On the one hand, you have Might & Magic, a franchise that has enjoyed a long and illustrious career on the PC not only as a role-playing game, but also in the turn-based strategy (Heroes of Might & Magic) and third-person action (Crusaders of Might & Magic) genres. On the other hand, you have Counter-Strike, arguably one of the most popular multiplayer games of all time. Two ingredients in a potentially explosive recipe, but sometimes even I screw up a grilled cheese sandwich.
Legends of Might & Magic (LOMM) is a team-based first-person shooter set in the fantasy world of Might & Magic. Unlike previous Might & Magic titles, LOMM is far from story-oriented. While each of the twenty maps has a piece of history behind it, relating back to previous titles in the Might & Magic franchise, they provide little more than a backdrop for the melee. Heroes begin by selecting one of six good or evil classes; Druid, Paladin or Sorceress on the good side, Archer, Heretic or Warrior for the evil team. As you can imagine, characters like the Archer are better used in long-range combat, while the Warrior and Paladin classes are best suited for close combat. The first of many gaffs arises right off the bat, as the only real difference between each class lies in the weapons they can purchase. Each class has roughly six physical weapons and six magical weapons to choose from and before each battle, players can purchase armor and weapons using gold accumulated by killing opponents and winning previous matches. However, classes aren’t limited to only their set of weapons. Any class can use any given weapon. The only catch is that some classes can’t purchase some weapons directly.
Considering the medieval setting, you’d figure that close combat would play a huge role in any given battle, but that’s far from the case. Magic and missile weapons are so powerful that you won’t even consider getting within arms reach of an opponent. What results are players finding spots on maps to camp. Also, players who are able to purchase powerful long-range weapons early in the game gain a huge advantage over the opposing team. This often makes Heretics and Druids the first choice of many players, since it’s easier for them to use and purchase long-range weapons. Tactical combat goes out the window at this point because of these inconsistencies.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of Legends of Might & Magic is a lack of imagination in the game. Considering all the possibilities, LOMM doesn’t take many chances. The only element I was surprised to see was monsters wandering about the environments, attacking both the good and evil teams at random. A nice addition to the genre but when you can’t heal injured heroes, it makes the monsters incredibly annoying. Why not introduce magical spells and potions that heal wounds? Why not introduce more skills or perhaps a detailed stat element to the game, thereby giving characters more depth and more defined rolls within the team. Why is it that when you quit a game, you lose your character and all the weapons/skills he or she has accumulated up to that point? Little things like this really take away from the fun and replay value of the game.
Legends of Might & Magic features an assortment of game types, some similar in nature to the likes of Counter-Strike. For example, Capture the Flag is replaced with Capture the Sword. Rescue the Princess is a game in which a designated team attempts to rescue the fair maiden while the opposing team tries to prevent her escape. Warlord places one of the team members in the roll of the Warlord, whose objective it is to leave the map via the exit. The opposing team’s objective is to destroy the Warlord before he leaves play. Last but not least, Kill the Dragon is a game that pits teams in a race to destroy a powerful dragon, which is no small feat. Each of the four game modes can be played on any of the 20 maps provided with Legends of Might & Magic, but many of the maps are quite small. Couple that with the lack of a map editor and you’ll likely find yourself growing tired of the provided maps pretty quickly. There is a single-player element to Legends of Might & Magic, but it is quite thin. 3DO chose not to include bots in the single-player game so the only thing you’ll bump into are the monsters that wander around each of the maps, unintelligent beasts to say the least.
Visually, Legends of Might and Magic is a mixed bag. Powered by the Lithtech engine, the environments, which include a variety of outdoor arenas, mountainous regions, towers and dungeons, just to name a few, are relatively sharp due in part to the use of vibrant colors. Character animations, on the other hand, are shaky at best and graphical glitches can be found throughout the game.
Ambitious heroes are sure to be disappointed when they head online to join a Legends of Might and Magic server. They are far from overpopulated and it’s not really surprising. I’m sure many gamers experienced the same feelings that I experienced when first playing the game. It was fun to run around in the first few contests but the action got stale pretty quick. A lack of creativity pretty much sums it all up. Whether with respect to classes, weapons, maps, or ideas in general, there’s not a whole lot to brag about. The potential is certainly there for an intriguing experience, but a lack of inspiration eventually spells the demise of Legends of Might and Magic.