Review: Might and Magic IX (PC)

In this review, we check out another game in the Might and Magic series, Might and Magic IX. We find out if this first person RPG game is worth playing again.

This particular game was released in 2002 and would be considered the last in the series under the 3DO company (3DO apparently went bankrupt and Might and Magic X was released by Ubisoft). Previously, we reviewed Might and Magic 6 – Mandate of Heaven and thought it was a fantastic RPG game. We then went on to review Might and Magic VII – For Blood and Honor and thought it was a step back, but still not a bad play. After that, we reviewed Might and Magic VIII – Day of the Destroyer and thought the changes were interesting (both good and bad), but still didn’t really add a whole lot to the series even though it wasn’t a bad play. Now, we are reviewing the next installment of the series to see what this game added to the series.

The story appears to occur later in time after the events of a few other games in a related series (Heroes of Might and Magic). Your party of four take a boat ride that would change things forever. You crash into the Isle of Ashes where you meat an old hag who explains that your destiny is to unite 6 clans against the Beldonian hoard. Naturally, you do exactly as she says because it’s only logical to follow the instructions of an old lady you just met.

Like previous Might and Magic games reviewed here, this game is very large. In fact, I would say that if you are playing this for the first time, you are looking at a good month worth of gameplay. Guides can help speed things up, but the ease of this game is such that a guide isn’t exactly necessary – especially if you’ve played previous games in the series.

One thing that is immediately obvious about this game is that the interface has been greatly reworked. A positive element of this new interface is that it strives to be much more minimalistic as opposed to the previous games in the series where you have a massive interface with a window to see where you are going. This game allows you to see the world with the entire screen instead. So, I thought the increase in screen real estate was a positive element. A negative aspect many other reviewers have pointed out was that while some elements are more user friendly, it also comes at a price of being more difficult to understand at first. This is made immediately clear in the character creation screen where you try and figure out how to distribute points to your characters. How does one switch between characters? Hint one is that you can’t use your cursor to do so (why?). Hint number two is that you have to use tab to switch between characters.

Another improvement on the interface was that it was a little easier to tell which character is selected. Previously, there was a subtle white outline around the characters portrait and you couldn’t tell at times which character was selected. Now, there is a yellow outline that appears over the portrait which shows up nicely because of the either dark blue or navy blue backgrounds around the character. Another great improvement was the fact that not only does hits and mana appear as a bar, but also experience. The health now appears in green as opposed to red like in previous games (an interested, though subtle design change as I thought there was nothing wrong with red) while the mana appears in blue like always. Experience appears as a yellow bar along the right hand side of the characters portrait. If you have enough experience, a small yellow gem at the top of the bar lights up. I kind of wish there were gems for the other two bars to indicate full mana or health, but that’s a minor quibble for me.

One major quibble I have, though, is that in this game, it’s the hardest I’ve had it to date trying to determine conditions of characters. I can’t tell the difference between when a character is poisoned and when a character is diseased. Other conditions seem to be next to impossible to tell – depending on what character portraits you have. Sometimes, I can’t even tell if a character is even poisoned. In the Might and Magic 6 game, the character actually turned green, so it was possible to tell very quickly that at least something was wrong. In this game, sometimes there is a subtle facial change or a slight difference in color tones on the skin – a difference that requires a very careful examination of the picture. This was a major negative.

Another negative was that the gem that indicates whether a player can strike or is in the midst of recovery was way too small. The thing in the corner is barely a couple of pixels large and is barely helpful. I thought the gem needed to be larger.

A new element was the larger gem that indicates nearby danger. In previous games, this gem was non-existent and the danger was indicated through the players ‘turn’ gem. In previous games, yellow indicated enemies nearby and red indicated an enemy within striking distance. This has been changed in this game was yellow indicates an enemy nearby, but red indicates an enemy being aware of your presence. I’m not entirely sure if this was an improvement or not, personally.

One complaint I’ve read about this game is that there was a constant requirement to click all the time. I never found that at all because I simply held down the mouse click button instead. This allowed me to attack at the first possible moment I can have a character attack during real time combat.

A seemingly universal complaint for this game, though, was the fact that it was buggy. When I evaluated this game, I had version 1.3, so I couldn’t speak for the earlier glitches. Even still, I agree that this game still had its fair share of bugs. If you are holding down right click and you have two characters casting a spell, sometimes the game will select a character trying to recover. Even though that character is recovering and another character indicates green, you’ll sometimes get stuck on that character until that character recovers. A workaround for this was to occasionally click on tab so that you can still cycle through your characters anyway.

Another small handful of glitches is within movement and AI. Sometimes, if you are walking along, the game just stops detecting that you are holding down forward, forcing you to release and press forward again. Sometimes, you have to step backwards before pressing forward as well.

Enemy AI can be puzzling at times. If you go to the prison, a guard can detect you and take a swipe at you. As long as you allow the enemy to hit first, then the enemy will stop detecting you and just stand there. This allows you to hack all of the enemies hits away until you kill them off. If you strike first, the alarm will sound and all enemies in the level will behave normally.

Another glitch I found was that sometimes, resurrecting monsters would simply fall to the ground. Rather than “burying themselves” as the game suggests, they stay on the surface. When they resurrect, they simply remain frozen in their standing idle position. You can hear them at times, but you can even walk right through them and attacks will also simply pass right through. This is a problem if you are trying to get the treasure the monster drops. I only found this in the Lich’s Lab, though. I never encountered this anywhere else.

