Friday, January 24, 2014

A Legacy Well-Served

In 2003, capitalizing on the success of The Lord of the Rings film series, The Noble Collection issued an official The Lord of the Rings Collector's Chess Set, with pieces so detailed that they were personally approved by the actors in the film. Many sites carry it, and none of them offer this review:

The pieces and board are beautiful, but seriously: chess? If you're so old-fashioned that moving pieces in discrete squares is your thing, I guess you might like this game, but it's hardly likely to appeal to modern players, raised on games like pool, where you can use every point on the game's surface. It lacks the raw energy and visceral first-person action of games like laser-tag and football. Nonetheless, if you grew up in Eastern India during the Gupta Empire of the sixth century and want to relive the glory days of your childhood, this is the game for you.

I have deliberately avoided looking up any reviews of Might & Magic X, so it's entirely possible that I'm setting up a straw man, but I'm willing to bet that the word "retro" appears in the majority of them. I'll bet they talk about its tile-based movement as "old-fashioned" and its turn-based combat as "vintage." I'll bet more than one concludes with the sentiment that the game is likely to appeal mostly to those who grew up playing Might & Magic IV and V. It will be nice, if embarrassing, if I'm wrong.

These reviews--real or imaginary--might be well-intentioned, but they offend me. The idea that any way of constructing a game ever becomes passé offends me. Good game architecture does not exist on some kind of fixed ladder, on which developers only retreat to earlier rungs because they lack the money, or nerve, to reach for the next one. As the years pass, more options become available to them, sure, but a great game doesn't have to use all of those options, any more than Steven Spielberg had to use color in Schindler's List or Michael Hazanavicius had to use sound in The Artist. Both films won the Academy Award for best picture, no one said that the films most appeal to those who grew up in the 1920s.

Despite my own opinions, I recognize the realities of the modern gaming world, and in that sense, Might & Magic X: Legacy is a daring game. It would not be nearly so daring if it were a standalone title. Then, reviewers could dismiss it as a cute retro offering and move on to praising the next game to offer, I don't know, 3D dragons that are holo-projected in your living room, and you battle them with a light saber accessory for Kinect. But as the tenth installment of a major franchise, issued by a major publisher, the game forces players and reviewers to take it a little more seriously.

Shooting at a giant spider across a bridge, in an underground cave. The game features turn-based combat reminiscent of the turn-based option in VI-VIII.

I was excited when I heard about it a year ago. My last experience with a Might & Magic game was the dreadful IX, the last of the original series before 3DO went out of business and Ubisoft bought the rights. Although I never played them, I understand that Ubisoft's previous offerings under the M&M label, Heroes of Might and Magic V, Might & Magic Heroes VI, and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, received some negative reviews because of a lack of thematic consistency to the earlier games.
What I can say is that Might & Magic X: Legacy lives up to its subtitle well in both interface and theme:
  • The game world is the same as Heroes V and VI (which is unfamiliar to me).
  • The tile-based interface feels similar to the III-V series, but most of the screens, shops, NPC portraits, and dialogue feel similar to VI and VII (incidentally, the "deluxe" version of the game comes with Might & Magic VI, which makes its presence on my computer doubly dangerous).
  • The skill system is reminiscent of VII-VIII, with certain classes able to receive promotions to "expert," "master," and "grandmaster" in certain skills.

The skill system is a blend of familiar and new skills.

  • Each class can get promoted to a higher prestige class, a dynamic that goes back to II and was prominently featured in VI and VII.
  • The crusader class has a special ability called "Mandate of Heaven."
  • When you click among potential character portraits, they shout "Choose me!" and "Pick me for your party!," a feature found in VII.
  • The schools of magic--fire, air, earth, water, light, dark--go back to VI (or earlier?) with the addition of the "primordial" school.
  • You can hire one or two NPCs that boost your various skill stats, just like in VI. There are also some plot-related NPCs. None of them fight with you, alas.

Hiring this NPC will boost my "bestiary" knowledge.

  • As in IV-VIII, you routinely find barrels of liquids that, when drunk, increase resistance to magic or raise attributes.
  • As in all the previous games, random fountains temporarily raise attributes and resistances and restore health and magic.

And of course the opening city is called "Sorpigal-by-the-Sea," complete with a "Goblin Watchtower Inn." I'm sure there are one billion other references that I'm missing, especially since I haven't played the Heroes series.
The opening shots of VI (top) and X (bottom). The latter manages to evoke the former perfectly, while still offering updated graphics and dialogue quality.
Now, when I say, "tile-based interface feels similar to the III-V series," it would be a mistake to conjure images of those games. Might & Magic X is absolutely not "retro" when it comes to the quality of its graphics. It uses tile-based movement and static screens for their advantages--in particular, the ability to carefully and artfully compose each screen, with excellent graphic detail and lightning. Oh, this is the kind of area where I run into problems, because I don't know modern video game graphics that well, and some jackass will inevitably show up to say "Are you kidding? The graphics look like crap. They should have used blah blah blah technology that was prominently featured in Yada Yada Yada III. Seriously, Blithering Idiot V: Just Shut Up had better graphics in 2002!" So all I can say is they look beautiful to me.
If the game has one disadvantage, its that its back story is a little confusing. It takes place on the world of Ashan, and I had to watch the opening montage--again, beautifully-composed and narrated--a couple times before I had a sense of what it was talking about. The world is governed by an empire, which has a religion focused on the worship of ancient Angels, accessible and present in mortal form. One of the Angels, Uriel, used the Emperor as pawns in a game of revenge against an ancient enemy, using "false flag" murders to incite the empire to war. Ultimately, crafty humans saw through "Uriel's Deception" and, I don't know, somehow overthrew him. (The narration says he was punished by dragons, but I'm not sure where they come into all this.)
The whole episode damaged the legitimacy of both the empire and the church. The empire has begun to crumble as various cities and territories claim their independence. There's talk about separating the government and the religion. Empress Gwendolyn Falcon has proposed reforms, but they've simply had the effect of dividing the conservative nobles from a populace on the brink of revolt.
Events have "come to a head" on the Agyn Peninsula, dominated by the city of Karthal, which is threatening to secede and join a coalition called the "Free Cities." In this chaos, brigands, pirates, and monsters have started to thrive. The adventuring party has just arrived on the peninsula, on a mission to take the ashes of their mentor to Karthal. They've landed at "Sorpigal-by-the-Sea" only to find that no ship passage is available to Karthal. Thus, they must walk overland, and they can barely move a few steps into the city before their quest board starts filling up.
(Some of the names--"Seven Cities," "Free Cities," "Karthal,"--and other thematic elements seem incontrovertibly inspired by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.)

Like all areas, the city is a tile-based map, though not a square as in the earlier games of the series. There are back alleys, hidden passages, and other geographic oddities that keep the map from being fully symmetrical. You can't leave the city until you solve one main quest: a bunch of townsfolk have lately disappeared, and it turns out they're being killed by an infestation of giant spiders, headquartered in the caves beneath an old well.

Battling the spider queen. This first "boss" fight was a tough one, and it took me a couple of reloads to get the tactics right.
So far, I've only played through Sorpigal and a little of the surrounding wilderness area. There are things I both like and don't like about the game. Sometimes, they're two sides of the same coin, so I've mixed them up below:

Like: The character creation process. It offers a lot of flexibility without becoming so complex you don't understand it. You choose from four races (human, elf, dwarf, and orc) and classes specific to those races. Although each class has advantages and disadvantages, there's enough overlap in skills that you don't feel you're crippling yourself with bad choices.
Creating my party leader.
Like: Dialogue is only partly-voiced. I "like" this because it means the developers weren't straightjacketed by recorded dialogue and a limited number of responses, the kind of thing that made so many interactions in Oblivion and Skyrim unsatisfying. Don't like: So far, there hasn't been much depth to NPC interaction. There are topic choices, but not really "dialogue options." Like: At least one of the NPCs so far has had special dialogue based on a character's class.

