|What would victory be without food?|
In a comment on last week's entry for my 250th game, Tristan Gall thanked me for "250 LPs for people who enjoy being part of an adventure when they don't have the time or energy to go on their own." My entries on a game don't quite constitute an "LP," of course--I don't cover every twist and turn--but I do try to be somewhat detailed and hit upon the major plot points.
At times like this, I feel bad for readers looking for something like an LP. Towards the end of a game, impatient to finish, I often push myself well past the point that I should have stopped and written one, two, three, sometimes even four entries. Then, when it comes time to write something, I balk at the idea of covering so much detail and end up summarizing more than I intended. This will be the case with the remainder of The Magic Candle II, which took me just shy of 20 hours to finish after my last entry, most of that time navigating several maddeningly-large dungeons.
|A party member summarizes why winning the game took so long.|
Let's do a quick plot recap. The Magic Candle concerned a quest to shore up the titular prison of wax and tallow in which the demon Dreax had been kept for thousands of years, after he tried to invade the peaceful land of Deruvia from his homeland of Gurtex. That game started just after the "four and forty" warriors and mages guarding the candle suddenly disappeared.
After that quest was completed, King Rebnard of Deruvia decided to take the fight to the enemy, crossed the eastern ocean, and established his court on the island of Oshcrun, just off Gurtex's western coast. At the same time, the hero from the first game (Gia, in my case), decided to join the expedition and search for the fate of the 44 guardians. I assumed Gurtex would be a demonic hellscape, but it turns out that it has enclaves of humans, elves, dwarves, Eldens, and Aletsens (the latter two both ancient races presumed dead). Even the monsters, like goblins, orcs, and trolls, are organized into towns and villages.
|The demon Zakhad rules from Castle Katarra.|
Over the course of the quest, we've learned that 40 of the guardians were slaughtered during the attack on the original magic candle, but the most powerful 4--all Eldens--were taken prisoner by the demon lord Zakhad, shipped across the ocean, and imprisoned in candles of their own. One of them, Zidoni, escaped during the journey.
During my quest, I've found three ghosts from the slain "forty" occupying various rooms in various dungeons, each with a scroll that, when researched at one of the game's three libraries, imparted the information necessary to free the associated Elden from his candle. In the middle of my quest, Zakhad sacked the king's throne room at Oshcrun, blinded the queen, and demanded Prince Jemil as a hostage. Zidoni showed up in the middle of the fight and disappeared with the prince. Later, I discovered a prophecy which indicated that the prince would defeat Zakhad, but would need the fabled Orb of Light to do it.
|Freeing one of the "four" from a magic candle.|
As I was wrapping up my last entry, I had just found the necessary tools and information to complete the rest of the game, including the gray scroll, which I needed to free an Elden from the Candle of Anguish (in a dungeon I'd already cleared) and a magic conch shell needed to calm the southern waters and allow my party to sail to some uncharted islands.
As this final session began, I returned to the first god I had awakened, Marior, who gave Lupi and Eflun the same boosts he had previously given the rest of the party, including +1 strength. This was enough to allow Lupi to wield her own bow. I then returned with the gray scroll to Telermain and researched the Candle of Pain.
|Wow, 5! Don't hurt yourself with all that power, Lupi.|
Hopping aboard a ship, I sailed it to the islands south of Gurtex, using the conch shell to clear the storms.
There were two islands, one quite large, and for some reason the "Teleport" spell didn't work on either of them, so I ended up fighting a lot of random combats. The largest island held a town called Pentyne, populated by the mysterious Altesens. They didn't want anything to do with the outside world and seemed upset by both my presence and that of some sorceress named Somona, whom I heard about but never found.
|Lady, if I hadn't figured this out by now...|
The centerpiece of Pentyne was a temple. As soon as I entered, the Altesen priest howled that I had fulfilled the prophecy, shoved the Orb of Light into my hands, and showed me the door, glad to be done with their part. They were happy enough to recite the Orb's prophecy, though, which included lines indicating we would need to "stride along the lands, [searching] for signs of pain and power...on arm, on head, on limping leg" and that by offering the Orb to the people so afflicted, "a touch transforms the glowing globe."
|The Altesen washes his hands of the whole thing.|
I instantly knew two of the people that the prophecy was talking about: Wartow in Wanasol, who bore the sign of the sun on his hand, and a lame boy named Timm in Telermain, who had a mark of a star on his knee. Returning to them with the Orb, I offered it to both of them, and sure enough something happened when they touched it.
