February 21st, 2018

My Might and Magic Book 1 experience

The Might and Magic series is probably one of my favorite RPG series of all time. It's definitely my favorite CRPG series, for sure. I first encountered this series renting Might and Magic II for the Sega Genesis, and it didn't take long for me to be hooked. I must've rerented it 2 or 3 times after I first played it, and when I found the game on clearance sale at a Babbage's (and geez, when's the last time you heard anybody talk about that place?) I wasted no time snapping it up. I chose this game over Sonic 3, and never regretted it. Little did I realize it was actually inferior to the computer version (both DOS and Mac versions).

I had a blast playing through it, even if I never did beat it. Cut to a few years later and the family gets our first Windows PC, and not too long after that I get a piece of software called Fantasy 5. This came with five computer games all on one CD! It had The Summoning, Populous, Magic Candle III, another game I can't actually remember, and Might and Magic III. The only unfortunate part was that it had hard Copy Protection, and the manuals that contained the countersigns to actually being able to play the game were, unfortunately, electronic, meaning unless I was willing to print out the manuals (not really possible considering how long they were), I couldn't really play them. I did manage for a couple of them, but in the end, I had to give up trying to play these particular games (a shame, because I enjoyed what little I could play of them).

And then a few years later and I learned of two new concepts: Emulation and Abandonware. Emulation let me experience the NES version of Might and Magic 1, and the SNES version of Might and Magic 2. To be fair, neither are bad, though both have some issues that make them less fun to play. Then I found that there were web sites out there that hosted old computer games, which included all of the old Might and Magic games! I got the chance to finally experience the DOS versions of 1 and 2, and found that they were both difficult to play, but ultimately were better than their console ports. I played more of 2 than 1, if only because I had more experience with it, but still never got around to beating it.

And then I got the Might and Magic Millennium Collection, which came packed with 4 through 7, as well as Swords of Xeen built off of the same engine that 4 and 5 used. I tried each of these, and found myself enjoying them immensely, though 6 and 7 were quite an adjustment. Again, showing a theme, over the course of the next few years I never really got around to finishing any of them. It wasn't until 2007 that I finally sat down and belt out a win on 6. A few years later I sat down and managed to do it with 4 and 5 as well (the two games, Clouds of XEEN and Darkside of XEEN combine together to form one huge game called World of XEEN).

This was just playing the versions that I got all those years ago as part of a single collection. Then came GOG. A few years back there was a sale going on; a few series that I wouldn't buy on any other platform because an unfortunate thing happened many years ago and Ubisoft acquired the Might and Magic series. Ubisoft is utter cancer in the games industry, and UPlay needs to die a fiery death. But with GOG I don't have to worry about any of that. I took advantage of that and got a bunch of the older Anno and Settlers games, too.

With this, I now officially owned Might and Magic 1-9, which gave me a chance I never had before: I could play through the whole series. I kind of sat on it for a few years though, in spite of managing to rescue the saves from the Let's Play I started of Might and Magic 6, I never really did much else with them. It's only in the last couple weeks that I reinstalled them to this computer, and I've had a new desktop for a few months now. I started playing 6 just to get a feel for it and make sure that the latest Greyface patch works and let me tell you, the bug fixes and mouse look are soooooooo nice.

I also picked up and started Might and Magic 1 and 3 in the last few days as well. I got my hands on a tool called Where are We that provides an automapping feature and identifies places of interest as well as giving you a quick and easy way to sort through your party when you need to (also gives a nice listing of party effects and what, if anything, the current location prevents you from doing). For 3-5 it also shows you the enemies that are on the map around you and if you've gotten their attention or not.

But enough about all of that. This post is supposed to be about the first game, and I've barely mentioned it! I started it up and just took the default party out, which is a mistake since 5 out of 6 of the party are male, and that's actually a severe disadvantage in this game. Further, their stats aren't all that well balanced. Although I've spent a couple hours with these characters, I'm thinking I'm going to create a new party and use them instead. Fortunately, unlike in 3, maps repopulate every time you reenter them, so creating new characters and using them isn't a detriment. Doing that with characters in 3-5 means that you've stolen experience from the new characters by letting the old ones get it, and you can't get that back.

At this point, right at the start of the game, you have basically have to find a fixed encounter square and just keep going between it and the inn to save your progress, just slowly grinding out the experience for a few levels before being strong enough to be able to brave at least 4 consecutive battles in the cavern under Sorpigal. So, slow going to begin with, but I know it really picks up after you clear a few places.

You'd think that as old as the game is it would prove too difficult to navigate, but the Where are We tool really helps, since there is no map in this game in any fashion. I really recommend it for at least the first Might and Magic, though it works with the first five, as well as the first five Wizardry and three Bard's Tale games. If anybody chances on this Journal and wants to give these games a go, try them with the tool and see if it enhances you gaming experience!