Talking with an angel NPC. Many of the dialogue choices in the game boil down to "continue," unfortunately.
Like: Lots of background NPCs that you can't talk to. This makes Sorpigal feel more like a living city than, say, Whiterun, which has a population of about 20, and 12 of them are guards.

Don't like: One thing that was consistent between the first game and IX was the set of attributes. This game had to screw with them a bit: the six attributes are might, magic, perception, destiny, vitality, and spirit. Seriously--"destiny?" Like: Attributes seem to be destined to increase dramatically from the opening. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons games, the Might & Magic series has never been concerned about keeping attribute scores close to their starting position, or within a fixed range. You might start with a might of 9 and wind up with a might of 159.
Like: Both the main map and corner automap. It makes it very clear what directions you can go from a square and (through shading) what squares you've already explored. It automatically annotates shops and NPCs, and you can add your own annotations.
Like: The game is full of "lore" books that flesh out the game world. So does NPC dialogue. Don't like: The game hasn't been out long enough for some wiki to help me keep it all straight.
Like: The inventory screen. The characters have a shared backpack, so you don't have to waste a lot of time swapping potions between individuals, or specifying individual characters when buying and selling. Don't like: No evocatively-written descriptions of items like in VI-VIII.

Like: Party members offer exclamations and fun comments when they see monsters or treasure. I think this is partly based on the "Perception" skill, too.

Don't like: Everything with which you can interact is made clear when you face it--large text appears on the screen that says PRESS SPACE TO OPEN CHEST or what have you. I think it would be fun if players had to discover some things by clicking on various areas of the screen.

Like: A ton of side quests in addition to the main quests. And there was a laugh-out-loud moment when the guard captain in Sorpigal told me, "Don't worry--I won't ask you to go kill rats in a cellar"--right above a quest that read: "Quest: Spiders in the well." 
The game's first main quest.

Like: Almost everything--stats, skills, classes, spell effects, inventory items--are well-annotated just by hovering the cursor over them.

Reminding myself what the "challenge" skill does.

Like: Combat. It plays like the turn-based mode in VI-VIII, with each character taking a turn, followed by an option to move. Between attacks (both ranged and melee), defense, spells, and skills, the characters have more options than in previous games, and the animations for both attacks and spells are pretty. Don't like: No action combat option for the easier enemies you just want to breeze by.

Like: Your "bestiary," covering the hit points, statistics, strengths, and weaknesses of various enemies, slowly fills in as you encounter more and more of them. There's even a quest related to collecting as many bestiary entries as possible.

My bestiary entry for giant spiders is filled in, after I faced about a hundred of them.
Like: After Sorpigal, an open game world where you can walk just about anywhere on the peninsula, entering dungeons "out of order" and encountering monsters well beyond your abilities.

Don't like: Having to install extra software on my computer, with a constant connection to the Internet, and a persistent presence in my system tray. I don't know what this frigging "UPlay" thing is, or why I have to log into it every time I want to play the game. I don't have any desire to "connect with others on the Steam community," and I don't know how to turn it off.

The sum of the "likes" far outweighs the "don't likes," and in total, I'm having a lot of fun with this game.
Time for a little disclosure: Although I would have doubtless played it eventually, I'm mostly playing it now because Ubisoft was kind enough to send me a free key for the game. They invited me to participate in the pre-release reviews, which I declined, because that's not really what I do, but then they sent me the key on release day (yesterday) anyway. The key was only good for one day, so I had to download it, and after I'd downloaded it, I figured why not check it out, and now my weekend is shot.

I trust my readers know me well enough to know that getting the game for free has in no way influenced my opinion of it. I'd tell you if it sucked. But I'm happy to say that, at least so far, it's a worthy entry in the series, reaching both backwards and forwards. It manages to make loving references to earlier installments while not making players unfamiliar with the previous games feel excluded. I'm not saying it's "Game of the Year" material--I have no idea what else is in the field--but I am saying that it deserves consideration for "Game of the Year," and not simply relegated to some "retro" niche.

I hope Might & Magic X is hugely successful, and more developers--not just indie developers--will realize they can make great games with classic tools. There is room for a great 21st-century text adventure, an iconographic tile-based game with a game world as large and complex as The Elder Scrolls, a game where you type your own dialogue options like Ultima IV or The Magic Candle but against a modern AI. With all this extra memory and storage space, don't just go for better graphics and sound; mash the Infinity Engine games together so I can walk from Icewind Dale to Amn.

This post doesn't interrupt our regular schedule. The final post on Vampyr: Talisman of Invocation will come tomorrow, followed by Sword of Fargoal on Monday. (Fortunately, I have them both drafted, so I can spend most of my weekend on other things. I mean work, of course.) Stay tuned for my "official" review of Might & Magic X: Legacy in 2038!


  1. Somehow I missed that was even a thing until I caught some oblique comments on reddit yesterday. So weird that it's a thing now.

  2. I was worried about this, especially when they were trying to sell an alpha - but it sounds like they got it right!

    As for 'destiny'. I'm guessing that it's the new name for 'luck'...

    1. Infinitely better than 'fuc-', I mean... 'destiny' is a great attribute name!

  3. I bought the prerelease access and gave some feedback, although I admit I slacked on the job and didn't give it the time I wish I had. Here's hoping the finished project is excellent.

  4. I really think you should at least check out Etrian Odyssey games (first three on Nintendo DS (or PC emulators), 4th and enhanced remake of 1st on Nintendo 3DS.

    They are an even bigger call-back to good old times, just made with modern sensibilities.

    1. I just finished playing Etrian Odyssey IV. Definitely a call-back to old times, but not a very good one for me.

      I liked the manual mapping of EO IV. The graphics and sound were fine. Most of the rest didn't appeal to me.

      In particular, the combat is mind numbingly boring. Literally 99% of the combat encounters are mindlessly easy, only the encounters with FOEs are a challenge. Not only are the regular combat encounters easy, there are only a very limited variety of groups on each dungeon level. So you will fight battles against 3 monster #8 and 2 monster #12 dozens of times.

      I realize you can set auto-combat, but when I am tempted to do this for almost every combat that's not a good sign.

      The skill system only works for people who really immerse themselves in the game. The documentation is really poor, and choosing skills is hit or miss. Apparently I made some poor choices in skills (foolish me, I depended on the in game skill descriptions rather than surfing the web to figure out what were good choices). This made the final combat encounter impossible for me to win. I'm sure I could grind against easy monsters for many more hours to get more effective skills but I decided I've wasted enough time on this game.

      I don't regret the $30 I spent on EO4 nearly as much as I regret the many, many hours I spent on it.

    2. If you care to finish the game:
      Starting with Etrian Odyssey IV they made respec much much cheaper. Your characters will give up 2 levels (out of ~60 if you're talking about the main story final combat) to completely rebuy skills. 2 levels won't make much difference to survivability and will save you a ton of grinding. (Previous entries gave up 10 levels which was too much)

  5. I am playing it right now. Lots of fun! But this UPlay thing is horrible, most people seem to agree about it. In fact, it is because of (or thanks to) it that I'm reading your blog right now, waiting for it to update or whatever it's doing... I think I even read somewhere the developers stating they could not do anything about it, that it was "corporate policy". Didn't seem to appreciate it much themselves.

