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Game Over Online ~ Magic & Mayhem

GameOver Game Reviews - Magic & Mayhem (c) Mythos Games, Reviewed by - Rebellion / Wongmo /

Game & Publisher Magic & Mayhem (c) Mythos Games
System Requirements P133, 16MB Ram, 1MB Video Card
Overall Rating 84%
Date Published Sunday, December 6th, 1998 at 10:00 AM


Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

Magic and Mayhem is a nice little game that defies genres. It's made by Mythos, yah that's right, the guys that created X-Com. Mythos seems to be like Bullfrog, always using creativity to design a game that just doesn't fit in with what's already out there.

Across three realms, you chase down the Overlord who spreads his evil throughout the world. You are Cornelius, a mage who's uncle Lucan, a great mage, has disappeared while trying to defeat the evil. You must find him and put a stop to the Overlord's madness. You'll be doing this through the use of a wide range of spells. Use your mana wisely because you will need to capture the Places of Power to charge your mana. Summoning creatures and seeking out and destroying the enemy mage of each level is the primary goal throughout each level. However, you will be confronted with traps and minor puzzles to slow you down.

Each realm has it's own theme and there are twelve levels within each realm. Each level is randomly created, so each time you play a level, it will be slightly altered from the last time. The primary buildings and characters won't change, so the story is quite straightforward. It's a little bit of a cross between a RTS and a RPG. You create and command your armies and use spells to assist and protect your armies as well as yourself. There are plenty of items to pick up in the game as well, from summoning stones to artifacts that boost your abilities. M&M will also reward you with experience at the end of each level so that you can increase your attributes.

Spellcasting is where it's at in M&M. This game revolves completely around magic. Your armies are all summoned, your defenses are all cast, and your attacks are spell driven. You will collect talismans that allow you to harness your magical abilities. Your spells are divided into Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. Each talisman has a spell ability for each alignment, so you have three choices of spells for each item. You will acquire more talismans as you progress through the game and your experience will also allow you to increase the amount of spells you can have ready for a mission. Each game requires you to build a spell list. (Sort of like building a deck for the game Magic) Selecting which spell you want each talisman to perform, you design your spells for the upcoming level.

The realms are quite nicely done. The game takes an isometric view above the battleground, so it's not too different than the average RTS. Each level is unique although the themes for each realm carry into each level. In the first realm, Avalon, you are in more of a Celtic environment, with trees and wooden houses. The second realm is Greek styled and has Greek styled stone buildings and fewer trees. The third level is medieval. Within each realm you'll be in environments that include swamps, castles, forests, and grasslands. The animations are smoothly done and sort of remind me of Diablo. It has a comedic charm to it as well. The zombies are great. They attack by ripping off an arm and beating the enemy with it. An idle animation also has them picking up their head and putting it back on. The levels are pretty lively and nice on the eyes. You can burn down trees and buildings which is a nicety to interact with the environment. Fire spreads, various spells, bounce of walls, good assortment of area effect spells, and movement affecting spells create a fun and semi-destructive magical forte for you as the would-be magical. Spell effects are well done, but they're far from the high 3d graphics a lot of games have these days. However, I barely noticed that I wasn't getting lens flare or any of those "modern" effects. I was having more fun playing. It's definitely not a graphical achievement so don't expect any 3Dfx eyecandy. It's not supposed to be that way. It only supports 640x480 and 800x600 which isn't too bad, but it is a little lacking. It plays fine on both my PII 300 w/ a banshee and my P200 with a rush, though it had some weird visual glitches on my P200.

The audio is good and fits well with the mood of the game. It has CD audio and lots of in-game speech (which are nicely subtitled). The creatures have diablo-esque sounds and the spell effects are not overdone. No 3d support, but this is a 2D RTS, once again it's not going to fit.

The gameplay is great. It's simple and it's easy to learn. Everything is done through mouse clicking. Left click to select, right click to do. It has a great in-game tutorial, so instead of having a separate "mission," you learn as you go along. Your tutor is a raven who gives you instructions on how to do things early in the game and then as you progress, he will give you tips and hints on how to accomplish a level. The levels have 4 difficulty selections, which you can choose at anytime throughout the game. The difficulty is based on each level instead of the entire game. The difficulty is great like this, because some of the missions are difficult while others aren't so difficult. The game does gradually get harder the further you progress, but you will develop as you continue as well.

