Review: Might and Magic 6 – Mandate of Heaven (PC)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we fight our way through an open world, first person perspective, dungeon crawling RPG game called Might and Magic 6 – Mandate of Heaven. This really is our introduction to this rather lengthy series, so does this first game we’ve tried make us want to play more? We find out.

It is the sixth game in the main Might and Magic series. After 4 years of this series being silent, this game was released in 1998. Now, I’m not sure if it was because of the people I have talked to over the years, but when it comes to RPG games, this game was never really mentioned. When it comes to old RPG games, games like Crono Trigger, Final Fantasy 7, and The Elder Scrolls pop up in conversation. I only found out about the Might and Magic series through my own personal research. Given how much people say they enjoyed this game, I’m a little bit surprised how few people have even heard of it. Still, that didn’t really deter me.

You start off with building your party of four. These characters stay with you the entire game. The game “rolls” out your character stats. From there, you are given a number of points that you can manually add to your characters stats. From there, you can choose two additional skills for each character after yo have selected which class your character is. These skills allow you to do additional things related to your class. Your knight can wear certain kinds of armor. Your sorcerer can cast fire spells. Your cleric can learn body spells. In any event, these skills are what you get without joining any guilds or spending any money at the beginning. You are not necessarily limited to just having those skills throughout the game. In fact, additional skills can easily be obtained once you start earning a certain amount of cash in the game. One thing to note is that there is no limit beyond class limitations on how many guilds you can join. You can, if you wish, join them all if you like. There is no penalty for doing so after the one time membership fee.

From here, you can enjoy the opening sequence that tells you that the place your characters started was attacked by an enemy force that originates from space. This definitely makes it clear that this isn’t your standard RPG game. You are tasked with fighting evil – purging the world from this force that has entered the planet. That is, as the title states, the “mandate of heaven”.

From there, you start your adventure at the entrance of the town in New Sorpigal. This area is not only populated by friendly peasants, but also numerous foes. What’s likely is that the first encounter you’ll have is a small group of goblins on the balcony of a red building to your left after you head straight through town from your starting point. Ideally, you’ll want to arm your characters with weapons and protect them with armor. Fortunately, there’s both a weapons shop (marked by a sign with an anvil) and an armor shop (marked with a sign with a helmet on it). You only have a limited amount of gold to start with, so you’ll need to be cheap with your purchases for now.

Once you are suited up, you can take your first crack at fighting the goblins by traveling around the red building and up the ramp in the back. Since the combat system is real time, you have to actually attack the enemies with the attack button. The most convenient button I found was the “a” button. Alternatively, you can use the left mouse button to attack, but I found this method to be a little convoluted, so simply tapping the “a” key was more than sufficient. If you are like me, you’ll find that your health will run low very quickly. So, retreat is likely in order here.

The question at that stage would naturally be, “How do I heal up?” There are four methods of healing your characters:

The easiest to find method is the rest feature (the button on the bottom right of your screen with the tent icon on it). You have to go to a place where the little lights above each of your character turns green before you can do so though. If those lights are yellow, it means enemies are near by. If the lights are red, it means an enemy is within striking distance. If the light is disabled, it means your character is recovering from an action (i.e. getting hit, after the character attacks, or casting a spell). While sleeping outside does not cost any gold, it will cost a certain amount of food. I found the cost ranges from 1-3 pieces of food. I’m not entirely sure what all is involved in determining how much food is required, but on average, the harder the location is (in terms of monster toughness), the more food that may be required. You’ll also speed through 8 hours of game time doing this. In addition, you will also run the risk of having a random encounter with enemies. The chances of having random encounters varies, though I found that I was much less likely to have one if I was, say, on a balcony or touching the wall of a structure (whether or not that helps lower the chances of a random encounter, I’m not really sure). I also found that it depends entirely on where you are in general. If I was in the Mire of the Damned location, it was hard not to have a random encounter while I slept if I was in the open grass area. In other areas like Castle Ironfist, random encounters were always a risk, but they didn’t necessarily happen that often.

The second easiest to find method is through sleeping at inns. These buildings are usually marked with a sign with a full beer mug. The cost of sleeping at an inn varies from location to location, but the inn at New Sorpigal is the cheapest (and very affordable for characters starting out!). You never run the risk of having random encounters this way and you never have to use up your supply of food in the process. In addition, you sleep until 6AM which is when most stores open up (magic shops don’t open until 8AM).

