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H7: Would you prefer 2D or 3D townscreens?
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 → CH MMX: Legacy Review

by Tress

Might & Magic X: Legacy Review

February 6th, 2013.

With a gap of almost 15 years since the last M&M game being released and the RPG segment of the game industry having evolved to something completely different than what it was during the first period of M&M games, seeing a game of such a genre today is quite uncommon. As someone who grew up with M&M 6-7 and becoming a fan of the whole series, of course any continuation of the series would be welcome, but that will also highten expectations of the game. With the game industry being what it is, it is understandable that such a game would be developed on fumes and would certainly not be on the scale of bestsellers of the latest TES instalments. Fortunately, the game authors managed to create an immersive game, even if it is not reminiscent of the classic M&M 6-7 games that many of us grow up with. In fact, it stands more as a well-polished version of the XEEN series.


It is possible to see almost the entire world from high vantage points. While that make the game setting smaller to make up for more realistic scale, it does not mean that game world is significantly smaller than its predecessors.

As most RPGs (the M&M series certainly not being an exception), the first thing that we always encounter in the game is its character creation, and it would not be an overstatement to say that the character creation part of this game is the best in the series. Not only does it have the largest class selection to date, but it also allows for the biggest variety of various classes while not making every class similar. Of course it does seem to have its flaws: that some classes seem very important and less replaceable. There was no feeling that I would have an extremely flawed team if I skipped some class, with the only exception being the human caster Freemage.

Without delving into too much detail, the game features selections from magic, might or hybrid archetypes, with each race of four races having wildly different version of a class. Aside of the aforementioned freemage (which is the only class that is able to learn dark magic, which in turn is the only school for revealing secret passages in dungeons without resorting to using hirelings or some other late game methods like spells which I currently did not seem to have as viable alternatives) no class seems to have distinct advantage over others.

While character development have its roots in classic M&M games, it has a few fundamental differences, one of them being that character stats are dynamic and points of them are spendable on level-ups. This change from my view is somewhat unnecessary, and while it provides with an option to make a more shaped character, it also makes it possible to break a team member since you might not realize that the HP or mana pool is too small until it is too late, while being too excited about raising primary parameters for attacking. And while it may be exciting to have the option to create characters in a way you want, it may become frustrating even on the lowest difficulty, as there is no way to know beforehand which stats are the baseline for your next encounter.


The game features only four towns, but each have its distinct setting and feel, starting from the Imperial city to a pirate cove.

With this game being a niche product and able to take liberties that most modern games do not, true to its name and retro style, it tends to "not hold your hand". This is true in almost every aspect of the game be it combat, character development or exploring. With combat oftentimes being challenging even on 'adventurer' difficulty, it is the first game of the M&M series that has forced me to stop and look into the bestiary to check for the exact monster stats in order to win encounters. While most modern games (like Skyrim or Fallout 3/NV) provide you with a compass to the exact location of objectives, M&M 10 forces exploration, often providing vague or almost no clues.

While M&M 6 sometimes gave quests which forced such exploration, "Legacy" sometimes acts even to a point I found somewhat cruel. For example, one of the quests wants you to find 3 pieces of artifacts without a single clue where to start looking. While by that time I had found pieces one and three, with some meta thinking I presumed that it should be located somewhere in between, which resulted in approximately one evening of scouring the first part the game. After eventually completing the quest, I could not shake the feeling that I was deliberately being trolled by the developers. Even though most puzzles that are required can be solved with some thought, some seemed to be very hard and admittedly at least for one I had to look up for solution in order to progress.

Of course I couldn't say that this experience was negative or there was no rush in searching; this is oftentimes absent in modern games, and perhaps this is part of a gameplay that the authors want to encourage. Still, the game would benefit from a much more effective journal and note system, as most notes you will need to write down. Skill trainers are the worst offenders, especially for the fact that next tier trainer location is mentioned only once after learning the rank. So if you learn a skill level for character and forget to read where the next one is during that one chance, there is no way of knowing aside of scouring the world or resorting to various external materials.

When the game was first announced, many (including me) were disappointed that gameplay was announced to have square based mechanics, typical to retro games like World of Xeen, Wizardry, or Eye of the beholder. While such constraints give a much more hampered feeling of exploring the world, it surprisingly alters the combat mechanism in a more positive way, making it a very tactical experience, albeit not without flaws. As mentioned, combat can be extremely challenging, although it oftentimes is achieved by making ambush-like encounters, which sometimes feel as a cheap method of making an encounter harder.

