The ninth entry of the Might and Magic RPG series features a wholly 3D engine based on Lithtech 1.5
, the first major overhaul of its engine since Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven
had set the standard for itself and its following sequels. The game retains the basic goals of the game focused as a party-based, open world RPG. Players would continue to seek out out quests, fight terrible creatures, and explore another vast world laid at their feet. Aside from a new engine, the game featured a new conversation system with NPCs remembering your previous actions, enhanced enemy AI, and a new spellcasting system.
In this game, players would create a party of adventurers tasked with finding a way to save the land of Chedian from a terrible invasion only to discover that it was only part of a far reaching conspiracy to overthrow the very gods themselves. It was also notable for its attempt to swing the series' backstory away from the sci-fi elements that had been extensively used within the series by trying to present itself as a more traditional fantasy-based RPG.
Unfortunately, the game was also slammed by critics and fans for its severe lack of polish. The reason for the state of its release has been blamed on a shorter development schedule that it was forced to work under along with a lack of resources. 3DO's waning support has been cited by former New World Computing designer, Tim Lang, as a factor in how the title had turned out. In an interview
with Might and Magic fansite, Celestial Heavens, Tim Lang has been quoted as saying: "As far as the reason why MM9 was considered the worst in the series, that's really because we delivered a game that was pre-alpha at best. It needed at least another 3 months, if not another 6 to get it to a playable level of quality. Knowing we didn't have much time, we cut a lot of corners, and left out features the fans liked, but would have been too time consuming to implement. It was a half done game, and it shows."
Jon Van Caneghem was also reportedly disappointed with how the game was turning out but could do little to change it with as much time as they had been given to develop and finish it.
The Manual was still particularly noteworthy for continuing the tradition of providing plenty of expanded fiction encompassing the world of Might and Magic.
As was a tradition of the series, a color map showing the land of Chedian was also provided.
Unlike previous entries within the Might and Magic series, the sci-fi aspects of the game have been largely glossed over or downplayed as much as possible as an attempt was made to swing the franchise more towards high fantasy. As one result of this change, the campaign world of Enroth was destroyed (it served as the location for the episodes of Might and Magic VI
through Might and Magic VIII
). This even occurred in the RTS portion of the franchise as a part of Heroes of Might and Magic IV
The game takes place on the world of Axeoth within the land of Chedian which lies upon the east coast of the continent of Rysh. Chedian is ruled over by six powerful clans, all opposed to each other, with the nations of Framon and Beldonia further west. In the distant past, however, the land was a very different place than what it is now. A powerful empire ruled the western lands when Chedian was first discovered by scouts. Known as the Ursanian Empire, it's grip over the continent was nearly complete.
However, a few centuries after Chedian's discovery, a sorceror who took on the name of Verhoffin constructed a tower in a province near to the heart of the Ursanian Empire and declared it his own sovereign domain. The Ursanian Emperors, already plagued with a chronic illness of distrust and suspicion of all things not under their control, were not known for their mercy. So it was that Emperor Ralfor and his successors mounted several unsuccessful campaigns against Verhoffin.
Some ten years before the Great Cataclysm, Emperor Trandis sent an assassin named Nazrim to deal with Vehoffin once and for all. He took ten years to plan his attack, commissioning powerful magical artifacts to aid his attempt, only to fail in the end. Verhoffen, however, took revenge by casting a mighty spell that laid waste to the Ursanian Empire in what has become known as the Great Cataclysm. Thousands of miles of land were devastated. Earthquakes crushed cities. Verhoffin's tower split apart and the land around it sank and became known as Verhoffin Sea. The Empire would totter on its last legs for another thirteen years, but it would never recover. Chedian, however, was left largely unscathed and refugees flooded the relatively untamed wilderness to rebuild their lives.
