Game Design Talk: Might and Magic's Progression

Discussion in 'Games' started by Xylia, Mar 5, 2020.

  1. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    I finally got around to playing M&M 7: For Blood and Honor and yet again, I'm amazed by how darn fun these games are, and I thought I would share a bit of my theory as to why I find myself loving these games.

    Before I go any further, I need to stress something: I am not talking about Heroes of Might and Magic, those are RTS-like games. I mean just normal Might and Magic.

    For those of you who have never played, the Might and Magic games are a First Person Perspective Group-Based Dungeon Crawler type thing (though they have plenty of outdoor exploration too). It's similar to Eye of the Beholder for anybody who's played any of those games.

    The games' main features are lots of dungeon crawling, lots of turn-based combat, good group/character customization in the later games, and a rather open-ended world to explore, where the only thing stopping you are Beef Gates (powerful enemies that will kill you fast if you go somewhere you're not meant to go yet) and they only give you basic hints as to where you're supposed to go next.

    I started with the M&M series back in 3: Isles of Terra, when I was a teen/young adult back when I had a 486 Win95 PC and then recently, I got 4&5 (Xeen) and then eventually played 6: Mandate of Heaven, and now I'm on 7: For Blood and Honor.

    I highly recommend Xeen and 6-8. #9 was rushed and has lots of bugs sadly, and #10 was developed by a different studio, so I'm not going to recommend those (I haven't played them myself). They can all be found on GOG for rather cheap. 1 through 5 are DOS games (they ship with a pre-configured DOSBox so setup is easy) and make heavy use of keyboard shortcuts, so be aware of that.

    So anyhow, the topic of this Game Design Talk is Might and Magic's curious progression formula that the game uses.

    In most RPGs, you get this gradual curve as you progress through the game, and in the beginning, your stat growth is rather fast, and then it levels off to a steady incline as you gain XP and levels, as long as gold and buying items, your characters steadily grow through the game, and it's a nice even progression.

    In Might and Magic, however, at least the ones I've played (3 through 7), you start off very incredibly weak, barely able to handle the fights at the beginning of the game (and that is only if you are really careful and I highly suggest you save often, mistakes are VERY costly). Then as you do a few small quests, and get a couple levelups, things start getting a bit more comfortable.

    And then...

    And then you skyrocket in power very quickly. In M&M7, I'm about 4-5 hours into the game, and I went from struggling with enemies and trying to find enough money for basic things to getting 3-4 levelups within an hour and a half's play and doubling my money to the point I feel I got extra money (but not infinite money!) and now I'm just murdering things left and right and it's fun as all frick.

    As long as I go to the right dungeon, where I'm supposed to be, if this is anything like M&M6 was, my characters will come back from each dungeon loaded with gold, loot, and lots of XP ready to train new levelups and the growth will continue for most of the game until near the end when it finally levels off, but by then you should have all the tools, spells, and good equipment you need, and if you set up your group in a reasonable way, you should be able to handle what the game throws at you, provided you're playing decently well and you coast on till the end.

    It's that sudden rapid growth that is really fun, though, when you get so much loot and gold (that you will actually need!), that it's just plain fun. M&M isn't afraid to reward you for your efforts, but yet given how you can get to level 150+, and as you get higher and higher, the levelups start getting more and more expensive, you never feel like gold is useless. There's always something you could spend gold on.

    Sadly, the company that made the original Might and Magic series (New World Computing IIRC) is no longer around and the remnants were, IIRC, bought by Ubisoft which means we'll likely never see another good M&M game that truly captures the spirit unless some indie developer wants to make one, which I really hope happens someday.