The third method is through character initiation. This is either through a spell or an item. If you have a character that has access to healing spells (which is what I chose to have), you can spend some of your mana through spells to heal up your characters. For beginning characters, this isn’t necessarily a very good method because, chances are, you had to get a hold of a spell book (often expensive for starting characters), you can only cast that spell a few times if you do get your hands on a spell, you don’t gain a whole lot of hit points with each cast, and you spend a lot of time waiting for your recovery time to finish before casting again. This method is typically more worth it if you have built up your characters some. Items you find can also refill your characters hit points. Red potions, for instance, restore 10 hit points each. Red berries restore, I think, 2 hit points. All you have to do is find one in your inventory, click on the potion, then mouse over to your characters face and click again to use. Again, this has a number of cons similar to the spells, only you’re not spending any of your mana. It’s not bad for characters starting out, but this process eventually becomes overly convoluted. Scrolls are much more useful in this regard because if you find a healing scroll, you are free to use it as many times as you like. Unlike other games, scrolls in this game have an unlimited number of times you can use them (so they won’t disappear on you). While the spells effect may be limited, it’s nice to have something like a first aid scroll at your disposal in case of emergencies.

The hardest to find method (and the method I wished I knew about earlier on) can be through clikcing on the fountains. A whole lot of different things can happen when you click on fountains. In town, there’s a fountain for recovering hit points, another for recovering mana, a third one for temporarily raising a stat, a fourth one that permanently increases your luck (though there is a limited amount of times you can click on that fountain before the benefit is depleted, so spend wisely on that), and fifth one that simply says “refreshing!” when you click on it. This method certainly is the fastest way to recover hits (and mana for that matter) up to a certain point. Eventually, these fountains do deplete, so you may have to resort to the other methods after a while, but it will save you a fair bit of time (both in-game time and real time).

If you are patient enough, you’ll eventually defeat those goblins that are on that balcony. Once you do, you’ll see their corpses on the ground. Clicking on these corpses will allow your characters to get the monsters gold. Sometimes, monsters will drop items as well. This is very valuable in the beginning because you can sell these items back to stores for additional gold – something that is needed to obtain more valuable things that are badly needed in the beginning.

From here, I would recommend walking back into the main town core and back out the entrance from where you came from. You’ll see a trail that leads up a hill to a castle. The castle on the top is called “Goblin Watch”. Simply go up to the castle and try and defeat the goblins that surround the outside of the castle (and the ones on top that you can, again, access via a ramp at the back). As you defeat monsters, you gradually build up not only a small cash reserve, but also experience points. You can access your main character stats by double clicking on a character portrait. The buttons on the bottom of the “window” are what you use to toggle through different chunks of information about your character and party. The button with the persons head on it is the main stats screen where you can see your experience points. If the number of experience points you have turns green, you are ready to gain a level.

Gaining levels is interesting in this game to say the least. First, you have to find the training hall. In New Sorpigal, you can find it by entering the town, hanging a left and walking down the short path. It’s at the end of where the path loops back. Click on the main door to enter (same works for every other building, really). Select the character you want to level up and click on the text in the right column that says you can level up for a certain amount of gold. If you have enough gold, you’ll be congratulated. For every level up you make in the beginning, you gain 5 skill points that that particular character can spend. When you are done, click on the exit button to leave the building. From here, just double click on the portrait of the character that leveled up. Next, click on the button with the fist to access your skills menu. If the text on a particular skill is blue, it means you can advance in that skill. All of your available skills starts on level 1. It costs 2 skill points to advance to the 2nd level. To advance to the third level, you’ll need 3 additional skill points. The number of skill points you need to spend to advance in a level is equal to the level number you would advance to. Advancing in levels in weapons increases the effectiveness of that weapon per strike (attack bonus, which is the “+##” in your stats screen, increases your chances to hit an enemy. The overall offense (the ## – ## in your stat screen) tells you what kind of damage you can deal for every successful blow). Advancing in armor means, generally, that you have a better chance at avoiding a strike if you are wearing that particular armor (armor class value). Advancing in levels for spells generally mean either more effectively cast spells or faster recovery rate (depends on the spell). Advancing in other skills have their own effects as well.

Additional effects of leveling up are increasing your maximum hit points capacity and your maximum spell points (not available for knights). How many maximum hit mana points you get per level depends on a lot of factors including what class that character is and what certain stats are (right click on these stats to find out). You can also get an extra boost in maximum hit points and mana points through the body building and meditation skills as well, but that won’t be until somewhat later in the game.

As you explore the overworld area, you’ll find more hoards of monsters. Your ability to deal with them will depends largely on how much you have beefed your party up. Eventually, you’ll run across small crates randomly along the ground. The best ones to find first are either the ones beside the bridge southwest of town or the one just behind the castle on the top of the hill. Some boxes are trapped and will harm your characters (a lot at the beginning, actually. Like, killing somewhat damaged characters and severely harming any survivors). Other chests are untrapped and allow you to freely gather up the contents. The ones near the aforementioned bridge aren’t trapped, but the one behind the castle is. In any event, you’ll not only gain much needed items for either using or selling, but also an additional bonus in much needed gold.