In this chapter, the player must deal with an invasion of the land of Chedian by the Beldonian warlord, Tamur Leng, and must find a way to stop him. The reason they must do so is given to them by a hermit of the island that their party had been shipwrecked on who tells them that it is their fate to do so. They must travel throughout the land of Chedian to unite the six clans and bring them against the Beldonian Horde assembling to invade.
Another shipwrecked warrior, Forad Darre, is sent to lead the armies of Chedian against the Beldonians once they have united but are utterly destroyed. it is revealed by the spirit of one of the Jarls that had led the armies under his command that Forad Darre is a turncoat: he is in the service of Tamur Leng. The party must then travel to the Otherworld of Axeoth, the world that the series now takes place in, and reclaim the dead warriors from the god of death, Skraelos. But before doing so, they must retrieve a Writ of Fate from the Wyrd, Igrid, as instructed by the gatekeeper of Hallenhalt, Hanndl.
But once they finally have the Writ, they discover that Tamur Leng also has a Writ that contradicts theirs resulting in a stalemate. They return to Hallenhalt with Tamur Leng and speak to the leaders of the gods who reveal that Njam the Meddler, the god of chaos, has been pulling everyone's strings from the beginning. Njam had disposed of the Wyrdes and had influenced Leng to send Forad Darre, and had even taken the forms of the hermit that had given them their initial destiny as well as Igrid.
All of this was to overthrow Krohn, one of the leaders of the gods, for he coveted his wife as well as his power. Krohn then sends the party to imprison Njam who is now pursuing them in an effort to destroy their efforts. The party lurees Njam into the Tomb of a Thousand Terrors and succeed in trapping the god within a shell of eternal frost. At the conclusion of the quest, the gods present the party with their true Write of Fate which shows that their destiny had been to trap Njam all this time.
Might and Magic IX utilized the Lithtech engine which replaced the aging in-house engine the series had used since Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven
. The game continues to feature a free roaming movement system providing complete 360° range of maneuverability similar to that found in titles such as Elder Scrolls: Arena
. It would also use 3D graphics to render the environment of its world and with a fully 3D engine, animated 2D sprites were no longer used to represent NPCs or monsters.
Players were called upon to create a four character party and depending on which class is chosen, they will start with two preset skills. Though each character only starts with two skills, they can always learn any other skills allowed by their class from teachers spread throughout the land.
Might and Magic IX had also overhauled the series' classes and the promotion system. Two initial classes were available for the player which focused on theme of Might and Magic: the Fighter (Path of Might) and the Initiate (Path of Magic). Starting with these two classes, players could then promote the character along a chosen path of sub-classes as a specialization. For example, a Fighter could be promoted to a Mercenary, then from Mercenary choose to become either an Assassin or a Gladiator.
The first set of skills is weapon skills such as Blade, Bow, Cudgel, Spear, Thrown, and Unarmed Combat. Next there are the armor skills such as Armour, Dodge, and Shield. The various schools of magic are Dark, Light, Elemental, Spirit, and Meditation. Promotion to earn more powerful effects for each spell grouping is still the case as it was with Might and Magic VI
. However, in learning spells, it now requires a combination of disciplines allowing nearly any class to learn magic at varying levels of ability (only Priests may be able to cast Bless at an extreme level of power as opposed to a Lich trying to do the same thing).
Miscellaneous skills have been replaced with Specialty Skills: Armsmaster, Disarm Trap, Identify Item, Identify Monster, Item Repair, Learning, Perception, and Merchant. With all skills, characters may eventually find teachers who can teach an upgrade to Expert, Master, and then ultimately, to Grandmaster although this last is far more specific to certain classes.
Time is also an important consideration in the game as day and night cycles pass offering new opportunities or in making things more difficult depending on where they are. Several quests in the game are also tied to their own schedule meaning that when an NPC says that they are giving a month to complete a quest, they mean it. This can also determine when the safest time might be for the party to rest and recoup their strength if they are out in the wilderness.
The statistics for each character are limited only by the number of levels that they may earn, among other factors such as magical effects, allowing for tremendously high numbers that break the typical "18" cap. However, if any statistic drops to 0, it will result in immediate death for that character.
