Review by wisher21

Reviewed: 12/03/01 | Updated: 12/03/01

1993 Game of the Year

I really enjoyed Might and Magic Isles of Terra. At the time, it was one of the most advanced RPGs available on any system. I have played through this game many times; to me it's much like watching an old movie again and again. You always pick up something that you missed, and it's still a very enjoyable experience.

The story of Might and Magic is a cross between a futuristic world and a fantasy setting, not unlike the Shannara books by Terry Brooks. There is an ancient race, called the ancients, who dominate the story as you progress towards the endgame.

The map of the game is divided into 24 grids, A through F and 1 through 4 (A1, A2, F4, etc.) You start in the town Fountain Head on grid A1. There are four other towns as well as an extensive amount of outdoor areas and dungeons. Especially the dungeons. This game is geared much more towards fighting and less towards dialog and story. If you like hack and slash and solving pull this level open this gate or going through mazes and using an extensive number of spells to get through areas and win fights, you will enjoy this game. If on the other hand you want a long involved story might I recommend Final Fantasy.

The fights and getting through the dungeons, as well as figuring out the answers to questions to enter certain dungeons can be quite challenging. A good example is an optional maze in the World of Xeen where you have to solve a huge crossword puzzle in order to progress to the next level. Puzzles like that are the most frequent.

Before I get into the actual scores, I would like to point out that Might and Magic has 8 games in the DOS/ Windows format, not including Heroes and other spin-offs. The first two might and magic games, while advanced at the time, are essentially text based DOS games with limited appeal for someone who never played them at the time, or someone wanting to see what video games were like almost 20 years ago.

The next three games, Might and Magic 3 Isles of Terra, 4 Clouds of Xeen and 5 Darkside of Xeen (4 and 5 could also be combined to get a third scenario and ending, World of Xeen. If you play 4 and 5 I recommend installing both so you can play as a whole world, going back and forth between the two sides as you please.) were all based on an extremely similar engine. While not 3D, the graphics are still good, and the next 3 games 6, 7, and 8 are all based on a similar 3D engine with much the same 'look and feel' of 3, 4, and 5.

If you are new to the series I recommend 6; while not my favourite, it has a wider appeal to most modern or younger gamers. 3, 4, and 5 are all DOS based and likely *will not run* in windows; if you have Windows XP or NT it will be very difficult to get these games to run properly with sound, if at all. Don't get me wrong, it's not like setting up Ultima 7 but still it is entirely DOS based and requires a lot of free RAM under 640k.

All that aside, Might and Magic 3 is an amazing game, still to this day. What really helps the playability of Might and Magic 3 over other games at the time was the advent of an auto-mapping function. As soon as you have a character with the cryptography skill, which is easy to get at the very beginning, there is a map generated automatically, which allowed people who relied on graph paper to do the mapping to take a break and enjoy the game. Also by casting the low level spell wizard eye, a map appears in the upper right hand corner at all times.

In Might and Magic 3, you have your choice to play as a human, elf, dwarf, or half orc in one of many character classes including sorcerer, cleric, ranger, paladin, knight, barbarian, thief, ninja, archer, druid. However a good ways into the game, any character can learn any skill, so class becomes less important; I recommend all beginning characters have at least some spell casting ability. Another advent of the party system in MM3 is that you can have a party of 6 characters in addition to two hirelings, for a total of 8 fully playable characters.

As far as scope of the game, MM3 is large but nowhere near as expansive (80 hours or more) as MM world of xeen. MM3 could be completed in a few days (40 or so hours) by a seasoned gamer who knew exactly what they were doing. Nevertheless a first time through in this game would be easily 50 hours. There are five towns each with a dungeon, and huge numbers of other dungeons. The goal in the first part of the game is to open up the towns and later to decide whether good, evil or neutrality will prevail. The endgame is a futuristic struggle for control of the world.

Sound- 9. The midi music is quite good, and the sound effects are equally stellar. It's not CD audio quality but still, you have to remember this game is coming up on 10 years old. Also has some limited speech at critical points, not unlike Ultima 7. Supports Roland, the de rigueur industry standard as well as soundblaster.

Graphics- 10 These graphics set the standard at the time, and I still think they look better than quite a few 3D games being made today. The enemies are somewhat blocky, but this game is 256 colors not 16.7 million.

Combat System/ Interface - 10 Intuitive and configurable. You can set your characters on a type of 'auto fight' where they cast the same spell or attack each time by pressing the same key. At any time you may regain full control. Movement is simple, commands are well laid out. Use of the mouse is optional but recommended for some commands. Fights, especially later in the game can be very tactical.
All combat is completely turn based. Opening up a crate while walking on water, only to release 3 kudo crabs and realize you have no town portal and haven't saved for a very long time can be very harrowing. You can escape from fights in a limited way; however, you may end up in a situation just as bad or worse.

Difficulty - Not overly difficult; some of the optional bosses and enemies can be extremely challenging. By level 80 to 100 the party is uberpowerful enough to kill anything. Except the megadragon in MM world of xeen.

Replayability - This is one of the several games in the series that I keep coming back for more. I enjoy MM3 more than Baldur's Gate or Diablo II with all of the technological advances because of the attention to minute details. While not completely bug-free, I have only ever seen two bugs, neither of which cause any real issues in the game. Dungeon maps are carefully crafted. Bosses are difficult enough to be quite challenging, especially in the beginning, but not so much that you feel like you can't win. If 3D0 revamped this game and put it out again it would still fly off the shelves.

Overall - What a righteous game. If you really enjoy RPGs , especially classic games like Eye of the Beholder and Ultima 7, you will in all likelihood enjoy this game and its subtle humour.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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