In a departure from the standard Might and Magic fare, Legends of Might and Magic, featuring first person, squad-based combat in a medieval world, is designed for online LAN or Internet play. Up to 16 players divide into teams of good or evil when online, choosing one of four general scenario themes: retrieve the Sword in the Stone, rescue the princess, help the Warlord escape, or slay the dragon. In all scenarios, total elimination of the enemy also constitutes a victory, with gameplay reminiscent of titles such as Quake III or Unreal Tournament.
Six character classes are available (split between good and evil), each having unique abilities and disadvantages. Players seeking to follow the path of good can choose the Paladin, Druid, or Sorceress, while those serving the dark side can select a Warrior, Heretic, or Archer. Keeping with the title, weapons of "might" (thrown, crossbows, and bows) and "magic" (rods, staves and wands) can be bought with gold in purchase zones or picked up on the battlefield from fallen enemies. Each category of weapon has 3 specific types, for a total of 18. Four types of armor (leather, chain mail, plate, and magic) are also available.
While Legends of Might and Magic is primarily designed for online competition, offline practice scenarios allow selection of any team, character, or map. Features of offline games include no time limits, no other players to contend with, and free reign to explore environments with victory conditions and goals exactly the same as in online play.
Surprisingly, Legends of Might and Magic is a first-person shooter with a fantasy twist. Similar to Counter-Strike, you select a character type/class and if you want to play for the good guys or the bad guys. Counterstrike has 4 generic skins per team while Legends of Might and Magic has 4 classes: a fighter good at physical weapons, a mage good at magic weapons, and a druid balanced between them. Instead of terrorists and counter-terrorists you have a rather trite "good vs. evil". You can choose from 6 unique characters: Paladin (Good), Druid (Good), Sorceress (Good), Warrior (Evil), Heretic (Evil), Archer (Evil), Princess (NPC). The game also includes the ability to purchase items (upgraded weapons and armor). But the one notable difference is that Legends of Might and Magic features AI-controlled monsters that both teams will have to contend with. The monsters will guard objects and attack players on both teams.
Combat in the game is incredibly easy, and any player of Counter-Strike will be able to get into the game without any problem. Legends of Might and Magic tries to offer up something different for this popular series of games, well to combine fantasy with first-person shooter style isn't bad idea.
Graphics & Sound:
Legends of Might and Magic makes use of the Lithtech engine, which at first blush would seem to be a good thing; No One Lives Forever was quite gorgeous. Legends, on the other hand, comes off as a rather amateurish attempt at 3D modeling, especially when it comes to the character designs. Every seems a little mishapen, a little 'off'. On the other hand, the monsters are usually pretty cool looking; I'm particularly fond of the Liches. Well, not of them, but of their design. The maps range from mundane 'brown dungeon passageway connected to brown dungeon passageway' to some more intriguing areas, such as tall towers and ancient pyramids, but for the most part the maps are basic realizations of fantasy worlds, with chunky corners and uninspiring layouts. The lighting is usually pretty solid, although sometimes it's way too dark to see well.
Sound, on the other hand, is quite solid, which is surprising for a game from 3DO, to be honest. The voice-acting for the various voice commands is solid, the positional audio works quite well, and the occasional ambient sounds do a lot to make the game sound more interesting. There's no music to speak of, but in a team-based shooter stuff like music ends up getting in the way of the sounds you need to hear--footsteps in the passageway next to you, the 'clink' of a HHGA (the clink was added in the v1.1 patch), and so on. I was genuinely surprised by the solid sound offered in this game, but I'm sure a lot of the sound support comes from the Lithtech engine's abilities that 3DO licensed.
It's something of a shame, then, that Legends of Might and Magic is basically a poor-man's Counter-Strike, especially since Counter-Strike is free for download. While Legends tries to do a few original things in the genre, in the end the game just isn't different enough--and the characters are so close to each other--that it becomes a lot harder to recommend the game.