Unlike older games, where monsters sometimes have high resistance or immunity to some of the schools of spells, in "Legacy" this is extremely common, often leaving monsters with a chink of single or two schools in its resistance armors rather than an exception of a school it can resist. This prompts attacking several targets at once based on their individual resistances. This is also one of the moments that can make the game somewhat artificially harder and encourages planning the party setup beforehand, like my choice to skip fire magic made my encounters with nagas somewhat painful. Watching retrospectively on encounters passed, with the correct spell choice and setup they would be much easier.

Paradoxically, fighting multiple enemies at once is easier than a single enemy, due to some AoE spells whose potency raises several fold the more enemies we have. This aspect especially affects the endgame, as the monster difficulty seems to cap at the start the of third act, making act 4 encounters somewhat easy, albeit with very large numbers of enemies which did not provide as much of a challenge as the midgame, making the endgame of act 4 a somewhat dull meat grinder in an otherwise interesting game.


Even though the game does not feature the variety of landscapes of its predecessors, like volcanic lands and deserts, it still manages to provide with various and exotic settings like jungle.

Of course, a grid based world makes exploring less interesting, and unlike the XEEN series, the world is much more constricted. If in classic M&M games with all skills learned we could walk over most obstacles, then the overland layout of "Legacy" is much more reminiscent of games like Eye of the Beholder, where areas (especially forests, mountains etc.), are made of corridors. Combining that with fighting mechanics, it means that exploring areas out of your league is not possible since there is no alternative to dealing with monsters short of killing them. They won't stop until defeated and even outmaneuvering them is rarely an option since even if you manage to do so, you can't interact with the world until combat ends.

There are moments during act 3 when you can really feel freedom of the game, and can explore the world, which admittedly is encouraged due to some quest items hidden around. During this, the game truly felt at its peak, which really compensated for a somewhat linear start and somewhat dull endgame.

An extremely pleasing aspect of game is its abundance of small details, starting from small things like the fact that most GM skill trainers have some extra idea behind them, on to the fact that the game features huge amounts of lore-like material, or simple nods which oftentimes connects and refers to classic M&M games. And while this gives extra immersion in the world, aspects like the lack of descriptions for non-artifact items, or the lack of memorable music that would give strong associations with explored areas, somewhat diminishes it.

While not a too important aspect, the game's graphics are very pleasing to eye, and most who have played Heroes VI would probably have gotten an impression of it already due to the same engine and many of the assets being used.

There again, of course, there are flaws of various severity: the inability to change texture quality during the game; some resolution settings are absent (which for me is not a huge deal, but if we remember the controversy around Bioshock, it seems to bother rather large percent of people); the fact that the game seems to be poorly optimized in some select parts of the world, producing extremely poor frame rate performance. Nevertheless, such problems are few and far between, while the fantasy world provides players with immersive images.


The feel of seeing the day end and start is not lost in "Legacy".

Summary:

Graphics: While not the state-of-the-art graphics we expect from many modern games, it is style and art which truly carry the game and gives immersion.
7,5/10

Sound/Music: Unfortunately, the game does not provide as immersive music as its predecessors, with the only memorable track being the combat music during boss fights, which is borrowed from M&M:DM.
6,5/10

Gameplay: As the most important part of game, the gameplay aspect delivers, making it a true classic RPG experience. And while the endgame is a bit long, with somewhat disappointing plot twists (reminding me of M&M 9 in both), it truly is a good RPG experience for anyone who wants to play a modernized classic RPG. Well worth its money.
Act 1-3: 8/10
Act 4: 6,5/10

Total score: 8/10


Comments

Ya5MieL at 2014-02-15 23:20 wrote:
Just wondering, what is the scope of DLC? hopefully its at least roughly the size of early access.

Also hoping that the jassad quest fix can somehow award the relic even to those with finished quest (it pains my collector heart not to have it)

The review seems to match most of my impressions. All in all, it shows that a quality game can be made even with limited resources :)

Marzhin at 2014-02-15 22:07 wrote:
@ywhtptgtfo: right now we are putting the final touches to the first patch and then move on to the DLC (the one buyers of the deluxe edition will get for free.) Beyond that, nothing is decided. It will depend on sales. But we all certainly hope we'll get to do a Might & Magic 11 before too long.
ywhtptgtfo at 2014-02-15 20:16 wrote:
So Maz, there are plans for more right? Expansions remakes (of MM1-5), and/or sequels etc, etc, etc

Torur at 2014-02-13 11:37 wrote:
So far I'm really enjoying this game. I'm still only in act II, but I'm really enjoying the experience.

