Crusaders of Might and Magic

3_1Might and Magic: The 3D Action Game.

Upon its arrival, Crusaders of Might and Magic sparked interest with promises of an innovative action/role-playing game. The detailed, fast-paced combat blends well with the game’s basic character development, but the overall experience is dampened by a variety of flaws. Crusaders ends up being a game that is completely playable in the simple hack and slash sort of way, yet it falls short of its potential.

Crusaders of Might and Magic pits you against the Legion of the Fallen as Drake, the Scarred One, a man who has devoted his life to avenging his hometown. For 20 years, Drake has sought to take vengeance against the necromancer responsible, Necros. With you controlling him, however, Drake will surely avenge his village within the week. Your journey begins after Drake is captured by the Legion, and you must escape from the Stronghold.

Throughout your quest, you will find will find new items and equipment, and Drake’s strength will increase as you level. While you have stats for might, speed, intelligence and endurance, these values will not increase as you level; you must find magical items to boost them. Leveling grants extra hitpoints and mana, plus your damage modifier is increased. Developing your character is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game, as you will always be finding a new piece of equipment when you level.

15_1Aside from character development, combat is the other area in which Crusaders succeeds. Once you learn the controls, it is always enjoyable to hack your way through anything that opposes you, and combat is always rewarding. You receive experience and items for every creature you kill. Drake can perform a variety of actions, such as rolling, sidestepping, jumping and blocking. All of these actions can be used effectively, but blocking is easily the most important. Blocking isn’t completely effective – you have to align your shield to an enemy swing, an initially interesting skill to master.

You’ll fight through a variety of indoor and outdoor areas, all of them connected through seamless end-of-level loading transitions. The levels, however, arean’t nearly as interesting as they could have been. All the outdoor areas are large, featureless canyons, where you will always be surrounded by two sheer cliffs. It looks so bland that even the older Might and Magic games presented more creative level design. Dungeon design is more interesting (the engine itself is obviously better geared towards rendering indoor areas), but they too eventually start to crack under an irritating feeling of sameness.

16_1While there is some semblance of a plot, there is almost nothing beneath the surface. You will complete your quest without ever feeling as if there is any point to your adventure — you’re simply hacking through hordes of skeletons for fun. A number of music tracks are borrowed from Heroes 2 and Might and Magic 7, so the music is obviously good. As in the Might and Magic games, the music doesn’t change with combat. Battle drums will beat loudly in the background while you wander through town conversing with the people.

Crusaders is seriously lacking in the area of monsters. You start off the game fighting skeletons, and you finish the game fighting skeletons. There really aren’t enough other things to kill, which is again surprising considering the huge number of monsters found in the Heroes / Might and Magic universe. It’s a bit of a disappointment overall, and in the end one could find more rewarding a gaming experience from re-playing the older but meatier Might and Magic games.

System Requirements: Pentium 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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