has been a serious drought of role-playing games since the release of Planescape:Torment.
Most of the titles to come out of various respected gaming
establishments have had serious drawbacks, and you can be sure that
nothing released since January is going to make any Best-of lists.
Might and Magic VIII is no different.
In fact, M&M is not only disappointing; its insulting.
The people at 3DO, who have been very dependable in the past, treat
their customers as if were all fresh off the boat; we ought not to
support such slip-shod production with our money.
Ive given M&M a generous three stars because 1.)
it can run on underpowered machines and 2.) it finishes out the M&M narrative. (Anything that completes a story will appeal to a games
die-hard fans, and, while some manufacturers know that they can serve up
just about any drivel as long as it concludes a drawn-out tale, a decent
story deserves some respect.) But
Im getting ahead of myself.
M&M starts where the last game left off: the world is
safe for various forms of inter-species government when a strange figure
appears in the town of Ravenshore, summons a big crystal thingy from the
ground which simultaneously opens inter-dimensional portals at the four
corners of Jadame to the elemental plains of fire, water, air and earth.
Yup, its time to save the world (again).
You begin this excuse for an adventure on the Dagger Would Islands,
and the first order of business should be turning the game off and looking
for a refund because after the opening credits, its all downhill.
first and most obvious deficiency is that Might and Magic VIII is strikingly
similar to Might and Magic VII, which was almost but not quite exactly
like Might and Magic VI. The
game engine is exactly the same. Very
few details have changed: you can play a wider variety of characters
(vampire, dark elf, troll) and you begin with a single character as
opposed to a party as in Might and Magic VII (later you can hire up to
four Non-Player Characters); you still face the same, inadequate
first-person perspective and crummy graphics.
Monsters are two dimensional sprites which differentiate themselves
merely by color. For example, there is the plain ogre and the slightly tougher
mauve ogre. There is the
plain mercenary and the slightly tougher puce mercenary. (A word of advice: avoid the aqua dragon.
Nobody wants to fight the aqua dragon.)
The M&M engine is old and plays that way.
does have an interesting character development system.
Each character has a staggering number of skills available,
including weapons, armor and magic abilities.
Upon attaining a new level of experience, skill points are earned
and can be allocated among them according the your whim or the position of
the planets. Each skill
begins at the Novice level and once a number of skill points have been
poured in, it can be elevated to the Expert level and later to Master and
Grandmaster. The only problem
is that it takes a certain trainer to elevate each skill. With tons of skills, each with an Expert, Master and
Grandmaster level, your list of trainers is HUGE, and you will spend
inordinate amounts of time running all over the continent trying to get
your characters skills advanced. Its
a big hassle and renders the role-playing element of M&M un-fun.
Ill just be blunt and honest about the audio; it stinks!
Nothing more needs to be said.
Its silly in the worst sort of way. Voice acting, what
there is of it, is embarrassing; no sound would be better.
If you thought it couldnt get worse, it does.
M&M is filled with quests.
Each quest is, however, essentially the same.
Head Honcho X wants item Y. Or,
Head Honcho Y wants item X delivered to Under Honcho Z.
Its all FedEx. The
quest structure is antiquated and, more important, boring.
You run around delivering items; thats almost the whole game.
3DO should have called this game Might and Magic VIII: Plight of
the Delivery Boy!
learning curve is short and gameplay is quickly frustrating.
You control a group with a first-person perspective, which
effectively eliminates any potential a group can provide.
Everything from your character stats to inventory is available from
the main screen (which is nice), and mouse-clicks both pick up items and
send arrows winging towards to vermilion bandits that will litter your
path. Combat is in real-time
or turn-based depending on your preference, and there is a lot of combat.
Let me repeat that, there is A LOT of combat.
Sometimes the sheer number of magenta centaurs that stand between
you and a successful delivery of the Pizza of Ultimate Doom is ridiculous.
3DO was also considerate enough to include several quests that
require jumping when the jump ability of your party is small and difficult
to control. Remember to save
that game because you will become very familiar with the load screen.
Im being too hard on this game, and if it only cost a few bucks, Id
be much nicer. But M&M is
a full price game with a stellar reputation, and for that I expect a cmuch
better return on my investment.
Fortunately, the year 2000 looks promising with titles like Diablo
2, Vampires, Neverwinter Nights, IceWind Dale, Baldurs Gate 2, and
Thief 2 on the horizon. The
only reason I can see to play this is if you dont have a computer
capable of running some of the better titles.
If thats the case, save your dough and buy a new machine.
Or maybe you simply must play out the Might and Magic saga.
If so, Might and Magic IX promises a completely new engine and
design. Wait for that.