So far there are only 2 things that bring down the enjoyment of the game. The diffeculty or timeconsuming task of finding the right trainers and the drop in framerates at a regular basis(My computer is more than powerfull enough to run the game).

I really like the return to grid based movement and TB battle system.

btw, great review.

Tress at 2014-02-12 09:43 wrote:
I hope people can see that this is one of the oldest tricks in the book, which is false lengthening or fake difficulty, which makes a shorter game seem longer than it really is. Any good game has no reason to artificially crank up the difficulty to keep people stuck in certain areas much longer than they need to be or spend hours grinding just to get past groups of enemies.

Since this is picked up, I will extend somewhat my opinion on this aspect of game. If we take modern games which contain pointer to objective like new fallouts then , yes it makes game quests shorter, but it also robs game of exploration aspect since you know where to look apriori, which in turn makes gameplay somewhat tunelvisioned since you blindly go to pointer rather than look on sides for objective. Yes it is frustrating at times as mentioned in review, I really was mad at crusaders quest at some point. For example if we check Morrowind where compass is not yet introduced, then we get ALOT of narrated pointers of where to go for each quest, (go to that town, then north then take right path), which adds additional layer to the game, and makes world much more connected rather that compilation of key points we jump between by fast travel. As additional example I would mention WoW where initially there were no pointers and contained alot more travel. By Cataclysm expansion, additions to convenience, like dungeon ques robbed game of any immersion in game and basically capitol became lobby and world was just level we visited once. Sure some exploration in Legacy can become frustrating, but in the end we can always resort to internet. It not age of wizardry 4 when there were no internet and solution to "true" ending could be kept in secret.
It's bit odd to argue on exploration aspect while defending old school games , since game back in 8x and 9x were much more cruel. There was absolute zero hand holding , and in games like Eye of Beholder you could easily make unplayable party or miss vital quest item, or fall in trap from which there was no exit, and there often was zero hints. Legacy could feel cruel and unforgiving for our times when RPG genre have regressed in state of cover shooting while we shoot enemies with auto aim, but compared to true old games it is nothing. We could even take Isles of terra. There are extreme lack of hints what to do. We can easily miss key card in glass case, or how we are expected to know half of stuff short of just systematically scouring the world and gathering the bits and pieces we need for endgame. (Xeen gave much better clue of wha to do, but still they still just told us to go and get credits/energy discs and off you go, with no real pointers where to look). In comparison Legacy is nothing, but even so it is much more than many modern gamers can stomach.

I agree on the music but I have to say that the by 6-8, the music was already irrelevant and I barely noticed or cared about it. Although the tracks in 3-5 were shorter in length, I found those to much catchier and more memorable, something that actually enhanced the gameplay and wasn't just lingering in the background.

Well music is extremelly personal taste matter, but I personally(and I have feeling that most of MM community) would disagree that Midi music of old MM in any way come close to Kings/Romero works of M&M7, whose absence would take away serious chunk of MM experience.
XEEN / Terra had good music for their time but it was sort of 16 bit era music.

All I really see here is a slightly average RPG that will challenge people for many days (although through fake difficulty) and will be forgotten in the years come
Well its personal taste and I can fully accept that people may not like some game, still considering lack of games in said game segment I believe it wont be forgotten that easily. Well time will tell.
terrycrewser4th at 2014-02-12 06:08 wrote:
I agree with some points, like the difficulty of the puzzles and lack of direction to find items or complete quests. I hope people can see that this is one of the oldest tricks in the book, which is false lengthening or fake difficulty, which makes a shorter game seem longer than it really is. Any good game has no reason to artificially crank up the difficulty to keep people stuck in certain areas much longer than they need to be or spend hours grinding just to get past groups of enemies.

I agree on the music but I have to say that the by 6-8, the music was already irrelevant and I barely noticed or cared about it. Although the tracks in 3-5 were shorter in length, I found those to much catchier and more memorable, something that actually enhanced the gameplay and wasn't just lingering in the background.