  6. Nice review.
    Personally I would have been more excited about the game if it was not based on the MM3-5 "engine", as I much prefer the MM1-2 and 6-9 "engines".
    Also, unless it's available in a non-Steam version, you have to deal with a double layer of DRM. And the "day one patch" was a friggin' 8 (EIGHT) Giga Bytes. That's downright obscene.
    It sounds like a decent game, though; better than MM3-5 and 9, so hopefully it will some day be available on GOG. The designers certainly seem like a nice bunch, so I would like to support them.

    BTW, I've also noticed the ASOIAF influence, in the name of the godess Asha, who has the aspects of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone.

  7. Thank you for your first impressions on the game!
    I hoped it would turn out like this since I really want to play crpgs from the first second I read your blog. I was especially waiting for this game.
    Unfortunately it seams like the publisher doesn't want to publish it DRM free (on for example) and I am not willing to install a DRM measure that starts with windows.
    This is an old school singleplayer game. I don't see the point of being always on for that!
    I swore to me that I am not going to buy that kind of games.
    I hope they will release it on gog or humblebundle one day so I can enjoy an old school rpg with modern graphics and sound.

    Maybe I am wrong, but I think that the target audience of the game shares my point of view. So unfortunately it may become a financially unattractive move not to release it DRM free and with always on mechanisms.

    The good thing about that might be: not buying the game is the only way we can change the policy of this damn DLC releasing, DRM infected madness.
    At least for "our" type of games.

    I really don't care how they handle this with triple a blockbuster games, since I am not the target audience of that and I dont believe you can stop 15 year olds from buying them in hope that the publisher changes its mind.
    But for Christ's sake! Don't do this to might and magic!

    Sorry for my English.
    And keep up the extraordinary good work.


  8. I sensed a little scorn towards your readers, Mr. Boilingbroke :D

    Uplay seems to be Ubisoft's version of Windows Live or 2.0. It's essentially DRM, sugar-coated with pretenses of social interaction, achievement recording and whatnot.

    It's undeniably effective at protecting against piracy, which means more profit down the line which means more funding for games. Now whether this additional funding is being properly used, or whether the trade-off is worth it, is an entirely different can of worms.

    Also, thanks for the heads up for this game! Wasteland 2 just cost me an arm & a leg to get into Early Access, but I might be able to spare some more gaming funds for this traditional-modern CRPG. I have to say Ubisoft has always focused a bit too much on visual effects/production value for my liking, but this looks legit.

    1. Ubisoft did just the publishing here, game was developed by Limbic, German developer.

    2. Is it really 'good' at beating off piracy? I've actually got a bone to pick, here. I have a copy of Heroes 6. The game seems enjoyable, but every time I've tried to play through it, the game has given me grief with the Uplay service falling over or my connection or what have you. I've bought this legally. They do give me a couple of little bonuses for being willing to play through this service (there's a system of 'dynasty weapons' which change over through each character you play as, meaning you can use these even with level 1 just-starting-off people which is a fun little thing) - but I just about guarantee you this. Pirates don't have to deal with this, and they've probably found a way to get these things in at the same time.

      Person A) spends $20, and has a DRM-impeded experience.
      Person B) spends $0, and has a non-DRM impeded experience.

      How the frizzack does that encourage people to buy the game?

    3. Piracy is a large topic, and far from me the idea of dragging the debate in here, but I will just say that your arguments are, IMO, legitimate. However, just as an FYI to consider: Many gamers are often "on the fence" about buying a game or simply looking at the SKIDROW team for a free copy. The more you "lose" by playing a pirated copy, the more of an incentive you have of buying the game instead.

      Steam is an example of an effective DRM, because you run into mod compatibility issues and inconveniences such as being forced run the client offline, various other installation shenanigans and so on. is one of the more extreme DRMs, but in exchange for being forced to play Online you generally get more bang for your buck compared to gimmicks like, say, Windows Games Live or Uplay.

      In a nutshell, it can become so much trouble to bypass DRM that in the end, one might ask himself "Why don't I just encourage the studio/developers for making this game and buy it?".

    4. That is odd, I thought the DRM increasing sales myth had been debunked. I will admit I don't have any articles to link to on the topic but I do remember one in particular that has some bearing. It was one of the creators of Game of Thrones commenting on the use of torrents for people to have access to the movie.

      According to him, they felt that having Game of thrones highly pirated actually increased sales. Also along the same lines one of the HBO executives said that the sharing of HBO GO accounts on the Xbox was not something they were against, as it too was helping to turn people on to the service.

      Now I am not advocating the coping of materials without compensating the owner, but line we are giving about how piracy hurts sales doesn't seem to hold up. People cried about cassettes, and then VHS, and then DVD, and now its torrents. The truth of the mater is sales have continued to do well in all categories. Business models need to change, but there is nothing wrong with that.

      So far the only thing I have seen DRM do is add issues to the game. Chet here for one, but SIMS was a disaster, before that it was Diablo. I am sure there are other examples as well.

      Has anyone found any data that supports the use of DRM in helping sales? It seems to me that the harder you make it to copy the harder people try. Spore comes to mind as a game that dared people to pirate. I guess that could be used as an example of a game hurt by piracy, but I think more likely it was a sub-par game with a bad rep.

    5. I'd like to say that I never had any particular issues with despite playing Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 several a time. GFWL is horrid, but dying - but Uplay seems to want to stick around like a bad stench.

      I'm not someone who would play multiplayer with the Heroes series, save a hot seat game or the like. I'd rather play it single player, but the assorted extras that I get for playing single player online make me want to play it with the 'uplay' service being needed in the background. That's fine! I'll wear the DRM. My issue is that I think that players who are running the game without the DRM are actually getting the better play experience, which is absolutely the wrong way.

    6. Reminds me of how some of the most popular games of all time were because of piracy and not sales. An example of this is the Electronic Arts 1983 classic, "M.U.L.E." One of the best games of all time yet it sold roughly 30,000 copies. I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many pirated copies of it existed.

    7. There are a few arguments to sort through here. Whether DRM hurts sales or ultimately protects profits by preventing piracy is a matter of facts. The facts might be difficult to determine, or they might change under certain circumstances, but clearly some developers think it helps more than it hurts.

      Whether piracy is acceptable is a matter of values. My values say no. Content creators--or those who buy the rights from content creators--have the right to determine under what mechanisms the content is distributed. If they want to charge $1,000 for a game and load it up with so much DRM your computer crashes, it still doesn't justify pirating the game. This isn't some situation where a miserly pharmacist is charging obscene amounts for a drug some poor guy needs to save his wife's life. There's no moral quandry here. I own the rights to a work; I determine how its distributed. If you circumvent that, you're in the wrong. You don't have some god-given right to play Half Life 3 or watch A Game of Thrones.

      Clearly, there's a utilitarian argument to be made that, despite it being wrong, people are going to pirate, and game developers have to contend with that reality. At some point, through draconian efforts to discourage piracy, they might actually encourage it. If people are disgusted enough with certain DRM schemes and don't buy games for that reason, it needs to go into the equation. But this is for the publishers to work out, so it's really out of our hands.

      How does my playing "abandonware" games (which isn't an actual legal category) jive with my belief that piracy is unacceptable? Am I not effectively pirating all of the games that I play, since there's no legitimate way to buy many of them? Yes. I do it even though it's wrong. I wish more gamers would just be honest and say that rather than try to use absurd arguments ("it's not stealing if you just make a copy!") to justify wrong behavior.

    8. Is DRM effective? absolutely not. I am an unabashed pirate (save the hate), And this title has been available for almost 6 months, it works just fine, and completely removes the Uplay crap, which makes for a smoother game with less stings attached IMO. Now I don't pirate everything , I do buy games that I love, but quite often I will eventually get the pirated version anyway, to avoid all the DRM headaches.

