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Might & Magic X Review

by Dteowner, 2014-04-14

Limbic Entertainment, under the umbrella of Ubisoft, was kind enough to give RPGWatch a preview of their recent release, Might and Magic X: Legacy via an early release key.  I took the opportunity to play and generated a preview .  Now that the game has been fully released, I'd like to circle back and describe how Limbic revised the game between early and full release.

 

As before, a few bits of necessary background before we get started.

My early release key updated the game to full functionality as expected. I also received the recently released DLC without issue. The game is delivered via Steam. As with all Ubisoft games, MMX requires a registration via their UPlay service. Just like with the early release, it appears Uplay just does a "phone home". I did test it this time and could continue playing MMX even when I turned my router off (although Steam did squawk, as expected). So, same as before, those with strong anti-DRM stances will have to make a decision on this game. I found UPlay to be unobtrusive and the UPlay crashes I had during the early release period did not repeat during the full release.

I actually got a new rig between the early and full release, so I played the full version on a system well above the requirements. I tried the game with all graphics options on maximum and had no performance issues.

I expect that was a combination of modern hardware and some optimization of code since the early release. I did note that, on a few occasions, my laptop was generating significant heat causing the fans to kick into high gear. Based on what I saw and several comments from RPGWatch, it's clear that the game code is still not fully optimized. I solved the problem by turning shadows down several notches. Once I did that, my heat issues were resolved and honestly I didn't notice any difference in the appearance of the game. Limbic actually instituted a throttle on graphics options based on the user's system when the full version was released. That decision caused a bit of an uproar, but I understand the logic. Limbic basically forced their customers into stable settings, putting a priority on stability over fancy graphics. I applaud the choice, given the usual approach of game developers and publishers these days to knowingly put buggy games on the market.

 

So then, what about the game?

I put in just under 40 hours with the early release and my steam timer now shows 110 hours of playing. The developers said early on that they were targeting 30 hours of gameplay. I mowed every map in the game except two (I didn't bother unlocking the Uplay bonus Meow dungeon and haven't started the DLC), plus the user-made Fortress of Crows dungeon. I went through the entire game without using the Beacon spell (by simple omission at first, by prideful choice at the end) so my playtime will be inflated somewhat. That said, I'm confident that Limbic hit their 30 hour target. Most people with an interest in old-skool, first person, turn-based, blob party RPGs are going to be explorers at heart, so expect 35-45 hours of playing from this budget title.

Your party consists of 4 heroes. There are 4 races and each race has 3 classes- a melee type, a caster type, and a hybrid type. Those 12 options are varied enough that you'll be able to put together a party that interests you, although the game mechanics will push your choices somewhat (more on that later). The mechanics of building your characters is simple to grasp, with helpful tool tips to detail the finer points. Once you fill out your crew, the game drops you in the starter town and turns you loose.

The gameplay hasn't changed much since the preview, so I'll gloss over that a bit. Suffice to say that veterans of the M&M series will find the experience very familiar while adding useful modern touches.

There's a wide variety of environments, both indoor and outdoor, and a huge amount of combat. The game does an excellent job of matching enemy power to party abilities, but this isn't some level-scaled walk in the park. You will encounter monsters fairly early in your adventure that your party will not be prepared to handle. It's an appropriate following of the M&M series, which allowed you to go nearly anywhere but stomped you to a bloody smear on the ground if you blindly wandered into a new area too soon. Overall, I found the balance extremely well done. I was challenged at times, but overall the game wasn't too difficult. Since I, and I'm guessing most gamers interested in this title, was far more interested in revisiting the exploration and character development found in the original series than worrying about surviving every single battle, Limbic did a fine job. There is a more challenging difficulty setting available, but "word on the street" was that even that setting wasn't terribly difficult.

The story was fairly standard RPG heroics. I actually thought there was more story in MMX than what I remember from MM6 and MM7. It serves its purpose of moving the party from one area to another without being overly boring or overly annoying. Yes, you're saving the world once again, but that's 99% of RPGs so it's no real surprise. There's numerous sources of lore in the world, with dozens of in-game books to collect and read and NPCs that all have something say. M&M vets will enjoy the numerous references to previous games in the series. The story is supposed to properly fit within the canon established in the M&M and HoMM series.

Graphics were just fine. Admittedly, I'm not much of a graphics whore, but Limbic was able to get the Unity engine to do what was needed. That engine simply isn't going to compete with Skyrim graphics, but I don't think that's really the point anyway. I mentioned the shadow issue earlier. Outside of that, I had no real problems with the visuals. I thought the "average" was a little too dark. Not as in mood, but simply in terms of being able to see. There are several spells to help brighten things up, but it certainly forces you to respect the day/night cycle because you can't see a thing in the dark. That's actually reasonable and realistic, but it still detracts a bit from the experience.

I don't generally pay much attention to the music in my games. MMX had music and it wasn't bad at all. Some of the themes are even a little catchy. The bangs and clangs of combat were well done and the character barks were varied and numerous enough that they didn't become too distracting.

 

OK, give us the bad news first

Limbic did a great job of listening to their community and fixing problems since the early release came out. That said, there were still a few things that could have used a little more polish.

If you think back to MM7, each class could get a promotion. If you didn't have a given class in your party, you received an "honorary" promotion instead. MMX follows the recipe with promotion titles, but omits the honorary branch. From a character development standpoint, there's no effect, but it does have a negative impact on the game. Many of the promotion quests have dungeons associated with them. If you can't pick up the promotion quest because you don't have the specific class in your party, you end up running the dungeon just because it's there. That doesn't really hurt anything, but with an established approach for keeping all the promotion quests viable and valuable, I don't understand why Limbic chose to omit it. The content is already there, so the omission wouldn't have saved much coding time.

