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Might and Magic VI - The Mandate of Heaven
- New World Computing (3DO)
thumb1.jpg (17911 bytes)   Fun Factor 8
  Addiction Factor 10
  Interface/Gameplay 9
  Graphics 8
  Sound 8
  Multi-Player N/A
  Bonus/Penalty 10
  Overall Score 8.83
At a Glance:

Might and Magic VI, The Mandate of Heaven, is, at it’s core, a role-playing game based on the tried-and-tested game engine which powered the popular Might and Magic III game by New World Computing. For those who haven’t played that classic game, it was considered by many to be the finest RPG of it’s time, with a simple turn-based, first-person perspective and an impressive depth of play that was reminiscent of the even more classic and revered Wizardry series from Sir-Tech. With all the elements of gameplay that hard-core role-players have come to expect from their old favorites such as detailed character creation, character development, inventory management, heavy combat, and exploration, this is a long-awaited sequel that promises to fill the RPG vacancy left since the near-disappearance of this genre over the past couple of years.

Game Setting:

Might and Magic VI (MM6) is set in the fantasy world of Enroth, the same land in which the immensely popular Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) series took place. In a somewhat unique strategy within the gaming world, New World Computing has continued and developed a single plot (that of Roland and Archibald and the land of Enroth) across completely different game platforms, RPG (MM6) and turn-based war/strategy (HOMM). I will not give away too much of the very detailed plot here, but suffice it to say, there is plenty of character interaction and plot development in this game, which picks up where HOMM left off and tells of the fate of Roland and his family as well as the rest of Enroth.

Character Creation and Development:

Most RPGs’ success or failure begin with their character creation system and MM6 is no exception. Though initially it may seem a bit weak in variety, sporting only six character classes and one race (human), you will soon find that there is a remarkable depth in the character system that goes far beyond these initial figures. Each character class is capable of an amazing and completely customizable array of skills and abilities, which results in very detailed and separate player characters. From the mundane weapon and defensive skills (of which there are several styles to choose form) to the more specialized and fantastic abilities (such as lockpicking, item repair, and nine very specialized realms of magic), there is a whole array of choices to make when creating your alter-egos in MM6. Not only is there a numerical figure assigned to each skill in MM6, there are also levels of mastery you can attain in each (such as Expert and Master swordsman) which have profound effect on the capabilities of your character. In addition, each character class is capable of attaining higher status through quests and adventures, becoming much more powerful and adept in their profession (such as a Paladin becoming a Crusader then Hero). Experience is gained through combat and quests. As you gain levels through experience, you are awarded skill points which you apply to your various skills. This makes for a truly deep and satisfying character creation and development system and is a major strong point in MM6.

The Game Engine:

MM6 is played in the traditional Might and Magic format – that is to say, first-person perspective with player icons placed along the border which serve as both access-buttons and player-character status indicators. These highly animated buttons show whether your characters are cursed, drunk, tired, poisoned, or otherwise afflicted by a host of nasty conditions which can come from adventuring in the MM6 world. There is also a very good automapper which is always available, as well as a host of task-specific buttons that make the task of adventuring and character/inventory/skill management easy and intuitive for the player. In a departure from the previous MM games, MM6 uses a flexible real-time/turn-based system which gives the player a choice of how to handle combat according to tastes and situation. While I was at first quite skeptic of this system, it has proved to be a very well-implemented way to handle movement and combat. It is possible, for example, to rush into a pack of enemies dodging spells and missiles, then switch into turn-based mode and systematically slash, crush, and burn your hapless (or maybe not-so-hapless) foes at your leisure. Hotkeys are available to suit both real-time and turn-based modes, enabling you to fire commonly-used spells and shoot arrows with ease, even while in the midst of frantic movement and combat.

The game interface is quite intuitive and well-thought-out. There are a few areas that could be improved (such as key customization and an auto-run feature) but for the most part, the basics of movement and combat are very easily learned in MM6 with little need to even look at the manual.

There have been a few complaints about the lack of 3-D support in MM6, and while this would have been a very welcome improvement, the folks at New World Computing can still be commended for creating such a visually rich and detailed world with only a 2-D engine. Every city, dungeon, castle, and region within the game sports a wide variety of textures and colors, from tiled floors, to stained glass windows, to dark shadowy corridors, to towering mountain faces, and wide-open landscapes. Some slower computers may experience choppiness during fast movement and combat, but for the most part the game runs very well on P166 computers and above.

Game Environment:

The effort that went into the creation of the world of Enroth is evident everywhere in MM6. Each region and city has a unique layout and "feel", based not only on the buildings and natural terrain, but also on changing time and weather conditions. Monsters are also quite varied from place to place, ranging from roving goblins to massive dragons and titans. Many will be slightly put off by the amount of combat involved in travel from place to place, especially in the more difficult areas, but others will revel in the chance to wade through hordes of hostile creatures. Dungeons vary greatly in difficulty and perhaps enjoyability. There are puzzles and secrets galore in these places, but unfortunately many of them have been made daunting by sheer numbers of monsters and foes. This is one of the few major complaints I have with MM6. I would have preferred a few much more difficult creatures in some of the dungeons rather than legions of mediocre ones. On the upside, when your characters reach a sufficiently high level, it is possible to wade into combat using the real-time system and quickly dispatch multiple enemies in a short time.

Quests are of major importance in MM6 and you will find a wide range of tasks waiting for your party of adventurers, ranging from fixing broken items across the land to slaying mighty dragons for powerful rulers. NPC interaction is also of great importance in this game, and you will find yourself speaking to a wide array of personages within the land of Enroth. NPCs will even join your party and though they won’t actively participate in combat, they can enhance your party with special skills such as diplomacy, magic, or combat training. This is a living, breathing world where placement of people and objects can change with time and world-shaking events.

The Good – In Summary:

MM6 is very welcome return to the classic RPG formula which spurred the success of many previous games in a genre that has gone without much new material in a very long time. Depth of character development and gameplay is very good and very satisfying for the avid RPG fan.

The Bad – In Summary:

The large amount of combat necessary, especially towards the end of the game, can be a turn-off to some players. Some monster-placement is a bit unrealistic, even for a fantasy world (such as a large pack of hostile magic-users milling about outside of a town). Auto-run feature and key-customization would be a plus.

Tips For Beginners:

It is VERY important to create a well-balanced party in MM6. While it is marginally possible to go with 4 PCs of a single class, it makes the game very difficult if you don’t have a good spread of skills covering magic, combat, and utilitarian fields. Make sure you have at least one healer and two sorcerous types in your party. Knights are far less useful than Paladins in the later game. Make sure to have at least one character proficient in lockpicking and merchant skills. Having a character gain Water Magic Mastery is one of the big turning points in the game. Go to Freehaven for the widest array of spells to be found in one city.

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