Magic & Mayhem II: The Art of Magic

5_1Art of Magic, the sequel to Magic & Mayhem, is a strategy role-playing hybrid that tells the story of a young man (brave, naive) who seeks to rescue his sister (buxom, don’t need no man) from the clutches of a wizard (deep-voiced, ruthless) with the aid of female companions (courageous, don’t need no man). The plot isn’t exactly jaw-dropping, nor are the cutscenes. Characters join in conversations from yards away, while walls and rooftops obscure your view of the action. Other conversations commence mid-battle—all the assorted combatants simply freeze in place while the main characters chat.

Thankfully, the strategic elements are more engaging. A typical mission (defeat the goblin king, steal the giant’s keys) begins with spell preparation, during which you tinker with combinations of magic items and talismans to create the optimal blend of spells for the task that lies ahead. Casting these spells uses mana, which regenerates proportionally based on the number of Places of Power that you control.

The majority of missions pit you against rival wizards who dispatch their minions to these mana hotspots (you do the same). It’s an interesting strategic mini-game that is complemented by helpful unit AI, a smart interface, and a pause feature that allows issue commands at your leisure. Spell effects are appropriately impressive, as are character animations (the moving and fighting animations, specifically—the simplistic conversation arm-waving is less engaging).

It’s not the prettiest game in the world, and some of the visual design choices are disappointing. Rather than making the tree and rooftops transparent, the game engine only allows you to toggle them on and off. The resulting clear-cut is like a scene straight out of The Lorax, but it’s not particularly attractive. At its strategic heart, however, Art of Magic is a fairly entertaining blend of role-playing and tactical strategy.

System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 128 MB RAM, Win98

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