I'm starting to think this may be a bad idea.
Just because of a few-
Interrupting me is just rude, you know.
Titans are some of the enemies that will never stop being scary. All three types are electricity-immune and and Supreme Titans, the biggest kind, rarely take more than 50% damage from anything else. Additionally, the normal and Noble variants break equipment in melee, while the Supreme Titans have a chance to flat-out kill us with a single blow. Damage-wise, even the basic type does 2d20+60(62 to 100) damage, and Supreme Titans do an absurd 2d20+120(122 to 160) damage. Once again, being ground-bound, Meteor Shower can slowly take them down, but since only I'm good with fire magic... it's not very viable for clearing entire areas. Thankfully there's only one situation where they can't be avoided. Inexplicably they also prioritize female characters as targets.
...and here we are, scenic Paradise Valley!
Huh, how do they get inside their houses?
What do you mean? How do th- oh. I see.
Town's fulla Titans, huh?
And you're not gonna admit this trip was a terrible idea yet?
Over my dead body.
What follows is a lot of carnage as I lure the Titans out one by one and drop meteors on their heads, the tall fuckers. Getting them out of Paradise Valley so you can interact with the town is the only situation where I'd say you HAVE to deal with them, due to their being on ground and, thankfully, only having projectile ranged attacks(no shit like Mass Curse or Dispel Magic), the rest of the ones outdoors can effectively be ignored.
Good to see the locals are alright.
Let's clear out before they start asking questions about who's gonna clear away the titan corpses in the streets. In this heat... phew!
Wow! Do you guys think weapons like that really exist?
Sure they do, and after we find them, a magic statue is going to come to life and solve our problems for us.
You shouldn't make fun of him like that.
I'm sorry, Deadeye's just a bad influence on me.
Well, it's good to know that hanging out with Deadeye hasn't completely destroyed my reputation.
Making you better at casting Day of Protection would have been quite handy, though.
Dang, I think I got a blister. Hey, Richmond, you mind dropping a beacon and taking us back to the temple in Blackshire?
All ready to go back!
It isn't quite like you to make a fuss over something to small, let me just get out my spellbook...
Something seems a bit different about the text this time, oh well... Klaatu Barada Nictoo.
Did you really cut out a page of his spellbook and replace it with the page for Armageddon?
So that's like the only real use for Armageddon, in my mind, murdering an entire province's population so you can learn Master Dark Magic from a weirdo who lives in a monstrous desert.
Also, considering that it levitates all creatures in the area off the ground before letting them drop, it does make me wonder whether it might do more damage than listed from fall damage... but once again I'm not sure if NPC's suffer fall damage at all. I'm inclined to suspect "no."
This doesn't seem virtuous at all...
You know, at first I thought so too, but!
Baa dickheads. Now, let's get back on track.
After Paradise Valley, it's a straight shot south to Hermit's Isle.
Where the welcoming party is a swarm of hydras. Very cute. Aside from that, the place also has the usual Titans just to keep things sufficiently spicy.
Unlike Paradise Valley, it has one dungeon, the final temple of Baa, out on the titular island, the requisite obelisk that every province has and the fountain of youth which strips away magical aging. This is why getting gangbanged by ghosts too early can be rough, since without at least having Fly, you will not be getting here in one piece.
Now, the road wants you to loop back up into Paradise Valley, then head east back into Blackshire before finally heading south into Dragonsands. On account of not being a complete moron, I just head straight east into Dragonsands from here after a quick swing by the obelisk.
This place just kind of exists to ruin your day. You can get some decent gear from killing the hydras and titans, but I didn't get a single drop that was better than what I was already carrying. At this point really only "of [magic]" items and artifacts are guaranteed to be direct upgrades.
Now here we go, Dragonsands, which is back to having some interesting features again.
It's got a dungeon, a little town of sorts in Abdul's resort and a mysterious structure at marker 10 that I will absolutely be fucking with. But for now, let's visit the resort.
All the wandering monsters here are reptilian in some way.
Dragons we've sort of already met before, they come in fire, cold and energy versions. With the energy version obviously being the scariest as it cuts right through all our defensive spells. On top of that, they're incredibly hard to kill, so the best response is really just to not fight the damn things. Wyrms are effectively just wingless dragons that are all poison-themed and considerably less beefy, a combination of being on the ground and easier to kill means killing them isn't actually an exercise in suffering. Dragons are only present in Dragonsand and one small corner of Paradise Valley, but Wyrms can actually be encountered in an optional dungeon as a regular enemy, which can hurt. Lizards are like the little brother for all these, in fire, electric and cold(despite being named "Thunder") variants. For extra fun in Dragonsands, both Dragons and Lizards will break your equipment.
Generally: just run from everything here, not worth your time, nooooot worth your time.
Except for Abdul's Desert Resort. Full of only the best and the brightest.