    9. Yes, I can't justify piracy nor will I hide that I take advantage of it. Like you though, I send money and support as often as I can to devs, especially when I feel I got to play a game that was made for me, the gamer, rather than a vapid, diluted game made for my wallet, with a big publisher's stamp all over it.

      And I'm not the only one; it's definitely one of the big reasons indie gaming is exploding right now.

      All I can say is, the best "cracking" teams out there frown upon people who enjoy games yet never pay a dime to the folk who made it possible.

      There are a few "video game cracking" teams of renown out there. None of them are basement kids looking to stir up trouble, it's more about a rather ambiguous set of principles.

      Anyway it's getting super late here, hopefully I'm making a bit of sense. I just like to let people know both sides of the coin when it comes to piracy. Not everybody who practice or partake in it do so for misguided entitlement or destructive purposes.

    10. I guess the benefits of piracy hugely depend on the circumstances. Piracy would pay for itself if there is a chance to monetize the greater distribution at a later time. But you never know if a game/movie/album has a huge legacy at the point of release. Also, I have to confess that I downloaded Game of Thrones, usually the day after the new episode was aired in the US. Here in Germany, new episodes of US series' aren't available for sometimes 12 months or more. I am not even always sure of the legal situation. Many imported US series have flopped on german television lately, so the channels have turned sour on them and it's actually extremely hard to watch them. Anyway, as a consequence of being absolutely enthusiastic about the series, I bought the first three books, and will buy the other ones, once the TV series has caught up. The edition of the books I bought also had advertising for the TV series, so I guess that the series also receives some of the profit. And since in the US, Game of Thrones is only available on cable (as far as I know), without piracy it would have been restricted to a tiny subset of people and not have become a global phenomenon.
      So I guess piracy can be useful sometimes, but you only know it in hindsight.

    11. Side note, unrelated to the DRM discussion -

      M.U.L.E. was revived for iDevices recently.. just saw that reading through. It's a decent version, I blindly bought it.

      No hijack intended.. carry on :)

    12. I think this very blog puts these kinds of DRM schemes into the correct perspective. By the time our dear addict reaches this game in his chronological play through the DRM server will be offline. With that server offline you wont be able to authenticate the DRM and play the game.

      From a publisher perspective that is a good thing because they want you to keep buying new games and strongly disagree that you have any ownership of a game you bought. Being able to put a end of life on the game means you have to come back and get something else. Think of how it would be if GM, BMW, Toyota were able to make a car and artificially make it stop working after 5 years in order to get you to buy a new model.

      From our perspective we like to have the nostalgia factor of playing our favorite games 20 years later. We obviously also like to read some well spoken blogs about old games, so if Ultima 4, Starflight, or Wasteland had an always connected to a server DRM implemented we would all be the poorer for it.

      For these reasons alone I support pirating any game that implements a shelf life DRM. Or best case really is to spend your money on some of the good kickstarters and indie games that don't pull this kind of tomfoolery.

      In short by the time our dear addict gets to this game chronologically he will either be playing a DRM patched out version (pirated or otherwise) or he wont be able to play it, and it will be as if this game never existed to new gamers of that time.

    13. Steam was, for me, the perfect cure for piracy.

      Steam is convenient enough and cheap enough that I derive more utility from purchasing than pirating.

      I've pirated several games -after- purchasing them, because it was far more convenient to have them on virtual CD than actual CD. For that same reason, I repurchased most of the interplay/black isle catalog from GOG.

    14. "This isn't some situation where a miserly pharmacist is charging obscene amounts for a drug some poor guy needs to save his wife's life."

      As a pharmacist I felt the need to clear this up. If you don't like the cost of a drug, take umbrage with the pharmaceutical company or the insurance company. By the time we dispense the drug the profit margin on name brand drugs is in the single digits. In fact currently there are some products that we dispense at a loss on just the cost of the drug, not counting all of the other costs that go into getting a drug out.

      The "miserly pharmacist" is most often some overworked, understaffed idiot doing the best he can with what corporate will give him. Maybe you had a bad experience with your local pharmacist, but before you condemn an entire profession, how about you expand out and see what's out there. Maybe your opinion of my profession might change a bit

    15. My response is overly harsh, please forgive me. What I was trying to say is still valid in my mind, but the tone was totally off.


    16. No, that's cool. I didn't mean to insult your profession. I was referring to a classical moral quandry called the Heinz dilemma:

      In the scenario, the villain is always a druggist who's discovered the cure himself. The FDA, large pharmaceutical companies, and other realities are left out of the scenario for simplification reasons, I guess.

    17. I knew I would end up with egg on my face. Please again accept my apologies. Chalk this up to another thing learned from video games (albeit indirectly).

  9. Nice review. It's no wonder the intro is a bit confusing, they try to tell what happened in and after Heroes VI in a nutshell (without spoiler alert). The dragons they mention are the gods of Ashan, there are eight of them and you can get their blessings in Might & Magic X to gain some permanent buffs.

  10. How can you go back to vampyr after playing this? That's gotta take some willpower :D

    1. Already won Vampyr before I'd started. I just hadn't written the post yet. I agree: it would have been tough.

  11. Just a quick answer to one of your points. The spell system changed in MM VI to the classes of fire, air and so on. before that it was the old gem and point system.

    1. Thanks. I couldn't remember MM4-5 well enough.

    2. There were originally two classes, though - mage and cleric.

  12. That's the problem with game reviewers, isn't it? They see SO many games and don't care about any of them so they get jaded. Then, any game which doesn't knock their socks off has "shitty tech" or "outdated gameplay." All they want to see is razzle-dazzle, which of course makes for a crappy game for those of us who actually want to play the thing all the way through. Players want to *experience* the game, while reviewers just want to *get through* the game (on Very Easy level, of course) so that they can get their 1000 words written and get on to the next game in their work queue.

  13. I bought this game during its "Early Access" release on Steam (both to play a bit of it early and to help the funding of the game...since I really want to encourage more developers to make games like this). Even in the early stages, the game was quite good, despite some bugs.

    However, the most fun part about this game is reading all the butthurt comments from people who bought it without realizing it was grid-based like the early Might & Magic games. You would have thought their world ended. It makes the game that much more entertaining.

  14. Re: piracy

    If a game I want to play has obnoxious DRM I try to take a middle road. I pay for the game but then I install a cracked copy instead of the official version.


  15. Good review, and in line with my experience of it. Overall, I've been enjoying the game greatly as a modern take on the MM formula (much as I enjoyed Legend of Grimrock as a modern take on Eye of the Beholder). Sadly, the reviews (at least, those that made it onto Gamespot) have been as you predicted: coalescing around a 7, usually some variant on 'people who like this kind of old-school game will find it very much the kind of old-school game they like'.

  16. While I have a lot more to say about the matter, my 2 cents on DRM is one's moral stance towards piracy and DRM can be pretty orthogonal. I no longer think pirating anything used for a professional or entertainment purpose is acceptable (informal demoing and some hobbyist use is, imo). But intrusive DRM, like ubisoft demands is absolutely unacceptable. Packing sub-rosa spyware, possible root-kits (sony CD debacle, etc) and other security threats onto my system under the guise of intellectual property protection ought to be actively resisted. Since I don't have time to do that these days I merely abstain from any product that contains intrusive DRM, like everything published recently by ubisoft.

    That aside, I think you're a little too pessimistic about modern RPG reviewers. I've recently been playing the Banner Saga, which is an indie/kickstarter effort, which uses tactical tile based combat and is mostly 2D which has been reviewed very well. The 'modernization' of the Avernum series, which you'll be playing the originals of in a few years, has similarly been highly reviewed. I think so long as the game is sufficiently compelling (one stat you lack in the gimlet) which I'd define as "How many hours am I going to play this game even after I've seen the clock strike 4am?" it doesn't matter much whether it's 2D, 3D, has bad or good graphics, is turn based or real time.

