2018-10-15: Might & Magic: Book Two - Finished
I did a 7 hour marathon tonight to finish Book Two. I didn't intend it that way; it just happened. I loaded up with my army or Robbers and the Knight class quest went off without a hitch. From there I had a crew of level 19 Robbers with 300 HP able to assist the other classes in their endeavors. The only quest I had any problem with was the Cleric quest, wherein the fight against a bunch of high level undead on an anti-magic square sent me to the reload screen a few times. The Sorcerer quest involved navigating a series of doors using hints found in the Druid cave. The rest were pretty simple "Find monster, kill monster" affairs. Finishing these took my "A-Team" from level 16 to 21 or 22, which made me strong enough to basically go anywhere I wanted in CRON-proper.
Rather than continue my explorations, I headed to the Queen to see if she would tell me more about the quest she had for someone strong enough to win the Triple Crown and earn their plus. Fortunately I did not have to do the Black Triple Crown again. I was sure I'd swapped my Ninja hireling in after I did it the first time, but I guess I was mistaken-- or hirelings don't count. Either way, she dubbed "one of the party" the Chosen One. She didn't clarify who, and I guess it didn't matter a lot since it wasn't a tangible status I could track. Her quest was simple: see Lord Peabody about going back in time to change the past. How exactly we were supposed to do this was left unclear. Peabody was also not much of a help, though I suppose based on this, I was supposed to do Peabody's quest to rescue Sherman after receiving the Queen's title. Oh well, it wasn't hard or anything.
Without much to go on, I headed to the only place in the past I knew mentioned in hints: Castle Xabran. Here I found a map to every world-acquirable spell and hireling in the game, as well as the Yellow interleave for the Yellow messages I'd had for hours now. In addition, I found a Red interleave, for a set of messages I haven't even seen yet. Decoding the Yellow messages gave me a clue about the circus, but I'd missed the circus by days at this point: it was Day 10 of the Year 904. Hidden within far corners and secret rooms were also elemental discs: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. Within Xabran I also found something else: the level boost from doing the class quests had changed the tier of monster the game threw at me; or perhaps it's just that Xabran is particularly rude. I was now sometimes encountering monsters who went first and could sometimes breathe for 600 damage to my whole party: practically an instant wipe. It took me several attempts to map all of Xabran, not including the repeated warps back to Middlegate due to the time travel mechanic just sort of... wearing off?
The interleaves were useful, but didn't tell me what my next goal should be. I turned to the only other tidbit I had regarding game progression: the elemental Talons. I knew I needed them, and I knew they were in the four elemental planes, and I just found four elemental discs that are probably related, so I headed to the corners of the map. I started with the Earth Plane in the south east. Upon entering I was greeted by a wraparound plane with no walls or landmarks, and forced combat tiles with Earth Elementals and Elemental Hydras. The former weren't bad at all, but the latter could breathe for up to 600 damage (a pattern forming here?). I had armor on my Cleric that resisted the energy element the breath used, so I could spam Moon Ray to keep my party up with its paltry heals. As long as I got them above 0 before they received another hit, they'd stay in the fight. The trouble came when an Earth Elemental stayed up after the first round, as they'd also breathe for 20-50 damage, but that'd be enough to kill.
Exploring the plane was tedious, but eventually resulted in finding the Talon, sure enough guarded by its Disc. The next planes were identical: same infinite plane, same hydras, just different element... elementals... accompany the hydras. Somewhere along the line I learned two things: first that the hydras are pretty much immune to magic, or at least my magic-- maybe if I was higher level. Second, power shield is a godsend if you're receiving heavy damage like, for example, hydras blowing 600 damage breaths at you. Power shield took the fights from "If I miss one attack I wipe" to manageable. Unfortunately I didn't come to grasp this until the third plane, after I was already grouchy and tired of elementals. Still perseverance netted me all four Talons and, in addition, 8 of the 9 Red messages. Two per plane. Where's the 9th? I have no clue; maybe in one of the planes, maybe somewhere else. It was Red Message #6 I left in the world of CRON somewhere.
Despite missing one message, with the interleave and some fiddling I was able to piece together the entire clue: it was a roadmap to beating the game. In short, the steps are...
- Win the Triple Crown
- Do the class quests
- Talk to the Queen to get the Chosen One title
- Get the Talons and the Orb
- Save the King in the past
- Go to the Square Lake to finish the quest
I'd already done 1, 2, 3, and half of 4. I'd not heard a single clue about the Orb, wasn't sure where or when in the past the King was, and while the Chosen One title could probably let me enter the Square Lake early, I'd wager without the rest of the pieces together, there'd be no point. I'd recalled mention of the King and the Orb in the manual, so I went rifling and hit gold: in the prologue... The Queen's father used the Orb to keep the elemental lords out of CRON, but the Orb's power waned and a dragon slew him in the 9th century; the place the battle took place eventually became the Quagmire of Doom; AKA D-4. I knew the where and when, but I still needed the Orb. The manual had me covered there too: the Orb was said to be lost there in the Quagmire.
I'd already been going for four hours here, but I felt the end was close and couldn't put it down now, so I pressed on, possibly to the detriment of my health and sanity.
