"Old RPGs that you've probably heard I like" and other wonderful uses of time and money

One must be quite BRAVE to fight the same 27 bosses you just spent the last 30 hours of the game fighting

Yay Video Games. I have a rough draft of an essay that I should be doing right now, but while I have that half-page of writing in another window I should try to warm my writing brains up by doing this super hot exciting blog. It was going to be a competition between this and Bravely Default for which would be finished and get written about first, but Bravely Default hit a snag once I ran into Chapter 5 and realized that the rest of the game was going to be a glorified, repetitive boss-rush which I will admit dampened my enthusiasm for it quite a bit. Still, you can expect something about it maybe at some point soon. I also bought Thief, because I'm an idiot and I figured that I had to know for myself and also it was only $33. The first hour wasn't terrible so... here's hoping? I reinstalled the original three as a contingency plan should my expedition end in sorrow, and if I get sort of depressed by the labyrinthine level design of those old Thief games... I'll just play Dishonored again. Done. Crisis averted.

A Video Game that you may have expected me to have already written about

To get perspective about how nuts I am about Might and Magic, a third of my wiki points is from the page for this game

Even today I am still mildly surprised that Might and Magic X: Legacy is a video game that exists and that I have played it. It's a throwback to a series that traces its roots to the beginnings of Computer Role-Playing Games, comfortably sitting alongside Wizardry and Ultima in the pantheon of long-running RPGs that started in the 80s and died around the turn of the century. Wizardry lives on in the weird Japanese-developed dungeon crawlers that show up from time to time, Ultima in a bunch of EA's F2P nonsense and Richard Garriot's continual use of the name “Lord British” as a way to swindle people out of their money so he can go to space, and Might and Magic in the occasional Heroes game that Ubisoft puts out every few years in-between surprisingly decent puzzle games... so really they got the best deal of the three all things considered. And yet, here we are. Does this revival do the series name proud? Yes, absolutely. But that isn't as high a bar as one would think, given that the Might and Magic name has also been bestowed upon such high quality works as Might and Magic IX and Crusaders of Might and Magic, the former being a half-finished mess and the latter being just plain bad.

Pictured: Heart

Okay, that's a bit mean, and this game is much better than its predecessor that killed the series off in the first place. Might and Magic X is a rough little game, one clearly not made for very much money. It borrows art assets from previous Ubisoft M&M games like nobody's business (Heroes VI mostly, but there are models I recognized from Heroes V and Dark Messiah as well), has its share of weird technical jankiness and bugs (less so after the most recent patch, but still) and it still has the rather unfortunate handicap of being tied to Ubisoft's incredibly generic fantasy world of Ashan. But it also has Heart damn it, and it might just be the best realistic outcome for a modern game of this type, given that there might as well be zero attempt at a mass market audience in favor of aiming for the fans. I'm not sure how it will succeed in that regard, give the rather... touchy nature of the Might and Magic fanbase, but I've beaten 5 of the 9 previous RPGs and I think it's pretty dope. It's clear from the multitude of weirdly specific references to old Might and Magic games that MMX was made by a bunch of people who know what they're dealing with. You make a party of 4 dudes/ladies of various generic fantasy races and classes, explore a big world on a grid with a bunch of dungeons containing the occasional puzzle and then have to look up a list of all the skill trainers in the game so you don't have to wander around the 4 different cities based on half-remembered locations. Really, the one big series staple that didn't make the transition is the part where you had to pay money at training centers to level up... which I won't cry about. It's a small-scale experiment on the level of something like Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and I think its $25 price tag ($30 if you want a free copy of Might and Magic VI, the soundtrack and an additional dungeon) reflects that.

It's not quite a crossword, but minesweeper is a pretty neat way to set up a puzzle room.

Still, it should be worth noting that the bulk of the influence comes from Might and Magic III-V trio rather than the better known VI-VIII, which is to say that it's turn-based and on a grid instead of real time free roaming. That might be a sticking point for some, but having finished World of Xeen last year and having gotten pretty deep into Etrian Odyssey this year I have no problem with this sort of movement style in a RPG, but I also fully accept that I am a crazy person. It also helps that the mechanics are solid and easy to understand. The turn-based combat works well, demanding more from the player than most of the older games did (inasmuch as mashing A and occasionally S was concerned) and I found it to be decently challenging on the normal “Adventurer” difficulty for most of the game. It starts off with some pretty nasty old-school RPG brutality, but kind of takes a dive about halfway through act 3, when your party starts reaching Grandmaster level skills and has obtained a bunch of relics (powerful unique items found in puzzle rooms or guarded by mini-bosses that essentially “level up” to become even more powerful. Generally I did not found a piece of random loot that eclipsed any of my relics, both in raw stats and in additional benefits) essentially turning the endgame into a massacre... a statement that makes even more sense once you realize that Act IV is basically just one long 3-hour dungeon crawl, which I will admit I found tiresome. Might and Magic is best when it's about exploration, and I could probably have done with a little less climax. It actually reminded me of some of Might and Magic VI's end-game dungeons. You know which ones I'm talking about. I'm looking at you Tomb of VARN.

