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'Might & Magic X': Stats, dungeon crawling and old-school fun

Monsters infest every corner of the world popping up even in the most innocuous locations.

“Might & Magic X: Legacy” is a tough-as-nails role-playing game with few concessions given over to modern game design. It’s a throwback to when computer games required vast amounts of reading, note taking and even spelling in order to be successful. It’s exceptionally challenging, utterly devoid of hand-holding and game that will not be completed in a weekend. 

And that’s why it’s quietly become the best game of the fledgling New Year.

This entry in the long running Might & Magic series from Limbic Entertainment and publisher Ubisoft is really more of a resurrection than a sequel, as the series had lain dormant for over a decade. In fact, Might & Magic would likely still be on the pile of forgotten games, alongside the “No One Lives Forever” and “Jet Grind Radios” of the world, if not for creative director Julien Pirou who badgered Ubisoft for three years for permission to make the game.

Thankfully, Pirou’s persistence paid off because M&MX is a fantastic game.

For those unfamiliar with Might & Magic, the series is a first-person computer RPG with very few frills and a punishing difficulty level that rewards patience and proper planning. M&MX is no different. Gamers won’t find romance options, unlimited potions or lengthy cut scenes here. What they will find, however, is a challenging game full of close-encounters, deep dungeons that may take several attempts to conquer and a series of areas that are designed to ensure you will lose. Fans of games like “Demon’s Souls” or “Dark Souls” should feel right at home with the challenge level in M&MX.

The game starts with players having to create a party of four adventurers from a pool of 12, each with their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses. This isn’t just lip service either. Party creation and what classes are taken will greatly affect play style. Like many old-school games, it’s very possible to create a party that will make the game far, far more difficult than it has to be.

The classes range from the typical warriors types that soak up damage and the magic-wielding glass cannons to the more mixed classes like Crusaders and Bladedancers. Some classes will have access to skills and schools of magic that others won’t. Picking enough classes to have each type of magic is highly recommended, as there is very little overlap in what each does. For instance, if the party lacks somebody who can use Earth magic, the team will lack a powerful (and fairly necessary) healing spell. Choose wisely.

After a short story segment, the band of heroes (inexplicable called Raiders in-game) are set ashore on a small seashore town in the world of Ashan and set loose to do pretty much whatever they’d like. Quests can be picked up from townsfolk or found through exploration and generally can be tackled at any point. Again, the challenge level comes into play here. Some areas are far too difficult to venture into right away, so while exploration is the entire point of the game, saving often is really recommended. There will be many areas where creatures lurk right around a corner that can crush a lower-level party right away, and the areas are not marked as such.

Trial and error are a big part of old-school game design, and M&MX revels in it. There are great awards in the form of valuable treasure and powerful relics hidden around the world, but none of them are just handed to players. They have to be earned, and like all things earned, the feeling of accomplishment is all the sweeter for it.

Like most RPGs, combat is inevitable. Monsters infest every corner of the world popping up even in the most innocuous locations. Combat in M&MX is turn based. Various factors, from class to stat allocation will determine how many attacks each character gets per turn. Each action, including using healing potions takes a turn. What that means is players will always have to balance using a healing ability against trying to take out an opponent before he kills a nearly-dead party member. That makes each fight a unique challenge - none of them are cakewalks.

Most fights will end with party members either close to death or out of mana and neither regenerate outside of combat. Instead, each party has supplies that act as a campsite that heal health and mana and which can be purchased at town shops in limited quantities. Certain status ailments like poison need to be healed with their own potions though, so camping out isn’t a one stop solution for everything.

What’s interesting about this mechanic is that while you can continue to buy these supplies, it’s not really possible to just use them after every battle. Everything in the game is limited. Enemies don’t respawn after an area is cleared. Treasure chests are limited and randomized. There is, as of yet, no endless dungeon. So the amount of gold and experience points you can use to increase skills and abilities are in limited supply.

This forces players to really think about every decision they make. Do you spend your hard earned gold on a shiny new sword or a batch of healing potions? That choice – and the consequence of that choice – is what makes the entire game work. The world refuses to just let you win. Instead it presents players with a vast expanse of explorable territory, full of danger and reward and dares you to conquer it. If that sounds like your type of game, Might & Magic X: Legacy might be the game for you.

Bottom line: If you're the type of gamer who is up for a challenge and doesn't mind a little old-school flavor, you owe it to yourself to give Might & Magic X: Legacy a try.

darnell.michael@stripes.com

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