attack on gazebo

You Attack the Gazebo

Not only am I on a franchise kick, but an Ubisoft one as well. I darn well hope someone at Ubisoft is paying attention and is, right this second, slapping their hand on their desk while chewing on a cigar and screaming “Someone get that nerd some swag for all this free publicity!”

This month (oh god, I’m so far behind) I’m reviewing Might and Magic X the pornographic entry– oh, it’s a 10 in roman numerals. Well, that’s ultimately disappointing. Time to put my pants back on.

THIS IS A BULLSHIT RANDOM ENCOUNTER AND YOU ARE A TERRIBLE DM.

Might and Magic is a long running series of dungeon crawlers that have since crawled out of just the dungeons and now occasionally allow you to roam freely on the surface, provided that you only move in one of four directions and only in squares that can accept 4 beings of a range of sizes.

This, I’m excited to say, is my first entry into this series, though not dungeon crawlers as a genre.

That particular cherry was popped by the SNES port of Dungeon Master. Since then, I’ve played dungeon crawlers on and off for years, always enjoying the mechanics, but becoming fatigued by their repetitiveness after a while. With Might and Magic X, I hoped to break that streak.

I’m always a fan of games that let you build a party. I built mine to include a human paladin, elf bladesinger, dwarven runepriest, and orc hunter. Two melee, one caster, one ranged. Seemed pretty balanced to me. Paladins being a hybrid class meant I got some extra heals as well which turned out to be fairly necessary. Damage is pretty savage is from the outset and remains spiky throughout so being able to spam heals to keep everyone on their feet was nice.

Mmm, character creation. I’ll be spending several sweet hours agonizing over every option here.

The main storyline ties into the Might and Magic universe that straddles the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise as well as the first person dungeon crawlers, so familiar factions and units appear and attempt to kill you. Well, some of them offer you quests, skill training, or act as merchants, but the vast majority of things in the game are eager to maul your faces and leave you in a ditch, as any self-respecting monster should. This particular iteration follows (or coincides with, I wasn’t super clear on that) the events of Might and Magic: Heroes VI and units and races reflect the factions present in that particular game.

You begin stepping off a boat in an unfamiliar land, looking to give your former mentor a proper burial, as per his last wishes. Being a diligent set of mercenaries murderhobos roving adventurers, you quickly become embroiled in the troubles of the region, righting wrongs, retrieving priceless heirlooms, reducing local wildlife populations, and being the only ones capable of standing between a vague dark force and its sinister plans for the region.

He just wanted help with his dislocated jaw! You’re the real monsters!

Movement and combat are turn based, one action per character or creature. Movement takes place on a square grid, traversing halls and corridors of alarmingly uniform dimensions. When you come within range of enemies, they start their step-by-step approach to murder the shit out of you. Most enemies have some method to soften you up from a range and ranged combat for PCs is kind of lackluster. Your best option is to break line of sight and force enemies to get right up in your face for some me time with business ends of whatever bladed, pointed, or blunt objects you have prepared. Group damage is a regular occurrence and you’ll be using potions on the regular to keep your health and mana topped off. Early game combat is reasonably tense and requires some actual resource management, rather than just powering through.

The game is bright and colourful and does a reasonable job bringing the units of Might and Magic: Heroes VI to life at a ground level. Effects have a lot of colour and character and were fun to use. I especially enjoyed the Harpoon special ability my Orc hunter got as it depended on the enemy exactly where the spear impaled itself. Often, against larger enemies, it would impale itself in my opponent’s skull and sit there, rope dangling from the end, for a few rounds. In some cases, ranged combat being what it was, abilities saw little or no use, or had very conditional requirements to function. That said, thank god for the move away from ammunition being a requirement. That’s a bit of streamlining that is always appreciated.

It burns like hygiene!

The game smacks of a lot of streamlining, actually. It’s a fairly common sight nowadays with antique game styles. I hesitate to say it was necessary; there are a few solid examples of games  successfully pulling off the full retro dungeon crawler. The only one that leaps to mind is Legend of Grimrock (which I would highly recommend to anyone that enjoys this style of game). While the game felt a bit shallower as a result, it felt much more accessible and made the initial stages of the game a more pleasant experience. It’s a trade off that means the later game suffers from a lack of depth and variety.

There were a number of small touches I really did appreciate. I liked the relic weapons, strong items that levelled up along with the wielder to be some of the best items in the game. I’m always a sucker for class upgrade games and I like the quests that led up to upgrades, but I find they happened very late in a fairly short game. The game length was a bit of mixed blessing. While I didn’t really feel the game had the breadth or length of other dungeon crawlers, it was also long enough that I didn’t feel it overstayed its welcome. When I was finished, I was happy to be done and overall satisfied with what I experienced.

I’ve got a few nitpicks with the game overall. The story is bland, formulaic, and forgettable. The fact many encounters in the game are ambushes where the enemies spawn from literally nowhere lowers the overall use of ranged attacks, preparatory spells, or the few traps a few classes employ. This happens over and over in the game and is really a taxing mechanism to eke out a bit more difficulty. Fighting the same number of enemies, but being able to use ranged attacks and traps to greater effectiveness would have made for more enjoyable strategies.

Somewhere in this lush, underground forest, there’s like 15 packs of enemies ready to drop down from the ceiling and fuck up your day.

All things considered, Might and Magic X is a decent, lightweight dungeon crawler that can serve as a solid entry point for someone interested in the genre, but without the time or temperament to put up with the often punishing difficulty curve of more “classic” titles. There’s arguably more than one playthrough in the title if you’re the kind of person that likes trying different party strategies, but there’s little choice or character development to explore overall, so it’s likely a one shot game that is decidedly adequate in execution.

As always, thanks for reading.