- Magic - This represents a character's ability to reason and understand complex, abstract, concepts. Maximum Spell Points for all spellcasters are based on this attribute.
- Might - Raw strength. Important to any fighting class. Affects the damage a character can inflict in melee combat.
- Endurance - Stamina. Affects how many hit points a character initially has to start with and will gain every time they level. Particularly important to fighters.
- Speed - Agility and general quickness affecting initiative. A faster character improves (increases) their Armor Class rating making them harder to hit.
- Accuracy - A character's ability to land hits during combat and how often they can do it.
- Luck - Measures the general chances of a character succeeding when all else seems to have failed. Random and unpredictable.
With the introduction of races and the creation of the new promotion system, classes have undergone something of a major change with Might and Magic IX. Instead of picking from a list of potential classes for a character, a character now starts out with one of two classes and are promoted through that field into more powerful variants.
Races once more play a major role in creating characters. The four races are:
- Human - Average statistics make this race a good choice without any glaring weaknesses.
- Elf - They are generally weak as straight up fighters, but generally excellent at spellcasting
- Dwarf - Some resistance to poison, stronger and hardier than the other races. They make excellent fighters but poor spellcasters.
- Half-Orc - They are decently strong,and can make great fighters.
This class comprises all of the fighting classes that a character may be promoted through. This is the quintessential "Fighter" class.
- Mercenary - These are professional fighters that rarely do anything without some coin attached to the contract in question. They are very skilled at what they do and have forgone any magical training in order to hone themselves in the killing arts. As they become more experienced, they may decide to either become a deadly Assassin or a fighting artiste such as a Gladiator.
Assassin - They live in the shadows and are prepared to take the life of anyone that has become their target. They are fighters that excel in the arts of striking without being detected as well as slipping away into the shadows when they must leave. They are almost as formidable as a Gladiator, but wield other skill to help make up the difference.
Gladiator - A master of fighting, they are also paid fighters but are the best at what they do. Their weapon skills are without equal and boast of being able to kill enemies with but a single blow. Many legends have been written of their exploits.
- Crusader - They are noble fighters who have devoted their lives fighting for the cause of justice. As such, they have been granted limited skills in the magical arts. Although they are not as powerful as a trained Scholar or a Healer, the magic they wield is a welcome addition to their martial skills. As they become more skilled in their field, they can either choose to fully dedicate themselves to the cause of good as a Paladin or protect nature itself as a crusading Ranger.
Paladin - They are defenders of truth and justice for all. They are brave, unwavering in their dedication to what is right and good, and experts in the schools of Light and Spirit Magic. Once they find a cause, they are prepared to defend it to their deaths.
Ranger - Similar to Paladins in their thoughts and actions, they instead believe that mankind can fend for itself but that nature requires a defender. They are experts in Elemental and Spirit Magic.
Characters that choose the path of Magic become Initiates. They are poor fighters, but they are able to learn from all of the Schools of Magic. As they become more powerful, they will be called upon to make a decision regarding their future growth as either a Scholar or a Healer.
- Scholar - They have devoated much of their time to the study of the past giving them insight on the future. Experts in Elemental, Light, and Dark Magic, they eventually become powerful enough to choose whether or not to become a Mage or follow the forbidden arts and resurrect themselves as a fearsome Lich.
Mage - This is the epitome of a Scholar's work and study in the magical arts. They are unequaled in magic once they have reached this stage. It is believed that the man known as Verhoffin was such a Mage when he had caused the Great Cataclysm. While skilled in all of the schools of magic, they are specialized in Elemental and Light magics.
Lich - Exceptional users of Elemental and Dark Magic, liches are Scholars that have surrendered their mortal coils to transform themselves into a magical being of unparalleled power. Mystery surrounds their very being which holds that with such a sacrifice, legendary magical skills are given.
