The real-time fantasy adventure The Art of Magic: Magic & Mayhem can be played as a campaign, individual battles, or multiplayer with up to eight human/computer players on a LAN or the Internet. Although the game is technically a sequel to Magic & Mayhem, the storyline takes place several centuries before the original title, and gameplay features several significant changes including a requirement for 3D acceleration.
Three powers, the Northern Elves, the Druids, and the Disciples of Chaos, each held an orb created to help balance power in the realm. Now with the destruction of the Druids' orb, they're susceptible to an attack by the Disciples of Chaos. In the campaign version, Aurax, the hero, is a pre-generated character, so there are no variations for looks or gender. Without a character creation factor, the game gets off to a quick start.
As Aurax gains experience points, his mana, hit points, and selection of spells increase. As a wizard, the protagonist has access to over 50 traditional and unique spells as he works his way through more than two dozen major conflicts during the course of the adventure. A total of 22 creatures, ranging from wolves to dragons, can be summoned, all instrumental in defeating enemies. While mana is the only truly important resource in the game, various objects strewn about the land affect recovery, discovery and general task accomplishment.
While the campaign begins quickly, frustration soon sets in due to the increase in difficulty as you advance in scenarios. Aurax initially learns how to use menus, items, and spells before taking on any enemies, but the deceptively easy start doesn't prepare you for the very first enemy encounter, which proves to be a real challenge and quite a leap from the benign simple beginning tasks. Despite the high level of challenge, though, The Art of Magic: Magic & Mayhem offers a solid experience in developing character skills and ability, as your choices throughout gameplay, based on the types of items discovered, determine whether he focuses magic in a neutral, chaotic or lawful manner.
You can expect to play some scenarios repeatedly before getting the upper hand on the monsters. At times, replay is necessary simply to discover the weaknesses of the bosses and scout out the lay of the land so you can use it to advantage. A few scenarios are less about fighting and center more on plot and character development, which is a welcome change.
Spells are acquired by the use of components, each with three types of properties (chaotic, neutral or good), collected during the campaign. The components are stylized to look different from one another and offer a dizzying selection from which to choose. Spells also have unique and appropriate sounds that coincide with their casting, such as fireballs reverberating like mini-explosions and stone skin sounding like the grating of rock.
While gameplay differs in style, developer Climax Group manages to hold the line on the environment and overall fantasy feel of the original title developed by Mythos Games, Ltd.. The interface is simple and intuitive, with many gameplay options including occlusion of objects, zoom features, and full 360-degree camera movement.
Graphics: Menu screens are not only functional, but interesting as well, with floating heads that follow the cursor as it moves. Each spell is easily distinguishable by its unique graphics, as are the detailed creatures that move in a life-like way (except the undead that shamble about). Enemies smoke and catch on fire when hit with fireballs.
Sound: The voice acting is exceptional, though at times the script seems a bit goofy. The Druids sound like Scotsmen, while the Disciples of Chaos are appropriately gravelly-voiced and fearsome. Goblins are among the weaker creatures, with their weasel-like nature conveyed nicely by their voices.
Enjoyment: Battles against live players or computer-controlled characters offer an alternative to the campaign. Individual skirmishes can be played with a pre-set number of lives or as a race to gain the highest score. Unfortunately, the game isn't all it could be, as the campaign scenarios wildly fluctuate between too easy or too hard, camera views are unwieldy at times, and, while the spell system is functional, it can become tedious and a bit dull over the long campaign.
Replay Value: The battle option offers a full range of spells and options for creating endless rematches among characters. The campaign often requires numerous replays of scenarios, but doesn't offer much of a reason to replay once completed.
People who downloaded Magic & Mayhem 2: The Art of Magic have also downloaded:
Magic & Mayhem (a.k.a. Duel: The Mage Wars), Lords of EverQuest, Magic: The Gathering, Lords of Magic: Special Edition, Majesty: Gold Edition, Lord of the Rings, The: War of the Ring, Nemesis of the Roman Empire, Lords of the Realm III
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