Some of the collectable items are poems none too subtly recounting the events of previous Might and Magic games.

There's some decently clever puzzle solving thrown in as well. Not quite turning a dungeon floor into a crossword puzzle like World of Xeen, but there are more than a few riddle chests and pressure-plate puzzles that stumped me for a bit before figuring out the solution, which I would say is the mark of a good puzzle. There's a story in the game but in grand series tradition its a bit of a non-entity. Fine with me. Anyone who would be upset by a lack of story probably isn't going to play this game anyways. The world of Ashan is pretty dull and generic, but the game doesn't take itself super seriously, either with the “cynical” voice option for your characters (sort of grating after a while), the goofy out-of-place pop-culture references (another series staple) and as previously mentioned a bucketload of specific references to the old games.

It took me a bit to realize that the Uplay and Steam had the same screenshot button. Also hey a riddle chest.

But yes, I have complaints. Besides the aforementioned low-budgetness, which gives the game a cobbled-together look, it's not all that well-optimized on the technical front and I have to run it on lower settings than I think I should have to given that it's not much of a looker. I also ran into my fair share of minor bugs along the way, nothing gamebreaking, but enough weird janky stuff that reminded me of when I played the early access version in August. Gameplay wise, I'm not entirely sure if it's very well balanced. Dark Magic doesn't seem all that exciting for being exclusive to only one class (Air magic on the other hand...) and while there are some abilities that allow your fighter-types to attempt to tank damage for your other characters, you should not mistake that for a sustainable strategy. At some point I just threw my hands up and started pumping vitality for my mage to avoid one-hit-ko situations. The game doesn't give you enough high level loot until the end (and even then most of it is still inferior to the 20 or so relics you probably accrued before then) and there are only three tiers of rareness anyways.

It's no World of Xeen, but this game is alright by me.

Still, these are rather forgivable thanks to the simple fact that they made a game called Might and Magic the Tenth and it was good. I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 hours doing most of the side quests and I'm already half-tempted to start the game over with an entirely different party. I'll admit: I'm not sure what someone who has never been exposed to the franchise would think. You definitely have to like these kinds of games already before giving MMX a go, because it doesn't hold your hand or condescend in any manner. Instead, it grabs you by the hand and says “Hey there, I hear you like old hack-n-slashy RPGs”, to which I reply “Yes Please”. Might and Magic X is a comfort food video game, one that doesn't entirely survive scrutiny when compared to its larger, more ambitious precursors. But it's an earnest effort and on its own merits a damn solid RPG. I highly recommend it.

Other things:

For some reason I played a lot of Defender's Quest recently. It's a Tower Defense-ass Tower Defense game, but... you level up and that apparently makes it okay? It's a decent time waster and I'll end up accidentally finishing it at some point.

Meanwhile, Long Live the Queen is a neat little trifle of a game, essentially a visual novel with stats and a Dark Souls-esque mean streak. I've heard it described as a “Anime Sansa Stark simulator” and that seems pretty apt. It started falling apart for me once I realized that it was very much an issue of trial and error, and it seems like there are a handful of optimal paths among the many, many wrong ones.

I bought beta access to Wasteland 2 for $10 (a special deal for kickstarter backers). Why? That's a great question, given that I've expressed a rather strict “No Early Access” policy in the past, but I figure with Brian Fargo straight up saying that the game is more than 3 months away I can afford to give it a spin and make guesses as to how many of the bugs I encounter and complain about are going to be fixed.

In celebration of this blog... I don't have any copies of Might and Magic 6-Pack or whatever to give away. Instead, I have these random other GOG codes, and since we were talking about Thief for a bit I think that what I have sort of fits that particular glove. The games I am giving away are as follows: Thief II: The Metal Age, Master of Magic, System Shock 2, and Dungeon Keeper, all fine games by my reckoning, and even if they've all aged a bit I'd say they all deserve to be called “classic”. So, to be eligible to win said video games... hell, I dunno. Write a haiku, like so:

Might and Magic ten,

Wizardry 8 is better,

but it is still good

And I'm done. If notifications are still broken... whatever.