  17. "(Some of the names--"Seven Cities," "Free Cities," "Karthal,"--and other thematic elements seem incontrovertibly inspired by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.)"

    You mean Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, right?

    1. Seems to be a mixture, "Free Cities" are in ASOIAF, "Seven Cities" is a continent in the Malazan books.

    2. "Free Cities" are in the Malazan books as well, as is Kartool.

  18. I was going to buy this until I saw (here) that it requires UPlay. Now I will sadly skip it. I've had so many problems with UPlay and Origin that I've written off all future games from these publishers. The only online store/DRM service that works with any consistency at all is Steam.

  19. I am glad you posted this and are checking out MMX. I only recently heard about this and was pretty excited to hear Ubi was reviving the series. I generally have mixed feelings with Ubi - sometimes the games are really well done, sometimes not. I get even more worried with revivals of once popular franchises, especially where the most recent release (MM9) was fairly bad. Anyhow - I jumped on this the day of release and am just now getting in to play it.

    I enjoy the wider selection of classes, but I'll be honest and say I'm picking classes with the best grandmaster perks and trying to role play it a bit. For example, I love druids in general, in any game, so I have to play one. Same goes for a beefy dwarven warrior type - yeah I'm pretty loyal to certain class/race combinations, especially using these archetypes in EVERY game that allows them. My main characters in EverQuest and WOW were these specific combinations.

    So, this is a weird experience so far. I question the need for a tile based system where so many good engines exist to allow a more open world experience. It does give me flashbacks of the older M&M games, like 3, 4, and 5 though, which feels really good. Somehow this format works for me, once I got re-learned the trusty old WASD controls (I have been playing RPGs on the PS3 for a LONG time).

    So.. I'll return as I play through, but I'm really excited about this and have also tried to avoid reviews - just read some first looks to get first impressions like yours.

    Uplay - well, I am generally against this sort of thing as well, but it's just not a big deal. I did buy the Deluxe edition for the soundtrack (I'm a game music geek, big time) but currently it doesn't download. I guess after 25+ years of gaming in general, I am way more patient than most people. I know things get fixed over time (but also agree this stuff should never be broken on launch - sloppy!) Either way, I bought MMX and Heroes VI simply because I love the games - so if they come with Uplay, well, fine. I play at home with a very stable internet connection so it's not a big deal. I already sucked up to Blizzard to play D3 and StarCraft, so..

    Thanks for posting this good first look and comments.. Back to MMX!!

    1. UPlay is not a big deal when it works. When it mysteriously stops working and you can't play a single player game, which you bought at full price, and which is is entirely installed on your own computer, it becomes a pretty big deal.

      The third or fourth time that happens, You will want to line up everyone at Ubisoft against a wall and start working down the line with a pistol - metaphorically speaking of course...

    2. Yup - and I guess UPlay just hadn't crashed on me, that is until about 10 minutes ago. Good thing the game has autosave turned on. It kicked me out - and it was annoying for sure.

    3. There's no particular NEED for a tile-based system. There's no "need" for any system. My thesis is simply that you could make a great tile-based game, even in 2014, and it shouldn't be any less enjoyable than a free-movement game if the tools are used right.

      I haven't had any problems with UPlay except that it exists. I come from a generation that bought games in stores, installed them, played them as long as they wanted, and then quit them. That's the experience I want. I don't want my hours and "achievements" tracked online. I don't want e-mails and pop-up ads with special offers based on my preferences. I don't want to be part of a "community" of other players, or share my game playing on Twitter. I don't want to have to kill some separate application in the system tray, and I don't want to have to provide a password to play a game. I'm not really that concerned about privacy or anything; I'm just ornery.

    4. And consider the fact that at any time, Ubisoft can stop supporting this game or any other game through UPlay. When they do, these games will be lost forever (sans dedicated effort from hackers and pirates).

      Right now, you can play through old games with a bit of searching and emulators. There's no guarantee that the games you buy from Ubisoft/EA today will be playable 10 years or even 5 years from now.

      With Steam at least, there is the offline mode. Even if Steam goes out of business, you'll still have access to any games you can download before they stop service.

    5. Yeah - about the tile based thing, I was mainly commenting on why they went that way as I assume they'd have to engineer a current game engine to do this vs. buy one that already exists (Unreal).

      Yeah, I am old school - buy a box off the shelf, install, play, finish. Maybe I'd trade it in (when stores used to accept PC game trade-ins). I don't get into the social stuff at ALL. It's annoying. I play Dark Souls in offline mode. I am done with MMORPGs, I'm that antisocial these days :)

    6. I'm old school too but I was a freaking hoarder. Seriously, I could keep shit like a candy wrapper when I was 3 years old until I found them in my mid twenties. It was then that I told myself, "Enough of this bullshit!" and threw every single thing I own away, sans valuables and clothing.

      Digital format is a type of godsend for me as I rebuild my collection of physical stuff unconsciously (to which I would inadvertently throw away again during my midlife crisis) less I chuck them out again.

  20. "I have deliberately avoided looking up any reviews of Might & Magic X, so it's entirely possible that I'm setting up a straw man, but I'm willing to bet that the word "retro" appears in the majority of them. I'll bet they talk about its tile-based movement as "old-fashioned" and its turn-based combat as "vintage." I'll bet more than one concludes with the sentiment that the game is likely to appeal mostly to those who grew up playing Might & Magic IV and V. It will be nice, if embarrassing, if I'm wrong."

    No, from what I've read you're spot on. I guess because video games rely on technology to function, players too easily fall prey to the belief that improving technology inevitably results in improved games. It simply isn't so.

    I haven't played the latter day M&M's...except for Dark Messiah, which really is a very good first-person melee game. It's kind of silly with all the spiked beds and other traps strewn about, but the ability to kick enemies into those things or make them slip off ledges Wile E. Coyote-style by casting ice spells on the ground is great fun.

  21. I remember the reviews of Neverwinter Nights 2, probably the last major CRPG before first person-RPGs, action-RPGs and MMORPGs overtook the market. They basically said that it's a good game with a nostalgic factor. So I guess if you enjoyed it you were old....
    Luckily (in this case), the new world of smartphones and kickstarter is completely changing the gaming market. Niche products (and everything not geared towards male youth has to be regarded as niche in this market), can now find a world-wide audience and independent game designers can survive on their own products.

  22. It's my policy to only put up with one DRM scheme in my life and Steam got there way before anyone else. I had to deal with EA's Origin service for Mass Effect 3, a crappy distribution system for an unfortunately crappy game. I've never had to deal with UPlay before, but I haven't heard good things. I passed on M&M X simply due to UPlay.

  23. Could someone please clarify for me - if you buy M&M X on Steam, do you STILL have to put up with Ubisoft's Uplay? Steam itself does require an internet connection and is a form of DRM, after all.

    Steam itself has a very good reputation for being a nonintrusive form of DRM, and for avoiding fiascos like certain DRM rootkits that made computers more vulnerable to malware.

    Incidents like that are why I do not want to trust this Uplay I've never heard of before. It's all I can do to trust Steam.

    P.S. I'm going to throw in a plug for the puzzle/RPG hybrid & spinoff game Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. It's just plain fun. If anyone here has never heard of it, please check out its reviews and consider trying it.

    1. I'm going to give my answer as to what it comes down to in Heroes 6, here. Basically, you need Uplay up and active for when you launch the game - however, if it's like Heroes 6, they offer extras for playing with the constantly-updating-to-server bit active. That said, if you want to forego having the potential to get kicked off randomly because their server is down, so long as you're ingame when it happens, you can continue an offline game (so long as it is an -expressly- online game.)