- Healer - They are devoted to caring for the sick and diseased and often found in hospitals tending to the ill or within temples healing worshippers that seek them out for aid. They are experts in Light, Dark, and Spirit Magic. As they become more powerful, they may be asked to decide whether to become Priests in order to aid those around them or Druids in focusing on healing nature itself.
Priest - They take every opportunity to practice the healing of those who share their faith and often travel alongside Crusaders and Paladins as a result of their dedication. They are specialized in Light and Spirit Magic.
Druid - They concern themselves with the preservation and healing of nature and are often found in the company of Rangers or anyone else who will fight to uphold their beliefs. They are particularly proficient in both Elemental and Spirit Magic.
Each character starts out with a set of four skills and can learn whatever else they wish throughout the game as long as they can pay for the lessons. Skill levels can be improved through a combination of of promotions to their class and then finding the appropriate teacher to earn a higher skill level. In addition, the skill system has been altered from the previous game so that certain classes can only learn certain levels of skills and a new level of Mastery (Grandmaster) for each skill.
These are required to wield particular weapons. Without the appropriate skill, a character cannot equip specific weapons.
- Blade covers all types of blades shorter than 4 feet in length. Depending on the class, earning Grandmaster level can grant a variety of bonuses specifically oriented for each one in combination with other factors. For example, a Grandmaster in Blade for the Assassin provides a 1 bonus to the character's attack skill for every 3 points of skill when wielding daggers.
- Bow skill targets both bows and crossbows. At higher levels of mastery, multiple arrows may be fired to pepper opponents.
- Cudgel skill covers all blunt trauma weapons: batons, flails, the general whack-in-the-head arsenal. Expert mace swingers do extra damage with their weapons, while Masters can stun opponents. Grandmasters double the attack and damage bonuses of the character.
- Spear covers bladed pole weapons.
- Thrown covers thrown weapons such as throwing daggers and balanced axes.
- Unarmed Combat is applied when a character has no equipped weapon and have only their fists to defend themselves with.
Note: all armor types (not counting shield) carry a penalty by slowing down a character; Master and Expert kill in armor reduces this drag while the Grandmaster levels add powerful bonuses to their use.
- Armour covers the use of all kinds of armor with bonuses that allow a character to recover from attacks much faster as well as enable the use of more powerful pieces.
- Dodge can be used only when you are not wearing armor or using a shield.
- Shield skill directly improves a character's armor class while a shield is equipped. Expert and Master shield ranking increase this defensive bonus. Becoming a Grandmaster in this skill allows for a bash attack that deals damage at three times the accumulated Shield skill.
Note: Expert and Master ranks in the various Magic skills have different effects for each individual spell of that Magic school and Grandmaster levels of these spell schools grant devastating bonuses.
- Elemental magic uses the power of the four elements - air, earth, fire, and water - and maintains some of the strongest direct damage spells.
- Spirit - This focuses on the soul, mind, and spirit of all things; many defensive and healing spells are found in the Spirit school.
- Meditation simply adds spell points to the character's pool with higher levels of mastery funneling even more magic into their being.
- Light magic includes some of the strongest defensive spells in the land such as Healing.
- Dark magic comprises some of the most powerful and destructive magic available including those that can possess the minds of creatures.
- Identify Item gives meaning to items and equipment; you can't use something until you know what it is! This skill will automatically identify an item if your character's skill level is high enough. Special items may need an Expert or Master in this skill to properly identify them. Grandmasters have seen everything and can deduce what an item is blindfolded.
- Identify Monster allows a character to correctly assess just what it is they are fighting. At higher levels, they will learn more about their quarry such as how many hit points they have and, at Grandmaster, can determine a monster's resistances at a glance.
- Merchant skill helps adjust prices in your favor, whether buying or selling. Remember: buy low, sell high.
- Item Repair skill allows your characters to fix broken equipment. The higher the skill level, the better the quality of item your character can play handyman on.