The concept behind Legends of Might and Magic is fairly simple. There are two teams--the Light and the Dark, the Good and the Bad, whatever--and each level presents you with one of four different types of challenges. In the 'Sword in the Stone' levels, you're required to find and retrieve a, well, sword in the stone. Think one-flag CTF and you'll know what's going on here. The 'twist' is that once you have the Sword it's the only weapon you can use, keeping you from bombarding your opponents with spells as you run to the designated winning location.
A similar level is the 'Rescue the Princess' stages, where one team is attempting to save an invulnerable Princess and the other has to keep it from happening. 'Warlord Escape' plays like any Assassination attempt mod; you have one man who the rest of the team tries to protect. And the 'Slay the Dragon' levels are won by the first team to destroy a big dragon located somewhere on the map.
If these goals sound a little familiar, that's because they are. The same sort of stages have been seen in a number of team-based mods over the past couple of years, and while Legends of Might and Magic tries to put a twist on them, it ends up being less than the games that inspired it.
Perhaps the greatest flaw in the game's construction is the ambiguous differences between the various classes. Since any class can purchase almost any item--only the 'superweapons' are unique to a given class--it's hard to justify using a melee class when you can use a ranged-weapon one and have a much better chance of scoring against your opponent. And if you do choose a melee class, you can always equip them with magic wands and use those against your opponent. The level of differentiation between the various character types is not enough to really make you care which one you pick, which is a shame; the specialization that you find in a game like Team Fortress Classic just isn't here.
Another vague irritant in the game is the addition of enemies to kill. While it's a neat idea, it ends up just cutting into the time that you'd normally spend hunting for the enemy. Yes, it gets you 'gold' to use for purchasing new equipment come the next round, but the enemies have generally bone-dead AI and are more a hindrance than anything integral to the game. Indeed, most of the servers on the 'net dispense with them entirely--'nomon' is a common sight in server description lines.
The 'single-player' experience is weak beyond belief, with no actual opponents to fight, just enemies to kill as you attempt to beat each level. Whee. While it's handy for exploration of the maps before you go online, there's nothing here that will keep you occupied for any length of time. And while the enemies and such are from the Might and Magic world, the game itself is nothing like any game from the genre--it's basically a shooter with fantasy trappings.
The difficulty level of the game is greatly dependent on the level of teamwork that your side puts in compared to the teamwork that the opponents do. I suppose I could comment on the silly enemies again, but those are usually cleaned out within the first minute or two of the game, so all of the challenge comes from besting your opponents.
The game uses standard FPS controls, with a few additions--a use button for doors and princesses and whatnot, a talk button for command shortcuts, and a buy key for when you're in a purchasing zone. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the Lithtech engine allows remapping of all of the keys and adjusting the mouse speed and such. The menus in-game are minimal, but easy enough to use; the main menus are almost as minimal and similarly simple to get a handle on. There are a number of engine clipping errors that you may notice, with models 'poking through' surfaces, and a lot of the weapons and wands are a little too self-similar--not to mention attempts to add modern weaponry to a medieval game--but when a game is basically attempting to clone what came before it, these sorts of things happen.
Legends of Might and Magic isn't a terrible game. Indeed, if you can find a server full of good team players, you can have quite a bit of fun running around and sniping your opponents, trying to kill the Warlord (or defend em). But if this is the sort of fun you enjoy, I suggest playing a much more rounded version of the same, like Counter-Strike. Legends just doesn't make much of a mark in the team-based shooter genre, and there are enough better alternatives out there for anyone to find one that they like more.
People who downloaded Legends of Might and Magic have also downloaded:
Crusaders of Might and Magic, Might and Magic 9, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Heroes of Might and Magic, Might and Magic 7: For Blood and Honor, Lifeforce Tenka (a.k.a. Codename Tenka), Heroes of Might and Magic V, Heroes of Might and Magic 4
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