Remember the joy of getting Lloyd's Beacon and finally being able to zip around the huge M&M worlds? Well, the spell's still there, but not quite the same. Instead of setting 5 locations, you get one. The Beacon spell served a valuable purpose in the M&M series- it allowed you to quickly move around the world at a point in the game where the exploration was already done. It allowed you to increase the flow of the game at a point in the game where most players were ready to "get on with it". Limiting the beacon spell as Limbic did seems unwise.

MMX isn't into holding your hand much, which I like. That's very true to the original franchise and old skool RPG in general. I did run into a point where the "mystery" of not being led around by the nose caused some frustration, though. Toward the end of act 2, my quest journal was overflowing with half a million active quests. Being a complete-ist and a map mower, I had been all over the game world with a fine-toothed comb, conquering more than a few dungeons without putting a dent in the journal (probably promotion quests that I wasn't eligible for, see above). The fact is that many of those quests cannot be completed until moving on to act 3. That's perfectly fine, but perhaps some of those quests wouldn't have been made available so soon, or the quest giver would offer a vague hint that it might be a while before it could be completed. I marched back thru more than one dungeon thinking that perhaps I overlooked something that I needed to complete any of that stack of open quests. Not the end of the world by any stretch, but an unnecessary frustration.

Finally, there remains some balance issues that I noted in my preview. There's still no healing spells immediately available to the party. You've got to make expert rank to be able to cast those spells. With the amount of combat in the game, there should have been a "cure light wounds" available immediately. Limbic did make some changes to help with that problem by making potions (healing and mana, both) more readily available and in greater quantities, but a simple spell would have been nice. Along those same lines, a couple spell schools are FAR more useful than the rest. A party without a good earth school caster is in for a rough ride because the most practical healing spell and one of the most useful enemy debuff spells in the game are both higher (expert and master) level earth spells. Similarly, the low level light magic buff, celestial armor, is both too useful and too powerful for a novice level spell. One of the characters in my party was a druid and his sole function in life was to keep casting celestial armor and regenerate on the party during every battle. Granted, the gamer isn't forced to follow that strategy, but it's too simple and too effective not to do so. That takes away from your "wise" choices at party creation. There were similar balance issues with some of the melee classes.

 

And yet...

Overall, the game was fantastic, particularly for a budget title from a small developer. I had a blast playing the game and more than once found myself playing far longer than intended to do "just one more" map or quest. Limbic clearly has a passion for, and a deep understanding of, the factors that made the Might and Magic games classics. Throughout the development process, they listened to their core audience and actually made changes requested by the community. The game was released with no major bugs at all and even the trivial ones were promptly cleaned up via patch. In an age where developers tend to use their customers for QA and regularly ignore what their customers ask for, Limbic's approach was a breath of fresh air. Although Ubisoft doesn't have a great reputation with gamers these days, they deserve some credit for allowing Limbic to do the job right.

The game plays like a M&M game, with modern graphics and modern game mechanics (do we really pine for the days of needing graph paper to map, or even the days when there were in-game maps but they couldn't be annotated?). In a big callback to an easter egg from an earlier M&M game, there's a bonus dungeon that mimics the developer's offices.

There's puzzles and riddles. There's a variety of monsters to kill and a varied world to kill them in. While the world isn't MM6-huge (very few games are, after all), it never feels small. There's character development out the wazoo. Simply put, Might and Magic Ten: Legacy can wear the Might and Magic mantle with pride, unlike that game released after MM8 which won't be named in polite company. Limbic got it right, folks. It's just plain fun to play. If you enjoyed the M&M series or the Wizardry series back in the day, quit dithering and buy the game. Trust me on this one.

There's no requirement to have previous experience with the M&M franchise. While I do think old farts such as yours truly will have a greater appreciation for the game and be able to glory in a heaping helping of nostalgia while playing, there's plenty for newcomers to like. The game stands up well on its own merits. If nothing else, newcomers will gain a first-hand understanding of what we're talking about when we start waxing poetic about, "I remember when..." Before we yell at you to get off our lawn...

Box Art

Information about

Might & Magic X: Legacy

Developer: Limbic Entertainment

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: 20-40 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced

Regions & platforms
World
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2014-01-24
· Publisher: Ubisoft

More information


Other articles

Summary

Pros

  • Old skool goodness
  • Faithful re-creation of the M&M series
  • Significant amount of content
  • Basically bug-free at release

Cons

  • Some engine optimization issues
  • Minor balance issues
  • Could use a higher difficulty setting

Rating

Review version

Opinions from other editors

Corwin: I agree with everything Dteowner has written. The game is a blast from start to finish. While some dungeons are similar to others, many are quite different where a change in approach or tactics is needed. It also caters to all play styles and any party mix. I chose to run 2 Druids and 2 Freemages (not the best choice, but who needs people with pointy sticks) :) and while some areas were a challenge (mana sucking monsters make mages drink potions nearly every other round) I managed to complete the game and one of the optional dungeons. The only other negative I might add is a personal dislike in game design; spawn ambushes. Everything is clear, you take one step and suddenly 6-12 critters spawn in front, behind, and beside you. I like to SEE the mobs before they suddenly attack so I can plan and implement a decent strategy. At least it's TB combat so you do have time to make some plan. My final comment: Get this game and enjoy some Old Skule fun.