I played on Impossible difficulty this time around, [almostii] all the way with a (Chaos, Demonic) mage and all the way to beating Baron Ahey with a pure might (no spellcasting, at all) knight. Here's some discussion for the
minimaxer powerplayer :
1. Evade. You will be doing a lot of evading ; learn how to do this properly early on. The test of competence is whether you can recruit Knights / Horsemen before your first promotion (which is to say, while they're still somewhat useful).iii. This never quite goes away, as a mage you absolutely wish to visit the underworld as soon as you can lure the bat away from the book. Use the boat, go through to the Dragon's Caves, there's at least 4 magic absorbers laying about, not to mention all the runes and other goodies, and all you do is evade, evade, evade and then evade some more.
2. The Pump. For a mage, Chaos + Distortion maxed and Succubi are absolutely mandatory. The reason is what we'll affectionately call The Pump. It consists of casting Sacrifice (which routinely resurrects 5ish Dragons or the equivalent, dozen-and-a-half worth of Demons, 3-4 dozen Succubi etc) on "friendly" troops carved out of the enemy army. The Succubus Charm and the Hypnosis spell are very helpful here. The spell is expensiveiv so whenever the Succubus can lure some unfortunate Elf / Druid / etcetera you're goldenv. It is easy to underestimate the power of this combination, but consider that I don't recruit armies to put in my reserve slot, I just go into easy battles with a single Demon in a stack and then feed the stack out of the souls of all who oppose me.vi Everything about the mage revolves around The Pump ; you want to get it going as early as possiblevii, you want at least 150 manaviii, you want all the mana-generating artefacts you can find etcetera.
The pump will make you positively love any bit of enemy army that has lifeblood in itix. Snakes, spiders, werewolves, it dun matter any. Stuff that has mind immunity (Archmages, Beholders) and the Undead are all terrible - no Hypnotize means no Sacrificex. Here's some cold hard math : all troops for sale start at about 2g per hit point, like the Barbarians and whatnot.
Lord Mircea casts the spell Sacrifice. Target (Miners) suffers 5400 points of damage. 270 is killed. The hero increases his troop of demons by 18.
270 miners cost 10`800 gold to recruit. 18 demons would cost the same 10`800 gold, however they're not really that abundant (whereas the Miners come in "Horde" ie infinite supply). While items to suppress last you'll always have a flow of fights at your disposal, which means you can always produce more Demons no matter what. This is important.
The other side of The Pump is that the Demonic Mage wins all battles, no exceptions. All you have to do is visit a castle, get a large enough stack of demons into your slot, and then attack the target. Your Succubus moves first, and what she does is she teleports the triplesecxi stack in the middle of the enemy. That's it and that's all, time to say goodnight. This simple procedure allowed me to beat up Xeona way before I even rescued Violetta ; also tore Baal apart for a sweet 13`057 experiencexii and a (by then irrelevant) 60k in cash.
The Pump will also make you hate Black Dragons in your ranks, because they can't be resurrected. I know I ditched them after a coupla battles, in spite of spending 100k to recruit them in the first place.
3. Xeona. Absolutely, no doubts about it, Xeona is the only wife worth having. For one thing, she has two weapon slots. This means two Archmage staves, if you wish, for +10 Intxiii, which blows the frog princess' +3 way the hell out of the water. For the other thing, if you swing that way, she has superb babies in her, including +20% Leadership and +20% Attack. For the third thing, as a caster you absolutely want to play with demonsxiv.
But all those considerations aside, she's sexy as all hell, and I don't just mean the way she looks. Her dialogue screams "this is a gal you wish to keep" from day one, I never felt as at home in a computer game. Imagine a very surprised Dwarven engineer in Mehgard trying to explain something about stolen keys and the perils of demons only for the very submissive pain slut to interject that she has the key, and is very pleased to have been able to serve.
The correct way of defeating her (early, of course, that's the whole point of life) is above : oversized stack, use the Succubus to teleport them in the middle of the enemy where it won't matter that they're berserk for being over leadership limit. The method may seem expensive, but trust me -- the demonic slut's worth every penny.
4. The winning army for the mage is : Emerald Dragonsxv, Succubixvi, Demonsxvii. The other two slots can be anything, though the Necromancers are probably a solid choice for one and Cyclops, maybe Evil Eyes or Archdemons work in the other.
5. Direct Damage. Useful mostly in early game, see what you can get, Fire Rain, Ice Snake, maybe even Fireball are worth maxing ; the Mist, Arrow and Poison Skull probably not. Definitely get Geyser (quest reward), it's helpful when stuck with fire-resistant mobs. Generally your aim as a mage is to move away from DD and into The Pump as soon as possible.
