Thursday, March 29, 2012

Might and Magic

During one of my fits of rage at the nigh-impossible task that was the quest to defeat Zork, I picked up Might and Magic (the first one), and dove into another game, furthering me down the path of preparedness for the moment when P&P RPGs would enter my life.  It tooke everything I loved about Zork and added a visual layer to it, as well as preparing me for party dynamics and balance.  Crag the Hack was the fighter, Sir Garland the Paladin, Zenon III the Archer, Swifty Sarg the Robber, Serena the Priest, and Wizz Bane the Sorceror.  I didn't even have to look up their classes as I typed that - that's how indelibly this game imprinted itself on my consciousness.  The spellcasters had spells (New World Computing's anti-piracy measures consisted of printing the spell list on the instructiong guide.  Without it, it would be tough to play the game), the Thief could rob and pick locks and such, the cleric healed, the wizard had his fireball, etc etc. 

And the world was HUGE!  I'd often look at the map provided of VARN, and imagine what sorts of things hid in those woods, or in the desert, or in the swamps.  There were five cities, each with a dungeon underneath it, there were castles, there were cave systems, there were dungeons, the game even had it's own Astral Plane!  Now mind you, I was on an Apple IIe at the time, so the wonders of Elder Scrolls were out of my reach at the time.  So this was unbelievable to me.  It seemed as though the game never ended!  I had a vague notion that graph paper would help me defeat the game more easily, but every time I would put serious thought into it, I would remember how freakin' huge the game was, shrug, and keep stumbling around.  Eventually it got to the point where I didn't NEED a map, and I could race through the dungeons beneath Sorpigal at light speed.  I still remember the time that I discovered my first hidden door in the game.  There was nothing telling me it was a hidden door, I wasn't able to "detect" it, I just happened to be facing a wall and pushed the forward button instead of turning, and voila!  I was on the other side of the wall, in a hidden room!


I proceeded to go back through the entire city, testing every single wall, looking for  more hidden rooms.  Found quite a bit, too, as I remember.  From that point on, I tested every single wall space in every single room, forest, cave or dungeon.  Obviously, that slowed me down a bit.


I finally ended up winning (It turned out that the guy I was hunting for was disguised as the King the whole time!  OMGWTFBBQ!!!), and set the game aside.  I have a vague recollection of buying the sequel, Gates to Another World, but the prospect of diving back into that world was a bit daunting, so I never got far.


The REAL mindf*ck of the games, though, is that while the setting appears to be standard medeival fantasy, the "world" that you're on, VARN, is actually a frikkin' spaceship.  VARN, it turns out actually stands for Vehicular Astropod Research Nacelle.  CRON, where the second game takes place, stands for Central Research Observational Nacelle. 

After the second one, the series migrated to the Mac, while my family stuck with the IIe, so the game moved on without me, but reading the wiki article, apparently it turns out, in the final twist, that the reason the whole setting was medeival was because it's actually post apocalyptic, there was a giant war, the ships everyone is living on were cut off from the Ancients, and descended into barbarism.

Crazy stuff - it's like Dungeons and Dragons, Metamorphosis Alpha and a dash of Gamma World thrown in!

If you're into this sort of thing, the first six games can be purchased from Good Old Games for $9.99!

1 comment:

  1. I played--and beat--Might & Magics #1 through #5.5, starting on the IIe and moving to a DOS machine as the series progressed.

    I fastidiously mapped everything out on ol' graph paper. Put page after page in a 3-ring binder. I think each game section, both indoors and outdoors, was 40x40 squares, and the outdoor world itself was, like, 12x12, or 15x15 pages.

    (And if I remember right, M&M II was even bigger, like 20x20 pages of paper, each with 40x40 grids. But since it's been so long, I could be totally mis-remembering the scale.)

    And I'll never forget the ending of the first game. You get to the end door of the final dungeon, and you're supposed to answer a riddle question about the Big Bad's name (literally, something like, "What is my name?") to unlock it...and the only way to know that answer was from your map, because the final dungeon walls on the graph paper spelled something like: "My name is SHELTEM."

    All well and good, because I had fastidiously mapped the whole freakin' game...except on that final dungeon, I had mis-drawn a wall, so my map spelled SHELTEN.

    I explored that dungeon over and over, but could never find my mistake. I think I had to break down and call the 1-900 number to beat it, which displeased my parents to no end.



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