Plant the bomb and save the princess.
Really the only thing wrong with Legends of Might and Magic is the fact that the AWP is too strong. Oh, and being a Counter-Terrorist on some maps is pretty tough, and the V.I.P maps really kinda suck, and there's too many campers, and...
"Er, Ben, that's Counter-strike. Aren't you supposed to be reviewing Legends of Might and Magic?"
If only, dear make-believe reader, if only.
Once again, the folks at New World Computing and 3DO seem to have left the cap off the glue bottle and the resulting fumes have gone to their somewhat inflated heads. After the PS2 debacle Heroes of Might and Magic: Quest for the Dragonbone Staff, or as we at GR like to call it, King's Bounty, you'd hope they'd go for something a little more unique. Well, if blatantly ripping off the form and function of the most popular online team-based FPS is the definition of unique, then call this puppy a purple unicorn. Or, you could call it Counterstrike with swords.
Now some of you might be pleased at this news, since CS is a great game. And in some ways, you're right to be happy. But while the guts are essentially the same, Legends of M&M fails in the intricate details that really takes this kind of game from average to exceptional.
If you're even remotely familiar with CS, then you know the drill. Legends is an online team-based first person shooter featuring two sides, Good and (drumroll please...)...Evil! The matches are broken up into timed rounds and by killing enemies and/or winning the round objective, you gain gold coins to spend on better armor, weapons and items.
There are a few subtle changes to differentiate Legends from CS, the most obvious being the subject matter. Roaming around mystical castles and dungeons is markedly different from the realistic settings in CS. Say goodbye to Terrorists and Counter-terrorists and hello to the Good (Paladins, Druids and Sorceresses) and the Evil (Warriors, Heretics and Archers). Naturally, evil rules.
There are some actual differences between these characters beyond skins. Each starts with a different weapon, though most any weapon and item (aside from some armor restrictions) can be used by any class. Additionally, each type has one "uber" weapon that is only available to that specific class and costs a pretty penny. The balance is a little screwy, with the Heretic having a much better starting weapon than anyone else. Would you rather start with a multiple fireball attack or a throwing knife?
The weapons themselves all sound fine on paper, but are sort of lacking in function. Split into two categories, (Might and Magic, get it?) they follow the mold of Unreal Tournament with primary and secondary functions. Some of the more interesting ones include the Ice Blast Crossbow, which can fire an exploding ball of ice (good for area damage), the Death Blossom Bow, which rains magical arrow madness on multiple enemies, or my personal favorite, the Fire Ring Staff, which burns major ass.
While this all sounds fine and dandy, the balance just isn't there. Most of the weapons are used identically - just aim at the guy and fire like a mother. It turns into deathmatch politics of running around in circles shooting at each other, missing the subtleties that made CS such a deep game.
One of the items is a grenade (called the HHGA - Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Thank you, Monty Python) that's WAY too powerful. It bounces into a room and inevitably takes off most of your health, even if you jump out of the way or run behind a corner or kindly ask it to not kill you.
In another nod to CS, the game features 4 scenario types. Sword in the Stone mode makes Good and Evil race into a dungeon in search of a sword, which must be carried to safety. Rescue the Princess is pretty much like the hostage maps in CS - grab her and get her to safety, just like aforementioned sword. Warlord Escape is identical to the V.I.P. maps in CS; one player is the warlord and must be escorted to safety, where he, the princess and the sword will have some kind of party.
Then there's Slay the Dragon, probably the coolest of the four, which pits both teams against one another in addition to a big fire-breathing dragon. The first team to kill the dragon wins. The dragon, by the way, is a bad mamma jamma.
In fact, the big lizard is the prettiest thing in the game. Using the Lithtech 4.0 engine, Legends won't really impress anyone graphically. It's got some nice effects here and there and some decent textures, but the player models are really goofy and pointy and the animations are absolutely terrible. It's often unclear whether or not you've hit someone or been hit, and the primary death animation has you clinging to your shoe as if killed by a particularly vicious case of Athlete's Foot. Somehow, CS still looks better, despite being on an older engine.
There's an option to include enemy units in the middle of a game, so that in addition to the player enemies, you have to deal with CPU controlled orcs, lizardmen, liches, etc. It's a nice idea and can lead to some brutal fights, where the real players are blasting at each other while simultaneously fending off monsters together. It's too bad the AI is mindless, just rushing right for you once you get into range, as this could have been a really strong feature. Instead, it seems that many servers are turning the monsters 'off.'
And after playing Legends for a good hour or so, you'll probably want to turn it off, too. The game just doesn't have the lasting appeal of CS, primarily due to poor balance and uninspired design. It's missing the key stealth elements of CS in favor of traditional fragfesting, and it winds up leaving a shallow taste in the mouth.
Which isn't to say that Legends is completely without merit. In fact, it's got some genuine moments of fun - mainly, the ones that remind you of CS. Winning a match by rescuing the princess gives you a great feeling of achievement, as does killing that bastard dragon.
Imitation may be flattering to the imitated, but to the rest of us it merely demonstrates a general lack of creativity. Legends isn't so much bad as brutally derivative. Fans of CS will certainly find some fun within these castle walls, but ultimately will likely opt for a more legendary adventure.