When I complained about all the game's shortcomings, someone told me to play the game all the way to the end, to decide if it was a "true" might and magic game. Finishing up Act 3, I can already say that I think it is most definitely NOT a true M&M game. All I really see here is a slightly average RPG that will challenge people for many days (although through fake difficulty) and will be forgotten in the years come. I find the game extremely forgettable and not fun to play. It will be a challenge just to play to the end; not because I like it, but simply that I want to beat it. My original opinion of the game has not changed at all so far.

I don't know how you can compare it to XEEN at all; it is nothing like those games. I've been playing since the earliest M&M days and I can say for sure that it bears much more resemblance to the 6-8 games, due to the open world 3D style and loose enemy combat groups. The enemies and feel of XEEN was much more light-hearted and comical; didn't take itself seriously, often poking fun at RPG staples. The 6-8 games are the ones that began a more serious tone for the series. So if you're going to compare it to any of the retro games, it's definitely 6-8, NOT Xeen.

Tress at 2014-02-11 07:33 wrote:
Thanks everyone for appreciation.
On puzzles - I actually have to write a small script to brute force my way through the floor puzzle in 2nd floor of Enigma Tower. The devs can be a bit more evil in randomizing the puzzles so that people can't look up the solutions.
If honest , that cross puzzle in Enigma was pretty hard and since I didnt wanted to bother at that time (although I have done similar puzzle in other games) I just randomly pressed buttons for couple minutes until I succeeded. :D Puzzle I meant in review was one in air forge, which to me was extremely unintuitive.

On ambush - Yeah, it's annoying. I really hate ones that have 2 Dark Mages at a distance blasting spells and feeblemind at the party. As my cynical elf girl says: "Oh great, now they are shooting at us".
I am more annoyed on overrelliance of said mechanics rather than itself. True that combat would perhaps be too easy without them since mobs in back rows cant shoot(if that would be changed , game would lose very much in its tactical aspect) and they are extremely limited on number how much of them can stand in square in front of you, so there is no alternative than surround.

Kalah at 2014-02-10 13:58 wrote:
The most important review among all media. It was very important to hear the opinion of true fans of this MM series and not ordinary critics on the payroll
Thank you!

Thank you. I also think Tress has done a great job which is important to the M&M community. :)
3lion at 2014-02-08 20:20 wrote:
The most important review among all media. It was very important to hear the opinion of true fans of this MM series and not ordinary critics on the payroll
Thank you!
ywhtptgtfo at 2014-02-08 19:09 wrote:
On puzzles - I actually have to write a small script to brute force my way through the floor puzzle in 2nd floor of Enigma Tower. The devs can be a bit more evil in randomizing the puzzles so that people can't look up the solutions.

On traps - I've never had much of a problem with them except for Tower of Enigma and one of the puzzle caves near the orcs. They could've been featured a bit more prominently.

On ambush - Yeah, it's annoying. I really hate ones that have 2 Dark Mages at a distance blasting spells and feeblemind at the party. As my cynical elf girl says: "Oh great, now they are shooting at us".

On combat - Yes, much more challenging than say MM6 - MM8, since you can't really kite enemies anymore. If there are more variety of tactics, it'd be even better. One thing to note is that unless people up vitality a lot, those really large healing pots are of little use since a small or medium size one usually does the job.

Bloax at 2014-02-07 07:26 wrote:
I have to agree on the music - I can barely make it out in-game and when it is there it's not quite as moody as the MM6-8 tracks.
Which just meant that I went on to play other things in the background instead. (:( )

edit: jesus christ don't write stuff like this at eight in the morning

hellegennes at 2014-02-06 21:05 wrote:
Great review!

Vitirr at 2014-02-06 16:20 wrote:
Agree for the most part, though I would insist more on the technical glitches and lack of performance (because for some players it seemed to be quite a problem)... and despite it all on how much fun and addictive the game is!

I must add also that music while not being great, it keeps a good standard, and I really like both the main and the Legacy themes (they both partially use the same melody). And thankfully, besides those both themes mentioned, there's not the usual repetition of music fragments all over the soundtrack as in last Heroes games.

Marzhin at 2014-02-06 15:41 wrote:
Thanks for the review :)

Bandobras Took at 2014-02-06 15:12 wrote:
Great review. Gives full coverage to the game's positives and negatives.

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