Hopefully, you’ll have eventually built up some small cash reserve while leveling up your characters in the process. What can you do with that reserve of gold you’ve been hoarding? Spend it of course. You can spend it on improved weapons or armor (which is very useful in the beginning). Alternatively, you can spend some of that cash on getting additional skills. You can get additional skills by joining different guilds. To join them, you have to purchase memberships for them. For that, you simply go door knocking throughout town. You can buy memberships for the guild of the self, the guild of earth, fire, water, and air, and the buccaneers guild. Each guild have different skills you can purchase for gold. The guild of the self, for instance, gives your characters access to earth spells, fire spells, air spells, and water spells. The buccaneers guild can give you access to dagger, leather armor, and disarm traps (for those trapped crates for instance). These skills do cost you gold, but are highly worth having access to.

Spells are your spellcasters main strength in this game. Once you have gained membership to thee various spellcasting guilds, and purchased the skills, you can gain access to the guilds library. Each spell is found in a spellbook of learning. The first guilds you encounter have a limited library of spells, but they can be crucial for making your life a whole lot easier. After you buy a spell, simply use the spellbook like you would an item. Your character will learn that spell (provided the character is eligable – namely knowing the related skill). To access your spells, you have to click on the characters portrait and click on the button with the star on the lower right corner. You can thumb through your spell book. To use a spell, you can double click on it. A better method to using a spell you’ll regularly use is to click on that particular spell and then clicking on the little tab on the bottom of the spell book that has a hand reaching for a star. This sets your quick spell feature. From there, simply hit the “s” key on your keyboard to cast the spell. As long as the character is selected, the character can take a “turn”, and there’s enough mana points for that character, you will always be able to cast that spell with a simple stroke of a key like attack. Your quick spell can be changed at any time by selecting a different spell in the spell book and setting that as your quick spell instead.

If you built up one of your sorcerers to have a skill of 4 for earth, fire, air, or water, you can obtain an “expert” status. Expert status is basically a refinement of your ability to use a certain skill. The fortunate thing is that these basic element spell skills all have master teachers in town. Just do your door knocking to find the expert teacher in question, click on the text to gain expertise, select the character in question and click on the text that says you can be an expert in that skill for a certain cost in gold. This is, again, a very worthwhile investment because it means that the skill in question will, overall, become much more powerful – even as you advance in levels beyond 4. It will make battles, on average, easier to handle for your spellcasters. From there, it’s possible to earn a “master” designation, but you’ll have to go to another town to find teachers willing to teach you to be a master in a skill, so again, that won’t be for later in the game (when you reach that point, most spells require that you reach level 12 and have a particular amount in a specific stat as well as the usual fee in gold. There are exceptions to this such as completing certain quests that earn you a particular status or getting a certain kind of reputation, but if you have 12 and over 30 in all stats, you’ll likely qualify for most of the masters skills status for spells).

A few last notes on skills: look around for horseshoes. Each horseshoe earns a character a bonus 2 skill points. They are probably one of the best items you can get in the game. One good place to look are places near horse stables. Also, the other masters skill levels are typically 8 for weapons, 10 for armor and 14 for miscellaneous skills. If you plan on mastering those skills, getting the skill levels up to those points are a very good start (if not, most of the work right there). Spend skill points wisely. A good portion of my skills by the time I beat the game were stuck at 1 because certain skills aren’t as useful if all characters have them (i.e. disarm trap – that’s best reserved for one particular character to become your disarm expert in your party – especially one character you don’t plan on being a main spellcaster).

The next important thing for you is likely quests. Yes, you can simply forgo quests for a while, but they are critical for moving the plot along in the game (and you can’t beat the game without completing a number quests as well). You can obtain quests by simply talking to certain people or entities. A good place to start is to talk to the people in the town hall (marked by a sign with the crossed swords). One of them will give you the quest that gets you to try and reclaim Goblin Watch (the castle on the hill I mentioned earlier). You’ll be asked to solve the mysterious puzzle held within so that the people in town can be freed from the goblins occupying the area. Once you get that quest, you can leave the town hall. If you forget which quests you are on, simply look it up in your quests log. This is located in the book with the small dagger on it on the right side of the screen (amongst three other books). This is an excellent way for you to job your memory about certain things. The book with the leaf indicates quick notes (i.e. what fountains give you what, etc.). The book that has that wire frame globe is the map of the area you happen to be in (which is drawn in as you explore it). The one on the furthest right is your calendar. The calendar does play a roll in this game, but if you aren’t heavy into doing pilgrimages from the seer, you’ll likely spend little time with it as you can get the time from the rest screen.

