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SummaryTwenty Years Later: Musketeers From a Cryogenic Chamber
The GoodLet's see... Okay, I'll be fair and say I was curious to see how this game would turn out even after I fired it up and tried my best to believe what I saw. There was something keeping me in. I played it more than I intended to. I didn't hate it; in fact, if you manage to forget everything you know about any RPG released during the last twenty years you might have a moderately compelling experience.
You walk around. You fight enemies. You get a lot of loot. There are several classes and some nice special abilities. Combat is rigid and therefore more challenging than before: gulp a lot of potions, use the right moves or die. There are no tricks, no solutions outside of the box. Which means that there is rather too much loot, to ensure that you don't drop dead in every regular battle. I didn't like this, but I suppose there are some people who would.
What else?.. Some sights are nice. Dungeons are reasonably varied, though it doesn't mean much since the square grid-based design kills any semblance of exploring a real location, and there is nothing left of the imaginative crawling of the previous game. Dialogues are fairly well-written. There is a bit of humor here and there. And there is still something of the addictive "one more level up and I'll go to sleep" left here...
The BadMany fans named the ninth game as the low point of the series. I couldn't entirely agree with that reasoning even before the tenth was released; but now, I have no doubts it is wrong.
At the very least, the ninth game tried. That's what counts for me: trying to get in touch equally with your own traditions as well as with contemporary achievements - not an easy task at all. Full 3D and more physical puzzles were a step forward, however small. Might & Magic X is a giant step backwards. Worse: it is a deliberate giant step backwards.
Somehow, it tells us what is wrong with the game industry nowadays. You've surely noticed that there is less and less desire to innovate. We seem to only have a choice between realistic motion capture superimposed on kindergarden-level QTEs and gloomy copies of NES platformers that try to convince us they are art and this is how true gaming has always been.
Seriously, am I the only one alarmed by this? Damn it, if I want to relive older games then I go and play those older games. Why would I want to receive a brand new game in 2014 that looks, plays, and feels like something that stopped being cutting-edge when I still didn't have a single white hair? They tell us they bring World of Xeen back; but why do I need another one now when I had it twenty (!) years ago and I can still play it whenever I want to? A new game means something that pushes its genre (or at least its series) forward; rough edges, bugs, missing features can be forgiven when there is at least some attempt to make progress. What I can't accept is retro for the sake of being retro - emulation without soul, nostalgia that sells when creativity cannot.
Might & Magic X is retrograde beyond belief. In all honesty, if you know World of Xeen then you know this game. Everything achieved by its four (!) predecessors has been deliberately ignored. There is no free movement - we are back to jerky grid-based navigation! There is no real-time element - battles are turn-based only! There are no physical activities of any kind - you can't even jump. It's not old school anymore - it's ancient school, prehistoric school, a reconstructed fossil with a hastily thrown coat of bad glistening paint.
World of Xeen played well in its day. Might & Magic X plays exactly the same, which means that twenty years of development were thrown to the dogs. World of Xeen also looked well. Might & Magic X looks like something that might have passed as a low-budget effort seven years ago. It has this cartoony look you'd expect from a parody, except it is not. And this poorly-looking antiquated thing runs like crap on my more than adequate computer.
It's not even that good as a pure fan remake. It's too calculated, too unabashed about what it's trying to do. And, most importantly, it fails to capture the soul of the series. That might be a purely subjective evaluation, but for me, Might and Magic has always been about exploration. I like to lose myself in a vast world with places I can visit in any order. Might & Magic X might trick you into believing it has all those things, but it really doesn't. You can take on or decline some side quests, but the main route through the game is noticeably more linear than in any of its predecessors I've played. The game's rigid structure ensures that you'll have to level up before tackling certain places, which means methodically clearing all those caves you thought were optional but that are actually vital to your survival in a battle against the next boss-on-steroids. Areas are blocked off before you complete an initial quest (which takes way too many hours of plain leveling), you are stuck in the same city for way too long, and even afterwards all you get is a modest peninsula with similar areas and similar challenges: fill the grid out, walk straight, turn to the side, fight stone-age non-dynamic turn-based battle you cannot escape from, rinse and repeat. Welcome back to the sad, pale shadow of the glorious 1994...