Published in The National on January 26, 2001

For blood & honour


By Daniel Lam
The title of this game from 3DO sounds cool: Might & Magic 7 - For Blood and Honour (MM7). The artwork on the cover seems like a rip-off from a Boris Vallejo piece, but that's not important. What is important is how the game plays, and how it stands up to the best computer role-playing games (CRPGs) of 1999 and 2000 ... Interplay's Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.

What you need

MM7
's computer requirements are pretty basic in today's world of gigahertz processors and gigatexel graphics cards - a Pentium 133, a 4-speed CD-ROM drive, 375MB of hard disk space and a video card with 2MB of memory. MM7 comes in two CDs ... one for installation, one for play.

The introduction hints at some alien humanoid race appearing in Erathia (remember, from Heroes of Might & Magic III, reviewed by Tok IT on Nov 24 last year? This game takes place AFTER the events of Heroes III). These aliens bear special cubes, which pique the interest of the forces of Light and Darkness. 

Then the player is thrown into the character creation screen. Like many computer role-playing games, MM7 allows you to create your own heroes - four, in fact. Your heroes can be knights, archers, thieves, monks, clerics, druids, sorcerers or rangers. They can also be of a race other than human: traditional fantasy races of dwarves, elves and goblins. After you are done with that, you begin the game proper. 


A contest for Harmondale

Your heroes, it seems, have entered themselves into a contest, a simple one in which they must find certain items (a scavenger hunt). Once they accomplish this, they win the contest and are appointed Lords of Harmondale. The dialogue that accompanies this appointment suggests that the prize may not be worth winning after all. 


The War

You see, Harmondale lies between the kingdoms of the elves and the humans. And the two races are at war. Yes, Harmondale is right smack in the middle of it, more so since Harmondale and the land around it are the subject of the war. Your heroes get to decide whether they are for or against either faction (if you play it smart you may still stay neutral), and after competing a few quests you get a chance to decide your heroes' affinity - Light or Darkness. 


The Paths

What happens is that after some time in the game, the arbiter of the war dies, and your heroes, being the Lords of Harmondale, get to pick the successor. Your choice of successor has a major impact on the game ... choose the peacemaker (and hence the Path of Light) and peace is ensured. Pick the warmonger (and tread the Path of Darkness) and the war continues. There is no middle ground, though. What fun. Each path has its own quests, so what I did was to play MM7 twice ... and yes, the quests are different indeed. 

Not only that, the graphical interface changes too ... it was grey earlier, but once you choose Light, it turns white. Choose Darkness and in the interface turns crimson (that's blood red for you). Areas that may be safe for followers of Light are treacherous for followers of Dark, and vice versa. Because this choice is made somewhat early in the game, it gives MM7 a bit of replayability. 


The quests

There are plenty of quests in MM7. Some are mere side quests and have no real impact on the main one (like the usual "please find this artifact hidden in that location"), while others impact on the overall game itself (say for example, if you are overwhelmingly pro-humans, the Elvish King will not grant you an audience). 

One of the side quests deserves a mention ... Arcomage. This is a quest in which the heroes must visit every tavern (13 in all) and win a game of Arcomage. Arcomage is a card game (available as a separate game as well from 3DO), very much like Wizards of the Coasts' Magic: The Gathering (a computer game spin-off of the FIRST collectible card game). In Arcomage you have a tower and a wall, and resources. The aim of the game is to build a tower or accumulate resources to exceed the match requirements. Or you can just demolish the opponent's tower. 


How does it look?

The character portraits of your heroes are decent. Visually, however, the graphics engine is crude by today's standards. Even though the game developers (New World Computing) boasts of 3D-accelerator support, the game doesn't look all that better, even with a high-end graphics card. 3D hardware does add some nice lighting effects to spells and smoothes some of the game's jagged surfaces, but even in this mode the non-player characters and monster models are fuzzy if you get too close. On a positive note, the animated renderings when you enter a building are excellent, especially in the dark cities. 


How does it sound?

The sound effects in MM7 is again decent, which means it's not impressive. The music, however, is excellent. The orchestral score is ominous and uses a light amount of opera. The voice acting is somewhat a let-down, though. The dialogue can be funny at times, but still? 


How does it fight?

Okay, here's the thing ... in most CRPGs, combat is a major part of the game. It is the same with MM7. You can alternate between real-time combat and turn-based at the touch of a key (usually Enter). Problem is, that's the thing ... in MM7, combat seems to be the solution for everything. The game developers must think that if killing a monster is cool, surely killing 100 monsters is 100 times cooler? My heroes must have killed over 1,000 monsters by the time I finished the game. It gets tedious after a while. Also, unlike other CRPGs (like the excellent Baldur's Gate), there is no option for combatant order. You know, like putting the tougher Knights and Monks in front and the weaker Clerics and Sorcerers at the back. 

Nope. In MM7 everyone seems to be on the frontline. Makes me feel like I'm playing ONE hero with multiple moves each time. MM7 is also open to the missile abuse. Because there is no limit on the arrows/quarrels you fire, a common tactic is to run AND fire away at monsters. If those monsters have no ranged attacks, its goodbye to them awfully quickly. One bonus (depending on how you look at it) is the range of monsters you get to fight with ... from goblins to dragonflies, ogres to dragons, even celestial beings! 


Conclusion

Okay, MM7 isn't all that bad, really. Once you look beyond the lousy combat system, you will see that the storyline is interesting enough (not as way cool as, say Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn or Planescape: Torment, however) and the hero advancement system makes sense (at least). And once your heroes become powerful enough (especially after gaining the ability to fly), fighting the hordes of monsters becomes a piece of cake. MM7 is a fairly decent game. If you are new to CRPGs or are not looking for any serious (read: thinking) computer role-playing gaming, MM7 is for you. 


Might & Magic 7: For Blood & Honour

Pros: Easy to play, minimal brainpower required
Cons: Too much emphasis on combat, minimal brainpower required
Publisher: 3DO
Developer: New World Computing
Platform: PC