- Perception sharpens your character's chance of noticing a trap: catch it in time, and the damage it causes can be reduced or even avoided. A higher perception skill equals a chance to escape stronger escapes; Expert and Master rankings allow a character to notice and escape different types of traps.
- Armsmaster increases a character's skill across their weapon abilities affecting their recovery time and, at the Grandmaster level, allows for a second attack.
- Disarm Trap skill is the perfect thing for when you can't remember where you left your keys: all chests will open automatically, but you may get hit by a trap. The more skill you have, the better your chance to disarm any trap before it goes off.
- Learning skill increases the experience your character receives. Every rank of skill increases the experience bonus your character receives.
Spells have undergone something of an overhaul, if not with the type of spells that are available but with how they may be earned. Technically, nearly every character is able to learn every spell, although only certain classes may be able to use certain disciplines to their fullest ability. By learning the appropriate combination of disciplines, spells become available to those characters investing the time.
The promotion system used in the previous game, Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer
, has been dropped. The schools indicated in parenthesis are those needed to learn the spell in question.
- Arms of the Earth (Elemental, Spirit) - Arms rise up from the earth to entangle the enemy, but the caster had best be careful not to be captured by the same spell for standing too close.
- Bless (Light, Spirit) - This can be used to increase a character's chance to hit their target.
- Chain Lightning (Elemental, Light) - The first strike discharges and hits its target with unerring accuracy. Any monsters nearby may get a share of the pain.
- Column of Fire (Elemental, Light) - Hugely destructive column falls from the sky, frying one unfortunate target
- Curse (Dark, Light) - Used to decrease the enemy's chance to hit its target.
- Dark Grasp (Dark, Spirit) - This spell surrounds its target with the power of raw darkness, rendering it possibly unable to fire missile weapons or cast spells.
- Death's Touch (Dark, Spirit) - The caster uses their spell points to drain the enemy's life.
- Disease (Dark, Elemental) - The target suffers continual damage until cured by potion or spell.
- Divine Intervention (Light, Spirit) - Once per day, the spell can be used to heal character of all damage, restore their Spell Points, and remove all adverse conditions. The caster's spell points will be completely drained.
- Elemental Aura (Elemental, Light) - This spell launches a magical attack outward from a targeted enemy.
- Elemental Bolt (Elemental, Spirit) - Fires a magical bolt of one of the four elements at a target, always hitting them.
- Elemental Protection (Spirit, Light) - Increases the party's resistance to elemental powers.
- Enchant Item (Elemental, Spirit) - When cast, has a chance of imbuing an item with magic.
- Enrage (Spirit, Elemental) - Enrage causes a single monster to go mad with battle lust, attacking the nearest living creature until the spell wears off or it dies...whichever comes first.
- Eye of Leggib (Dark, Spirit) - This is similar to the Wizard Eye spell except the spellcaster creates a duplicate of themselves to survey the area.
- Eye of the Storm (Elemental, Spirit, Light) - Centered from the party, the spell as the effect of an atom bomb going off that will either stun or kill everything in the immediate area. This can only be cast once per day.
- Faith (Light, Spirit) - Maximizes the damage skills of the character the spellcaster picks.
- Fear (Dark, Spirit) - When struck by Fear, the targeted enemy is overcome with fright and feels they must flee. Undead are immune for obvious reasons.
- Feather Fall (Elemental, Light) - Feather Fall eases great falls by drastically reducing the weight of the party.
- Fleet Foot (Elemental, Spirit) - Accelerates the party's travel speed depending on the level of skill.
- Haste (Spirit, Light) - Once cast, this spell decreases the recovery time of the targeted character.
- Heal (Spirit, Light) - Cures hit points caused by nasty damage.
- Lloyd's Beacon (Elemental, Light, Spirit) - With this spell, the player can set a beacon to which they can teleport to later. The ultimate in traveling conveniences.
- Magic Mine (Elemental, Dark) - Drops a magically enchanted mine on the ground.