6. Learn how to play. Here's a didactic exercise : magic-valley-1
Correct play (select to reveal) :
Round 1, fire rain on left werewolves, fire rain on right ghost (202 stack). Wait everyone except the giant runs and stomps. Demon goes to face ghost, casts pentagram in front of werewolf and summons in front of werewolf. Cyclops hits the 179 werewolf stack. Dragon goes in front of giant and drags the now 162 werewolf stack. Succubus defends.
Round 2 : hypnotize both ww stacks, wait succubus. Dragon goes in between ghosts and sources mana. Summoned demon attacks the 116 ghost stack ; your own demon does the same. Hypnotized wolf runs next to succubus. Hypnotized werewolf runs to corner of map (away from you). Giant defends. Cyclops fights the small stack of ghosts that befuddle him. Succubus Infernal Exchanges the distant werewolf for the large stack of ghosts.
Round 3 : sacrifice the wolf form ww and get 36 succubi! If I didn't suck and had the skill you'd sacrifice the other stack also and get 36 MORE succubi, but as it is we'll have to use her heart on them later on. Dump Chargers. etcetera.
THIS is how the pros play. Yes I lost a giant and probably will lose a dragon, or if not some demons. Guess what, the fight prior I had made 3 giants and 3 dragons. This fight I make ~70 succubi, on top of the 13.5k gold and the 2256 experience. The gold difference between 70 succubi and the 1 giant + 18 demons I ended up losing is about 25k ; and bear in mind that this was a hard battle because we started with low Succubi stack. Pumping up a low Demon stack with a full Succubi stack is way easierxviii.
If you've passed that, here's another : quicksave1. Win it. I have.
As far as the knight is concerned : you want all level 1 archers if at all possible. Thorn Hunters do 1-2 damage base ; Skeleton Archers as high as 1-3.xix In general for the knight the damage/leadership ratio is the name of the game, as your hero's attributes will substantially increase the actual damage output of low level units.
The only drawback is that there's no way to reliably source them in the sort of quantities you actually need (being small means you will have losses, and they add up). Bereft of The Pump, you are facing the very real sadness of not being able to provide yourself with army of your choice. There's just not that many thorns around, and even fewer skeletons.
What's infinitely worse is the idiotic tendency of the game to fake hardness through the boneheaded withholding of artefacts. While I played mage I couldn't obtain anything with +Int on it ; once I started a warrior run every single shop has nothing but +Int and +Mana, they've given me piles upon piles of stuff my Mage'd have absolutely killed for, but to this guy are entirely useless. This really killed the whole thing for me, playing Impossible is supposed to give you better loot, not worse for chrissakes. Add to this the difficulty of sourcing the army of your choice and well... as I said, I lost interest in the Knight just about the time you get sent to the Dwarf King.
It could be said that the game is balanced, in the sense that the Knight gets about 60% more army than the Mage, which makes all the very strong and overpowering stacks of mobs slightly weaker and match. I have my doubts as to how well this works, but probably well enough provided you're willing to stick to the Human armies. Boring but stolid, what can I say.
Some random advice :
- The level up rolls are independent from the general entropy pool (meaning that even if you save right before levelling, you still won't be able to get a different choice to get out of an annoying "should mage get +1 Attack or +1 Defense" dilemma).
- Don't learn all the bullshit spells ; they just clutter up the spellbook making spell selection tedious.
- Try and upgrade the items you intend to use as soon as feasible, because the armies you encounter seem to scale with your level. Exponentially.
It should be mentioned that the writing quality is utterly superb. For instance, at some point going through the pirate heaven some dude approaches you asking for a tax... to keep the water clean. Because the sea's clean, right ? But whenever you wash your ship you throw the garbage overbosard! So that's why you gotta pay. And if you ask him whether the sea will get cleaner by your payment he literally doesn't get what you mean. And then you grapple his vessel and send it to the bottom of the sea. I never cast Fire Rain with such gusto in my whole life.
Here's an excerpt from the quest of the adorbs stone :
Wow... Am I being spoken to by a stone or is there something I can not see ?
I.... The Stooone.... Teel youuuu
Beee so kiiind.... Gooo to the Maaaagic Schoool.... Aaaaask.... There was a yooooung maaage... He diiiid not enchaaant me to the eeeend... Dooo not waaaant to beee an oooordinary stoooone... Leeet him fiiiiinish whaaat waaaas beeegun....
Ok, I'll go, it's not far. I'll ask them how to help you.
Yooou .... Muuust knooow ? Hooow to tuuurn into somethiiiing but the stooone ?
Be warned that there is a bug, most visible when visiting the Western Islands central cave -- if you unload from the boat straight into the teleporter you will not be able to go back into the boat without also teleporting, resulting in a boat inside the cave which can only land and no way off the island for you, which ends the game right there. And while on this topic : careful when exiting conversation abruptly (using ESC or the x on the dialog window) because some quest givers (most notably Enemen in the cemetery) end up in an irrecoverable broken state and you lose out on their rewards.