    We need more games like these around!
  2. I_am_the_Storm

    I_am_the_Storm Scruffy Nerf-Herder

    First of all... For Lord's sake, do not buy 'Might and Magic 10 : Legacy', unless you want to suffer. This abomination put shame on beautiful and amazing franchise. It didn't play as its predecessors, is buggy as hell, freeroaming and open world are de-facto absent, the difficulty is unfair, experience for your characters is very, very limited as monsters do not respawn, its movement mechanic is grid-based (like in Dungeon Master or Legends of Grimrock) so complete opposite, if you make a bad party, you will definitely get stuck at certain points in the game, and much more. Of course, I speak from my personal thougths, so I apologize to anyone who has different experience.
    But to your point...
    I agree on most of your words. I cannot say how the first five and seventh installments plays like, but as for the rest, sixth is my favourite. 'Might and Magic 8 and 9" didn't hooked me up as much as Mandate of Heaven, but I remember them being fun nonetheless. Maybe because of 'shrunken' and more limited world, I am not sure.
    M&M 6, however, is brilliant. It has everything and indeed. more games like this should be made, so I use it as my 'origin of thoughts', so to speak.
    Also note, that I didn't played any installment of M&M for some time, and thus I may be wrong at something. Hopefully not.

    I feel the progression -at least in M&M 6- is a mixed bag: quite slow, fast, and thus weird. You start off being amateur at nearly everything, have problems to deal with basic enemies, lack of gold for better equipment, lack of food, etc... Just like you said.
    Until you get ranged weapons. Then rest of the game become quite easy, except some parts. You will mow down almost every enemy, and even those who have ranged attacks or high health can be easily defeated by strafing, walking backwards and attacking. With some skill and planning, you can defeat a dragon, harpies or swarms of minotaurs at relatively low levels. After rising a certain magical skills, learn spells like Meteor Shower, Implosion or Fly, and you will have a recipe for success. Since the game allows switching between turn-based combat and real-time combat, you can always 'pause' the combat in time of need, escape the enemy, heal your party, then come back to finnish them off. Plus, you have slots for two additional 'party members', like healers, or cooks.
    Now, most of these only apply if you have a fairly balanced party. Some setups will have problems only early and later game is a walk in the park, some setup will have the opposite, and some will shine in certain parts of the game, while others will be hard even with good equipment and spells. My personal favourite was a Knight, Archer, Mage, and Cleric, so common classes. You can teach each class nearly every skill, like identifying things, disabling traps, archery, or diplomacy. Archery is mandatory, however. I didn't tested it, but I think that without Archery, you may not be able to make some significant progress. Though, I've tried 2 Mages and 2 Clerics, and as long as you can keep your distance and have enough mana, you will fly through majority of game. Maybe literally. Well... until you decide to loot out a dungeon or cave, where the space is very limited. Then it is not easy...
    This, of course, depends on money, which is not a problem after 4-5 hours in the game. as you stated. Learning/improving skills and gaining levels must be done by trainers, who requires money, so it may take some time before you fulfill their greedy needs. It can get quite pricey after some tens of levels, but you just need to hop into one or two side dungeons and you will be swiming in gold again. I am not counting one place where you can gather money over and over again, only legitimate way.

    It also has to something with the world itself. As you certainly know, the further you travel from your starting point (New Sorpigal in M&M 6) the more dangerous enemies you encounter and also greater numbers of them, although there are few exception. which allows you the get a better equipment and more money with experience, with the risk of being overwhelmed by legions of enemies. The camps with goblins and mages near first town comes to mind. Also, enemies are respawning after some time (about in-game month, but I am not sure), so as long as you are willing to farm previously visited places, you have virtually unlimited source of gold and experience. Patience, on the other hand, is not unlimited...

    Another factor is randomization of items (again, at least for M&M 6). While it is not such madness like in 'Diablo II' the randomization play a big role in how you progress through the game, and hold you for another hour or so. Aside from large variety of armors and weapons, they are also accessories like gauntlets, rings and amulets, which have some magical enchantments, handful of usable items, like wands or scrolls, which may or may not help at all, and some potions. So... if RNG is having a bad day, you can end up in situation where you are unable to find single good item, and instead find lots of gold, empty flasks, or herbs... for thirty minutes straight.

