Might and Magic VII - For Blood and
RPGDot's third anniversary
It has been three years since RPGDot's first appearance on
the web. In order to celebrate this we asked our visitors
to write something for us. Something related to RPG's. Not
because it is time to do something back for us, but because
we want to put our visitors in the spotlight as they made
us into what we are now. If they didn't keep on visiting us
and encouraged us to keep on going, we might not have lasted
these 3 years. We can't ask all our visitors to write something
of course, so we asked a few out of the large number of visitors
we have. And if any of you feel left out, RPGDot has always
been open to reader submissions ;-)
Today we start with a story from Lintra
and it takes us back to the summer of 1999. The same year
When Myrthos asked me to write an article to help celebrate
the third anniversary of RPGdot I did not have to think very
long or hard about the topic. I just asked myself what I was
doing in the summer of 1999 while the good folk here where
getting RPGdot up and running. Once asked, the question answered
Sometime in late June of 1999 I ran into the local EBX to
buy Might and Magic VII - For Blood and Honor the day it got
there. This action broke a long standing rule of not buying
a game until it is reviewed or recommended by a friend. Why
did I break this long standing rule? The prior year I had
lost six weeks of my life to Might and Magic VI - The Mandate
of Heaven, and I could not wait to repeat the experience.
I had enjoyed Worlds of Xeen (Might and Magic IV and V), but
I had been positively addicted to the Mandate of Heaven. I
could not wait to see if the latest release in the long running
Might and Magic series was as good as its predecessor.
What was I so excited about? While the Xeen games had good
stories, a colorful world and fun things to do, such as rebuilding
a ruined castle, the character development was minimal. Mandate
of Heaven not only gave me paper dolls to dress up, but a
host of skills, a lot of different magic spells, a ton of
neat equipment as well as a huge world to explore. I grew
very attached to my four characters in Mandate, even though
they all had to be human, and four years later I know I could
still find my way around Free Haven. Towards the end of the
game the four characters began to look a lot alike, but that
was only the last week of play. The only thing lacking in
Mandate was a really good story.
Was I disappointed in For Blood and Honor? No. Right from
the start things were better than Mandate. First there was
a choice of races. Secondly, the character development was
richer than in Mandate. The different classes had limits on
skill advancement - this means that the system rewards pre-planning.
If I wanted to be guaranteed success in disarming traps (grandmaster
level of skill) I needed to plan a thief in the party, otherwise
a ninja (evil path monk) could get to master level, while
every other character class is limited to expert level or
less. So do I take the weaker combat thief, commit to playing
evil and plan on a ninja, or spend skill points in perception
to lessen the damage of the traps when they go off and hope
the party can survive the worst chests?
The beginning of the game harkens back to Xeen. You begin
by participating in a scavenger hunt on Emerald Island where
the winner gets to inherit Harmondale Castle. This opening
Island serves as a tutorial section getting the party some
experience and skill. Once you win the scavenger hunt it turns
out that your new home is a much disputed castle that has
been reduced to little better than a pile of rubble. Your
first quest line has you trying to first clean out then fix
up your new house. The castle improves with multiple upgrades
and finishes up as quite a large structure. To avoid spoiling
the story for those of you who have not played this hack and
slash classic I will only make two more comments on this topic:
One - the story involves a major choice mid way through: will
the party follow the path of light with its spells of protection
or the path of dark with its spells of destruction? Either
way the quest and promotion paths change, NPC reactions are
different, and even the interface background changes to reflect
this choice and constantly remind you which path you chose.
Two - it is a terrific story line that keeps the action moving
and supplies a great structure to hang all the side quests
The world is not as large as the world in Mandate but it
is not small either, and while it has no city to compare with
Free Haven in size it is very well integrated. Each region
is very well thought out and designed and they all fit very
well together. A lot of time and care went into the world
design and it shows. Once made, the trip to Nighon is not
easily forgotten! Much like the more modern Dungeon Siege
each region (or pair of regions) has its own distinct feel.
This further reinforces the immersion factor for the game.
The name Avlee comes to mean "the small Elven settlement
tucked under the mountains to the south of the Titans Stronghold".
It is one of the towns you will become very familiar with
as your party runs back to it bruised, exhausted and staggering
under the weight of the loot from exploring the rugged terrain
to the north.
Beasts, loot and a game
Might and Magic games are about killing hordes of beasties.
By hordes I mean thousands, literally thousands of monsters.
The combat can be done in real time, but I found that the
battles usually remained challenging enough that I wanted
the control of turn based mode. The big change from Mandate
was to allow limited movement in turn based mode - a vast
improvement! Aside from the real time option, the over all
combat in Blood and Honor is unchanged from Isles of Terra
(M&M III - the earliest I have played).
Might and Magic games are also about the cool loot you can
collect. Mandate introduced the paper doll system, and Blood
and Honor made it better. The character sheets are informative
and well organized with useful information like the maximum
you can advance a skill to are just a right click away. The
paper dolls let you try out tons of equipment combinations,
and a single mouse click will let you quantify if the +10
Spear with the shield that adds 20 strength is more to your
liking than using a +8 sword of flame and a +4 dagger. A lot
of the magic items increase skills or stats, and so I found
myself spending a fair quantity of time trying out different
combinations of items until I got the party "just right".
A noted exception was a suit of blue leather armor for my
thief - he kept that a lot longer than he should have because
it looked so very good on him.
What separates a great CRPG from a good CRPG are the little
things - the unexpected details that make a world come alive.
One of these in Blood and Honor is Arcomage. Arcomage is game
a little like Magic the Gathering, but simpler. There is a
quest to win a game in every tavern and the first time you
win in a tavern there is a monetary reward
but I found
myself playing it just for the fun of it! How often does one
find a fun game with in a game?
The summer of 99
Might and Magic game has, like its predecessor, has been slammed
for its graphics. I found them acceptable, and they run on
low end systems with just about any video card - when that
is taken into consideration the graphics are more than acceptable.
Might and Magic VII - For Blood and Honor was a labor of
love. It was crafted by a team that cared about every nook
and cranny in the game - and it shows. It shows in the sometimes
goofy dialog, it shows in the area design, it shows in many
individual pictures for all the neat loot to dress your party
members in. It shows in the little details like the background
changing when you select the light or dark paths. It shows
in the game balance and side quests. In 1999 I played exactly
two CRPGs: Fallout 2 and Might and Magic VII. I played them
both many, many times. When asked what the summer of 1999
means to me, I honestly have to answer "For Blood and