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Might & Magic 9 Review

by Garrett, 2002-04-23

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Might & Magic is one of the longest running series in the business, next to Ultima und Wizardry. The Big 3 have dominated the RPG world for the past 20 years now, but in the past few years new heir apparents have risen, be it the Baldur's Gate series or upcoming titles like Morrowind and Arx Fatalis. With Ultima & Wizardry already gone, New World Computing's Might & Magic is the last to still stand, but can it also stand against modern RPGs? In this latest installment of the series, 3DO has licensed Monolith's LithTech engine, which replaces the old engine used in parts 6 through 8. But contrary to their self-made and adapted MM6-8 engine, in their Multi Player Online Legends of Might & Magic, which had to cut down from a RPG to an action game, it became clear, that with the LithTech engine, it is not all gold that glitters, if it glitters, that is, but let's start with the beginning:

A hard start

A Review for Might & Magic 9 is not easily written. A lot of other sites have bashed it, and you can't blame them, because it is very hard to get into the game. In fact, I have mailed the RPGDot team after my first 30 minutes with the game and asked their opinion, because I was shocked: Disappointing graphics, ugly NPCs and an annoying tutorial starter map! But please do read on, there's more to MM9 than at first meets the eye:

Let's continue with the strange impressions for now: Once you get to the first island, the Isle of Ashes, you'll encounter small skeletons. Combat with them looks quite silly, as they are coming to your knees only and throw their skulls at you.

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Anyway, after a few fights, you get your first real quest, which is to get rid of monsters for a very special character in the game: Yrsa. She also gives you the first main quests right away, which is to unite the 6 clans of Chedian in order to withstand the invading forces of the West. And now you are in the middle of the action already: There's so much to do, like party management (unfortunately, the manual omits the skill-by-profession limitation table), getting used to the new interface and by the time you reach Sturmford, the first large city in the game, you may even think the graphics look ok, and when you enter the first Dungeon, Beet Hoven, you may consider the graphics look quite good as does the city (ok, there's some strange aspects: lantern lit all day & night, people standing on the same spot in the city every time you get there and the day sky is not so pretty either - in contrary to the night, star lit sky!)

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Quests galore

There's a lot to explore on the islands and the mainland of Chedian, and while I am not sure, if I just got used to the graphics or each island really is nicer than the starter areas, I can surely say, that there'a little time to think about that, because you get many, many side quests, promotional quests and have to follow the main story line also. Your journey takes you on to Drangheim, Guberland and then finally to the main continent with cities called Thjorgard, Frosgard, Thronheim and the areas Lindisfarne and Yorwick (I wonder whose mind's these names came from:).

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Anyone thirsty?

But by continuing deeper into the adventure, you come to a point, where you realize, there's some things missing from the earlier Might & magic games:
The Alchemy skill is gone, and with it the ability to mix potions from herbs. There's no more horseshoes or clovers to raise your luck (in fact there's 4-leaf clovers, but they just give you a skill point or money, if you sell them) - and, except barrels or pots, there's no other items anymore to raise your stats (like the genie lamps for example).

There's also no more obelisks and their riddle and no more land travelling by horse and carriage (which leaves only boat travel next to walk).

Furthermore, the Inventory has gone a step back, from the equippable paper doll system to a static picture of the heroes, ignoring their race and equipment: A fighter, for example is always displayed as a dwarf. And the paperdoll does not show the equipped armor and weapons anymore, only associated slots are filled with the pictures of the items.

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My clover broke!?

Speaking of items, also the backpack is harder to handle than before, since you don't see all of the items at once, but have to scroll through them. The upside of the new system is, that each character now can carry up to 100 objects, despite their size and weight! To ease inventory use a bit, you can also filter the inventory display, but once an item breaks, you have to scroll through all of them to find the broken one. And, strange enough, everything can break in MM9, starting from weapons and armor via clovers and potions to even scrolls!

Be skilled in Magic!

To continue with the changes from former installments, the RPG System has been changed slightly regarding magic, which is learned like skills now, and some professions are totally denied access to certain skills (for example the Paladin cannot learn the Dark Magic Skill). This change is a change for good, because it makes skill-hunting a sport!

As for magic, the number of spells has also been cut down and one of the most prominent spells is gone: The Flying Spell, which I am sure most Might & Magic veterans will miss.

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But there's more to critisize: The Automap is not very helpful, due to the fact, that it displays the whole area from the beginning (or more precisely a portion of the area, if it is too large to fit in the screen). But you cannot scroll the map nor write comments to it - then again, the dungeons are smaller now, so you wont loose your way, but their complexity has risen in regards of riddles and monster AI, which brings us to Combat:

Combat in Might & Magic 9 is handled like in action games, simply click the left or right mouse button and the enemy in the cross hair is targeted with a spell, a missile or a melee weapon (you can still switch between real-time and turn-based combat in Might & Magic 9).

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As mentioned, there's less monsters but with higher AI now; nevertheless, combat is somehow simpler than it used to be, whereas enemies do respawn faster. But since you do not loose time for training anymore, you won't encount them more often than in other installments..

After combat, enemies sink into the ground (that is, if you have outbested them only, of course) and leave a small bag with their goods, where sometimes even wild beasts leave some scrolls or skills!

Promotions, Expert, Master & Grandmaster

So, after I mentioned so many negative details so far, you may ask, why I like the game so much, which I certainly do:

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The answer is as easy as it is complicated: Because it is fun, really fun and you can't stop playing. The RPG system of Might & Magic is one of the most addictive around with its promotions and the Expert, Master & Grand Master system.

Dungeons at its very best

But the greatest aspect in Might & Magic 9 is its fantastic dungeons: Not only good looking (no, really, I mean it!), but also very well designed, smaller, easier to remember and full of riddles, not just monster killing. (For example, in a monastery you have to distract the monks from a special item other than to kill all of them - or you have to free a prisoner from a highly guarded jail not to mention the scary Sky Fort with the Ice Giant Yanmir!). The dungeons in Might & Magic 9 are simply among the best that are out there.

And, where in older installments the story was simple or even confusing, it takes its twists and turns in Might & Magic 9 and keeps up the motivation till the end!


If you ask me, 3DO did not get perfectly along with the Lith Tech Engine, not only for some poor graphics, but also for some gameplay issues (automap, inventory)!

Might & Magic 9 is a great RPG, even though it could have been a lot better. Once you get over the first hour, you can't stop playing it. Gameplay is addictive as ever, music und sound effects are as good as ever and the RPG system is still one of the, if not the most motivating out there!

Congrats to John van Caneghem and NWC/3DO for creating this game, but shame on you, for failing in its PR as well as making it easy to access. I doubt, the series will gain new fans with MM9. I doubt there will be a MM X, (reg the recent layoffs at 3DO). I doubt, MM9 will be a bestseller and bring 3DO a lot of money.

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But if you are into good old RPG's, a good RPG system, motivating gameplay, then MM9 is your game! It just needs some time to crawl under your skin! On the other side, if you never likes any Might & Magic game before: fingers off!

One last hint: Be sure to install patch 1.2, because without it, next to some nasty game play bugs, you will encounter several desktop crashes, miss the title menu music and the beloved sound when switching between turn-based and real-time combat.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 70%
Sound (15%) 90%
Control (25%) 70%
Fun (45%) 90%
Overall 82%

Reviewer's System
Version MM9 v1.2
CPU Intel Pentium 4 1.8 GHz
Graphics ELSA Gladiac 920 (GF3)
Sound Creative Sound Blaster Live! Platinum
OS Windows 98SE, DX 8.1

Average Reader Ratings: 5.89 (95 votes)
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