|Trying and failing to talk with a spirit.|
I've had quite a long session since the last entry, most of it spent in dungeons and combats, reloading quite a bit more than I normally prefer. The Magic Candle II has some balance issues that we have to address.
At the end of the last session, I was stocking up on mushrooms, food, and elvenspun outfits for everyone so I could start exploring more of the continent of Gurtex. Some NPC dialogue had suggested that before hitting the continent proper, I stop and speak to the wizard Ziyx on the nearby island of Rondl.
|My explorations during this session.|
Sea voyages in my version of the game are bugged, though in a way that favors the player. First, the party can inexplicably walk on water, so they don't actually need a ship. Second, I can't seem to find any ship owners anywhere to rent their ships. Third, walking on ships, which is supposed to bring up a dialogue to hire them, does nothing. (A commenter said that you have to talk to the owner first, but I've found ships in places where I don't even know where the owner could be; there are no towns nearby.) Usually, you'd suspect something like this is perhaps a crack, but if it is, no one in the files that accompanied my download has taken credit for it. Anyway, I decided not to fret about it even though it makes my game a little easier.
|Trying and failing to interact with a ship.|
Rondl held a patch of Sermin mushrooms plus Ziyx's tower. Ziyx is a wizard--a joinable NPCs in the first game. Ten years later, he's on the other side of the world, working on a new spellbook called "Emenad" that he promises will be finished by October (I visited him in July). The game manual promises that Emenad will have a variety of powerful combat spells, including those that summon monsters, instantly destroy opponents, terrify enemies, and create doubles of party members.
Not having finished it yet, Ziyx instead handed over a free "Demaro" spellbook, which I just spent a lot of money buying. Since the character who bought the book was the one talking to Ziyx, it didn't do anything for me. I should have reloaded and had a different character speak to him, but it didn't occur to me at the time.
|Ziyx moves the party along the quest path.|
Ziyx was also a fountain of information. He recommended that I begin my search for the fate of the four and forty in the dungeon Deraum, beneath Castle Oshcrun. I'd already been there but lacked a key to a crystal door. Ziyx had a solution to that: a wizard named Maalaq, who locked the door in the first place. Maalaq lives in the tower of Shann on the island of Mariz, south of the western end of Gurtex. If I could make my way to Maalaq and whisper "HEFRITI" to him, he'd give me the key. But to get into Shann, I'd need a password, which only Faranim in Ketrop knows.
Back, then, to Ketrop, where Faranim told me that the password was "FRILKENATZ." From there, I journeyed across the water towards Mariz island, clipping a couple of southern peninsulas along the way. On one of them, I stumbled upon a glade with an elf named Delfina, but all she had to offer was some advice about mastering the lute.
|Approaching the foreboding tower.|
I made it to Shann, gave the password, and entered the tower. I expected it to be a single room like Ziyx's place, but it turned out to be a 6-level dungeon full of teleportation puzzles, traps, and demonic creatures.
The combats became much harder in Shann than in the Oshcrun basement. The worst enemies were Gaem demons, who can cast two "Zapall" spells per round, each of which does 18 damage to every party member. If you're facing two of them, you don't want them to survive more than one round because two rounds is all that takes them to destroy the entire party's shields (more on that in a bit). They also have an attack that makes spellcasters forget all of their copies of whatever spell they have loaded into memory.
|A demon blasts all of my party members.|
I also faced a lot of skeletons and zombies. These enemies don't die permanently from combat. They fall down but pop up, alive again, the next round--unless a caster hits them with a "Restsoul" spell. This is part of the "Felmis" book that Rimfiztrik just invented, so I'm not sure how anyone killed undead before that. As far as I can tell, "Restsoul" is the only way to kill them, which makes it particularly infuriating when Gaems and undead attack in the same party, and a Gaem obliterates all copies of the caster's "Restsoul." At that point, the only way out of the combat is to quit and reload or flee.
|A zombie's ghost flees its body as Fiz casts "Restsoul."|
Ambushes are so particularly hard, especially with creatures this difficult, that I learned to cast "Sense" (which warns you about ambushes) repeatedly.
As in the first game, the "Shield" spell protects a party member from magical damage. It can be cast repeatedly on the same character, up to 99 points, and from there any damage spells deduct directly from it. I learned to keep it at the max level whenever possible.
