|From Mythos Games--the "legendary makers of
X-Com"--comes Magic and Mayhem, a real-time strategy game with some role-playing
elements. Dont be dismayed by the introductory movie, with its awkward
Claymation-like effects that seem better suited to a comedy routine--Magic and Mayhem may
very well keep you coming back for more. The game consists of a series of small isometric
maps, upon which you array your character and his summoned creatures as you lead them to
victory against opposing wizards and the creatures they command. Each mission has a
specific objective, but almost all of them involve defeating an opposing wizard, and the
story is advanced within the actual scenarios by the familiar who is your characters
You play the role of Cornelius, who initially is little more than a student of the magical arts, newly arrived from the Academy. Upon arriving at your Uncles abode, you find that preparations have been made for a hasty departure. Your Uncles most important effects have been left behind, including an odd traveling apparatus that beckons to you. You take the plunge and board an airship, which deposits you on the first of the realms that you must ultimately conquer.
To conquer, one must fight; yet as a mage, Cornelius makes a poor hand-to-hand combatant. However, Cornelius does excel in the magical arts, and his spells more than make up for his poor melee skills, since he can both deal direct damage and summon various creatures to deal (and absorb) damage over time. As the story progresses, he also gains access to many more spells that do not fit into either of these categories. But Cornelius often depends upon summoned creatures, particularly when "buffed" by various spells and supported by healing.
The creatures are varied, and include both ranged attackers such as elves and straight melee attackers like crocodiles. Some creatures even disappear, or have other intriguing effects. For example, the unicorn is one of the earliest of the relatively powerful melee creatures, but its abilities pale in comparison to many of the other creatures. Nonetheless, it is still useful due to its ability to deal massive damage to undead creatures.
The creatures you must face are typically under the control of a wizard opposing your cause. Each of these wizards will barrage you with various spells that you may or may not be familiar with, pulled from their own specific grimoire. Many of these wizards are quite difficult to defeat, especially if attacked before youve established a small army of summoned creatures or gathered any available resources.
The resources of greatest interest in Magic & Mayhem are mana wells and mana sprites, both which allow the mana pool to be refilled. If too little mana is available, spells cannot be cast. Cornelius and the other wizards also have a limited pool of mana which is drawn upon by each spellcast. Mana sprites may only be collected by wizards, and are used to fill a portion of the mana pool. Mana wells are permanent features of the terrain that slowly refill the mana reservoir as long as either Cornelius or one of his summoned creatures is standing upon it. The effects are cumulative, and controlling more than one mana well will increase the rate of mana regeneration. As there are only a fixed number of mana wells on each scenario map, one very effective means of defeating your enemy is to gain control all of the mana wells. There are also a number of other resources on each map, including food and wine, which increase the health of your wizard or a summoned creature; creature statuettes, which allow you to instantly summon a creature without any mana expenditure; and many other unique items that are either necessary for casting new spells, defeating a particular scenario, or advancing the story.
The role-playing aspect of Magic & Mayhem distinguishes it from the plethora of rather mediocre real-time strategy games currently available. Accomplishing various objectives within a given scenario yields experience points scaled to the difficulty of the completed task. Defeating a particularly difficult opponent might provide 50 experience points, while reading an important scroll might yield only 10. At the end of the scenario, you have the option of "spending" these points on various attribute advancements. You have the option of increasing the hit points, mana points, creature control limit, and the number of spells available to Cornelius at a given time in the areas of Order, Neutral, and Chaos magics. Each expenditure of experience points will give you an extra spell slot or an increase in attributes, but the amount of experience points required to increase the attribute again will rise--in some instances rather substantially.
Each spell entails choosing to use the orderly, neutral, or chaotic effects of a given spell component. These effects are often diametrically opposed, and if care is taken, a wide array of spell effects can be put into play. The spell components themselves are collected within scenarios, often off of the dead bodies of enemy spell casters. Not every scenario will have a spell component, but enough do to keep your spellcasting strategy varied.
Towards the beginning of the game, one can handily defeat each scenario (if on an easy to moderate difficulty level) by merely gaining control of most of the mana wells. While this remains a good strategy throughout the game, many maps mix things up by either limiting the mana wells (including a complete lack in some instances) or by making them difficult to obtain or hold. However, the more complex strategy of advancing Cornelius and choosing an appropriate mix of spells is the best route to both victory and appreciation of the game.
Magic & Mayhem is an enjoyable real-time strategy game with a good story and some role-playing elements. Graphically, it is unimpressive, but the music is rather well-composed. In spite of its lack of graphic detail, it does manage to impart a different feel to each of the three realms. I found it to be enjoyable, but I would not compare it with X-Com, as it invites on the box cover. However, I would recommend it to someone looking for something a little different from the average real-time strategy game.