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[Let's Play] Might & Magic 4: Clouds of Xeen - Part 2: Welcome to Xeen

cravipatcravipat CFKPW?Registered User regular
edited August 2015 in Games and Technology
Dust off those calculators and grab a pencil and a big stack of graph paper. We're going back to a time when even RPGs bullied nerds.

Let's Play Might & Magic 4: Clouds of Xeen


Part 1: Let's Party

I have a love/hate affair with Might & Magic. I put countless hours into the first game, Might & Magic: Book 1. I suffered through CGA graphics to create a pile of maps detailing every secret door and one way passage. I even color coded the outdoor maps based on the type of terrain. Even with all that I never came close to finishing.

The second game, subtitled Gates to Another World, improved the graphics but lingering burnout from the first game prevented me from getting very far. I skipped Isles of Terra, the third installment, entirely. It took until the fourth game for me to finally embrace the series.

It's far from perfect but I think it still hold up pretty well. It still does a lot of things that would never fly in a game today but it lost most of the actively antagonistic "features" I remember from the first game. But I'm getting a head of myself.

What I need for now is 6 people to help fill out our party of brave adventurers, who in typical RPG fashion have abandoned their previous life to band with complete strangers to save the world.

The complete story from the instruction manual:
You and a small circle of friends have gathered at a local Tavern in Vertigo to discuss the events of the last several months. Your conversation bobs and weaves among subjects in between draughts of ale, but the central topic is the vivid, recurring dreams you all shared starting eight months ago.

The first dream arrived as a nightmare, frightening in its clarity and intensity. You all dreamt that you were listening to King Burlock’s adviser, Crodo, speak to you. It was as though he was talking from a great distance, and the message seemed to have been addressed to someone else:

This message is not a dream. I am sorry to trouble your sleep in this manner, but I have no other way to communicate with you. A few months ago, a man claiming to be King Burlock’s lost brother, Roland, arrived in court and announced himself to the King. Roland had left on a mission into Mount Firestone many years ago, looking for the passage to the Fabled “Land below the Land”. That Roland should return home after all these years was very good news for the King, but I had my reservations. Where had he been all this time, and why hadn’t he come home sooner?

Suspicious of him from the first, I watched him tell tales of ancient treasures and works of power. The artifact that Roland talked most about was the Sixth Mirror. The Sixth Mirror was the only magic mirror that was made to be portable, and because of this it had no name. The owner of the Mirror was able to step through it just like the other five Mirrors, but he could take this one with him.

That Roland was obsessed with the Mirror became increasingly clear with time, but the King did not seem to notice. Rather, King Burlock began to finance expeditions to find the lost mirror. Many brave and powerful adventurers answered the call, but none succeeded. In spite of repeated failures, Roland urged the King to continue the search.

As the search grew more feverish, King Burlock began to neglect his management of the realm. The King’s health deteriorated, the servants grew lax in their duties, and the treasury ran dangerously low. I felt that I had to do something and do it soon. I resolved to sleep on it and speak to the King in the morning.

That very night I awoke to the chill kiss of dark magic being worked nearby. Rising to my feet, I gathered my robe about me and quietly walked into the hallway. From there I was able to hear muffled sounds coming from Roland’s room. Cautiously, I crept up to Roland’s room and looked through the keyhole.

To my horror, I saw Roland sitting cross-legged, holding a black tome in one hand. From a charcoal diagram on the floor arose the image of a foul spirit in the shape of a knight with horns cresting his helm. Roland was conversing with it in a harsh tongue that I did not recognize.

I must have made some sound then, for Roland abruptly turned and stared hard at the door. I backed away from the keyhole immediately, and it is well that I did, for the door suddenly blew off its hinges and slammed against the opposite wall. Fearing for my life, I ran. I ran as fast as my old bones would take me, ran as though the forces of Hell were at my heels.

They were. As I rounded the first corner of the hallway, screaming for help, the chill blast of Roland’s winter magic narrowly missed me. We ran through the twisting halls of Burlock’s castle, through rooms dusty with disuse and through armories filled with rusting war tools. I took a turn and found myself cornered at the end of a hallway with no means of escape.