16 Comments
17 Comments
Posted by Fredchuckdave

Haikus are secret

TLDRs in disguise

Rough drafts are useless

Posted by Fredchuckdave

The world of Ashan isn't generic, it's magnificently wondrous and completely generic. There's something extremely appealing about it though having played most of the games. The stories have always sucked in these games but the world design has been solid and the music was awesome in Heroes V, less awesome when they re-used the same music 6 or 7 times for the next games/expansions. Still, if Might and Magic X has a title screen where a diminuitive hero fights an enormous demon to a standstill ad infinitum it might be something special.

Started playing Clash of Heroes which is a lot of fun, albeit the difference between the races seems relatively minor. The puzzles are engaging but only difficult if the game withholds information from you.

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@fredchuckdave: It's funny though, even though I think the lore of this world is pretty lame and generic, I can also recount a lot of it from memory. Still think that the old games' blend of fantasy and LASER GUNS was a better mix, and I still think the Sword Coast is the king of all generic RPG settings, but I'll give ubisoft this: At least they're consistent.

Also tell me what game code you want for that amazing haiku.

Posted by BisonHero

@fredchuckdave said:

Started playing Clash of Heroes which is a lot of fun, albeit the difference between the races seems relatively minor. The puzzles are engaging but only difficult if the game withholds information from you.

We should play this multiplayer. I tried random matchmaking once, but it turns out that like most other games, the builds that work in single player don't translate to multiplayer. It seems like instead of diversifying your lineup, everyone online uses the same common units for all 3 colours (whichever one the community figured is the most OP, I guess). Granted, some of the units are clearly terrible (those mana faeries with the Elves that do more damage the more charged up your mana is seem bad, since your mana is half empty most of the time). Still, other than the shit faeries, I tended to mess around with most of the units, since the campaign is more about being high enough level and matching well, than about your team composition.

The races all build walls and all have the same basic mechanics of linking and fusing, but beyond that, their spells, the way their walls work, and the weird specifics of their special units do differentiate them quite a bit.

Anyway, we should play it, though given the way you play games, I suspect you'd be able to figure out effective PvP team lineups faster than I would.

Edited by Fredchuckdave

@arbitrarywater: Oh, didn't realize there was a prize. Master of Magic I guess?

There's something to be said for doing generic well; I mean that's how people justify playing modern military shooters and Killzone/Gears of War right? Granted generic fantasy trumps those quite handily from an artistic perspective. "Obtuse, yet lovable" is a good way to describe the Ubisoft Might and Magic experience. King's Bounty might be more fun but it isn't as frustratingly difficult nor as time consuming; those are the hallmarks of a series with a devoted fanbase. Granted almost everyone that plays these games is from Europe, and blah blah MMO explanations why America is better than Europe.

@bisonhero: For whatever reason I'm not particularly good at Heroes multiplayer (though with an admittedly small sample size, also can one be good at Heroes multiplayer?), so I might well be bad at a puzzle/Heroes game's multiplayer as well. I might be busy tonight but if not I'll hit you up once I'm done Remembering bad voice acting.

Posted by BisonHero

@fredchuckdave: I'm probably busy with school stuff I should work on for the next day or two, but the weekend is better (for either Clash of Heroes or Orcs Must Die 2).

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@bisonhero: @fredchuckdave For the record, I'd play OMD 2 and Clash of Heroes with you guys. I haven't played the latter in years, but my tower-defensin' skills are still pretty sharp. I also have stuff for a while though, so I wouldn't be available until next week at the earliest.

Posted by Mento

"Almost missed this blog

Notifications are broke

We will fix them soon."

I'm not buying or playing MMX until Grimrock's done. If I'm ever going back down that rabbit hole comprised entirely of 90 degree turns, I ought to finish what's on my plate first before ordering dessert.

I might be stealing your thunder soon, though, since I've got a DOS series all planned and ready to roll. I just need to figure out how to turn DOSBox proprietary videos into something usable. For some reason, they all come out with these intense 70fps framerates that don't play nicely with the usual codecs (and it lags like hell if I try to OBS DOSBox directly for whatever reason).

Moderator
Posted by Fredchuckdave

@arbitrarywater: Just need a fourth and we can have Clash of Heroes tournaments.

Edited by ArbitraryWater

@mento: I never finished Grimrock either to be totally honest. I've gotten quite far, but for as well made as that game is it doesn't quite hold my attention the same way. Of course, it took me a month to beat this sucker so my ability to ram through games has been reduced somewhat since I started going back to school.

