“By the dragon, this place is dull,” says one of the more honest PCs in Might & Magic X — Legacy. The latest in the wayworn franchise is one of the least imaginative and expressive games I’ve played. Though it resembles RPGs of the past, it doesn’t have enough personality to have the piousness of an homage, and it’s systems are more primitive, yet less complex than the PC RPGs it hopes to emulate. Though it may have a little more heart than Candy Crush Saga, Might & Magic X reeks of cheapness. Despite all that, however, Might & Magic X is occasionally fun thanks to the addictive qualities inherent in the subgenre.
Might & Magic X’s unpleasant presentation reminds me of another age, but perhaps that’s what the developers were striving for with dull graphics, crummy textures, and artless art design. There’s something awfully closed-in about the world and its fixed sky, as if you’re inhabiting a painting and not a world. Movement and animation are infrequent and robotic, a few seemingly random lines of dialogue are voiced (poorly), and the PCs repeatedly shout the same few campy exclamations. There’s something dreadfully static about the game: it’s a twitching corpse, and though they say dead men tell no tales, I’d say they simply tell really bad ones.
I’m not sure anyone plays Might & Magic games for their narratives, but a game like this — one full of side quests, a decent amount of dialogue, a “Gossip” option, and lore and bestiary sections of the quest journal — ought to have intriguing lore. I grew bored of the opening story cinematic before it ended and everything about the game’s story and lore is as basic and hackneyed as any thoughtless fantasy.
Moving around, completing quests, fighting, looting, and equipping are all competent, but flawed. Combat in particular is unbalanced, messy, and repetitive, but classes and skills are improperly balanced as well. Half of my first party was useless and the other half of it was half useless, so I started a new game and made a group that decimated early enemies. Useful equipment doesn’t appear very often, even in shops, and a character can fight for hours with the same weapon. Everything feels a little unstable, and the relationship between stats and actual battle effectiveness is esoteric and tenuous.
After about an hour, combat becomes routine. After settling in, I quickly discovered the few best options in combat, which were usually melee attacks and fire spells. The low ability count and relative uselessness of many of them ensure that, no matter which batch of skills you choose, there will always be one or two options for each character that are almost always the best. Combat becomes as ritualistic as a habit. The system affords for little strategy as well. After all, movement isn’t really an option: when an enemy is adjacent to your party, you can’t move. Challenging battles are often reduced to trials of chance: who will miss, who will block, and who will strike? Load and try again, and you’ll likely see different results, no less out of your control.
With these last two paragraphs, I probably convinced at least one of you to buy the game. The “hardcore” elements are attractive to some. I don’t even mind them — the backtracking for a resurrection, the running out of antidotes three dungeon levels deep, the seeking out of a hidden NPC to upgrade a character’s skills to the next level — and sometimes I even adore them. I prefer the hands-off design philosophy to the hold-your-hand variety, and yet what could be an adventure hook in a game with imagination and atmosphere becomes a tedious chore in this game, which lacks those things.
It seems the developers included a lot of features just to say their game has them. “We’ve got interactive objects in the environment! We’ve got upgrade-based exploration! We’ve got an open world! We’ve got features here!” New elements and mechanics occur fairly often, especially early on, and yet each one feels perfunctory. This is where Might & Magic X really starts to get cheap. There’s a riddle, but it’s the first one you’d find if you Google “riddles.” There’s a boss fight, but it’s easily exploited. There’s a world map, but it’s not much different than any other area in the game. Creativity and imagination are absent.
As ugly and lacking in character as the game may be, I found some enjoyment in exploring, killing enemies, and leveling up my party. Creating a party at the beginning of the game is a rare pleasure these days. Character progression, though simplified compared to some other hardcore RPGs, is satisfying and fun, largely due to the rapid leveling-up rate. I enjoyed combat when it was going well and wandering the “world map” to see what might be over the next hill. There’s certainly something infectious about the tile-and-turn-based RPG and I’d love to explore it further, but Might & Magic X has neither the atmosphere nor the ingenuity to compel me to finish it.
So I had some fun, but not often enough. After that initial blossoming of New Game joy, after each fight has required the same strategy for two hours and the dungeons are getting longer and more monotonous, Might & Magic X has nothing with which to bargain for my time. That being said, if you adore the franchise, have exhausted your collection of hardcore CRPGs, and can tolerate long stretches of tedium, you might have more fun than me.