I didn't know who the third person was supposed to be, but both Wartow and Timm had given me full paragraphs (from the paragraph book) when I originally spoke to them, so I reasoned that the third would do the same. Searching for "mark," I unfortunately came upon a paragraph I hadn't received in the game, indicating that it belonged to someone named "Moongold." The context of the paragraph made it clear she was in the nomad's camp. I returned there and hunted around until she appeared, gave her the Orb, and finished that bit of the prophecy. I cheated a bit there, but I'm glad I didn't have to run around talking to every NPC again.
|The Orb turned out to be a pretty stupid plot device. Fair warning.|
A quick return to Ruz--a dungeon I'd already cleared--freed the Elden Zulain from the Candle of Anguish. He said to meet in Wanasol Hall once I'd freed the last one. I assumed he must be in Namaz, a dungeon on the island next to Pentyne, whose password I had obtained in that city.
|Entering the dungeon Namaz.|
Namaz was six small interconnected levels. It was full of snakes that required the "Repel" spell, and another annoying area where I had to treat the party configuration as a puzzle and carefully thread my way through a corridor full of teleporters. In the end--and I'm glossing over a lot here--I freed Zewinul from the Candle of Pain.
Back to Wanasol Hall. There, the three Eldens told me that Zakhad had imprisoned Zidoni in the Candle of Death. Since Zidoni had been running free just a little while ago, I'm not sure how he ended up in Zakhad's clutches. They gave me a blue scroll to free him and told me to reach Zakhad's castle, Katarra, by going through the dungeon of Mandarg, for which they had the password.
|Another nice summary of the final dungeons.|
Mandarg was another huge dungeon, and my only goal within it was to find an iron key and then find my way to the door to Katarra. Katarra consisted of a single large level with two towers with a few smaller levels. The towers were named after Dreax and Dragos. Dragos, you probably don't remember, was the name of the villain in developer Ali Atabek's first game, The Rings of Zilfin (1986), and one of the NPCs in this game actually makes the connection, describing the events of Zilfin as happening "long ago, in a land far away."
|Reis was indeed the name of the PC in that game.|
Both Mandarg and Katarra re-introduced Doombeasts, who make five mirror images of themselves as soon as battle begins and permanently drain your attributes. I described the strategy I used to identify and defeat them a few entries ago. Worse was a new enemy--"Deathknights"--which seemed to be waiting at every corner of Katarra. Their ambushes were so numerous and deadly that I finally started quitting in frustration and reloading when I met them. For those that couldn't be avoided--and for all rooms--I kept Gonshis (multiple attacks) and Mirgets (first attack does 3x the damage) burning at all times.
|A new and relentless foe.|
By far, the more difficult part of the final dungeons--Namaz, Mandarg, and Katarra--was simply finding my way from level to level and to the dungeons' objectives. They were all full of teleporters, some of which could only be activated by particular party formations that allowed stepping on otherwise inaccessible squares. You basically have to have someone in your formation step on every square in the dungeons--which means triggering every ambush, dispelling every snake, and so forth--just to be sure. By the end of the process, I was playing like a jackass, reloading after every unwanted teleport and unnecessary combat.
|This party configuration is the only one that will let me move one square to the south--where there's a necessary teleporter.|
The culmination of the Tower of Dreax was a room labeled "Chamber of Zakhad," but inside was just a bunch of pathetic orcs who paid me to let them flee. I couldn't find anything else to do in the tower, so I returned to the base level of Katarra and eventually found my way up the Tower of Dragos.
|This was a bit anti-climactic.|
That tower culminated in an actual final battle with Zakhad and a host of spellcasting enemies. He didn't have a villain's speech or anything--just a note that he locked the door before combat so we couldn't flee. I entered the battle hopped up on every type of herb and mushroom the game offers, and I had Eflun cast "Jump" to put my best warriors as close to Zakhad as possible, although he made it hard by starting out in a corner. With a combination of "Jump" and swallowing Mirgets before each attack, I was able to take out Zakhad's allies in the first round.
|Killing the big bad in the game's final battle.|
Zakhad wasn't so hard despite having nearly 1,000 hit points. He made himself invisible and cast spells like "Forget" and "Acidball" and "Zapall," but with my Mirget-fueled attacks, he only lasted a couple of rounds. I was confused when he actually died. Dreax, his underling, had been set up as an enemy so powerful he couldn't be slain--only imprisoned in the candle.
With Zakhad dead, I read the blue scroll and freed Zidoni from the Candle of Death (in the same room). He told me to go get King Rebnard and meet all the Eldens back at Wanasol Hall.
