I picked up the first Might & Magic game, Secret of the Inner Sanctum, at a software store located on the frontage road across from Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge. I don’t know why my memory of buying it is so vivid, but there you go. More than just a standard dungeon crawl, the back copy claimed that it had a sort of AI, that the game would change itself based on how you approached it. I don’t know if that claim stood up, but it was a fun enough game. It was a grid-based 3-D adventure with, as advertised, both might and magic adequately represented. The plot centered around the surprising revelation that the medieval world was actually a module on some kind of colony spacecraft.
When the second game, Gates to Another World, came out, I bought it right away. That was the game that really cemented this series for me. I don’t know what it was about MM2 that grabbed me, but I played a lot of it. One thing I remember about it was that in combat it would often throw a bunch of low-level enemies at you, who may have the ability to call in even more. Killing 50 goblins wasn’t any harder than killing 2, it just took longer. Although you had options in combat, you could hit control-A to just attack whatever was in front of you. My keyboard at the time had the Control button next to the A, so when one of these fights would come up I’d put a padlock I had on both buttons and let it fight the battle for me. The plot centered around the surprising revelation that the medieval world was actually a module on some kind of colony spacecraft.
The third installment, Isles of Terra, was known for its surprising revelation that the medieval world was actually a module on some kind of colony spacecraft. It also gave an indication that not only was this series here to stay, but, like the Ultima series, it intended to push itself with each new installment. The gameplay itself wasn’t noticeably different, which was fine; the controls were actually very good at staying in the background and letting you just play the game. The graphics, however, kept improving, with creature animations, visible status effects on your characters, and the fact that every single item around that main view screen did something to indicate some spell was active. For example, the little guy on the left flapped his wings if you were currently levitating or something.
The first three Might and Magic games were fun, but holy cow, what came next! Number four was Clouds of Xeen and number five was Darkside of Xeen. These were not just two new entries in the series, they could be installed together to form World of Xeen and played simultaneously, along with some extra content. This was huge! In addition, there were the usual graphics enhancements but also voices. My friends and I still make references to the characters in this game, especially the skill trainer. “Looking to train?” he’d say, and “Good job!” when you went up a level. If you couldn’t train he’d go, “Not today!” Since trainers were in towns and you’d often do a bunch of stuff before returning to town, you’d usually build up a lot of levels, so it would actually go something like this: “Looking to train? Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Not today!” We played the hell out of World of Xeen. By this time the series had also introduced randomly generated weapons, so it was my first experience with getting a Sparking Platinum Sword and seeing if it was better than what my characters were already using. Armor was divided into several parts, so there was a lot of loot to sift through. The plot? So it turns out that Xeen, despite looking like a medieval world, was actually something something spacecraft.
After the Ultima series, Might and Magic was the series I got the most mileage out of. Something about it really grabbed me, even as other, similar things (Bard’s Tale, the D&D Gold Box Games) failed to. I’ll talk about the later Might and Magic games in a future post.