No one has rated this review as helpful yet
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 104.1 hrs on record
Posted: Aug 17, 2022 @ 9:37pm

This is the game that Might & Magic IX was trying to be.

It's got lots of references to the original trilogy, but it feels like a cross between the 2000s reboot and MM9: the look, the size of the towns, skill trees... Only unlike MM9, it feels like the world has been filled in more thoroughly. And the Director's Cut fixes a lot of bugs and polishes a lot of the rough edges.

The world-building is detailed, drawing from history along with classic fantasy tropes. Each area feels distinct, but part of the same world. Characters who join your party will sometimes have conversations with each other, and some get along better than others – for personal reasons and for cultural reasons. On the downside, the NPCs are oddly static, sticking around in one spot with very limited conversations.

The game mostly takes itself seriously as a story of corruption creeping across the world. Your band of adventurers are trying to reverse it where they can and stave it off where they can't. But there are comedic bits scattered around that feel a bit like the reboot.

The early part of the game does feel like you're being railroaded, but the Skara Brae underground isn't as linear as it appears at first, and by the time you get out of the city, you have a lot more freedom of movement and a lot more side quests. (I like to explore everything and do all the side quests anyway, but at least I could choose what order to do things in!)

Combat is turn-based, and the enemies tend to level up just a bit faster than your characters, so it's very much about strategy rather than reflexes or just getting more powerful equipment. And the leveling system has a lot more skills and branches than can possibly be learned in a single play-through, so you really need to think about how you level up each character and put together skills that complement each other.

It's not just combat and exploration, of course: there are puzzles too. Most of them boil down to a few basic templates, though: moving gears around to activate/deactivate a mechanism, pushing large stones to clear a path or activate switches, bells that need to be rung in the right order, magic conduits that you have to arrange like circuits...and “fairy golf,” where you change direction signs so that fairies will fly around obstacles and end up where you need them to be. They get more complicated over the course of the game, with stones whose movements are linked, or have specific runes that need to match, etc.

One of the odd things is that shops aren't sources and sinks. They have a specific inventory and money just like you do. That means you can't just sell all your extra items to the same shopkeeper, because they'll run out of space or money! More importantly, there's a finite amount of items in the game. Including crafting ingredients. As you approach the end of the game, you have to start rationing items like you did at the beginning, not because you haven't found enough yet, but because they're running out!

I still listen to the soundtrack from time to time. They went for a Celtic/Scottish sound, trying to fit with the various human cultures in the game. Sometimes it's just background, but other times NPCs will sing in taverns, and you can choose how long to listen. And they aren't just atmosphere. They actually figure into the story and game play. There are lyrics that give you clues, melodies you need to remember and play (they do have sheet music for these that you can find, so if you can't hear it yourself, you can still match it visibly). Some of the songs are about the events of the earlier games as remembered a century or so later.
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