Completing quests generally offers huge bonuses to your characters if you manage to complete them. Some give you a few thousand gold for your troubles. Most give you a major bonus in experience points. Some alter your karma. Finding the combination for the vault at Goblin Watch will give you positive karma. Completing Andover Potbello’s quest will give you negative karma. Karma is different from your fame. Fame is simply a, well, useless number and only indicates how much you’ve done in the game (namely slaying monsters). Karma, however, is much more important and gives you access to different things. If you have honorable reputation, civilians are more likely to talk to you. Saintly reputation gives you access to master light magic. If you have a bad reputation, you’ll have to either beg or threaten civilians if you want their help (your characters will also interact with their environment differently as well in the process). Notorious reputation will gain you access to master dark magic.

An interesting element in this game is the fact that you can mix potions. If you have an empty potion bottle, you have the first ingredient for potion making. You’ll likely notice all of these little plants (main colors are red, blue, or yellow). These herbs can be placed in the bottle to create what is known as first generation potions (red potion, blue potion, or yellow potion). If you have two first generation potions, any combination can be used to create what is known as a second generation potion (green, orange, or purple potions). Just remember back in early grade school with the color wheel. Yellow and red make an orange potion. Blue and yellow will make a green potion. Red and blue will make a purple potion. Each of these potions have their own set of properties than can benefit a character when consumed. Third generation potions are a little more complex. Some combinations will work while others will not (failed potion combinations will explode, destroying both potions). Still, if you get the right combination, you’ll create a white potion. These potions are much more powerful and many can enchant a character for a limited period of time. Examples of these enchantments include Bless and Stone Skin. The final generation is fourth generation potions. These potions are black. Often, you’ll have to mix a white potion with a colored potion to create a black potion. There are fewer combinations that will work, but many of these black potions can permanently affect your stats favoring a positive outcome. Many of these potions (namely, essence of whatever) will permanently increase one stat by 15 points while reducing another stat by 5 points. You can have a combination of two black potions that have an inverse relationship with each other with respect to stat boosting. This will cause two stats to be raised by 10 points each. While not all black potions have an opposite stat raiser, most do (the exceptions drop all other stats by 1 while increasing one particular stat by a fair amount). I did, however, find that there seems to be a limit somewhere along the line with how much you can raise stats. After a while, even after consuming one of these potions, the stat remains the same. I’m not sure where that limit is or what triggers that limit, but I do know that you can increase your stats in other ways in spite of potions not being able to work.

After some adventuring, you’ll likely notice that your characters will become afflicted with something (likely poison or disease in the beginning). You can cure these ailments, but chances are, the most available method is to go to a temple and pay money to be cured. Temples don’t all look the same, but the one in the first town is to the right of the red building with the balcony where you squared off with the goblins (the guild of self is on the first floor) facing into town from the entrance. What is charged really depends on what temple you are in and what day of the week it is. While you replenish all health and mana, it can be expensive after a while to constantly heal up at the temples towards the beginning, so the sooner you get your hands on spells like remove fear, cure weakness, cure disease and cure poison, the better. It is also ideal to cure ailments as soon as possible because the longer a player is affected by the affliction, the harder it is to remove it. If you are afflicted by something for too long, chances are, you’ll need a temple to cure yourself of it. The only affliction that most temples can’t cure is eradication. The only temple that I know of can cure it is the one you have to build, fix, and find a chalice for in Free Haven.

There are three states items can be in. They can be fully identified, damaged (have a red hue) or unidentified (green hue while in shops only). Scrolls and potions cannot seem to be damaged, but they can be unidentified. To identify items, you either need a character with good identification skills (which is free discounting the leveling and skill acquisition fees). The other method is to get one of the shops to identify the item in question which costs some gold. Damaged items generally affect items that can be equipped. You can still equip the item, but any effect it had on the character will be lost until it is repaired. To repair an item, you have to either have a character with a good ability to repair items or you have to pay a fee at a particular shop to have that item repaired. Items, weapons, and armor get damaged when monsters with a certain attack skill hit you. You can hear the moment something gets damaged through a particular sound and a facial expression the character makes on the bottom of the screen when an item gets damaged.

