Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor
Like just about every Might & Magic fan I know I was surprised to be presented with Chapter VII in the series so soon after Chapter VI. Very pleasantly surprised, I must say. Though there are no revolutionary changes to the graphics or to the game engine, I'm not complaining. I'd rather have another game here and now than wait forever for a complete overhaul. Thankfully, I'm not always chasing a bigger and better computer (finances don't permit) so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to play it minus a 3D card although it does support 3D acceleration.
Having said that, Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor does have a number of improvements. It also has the usual wealth of statistics, skills, spells, quests and monsters to keep players like me well and truly occupied. In particular the story is much more prominent from an early stage in the game. This episode is set in the land of Erathia and it opens with a challenge for you to begin honing your party, after which your reward will be dominion over the disputed district of Harmondale that is claimed by both the Elves and Humans. At this point you have a choice to align with either side by completing a couple of small quests. Then soon after the Arbiter of this dispute dies and, as Lords or Ladies of the manor, you must decide on a replacement Arbiter, either one aligned with Dark or one aligned with Light. This then leads you along different paths with different quests and adds a good measure of replayablility to the game.
As anyone who has played a Might and Magic game will know you begin by picking up a predetermined party of four or designing your own characters. Unlike M&MVI which skimped in this area, there is a choice of races: Human, Goblin, Dwarf or Elf. There is, of course, also a selection of classes with some extras added in, and a huge array of skills to learn. As usual you must strive to improve your experience level and improve your specific skills and in this game there is an added proficiency of Grandmaster following those of Expert and Master.
Party selection is crucial as it has the added intricacy of more restrictions placed on the level of skill proficiency that each character class can attain. Not every character class can pretty much excel at every skill as in previous games because there are sometimes quite low proficiency caps placed on them and some skills they cannot learn at all. I was a bit put out at first to learn that all my characters couldn't attain the ultimate bow proficiency (I don't like to get my hands too dirty in combat) but because the skill structure is more highly circumscribed it increases the complexity. It is very important to study the manual to determine the potential strengths and weaknesses of your party.
Once more M&MVII provides a hoard of NPCs in every town for you to chat to and learn information, or to hire in order to supplement your weakest skills. I particularly liked the fact that the townspeople don't just hang around in the midst of battle when the local monsters are on the rampage. They can get hurt too, and will even defend themselves. Once again I had a good time picking up and dropping off companions although Ferdinand, the Master Healer I collected in The Pit did look green and evil. I knew when I contemplated his horns and leering grimace that he might mean trouble and he did. Every time he eliminated all my characters' aches and pains he also eliminated all their armour skills. This was probably a bug but it struck me as a good idea to have NPCs with their own agendas. After all, what on earth (or should I say Erathia) was an angelic party aligned with the Light doing fraternising with someone from the lowly Pit?
Combat in M&MVII is much the same as it was in the last chapter with a simple keystroke allowing you to alternate between turn-based and real-time. However, in turn-based mode you can move a limited distance during each turn which is an added bonus. There is the usual collection of monsters and lots of fighting to be done as is typical of this series and many, many quests, some related to the main story while others are simply Promotion Quests to improve your characters' standing. You do need to complete the Promotion Quests as they are pivotal to move the story on and, in any case, who wants to be an ordinary, everyday Druid when you can become an Arch Druid or, maybe, a Warlock?
M&MVII is keyboard or mouse driven and it is sure to provide a good few hours of fun a mayhem for Might and Magic fans. Although it is very similar to M&MVI it does have improvements and I had great fun with the ArcoMage Challenge which takes the form of a card game that you can play in the taverns. It is, maybe, a little shorter than the last chapter, but there is more replay value. Not only does it have a more cohesive story and extra facets of character management, but also it has a couple of other features that I appreciated because they make it much easier to find your way around. Although there is room for improvement in this respect, at least the game automatically makes note of where you can find Master and Grandmaster teachers when you learn of them. Pity it doesn't keep track of teachers at all skill levels. Another plus here is that places on the map are named when you press the right mouse button with the cursor over them. Again this didn't work perfectly, sometimes it was a serious pixel hunt, but nevertheless it was mostly a huge help and a huge time-saver.
I can only say that I thoroughly enjoyed negotiating my way though this story, improving my characters and juggling their statistics ... and I loved the music. Still I must end this review by recording my alarm that The Temple of the Moon only had male clergy. No females! Just as I expect Dragons to live in caves and Dwarves to hang out in mines, I expect any Temple of the Moon to be presided over by females.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1999.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0 w/SP4. (NT 4.0 users must be using certified NT DirectX drivers) Pentium 133 (P200 recommended) 32MB RAM (64MB recommended) 375MB Hard Disk space (minimum) PCI, 1MB VRAM, supports DirectX (3D Accelerated, Most Direct 3D boards supported, minimum 8MB VRAM required) All major sound cards, 100% compatable with DirectX, 4X Speed CD-ROM drive, Keyboard and mouse.