In despair I turned to face Roland and raised my magical defenses, knowing that he was stronger than I. Roland came charging around the corner and slowed down when he saw that I was cornered. Raising his hands above his head in preparation of a sorcerous strike, Roland smiled and said, “What’s the matter, Crodo? Are you afraid of what you saw?” Roland continued to approach me slowly. “Feeble old man, your fear of magic you don’t understand is a discredit to our profession.”

“I understand your evil magic well, Roland.” I said hopelessly, slumping my shoulders and bowing my head. “I can’t hope to win against such strength.” With that I sighed, gathering my energies for one good blast. I looked up at Roland, who was still smiling and advancing, sighed again, and threw my spell. The force of the dancing blades spell flying from me pushed me back against the wall.

Caught off guard, Roland failed to deflect the spell. The blades flew out from my hands, stripping the flesh from his body. Hope rose within me when I saw what I had done to him, then despair when he still stood after the attack. Scraps of flesh clung to his grinning skull, and his one remaining eye glared at me. I knew then that Roland was Undead, and that I could not defeat him.

“Who are you?” I gasped, staring at the figure before me.

“Lord Xeen,” the Monster said. “Call me Lord Xeen, King of the World, for that is what I shall be in a very short time!”

“King Burlock—,” I began.

“Will do as he is told,” Xeen finished for me. “Especially if he doesn’t have YOU around to give him bad advice.”

There was nothing more to be said. Xeen made a peculiar gesture with his right hand and then clenched his fist. I felt a pressure on my defenses and on my head which quickly grew intolerable. The blackness took me and I knew no more.

When I awoke, I found myself in a tower on an island surrounded by water. From my window I am able to see King Burlock’s castle across the water. Every day I see the search parties leaving the castle to look for the mirror and wonder if the King knows what ‘Roland’ is, or where I am. There is only one place in the world with a view like I have, and that is Baron Darzog’s Tower.

Because of the materials used to construct the room I am in, I am unable to use my magic to escape. The only thing I can do is try to send these dreams to you in hopes that you will hear and respond. I don’t know what Lord Xeen wants the mirror for, but it can’t be good. I fear the ruin of the realm if he succeeds. You are the only people in the world with the power and resources to make a weapon capable of slaying Lord Xeen in your laboratories in Newcastle. You must make haste. If Lord Xeen discovers what you are doing he will destroy you.

With that, the dream ends.

This dream had been repeated several times for about two months, then never again. The day after you had your last dream, Newcastle was destroyed by a bolt from the sky, and all its inhabitants were killed. Each one of you realized that you may be the only person left alive who received the message. If you didn’t do anything, nobody would. So you quit your jobs and traveled to Vertigo with your life savings. Here you were able to find training in spells and weapons, and here you met one another.

You talk late into the night, excitement and nervousness in your voices. As the conversation winds down and you all are getting ready to retire for the night, you agree that tomorrow is the day you will start your adventures.

And the cliff notes version from the game's intro

To create a character you first need to pick a class

Knight - This is probably the best melee class in the game. They can use any piece of equipment and start with the arms master skill, which increases their chance to hit. I'll explain skills more later on.

Paladin - While they can still use any equipment they aren't as good of a fighter as a knight. This is offset by their ability to use Cleric spells. They also start the game with the crusader skill, which while needed to access some areas in the game, it is given to the entire party pretty early on if I remember correctly.

Barbarian - This class get a raw deal. They are still not as good of a fighter as a knight but their only benefit is having the most hit points in the game. And while they can use almost any weapon they are limited to the lowest tier of armor. So much for all those hit points.

Archer - You'd this this would be the only class that could use ranged weapons but that's not the case. Outside of pure spell casters anyone can shoot a bow. Archers try to make up for that by being able to cast sorcerer spells. They are limited in the weapons and armor that they can use but not enough to make them a hindrance.

Ranger - A different flavor of archer. Same weapon limitations, a little better armor selection and the ability to cast a mixture of cleric and sorcerer spells. They also start with the pathfinder skill, which allows movement through forests as long as two party members have the skill.

Robber - If your pockets are too heavy this class will help lighten the load. Their weapons and armor limitations while not bad are completely outweighed by them having the absolutely have to have it thievery skill. This is the only skill with a numerical component and while anyone can learn the skill a robber starts with a base of 30 skill points plus 2 points per level compared to just 2 point per level for anyone else.

