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SummaryNeglected Treasure - when game design was an art
The GoodThe second in the Magic & Mayhem series which serves as a prequel to the first game, and an expansion of the overall world and gaming system. In many ways ART OF MAGIC carries all the charm of the original game and enhances it with superbly improved graphics.
A measure of any game is not only in the ability of the player to adapt to the circumstances of play (learning the rules and limits) but exploring the possibilities within the game, and this is where ART OF MAGIC truly shines. ART OF MAGIC's style of spell design is one which hearkens back to other Bethesda classics such as DAGGERFALL, which may explain why Bethesda picked up the U.S. marketing for this game. The Portmanteau system uses the possibility of combining various ingredients to create entirely new arsenals of spell combinations, making the game play literally infinitely variable, depending upon what sort of spells and charms one chooses before each game round. This is where the real genius of ART OF MAGIC comes through - there has been no comparable system in any other recent game I can recall which can compare for this sort of sheer ingenuity.
The music is highly atmospheric, as it was in the first game, and while the storyline does tend to push the game more toward RPG status, the fact that one must harvest resources and build one's own arsenal still make this a solid RTS. Overall, the game does convey a sense of epic adventure, and the challenges of facing and defeating rival wizards are augmented by the occasional 'wild card' thrown in by the plot, including protecting other incidental characters of importance. Then too, the challenge of choosing one's magical spell arsenal before each turn of game play can be of significant importance in how each round is strategically played.
The BadThe fact that everyone in the story has a Scottish accent in one form or another IS slightly corny, but one gets used to it. Also, like the first game, the occasional need to protect other incidental characters in the story can become rather annoying and interfere with the player's overall strategy, particularly since sympathetic characters do not seem to be very effective at protecting themselves. The game's A.I. could have used some more work in the single player scenario, but can be forgiven in light of the overall scope of the game, which remains superb. In multi-player mode this game truly shines, and could possibly only have comparison to a similar RTS game from Shiney, SACRIFICE, to which it rates a close second, in my opinion.