PS. The #1 thing you can do to improve your score, if you care, is never take any transportation you don't have to. This usually means -- take the Creiston tunnels to Kordar. The dirigible eats 8 hours ; the walk maybe one and a half. Score is 4 * (100-days used), to which bonuses apply for your hero level and finished quests. Three dirigible trips means 4xx less points base, which will reduce your score by about 6-9 depending how intensively you quest. There's nothing you can do to offset this.
PPS. If you get hit with the Adobe Flash crash bug (sprites for your character and enemies do not display ; you appear like a ghost consisting of the sadle and horse's tail floating in the air and so on) the foolproof fix is to switch the graphics mode (from the game options) to a different resolution AND refresh rate. Then switch it back. The underlying cause is that Adobe Flash manages to put the card into a broken OpenGL mode, which prevents loading of textures. The indicated ministration resets the mode.———
- Really, if you've never played it, do. [↩]
- Boredom struck after defeating the big ogre guy and right between the final battle. I dunno, the "pile of a dozen of each top level unit" seemed stale, somehow. Too much of a "kitchen sink" flavour to it, I guess. Anyway, not like the battle'd have been all that hard, not for my guy. [↩]
- To do this, you first defeat the bears, and then lure the Archmage group away from the tent on that side path on the way to Arlania. The guys will only chase you if you're at most two squares away and move with just about your speed, so to get past them you have to click very precisely at the right time about half a dozen times in a row. It's not a big deal once you get the hang of it -- but you must get the hang of it. I don't mean "to play this game", I mean "to use computers". At all. [↩]
- 30 mana at level 2. You want it at level 2 for a long while because it's just equal in size to your Sacrifice damage. As you level up your guy you might consider getting it to level 3, in some cases you can hit a Hypnotized group with two Sacrifices, which is nice. Whether the extra 10 mana it costs is worth it or not is a complex calculation best left to the individual operator. [↩]
- She's fabulous also because she can subdue some stacks you can't touch with your Hypnotize, although in principle Mind immune units resist her. [↩]
- As an entirely not needed bonus, if for some reason you absolutely wish to obtain immense sums of gold (such as for instance in order to power the Dwarf King's son's machinery to get you more skill runes) you can create a humongous army through slowly building up reserves in this manner, then lose it in a battle and bam, the king will give you literal millions to "help with the effort" (what he gives you when you die is based on your total army, so if you lose a huge one you get a pile of cash). [↩]
- Get Chaos to level 3 first, the direct damage spells help early on. [↩]
- Talk to the Dwarves until you get your 7 allowable snacks, that's a sweet +14 mana you absolutely want. [↩]
- Speaking of which, harvesting the Griffin Island for Succubi is one of the finer delights of the life of the Demonic Mage. Do not ruin this by fighting them early. [↩]
- Speaking of which, many Elves also have a very obnoxious gender immunity to your demonic lures -- why the fuck would a Dryad not fall into the wicked lures of my Lilith anyway ?! But even so, she's very useful because things like Cannoneers you can't Hypnotize but she can seduce. [↩]
- Demons are ideal because they're heavy infantry with a heavy axe hit, and Furious to boot. 150 Demons allowed me to take Karador without breaking a sweat -- most of the fighting consisted of me chiseling the stack of 100 or so remaining Demons into the 62 I was legally allowed to have at that time. I've yet to see a battle where I need more than triple the normal stack, hence the Triplesec designation. [↩]
- Killed 147 Cerberi, 892 Fire Spirers, 806 Scoffer Imps, 396 Succubi, 1484 plain Imps and 15 Archdemons. Do the math, that's like 50k hp a stack. [↩]
- I said I didn't think 42 is possible before. I was wrong. [↩]
- The way this works out is that caster will focus on Int and Mana thereby neglecting his Attack and Defense. This means units with high native Attack and Defense (such as higher level units) are a good match.
The warrior goes exactly the other way : not focusing on Int or Mana means he will have large Attack and Defense, which means he can pump the immense basic attack of low level units into insane actual damage. My level 10 Knight routinely did 5-6k damage with the Thorn Hunters stack, for instance. [↩]
- For the mana drain thing ; coupled with their other no-retaliate strike you can generally hit without retaliation five out of six times. [↩]
- For Charm and Infernal Exchange (teleport). Otherwise they're physically frail. Nice sprite though. You should probably keep the red ruby ring for a nice morale boost for them. [↩]
- High hp, high damage, summon is nice too. Always retaliates, which is superb for a meat shield. [↩]
- But not more pecuniarily productive. They cost but 600 to recruit yet because of their higher HP (200 to Succubus' 80) I only raise ~14 at a time. [↩]
- Before obtaining the Crown of Blackthorn the skellies are your best archers ; afterwards the thorn's 1-2 turns to 2-4 and well... [↩]
- Playing impossible, yes ? [↩]