Eventually, you’ll run into a battle where you’ll get overwhelmed. When a character loses all of their hit points, they become unconscious. You can revive a character simply by casting a healing spell to get that character above 0. Still, even if they are down for the count, that doesn’t mean they can’t still take damage, so be careful about that. I found that if a character takes enough damage, that alone can earn them a “dead” status. To remove that status from a character, you’ll either have to have a spell that raises the dead character or get them healed up at a temple. You can’t just sleep off that status like you can with the unconscious status. The only status worse then dead is eradicated. The only thing’s that can heal up your character is either the aforementioned repaired temple in Free Haven, the resurrection spell, or the divine intervention spell (never tried divine intervention though, so I can’t confirm this personally). I never found a scroll that can cure this status. You can die if all four characters become unconscious, paralyzed, killed, eradicated or a combination of those four. From there, you are treated to a cut scene of the Grim Reaper who tells you that your work is not done yet. You’ll be resurrected where you started this whole game, but with all of your gold taken away. Personally, I never continue a game like that, I just forfeit the progress I’ve made and reloaded a previous game to keep all of the gold.

Alternatively, you can use a bank (buildings marked with a sign depicting a pile of coins). The banks will store your money at no benefit and no penalty. So, you can recover your money if you die as well and continue on your way. I personally just saved frequently and it made the bank system worthless to me, but others might opt to use it instead, so I can see it being useful. You can save through the disk icon located on the bottom right corner of the screen.

There are other general services available in many of the towns found in this game. The travelers store is like a miscellaneous store. If a magic shop doesn’t have what you are looking for (like an empty bottle), there’s a possibility that these stores have that item. Also, magic stores have a sign with a scroll and wand on it. Horse stables offer transportation to particular destinations by land that change depending on the time of year. It costs money, but travel time is often reduced. Ships permit passage to other areas by sea. I’m personally not aware of how you can get to the South Island (AKA Eel Infested Waters) the first time without a ship as Town Portal can’t take you there (but you can use Lloyd’s Beacon after that to get back there quickly, but there are limitations with using that spell too).

Additionally, you can visit town halls and request bounties to be completed. Most bounties will be inaccessible at first, but as you get to later parts of the game, it’ll become easier to complete them. Most guides tell me that you can increase your karma for completing bounties, but I completed one bounty and my karma was reduced. Not sure why, but I never completed a bounty after that. Still, you can get gold for completing them.

As you move about, you’ll eventually come across a Temple of Baa. While the temple offers cheap healing, your reputation will take a hit as this is a temple for an entity causing problems in Enroth. I never used one, so I don’t know the full extent of what the penalty is for using these temples. You’ll also likely eventually notice shrines. Most maps in Enroth have shrines, but they are useless without the Seer. the Seer is located in the Castle Ironfist map. If you ask, you’ll be permitted to take pilgrimages to these shrines (which shrine depends on the time of year). Some shrines will be practically off limits to you because of your low level in the beginning (it’ll be very hard to access the shrine in Blackshire if you can’t even survive attacks from monsters in Castle Ironfist for instance). There’s no penalty for failing to complete a pilgrimage, so you have that going for you. The first time you visit a particular shrine, you’ll get a permanent stat increase of 10. Subsequent visits will grant you 3 additional points to a particular stat. The Seer can also offer up hints as to what to do next. If you’ve lost a quest item, the seer can give it back to you (i.e. hourglass of time).

One other thing you’ll encounter are obelisks (long tall pillars with a panel in the front of it). Every map has one and you need to access all of them in order to find the hidden treasure in the game (very good treasure). You need all of them to complete your clue and you have to access all of them before you can even access the treasure in the first place (otherwise, you can click on the right spot and nothing will happen). Additional things you can encounter are circus locations (depends entirely on which time of year it is is where the circus will be located) and pedestals (used for a late game quest). While I completed the pedestal quest, I never really used the circus for anything beyond the related quest.

One very important point to make about this game is the fact that this is a very large game. Not Daggerfall size, but it is still quite large. Like Daggerfall, this game is an open world concept with dungeons you can venture to and you aren’t technically restricted in which order you choose to enter these dungeons. Still, some dungeons need to be skipped at first in order to complete other easier dungeons. That way, you can further beef up your characters to make survival easier. Examples of dungeons I skipped at first were Corlagon’s Estate in Castle Ironfist and Gharik’s Forge in New Sorpigal. The reasons are obvious if you try and enter them as soon as possible.

There are 15 overworld land maps. Each of them have different land formations, kinds of monsters, and loot you can get. Difficulty ranges widely. The easiest land location, I found, was New Sorpigal. The hardest was Paradise Valley (Sweet Water has tougher monsters, but they are far fewer in general. Besides, if you tackle Sweet Water after completing Control Room, you’ll have weapons that make these areas easy). Some of these maps have 3 or more dungeons to explore each. There is only one map that doesn’t have a dungeon and that’s Paradise Valley. Otherwise, there’s at least 1 dungeon per map. Dungeons will have an animated picture and asks you if you really want to enter it or not. There is only one dungeon that doesn’t have monsters and that is the Oracle dungeon.

