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Might and Magic VII - For Blood and Honor

RPGDot's third anniversary

Lintra, 2002-07-25

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 RPGDot started...

The seventh
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 itself...

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
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 on.

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 Honor".

Average Reader Ratings: 7.96 (56 votes)
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