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SummaryGreat game design -- highly difficult, but extremely rewarding
The GoodAs about every other reviewer noted, Might and Magic I is an extremely challenging game. From the beginning right to the very end, there is a real chance of your party being wiped out at each and every step. This may not sound so hot to the casual gamer, and indeed this game is not meant for casual gaming -- you have to really dig into it. But once you do (and you have survived the insanely hard beginning), you'll realize how well this game is designed.
Leveling up really MEANS something here -- your party gets stronger, but it does so slowly, and your characters do not evolve into some kind of fantasy superheroes capable of slaying a handful of dragons with a single stroke. Loot is always something to carefully check out and never something you'll routinely just cust a Detect Magic on and let it lie -- gold is sparse and keeps being valuable throughout the game, so at least pick it up to sell it (but as the backpack sizes are very limited, you'll have to choose carefully).
The monsters and their powers are very varied, and you'll have to study them and prepare for combat as best you can. And even at the end of the game, you'll meet monsters that you should run away from.
The game is highly non-linear, so you'll have can (and have to) freely explore the vast world on your own. However, I found the difficulty levels of the areas well balanced, so that you'll quickly steer into the right (= not too difficult!) direction.
The user interface is easy to learn and effective to use after a few minutes, and even the graphics are nice -- not really colorful or opulent in any way, but the monsters are nicely pixeled, and the graphics never distract from the actual game play -- indeed, the game has, IMO, more atmosphere than MM2 or Bard's Tale due to the nearly abstract feel of the graphics.
The BadThe only thing that comes to my mind is the beginning. It's INSANELY hard. Even after finding a good grinding place, it will take you hours to get your characters to level 2, allowing you to venture a bit further than just a few steps from the inn. It would be nice if Mr. Van Carneghem would provide the starting party some more gold to get some decent equipment instead of a few clubs and daggers.
The Bottom LineMight and Magic 1 is definitely not something for beginners or for casual gamers. In the end, it's -- like any other good RPG -- a complex resource management game: You'll have to think and keep thinking about what to carry, and what to use when, and what to sell and buy, and how to improve your party.
It is highly difficult, but this means it provides a challenging experience for many, many hours -- it took me at least a hundred gaming hours to win this game, and even this with some help from walkthroughs. However, I never felt bored once -- once you get into it, it keeps staying a challenging, but highly rewarding experience.
I can heartily recommend this game to all those looking for a challenging early RPG. It could be seen as a great mix of Bard's Tale and Wizardry, taking the best elements of both and evading their weaknesses.