You’ll also encounter lots of fountains in your journey through Enroth. Some fountains provide nice bonuses (like healing, temporary or even permanent stat increases), while others give you penalties (poison, disease, drunk, etc.). There are even fountains that offer a large bonus to a particular character for a penalty. One fountain offers 5,000 experience points for 5,000 gold (not really worth it if you have a newer version of this game). Another fountain permanently increases all resistances by 10 at the price of eradicating the drinker.

In addition to this, you can also encounter barrels with different color fluids in them (mouse over them to find out what they are). Your quick notes will record which color will increase what stat. After a while, it’s possible to memorize them all like purple means speed, red is for strength, orange is for intellect, etc. If you are not doing pilgrimages, this tends to be your main source of stat boosting – especially if you are grinding and re-cleaning out dungeons.

One final note is that you can jump with the “x” button.

So, those are the basics of the game. Yes, the game is that complicated in terms of basics. Whew!

in spite of all this overall complex game, I have to say, the game is quite fun. There is a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but it’s really only a matter of time before you can overcome it. From there, the game is actually a lot of fun. You can build and get a good strategy going for how you tackle this game. From the character creation process all the way to the building of your skill levels, this game experience can be tweaked in a large and wide range of ways. I personally adopted a strategy of bumping up my learning ability for the experience point bonus it provided. It did postpone my ability to bump up other stats for a while, but it was, in my opinion, worth it because I found myself getting through levels much more quickly.

Some guides suggest that it’ll be common to have a whole pile of unfulfilled quests on your way through this game. I personally never found that to be the case. At most, I just started page 3 of the number of quests before I started finally being able to whittle the quests back down. The only quest I left unfulfilled intentionally was the Candelabra quest in the beginning. This was because I knew it would lower my reputation further. Beyond that, I tried fulfilling quests whenever I could because the gold and experience bonus they provided was massive – especially towards the beginning of the game. Fetch an item, instantly have the ability to level up your characters at least once. Good incentive in my books.

It can be a little difficult determining where to head to next sometimes. I found Bootleg Bay to be difficult because I didn’t know it was ideal to take on Misty Island sometime before hitting Bootleg Bay. Still, the difficulty can tell you if you are in a location that’s too difficult. If you can chip away and kill a few monsters before needing to make an escape, then you might be in the correct location. If you can hardly make a dent on the initial hoard in the beginning of a dungeon, that’s a good indication that you are totally in the wrong dungeon. Besides, the Seer can help you by providing hints.

Another thing that can be a bit difficult is finding master teachers. This is where I admit I consulted guides the most – to find the location of master teachers. when there are over a dozen cities the teacher can be located and only one in a particular skill for the entire game, it just seems excessive in terms of searching them out even with hints scattered throughout by talking to people. Since the size of this game is so huge, the guide was also useful in finding out what order I might want to attempt dungeons and which location I should go to next. The guide I used also didn’t mention a level limit for the training hall in Blackshire for some reason (the level limit for that training ground is 100).

I also found that this game has a large element of you exploiting the AI of monsters. A great example is found in the Temple of Baa in Castle Ironfist. The skeletons always move directly towards you once they have seen you. They also have no ranged attacks. So, if you run away, the monster will attempt to follow you, but if you are being chased in the main hall area with the raised paths, the skeleton wil become “stuck” behind that platform – merely darting back and forth, failing to figure out how to get around it. From there, all I had to do was whip out the bow and arrows and shoot them like the cliche fish in a barrel. This isn’t quite as effective when you trigger the trap in the center of the room to obtain a key, but this method ca prove to be quite effective in safely picking them off one by one and avoiding the cursed status (which prevents you from casting spells most of the time) if you get hit by the red skeletons.

Another exploit is the use of walls and corners. If you have, say, a lich in a particular room, you can either try and attack that monster normally and risk getting a large amount health being lopped off of you from their powerful spells. Alternatively, you can set strong one monster damaging spells like incinerate and simply wait behind a corner to fully recover. From there, you can just fake an entrance into the room by allowing the monster to “see” you. That will trigger the monster to attack. Just back off and let the attack strike the nearby wall harmlessly. Then, run into the room and initiate a barrage of powerful spell attacks before running back to safety again. The monster will likely try to attack, but if you do this quickly enough, you’ll do an impressive amount of damage on the monster while not getting hit yourself. Very effective for some of the trickier spellcasting monsters.

One other method that I thought was effective was using ranged weapons and running backwards. This is effective against monsters with no ranged attacks. You can chop enemies down to size at a safe distance and possibly finish them off with your melee attacks when you run out of room to run. doesn’t always work, but there are instances where this is an effective approach to tackling some monsters.

