Might and Magic: The World of Xeen
If you are reading this review and contemplating playing this game then I am assuming you have a few spare weeks up your sleeve because it's a long, long trek. The World of Xeen is, in essence, a combination of two Might and Magic Games, namely Clouds of Xeen and DarkSide of Xeen. Even standing alone both games are sizeable so, as a package deal, there are many, many hours of gameplay.
Because it is included in our Reflections reviews, I'm also assuming that you're aware that this game is not a modern 'gee whiz' affair, to play it you will need a tolerance for VGA graphics and a liking of movement systems that definitely won't give you motion-sickness. For me, it was a pleasure to go back to the good ol' days and revisit the Land of Xeen. Playing Clouds of Xeen and Darkside of Xeen as a combination was once again a fun journey, and, of course, there's the added bonus of the extra quest that ties the two games together.
The introduction to the first game is short and briefly introduces the characters. You must read the manual to learn that Crodo, Overseer and Adviser to King Burlock of Xeen, has contacted you in a dream and asked for your help. He is imprisoned and there is danger in the lands. The long lost Roland has mysteriously reappeared and he is influencing the King to neglect the kingdom and obsessively search for the powerful Sixth Mirror. Of course, the evil Lord Xeen is behind it all so you must set out to overcome him. And when you succeed that's not the end of it as you must next travel to the Darkside where more horrors are awaiting and the whole saga is revealed.
In this game you control a party of 6 characters of either gender and of an assortment of races. You can direct a predetermined party or design your own, which is much more fun. Throughout your journey there are numerous good deeds to take care of such as finding lost artefacts, scouring the land for troublesome monsters and rescuing kidnapped characters. To increase your experience and add to your coffers you'll want to follow up on every one of them. It's expensive buying equipment and spells and purchasing training so that your skills are a match for your more robust adversaries.
There are treasure chests of booty to raid, numerous wells and shrines to discover that will temporarily increase your statistics, an array of dungeons and towers to explore and a number of towns where you can spend your hard-earned cash. Nowhere is safe or simple in the Lands of Xeen, so you'll need to equip your characters well with weapons and magic and carefully manage their skills and attributes. For instance, you'll need to ensure that you have the ability to navigate the wilderness or traverse mountain ranges, and a character with good strength is a must if you want to extract all the goodies from stray boxes or ancient coffins.
Combat is turned based and very easy to control so that you can find that perfect combination of brute strength and magic to see you through the more difficult confrontations. A mapping feature makes exploration easy and there are a number of ways to make long-distance travel easy as well. In particular, magic mirrors to zap you from one town to the next and a useful spell that lays a marker so that you can return instantly to any location if you make good use of it.
With this package you must install both Clouds and Darkside of Xeen to your hard drive (not too devastating), and you can cross over between the two games at will. In my opinion the second half of this saga, the DarkSide, is a better-designed game. In this second part the plot is more prominent which gives more purpose, and more direction to the story. Also it has an extra serving of interesting puzzles including word games such as building a crossword from clues within a maze and finding passwords, as well as a few maths problems thrown in for good measure. However, they are both very engrossing journeys for intrepid adventurers and there are many, many locations to explore with a long list of crazed monsters to put you to the test.
This one should keep the midnight oil burning, and keep you well and truly out of trouble for a good few weeks. Don't hold its age against it, though it isn't technically great for this day and age it is a lot more complex than many recent releases. And, of course, it's a good lead in for the very soon to be released Might and Magic VI.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1998.
All rights reserved.
286, 2mb RAM, VGA, Soundcard