    Other things influencing progress are small, but important to adress nonetheless...
    We have carriages, which let you -for a small price- travel from X to Y, and save time. Nothing breath-taking, but it may save you tens of minutes of mindless walking.
    We have side quests. While they are always a nice addition, they are not super important, as you can hoard tons of loot and experience from simply wandering around, taking everything what is not nailed down, and eliminating everything, that raise its sword/axe/claw/tail against you. Plus, they are nothing more than a fetch and go-there-and-defeat-that- quests, One does not need to do them, yet, they can add some hours to it for the sheer amount of them. Also, there are promotion quest, which needs a certain prerequisites like X points in stat Z, amount if fame, or completed quest, and reward is upgrade of class of your party. Usually, they add bonus to health or mana, improve skills and such, and are good way to boost characters. Perhaps a necessity.
    We have Arena. Arena is open only at certain times and places, but it is a solid, temporary alternative for acquiring gold and experience. Again, not very important and completely optional, but a welcomed addition indeed. The arena at later locations can be a little bit cruel, however... Fighting 15 Medusa Queens or few Gold Dragons at once in enclosed space is not fun... 'sob'
    The last thing is an area called Dragon's Sands. I don't recall if its called exactly like that, however, as the name suggest, it is a dessert area FULL OF FRIGGIN' DRAGONS, LIZARDS AND WYRMS OF ALL KINDS!... You can gain an UNBELIEVABLE amount of everything, find a powerful gear and obtain a large boost to stats. But there is a catch... which I won''t spoil, even after twenty years.

    Maybe there are some other things worth mentioning, but I cannot remember them. These are the ones I recall so far.
    Nonetheless, this is my piece to add to the discussion. I am sorry, if this looks like a review or something, but I also wanted to outline in to people who never heard about this.
    Xylia likes this.
  3. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    Hmmm. You didn't mention MM7 in all of that. You said you tried 8 and 9... and you loved 6...

    Personally, my opinion of 7 is that it did everything that 6 did, but slightly more refined/better. Not to say 6 is bad, of course, though there are things I miss (such as they reduced hirelings in 7 and made some of them less overpowered lol).

    As to Bows being godly, well..... yeah. Up until a point. Later-game, though, enemies are just too strong to be handled by bows alone, and it's kind of a noob trap where you might think bows are so awesome and then invest heavily in them, only to run into enemies that tear you to pieces if they get in melee range in situations where you have no way to get out of melee range. Need a balanced group!

    As for MM10 and terrible groups killing your run, well... that happens in ALL M&M games, really. If you make a terrible group that can't handle the dangers of the world, you are going to be sorry. In every single M&M game that was ever made, you always want a healer, an arcane caster, and a rogue. Bare minimums. What you do with the rest of the slots, you will probably want at least 1 tanky/fighty character that is good in melee, and if you're playing 6-8 that's your 4 person setup. And whatever you do, you always gotta make sure that you've got access to certain critical, absolutely vital spells, such as Town Portal (which requires Master in Water Magic, and you don't want to have to wait until 2nd Promotion to be able to cast it!) and Fly. I don't remember how 6 goes exactly, but in 7 ... not all classes can go to Master+ in some of these spell categories, so if you're gonna grab a hybrid... they need to be a backup caster rather than your main caster. If you have a Paladin, you're going to need a Druid or a Cleric with them as they can't handle a main healer's job by themselves. I would assume that an Archer (and its promoted classes) is the same way. Druids seem unique that they seem to be able to handle being a healer and offense in the same bundle, oddly enough. I suppose it's when you try to mix physical and magic that you usually end up falling short in both.

    In many cases, the hybrids just aren't all that great, with the exception of Druids (which I feel are a bit OP in 6 and 7) and Paladins (I tried one in my latest 7 playthrough, she seems to do OK throughout most of the game). My friend who got me into M&M... had me make a 3 druid 1 rogue party and holy crap did that group just wreck everything in sight. Though it struggled a bit early-game, but then again, M&M6 gives you the NWC Dungeon to get around the difficulties of trying to start with a 3 druid group (which is incredibly weak at the beginning of the game, but gets godly powerful at the end). If you weren't aware of the NWC Dungeon.... you can pick a hidden scroll of Fly up in New Sorpigal and fly to the Obelisk (I forget why, I think there's stuff laying on the ground near it?) and then fly back to one of the buildings in town that you could only reach with Fly. Clicking that teleports you to the aforementioned area with all the dragons. Once there, if you can go fast enough and hurry up and click on a spot on the wall, you get teleported to a secret dev dungeon that has a LOT of stuff. Once you're done, you would have made all the stat potions for everybody, found several decent items to start the game with, 10k gold, enough XP for a few levelups and a few things you can sell once you get back to New Sorp and you're able to touch the shrine in the dragon area if you're quick and clever about it to get yourself a permanent +all resistances boost. Perfect for learning how to play!

