Might and Magic X: Legacy is the newest iteration in the long-running Might and Magic franchise originally developed by New World Computing back when I was but a twinkle in my dad’s eye, but now developed by Limbic Entertainment and published by Ubisoft. As the name subtly implies, the game is a fantasy RPG involving might, magic, and more than a healthy dose of dungeons-and-dragons-inspired monsters and lore. Never having played a Might and Magic game before, I was excited to try out the newest, shiniest version of a franchise that comes highly recommended by my older gamer friends.
The storyline is fairly cliché and convoluted- it reads like a cheesy campaign your buddy threw together for you and your friends to play out on your weekend game day. The adventure begins in the small town of Sorpigal-by-the-Sea, where our merry band of four adventurers have found themselves passing through in order to eventually spread the ashes of their recently-deceased mentor in the nearby city of Karthal. In typical RPG fashion, your stated goal quickly drops to the bottom of your to-do list as you pick up random quests from the myriad NPCs lounging about town (day or night, they guard their spot as if standing room were a dwindling resource).
At first, you’re tasked simply with clearing out the sewers of giant spiders, then a nearby tower of violent cultists, but eventually you find yourself embroiled in a conflict much bigger than yourself involving archangels, evil beings bent on conquest, unseen treachery, and age-old secrets that would very much like to stay secrets, thank you very much. I really don’t want to give away any major plot points for those of you who haven’t played it yet, but it’ll suffice to say that you should be careful whom you trust.
So as it often does, it falls to our young heroes to save the kingdom and indeed all of existence by killing a billion mooks in cheap armor, a myriad of wild creatures that were probably living their lives very peaceably until you stomped through their nests wearing your boots of +1 baby-stomping, and a handful of bosses who will throw a combination of the former two at you before you can get close enough to introduce his insides to the business end of your great axe. It all culminates when your rag-tag team comes face to face with an ancient evil- Erebos, the master of assassins and an all-around dick.
The gameplay is the sort of thing I’ve never experienced before. It’s turn-based like Pokemon (except with 4 characters instead of one), open-world like any RPG I’ve played in the last 10 years, and from a first-person perspective like a shooter. Each of your four characters can be customized by race, each race has a few classes you can choose from, and you can give each of them a ‘heroic’ or ‘cynical’ personality. I went with the pre-made party, but either way you’ll probably end up with at least two meatshield/bruiser types and one or two mages or ranger types- you know, the standard set-up. Now I wish I had been more selective and made all of my characters heroic, because the cynical characters just pout and whine the whole time, like “Hey don’t we have better things to do?” Yeah we do, but you’re about 20 levels too low to do those things, so how about you shut the hell up and kill some more snake-people?
So you crawl about a massive grid one square at a time, and if you come across any baddies you’re locked into battle. I say ‘locked’ very literally- you’re not allowed to run away from any fight you get into, regardless of how badly you’re losing. Outside the starting town alone are 4 fights that you won’t be able to participate in until you’ve gotten a good deal more of experience and revisit the area, and it’s quite frustrating in the early moments of the game to be exploring, see a baddy that you want to kill, and launch your whole volley of attacks at it only to have the monster laugh at you as it turns your skull into a charming codpiece. I really feel as if there should be more direction in this game, but then I suppose I’ve been coddled by modern games which clearly state your objectives and give you some sort of idea on how to complete them.
Your four characters can be joined throughout the game by up to two NPCs at any given time, and as you progress you’ll find that they can mean the difference between breezing through a dungeon and having to spend twenty minutes running back to town again and again to re-stock your campfire supplies and buy as many potions as you can carry. The combo I ended up going with was the guy who gives you +10% experience and the healer broad, because my freemage was far too concerned with being able to shoot bigger and better fireballs to be bothered to learn any healing magic, the twat.