Exploiting AI can give you a leg up on certain situations, but it doesn’t necessarily make this game really easy in and of itself. i think that these exploits give this game a certain appealing charm to it more than anything else.

One thing I did find confusing about this game was the use of poison resistance. You can get natural resistances to fire, water, electrical, and magic spells. That make sense. Unfortunately, what doesn’t make sense is the fact that poison was thrown in and nothing else. The only other special enchantment you can get that appears on the left hand column is feather fall which is also, I found, a little odd when flying appears as an icon on it’s own on the top right hand corner of the playing screen. Why poison and non of the other afflictions like paralysis or disease? The only game design reason I can think of is to complete all 12 months of the year for pilgrimages. If that’s the reason, I think it would have made better sense to replace that with a bonus in armor class or an ability to reduce natural aging. The reason for this criticism is because all the other afflictions merely have items that simply say that the item helps resistance, but that’s it. Poison is an actual numerical value you can build up all on it’s own. Why not have all resistances available like that? I’d say that you should either have an ability to resist all afflictions in a numerical form or have non at all and simply have a certain level of resistance from an item running in the background. Don’t put just one in there for seemingly no reason.

Some people criticize this game for having overly powerful end game weapons. Personally, I’ve played games without a super something at the end and the game feels highly unfulfilling without it. you spend a lot of hours to get to the end of the game. When you have nothing special to get you over the top and finishing the game, it lowers the gaming experience some. So, I’m glad blasters were included in the end of the game. There’s something to look forward to beyond the ending credits or ending cut scene.

Another positive I see in this game is the fact that there really is no cap to anything. I’ve had stats go over 100 and there’s no sign of them slowing down any. The only limitation seems to ultimately be your patient in getting to higher and higher levels.

One criticism I have is that when you beat the game, the only thing you are treated to is an end cut scene (which is kind of short) and a score at the end of the game. You are then transported to the New Sorpigal gates where you started this whole game to just do whatever you wished to do. I kind of expected some end game content beyond that, but I’m not entirely sure what. You get no additional karma for saving Enroth which was a bit of a let down. The only things that lingered was the huge penalty for freeing Archibald to get the Ritual of the Void and the fact that you can re-enter The Hive to get additional experience points in large quantities.

As a general rule, most long games practically require the player to take a break after a while at least once. Final Fantasy III for the SNES, in spite of it’s perfect score, did require me to actually take a break towards the end just because I just needed to take a breather. This game took me longer to play and I felt no urge to take a break. That, in and of itself, is an impressive feet in game design in my opinion. Very few long games make me want to keep playing all the way through. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself sinking hundreds of hours with no problem.

Another criticism I have though, is the fact that it felt like the end game was a bit rushed. Paradise Valley, for instance, has no dungeons whatsoever. Sweet Water only has the one dungeon. this is a stark contrast compared to earlier areas such as Kriegspire which has a whopping 5 dungeons – two of which are completely optional locations as there is no quest related items in them. It’s just an open overworld area with monsters and a small village in the middle. The area is interesting and there’s a fair bit of difference in terrain, but that’s where the praise ends in the Paradise Valley location.

One good thing about this game is the fact that everything resets if you give the area in question enough time. Some areas require two years while others require as little as 6 months to reset. Dungeons also reset after a while (that includes stat boosting barrels, loot, and closed and locked doors). I found that if you start revisiting earlier dungeons (let alone earlier lands), your constant need for gold diminishes after a while. The experience you gain isn’t as worth it, but the gold makes revisiting early area’s worth it if you are, say, half way to two thirds the way through the game. Some dungeons can be swept through in no time (compared to your first visit anyway) and all the gold you’ve earned before can be re-earned. Excellent for completing spells in your spellbook collection if you are buying the more expensive spells from various specialized guilds.

One additional criticism is the fact that you are forced to use auto aim in this game when it comes to ranged attacks. That means you can anticipate enemy movement and aim accordingly. Instead, you are forced to aim directly at the enemy location. If the enemy is moving and you are at a distance, chances are, you’ll miss. The only good thing about this is the fact that enemies can’t fire at you while moving.

One final criticism is the fact that I found the physics to be a little off. Running off of a ramp like the bridges will cause you to get some serious air time. Running down stairs is the same way. It sometimes felt like you had lunar gravity in this game, yet you can easily take damage from falling too hard (which is what I found normal). So, it was a little odd playing this in that respect, but that, again, is minor.