    The NWC Dungeon in itself is great for allowing a player to learn the ropes in Might and Magic and it alone is one of the reasons I tell most people that if they're going to try a modern M&M game, to try #6. In MM7, they got rid of the cheaty dev dungeon and instead added a bit more in-game way of giving newbies a leg up: The newbie island has a Day of the Gods pedestal that casts the spell of the same name on your group when you touch it. This has a profound effect on your characters' fighting ability that lets you breeze through the first area easily. Assuming you were smart enough to get bows and bow skill on everybody, the next area isn't too bad and then the 3rd area has a Day of the Gods and a Heroism pedestal that lets you get a nice smooth easy start to the game. If you're having trouble with the goblins in the first area past the newbie island, you could always hop on a coach to the 3rd town and levelup there and come back and the goblins would be easy as pie.

    One of these days I'll try M&M6 without the newbie dungeon lol.

    If you wanna try a DOS M&M, get 4+5 both installed, and go straight to Darkside ASAP which will make your characters more than strong enough to handle most stuff on the Lightside fairly easily. Just an hour in the first town in Darkside and you're more than strong enough to mop the floor with half of the Lightside which gives you plenty of time to learn the ropes.

    EDIT: After typing this I thought about things a little... I might do another playthrough of 7 sometime... but replace the Paladin with a Knight and see if that goes any better. Originally the idea was that the Paladin could do a little backup healing but I almost never use that functionality and I wonder if that is kinda useless and I would be better off just having a Knight who had more health, access to Grandmaster Plate (Paladins can only get Master), etc. That, and Paladin's first promotion quest is so annoying to try and do early lol.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
    I_am_the_Storm likes this.
  4. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    So, as an update, I started M&M8 yesterday and after a bit of fumbling with learning where things are and such, and getting a little advice from a friend...

    It seems 3DO/NWC really doubled-down on what made the previous games so much fun. Even faster progression, more loot, more money, more skills, more spells and just plain fun.

    Though this game might be a little too easy for those who liked the greater challenge the previous games presented the player, but thankfully there are ways you can alter the difficulty, namely, not recruiting a dragon into your party.

    I rather enjoy the more laid-back nature, though. And besides, it's fun to watch Ithilgore just roast everything alive.
    I_am_the_Storm likes this.
  5. I_am_the_Storm

    I_am_the_Storm Scruffy Nerf-Herder

    As I said, I didn't played M&M 7, so I didn't mentioned it. I looked through my CD collection (which is formed from numerous discs from different magazines, with few originals, so it took a while) and I found the M&M 7 disc, but it is scratched, thus unusable. I don't even know, how that happened, but I am thinking about buying it off of GOG, if it is as good as you saying. As for 8, 9 and 10, I barely remember only bits from them. The 6th is the one I remember best.

    Well... yes, the bows are incredibly usefull, only if you can keep your distance. Not all places allows it though, and few enemies can devastate you, if you don't pay attention to magic and raw strength. That damned Castle Darkmoor comes to mind, and its fudging Eyes... or later the Terminator enemies and their ability to inflict Extermination... or even Harpies...
    It is quite 'different song' when you get to the Blasters; however, it is an end game stuff, so...

    If I remember correctly, there is one boss on some kind of tower, called Murumasa (or something like that). The battle area is very limited, 3x3 I believe, and there is an option to push the opponent both for player and enemies, and it's the only instance this 'game mechanic' comes to play. So... you can have a very good character combination, but it doesn't matter, if the boss can just shove you off the tower. Perhaps 'Fly' would help. but I don't know if it is even possible to get this spell, at this point, with limited resources and options. While this 'pushing' mechanic is available in normal encounters, you don't need to use it at all, as it is not something a few spells and bashes to the head would not fix.
    But again, I stopped playing M&M 10 after maybe 7 or 8 hours, I don't remember much of it, and never came back to it. I have better games to play and things to do.

