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SummaryHonoring the old, adapting to the new
The GoodAfter this behemoth of role-playing had re-defined the series' formula and re-invigorated its spirit, it was to be expected that these highly skilled designers would continue building upon the highly successful template. They did, and the result is Might and Magic VII - a game that feels like a more interesting, less over-the-top, polished and refined version of its predecessor.
Non-human playable races (the familiar elves and dwarves, but also the very handy goblins) make a triumphant return, accompanied by resurrected classes such as the Thief - which, true to his name, has the cool ability to steal from people (a feature that, among others, allows the player to bypass a rather nasty - and otherwise mandatory - battle late in the game). Other than that, all the wealth from the previous game was retained - the deep character customization (with an extra level of specialization, Grandmaster), the variety of magic schools, the enormous amount of equipment and items to experiment with, plus an intricate alchemy system, a new card game, and more - all this is guaranteed to entertain the player for many, many hours.
One of the most intimidating features in Might and Magic VI was the sheer amount of enemies the game threw at the player - which, frankly, bordered on the ridiculous at times, and led to tedium and repetitiveness. I was pleased to discover that the seventh game fully corrects and balances this issue with somewhat more formidable opponents coming in distinctly lesser quantities. There are still quite a few monsters to hunt down, but nothing comparable to the insanity of, say, those Egyptian guardians patrolling the pyramid-like gigantic spaceship navigated by Star Trek characters.
While not as uncompromisingly huge as the sixth game, Might and Magic VII still offers a vast world with plenty of areas providing hours upon hours of meticulous exploration - including, naturally, many locations you don't have to visit in order to complete the game. The world is also livelier and more exciting than that of the previous title. While there was something schematic and generic in the large, fairly monotonous towns of Might and Magic VI, the sequel presents a wider variety with such highlights as a dwarven underground city with a mountain cave system, a beautiful desert with towers, a picturesque elven settlement with adjacent islands, and a hellish, lava-filled realm of demons, necromancers, and warlocks. The world of Might and Magic VII has more personality and more detail, which contributes to its quality of immersion.
The game also has a noticeably stronger plot with much more interesting characters, which involves war intrigue, and a subtler, smoother, more ingenious introduction of sci-fi elements, the background story of the entire series and the way it affects the medieval society the game takes place in. The re-introduction of dwarves, elves, and other races also helped in creating a more colorful game world, which has more appeal than the "monoracial" realm of the sixth game.
The best part about the plot, however, is its connection to the gameplay. Here Might and Magic VII learns from the new school RPG design, introducing meaningful choices and moral decisions that move the story in different directions. Going back and forth between the humans and the elves was quite fascinating; but the best part occurred later, about halfway or so through the game, when a single choice determined an entire line of quests becoming the "mirrors" of each other, forcing you to align with either the benevolent rulers of the sky city Celeste or a traitorous member of the royal family and his alien and demonic allies.
The BadI can't exactly say that I missed brobdingnagian dungeons like the dreaded Tomb of Varn of the previous title - and yet, I did feel a tiny sting of disappointment after completing the game's last two areas. Make no mistake, the final dungeon is by far the game's most dangerous location, where even experienced, powerful parties can get crushed; but it's fairly small, and, in terms of exploration challenge, not even remotely comparable to the monstrous offerings of the earlier game.
Otherwise, it's mostly nitpicking - for example, I didn't like the restriction imposed on learning high-level spells. In Might and Magic VI, you could teach Fly to your Archer very early in the game; here, you'll have not only increase the skill and train to master level, but complete two promotion quests, one of which is only available after you've completed a significant portion of the main quest.