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June 21, 2014

Might & Magic X - Legacy - Review



Game reviewed: Might & Magic X - Legacy
Version: 1.5
Created by: Limbic Entertainment (Ubisoft)
Released: 2014
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 7/10
Est. Playing time: 50 hours
Price: $41

Everything went fine with playing through Might and Magic X Legacy until I reached the end. The end part of the game is very long with no way of returning back and after countless of difficult combats I reached the final one but find no way that my team can go victorious out of it. I cannot retreat back to use trainers, buy different equipment or get other hirelings even though we have gained a lot of experience for at least 1-2 levels. It is here the weakest part of the game is, an no-retreating end that spans some 6-7 complete levels with both sub-bosses and very difficult ordinary fights. It took me perhaps 8-10 hours to wade through. No way I will reload to the beginning and repeat it.

The whole gaming experience to the end has been a joyful journey though. Let´s see how it stands the test of the gamerating system.

Gameworld & Story

The gameworld is said to build upon the world presented in the Heroes of Might and Magic series so it is not built upon the worlds seen previously in the series. Not that it matters because I think the execution of trying to immerse the player into the world, races, intrigues etc has been very poor. Most of the informatoin or quests given are done in a few sentences with new names, places or races introduced all the time making it almost impossible to relate to.

The game begins with your party landing at the town Sorpigal-by-the sea on the east of the Peninsula. Your first task is to bring the remains of your teacher to the temple at the city of Karthal. But it soons turns out the city is closed off to outsiders following a coup. Sorpigal is also closed off because several disappearances and problems relating to a spiders nest in the town´s well. After having aided the town, the garrisons captain sends the group to Castle Portmeyron to meet with the governor Jon Morgan. There are a lot of things happening but it all ends up to the fact that the major quests are issued by Jon Morgan himself for the rest of the game.

The story is simple and totally linear and I have to admit I cannot really say what it was all about because 99% of the time you are out fighting and moving around in the world and only at a few moments you read about your quest. This is way far from a story driven adventure as seen in for example Dragon Age II. You do get some information from books you find but they add only more incomprehensible and useless information about the quite uninteresting world.

The gameworld in itself is huge though and spans in total four cities, dozens of different complexes, tombs, dungeons, ruins and everything you could wish for, inclusive hidden treasures and riddles. Scattered around are an enourmous amount of monsters - different in each environment - you have to fight in order to proceed.

Rating: 1.5

Economy

I found the economy balance in the game excellent until the last fourth of the game. From the beginning you will have just enough gold to buy rations and trying to stay alive for the first level increases. Then you will need the money to get better weapons and eventually spells which costs a lot of money. You really have to prioritize when and whom should improve their skills or get a new item or spell. Rations is important because they allow you to rest and restore all health and mana points but you could only carry a small amount at any time. It will increase when you visit other taverns in other cities but it is only in cities you could get them.

There are quite a broad range of weapons, armours and magical items in the game and shops seem to randomise new stocks after awhile. This is good because it means replayability is higher. In the last fourth of the game, however, I find myself having too much money and too little to spend it on. There are a limit on how good weapons actually become. The most expensive weapon I´ve found was around 25.000 gold and when I have over 100.000 gold I don´t find any use for them. Relics is the best items you can find and they could not be bought. They level up with you for four levels, improving their abilities for every level. 

I could buy potions that increase my attributes permanently by 1 point for around 10.000 gold. And I might find some very good magical items but still, in the end you have it hard to find something worth to buy. I was playing on the harder warrior difficulty where everything is more expensive. I can imagine this was even a greater problem on the adventurer difficulty. Apart from that it is a solid experience for a very long time.

Rating: 4

NPC & Interactions


This part is easy to rate. You have a few NPC:s in the game. Mostly in towns or castles. If you disregard all trainers there are very few that have anything important to say. Some give you sidequests for the luxury of training you. There are no dialogues whatsoever in the game. You just read a few lines and accept. That´s about it.

Interactions in dungeons consists of triggering preassure plates, pulling levers or press symbols. You cannot throw items or interact with the environment in any other way.

Rating: 1

Monsters, tactics & combat system


It is here the core of the game lies and it is a very solid experience. There are a huge amount of different monsters. All of them have different abilities both in regard to melee and ranged damage, resistances, spells etc. Your job will be to try to use the enemies weakness against them by selecting the right type of spells both in offensive and defensive.

Monsters always appear up to around 4 hexes away and gradually close in on you except if they have powerful ranged abilities which they use. As I´ve stated in previous posts there is no such things as flee or retreat. Win or die is the mantra here. The tactics from your side is to combine and use your group to its best potential both to shield the group and make full use of your offensive capabilities. This is heavily dependent on which combination of classes you have in your party which makes this game highly replayable combatwise.

Combat is fun and very rewarding. I cannot really set my finger on it but they have succeeded in not having too many fights and yet you fight almost all the time. It probably has to do with the fact that combats always blocks your progress. You cannot avoid them and every winning fight opens up a new section to explore with quite good and varied graphics. And you are always close to reach a new level, get more gold for your next item or finding a special item. 