- Meteor Shower (Elemental, Light) - Flaming rocks fall from the sky falling in a large radius surrounding the target. Only works outdoors and will hurt everyone within range, inlcuding the caster.
- Natural Armor (Spirit, Elemental) - Cannot be cast upon metal armor, but utilizes the forces of nature to protect the target...often a Druid.
- Pain Reflection (Dark, Spirit) - A nasty spell that reflects damage back onto the attacker.
- Paralyze (Dark, Elemental) - Temporarily prevents a foe from moving or attacking for the duration of the spell.
- Phantom Fighter (Spirit, Elemental) - A phantom Blade master is called forth to do battle. When the spell ends, the phantom takes the caster's weapon as payment. Canonly be cast on one-handed, unenchanted blade weapons.
- Poison (Elemental, Dark) - The target is blasted with poison that does immediate and continual damage until the poison has run its course.
- Poison Cloud (Elemental, Dark) - A poisonous cloud of noxious gases is formed in front of the spellcaster and moves away from the party.
- Power Draw (Spirit, Light) - This odd spell pushes spell points into a character's damage rating. The number of spell points "pushed" affects the amount of damage added.
- Purify (Light, Elemental) - Purges a character of debilitating effects such as poison, paralysis, etc..
- Regeneration (Light, Elemental) - Enables the character to naturally heal at a faster rate of recovery.
- Resist Death (Light, Elemental) - A handy spell that provides the character with extra resistance to Dark Magic.
- Resurrection (Light, Elemental) - Brings back a character from death if their body has been destroyed. Low chance of success, however.
- Shared Life (Spirit, Light) - Shared Life combines the life force of your characters and redistributes it amongst the party as evenly as possible.
- Souldrinker (Dark, Spirit, Elemental) - Sucks the life from all creatures in sight, friend or enemy, and transfers that to the party.
- Sparks (Elemental, Light) - Small sparks that turn into balls of lightning flit about until they hit something, preferably an enemy.
- Spell Reaver (Light, Spirit) - Dispels magic cast upon living creatures in an area around the party.
- Torchlight (Elemental, Light) - Creates light for the party. Not to be confused with the action RPG, Torchlight.
- Town Portal (Elemental, Light) - Links the magic of ancient altars found in each city to bring the party over. Inexperienced casters can only bring the party to the nearest altar, but more experienced ones can pick and choose which town they want to visit. Very handy travel spell, especially when used along with Lloyd's Beacon.
- Transfusion (Dark, Spirit) - Transfers any positive or negative conditions to the target. Target must be in melee range for this to happen.
- Turn Undead (Spirit, Light) - At low levels, the caster can only call upon the powers of Heaven to drive back the living dead. But with more experience, they can channel this energy to destroy them instead.
- Wizard Eye (Light, Spirit) - Brings up a scrying sphere that allows the party to see monsters or treasure nearby. How much is seen depends on the skill level of the caster.
- Wound (Dark, Spirit) - Inflicts damage upon the enemy. A simple, but effective, spell.
- Wrath of Bugs! (Elemental, Spirit) - Swarms of attacking insects cloud and confuse the enemy. Target's recovery is slowed down.
Battle is in real-time although a turn-based approach to fighting the enemy can also be activated allowing for a pause after every action. Each character moves at their own individual pace. After their initial action, a short amount of time must pass before they are ready to strike the enemy or cast another spell. Various factors can affect their recovery speed such as whether the party is moving onscreen or if they simply inherently slower due to their statistics.
Equipping characters is easily done from the inventory screen showing both what is in their individual pack and their "doll" as represented on the right of the screen, similar to the paper doll system utilized by Ultima VII
. Depending on a character's skill set, dual wielding was even possible allowing a Master Swordsman to wield two blades at once.
The use of missile weapons in the game which range from simple bows and arrows to futuristic blasters coupled with the real-time combat system can give the later game the impression of being a crude FPS thanks to the fact that enemies are always visible onscreen.