That doesn't help with physical attacks, though. Enemies routinely deal 30-40 points of damage when they hit, enough to kill some of my characters in two hits. You thus have to try to kill them first or enter each battle with a Nift mushroom in your system, which absorbs the next 3 physical attacks.
As I explored and fought, I found that combat was very binary. Either I entered a room with no special protections and got slaughtered, or I entered hulked up on mushrooms and wiped the floor with the enemies. Since mushrooms cost so much, you're constantly making what is in effect an economic decision: do I want to risk this next combat or spend the equivalent of 20 gold pieces ensuring I can win it?
|I don't know why you would take a hireling in this game over a regular NPC. Are they that much better?|
I had to sketch crude maps of the Shann levels to help with all the teleporters and traps that dumped me on previous levels. At one point, I rescued a human warrior named Ben and an elf woman named Eldai from two adjacent rooms with jail cells. Both were joinable NPC, but my party was full.
After a few hours of exploration, I reached a point where I couldn't go any further because I didn't have the "Repel" spell, which clears magic snakes that block corridors. I needed the "Sabano" spellbook for that, which was sold by--you guessed it--Faranim, back in Ketrop. I had to trudge out of the dungeon, back across the water to Ketrop, buy the book, and return to Shann.
|Seriously? I can't just behead them?|
Eventually, I reached Maalaq, whispered the secret word to him, and got the key to Deraum along with a warning to prepare for battle against lots of undead. We left the tower.
|Maalaq is not overly friendly.|
Rather than head directly back to Oshcrun, I decided to take the party up to the Upper Neirwood Forest, near the Demonspine Mountains, where Subia hoped to find a lost city of elves called Llendora. I was toying with getting rid of Subia the next time a decent spellcasting NPC shows up, as she has no magic ability and is pretty useless in melee combat (though getting better).
|That was easier than expected.|
The town wasn't very hard to find. I stumbled upon it just wandering through the forest. It was a small village with a mushroom seller, an inn, a food store, a wizard's lodge, a clothing store, a carpenter, and an archery trainer.
Multiple NPCs told me to seek out Efahir in his house on the east side of town, so I did. He said that "events bring us closer and closer to the predictions of the lost prophecy" and suggested that I see something called the Orb of Light, which I can read about at the library in Wanasol, an Elden stronghold in the Sariss Jungle, pretty far to the east. Intelligence suggests that the Orb is either being held by the Altesens until a "Hero of the Light" comes to claim it, or the demon lord Zakhad has it locked in an iron vault.
|Dire warnings from an elf.|
At this point, it's worth summarizing the (sometimes conflicting) information we have on both the Eldens and the Altesens. The Eldens go back to the first Magic Candle manual, in which they're named as the first race to inhabit Deruvia, "long before the appearance of wizards and the race of men." They allied with the dwarves and elves to repel the first invasion from Gurtex thousands of years ago. It was their magic that trapped Dreax in the titular Magic Candle, and their mages made up the original "four and forty" guardians of the candle in the fortress of Berbezza.
In The Magic Candle, they're talked about as if they've been gone for centuries. You encounter the remnants of their civilization and artifacts, but never an Elden himself.
In this game, it's revealed that the Eldens lived on Gurtex, too, as they left strongholds scattered everywhere, but so did a race called Altesens who remained aloof from the struggles between good and evil and avoided contact with other races. "Tall, well-built, with skins not unilke the bark of pine trees," the library describes them. Some people think they're a myth; others think they left Gurtex to avoid dealing with Zakhad. But clearly they must still be around if they're guarding the Orb.
|To break up the text, here's a funny sign from later.|
Meanwhile, it seems that the Eldens might still be alive, too, since Bhardagast said that four of the "four and forty" in our own time were still Eldens, and it appears they were kidnapped and brought to Gurtex rather than killed.
I love assembling all this lore, but back to the quest. Another NPC told me of the woes of the Gurtex dwarves. They lost the mines of Dorak to a "terror born of darkness and madness" named Vakruh, against whom not even Zakhad has any power. (A little derivative, isn't it?) Now they're in danger of losing their current home, Drakhelm, to the orcs of nearby Glusaga. I learned of a new song called "Morning Mist" that charms bargs, written by Delfina, who I've already met. I'll have to go back to her. An elven bow named Darkfinder has been stolen by thieves. An elf named Estefaz sells the spellbook "Vannex" but I couldn't afford it.
