Might & Magic: World of Xeen (1994)

Might_and_Magic_IV_cover Might_and_Magic_V_cover

This is actually the fusion of two games: Might & Magic 4: Clouds of Xeen (1992) and Might & Magic 5: Darkside of Xeen (1993) enhanced with digital speech and published together on a CD (although that was not needed, fusing the disk versions of the two games was also possible).

World of Xeen is the conclusion of the Corak/Sheltem storyline, that began with the first Might & Magic. While fantasy games on the surface, underneath it’s all science fiction. The real story is that of Sheltem, a rogue creation of the Ancient starts trouble on a number of Worlds, all of them artificial (which is something you’ll only realize in hindsight, not something that is obvious from the game start).

A short look at the game(s) gives the impression of playing a real time block-mode game like Eye of the Beholder: enemies can be seen from afar and come slowly closer. Once you start playing longer you’ll realize your error. Enemies only react to what you’re doing, with the combat being completely round-based. Combat, as you’ll find out, is a major part of the whole Might & Magic experience. This is something of a refined old-school PC RPG. Most of the time, while exploring the overworld or the dungeons of the game, you’re fighting countless enemies and collect clues for a number of (partly inane) puzzles. There’s no dialog system, NPCs only sell stuff or train you. Fight, groom your characters, solve puzzles, and find the bad, big boss.

The most distinctive element of the game is the art direction. Some enemies look quite well designed while others are plain ridiculous. If your characters are poisoned or otherwise inflicted, their faces show a grimace that is hard to take seriously. If you hit enemies they likewise show a pained face that’s more fun than gore. The world in Might & Magic has nothing of the complex and rich history of other RPGs; it’s all about covering the basics: a fire dungeon, an ice dungeon, a desert, a dungeon with dragons and so on.

Despite the lack of depth, the games are pure fun if you manage to appreciate the light hearted atmosphere. And the challenge of the game is quite modest and there’s countless stuff to do (the fusion of part four and five adds even some dungeons and another final ending). Overall World of Xeen is my favorite Might & Magic (with the third one a close second).