M&M's AI is pretty decent. The computer will play you pretty well. It does allow you time to build up a small army but will challenge you to take the Places of Power, which are the places you need to maintain in order to be able to keep casting spells. Some levels will contain simple puzzles that require a little bit of thinking, but not much. Some areas will be infested with traps that you will need to devise a way to get around. You also will meet characters that will ally with you and assist your journeys. These characters will also require your protection so you will also need to keep track of them, since you don't have any control over them. The game runs a little bit sluggishly, but it gives you time to plan your spellcasting. I like having time to think in games instead of having my back up against the wall trying to click my way out of something.

Each of your creatures has different attributes and this gives you a great range of selection. Hellhounds can paralyze enemies and explode when they die. Basilisks are weak but they can poison your opponents. Spells like Fountain of Life allow you to create places that heal your creatures. Gooey Blob and Tanglevine can be used to trap your enemies. It's got a great range of spells and creatures, so you can really pick your own strategies and play it how you want to play it.

I was thoroughly entertained with Magic and Mayhem. It's different from anything else I've played. I'd best describe it as a cross between Rage of Mages and Dungeon Keeper. The closest game I could think of would be Magic TG: Battlemage, but M&M is done right. It's a great RTS mixed with a good deal of role-playing and character development. I found myself loving to light the enemies on fire with some lightning spells while I sent my basilisks around poisoning some other enemies. It's different from anything else out there, and it's much better than anything that comes close to it.

I was disappointed by the multiplayer options. It only supports LAN forms of TCP/IP and IPX. No Internet here. This is a big letdown because this game would be some major fun on the Internet. It supports 4 people which is a little small, but the levels aren't really big enough to support more than 4. It also seemed a little sluggish across my network, which I also found strange.

Magic and Mayhem really shows that magic is where it's at. It's an entertaining game that's not too hard, yet not too easy. It's unique in it's own right and Mythos really needs a pat on the back and VIE needs to go out and market this game better. I will find myself playing this one for some time yet. If you're up for some fireball throwing, troll summoning, hacking and slashing buttkicking fun, give M&M a try!

Highs: Entertaining, Simple controls, good difficulty levels, spells are great, unique
Low: Poor multiplayer, graphics are somewhat childish

 

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Rating
84%
 

 

 
 

 

 

Divider Left By: Wongmo Divider Right

Magic & Mayhem was released with little fanfare by Mythos Games, the same people that developed the X-Com series. I was rather excited to find out that they had made a real-time combat game in a fantasy setting. In it you play a wizard traveling across a world inspired by Celtic, Greek, and Medieval European myths, conquering various realms in an attempt to do something... possibly find your uncle, another wizard. Why finding your uncle would necessitate conquering the known world is beyond me, but apparently that's just how things worked back in the day. A nice thing about the setting is that it draws off of enough mythology that isn't part of the standard 'fantasy' world, and its story line is fairly fresh.

Basically, gameplay consists of controlling your wizard plus any creatures he summons (which provides the bulk of your combat effectiveness) and running around the map trying to kill the enemy wizard that controls that land. You also come across other types of nasties along the way, which can range from skeletons to fauns to a number of interesting creatures that any right-minded individual would relish knocking the brains out of.

Graphics:
M&M uses an overhead isometric view, the same as was used in X-Com, which is hardly surprising considering that X-Com basically pioneered that style of view. It only supports resolutions of up to 800x600, but is still extremely playable even at 640x480, since there is rarely a time when you need to see a large portion of the map at once. The graphics reach a high point with all of the different creatures and their animations. For instance, one of the monsters you can control is an elven archer, which will shoot his arrows at various heights and angles depending on the obstructions blocking his target. One of my favorite creatures were the redcaps, who dip their hats in the blood of slain foes to regain health. There's nothing cooler than killing a group of enemies and then watching your redcaps scamper up to the corpses and rinse their hats in their blood. Unfortunately, while the characters are all entertaining to watch, the backgrounds seem wholly uninspired. There's enough background animation to keep things interesting, but the whole look of the world can only be described as 'yucky'. The colors are fairly bland, and most of the artwork falls in the range of decent to mediocre. That being said, I still like the graphics. While they easily could have been existed in a game made 2 years ago, there's still a certain spark to them that makes things fun to watch. The menus could have used some tweaking though. While clear and straightforward, they're blander than a mouthful of Crisco, and completely fail to establish any mood for the game.