I reluctantly gave up Lupi to make room for Rebnard. Via a couple of teleportal chambers and a boat ride, it wasn't long before we were back at Wanasol Hall with Rebnard himself in the party.
|Rebnard kind-of sucks at everything.|
There, Zidoni revealed a plot twist so goofy it's hard to believe I'm writing it: to protect Jemil, Zidoni "placed him inside the egg of the giant Oolau bird." He instructed me to find the Oolau's nest, use the Orb of Light to scare the bird out of the nest (like our swords couldn't have done that), and have Rebnard whisper "Jemil" to free him from the egg.
|"The Eldens stared stonily at us for a few seconds, but then their facade broke. 'We almost had you!' they shrieked, amidst howls of laughter. 'Trapped in an egg! You should have seen the look on your faces!'"|
Of course, Zidoni had nothing to say about where the Oolau nest could actually be found. Fortunately, I remembered researching the topic at the Telermain library early in the game, probably at the behest of some NPC, consulted my notes, and learned that the bird nests in the Gull Islands off the northwest of Gurtex. Another teleportal trip brought us close enough that I could cast "Teleport" to get us to the island.
There, we found the nest and did as Zidoni instructed, shooing the giant bird and freeing Jemil from its egg. Afterwards, Jemil expressed an intense desire to hold the Orb of Light. With no other options, I gave it to him. The game's writers hadn't been batting 1,000 in these final hours, but in this last section, it's like they completely forgot how to write. Here's a transcript.
|I have a bad feeling about this.|
Suddenly the demon Zakhad appears! "Just as I planned," the demon snarls. "The King, the Prince, and the despised Gia, all in my power! Prepare for your doom!"Eflun says: "A trap! We should have known that the demon was not truly dead! But we have the Orb of Light to protect us!"
Prince Jemil raises the Orb. Its glow focuses into a beam of purest light. Jemil aims the beam at Zakhad and says: "Go far, far away!"
|"The prince's lack of precision sent Zakhad back to Deruvia, where he now rampages unchecked" would have been a good setup for The Magic Candle III.|
The demon shrieks and slowly fades away. "This time for good," says Eflun. "Zakhad cannot be killed, but he can be banished. His Highness did very well!""Better than you may think, Eflun," says the Elden Zidoni, appearing from nowhere. "It will be many ages before the demon can even approach the world of mortals again. Zakhad's pall of Darkness has departed from Gurtex completely," Zidoni continues. "One happy effect is that your human Queen can see once again.""Was Momma blind?" cries prince Jemil. "Oh, how sad! We must go home to her at once!"
"As you wish, young Prince," says Zidoni. The elden begins to whisper, and the party is magically transported!"
|What kind of mama's boy spells it "Momma"?|
So let's unpack this a bit. Prince Jemil managed to fulfill the Prophecy--which, by the way, is the laziest storytelling trope imaginable--in only the most technical of senses, was completely inept at it ("go far, far away!"), and still somehow managed to banish the demon to another dimension. Eflun knew that Zakhad couldn't be defeated in combat but didn't bother to tell the party when it actually mattered. Meanwhile, it was somehow Zakhad's "plan" or "trap" to get us together at the bird's nest, except that in order for that to be true, he would have had to be working with Zidoni, which he clearly wasn't, and in any event his "plan" didn't count on us having the Orb of Light, although if we hadn't had it, we wouldn't have have all been together in the first place. The queen is magically healed of her blindness despite the paragraph making it clear that the blindness is physical (i.e., her eyes were ripped out). Oh, and Zidoni is capable of transporting us all immediately across vast distances but doesn't offer this power when lives are on the line.
|For 95% of the game, I barely thought about Prince Jemil. Now, I hate him.|
The final scenes redeemed the game a little bit. They depict the party at a banquet with Rebnard, who recites the names of each of the party members and says something nice about them: "Strong and trusty Eneri; the mighty warrior Sakar; Buzbazgut, the most unusual companion, but the most loyal; the Great Eflun." I half expected Buzbazgut to jump up, reveal his secret plot to get close to the king by joining Gia's party, and then stab Rebnard with a fork. That would have been a twist ending.
|He was the worst fighter I had. I have no idea why I kept him the whole game.|
Fittingly, Gia also insists that the assemblage toast the other NPCs who participated at various points along the way--in my case, Rimfiztrik, Princess Lupi, Lady Subia, and Perin the halfling. Unfortunately, the literal final words concern Jemil being sent to bed by his mother, at which point the player has no options but to save and quit.
|These should be no game's final lines.|
I don't know why I'm being so hard on it. The game offers an actual plot and a proper conclusion, which is more than we can say for 90% of the games of the era. In the summary and rating, we'll have to explore how a game like this can be good, yet still somehow unsatisfying.
Final time: 71 hours