Game Over Online ~ Crusaders of Might & Magic

GameOver Game Reviews - Crusaders of Might & Magic (c) 3DO, Reviewed by - Wongmo

Game & Publisher Crusaders of Might & Magic (c) 3DO
System Requirements Pentium 166, 32MB Ram 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 47%
Date Published Thursday, December 16th, 1999 at 08:14 PM

Divider Left By: Wongmo Divider Right

The Might and Magic family has long been a cash cow for New World Computing. With seven Might and Magic games (role-playing) and three Heroes of Might and Magic titles (strategy) all being hits, the logical step was to branch out further and blaze new trails of adventure in their ongoing quest to mix innovation with solid and time tested gameplay. From what I can gather, rather than worrying their cute little heads over actually doing any "work" to achieve this goal they decided to make Crusaders of Might and Magic, an action game that expertly blends long stretches of boredom with even longer stretches of apathy. How could a respected developer like New World Computing let a piece of shovelware like this out the door? One word: Christmas.

The idea behind Crusaders was to take the world of Might and Magic and transplant it to an action setting. In it you assume the role of Drake, a charmingly bland rogue on a quest to save either the world or a puppy from some sort of nasty guy, possibly a dog catcher, but don't quote me on that. At least, thats what I gathered during the precious few moments that I was lucid enough to stop trying to gnaw my arms off and actually pay attention to the story.

Crusaders of Might and Magic uses a third person 3d perspective. It was co-developed for the Playstation and PC, and it shows in every aspect of the graphics. The game engine is extremely workmanlike, with a substandard set of doodads and sparklypuffs to keep you interested. Clipping is not only prevalent, but overbearing, and the few attempts to add flourishes to the graphics largely fail. For instance, there is a setting to turn on a shadow for the player that takes the form of a large man shaped blob that moves around and stretches depending on your location. Unfortunately, even in its highest setting it doesn’t look very good, and to top things off has an annoying tendency to get lost. Its a bit disconcerting to see your disembodied shadow stretched across the ceiling. Another example is footprints, which always appear behind your character, even when walking on stone or ice.

All of these faults would be forgivable if the game made up for it in other areas. After all, its an action/rpg game that takes place in an expansive world. Lush graphics are a bonus but by no means a requirement. However, the greatest graphical sin in the game is its complete and utter abuse of textures. The game world is broken up into six zones. By an amazing coincidence, hours of careful experimentation led me to the startling discovery that there are also exactly six textures in the game.

Bland visuals and repetitive level design alone are not enough to condemn a game. After all, in a fantasy world the sound effects and vocals are often as important as the graphics. The various sounds are serviceable, but the voices, oh those voices... The only thing I can come up with is that the lead sound technician decided that his idiot step-children deserved to be in a video game so that they could impress all of their idiot step-friends. The video game industry has a rich history of horrendous voice acting, but this has to be some of the worst I have ever encountered, and I do not say that lightly. Think Fran Drescher mixed with Ben Stein mixed with a three month old corpse and you'll get an idea of the quality of vocal talent they got.

Bland visuals, repetitive level design and pathetic voices are not enough to condemn a game. After all, in a fantasy/action world the gameplay and story are the true goal. All else is mere ephemeral nothingness that merely serves to distract. In Crusaders, the gameplay consists of running (and I most certainly mean lots of running) around trying to complete quests while hacking anything and everything to bits. While it claims to be an action/RPG hybrid, it emulates both and succeeds at neither. The rpg elements are pathetic. While the character can gain experience and levels, very little is achieved by this. Equipment and weapons suffer from a lack of variety, and talking to characters serves no purpose other than to marvel at the amateurishness of the vocals. The action element is only a step above the rpg. The actual combat, while exceedingly repetitive isn't totally a wash. Even after the hundredth time there’s a bit of joy to be derived from hacking a skeleton to bits or watching it stumble after you sever a few key arteries (I never knew skeletons even had arteries until I saw them clutch at them in this game, boy do I feel silly. Speaking of which, I also learned that barrels bleed, but only when shot with arrows. Learn something new every day). Unfortunately, any pleasures gained from the killing is completely outweighed by the fact that combat is one dimensional. On top of that, the entire game consists of your character running tremendous distances down narrow corridors (even the forests are narrow 'hallways'). Because of the utter lack of variety in the textures, if your character should ever get turned around you might not notice until you find yourself emerging into the wrong area half an hour later.

At the risk of repeating myself: Bland visuals, repetitive level design, pathetic voices, insipid gameplay and bleeding barrels alone are not enough to condemn a game. Nay, a noble and true story can outshine them all. Yea verily I say, yea verily. As I mentioned before, the story involves some quest to save some thing from some other thing, but I must admit I was oversimplifying. The story actually involves a whole slew of things saving things from a multitude of other things, which all come together to form an underwhelming anti-climax at the end of the game. The most distressing part is that the game blatantly leaves things open for a sequel, presumably so that eager gamers can learn the riveting conclusion to a story that nobody understands or cares about in the first place. May Lee J. Cobb have mercy on our souls.

Essentially, Crusaders of Might and Magic is a depressing addition to the Might and Magic family that doesn't deserve to wear that proud name. While there are a few nuggets of gold buried inside, for the most part its a vapid husk of a game that never should have left the studio. The best part is that it only take 10-15 hours to complete. Of course, the unshaven masses will still probably make this game a hit due to the Christmas buying rush. Just don't count on anyone actually liking it. How the mighty have fallen.


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