    Personally, I tried to stick to the 'expected' skill distribution, thus no hybrids (I did tried hybrids though, and it was intersting, especially in terms how much can I handle re-loading a save until my patience run out), so my Knight get 'Diplomacy', 'Merchant', 'Bodybuilding', 'Plate Armor' and 'Swords' without 'Shield' skill. Sorcerer get all elemental magic plus 'Dark Magic', 'Staff' and 'Identify', and so on, and the results were quite good. The heroes were not over-powerered, nor under-powered, and while some areas (I am looking at you, Castle Darkmoor!) were pain in the bass, they were managable with some tactics.
    I know about the NWC dungeon. Once I clicked on the upper wall of one building, my reaction was : "Oh, sh... I need to get o...!", then get immediately wasted by ten dragons. Good times... The trick is to enter the combat mode; the dragons won't have time to attack you, you just turn around, enter the NWC dungeon, loot everything, boost everyone, possibly eradicate all denizens for extra cash, and get out. Nice addition is, that it doesn't make your playthrough necesarilly easier; some locations and enemies will banish your heroes from existence anyway.

    Good luck with that, and have fun! Without the buffs and gear, you will be glad that you defeat the goblins in Goblin's Keep near New Sorpigal, let alone the mages near shore.

    There is a DRAGON available for recruitment in M&M 8? Ehm... I guess I didn't make that far, because I don't remember seeing one.
    I'll try to find my copy of it, and re-play it.

    PS: Also, I apologize for a wall of text.
  6. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    Eh, you didn't really post a wall of text.

    Yes, there's a dragon in M&M8. You go to Garrote Gorge, and go to the Dragon Caves. The cave on the first floor on your left has Ithilgore who will join you straight away. Though honestly if you're gonna have him in your group you probably don't want to ally with the dragon hunters... that'd just be poor form.
  7. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    Actually..... I did this yesterday (finally got around to it) and it...... was rather easy, in fact. Only *one* of those islands near New Sorp gave me any trouble and it wasn't the ambush one, that was relatively easy.

    The general strategy looks like this:

    1). Turn letter into the tavern, get 1000 gold.
    2). Go around town, get all the quests.
    3). Take coach to Ironfist
    4). Turn the letter in to the castle, get 5000 gold.
    5). Buy Berzerker's Fury membership from the house next to the aforementioned guild.
    6). Get Bow skill on everybody.
    7). Buy the cheapest 4 longbows.
    8). Go to New Sorp.
    9). Buy training at the training hall.
    10). Make sure to get Disarm Trap to at least 4 with the skill points you get on one character.
    11). Kill all the goblins on the mainland, and open all of the boxes you find.
    12). Sell loot.
    13). Go to Mist (Coach to Ironfist, Boat to Mist).
    14). Get the quest to kill the bandit women and Baa followers.
    15). Kill all the enemies in Mist (don't let the women get in melee range, they hurt like frick at this point)
    16). Sell all the loot (You'll probably get at least a few nice daggers so make sure you don't need to keep any of them)
    17). Buy Water Guild Membership in Mist.
    18). Buy Water Walk from the Water Guild there for someone who can cast Water Magic. (you DID start with that skill, right!?)
    19). As soon as you have 4,000 gold, buy Learning for everybody (you should be close to this already, if not, use Water Walk and go kill more stuff near New Sorp)
    20). Finish clearing out New Sorp.
    21). As soon as you get 2000+ gold, save scum a -Mana item from Ironfist's magic item shop (give it to your healer).

    There you go. You're more than ready to take on Goblinwatch and the Abandoned Temple, without the NWC Dungeon. It's surprisingly easy.

    My current save has the above done, plus Goblinwatch and part of the Abandoned Temple done (just the first few rooms) and I have just shy of 12,000 gold, and Level 6. I think rather than doing the Abandoned Temple (which is annoying for a few reasons), I could instead go to Ironfist and clear the outside out since the worst enemies there are Wizard Lizards which I think I could probably take with some caution and backing away to heal periodically. And/or save scum another -Mana item which would help quite a bit.

    EDIT: Also, just keeping all of the potions and ingredients I found, I have 1 character's stat potions fully done, and I'm halfway done with the 2nd character's already. Ironfist also commonly sells them but I'm currently scumming Mana items, might grab a few potions once I get all 4 mana items to reduce the amount of potion/ingredient farming I need to do to complete everybody's stat potions.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020

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