Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer
I remember taking a quick look at Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer when it first appeared about 7 years ago. It was only a short look so evidently I wasn't overly impressed. Since it's now a budget release, optimised for Win XP, I thought I'd give it a second chance.
So was it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. Well it's a reasonable romp if you want a good dose of hack and slash, some statistics juggling, some intense training and treasure hunting, all wrapped up in a light narrative that nudges the story along rather than functioning as a strong driving force. It uses the same engine as the previous Might and Magic games: The Mandate of Heaven and For Blood and Honor, but slips a bit in comparison, and the series was really due for an update by the time Day of the Destroyer came along.
Compared to the previous games the first big change you'll notice in Might and Magic: Day of the Destroyer is that you don't get to spend too long tweaking the stats and creating all your party. In this game you simply create a single character and pick up the rest along the way. Potential party members come in all classes at various levels so eventually you might want to swap characters around, say, drop your lower level fighter for a higher level with better skills, or for another class altogether. So it doesn't matter what class you assign to your main character because you're sure to meet up with just the right character classes to make a balanced party.
You can take fewer if you insist, but the maximum party number is five. Most are dotted around the place waiting patiently for you to knock on their door, although not all will join you until you are a decent level in their eyes, or until you've reached particular points in the game. You can hire and re-hire if you change your mind, as any character you've already dismissed will politely wait for you in one of the two Adventurers' Inns. Incidentally they are a good storage option because you can dump goodies in their inventories and access them any time.
There is a bit of more variety in the characters too. As well as Humans there are Dark Elves, Vampires, Trolls and Minotaurs in the initial character creation process and later you'll meet some Dragons to take along. Essentially these more exotic races are simply alternative 'classes' as they have their own specialty skills or spells such as Dragon's Breath for Dragons and Lifedrain and Mistform for Vampires. This was something different for the Might and Magic games although these new 'classes' simply replace other classes so there are no Thieves, Monks, Paladins, Druids, Archers or Rangers.
As for the remainder of play, you'll be right at home if you've played any Might and Magic roleplayer. Combat is in realtime but you can pause the action and turn it into turn based simply by pressing the Enter key. Experience points accumulate with every 'kill' or on completion of quests and then it's off to the trainer to level up when you have enough experience. At each level-up there are a number of points to distribute to various skills including weapon or armour proficiencies, schools of spellcasting, plus a range of miscellaneous skills — Alchemy, Meditation, Merchant, Perception and the like. Then comes the next layer of upgrading as there are more trainers to chase up to raise all these skills from Expert to Master and, finally, Grandmaster. All this means that there's an awful lot of scampering back and forth as the trainers for individual skills can be located anywhere on your travels.
The story is set in the land of Jadame just as a mysterious mage walks into the port city of Ravenshore and conjures up a huge, red crystal in the centre of town. Now it might be pretty but it's not a friendly crystal by any means. Its destructive influence reaches out and causes havoc. A great volcano erupts out of the sea, the gates to the elemental worlds open up, everything is in turmoil and you just happen to arrive on Dagger Wound Island in the midst of it all. The island is now cut off from the mainland and after picking up a couple of companions there's work to be done getting messages through and helping various locals. Just stay alive and keep on running messages and doing good deeds and you'll get to the bottom of the terrifying events. Various pivotal characters will further the story and give important quests, and between these meetings you can generally take care of quests in whatever order you please.
Of course on your journey through Might and Magic VIII there are plenty of angry mobs to dispense with, everything from wolves, skeletons, dragons, orcs, elementals and the like. There are wide-open spaces to explore, plus numerous temples and dungeons. Treasure is easy to come by as fallen foes drop lots of gold and goodies and treasure chests are hidden around everywhere waiting to load up your inventory. Although the various levels of training and some new equipment can empty your coffers at the start of the game, it's not long before you'll have gold to spare meaning that you can almost always equip your characters with the very best weapons and armour available.
It's maybe not as long as the previous games, but Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer is still a sizable game. The interface if very simple with keyboard or mouse control and there is a good map of each area that you can write to, plus a quest log and various other logs listing trainer locations, the locations of fountains where you can boost your stats, alchemy recipes for various potions, etc. And I shouldn't forget to mention that you can play Arcomage at every tavern once more.
Not surprisingly the graphics are well outdated by today's standards but they are serviceable enough with lots of different terrains from snow scapes, to forests, to flat, rocky plains or mountainous regions. The game is first person perspective with spoken dialogue in the few cutscenes, but for the remainder of the time the dialogue simply appears as text.
Originally released on the cusp as RPGs were becoming more story driven with greater character interaction, plus more spoken dialogue to inject life and personality into important characters, Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer's basic engine is fairly unsophisticated today. Give it a wide berth if you want to get to know and love the characters and if you want a deep story, but if you just want to fill in a few sessions hacking and slashing then there's enough to do here to occupy a good few hours. Despite its antiquity and repetitiveness - and the annoying jumping challenges - there's still a bit of fun in store, especially building up your characters and training them to cover all the bases. It just manages to keep that addictive edge but it could wear thin before you reach the end.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2007.
All rights reserved.
Win 95/98/XP, P166 (P200 recommended), 32MB RAM (64MB recommended) 375MB free Hard Disk space (minimum), Video card supports DirectX 7.0* DirectX compatible Sound Card, 4X Speed CD-ROM drive, keyboard and mouse.