You always have a single action per party member but each one can develop abilities, skills or advanced careers that gives another parry or block chance, the ability to hit all opponents at once etc. I have found that I use quite many different spells in this game which often is not the case in similar games. But here you have to and that is a good thing. The combat system is quite simple but very flexible within that system and that is one of the games major strengths. 

Rating: 4

Magic System


There are many different spell schools available in this game. Each of the elemental ones plus a few other ones. In my playthrough with two freemages I missed out a few of the odd ones and could not reach the highest level of the available ones. But it gave me a good idea of the variations between the schools. In the end, I preferred the fire, earth, light and air magic schools but for the ending part of the game I wish I had pursued darkness more. All really have their strengths and weaknesses and I think the game is quite balanced. 

The spells ranges from lightning spells in your dungeon travelling like torchlight through spotting hidden things, single and group enemy attack spells, single and group healing and protection spells and so on. There are also a few really unique spells like identifying magical items and spirit beacon to allow teleportation. 

Rating: 4

Character generation & development


Character generation is fun and I love the hard choices that has to be made. Out of 12 classes and four races you could only choose four and each one has an promotion class as well with powerful special abilities. 

When in game you could develop your characters in many different ways. For every level increase you get four attribute points to spend and some skill points. You have to carefully think where to put it. At least on warrior difficulty and the feeling of reaching new stages in skill development like expert, master or grandmaster is very satisfying and often you do notice the effect.

There are many different combinations of classes and skills you could use in this game so replayability is quite high even though I never replay games.

Rating: 4

Map design


Maps in the game are often squarelike but not all. There are some very irregular places - including the overland map. Environments differs much and I found the map layout overall very satisfying to be a step-by-step hex game. The square based underlying maps are not visible when you look in first person view, you only notice it clearly when you navigate through your mini-map. 

Rating: 3.5

Manual


It doesn´t happen often but this time I hardly read the manual at all. Which probably is a good thing because I spent the time in the game instead. The manual per se is quite ordinary and fills it function but I really lack a list of spells and skills. You have to select magic schools in the start but you have no clue which spells come with them. Quite idiotic I think. For example, in game there is no information about which abilities you get if you promote your class. 

Rating: 2

Graphics, sound and interface


The graphics in the game is quite good albeit not very detailed in high resolutions. It uses the unity engine. It works very well though and is quite fast so I have nothing to say against it except its lack of details. 

The sound in the game is also quite good but the few pieces of voice acting is terrible and should have been used much more. The theme score at the beginning is excellent and already included on my youtube playlist I listen to at work. The other pieces of music have left me unnoticed though but there are environmental sounds and musical pieces here and there. 

What this game really shines in is its excellent interface. Big icons, obvious alerts when you find items, gaining a new level etc. The inventory, skill tab and magical tabs are excellent and very easy to understand and look at. Small tooltips helps along the way. I really like the help when selecting which items are the best. You are always getting information about the currently equipped item when deciding if a new item is worth wearing. This is the games strong part. 

Rating: 3.5

Gameplay


This game turned out to be much better than I would hope for. The developers really struck a good balance between old-school gaming style while trying to use the best interface available. It is easy and quick to play. Even the fights are often over within a minute or two. The sound of progress is everywhere from experience points gained to items looted. You feel like you progress and everything you find stay valuable until the last third of the game which often is very hard to accomplish in games like this.

What the game do lack is a proper story. They could have done it so much better with more voice acting, more feeling, better written dialogues, more cut-scenes etc. But they didn´t. This is truly a hack´n slash game but it didn´t let on the repetitive feeling until the very end. The last part was really quite boring and I only wished it to end. 

The worlds shifting environments with new monsters helps build up new curiosity in your travels.

The poorly executed end got me stuck for almost 10 hours without knowing how big that is beforehand. You cannot retreat to build up your characters in case you find yourself too weak in the end as I did in the last battle. That is very frustrating. If it should be this difficult at least I should be able to go back and complete sidequests or buy equipment to be able to return and make another try. Nope, it´s all or nothing. Remember that when you enter Karthal during difficult times later on in the game. 

Small things that would have improved things are a scrollable mini-map, the ability to set a way point and let the party travel there. You have to run back and forth through already cleared areas for countless of times which only takes unneccessary times. Since there are no random encounters that should have been mitigated somehow.

I don´t know how people that have no experience in old-schools games or previous might and magic games will receive this but for me it is one of the best games made lately, just as good as Legend of Grimrock. I had more fun with Might and Magic X than with Eschalon: Book III even though it is two very different games.

Rating: 4.5


Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
1.5
Economy
4
NPC & Interactions
1
Monsters, tactics & combat system
4
Magic system
4
Character generation & development
4
Map design
3.5
Manual
2
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3.5
Summary CRPG value
27.5


Gameplay
4.5

June 3, 2014

Might & Magic X - Game mechanics etc

I have just reached level 24 with my team after another 20 hours since my last post. As I´ve said in my previous post I am playing this on warrior difficulty and since the last post I have really experienced the harder difficulty in a way that I did not yet encounter in my last post.

