Might and Magic may no longer have the brand power that it used, but it’s still a franchise with a loyal following. The series has been around for years now, although recent games have gone in a completely different direction. They’ve lost some fans along the way, who’ve been wanting the old school Might and Magic to make a return. And pal, it doesn’t get more old school than Might and Magic X: Legacy.
With Legend of Grimrock proving that there’s still a market for a retro style RPG, Ubisoft and Limbic Entertainment got to work on a Might and Magic sequel that follows on from the events of the sixth game, Might and Magic Heroes VI.
Way back in the dark age of 2011, that game set up a world where mankind got duped by Angels into fighting a new war with the darker side of the realm and its demonic inhabitants, leading to disastrous results that saw plenty of casualties.
It’s 2014 however, and players are back in Ashan. A quick dose of animated drawings sets up the state of the new world, before players get thrown into a brand new tale, leading four adventurers into battle on the Agryn Peninsula. It’s all about fame, gold and beer and there’s a cross-pollination of plots as you get sucked into another massive quest where the fate of everything once again hangs in the balance.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about raiding those dungeons.
There’s a ton of games on the market that go for the old school appeal. But Might and Magic X: Legacy is a different kind of beast. It’s the kind of old school adventure that when you hear your dad talking about how he could only wield a +5 sword of wrath when he battled the Ham Demon of Bacon’s Run back in 2005, you’ll turn to him and shout in a Yorkshire accent “LUXURY!”.
It’s pure Might and Magic, minus all of the sheen and marketing that accompanies games today. And honestly, I dig that approach. Starting out, players need to assemble their team of Raiders. You’ve got the option of going with a preset team, or deciding whether you want a squad full of Orcs or a balanced setup that includes an Elf, a Dwarf and a Human as well.
Each character type naturally has their own advantage, such as the Elf wielding fearsome magic while the Orc is pure offense. From there, you need to designate points to one of several skills, which determine the growth of your party and the individuals. And then it’s off to battle you go!
Might and Magic: Legacy is one game that knows where it came from, and proudly goes forward in that direction. Navigation is done via ye olde squares, with player moving in your four basic directions as they navigate through towns and dungeons. And once you’re moving outside, that’s where combat comes into play.
It’s turn-based combat of that retro ilk, with enemies charging in front of you most of the time, and flanking you when there’s more than one. This ain’t no Skyrim, as combat is far more tactical. Do you set up a defense as that giant spider locks onto your face? Or do you debuff its armour and fire a few arrows, ignoring your own defense?
It’s an easy concept to start with, but there’s a subtlety to the combat that masters will be able to exploit, unlike yours truly who spent 20 minutes getting his ass handed to him by a giant spider and chugging away all his health and poison potions. Make no mistake, this is not a game for the faint-hearted because death is just one quick-save away if you go into battle ill-prepared.
But once you get your rhythm, it’s kind of a blast setting up spells, enraging enemies and attacking when you see an opening. In many ways, this reminds me of a Dungeons and Dragons session, except my initiative gets punched in the face on a regular basis.
Monsters also feel a bit more unique than the rabble that is normally faced in RPGs, with certain techniques needed to disarm and pulverise them. You need to constantly be flexible with how you approach combat, and switching those tactics when flanked to juggle multiple enemies is pretty challenging.
That’s where having a varied team comes into play, as an Elf can quickly set up an enemy for a crushing combo thanks to some handy magic that is followed by good ol’ bladed steel. It truly is a proper tactical RPG, something which I’ve honestly never experienced before. But if Legacy is indicative of older games in the series operating like this, I might be kind of hooked into exploring this sub-genre more.
It’s the character development of Legacy that’s really going to draw in genre fans however. Four races, twelve classes and plenty of options means that you can create a team that keeps to the archetypes of rangers, mages, warriors and support, with class bonuses giving bonuses to certain combinations. You’ll level up as always, with skill points being distributed to how you want to use them, eventually unlocking specialisations along the way.
Players can also increase their skills along the way, going from novice all the way up to grandmaster thanks to hard work and finding various trainers throughout the world. You’ll need to be careful how you assign skills however, because there’s no going back when you’ve made your final decision.
Legacy is also a massive game, and can feel like a grind at times due to the grid-like navigation structure of the game. The world itself is beautiful, but some old-school ideas should remain retired for a reason. While it works for combat, I would have liked more of a three-dimensional aspect to the exploration, instead of throwing my hands all over the keyboard and mouse in order to just look upright to the left.
Visuals aren’t too bad here, and pretty much any mid-range PC should be able to handle the game easily. It doesn’t boast the budget of an RPG that has been modded into HD heaven by a legion of fans, but they’re passable and addition of a more pixelated mode is a nice nod to anyone who grew up playing games with a VooDoo 3000 Graphics Accelerator card.
What’s going to keep this Might and Magic game running however, is the option to tinker with it and create mods. Ubisoft isn’t just allowing this, they’re actively encouraging it by sticking that option front and center on the main menu. Expect plenty of custom work to be opened up in that game, once Legacy is available.
There’s no getting around the fact that Might and Magic X: Legacy is going to be a niche game. They just don’t make RPGs like this anymore, but there is a ton of love for coded into this game. It could have done with some more polish overall, but it’s still actually decent fun to play and it’ll stretch that grey matter of yours.