Graphics is an interesting thing to talk about in this game. I felt this game had flaws, but not in ways most people seem to say. Yes, there is a heavy use in 2D sprites, but the 2D sprites in this 3D world were actually very well done. I found that a lot of people praised Diablo for excellent graphics, but call this games graphics dated. I found that the graphics for this game more ambitious than Diablo because of the first person perspective nature of this game. The special effects in Diablo were better done, but the whole game was a top down RPG game. When put in this context, I would rate the graphics the same for both games.

Now, I have to lower the score for graphics in this because there’s lots of graphical glitches. Sometimes, the floor would show through. 2D sprites are drawn ahead of the terrain. 2D sprites have very few angles they can be observed from, so the change in views on an object can be a little jarring (such as ships for instance).

Now, at the same token, I have to re-raise the score because I like how the portraits of the characters interact with what is happening. When you take damage, the characters in the portraits react. When you are falling, the portraits react. When you die, the portrait changes. So, great graphics overall. In fact, if 2D sprites irritate you in a game, after a while, I found that you eventually forget you are fighting 2D sprites in a 3D environment because the level of detail in them was quite high.

The audio, I found, was well done. The music worked very well with the game. The sound effects were also very well done. If your reputation is below average, your greeting changes when talking to people as opposed to when it’s average or above. I thought that this was a nice touch. The only criticism I have is the re-use of monster sounds for different monsters (and I mean, completely different monsters. One example is that the werewolf sounds are re-used with the sea monster sounds).

Overall, this is a highly addicting game. It’s very well done. If you intend on playing this game, be prepared to have it suck a hundred or so hours out of your life. Believe me, it’s that fun. An excellent game and highly recommended.

Update: November 16, 2015: Discovered that the skill cap is set at 60. This means you can spend a maximum of 1830 skill points (!) on a single skill before it reads “You have already mastered this skill”

Update: September 24, 2016: There may not be a cap in gold you can carry. At 10,000,000 gold, the numbers start running off the end of the box and bleeds into your food statistic and keeps going. If there is a cap in gold at all, it might be set at 99,999,999, but this will take forever to work up to as far as I’m concerned.

Update: October 21, 2016: For those who have made it close to the end of the game, you’ll know that Haste + Blasters = Rapid fire. It turns out, it’s possible to achieve this rapid fire effect without haste. You just need a speed attribute of 490 or more. This rapid fire effect doesn’t apply to normal weapons (at least, not at this level anyway).

Update: October 24, 2016: My theory that the level cap possibly being 400 is now bust. Exceeded level 400 and the option to continue levelling up just kept going. Thought it was 400 because it was double that of the other training ground cap. If there is a cap, it’s higher than level 400.

Update: November 5, 2016: At a skill level of 60 Body Magic, cure poison and cure disease no longer work. Guessing this is a bug because most other spells work just fine (power cure is fantastic at this level!). Am Now curious to see if the same thing will happen with cure insanity at mind magic level 60. Also, managed to acquire more than 400 days of food now. No cap in sight on that, but still building on that as well.

Update: November 22, 2016: If there is a level cap, it is higher than level 500. It is definitely starting to get a little challenging to regularly get enough experience to level up at this point. On the plus side, Lord Arena battle wins nets me 250,000 gold now.

Update: March 09, 2017: Still looking for the cap for food on hand. Not that anyone would have any real practical use for this in the game, but the cap is higher than 1,000.

Update: March 22, 2017: Starting at around the skill level of 57 for mind magic, remove fear and cure insanity fails to work. Telekinesis, luckily, still works. The stat cap might possibly be 265. Working on confirming with another character with another stat, though. This stat cap does not include equipment as that increases it. Magical enhancements and fountains will, of course, also give you higher stats, but the base cap is what I’m looking at.

Update: March 31, 2017: Stat cap seems to be about 255 or 265. Confirmed with multiple stat cap outs now. Still working on finding the level cap. As of now, I now know it is higher than 600 if there is one.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Destroyed the Hive and saved Enroth. It took 42 days (real time) of pretty heavy gaming to accomplish this. Here’s my end-game stats:

End game screen:

Results

Quick reference screen:

Quick

First character (Knight) stats:

Ch1a

Knight skills:

Ch1b

Second character (Sorcerer) stats:

Ch2a

Sorcerer skills:

Ch2b

Third character (Cleric) stats:

Ch3a

Cleric skills:

Ch3b

Fourth character (Archer) stats:

Ch4a

Archer skills:

Ch4b

I found that this party was a little weak on defensive spells, but otherwise very good and well balanced. The only other thing about this party is that if my Cleric was eradicated, the only way to reverse this was through the Free Haven temple. That’s pretty much it though.

These characters are a little over leveled for completing the end game content, but that’s thanks partly to the level 20 learning skill in each.

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 10/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 90%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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