Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer
Might and Magic 8 brings some novelty, not enough change.
Not long ago we were roaming across the lands of Erathia in Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor. Utilizing the same less-than-stellar technology that powered the last two versions of the series, Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer takes place in the land of Jadame, a land as diverse as any other, where the core gameplay remains the same. As a party of adventurers seeking to banish evil, you go around exploring massive 3D environments, talk to people, solve quests, hoard gold and buy better equipment. Itâ€™s all standard Might and Magic fare.
In fact, Day of the Destroyer is the exact same Might and Magic for the third time in three years. Many have pointed a finger solely at the dated technology and dismissed it as a lesser sequel. Fortunately the technology doesnâ€™t significantly affect the overall experience. Once you care to look past its limitations, the sprite-based visuals become an almost irrelevant detail, as you can get immersed in any world if itâ€™s well designed and presented consistently.
Think of Day of the Destroyer as the anti-Ultima IX Ascension; while it lacks that gameâ€™s graphical detail, it runs more fluidly, is less buggy (though not perfect), and a thousand times more consistent to the universe it depicts. But overall it’s not a lengthy adventure by any stretch, weighing it at a ‘mere’ fifty or so hours of gameplay, around half of other Might and Magic games. It’s also a bit easier than past games, although not exactly friendly to people who’ve never touched the series before.
Unlike the past two games in the series, you start with a single character of your own creation instead of an entire party, and have the possibility of recruiting would-be adventurers as you go. Some will only join you when you reach a certain level, and if you canâ€™t fit them in now, theyâ€™ll leave and wait at the Inn for your approval. It’s an interesting change overall. But in practice, odds are youâ€™ll want to keep the characters you start with because of their customized skillsets. Unless of course you know when and where to find the best recruits, in which case you’ll end up with a party that’s somewhat overpowered.
Despite their vast racial differences – elves, trolls, minotaurs, vampires, dragons – characters really serve more as missile launchers, spell casters and luggage carriers. They have no discernible personalities, with the exception of a couple of characters youâ€™re forced to recruit in order to complete some quests and probably wonâ€™t keep around for too long.
The plot, though, is actually surprisingly interesting. You start the game hired by the Merchants of Alvar to guard a trade caravan whose final destination was the Lizardman village on Dagger Wound Islands. The opening movie reveals a mysterious figure entering Ravenshore, the major town near the center of Jadame. Later revealed to be the Destroyer himself, he summons a giant monolith that opens four inter-dimensional gateways on the corners of the continent that lead to the planes of Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Apparently a great cataclysm will ensue because of this, and your cracksquad of wizards, warriors, vampires and such are destined to prevent it.
Once again, New World has added some intrigue into the mix. In Might and Magic VII, you had to choose between the light and dark paths; similarly in Day of the Destroyer, you need to get three of five factions working with you. The two that do not join are in opposition to the one that does, so for instance, you have to ally with the Dragons or the Dragon Hunters; you canâ€™t be on good terms with both.
The plot ties in considerably better with the game as a whole than it has in past versions. For one thing, it omits most of the lame science-fiction that always seems oddly out of place even in a game that doesnâ€™t really take itself seriously. Thereâ€™s a better sense that the entire story was conceptualized as a whole and not just sort of thrown together. And the cut scenes that detail major events in the game are considerably better than they have been in previous games. Where in the past they were often embarrassing, the ones in Day of the Destroyer are cool.
In With The Old
New World could still stand to work on making each area of their worlds more believable, though. Every area has a dungeon or two, and a few unique beasts, but thatâ€™s pretty much it. Itâ€™s all very predictable. And the game would have a lot more perceived depth if each area, and each dungeon within the area, were better justified within the gameâ€™s fiction, even if itâ€™s ultimately irrelevant to the main plotline. Yet another continuous lack of depth is infused by the billboard-like non-player characters everywhere, who deliver small chunks of info here and there but whom you will never mistake for a living, breathing populace. They resemble virtual signposts.
Some of the dungeons and castles in Day of the Destroyer are well designed. In particular, the various elemental plane areas are pretty nifty, and most of the interior designs work particularly well given the limitations of the gameâ€™s technology. The game doesnâ€™t have many puzzles, though long-time fans of the series will be ecstatic (or horrified, depending on your outlook) over three riddles youâ€™ll need to solve very late in the game. Some of the dungeons rely too heavily on finding levers and switches that are almost invisible because the artwork tends to blend into the backgrounds.
And youâ€™ll be doing a lot more environment exploring this time out. For whatever reason (perhaps to bolster the gameâ€™s length), New World has modified the availability of the Lloydâ€™s Beacon and Town Portal Spells. Now they are only usable by a character with the Master or Grandmaster skill (respectively) in Water magic. They used to be available earlier in the game, and allowed you to take shortcuts across the map and skip a lot of needlessly boring backtracking. Along for the ride is the same annoying spreading out of teachers (NPCs who upgrade your skills), which remains an issue still despite some lukewarm interface upgrades.
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Back are some of the old issues that plagued the series, some mildly annoying than others. For instance, upgrading character skills is still a huge hassle. While the map does mark teachers locally, knowing where they are scattered globally constitutes a larger problem. With a total of eight regions, you have to make mental notes of where you have to go to upgrade skill X, Y and Z. Another issue is that some skills can’t be upgraded until very late into the game. For instance, while the Cleric can upgrade his spell skillsets to GM as early as level 25, getting the Necromancer to the same level will require your party reach around level 40-50.
Concluding, if it’s more of the same you’re looking for then you’ve found your pot of gold. Retaining the same gameplay mechanics and vibe of the previous two Might and Magic games give this sequel a nice feeling of continuity, and most of the new additions are positive. You may initially wonder why youâ€™re playing, but 40 hours later you realize you had a pretty good time, in that traditional, albeit all-too-familiar, hack-and-slash role-playing kind of way.
System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 375 MB HDD Space, Win 95/98