It’s not much of a title for an RPG game, Might & Magic. Rather like calling your new publication on the correct usage of punctuation “.” – it’s a bit pants as far as monikers go. But the simplicity of the name does underscore the bread-’n'-butter nature of this long running, fantasy RPG series.
We’re onto number nine here and a fair few changes have been made to the M & M formula (no, not the confectionery). The graphics have been spruced up and they look okay-ish, but still pretty dated, unfortunately. But then M & M never was about the graphics; the series has always put the emphasis on the gameplay.
Even here, however, M & M IX gets off to a rather shaky start. The initial plot-line is fairly incomprehensible unless you’ve read the manual (and as all good gamers know, RTFM only applies to applications)! There’s a bit of a tutorial section to begin with and before you know it you’re shipwrecked on a mysterious island with only a high level dungeon (eek!) and no real clue about what’s going on. A resident mad old crone eventually imparts bits of the plot-line, when you find her…
The plot is initially rather confusing, but to be fair it becomes clear enough eventually and once you start getting into the meat of the game – which involves uniting different provinces and their leaders against an incoming invasion of the realm – it actually gets quite enjoyable.
There are tons of main quests and sub-quests, some of which are quite clichéd but the overall variety keeps you intrigued. The character development system is nicely put together, giving you different classes that you can get promoted into by finishing certain class quests. Also, there are plenty of options with which to tailor your character’s skills.
The interface is also well implemented (aside from the crude inventory paper-doll screens) and the combat – which can be played in real time or turn-based mode – is very tactical and enjoyable in the latter. Fans of Diablo style action RPGs won’t be at home here though, since real time combat is pretty demanding and the larger battles are nigh-on impossible to win this way.
A final mention must be given to some of the bugs that plague the game, such as some quests that can’t be finished, although a recently released patch solves many of these problems. Might & Magic IX is rather a mixed bag really; fairly mighty and magical in places, but pretty weedy and Paul Daniels-esque in others.