Might and Nothing You Haven't Seen Before VIII
Might and Magic VI is a pretty entertaining game. It's loaded with quests and customization, and there's...huh? What? I'm not reviewing Might and Magic VI? Oh, yeah, I'm sorry, okay. Ahem...
Might and Magic VII is, in exactly the same way Might and Magic VI was, a fun and deep...huh? Hey, wait a second. I'm supposed to be reviewing Might and Magic VIII. Okay, yeah, my bad. Ya see, when you're playing the game, you tend to forget, since VI, VII, and VIII are about as difficult to distinguish from one another as three brand new golf balls.
However, I have discovered a trick. The game boxes are different. Yes, Might and Magic VIII's box sports a troll, a knight, a woman and a dragon, and looks nothing like any of the boxes for any of the other M&M games. Innovation, pure and simple.
The story in Might and Magic VIII differs from its predecessors as well, in that it is the worst one ever. Some random, evil-looking dude walks right into the middle of a town called Ravenshore, freaks out, and causes himself to be engulfed by this gigantic, red crystal that miraculously pops up out of the ground. The crystal unleashes some energy and causes four elemental disasters in the four corners of the world. The four disasters cause all kinds of strife in their own regions, and the whole world is thrown into chaos. You, whomever you choose to be, have to clean up the mess and beat down the destroyer. Yeah, really refreshing and cool. Never heard of going to the four elemental planes before. Woohoo.
Like every other Might and Magic, you begin by choosing and customizing a character. You can pick four different appearances for eachof the 7 types of characters - human knights, human clerics, human necromancers, vampires (which suck), dark elves (pretty sorry too), minotaurs and trolls. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some characters start useless (necromancers) and get cooler, and some just stay useless (dark elves and vampires). As you go on you can also pick up dragons to add to your party, and the big lizards kick tons of ass.
Your characters can also get promoted, but only once. Dragons become wyrms, necromancers become liches, and so on. Pretty standard, and only cool because your party gets a load of experience for each promotion. Characters can be further developed through skill points, which were also earlier M&Ms. When you go up a level you get some points to delegate out in order to strengthen specific skills, and reaching certain numbers of points gives you bonuses and cool extras in each area. For example, when you get to the tenth level of mace skill, you're occasionally able to paralyze monsters when you whack them.
Combat in VIII is (bet you don't see this one coming) exactly the same as the combat in VI and VII. It can either be turn-based or real-time, and there's always a whole lot of it.
The real-time combat is usually pretty lame, which I attribute to the game's engine. If this game were made on, say, the Quake III engine (as opposed to the Might and Magic VI engine), and you had some real real-time options, then this would be one of the coolest games ever. But as it stands, real-time combat is only useful in the quick destruction of weak enemies and in running away from the mind-boggling hordes of baddies you have to fight everywhere you go.
The gravity and physics of the real-time mode are awful. This game might have been up with the status quo 4 years ago, but next to first-person games like Half-Life, the movement and 3D environments in this game are totally outdated.
Surprisingly, the graphics are much better. Ahhhh-hahahahaha! Just kidding! No really, the graphics are terrible. The creatures are huge, graphical monstrosities of jumbled pixels. Up close the resolution is brutal, though it ain't so great from far away, either. All of the enemies and NPCs mulling around outside are two-dimensional, as are the flowers and trees. Might and Magic VIII presents a graphical world I hoped time forgot, a universe of walking cardboard cut-outs.
On the other hand, everything other than the environmental world is really nice looking. The character portraits are well drawn. There's a little 'resting' animation that looks cool. And there's even some decent CGI. These little details are just icing on the cake...but when the cake is made of earwax and soap scum, who cares about the icing?
The music in Might and Magic VIII is kick ass, and this time I'm being serious. It sounds good and it's well done. Some of it is a bit odd - I think one of the tracks in the Troll village is set to a disco beat. The voices are good, the sound effects are good and the music is good (No really, how's the sound? Is it good? - Ed.). There are even some snappy little dialogues. For example, if you walk out of a store without buying anything the owner will say something negative about your lineage, and you might retort with something about him being a sissy. Wow! Neat! Did I mention the box was different?
Frankly, Might and Magic VIII is a half-assed production. It seems like the developers figured they'd try to drain a little more money out of yesterday's game, as opposed to giving you something truly worth buying. If you want more of the same - the exact, outdated same - then this is the game for you. Personally, I'm waiting for Baldur's Gate II.