2018-10-14: Might & Magic: Book Two - A new start
In my last post (which will appear at the same time as this one because Reasons...), I rambled extensively on just how different Book Two is from Book One. I decided to divide my actual exploits into its own post.
I dropped into the first town, Middlegate. I'd played and mapped all of Middlegate in my first attempt to play Book Two, but never progressed beyond it to the world outside. So being level 7, with prior knowledge of the town, I blasted through Middlegate and its dungeon. Upon completing the available quests here, you're left with the task to, just like in Book One, visit every town. This time though it's not disguised as a chain of quests that "happen" to take you to every town: they flat out charge you with visiting every temple in the world on a sort of pilgrimage. Doing so nets you the Castle Key, which lets you enter castles and start taking Lord quests, the first of which is to aid Lord Peabody in finding Sherman, in exchange for access to Peabody's time machine. I'm not kidding.
This quest would sit in the back of my mind for 4 or 5 play sessions as I mapped the world, explored random dungeons, and generally just tried to figure out what to do. I explored the town dungeons, a large chunk of the surface world, and dipped into the castles. These places netted me most of the stat buffing locations which, unlike in Book One, do not require an annoying quest to reset. With the use of the Lloyd's Beacon (Mark/Recall from Ultima) spell, you can just revisit them over and over until your party has 50 in every stat. This alone was able to catapult my party into a troop of death-dealing murder machines. However it wasn't until level 11 that I really found my feet. See, in Book One, level 5 or 7 (depending on party) marks a sudden explosive growth in which you can relatively safely wander the world. In Book Two it's level 11, no doubt. 11 nets you disintegrate, which is the first new spell that matches the power growth between Book One and Book Two: it hits multiple targets and can cause instant death or inflict 50 damage. Not bad, and a staple until you can get Dancing Sword, which is only acquirable via a boss fight.
While wandering I learned of the existence of Green and Yellow messages: scrambled codes that you have to gather in pieces and unscramble with a clue you find elsewhere in the world-- just like Book One's Gold and Silver messages. The Green messages tell you what you need to do achieve a major goal in the game, though I'd already pieced it together from other sources. I found all the Yellow messages, but not its interleave key yet, so I'm still looking for that. I also discovered the Luxus Palace, in which the Queen bemoans that no one in the land has "The Plus" and "The Triple Crown".
Through other hints I'd sussed out these refer to two major quests in the game: The Juror Quests, and the Bishops and Arenas. The former is hinted at in the Green messages: each character in your party must accomplish a quest specifically for their class, the reward is becoming a "Plus" version of their class: Knights become Knight+, Robbers become Robber+, etc. I haven't done this yet so I don't know what the + actually does if anything. The rub of it is you must accomplish each class quest with a party consisting only of that class and Robbers. Why are Robbers special? I guess because without a way to open locked doors you'd be kind of boned. However it means squishes can't have Knight tanks, beef can't have Clerics or Sorcerer utility... though you can use them to get you to the quest in question then dismiss them. This also means if you want to maximize your chances of success, you need a crew of 8 of every class, or a support staff of over-leveled Robbers-- more on that later.
The Triple Crown refers to a chain of events involving the towns and castles. Within each castle is a colored bishop locked in a cage. Freeing him gives you experience, and promises yet more experience if you free him after winning the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown itself involves visiting three arenas in three of CRON's towns, and winning fights. You can select the difficulty of the fights by entering the arenas with a specific colored ticket in your backpack. Winning all three arena battles with green tickets and freeing the green bishop gives you the green Triple Crown, red for red, etc. There are four colors: Green, Yellow, Red, and Black. It is my belief I need to achieve the Black Triple crown to satisfy the queen's requirement: a task that appears to require approximately a level 20 to 25 party; so not quite in reach yet (though I did do it once by abusing stat buffs and, frankly, luck; but this was with a different party so now I have to do it again).
My world exploration had its fair share of death too, of course. Like in Book One, there's places you are very clearly not supposed to go until you're stronger, and you will die if you go there. They're less frequent as the overworld seems to scale with your level, with some exceptions. Dungeons also seem to scale, but within a limited band: if you went into a dungeon meant for a party 10 levels over you, it'll still be 10 levels over you; however if you enter a dungeon at level 5, then again at 10, the encounters will adjust slightly to match. There are frequent overworld events that'll happily drop a boss-tier monster on you, but most of these are obvious. Running around near Middlegate and encountering something called "Cosmic Sludge" should be a warning you should be legging it, as is encountering a solo monster practically anywhere. The latter was a lesson well learned when I ran into a solo foe near Tundara only to get utterly chunked by Dancing Sword-- flashbacks to the Raven's Wood dungeon from Book One! I would eventually return after much training to slay that foe and claim Dancing Sword for myself.
Other side features in my walkabout: aiding a Druid in the Druid's Cave in slaying a fallen apprentice, discovering a Siren and slaying her for the Dark Trident: a rather impressive two-handed weapon usable by almost every melee fighter in my party (I farmed three!), exploring a cave just north of Sandsobar that contains a treasure trove of hints about the overworld and its dungeons, exploring Murray's Resort Isle and being sent (not exactly consensually) to slay a witch across the world for the benefit of Murray himself, the discovery of the four elemental planes at the corners of CRON, the eventual freeing of Sherman from the clutches of natives in the central south regions of CRON, and the discovery of the realm of dragons (that did not end well).
After a ton of exploration I'd also found Mt. Farview, where you go to turn in class quests. It promised 5,000,000 experience for anyone receiving their plus. Given at that moment my party members had approximately 2,000,000 experience each, I felt this would be a solid boost to performance if I could pull it off. I'd located the Knight's quest already: a simple duel in the fields near Middlegate. My original plan was to grab all the Knight and Robber hirelings I could and go in with level boost potions to get through, then a second thought occurred to me: other quests will likely be harder. I'll need a strong support staff to make them go smoothly. 5,000,000 experience is enough to hit level 20 immediately, so I hatched a plan...
I'd create five Robbers: disposable mooks that aren't my carefully curated and nurtured A-Team. My team for the class quests would consist of one party member doing their quest, five disposable Robbers, a single Robber hireling to fill a hireling slot, and "Dark Mage", a Sorcerer hireling I rescued that comes with spell level 5: just enough for Fly and Teleport. With this team I'd warp straight to a class quest, dismiss Dark Mage so he's out of my party, then perform the task at hand. If something complicated arises, I can even go in and set Lloyd's Beacon to warp past any shenanigans that may try to stop me at the gates. All the plan needs to work is doing one class quest with a team of level 1 Robbers in the party; in doing so, the Robbers would all earn their plus, get enough experience to hit level 20, and suddenly become functional support characters for the other class quests. I've determined my best shot at pulling this off is the Knight quest.
So I created five Robbers, grabbed my Cleric PC, and Dark Mage for Lloyd's Beacon and Teleport, and went to the stat upgrade spots I'd found across the world. Soon after, I had five level 1 Robbers with 50 in every stat. It's my expectation that leveling them up will provide quite a bit more HP than my A-Team has, since they didn't have the benefit of 50 Endurance until about half way into the game.
If my plan works, my next stream will consist of doing the Knight quest, getting my B-Team to level 20, and then sweeping the remaining quests with 5 angry, nigh-invincible Robbers. Once everyone has their plus, another spin through the Black Triple Crown to make sure everyone has it is in order, and then finally... maybe... we'll learn what the goal of the game is.