I'm not sure if you were around as much 3 or 4 years ago when I started doing these dumb blogs on the regular, but I totally did a couple where I went through shady abandonware sites (and my GOG account) and recorded video of DOS games. I haven't done one of those in like 3 years is because the video codec for newer versions of DOSbox never worked for me (also I never learned how to use the newer versions of DOSbox, shoot me), so I am fully behind you picking up that torch. Also if you want one of the 3 remaining games, just ask.

Posted by ILikePopCans

Yeah, I picked up Long Live the Queen too because, anime. It's too bad the story is sorta not much and the gameplay is the main attraction, which I kind of hate because like you said, it just kind of trial and error thing. I play a few days and if something happens that I wanted to happen or I died, I load it back up and train that skill. Really disappointing. At least the outfits are cute!

Yes yes, Defender's Quest. I been plying that game for a long time too, I need to beat it sooner or latter. I just find it really hard for some reason, and there is not much of a place to grind either.

Oh and yeah, Might and Magic. I should play 10. Might and Magic VI is still a thing of my child hood that I should bring back into present times. Is there spiders in X? Cause fuck the spiders in VI.

And fuck the spiders in that shitty hobbit game I played as a kid.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Awesome write-up. I liked the handful of turn-based M&M games ai played as a kid, and I'm obviously a fan of the later ones sans IX, as we've talked about. Glad to hear this new one is mostly successful in hitting the basics of what made the games fun.

Moderator
Posted by ThunderSlash

Hey I liked those weird Japanese developed Wizardry games! The one for the PS2 is dope! The only experience I have with the Might and Magic franchise are the Heroes games, specifically the first one that was ported to the Game Boy Color and 3 on the PC. Speaking of which, I should probably play that copy of King's Bounty I bought on Steam a while back.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Hey I liked those weird Japanese developed Wizardry games! The one for the PS2 is dope! The only experience I have with the Might and Magic franchise are the Heroes games, specifically the first one that was ported to the Game Boy Color and 3 on the PC. Speaking of which, I should probably play that copy of King's Bounty I bought on Steam a while back.

I've never played any of the Playstation Wizardry games, so I wasn't making any qualitative judgements (I've heard that the ones on PSN are actually quite good), but the fate of that series is still a really weird one when you compare the later Sir Tech games (6-8) with the ones made in Japan (essentially throwbacks to Wiz 1-5). Japan's relationship to dungeon crawlers in general intrigues me quite a bit.

As for Heroes of Might and Magic, I'm pretty obsessive about that series too and can probably rattle off a disturbing amount of information regarding each game in the series. If you liked Heroes III then King's Bounty will fit that pretty well, though you should be warned that all of those KB games are not the most... quickly paced things out there.

Posted by Tennmuerti

Welp I wrote you a beefy reply with cool qiups and deep thoughts. No for reals. But the delete post button is right next to the edit button and doesn't ask for any confirmation. So. Shit.

To sum it up:

  • You are a fucker for reminding me of Crusaders, I had to actually look it up, instantly recoiled in recollection.
  • I totally did not get that puzzle in the picture and save/loaded my way through 20+ deaths. Got sense traps an hour later.
  • Never completed any of the rpg M&M games, dug this one (except the aforementioned last act).
  • Fully turn based nature totally worked imo
  • You wrote a lot! It was cool to read.
Edited by ArbitraryWater

Welp I wrote you a beefy reply with cool qiups and deep thoughts. No for reals. But the delete post button is right next to the edit button and doesn't ask for any confirmation. So. Shit.

To sum it up:

  • You are a fucker for reminding me of Crusaders, I had to actually look it up, instantly recoiled in recollection.
  • I totally did not get that puzzle in the picture and save/loaded my way through 20+ deaths. Got sense traps an hour later.
  • Never completed any of the rpg M&M games, dug this one (except the aforementioned last act).
  • Fully turn based nature totally worked imo
  • You wrote a lot! It was cool to read.
  • I apologize for mentioning Crusaders. Fun fact: I have it on my GOG account but have never played it. But it's there, waiting for the day that I go on another adventure in the world of "I'm going to play all of these bad games so I can feel again"
  • Despite realizing that it was totally minesweeper, I totally gave up and decided to cheese my way through it with detect trap.
  • I'm obviously going to suggest that you play the other Might and Magic games.
  • The turn-based thing is actually a sticking point for some fans only familiar with the later games (Mandate of Heaven and onward), but of course those guys always seem to be upset about everything these days.
  • I always write a lot. Too much, probably.