In short I would recommend the warrior difficulty. I don´t know how easy the other difficulty setting is but for a game not to loose all its challenge, it have to be rather high for me. The worst example must have been Arcania - Gothic IV which was so easy on the default difficulty that it spoiled the game and forced me to pick a higher one.

I have still not grasped the main story except for a few parts of it.  I am still firm in my belief that the story is very badly executed. You pick up some books and lore from time to time but I never bother to read them since the story is just too uninvolving and it doesn´t matter in the end anyway. All dialogues are only a few sentences long and with no options. It doesn´t matter what you say or not. What´s matter is how good you party is at fighting.




There are quite a few places in the game that requires some mental abilities like solving puzzles or riddles. Certain chests have locks on them in the form of riddles. The elemental forge, a very central place in the game, have puzzles in each important elemental room that requires you to pull levers in a certain order to make something to happen or stepping on plates to build a stairway to heaven for example. There are also mysterious caves spread out in the world and some of them contains puzzles to solve as well to reveal their treasures. It´s good there are some challenges implemented in the game. After all, you just have to look for a solution online if you haven´t the time to solve them or get stuck. It is also worth it to have some sort of spot secret spell active. Many places are contains secret and hidden walls that hides valuable treasures.

Back to the game mechanics. Combat is the central part of the game and the only way forward is to win every fight. The overland map is huge but it is built up like a huge underground dungeon. You still have to travel grid by grid and narrow parts are often guarded by a bunch of monsters which means that after awhile you will be boxed in and have to select one of those obstacles to tackle in order to move forward. It is here the challenge of the game lies because you will have to run back and forth between previously found enemies and newly found ones to try out if you are capable enough to defeat them. At around level 12-15 I had big troubles in advancing the game and really had to search for fights that could help give me much needed experience points and gold in order to improve my group. As I said in my last post, there is NO random encounters or spawning monsters in the game at all which means that if you are not careful in building up your party and spend your skill and/or attribute points wisely things might be too hard to accomplish. The problem is that there is no way to switch difficulty ingame so if you´re stuck you are screwed.



Combat starts when enemies are within a few hexes of you. Depending on your range capabilities both in the form of bows/crossbows and spells you could start hitting enemies from 3 or more hexes away depending on skill. That is useful for enemies that does only have melee capabilities. If you encounter spellcasters it is wiser to try to retreat to a corner to wait for them to show up in front of you since they often are weak melee fighters.

Neither you or the enemies can flee and they have no morale so every fight is to the death. You act turnwise between your group and the enemies group. It took me half the time ingame before I noticed I could actually select which enemy to hit. There are always a preselected enemy for you. Many have talked about the variety in tactics that could be used in combat and yes, the system opens up for some different gaming styles. But that depends mostly on what type of character classes you have and which spells and skills you have rather than any specific choices during the fight.

I have two mages. Their role is to support my melee fighters with spells that remove the enemies capability to block, or to bolster my groups capabilities like Heroic Destiny that improves our critical hit chance, or Stone skin that improves the groups armour value. One very useful spell is the Celestial shield that absorbs an amount of damage before anyone will be hit. Then there is the different types of direct and area effect spells like firebolts and fireballs. Each school has its own strengths and weaknesses and by combining them you could find way to maximise your tactics used. Enemies have resistances against different types of schools. Never try to use fire magic against a fire elemental for example.


I find that the light magic school is important because of the heal and resurrection abilities but you could also rely on a special hireling to do that sort of stuff. The Dark Magic school is important because of the identify spell that helps you identify unknown items without you having to pay money for it. Then there is the spell Spirit Beacon that allows you to set a waypoint and travel back to that place whenever you wish, allowing you to save much boring travel time across the map. There are much more to say about the different magic schools and I have not access to all of them since there are limitations to what my freemages can use. 

I have survived because I have preserved my attribute points and skill points until I have found the trainers I have been looking for. When there only remains a few very hard fights I spend them in order to be able to make progress in certain areas. I don´t recommend the warrior difficulty for inexperienced players because it requires patience and preserving of attribute/skill points.

A good amount of time in the game is spent looking for trainers or remember where you found certain trainers. Your promotion through skills go from novice to expert, master and grandmaster. To be able to train in a grandmaster skill often requires your class to have been promoted which in turn will have you to look for the promotion quests. A promoted class get bonus abilities and is well worth pursuing. The grandmaster level of skills is also often very powerful. Personally, I take help of online resources to find out where certain skill trainers is but only in areas I have already discovered. I have no inclination to write my own logs. A pity the diary in the game doesn´t track that information for you since it works very well in all other aspects.




The game is still as fun as in the beginning. You always want to have that more xp in order to raise a level or get enough money to buy that particular weapon or spell. There is always something you crave for. Not until I reached around level 18 I could build up more than 10.000 gold and now I have over 80.000 gold. At this stage it is hard to find better equipment. And speaking of that, there are certain relic-type items in the game. Such an item works like any other item except it will receive experience points and level up with you, giving you additional bonuses along the way up to level 4. Those items are very rare but powerful.



The outdoor map

My next post will probably be a review of the game. I have no idea how far I have come. But the game is divided into four acts and I have just reached act three.