Anyway, the point of coming here is three tents at the back where you can exchange kegs and pyramids for Weapons, Armor and Accessories. Since we're at top tier for weapons and armor already, there's less to be gained there since armor doesn't get the best enchantments(the magic boosters), at least that's my assessment. However, even burning through all the pyramids we had, the party didn't get more than like one or two minor upgrades. Still, it did result in a lot of money. If you've got a beacon here and a beacon at an active circus, you could loop back and forth generating effectively infinite gold and rerolling the gear gacha over and over until you get upgrades(the work of a few minutes, aside from the actual walking to Dragonsand, resulted in a gain of about 30k gold, and that's without bothering to make sure Deadeye is always the one selling with his Merchant skill and without having invested much in his Merchant skill). At the very least, the party will never be short of level-up funds again.
Oh, right, and this place also has the pedestal for one of Twilen's figurines(an old wizard in Blackshire who wanted us to put some statuettes in places so he could cure his aging magically). All of them are, of course, in provinces that you can't Town Portal to(Mire of the Damned, Bootleg Bay, Dragonsands, Kriegspire, Sweet Water).
Well, I'm bored.
Peace and quiet gets pretty lame pretty fast.
I saw a cool building to the east, we could go rob it!
If it gets us out of this terrifyingly dangerous place faster, I'm all for it.
It's hard to convey in-game, but from above the building literally looks like the NWC logo, a globe pierced by a sword.
It also contains the SHRINE OF THE GODS, a shrine that requires no pilgrimage or specific month but gives +20 to all stats. Very nice, especially in the early game... where you can find a hidden tile in New Sorpigal that teleports you right here. Also right in the middle of the goddamn dragons. So you need a Gate Master NPC to bring you back afterwards.
Without abusing exploits you can, as far as I know, only use this shrine once, but that's still the rough equivalent of visiting every other shrine in the game four times, i.e. spending four in-game years on it.
Okay, cool, now we're Town Portalling the hell out of here.
...I think I found a secret door.
Oh and while it's unmarked as an interactible, touching one of the interior walls teleports you to the secret dev dungeon.
Welcome to NWC HQ!
I assume it's modelled after the NWC offices at the time(though hopefully their walls and flooring were a bit nicer...), and patrolled by peasant NPC's named after people on the NWC team.
Oddly enough, a couple of them are just named "NWC employee," which I assume is a placeholder name that accidentally got left in there.
A couple of the desks have these white cubes on them that dispense stuff when interacted with, most of them seem set to only spit out low-quality garbage items, like bottom-tier equipment and herbs, but this one single one actually spat out something decent. I'm not sure if that's just a one in a million chance for any of them or if this one single one is just programmed to not be trash. There's also a desk that gives you 500 gold per use as long as your total gold is under 10000, which is real big in the early game, so if you started the game by getting to the Shrine of the Gods, then ducking into the dev dungeon, and then hopping back to New Sorpigal via a Gate Master NPC, you'd be off to a pretty strong start.
There's one more surprise along the offices in this corridor...
JVC as a hostile goblin shaman. His office has a fun effect I don't think is used anywhere else in the game, where entering it makes everyone Afraid and leaving makes them un-Afraid.
Why do I get the feeling we've just done something terrible?
In any case, it's a neat little easter egg, like interactive credits, but aside from the money chest, not something that's liable to be game-changing.
Leaving, of course, deposits you right back at the shrine. Not a problem for this party since they can just Town Portal the hell out of here but... at this point I'd been playing for barely 45 minutes, and I was thinking: "dang, what else can I do?" As far as I'm aware, there are only two other non-plot dungeons left in the game. One of them is... potentially pretty nasty, but I wanted to show off the other one, then I couldn't get its gimmick to work.
Basically this weirdly under-levelled dungeon(populated only by rogues and those pirate women from the islands north of Mist) is, at first glance, just a wormy web of narrow corridors with a bunch of traps that are irrelevant to this party(except one that does damage per-frame of contact, so if you get lodged against it, it can insta-fry you. Good design!), barely any loot, zero-challenge enemies, etc. but! It hides something supposedly neat.
This room near the back. It's supposed to open a teleporter nexus for you if you hop on the darker tiles in the right order, but I couldn't make it work. The teleporters aren't anything special, they just warp you to the other criminal lairs we've already been to, so nothing that would be useful at this stage but, I suppose, it works as a fluff thing. Stepping on the non-dark tiles just spawns like 100 Spark projectiles in the room and if you're low level you fucking die and if you're high level you just keep walking.
This left me with little to do beyond... advancing the plot. So I decided to tackle what I consider to be the worst remaining dungeon, because it wouldn't make for an awful lot of commentary due to its badness.
Also on the way I went back for this sword in the stone in Eel Infested Waters since the Shrine of the Gods bumped Deadeye up enough to yoink it out. The sword?
Oh, just, you know, goddamn Excalibur. It's a shame the base stats are just the same as any other sword's, but until you hit 300 Might, a +30 will still get you over at least one breakpoint and thus provide a damage bonus.
So, let's deal with goddamn Castle Alamos, which my brain keeps wanting to write as Los Alamos.