    2. If you buy it through Steam, you have to have both Steam and UPlay running, You have to be logged into UPlay and the service has to be available on their end, but Steam can be running in offline mode.

  24. Very happy you enjoyed the game. The Might & Magic series are my favorite RPG games, current and past. I bought early access into the game last year and enjoyed it so once I finish up a few games I'm into, I will start playing it.

  25. Game of the Year consideration? Maybe, until Elvira 3 comes out!

  26. For some reason I can´t get myself to play that game for very long. Can´t even put my finger on it, guess I shouldn´t have bought the early access since it was REALLY buggy at that time (As you should expect but still...) so I guess that tainted my fun with it?

    I did play it after it was officially released and they fixed almost anything I could complain about but still ... only bear the Spider Lair few days ago but I think I´ll get into it soon enough, especially considering Might and Magic 3-5 are BY FAR my most favorite of the series.

    But somehow Legend of Grimrock struck my gaming nerves more xD But we shall see, glad you enjoy it at least!

    1. I actually ran out of steam with it a few hours after this post. Despite the game's claims of an open game world, I found it very restrictive, at least in the first act, with a little too much backtracking to Sorpigal. "You can go anywhere!" translated to "You can go exactly where you're supposed to go for the next plot point, or you can go someplace that's impossible for characters of your level."

      The more I play, the more I think the combat system is the killer. You can't retreat. In MM6 and MM7, no matter how hard the enemy, you could grind him down if you were willing to invest the time and effort into attacks followed by strategic retreats. There's no way to do that here.

      Still, there was no way to do that in MMs 1-5, either, so it's not a dealbreaker. I still like the game a lot; maybe just a little less than my opening impressions.

    2. I´m not familiar with the spell selection yet in X but I think there was a translocation spell so you could flee to a "save spot" on the Quadrant you were on, at least in 4+5, not sure about 3.

      Oh I remember the "abuse" of the spell system, Using Jump to slowly whittle enemies down before I engaged in combat, or using Animal Sleep spell on the red Armadillos in 5 and then plaster them with Bow and Arrow also before engaging into melee combat... good times, good times xD

    3. I get now what you mean with ""You can go exactly where you're supposed to go for the next plot point, or you can go someplace that's impossible for characters of your level.""

      Oh there is a bridge ... aww three enemies appear out of nowhere way over my level ... uuuh a cave ... whoops, not a good idea ... those ghosts look interes ... aaaand reload.

      Fighting my way through the Thief´s Den at the moment and the boss is like "OLOL I ONESHOT YOUR DRUID ... BITCH!" Fun times Fun times indeed ... guess I´ll see how far I get in the Lighthouse now.

      Playing on Warrior Difficulty btw.

    4. I really struggled on the difficulty question. I typically play for the first time at the default or middle position, but when the game gives you only two choices, if you choose the first one it makes you feel like you're choosing "easy" rather than "average."

      If there was an ability to flee from combat or use any of the other tactics of MM6-8, I'd play at "warrior" without hesitation. In those games, you would have been able to defeat that shadow dragon at your level with LOTS of patience.

      I did the lighthouse before the thieves' den. I found the lighthouse to be the easier of the two, though watch out for the final boss fight. Without spoiling it, let's just say you want to make sure your party is always one square from the edge.

      One thing I don't yet know, and it will make a difference, is whether enemies respawn. I would prefer the option to go back to the sewers in Sorpigal and clean out the spiders again if I need a little more gold and experience.

      Also, have you noticed ANY difference as to the monsters or NPCs available during the day versus the night? The game says it makes a difference, but I haven't been able to discern any.

    5. Shadow Dragon? Didn´t encounter that one yet was talking about the Moon spider ambush on the bridge with level 2 ... wasn´t pretty xD

      I kinda feel I´m mostly abusing the Potions during heavy combat, wonder if my party runs around with a huge catheter or whatever, I´m sure Two Partymembers with Celestial Armor can be used pretty abusive,too.

      Usually I play the "normal" mode,too but I felt like "Ah whatever", usually beat the other MMs with a difficulty setting on harder, the only thing I guess I do differently now is clearing out dungeons, leave the boss alone, go back to another dungeon, level up, clear the boss, get Quest XP rinse repeat.

      Just finished the Lighthouse and clearing the dungeon after that, pretty "easy" so far unless the game feels like playing Doom 3 and summons a bunch of mobs in your back and front ...

      Yeah at the Lighttower Boss I was like "Seriously? ... gna" xD
      Hopefully enemies respawn, then again in later MM games it took like a year or so? Wonder if the game just crushes in difficulty like the other games,too I remember always struggling at first and later on I have like billions of gold and could level 20 times after one adventure ....

      And no I haven´t seen a difference in NPC behaviour, shops are open at night, day, dawn, dusk and I think even the non interactable NPCs stay the same. Guess that one guy really want´s apples even at midnight xD

    6. I haven't seen anything respawn yet. I am not sure how much game time has passed. If i remember correctly the MM6-8 games varied depending on the area. Some places were a week and others a month of game time. I decided to play on warrior mode. I usually only have issues when I get 4-5 mobs on me and from both front and back. I feel it's challenging. The lighthouse boss was tough, but it was a great fight. I did use a bunch of potions, but not a ton since I'm poor. I spent most of my cash on trainers.

      I'm having fun, but the world does feel small - not sure if its the tile movement or just the fact that you really can't go 'everywhere'. I feel you should be able to take whatever risks you want and truly go anywhere.

    7. According to the Steam Forums only the overworld respawns every 100 days, so there´s that.

      I kinda goofed up in my party creation, I thought Paladins are 2H Sword wielding Melee Fighter since the Picture shows her with a 2Hander .... too bad they can´t use 2 Handed swords so my Party consists of a Paladin, a Dwarven Defender, a Hunter and a Druid xD It works but meh I usually play a more defensive party anyways.

      Got my rear handed to me yesterday in the castle against 4 Elite guys and just quit, was time for bed anyways so I guess I´ll see how I fare today after work.
      If it starts getting too much on my nerves I´ll just check out Adventure Mode and how that one plays out.

    8. Btw my enjoyment of the game Skyrocketed after I disabled the Party Voices, anyone else had the same Problem?

      My Druid is Irish for some reason and if I had to listen to "Oh they smelled us ... ok, who forgot to take a bath?" ONE MORE TIME BECAUSE IT APPEARED EVERY TWO MINUTES I`LL PUNCH A NUN IN THE FACE ...... ok now I feel better, thank you all :D

    9. Not THIS nun, I hope...

    10. Decided today to start over again on Adventure Mode, granted my Party wasn´t the wisest decision but it just feels like dragging on :D

      Not sure what I´ll take though, thinking about Crusader / Blade Dancer / Shaman and the Dwarf Mage class *thinks* I SHALL SEE!

    11. Speaking of the game making callbacks to earlier games, the game made me super happy when it used the "Looking Glass Code" appropriately.
      (Here's an article about it, for example)

      I'm also feeling the game is more open now at the end of Act 2. There are numerous places I can go that I seem to be powerful enough for (although some are harder than others), and tons to explore.

  27. The background story is a continuation of the the one from Heroes of Might and Magic 6 which is a strategy game with light RPG elements. I find the story convoluted and ham-fisted if that's possible.

    I finished the first Act and so far am pretty pleased with the game. It definitely has some rough edges and bugs but it's been a long time since a turn-based RPG game has been released. Legends of Grimlock went too much puzzle/action for my taste like the Eye of the Beholder series.

    I almost didn't buy this because of uplay. If a company is going to release DRM it should be invisible to the user and NEVER deny a legitimate user the ability to play a game. Back when I was playing HOMM6 the game would not start or kick you out if your internet connection went down for any reason. I think Ubisoft relaxed the connectivity restrictions but these kind of poorly thought of restrictions is what causes people to hate DRM.

