Might and Magic: Au Revoir Varn

It’s that time again. I kind of knew from early on that I wasn’t going to get anywhere near completing Might and Magic in two weeks, but at least I feel like I was making good progress, and would definitely be able to finish it in a finite amount of time without getting particularly bored. Key to this is that it didn’t feel like I was grinding most of the time. Rather, my attention was on the task of mapping, and as long as I remembered to go to an inn to save my progress one in a while, I kept on gaining levels as a side effect more than anything else.

Maybe this will change at higher levels, but so far, the world has been highly conducive to this approach. If it were much larger, mapping it all in detail wouldn’t seem worthwhile, as in the later Ultima games (from 6 onward, in my opinion). If it were much smaller, I’d run out of things to map. Also, it’s an extremely open world. I’ve mapped out a bit less than half of of the world’s surface at this point, and five towns, and a handful of scattered dungeon levels. Most of it was just there to be found, not behind puzzle locks or anything. I mentioned some time ago the concept of “soft walls” — instead of blocking the player from entering areas that you want them to do later, just making it difficult to stay in those areas by means of tougher random encounters. This game is practically made of soft walls. I’m starting to think that the specific combination here, of a large and open world with soft walls, is kind of self-balancing. If I’m trying to explore an area where the monsters are much more powerful than me, I learn this quickly and turn my attentions to a different area. If I’m exploring an area where the monsters are much less powerful than me, I wind up making much faster progress than normal, and thus moving on to a new area sooner.

But I suppose the game can’t stay in that state indefinitely. Eventually, like Alexander, you’d run out of world to conquer. But that’s a story for another time.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 31 Jan 2010

    One interesting twist on “soft walls” would be the Gothic games, where sometimes a high-level wall would be put between where you are and where you’re going, and the idea is simply to avoid fights altogether in that section until later.

  2. Merus on 31 Jan 2010

    The first Legend of Zelda worked rather like this as well: completing dungeons and sidequests awarded health, which made it easier to advance in the areas of the map where enemies hit a lot harder.

  3. paul on 2 Feb 2010

    You also picked up the candle and the raft and stuff, which removed hard walls. There were also bushes you only knew to burn if you got Nintendo Power magazine. I guess Zelda had walls of all different consistencies.

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