Sound:
The sound is pretty good, with different effects for basically every creature or spell in the game. However, nothing really jumps out at you and says, "Listen to me! I will invigorate your spirit and expand your soul with my exquisite tones." Granted, very few things in any game actually say that, but it's nice to feel like they could. On a side note, listening to the constant cawing of the basilisks can be likened to shoving peanuts up your nose until they come out of your mouth as peanut butter.

Gameplay:
As in most games, the gameplay is both Magic and Mayhem's triumph and downfall. Apparently the developers were trying to accommodate the simpletons and halfwits of the world when designing the game. The controls are all confined to two buttons, left mouse and right mouse. Also, the actions can literally be summed up as this: walking, moving your creatures, casting spells, and ordering your creatures to attack. Oh, and picking up objects on rare occasions. None of that highbrow waypoint or formation crap, just good old walking and killing. This inherent simplicity might turn off a lot of gamers, but it actually works out quite well for the most part. The biggest complaint I have is that there is no way to look at things or talk to characters. All of that happens on its own when the game wants it to, and it can get very frustrating at times. Once you get past the limitations of the system though its great fun to wander around ordering your ragtag crew of monsters to kill everything in sight, blasting a few fireballs when needed.

Combat is pretty straightforward, but a basic knowledge of tactics will still come in handy. The AI is very good at points, with your injured creatures often backing out of a fight to let someone else take the damage, but non-existent at others. If your archers are the right distance from many enemies, they can fire a constant stream of arrows at them without being detected (what is it with arrows and clunky AI? Thief had a similar problem). The worst part of the game is the waiting. There is almost no healing of health and mana over time, you have to eat food or cast a spell to gain health, and go to one of the 'Places of Power' scattered around the world to regain mana. Mythos made a serious blunder here in my opinion. The thought of being able to stand on a place of power (at least until someone knocks me off of it), gathering my magical energy while I create and send troops off to conquer the world fills me with giddy excitement. Alas, this is not to be, as the healing rate on a 'Place o' Power' is equivalent to what you might expect the background healing to be in another game. What this means is that you will spend much of your time waiting, and waiting...wondering why its taking so long for the infernal mana bar to fill up.

One last point about the general gameplay, Magic and Mayhem is basically a pseudo-rpg. There are experience points and character improvement, but the way it works is that each map you conquer has a set number of experience for you to gain by accomplishing various objectives. Just killing monsters won't do jack, so clearing a map of all the creatures is a waste of time. This is too bad, since it cheapens all of the combat that isn't vital to your mission. Instead of looking forward to running into a pack of skeletons to fight you dread having to deal with the extra hassle.

Multiplayer:
Magic and Mayhem supports multiplayer of up to four people, but only over a LAN. Big disappointment here, as multi looks to be incredibly fun, offering a number of options and configurations to make things interesting. However, regardless of how great it is, its inexcusable to only support LANs, especially in a game like this where low pings are not of the utmost importance.

Fun Factor:
What can I say, despite its small faults the game is a hoot. One thing that adds to the enjoyment is clever level design and missions. One early mission has you defending a brownie king while you fight side by side with his troops, and in another your character is locked in a room, forced to complete much of the level using only creatures you have summoned to the outside of the building.

Summary:
Magic and Mayhem wants to be a great game, and I'm right there by its side. It doesn't quite make it though, having too many minor flaws to reach the highest level, but there's no denying that its just damn fun to play. Also, it is unique enough to stand apart from the other games released this holiday season (though I'm sure some people will end up calling it Rage of Mages for Dummies, which is a shame). In the end it was a positive and fun experience to play this game, but I couldn't help feeling slightly let down with what Mythos had to offer after their brilliant X-Com series. On a final note, I tried running it on a P133 w/48 megs ram and it was fine, so anyone worried about playing it on their decrepit system can relax.

The Good:
Extremely fun in a visceral sort of way, and the depth of spells and creatures keeps things interesting, along with good overall level design and a nice variety of sounds. Creatures are fun to watch.

The Bad:
Backgrounds are often dull, and sound could use a bit of spicing up. Interface may be too simplistic for some gamers.

 

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Rating
84%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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