  28. Because of UPlay, I'm gonna buy this game only when it's on sale at 75% or more for putting me through that additional layer of DRM when it's already on FREAKING STEAM!

  29. I pirated this last night (I don't "buy" DRM software, not even Steam). I don't feel the least bit bad - if they ever decide to sell a non-DRMed version I will gladly buy it.

    1. So the unthinkable happens and we get a turn based first person rpg with modern production values in this day and age (that also happens to be very good) and you go and pirate it on account of... what? the misguided pretense that you are somehow making a stand against DRM? You're scum mate.

    2. Would you remove a chip in your car that makes it undrivable in 5 years?

    3. After I bought the car full price? Sure, do whatever floats your boat.

      But he kinda stole the car first and then removed the chip, not really the same or?

    4. (different anon here)

      A car analogy is pretty disingenuous in this case, since if a Volvo is crummy in some way, I can get a Honda instead with little real difference. But Might and Magic can't exactly be replaced with Unreal Tournament.

      But if the makers of an otherwise-fun, well-crafted game think so little of me as a paying customer that they'd enforce something like uPlay (and do remember, Ubisoft has a long, established history of absolutely WRETCHED DRM - we're talking single-player games that would immediately lock you out if your internet (or Ubisoft's dogshit servers) went down), then I do not really wish to become their paying customer.

      I don't feel terribly guilty about playing baseball without paying MLB for the privilege, nor should anyone feel guilty about wanting to play one of the rare few good games Ubisoft manages to accidentally create without giving money to a multi-billion dollar publicly-traded company.

    5. Thanks to the two anonymous commentators above for convincing me that, despite my dislike of the DRM, I should purchase this game, if only to make some small restitution for the pirating.

      Limbic Entertainment designed the game; Ubisoft published it. Ubisoft is a huge corporation with objectionable DRM practices which they imposed on Limbic but Limbic gets some of the money from sales of the game and their design team deserves profit for the work they've done. Plus I would like to see game XI at some point in the future.

  30. I was on the fence and you just sold me. $25 for a game like this is a great bargain.

  31. UPlay is mildly annoying, but I'm enjoying the game so far. My biggest dislike is not being able to retreat. Would definitely make certain encounters easier. The shadow dragon does have a little bit of a warning though... Dangerous Cave I think it was called... well, I suppose I should have taken the warning seriously.
    I enjoy a lot of the call-backs to old M&M games, and think the retro-pixelization option is hilarious. Overall, I like it, though I'm a little confused at some of the 'powers' granted by classes. When I created a party there were a couple of options I couldn't find in play - the runes created by the Runepriest, Lay on Hands by the paladin. Is this just because I haven't 'leveled up' my class yet?

  32. > Don't like: Everything with which you can interact is made clear when you face it--large text appears on the screen that says PRESS SPACE TO OPEN CHEST or what have you. I think it would be fun if players had to discover some things by clicking on various areas of the screen.

    I'm glad you're a game reviewer, and not a game designer.

    1. The worst part of legend of grimrock was having to turn to face every flat surface in the game and spend a couple of minutes randomly fucking clicking on rocks to make sure you didn't miss the only sword you're going to find on the next three floors. Get real.

    2. @Eric M: Agreed. I prefer to Role-Play than having to rely my own pathetic human senses.

      There's a secret door? My elven scout should find it, not me.
      Need to disarm a frigging trap? My hobbit rogue should be the one clacking the tumblers.
      Resurrect the dead? My dwarven cleric should be the one mumbling the cants of fictional deities.

      Not me. I just roll the frigging dice against their statistics- statistics that I painstakingly assigned, measured and nurtured.

      If I wanted to dictate my characters are doing through direct feedback input, I'd be playing an Action game, not an RPG.

    3. I get that, but I don't mind a little bit of a hybrid now and then, particularly in open, "sand box" worlds where it doesn't really matter if you pick up every reagent or open every chest.

      The Infinity Engine games offered the perfect engine for both of our needs. I could have fun hovering over every chest and barrel if that's what I want, and you can just hit the ALT key to highlight the ones you can open.

    4. That's what I meant too. I don't mind Action RPGs but I hate RPGs that put in Action as an afterthought to capture a "larger" action-oriented audience or vice-versa.

      Developers can barinstorm whatever the hell they want in the game before and NOT during the actual making of the game.

    5. I don't mind minigames when they are fun. Skyrim's one wasn't too bad, though the PC version in Fallout 3 sucked, given how rare hairpins are and the lack of any feedback. The Mastermind game used for hacking was silly though, as you always won, and it usually fell down to near random clicking as you didn't have enough guesses in 3 tries to actually figure out the solution.

      CRAZY idea: There are lots of known, fun, addictive games out there. Why not find one of those, buy it, and then use it as a minigame? Tetris say, or peggle or something? Alchemy? Bejewled?

  33. Well I'm deep into Act III of the game and it is the closest CRPG to pre-Baldur's Gate that I've played. I am absolutely loving it. Nary a bug so far (that seems to be the main complaint I've seen - maybe those people were burned by the pre-release version or something). Your main complaint in one of the above comments was that it wasn't open enough - trust me, this is only temporary. Once you are through Castle Portm... whatever... and clear the bridge to Seahaven, there is A LOT to explore relative to what you've done so far. I am loving it so much that I just bought the M&M 6 pack on GOG so I can play 1 and 2. I only ever played 3, 6, and 7.

    1. The main complaint I heard about was my main reason for not buying it, Uplay. Any good news on that going away?

    2. I don't know. Has DRM ever just gone away because prospective buyers complained about it? Doesn't UbiSoft use Uplay for all its titles? (I honestly don't know the answers.)

      Personally, I see it as an annoyance, like software that insists on leaving some piece of it running in my system tray, but not enough to stop me from playing a game that I really want to play.

    3. Oh, and Unknown, great to hear your report. I stopped playing shortly after this post, not because I didn't like it, but just because I ran out of time and I had to prioritize games I was playing for this blog. I hope to return to it soon.

    4. DRM often goes away after a set amount of time; it becomes too expensive to maintain the servers, so they set it free to grab a last few sales. That or just make the game unplayable (You typically see that with sports titles, to force you to buy the new years version; those often die in under 2 years when the multiplayer servers shut off).

      So, just play all the M&M games, then all the spin offs, including all the HOMM games. Then wait 10 years and GoG will have it DRM free.

      Can you tell I once boycotted Sony for most of a decade for that rootkit thing? And I don't mean I just downloaded it, I didn't use any Sony products, hardware or software, for almost 10 years.

  34. Glad you enjoyed it, I love this game. Obviously too early to tell (especially with Stick of Truth, Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, etc. coming out this year), but this is most likely a heavy contender for my game of the year. Almost everything you enjoyed I did as well.

    As a minor note, relics (items that level with you) do have fluff attached to them. It tends to be decent, as are about the 30-40 books you can find. To be honest though, despite playing every game in this new Asha setting except HOMMVI, I must say I barely remember a thing about the setting. I think this one makes it a little more interesting in the general sense since it spells out clearly that this is at least one of many inhabited planets, and heavily suggest it's within the universe of the other M&M games. It never goes to the point where it shows these things, but merely hints at them with some particular side quests.

    Also, as others have said, it really opens up once you get into Act 2. There are still places too obviously dangerous to you, but by that point most of the outside world is largely explorable. There are plenty of micro dungeons (either single encounter boss or puzzle ones) to find.

    I'm a little disappointed that every dungeon that is larger than that seems to be tied to one if not multiple quest. It would be nice to have a few self contained ones. Interestingly, they added three dungeons in the first patch which did not seem to be cash ins. They were all very unique and very fun.