First things first, it's absurdly fucking huge. Like just titanic. The goal is to hit locations 1 through 5, then go to 6, but this isn't immediately obvious, and if you hit one of the 1 through 5 locations before you realize their relevance, you get the "fun" of backtracking to try and find them again in this absurd maze.
Secondly, the enemies.
They never come in small groups. I literally had a room that it took me close to half an hour, at least 20 minutes, to clear. One fucking room took me 20 minutes to clear, and I had to warp back to town for refills four or five times.
They're also all types we've seen before. Magyar, who are tolerable. Warlocks that turn the party insane. And Air Elementals, briefly glimpsed on arriving in Blackshire, which fly, hide on the ceilings, and bombard the party with ranged attacks that break their gear. I'm sure anyone can see how this might get slightly uhhhhhh frustrating during a 20-minute battle, since all the larger rooms have tall enough ceilings to allow the elementals to hide out of reach.
Oh yeah, and those first five locations we needed to find?
Talking goddamn trees.
Talking goddamn trees.
The one good thing I can say about Castle Alamos is that at least the trees are providing hints for a "riddle," something that MM6 has had a relative dearth of compared to the earlier games.
I honestly despaired at writing any kind of interesting dialogue or in-party conversation about this fucking place because it was just so dull. Like, honestly? I'd rather do Castle Darkmoor again, because at least Castle Darkmoor made me think about how to optimize my ability to break enemies that I hated, and made me consider using spells that otherwise saw zero play(poison damage spells with big numbers), and took away some of my safety net in terms of defensive spells. It at least made me engage my brain a little.
Don't worry, I'll transcribe all of these so anyone who wants to guess along on the puzzle solution can do so by the time we reach the puzzle itself.
Here's where the puzzle itself is, on the rafters above the death cages, through that little hole in the wall. Note that said hole is basically the same dimension and design as multiple gaps that were present in Castle Darkmoor but traversing which felt like a glitch and which lead to nothing, so if you did Castle Darkmoor before Castle Alamos, the game would at this point potentially have trained you to ignore it as just a waste of your time.
Welcome to the two chambers that took me half an hour. Mostly this is because they're large chambers with no cover, filled with enemies whose AI precludes pulling them out in manageable chunks, almost all of which have ranged attacks. So any time you dip in with full health, you have a ton of enemies out of range that are constantly pounding you down. This also marks the place where I transitioned heavily to running right up into sorcerers' faces, switching to turn-based mode and just having Richmond shotgun them with Shrapmetal. I still think that even at point blank range, the spread was making some of the blasts miss, or not count or something, but it absolutely still accelerated the rate of murdery.
The reward is another tree!
There's also this room I just do not understand. In another game this might well have been a secure shooting room for the mages to blast you through the murder hole, forcing you to take a longer way around to dunk on them properly, but the mages can't attack you back through this hole. It's just... it feels like a glitch? Or something left over from another design?
Oh and look at this fucking room, how full of enemies it is. Note that about half of them are air elementals, so if you entered it from below, which you very well might, you'd have a swarm of them above you in a room so narrow you might actually not be able to look upwards enough to target them(M&M6 has an upwards/downwards max view angle of roughly 60 degrees or so, if even that, so enemies directly above you cannot be viewed and can be hard to target).
Featherfall on, drop down, get to chopping before the tree dispenses more wisdom.
This leaves us with just one last tree to discover.
I get lost in the basement for a while pressing buttons I have no idea of the function of, before accidentally stumbling on the last tree.
So now, we can go puzzle it out.
So, our clues, with a bit of the "poetry" stripped out:
"The third is the first of twenty six, A through Z you'll have to mix!"
"The fourth is eight from the end, Archibald really is your friend!"
"The first is half the fourth plus one, better hurry or you'll be done!"
"The second is next to the third, oh so pretty like a bird!"
"The fifth is twice the second, five letters in all I reckon!"
Probably the hardest thing about this one is that it is, for once, as far as I can tell, not a pop culture reference or pun, which is a strange and unusual thing in a New World Computing game.
The third letter first of 26
The fourth is eighth from the end R is eighth from Z
First is half the fourth plus one. Half of R (18) = i + 1 = J
The second next to the third, if A is third then it must be B
The fifth is twice the second, 2 x 2 = 4, D is fourth in the alphabet
Technically if you know the password beforehand, like I did, you could just go straight here and finish this dungeon in like five minutes, especially if your protective spells were strong enough to let you just walk past the enemies with elemental attacks. But I wanted to convey some of the dreary suffering of dealing with Castle Alamos.
And then just as a final "we didn't give a fuck while making this," the pedestal with the Memory Module is labelled as "exit" for some reason.
Finally, town portalling out and donating a couple hundred gold to the local temple so everyone instantly forgives us for literally blowing up an entire town worth of people.
12 of 12 Promotions gotten
6 of 6 Council Quests completed
1 of 1 Traitors unmasked
2 of 4 Memory modules located
Just for the sake of it do we...
A: Go to Castle Kriegspire
B: Visit the Supreme Temple of Baa
We'll need to visit both eventually, but may as well let the thread get in one last vote before it's all railroaded.