Monday, August 6, 2007

Reviews: Might and Magic series

I was away all weekend in Brewster so I didn't get anything done this week.

Might and Magic was a long-running series of computer role-playing games. I played primarily installments four through six. This is not to be confused with the Heroes of Might and Magic series, which is also a great series of games. The capsule description of these games is: goofy but incredibly fun.

The quality trailed off rapidly after number six; interestingly, that was approximately the same point at which New World attempted to change their art style. Up until then they had used every crayon in the box, with favor toward none. This was replaced in later games by a pretty generic “realistic” look (read “look Ma, I'm using 3D Studio!”).

Might and Magics 4-6 had many good points, though. The interface holds up surprisingly well, especially when compared to other RPG franchises from that time period. The games did a great job of giving you a feeling of progress. Your characters gain ridiculous numbers of levels (at least compared to anything Dungeons-n-Dragons based). #6 had vast armies of monsters which would give you enormous difficulty early in the game but could all be felled with a single spell later on.

Quests were nicely handled. You would get a quest from a person. After completing it you would go back and get thanks and a reward. Often you would also get a title of some sort (something like “Savior of Smallville”) which went into a special screen for collecting honors. Any time you talked to the quest-giver again they would offer their profuse thanks. It really gave a good sense of accomplishment.

Travel tedium was reduced carefully as you proceeded. The games all came with a poster-sized map of the world. At first you'd have to walk from place to place. (Although, in 4 and 5 if you knew the names of the towns you could travel there instantly using the travel mirrors.) Later on you'd acquire spells that gave you better and better travel options.

Might and Magic 6 marked the series' transition from grid-based design to full 3D. They did a pretty good job with the transition. The world is divided into zones; each zone can be cleared of enemies, upon which it will reset in a few months of game time. The reset keeps travel from becoming boring and demonstrates your characters' growing prowess as the monsters become easier and easier to vanquish.

Dungeon design was highly varied, especially in the grid-based games. I remember one dungeon that was laid out as a crossword puzzle, for instance.

Another nice touch in Might and Magic 4 was that you could eventually acquire your own castle.

It's been a while since I've played these games but they are in my small set of games that I've played multiple times. I've also bought them several times over since I lend out the CDs and don't get them back. Highly recommended!

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