As you murder bigger and meaner things, you earn more and more XP to be used towards your stats (Might, Magic, Perception, Dexterity- erm, I mean ‘Destiny’, etc. etc.), as well as a few points per level towards your skills which all start at ‘Novice’ but can be upgraded to Expert, Master, and Grandmaster if you can manage to find the one guy in the entire game that will train you up to that level. The game really offers you no guidance here, and for the first 10 levels I didn’t even know I could upgrade my skills until I was dicking around in the menus for some reason. It’s also quite infuriating to trek across the wilderness for (in-game) days because you want to increase your Fire magic to expert level but- oh wait, it turns out this guy is the master trainer and the expert trainer is in another castle.
While we’re on the topic of things that annoy the hell out of me, let’s talk about glitches. A few times I found myself stuck in rooms whose doors should have opened, but were certainly not. A reload fixed that up no problem, but at one point I found myself in quite a pickle that not even a reload was able to fix. Towards the end of the game I was exploring the mountains and used my super-nifty teleport spell to bring me instantly to Karthal to sell my loot and restock my goods. The moment I stepped outside though, I found that I was in combat. “That’s odd,” thought I, “I could have sworn I cleared out this entire half of the continent earlier.” The enemies I was in battle with were nowhere to be seen, and this poses a problem- since you are NOT allowed to run away from battles, I couldn’t leave the overworld.
After searching every square inch of the map, I found that the game randomly decided to respawn a couple of fire elementals I had recently destroyed in the farthest corner of the mountains, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything until I somehow found my way back there to one-shot them into oblivion once again. This was almost enough for me to stop playing the game, as even my oldest save state couldn’t save me from this limbo. Once I figured it out, I was equal parts relieved and annoyed- for a brief moment I thought I was done playing the game.
The graphics are fairly underwhelming. I had to run the game on lower settings on my laptop than my desktop, but the differences weren’t really felt on my end, besides the draw distance being vastly decreased on my lappy. Everything is pretty smudgy and you’ll get tired of seeing the same blurry tree or blurry cave wall or blurry abandoned castle corridor again and again and again. It really reminds me of the original Doom for some reason, though thankfully it does look quite a bit nicer than that. I can’t tell if the game design screams of laziness or lack of resources, but I feel the entire world has an unpolished, unfinished look about it.
The sound itself is rather annoying, with no background music or anything like that between fights you’ll find yourself going slowly mad as you hear the same ‘footstep’ sound again and again and again and again only to be broken up by the handful of witty, cynical dialogue that your disillusioned, way-too-cool-to-be-here characters spout at you every twenty or so paces. There’s one sound for melee weapon attacks, one sound for ranged, and one sound for magic of each type. Your characters will scream out “No! It can’t be!” if they somehow manage to get themselves murdered, but I found myself actually enjoying those moments because the game had done what I had wanted to do with my own bare hands since the starting area.
Speaking of dying- you’ll probably do a lot of it in the first area as you figure out what the hell you’re doing, but you’ll find you’re never really in danger again until the last string of fights leading to Erebos. Maybe I just did too much exploring on the side, but I found that while doing most quests I was vastly more powerful than the majority of the enemies I was fighting. Between the beginning and the end, the only monster that gave me any guff was the crystal spider that had a tendency to one-shot my mage in the first round.
The last round of fights actually was pretty hard, and I had to re-do the final boss fight several times before I managed to assemble the triforce and send Ganon back to whatever dank hell he crawled out of. Rather than making me say “Oh wow this fight is epic!” I feel this conveys poor design on the part of the developers- the difficulty curve should be just that: a curve. It was more like a difficulty bucket- the beginning and end were infinitely harder than anything that was thrown at me in the middle.
After all is said and done and I’ve finished my bitching about this and that, I’d have to say I sort of enjoyed the game. The lore is huge akin to the Elder Scrolls series and I found myself attempting to explore every corner of the game in order to murder every baddie I could. Aside from a few game-breaking glitches and some serious inattention to detail, I’d say for $24.99 you could spend your money on worse things. If you’re looking for an immersive fantasy RPG, you can definitely do better with any of the myriad titles releases in the genre within the last 10 years, but if you want to be transported back to the early-to-mid-90’s, Might and Magic X: Legacy could be the game for you.