One of the first role playing series that really got me was the original Might & Magic series. The series started in 1986 with Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum but my first game was Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen.
The voice acting may be a bit cringe-worthy, but just look at the intro in all its glory:
The first five games were part of a story arc that involved Fantasy and Science Fiction (a very common mix in the 80s/90s – Ultima and Wizardry also combined these) and the battle of Corak and Sheltem which concluded in Darkside of Xeen.
If you owned both part IV: Clouds of Xeen and part V, you could combine these games to one big game called World of Xeen which allowed travel between these and opened secret areas (and a new ending) that was only possible with the two combined.
The games look amazing (for their time, but still hold up) and play well, but most importantly, they had great lore. Again, the Corak/Sheltem story was neat but even when you were trying to get Castle Kalindra back into the phase of the physical realm and rescue the queen.
With Part VI, the game shifted to a 3D free roam world. The Mandate of Heaven was praised at the time. It certainly was a great game, but to me, it was a big departure from Might and Magic. I guess it was because of the Art Style. The 3D graphics were certainly expected in the late 90’s, but they weren’t on par with other games and haven’t aged well. It also seemed to be too realistic whereas III/IV/V were comic-style. I can’t really complain about customization and skill systems though.
VII and VIII were more of the same – great games, but not up to par with technology (I guess most of VIII’s bad ratings were because it really looked 4 years too late) and for me they just didn’t have the same feeling. I liked how they got the heroes from Part 3 (Isles of Terra) incorporated into the storyline of Part VII For Blood and Honor. Part VII is possibly my favorite “new” Might and Magic.
Part IX… Well, let’s just pretend that never happened, m‘kay?
So, today I saw Might & Magic X – Legacy on Steam Early Access. I’m always a bit wary of early access, so I haven’t bought it yet. Instead, I saw that a guy named Gerugon made a Let’s play series. It’s in German, but if you just want to look at the video to get a feel, it does a good job. Part 4-7 are possibly the ones you want to watch then.
So far I have to say it looks great. First of all, it’s turn and grid-based like Parts I to V. In fact, everything in the game really channels the first five games more than the next three.
This is what I love. There have been a few old-school RPGs recently – most applicable would be Legend of Grimrock – but these were more dungeon crawlers like Eye of the Beholder and very light on story. In fact, I got bored of Legend of Grimrock quickly because there was no real story. It’s a great game with a level editor made by awesome developers (so buy it right now on GOG.com or Steam), but it lacks the rich lore and overworld that made Might & Magic so awesome.
The Early Access version still lacks a lot of content. There are 4 races with 3 classes each, but only 1 class per race is playable right now, so your party is pretty much predefined. Also, you are limited to 4 characters which is in line with the later games, while the earlier ones allowed 6 characters. That meant a lot of Bow & Arrow spam, a fighter and barbarian, some rogues, a mighty caster and a cleric.
If your first Might & Magic was Part VI or VII, you may be disappointed. When it comes to retro it’s arguably a matter of taste and even though Part VII did so much great stuff, I personally prefer the way IV and V worked, so seeing X go back to these roots is amazing.
I’m not sure if the Early Access is worth it yet and it should be noted that it comes with UPlay which sucks giant half-orc balls. But I have to admit: I like what I saw so far, and I’m cautiously optimistic for the game. With a $30 price tag it’s also not a bad deal.
Ubisoft, I gave you a lot of crap over the past few years and to be honest, most of it was deserved. But with Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and Might and Magic X, you’re giving me hope that you actually got interesting games in the pipeline that aren’t afraid to do stuff away from the mainstream.
Keep it up!
Buy Might & Magic I-VI on GOG.com
Buy Might & Magic VII on GOG.com
Buy Might & Magic VIII on GOG.com
Pretend Might & Magic IX never existed
Buy Might & Magic X – Legacy (Early Access Alpha) on Steam