    I think that's one of the things I like most about this class - other than the character creation and development. Resources are almost never recycled. Even the three forests seem to have different assets, and every dungeon has it's own graphical identity and often unique music. Monsters might be shared, but it thematically works. Honestly, this game could have been many times larger if they were willing to do what most games do and fluff it out with recycled dungeons. And though I wouldn't have minded them to do this with a few duplicate ones, I really enjoy the integrity of their vision.

    I hope this game does well enough to get a sequel. I imagine it'll be something you thoroughly enjoy once you get to play through it.

    1. I'm glad you're having fun with it. I wish I could have kept playing, but I didn't have time for two games at a time, and I needed to prioritize keeping the blog going. I hope to get back to it soon.

    2. Project Eternity is now called "Pillars of Eternity".

      The Witcher 3 is also on my watch list... as is Watch Dogs (not sure if there's enough RPG elements in there but looks pretty badass).

      Also, after Witcher 3, ProjektRed's next project will be Cyberpunk2077 which looks freaking great. Okay, I'm a sucker for cyberpunk.

  35. Bought the game on sale, although I don't have high hopes. Currently can't even play it because uplay keeps crashing.

    re: piracy - I don't get how some people are like: "DRM is against my principles, so I'm going to pirate this game!" So, if a vendor doesn't sell something configured the way you want it to be configured, you steal it from them instead? Interesting principles. One might call it 'motivated reasoning'.

    1. I've gotten more flexible on such things (and have now, shamefully purchased DRMed ebooks for my Kobo and number of DRMed Steam games), but I still boycott Audible and a few other places for DRM. While I don't pirate games or such, I just do without, XKCD makes a pretty good explanation of the practice: (And from what I understand, the legal repercussions for piracy are much less then breaking DRM.)

    2. The problem with the xkcd is that I can covert any iTunes purchase to an .mp3 with a simple right-click. iTunes manifestly supports this, so I don't know how I'll lose my collection or become a criminal if "things change."

      As for games, I don't really need them to be "mine for life." I just need them to be mine long enough until I get sick of them. Even if you pirate a game, it's eventually not going to work on some future OS.

      Still, I think your position is completely ethical: "While I don't pirate games or such, I just do without." I hate the argument that just because you don't like how something is sold, you have the right to get it for free.

    3. Just realized Tristan said the same thing in the original comment.

    4. iTunes does. Most other DRMed services do not. For example, Google Video back when you could buy video from it. When they shut it down, they didn't give you a way to export video, and didn't refund things, they just gave you credit on Google Wallet, so you could buy other things from people who used Google's Paypal competitor.

      Audible is a good example. If you are a Linux user, you HAVE to pirate anything on it, as they don't support linux. The only way to legally play Audible files on linux is buy them on Windows or Mac, download them, burn them to CD, then rip them to MP3. I did that with 1 novel for a friend once. It took several hours for one novel (Each CD only holds 70 minutes, and reading a whole book aloud is not a quick process.)

      The other REALLY skeezy thing companies are doing now is disabling multiplayer the second the sequel comes out, about a year later. Also, if you were doing a multiplayer career mode, deleting your save file, even if you have 200+ hours in it.
      I'm sure we are going to see companies shutting down DRM servers for single player games soon, once it costs more then they want to run them.
      Also: I don't get why you don't view that as bad. I play games from the 90s regularly, X-COM (Well, openXCom these days), Masters of Orion 2, Baldur's Gate (Enhanced Edition) mostly. Also Civ IV which is a modern game, but an older one now. Someday I'd like to get around to finishing Dragon Age: Origins.

      There is an option I've heard of people taking: Buying a boxed copy, leaving it sealed on the shelf with the recipt taped to it, then pirating the game since the pirated copy works better, since it doesn't need to be online to play.

      (Oh, I forgot: My Dad and I pirated Balder's Gate once, since our origional 6 CD set stopped working when we moved to Windows XP, but you could pirate patched versions of the game that did work.)

    5. Publishers push for these things in order to control the lifecycle of the product and push customers to the new games. This is why I had high hopes for the kickstarter models way of doing things. My hope is kickstarter and other non-traditional funding methods gut the publishing model as we know it now, and relegate them to more of a facilitator role than an ownership role in creative endeavors.

  36. Recent news has me thinking of a phrase, it rhymes with I TOLD YOU SO.

    relevant link:

  37. "As in IV-VIII, you routinely find barrels of liquids that, when drunk, increase resistance to magic or raise attributes."
    These barrels appear already in MM III, how you will soon discover, Chet.

  38. "I have deliberately avoided looking up any reviews of Might & Magic X, so it's entirely possible that I'm setting up a straw man, but I'm willing to bet that the word "retro" appears in the majority of them. I'll bet they talk about its tile-based movement as "old-fashioned" and its turn-based combat as "vintage." I'll bet more than one concludes with the sentiment that the game is likely to appeal mostly to those who grew up playing Might & Magic IV and V. It will be nice, if embarrassing, if I'm wrong."

    The review at Zero Punctuation Wiki says that if this is the latest and most advanced game in the series, then the first Might and Magic must have been played by drawing figures on cave walls. Rude and ignorant.

    "The world is governed by an empire, which has a religion focused on the worship of ancient Angels, accessible and present in mortal form. One of the Angels, Uriel, used the Emperor as pawns in a game of revenge against an ancient enemy, using "false flag" murders to incite the empire to war. Ultimately, crafty humans saw through "Uriel's Deception" and, I don't know, somehow overthrew him. (The narration says he was punished by dragons, but I'm not sure where they come into all this.)"

    Like Heroes VI and VII, MM X is set generations before Heroes V. The Human-led Falcon Empire (Griffin Empire by the time of Heroes V) is the largest military power on Ashan and worships Elrath, the Dragon of Light. The first two Dragon Gods were Asha, the Dragon of Order and Urgash, the Dragon of Chaos. Urgash created the Demons. Asha created the world and the other six Dragon Gods are her children. The eldest of those are Elrath, who created the Angels, and Malassa, the Dragon of Darkness, who created the Faceless (the ancient enemy you mentioned, whom Uriel turned the Empire against through false flag operations). The rest are Ylath, the Dragon of Air, who created the Humans, Sylanna, the Dragon of Earth, who created the Elves, Arkath, the Dragon of Fire, who created the Dwarves, and Shalassa, the Dragon of Water, who created the Nagas.

    Most Humans now worship Elrath and are part of the Griffin Empire. Those in the Free Cities still worship Ylath, who's a more live-and-let-live dude not as worried about being worshipped. The wizards of the Seven Cities (Silver Cities by the time of Heroes V) are atheistic, and their spinoff the necromancers of Heresh worship Asha in an aspect as a spider death goddess. The Sylvan Elves still worship Sylanna and the renegade Dark Elves who live underground now worship Malassa. The Dwarves still worship Arkath and the Nagas (who lead the Lotus Empire of the Jade Ocean centered on the island of Hashima and have some Humans and Sea Elves under them) still worship Shalassa. The Orcs (created by wizards experimenting with Demon blood on criminals and prisoners) worship Mother Earth and Father Sky, who may be aspects of Sylanna and Ylath.

    "Don't like: The game hasn't been out long enough for some wiki to help me keep it all straight."

    The Might and Magic Wiki is pretty informative, actually. That's how I know the Ashan lore without having played most of the Ashan games.

    "Don't like: No evocatively-written descriptions of items like in VI-VIII."

    Hum. Those were cool, why would they not have them?

    "Like: A ton of side quests in addition to the main quests."

    That's always good. Diverting and makes the world feel bigger.


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