In a central hall, I spoke to the elf prince, Llesiton, in a long book paragraph. The elves had heard of Subia "the great explorer" but were anxious that we'd tell people about their village. We had to swear an oath that we wouldn't. Subia features prominently in the paragraph, so I assume I'd have gotten a different one if Subia hadn't been with me. Subia didn't have anything else to say having completed her little sub-quest.
|Meeting the elf prince.|
We left Llendora, returned to Castle Oshcrun, went to the dungeons, and made our way back to the crystal door. Entering with Maalaq's key, we found a large, one-level dungeon swamped with water, so we had to keep casting "Walkwater."
|If my magical ability is stronger, does it last longer?|
The monsters were much easier than in Shann, although they were almost all undead and I thus had to have a huge number of "Restsoul" spells ready. Chests were full of useful items, like teleportal objects and mushrooms.
|Literally worth more than gold.|
The dungeon culminated in a room with a ghost, just as Bhardagast had said. I had to have Rimfiztrik cast "Soulspeak" to talk with it. The ghost indicated that he had been Horann, one of the forty non-Elden guardians of the candle. He confirmed that the four Eldens were taken and the rest of the guardians were killed (making me wonder if they made up the undead in this dungeon). At some point, he awoke on a boat, enslaved to pulling an oar (he may have already been undead at this point) and overheard a shout that one of the four Eldens had escaped. Someone ordered candles prepared to entrap the other three.
He finished by begging that I release his soul, so I did so with a "Restsoul" spell. His spirit left a white scroll behind, titled "The Candle of Despair." Gia suggested we take it to Ziyx.
As we left the room, instead of returning to the corridors of Deraum, we found ourselves magically transported to King Rebnard's throne room, which was trashed. A long entry in the paragraph book indicated that Zakhad had shown up in the throne room, demanding the king's son, Prince Jemil, as a hostage. When the king said no, the demon started flinging lightning bolts and fireballs. An old counselor named Shannor and a young courtier named Alex were killed protecting the king and queen. Then, at some point, an Elden named Zidoni--or his spirit--appeared and took the prince himself. The king demanded that we find his son and wants us to consult with Ziyx or Bhardagast about a prophecy that Zidoni mentioned.
|I'll bet it's going to have something to do with an Orb of Light.|
- You cannot talk to NPCs while your weapons are drawn. In dungeons, I'm always sheathing my sword to talk to an NPC, forgetting it's sheathed, and then accidentally attacking with fists in the next battle.
- When traveling overland, crossing a river exhausts all your remaining stamina.
|The party restores its stamina after crossing a river.|
- I don't think I mentioned the "nickname" system before. Every NPC in the game, if his or her name is longer than 5 characters, gets a shorter nickname because there isn't space for more than 5 characters in the little table in the game window. Gia, Eneri, Sakar, and Subia are short enough on their own, but Rimfiztrik appears as "Fiz" and Buzbazgut appears as "Buz."
- Sometimes NPCs like to complain for no reason.
|Gia tuned him out and continued walking.|
- The "Vision" spell couldn't possibly be more useless.
|Well. Now I know exactly how to prepare.|
- At one point during combat, Subia got scared and fled. Not only did she flee the combat, she was nowhere to be found when the combat ended. I had to reload an earlier save.
- I could swear that in The Magic Candle, Nift mushrooms remained in your system until you took 3 hits in combat. Here, they wear off after the next battle even if you weren't hit at all.
I don't love the way that so many spells--and, thus, particular characters--are basically required by the game. Woe to the player who doesn't take Rimfiztrik among his first party members. But the developing plot is a lot of fun. I also like how the continent of Gurtex, being a land of demons, makes exploration threatening and suspenseful. That's a good discussion topic, in fact: what are some examples of games that manage to use lore to build up a sense of apprehension about visiting a place, so that when your party or character finally arrives there, you're almost physically afraid? Inside the Ghostfence in Morrowind and the Glowing Sea in Fallout 4 come to mind.
I have two quest threads now: return to Ziyx and try to find the stronghold of Wanasol. Part of me wants to just mess around and explore, though. Next time, now that I'm well into the game, I'll try to cover combat in detail.
Time so far: 12 hours