Ninja - Better fighters than a robber but a worse thief since they only start with a base of 15 skill points.

Cleric - The first of the pure caster class but still not bad at fighting. It should be obvious that they cast cleric spells.

Sorcerer - A pure caster that will spend most of the game unconscious or dead. Since there are no front/back lines when in combat there is nothing keeping the bad guys from beating the crap out of the defenseless sorcerer. And when they run out of spell point to cast their sorcerers spells good luck trying to do any damage with clubs and staffs.

Druid - This is an oddball caster. As bad of a fighter as a sorcerer but they cast a subset of cleric and sorcerer spells, the same as a ranger. They also start with the direction sense skill, which lets you know which compass direction the party is facing.

Note on spell casting: A lot of the classes have the ability to cast spells. Traditional RPGs might make the secondary casters (Paladin, Archer, Ranger) get to a certain level before getting spells or limiting which spells they can learn. That is not they case here. They can learn all the same spells starting at level 1. The difference is the pure casters (Cleric, Sorcerer, Druid) get twice as many spell points which makes a big difference and limits the secondary casters to an "in an emergency" backup position at the early levels.

Next up is race and gender which actually gets picked by the portrait you assign to the character.

If you like vanilla then humans might be for you. Apart from a slight resistance to all elements they don't get any other bonuses but they also don't get any penalties. They do know how to swim, which allows movement through shallow water as long as everyone in the party has it.

It's your typical pointy eared, forest dwelling, tree hugging, gray skinned... wait. Elves make great sorcerers since they get +2 spell points per level and have ok resistance to energy and magic. But their -2 HP per level will make sure that sorcerer stays dead, falling further and further behind in level as everyone else gains XP. They are also decent thieves, getting +10 to their base thievery skill.

This game continues to promote the dwarven stereotype of hearty (+1 HP per level), hale (ok resistance to everything but magic), heavy drinkers (amazing resistance to poison) and terrible casters (-1 spell point for both sorcerer and cleric spells). The also have the spot secret doors skill.

Gnomes are kind of like a weaker dwarf. They get less hit points (-1 per level), have almost the same resistance (though instead of poison gnomes have great magic resistance), but are better thieves (+10 base thievery skill) and casters (+1 spell point for both sorcerer and cleric spells). They also have the danger sense skill, which will constantly confuse you on if there is an enemy nearby.

They may be healthy (+2 HP per level and great resistance to fire, cold and electricity) but don't let them do anything but fight (-10 base to thievery skill and -2 spell points for both sorcerer and cleric spells).

So to make a character you'll need to let me know the class, race and photo number (ex Human #3) and name (10 character limit). You can optionally write a little bio if you're feeling creative.

I'm going to reserve the right to not just pick the first 6 people to sign up since that might wind up with a party that is less than ideal to play. Also keep in mind that the photos can only be used once. You can pick a photo someone else already has but keep in mind at least one of you won't make the cut.

What I'm looking for in a viable party is someone to heal (Paladin, Ranger, Druid or Cleric), someone to steal (Ninja or Robber), someone to reveal* (Archer or Sorcerer) and the rest to to deal both ranged and melee damage (any not pure caster). Ranger and druids have enough of the primary cleric spells that they can fill that roll but they are missing some important sorcerer spells. It's probably to keep people from using a druid instead of both a cleric and sorcerer.

*I just wanted to keep the rhyme. They really need to cast the needed support spells.

That's it for now. While I wait for people to get some characters together I'll be back with some information about the game world and to answer any questions people might have.

Super Mario Maker ID: DBB-1RH-JJG
cravipat on


  • cravipatcravipat CFKPW? Registered User regular
    Part 2 – Welcome to Xeen


    “Hold on. You said we were playing Clouds of Xeen and that clearly says World of Xeen. Who are you fooling?” Thank you for being so observant kind reader. It turns out there is something special going on between Might & Magic 4 and the direct sequel Might & Magic 5: Darkside of Xeen. Both are completely full games in their own right but if you have both of them installed they join together to form a massive world. There are points in the game where you can switch between one another and there is even a set of dungeons that can only be completed if you have both games.