Well, at this point I only knew of one point of interest in the Quagmire, and it was one I had not fully explored: Dawn's Cave. I'd been here for Murray's quest, and the Ninja quest, but I never 100% mapped it. In doing so I found the last stat source: The Luck Charms. A little late now, heh! After searching every tile of the cave I eventually found a secret door behind a convention of Greedy Snitches (200 to be exact). Therein I found a winding tunnel to a chamber guarded by appropriately named Orb Guardians. They hit like trucks and resided on an anti-magic square, so I died a few times trying to take them, but eventually I prevailed. I moved forward to claim the Orb only to find I was missing... something. I couldn't take it. Well, the Talons weren't what I needed, I could only think of one other thing that was given massive importance across my travels: the four oddly named devices.
I was missing one device; the one from Woodhaven. A quick detour to get it and on the way I stopped off to check my levels. My exploits in the elemental planes had given me enough experience to level everyone in my party three times. This alone was enough to make the Orb Guardian re-fight a breeze and, sure enough, the devices were the missing part to retrieving the Orb. Awesome: got the Talons, got the Orb, know when to go... but where? I hopped into the Wayback Machine and set off to the Year 800; it's here I noticed something I hadn't before: the machine places you in the Quagmire. That confirmed my hunch. Even better: one step forward brings you face to face with the King. I'd always used Fly immediately after warping, so I never bumped into him. He took the Talons and Orb and thanked me, then urged me to return to 900 and get more instructions at Luxus Palace. This required resting until the time travel effect wore off.
Upon arriving in Luxus, the Queen was gone, replaced with the now significantly older King. He gave me the password "WAFE" and sent me to the Square Lake near Middlegate for "the final task". Here's the thing though... the elemental planes are uninspired. They're blank maps with random and forced encounters to make them difficult. The only point in mapping is to map where the encounters are and where you've looked for the Talon. The Square Lake dungeon is no better. It's one straight hallway that touches every tile in the 16x16 grid. It runs from left to right, bumping up one tile every loop and wrapping around at the right edge. At every 'bump' there's a forced combat that, as far as I can tell, can draw from any monster eligible to spawn for you as a random combat in all of CRON. I got rats, ghosts, low level humans, high level humans, dragons, elementals, hydras, wizards, robots... everything. Also with about a dozen combats and no way to teleport, you have to do this all in one shot. Leaving respawns all of them.
I ran from anything I didn't recognize or have clear memory of being easy to defeat. It took a long time, maybe an hour just in this one simple dungeon, but I eventually reached the end. A series of mocking signs guided me in: "Are you ready?" "This is it!" "Just kidding" "This is really it!" or something to that effect. Finally I came to a door to the final unexplored tile on the map and behind it was... Sheltem, the antagonist of Book One!
In Book One Sheltem was revealed to be a rogue alien that invaded VARN and impersonated one of the Lords. You unmask him and he flees without a direct encounter; it is implied Sheltem has fled to CRON, but he's never mentioned until now (unless I missed it). I suppose Book Two having a final battle at all is an improvement, but truthfully the planes fights were worse. Sheltem hit for about 300 to a single target and came with an elemental of every element. I took him down pretty easily, since I'd been handling similar fights with more AOE for the past two hours. Once he was gone, it was revealed that CRON was an arcology ship, and Sheltem had diverted its course into a sun. The password "WAFE" sets its autopilot back on course, and then the final trick is revealed.
A message from Sheltem appears, informing you that you'd tripped a trap in the system and now CRON would enter the sun in 15 minutes unless you decipher a cryptographical riddle. The riddle is a substitution cipher with a password input and the clue "Answer = Preamble". A quick peek at letter counts of each word told me the cipher was likely the American preable to the Constitution (you know, "We the people...") but it didn't quite match. Musing aloud on this on stream, one of my viewers replied "Maybe it's the preable of Terra?". A quick peek, yup.... "We the people of Terra, in order to form a more perfect union...". Well I've figured out the message, now what. The clue stated "Answer = Preable". I mused aloud again "Maybe I need to cipher the word 'preable'. A viewer confirmed (I... am actually a little disappointed at this spoiler). I finished the puzzle with 8 minutes left on the clock.
That was the end, much to my shock. I'd started the stream thinking I was just now starting the main quest (and truthfully I was), and I finished it, blind, in seven hours, including many resets to deaths. The Might & Magic series seems to do this... I spent 9 days wandering around CRON blindly with no idea of what to do, gaining strength, finding notes that meant nothing to me at the time, only to have everything fall together in one massive echoing click once I found the piece of the puzzle that made it all make sense. In this case, the Red message. I suppose Book One was similar with the Gold message. Both practically tell you exactly how the finish the game, but you have to practically explore the whole world to find them. I wonder if Isles of Terra will have similar.
I finished Book Two at level 25. The 50,000,000 experience reward gave me 21 levels, making me fairly god-tier compared to where I was moments ago. The game urged me to continue on to the world of Terra, to be revealed in Might & Magic III. No thanks. At least... not immediately. Two M&M games back to back is enough for now, though I look forward to when I feel up to tackling the next chapter. Actually there's one thing to do yet: I need to explore the rest of the overworld. There's a sizable chunk of the Desert and Quagmire I left unexplored in my zeal to finish once I smelled the end nearby...
Edit: I went back and mapped the rest of CRON. I'm pretty sure I got the desert a little wrong, and missed a few things here and there, but it's a pretty neat map all told.