33 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 36.7 hrs on record
Posted: Aug 7, 2020 @ 9:23am

Of all the dungeon crawler games that followed the template set by Wizardry (grid-based, first-person perspective), Might and Magic is probably the second most important one in terms of renown, forging its own path from the very first game by basically using the ideas from Wizardry but offering something different and unique.

Where Wizardry was a dungeon crawler, Might and Magic games were basically world crawlers that emphasized exploring a large overworld at the expense of in-depth and intricate dungeons. Might and Magic does have them, but they are often simple structures with few vertical levels and really there to throws lots of monsters at you, not get you lost in them.

Another important aspect of Might and Magic is how often the series reinvented itself and yet managed to remain true to its roots. For Legends of Amberland its 1991’s Isles of Terra, the third Might and Magic game, that functions as the major inspiration.

If you start playing Legends of Amberland and if you have actually played Isles of Terra before, the beginning of the game will be eerily reminiscent of its inspiration. You start in the North-West corner of the world, slowly going south then circle east and then the whole world opens up to you. I’m not sure if the creator of Legend of Amberlands was completely aware of how much he reproduced the feeling of playing Isles of Terra for the first time, but he really nailed it.

There are not many games made in the mold of the Might and Magic 3, only it’s two sequels, a fan-game based on them (that became a semi-official part of the series) and the second and third game of the Yendorian Tales series. Which is kind of a shame, as they are so unique. Like the first two Might and Magic games, they are turn-based, unlike all the Wizardry-type games that are really phase-based. But unlike the first two games you can see single enemies or groups of them move around on the world-map, following you (up to a certain extend) until you meet them in melee combat.

I don’t remember if it was that way in the originals, but in Legends of Amberland you can by smart maneuvering, both outside and in the dungeons, often influence whether you meet enemies in groups of two or three, or just kill them one-by-one. Especially difficult enemies are often better faced alone, as their attacks in groups stack not in your favor.

Now, the specific games that Legends of Amberland is based on had both ranged and melee combat, but Legends of Amberland streamlined that away to just the melee combat phase. I always loved getting in as many ranged hits in Might and Magic 3 as possible before meeting the enemies head-on.

If all this makes it sound as if the game is a somewhat simplified clone of its almost 30 years older predecessor, then it’s true to some extend. But Might and Magic 3 was developed by a mainstream developer with a team fully focused on game development (the equivalent of an AA-team or even AAA-team in its time) versus an indie-developer doing this in his spare time.

In many ways the direct comparison with the originals does Legends of Amberland no favor, there are not animated intro or ending sequences, no puzzles, cities are menus instead of locations themselves and in general, the game feels like it lost a bit of gameplay complexity and slimmed down. Another perspective is that its developer realized he had limited resources and focused on the things he could achieve.

Which is making another world crawler in the Might and Magic 3 mold where you explore a large (though not massive) world, kill many different monsters (recently updated from 32×32 to 64×64 pixels), collect loot and try to solve the game’s main quest (find a hidden crown to call down mighty forces to end a monster invasion.

It’s not innovative or deep, but its execution of the specific gameplay loop invented by Isles of Terra is really well done and just as good now as it was then. Just don’t go in expecting a Wizardry-like with intricate dungeon design or a game with a deep story-line. This is all about crawling around an overworld and clearing out dens of monsters. Simple but good.
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