    That being said my plan is to just stick with the Clouds portion of the game for now. If I manage to finish (and the history of past LP attempts of this game tell me I probably won't) then we'll move on to Darkside.


    Take in the glory that is that map. I'm not claiming games used to be better but when was the last time you had a game come with a folded up map like that? It's actually quite handy in showing the towns, towers and castles. It also shows all of the cave's and dungeons though most are unlabeled. Even the seemingly decorative monsters dotting the map give you a good indication of what you are going to find in that area and that includes the four on the corners.

    We'll start the game in Vertigo, the little town on the left side of the map. Our goal, according to the instruction booklet story and game intro, is to free Crodo from Dazrog's Tower, located in the middle of the central lake and the go on to destroy Lord Xeen, conveniently located on the top of said tower. It seems pretty close on the map but we've got probably 100 hours of work to get there.


    Most of them are going to be spent staring at this. It might looks weird but the interface is full of useful information. The least important being the icons on the right. While there is mouse support there is also a keyboard shortcut for everything. It's cumbersome at first, but eventually you'll get so used to it you forget what those buttons even mean like I have.

    At the bottom you've got the party information with everyone's picture and a gem indicating HP status (green = full, yellow = not full, red = we've got trouble, blue = now I've got nothing). In addition the picture will change to reflect status effects, like poisoned, diseased, cursed, unconscious and dead, and when it does it is always hilarious.

    The rest of the odds and ends help fill you in on everything else you need to know. The bat will warn you of nearby enemies with glowing eyes and a moving mouth if someone in the party has the danger sense skill. The two heads will inform you of treasure and traps by nodding or shaking their head if the sorcerer spell Clairvoyance is active. The gargoyle will flap his wings if the sorcerer spell Levitate is active. The lizard will wave his arm if you are standing in front of a secret door and someone in the party has the spot secret doors skill. The four gems in the corners let you know of any elemental protection that is active, fire (upper left), electricity (upper right), cold (bottom left) and poison (bottom right). You are on your own for knowing if you are protected from energy or magic. Finally the purple gem will show the compass direction the party is facing if someone in the party has the direction sense skill.

    That should cover enough to get us started. The rest I can go over as it comes up through play. As to my plans of playing the game, there are a lot of ways to cheat the system. I'm going to avoid most of them apart from two concessions. The first is the game mode. When creating the game you have a choice of Adventurer or Warrior. The only difference between the modes is that Adventure increases the damage done by the party x3. Even playing under Adventurer the game is still hard enough to kill a well prepared party.

    The second is the cluebook, which I plan to rely on heavily. While filled with detailed information on location maps and monsters, there are still a lot of gaps, such as trap locations. It also doesn't give you any indication in what order things should be done apart from a single page of quests and dungeons that need to be done in order to finish the game. That only covers about a third of the areas and quests in the game and there is no way you'd be high enough level to do just those things in order.

    Next time we'll meet our party (if anyone is interested in helping make characters) and look into Vertigo's slime problem.

    Super Mario Maker ID: DBB-1RH-JJG
  • OrestusOrestus Registered User regular
    One of the first PC games I remember really enjoying, I'm looking forward to reading this series. The only things I remember w/ any clarity are the opening animation, killing slimes in Vertigo, and then going to a mine with crazy dwarves as enemies (which was weird because at that time in games dwarves were always supposed to be friendly!) where you could drink from differently colored barrels to permanently increase your stats.

    I'm certain my parties always would include an elf ranger w/ the 1st portrait from your series, so I'll go ahead and suggest that :)

    Sadly this game did not continue Might and Magic 2's tradition of ludicrous random encounters...I remember things like "you encounter 82 skeleton knights and 150 barbarians"...[cast fireball]..."a skeleton knight took 50 damage and died...a skeleton knight took 50 damage and died....a skeleton knight took 50 damage and died...etc"

  • cravipatcravipat CFKPW? Registered User regular
    Orestus wrote: »
    I'm looking forward to reading this series.

    Thanks. Although now that I've gotten a response I guess I have to keep going. I'll hold off a little bit more to see if anyone else has party suggestions. Otherwise I'll just fill in the rest.

    Super Mario Maker ID: DBB-1RH-JJG
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