Perhaps the most serious glitch in the game is the random crashing. The first time I encountered this was when attempting to speak to the trainer in Sturmford. Interestingly enough, there was no predictability in this crashing bug as I could never duplicate a crash. The exception to this, of course, was attempting to quick save in the arena. If I did a quick save in the arena, the game always crashed. A workaround (besides not quick saving in the arena) is to continually save through quick save. I thought this new feature was an excellent addition to the game where you can simply hit F5 to save and F9 to load. this would be a great feature if the game didn’t crash, but because of the crashing thing, this is seemingly an essential feature to familiarize yourself with.

Another great feature is the ability to change your controls. If you don’t like clicking to attack, you can assign a key in the options instead. If you really wanted, you could remap your entire keyboard to be like previous Might and Magic games, though I left things on default.

Additional features include the ability to crouch. This, to my knowledge, wasn’t present in the previous games and it was nice to have this additional ability in the game to add to the adventure.

One excellent addition is the ability to swim. In previous games, walking on water, unless you cast the water walk spell, meant that you were constantly taking on damage most of the time. In this game, you actually have an air meter to indicate how much breath you have left while underwater before you start drowning. This was a much needed addition, though it was a bit disappointing to see that this wasn’t very well utilized until you got to the Bath level (an optional dungeon close to the very end of the game).

Another very noticeable difference in this game is the fact that the promotion system. Instead of simply selecting a class and working your way up the promotion ladder from the beginning, you start off with either being able to select fighter or initiate. From there, you can explore the capabilities your characters have as you learn new skills and strategically figure out how you want to develop your party. Promotions enable you to have access to varying levels of mastery in each skill that start off as normal and goes to expert, master, and the difficult to obtain grand master level.

In addition to this, the way you go about learning skills has been greatly changed from the previous games. Previously, you simply learned your skills through the guilds in the game. In later games, you can also obtain skills through merchants. This game completely does away with the guild system altogether and you learn your skills through skill books. Use a skill book and you earn the first level of that skill.

One skill worth noting was the learning skill. At the beginning, the learning spell can be quite useful as it’s more than possible to have more gold than experience. However, later on in the game, it’s pointless to take that skill past 10 because you can never afford the training costs in gold. By the end of the game, my mage had over 5 million experience points and I only needed just over 1 million to level up. I have no idea how many levels I could gain in experience alone, but it was far more than was necessary to complete the game at any event. Building up merchant skills and identify item skills can help, but you also need to build up offense and defense of your party as well – especially early in the game.

One thing that hasn’t changed is skill points. You still gain skill points through, mainly, leveling up. After that, you distribute skill points how you see fit through the available skills you have for each character. It is possible to obtain skill through four leaf clovers (1 point each), but since these are so few and far between, they make little difference in your characters overall performance – especially later on in the game. Previously, you could get skill points through horse shoes, but the horse shoes were done away with for some reason.

Like previous games in the series, your magic users learn spells through spell books. If an enemy dropped a spell book (happens a lot, actually), you could use the book to learn a new spell. This depends on which spell you find, if you have already learned it, and what levels of mastery you are at.

The magical system, though, was completely overhauled. I didn’t see anything wrong with the previous system, but now, the magic classes are reduced down to four. These classes are elemental, spiritual, light, and dark magic. So, fire, air, water, and earth have been more or less condensed into “elemental” and mind, body, and spirit have been condensed seemingly down to just spiritual. Some spells may have been redistributed in the light and dark classes as well. This can have a positive influence where you have a much more simplified way of categorizing spells, but you also run the risk of simply dialing back your magic from previous game. I felt that this had the effect of the latter because some of the fun spells like flight have been removed completely.

One spell of note that experienced significant change is the Town Portal spell. Previously, once you got town portal, you could simply warp to that town and reduce your travel time. Now, getting the spell isn’t enough to get this to work. You actually have to visit each of the 6 major towns and fix/clean/repair the ancient alters. Often, this task felt like a “Where’s Waldo” of inanimate objects exercise. The first one in Sturmford was relatively straight forward. You just enter through the front doors of the Baron’s “palace” and it’s sitting there below a tapestry. The other ones, however, can be much more difficult to find. In Guberland, for instance, the alter is found in a random citizens house being used as a dinner table. One rule that helps one find these alters is that they are always found indoors. This helps narrow the search field by quite a bit, but you are still in for quite a task to activate them all. I did eventually find them all, but it was by no means easy.

A defining feature of this game is not just the expansiveness of this game, but also the large assortment of quests found in this game. Some quests are entirely optional, but the bonus in experience and (often) gold makes it worthwhile to complete a vast majority of these quests. Going out in the world and collecting all of these quests is a good first step, though it can be overwhelming when your quest book reaches page three. On the plus side, when you complete a quest, the quest is either removed from your quest book or modified to reflect the next step in the quest tree. I thought that the number of quests in this game really helped me just immerse myself into the experience. It did make the game longer by a lot, but it was, for the most part, a fun element in this game.

There were two quests I couldn’t actually complete. There was the bathhouse quest which, I thought I completed when the NPC said he was awarding me, but I never got awarded and the quest was never erased from my quest book. Another quest was the Lich promotion quest. This was, I’m assuming, because I had no characters that could be promoted to Lich so late in the game. A third quest, Slaying the Dragon, was a quest I also couldn’t complete, but mostly because I didn’t figure out what spells to use to slay such a hard enemy. It wasn’t a big deal to not complete this quest because I was already well past level 50 and ready to just beat the game at that point.

An aspect of this game that I liked was the fact that the game gradually unfolds. It doesn’t just dispense the best content at the beginning and becomes a haphazardly thrown together after a few hours of play. There’s always something new to see as you go through the game. One minute, your making a major jail break, the next you’re slugging through a sewer system. Then, you find yourself sneaking around an ice giant’s cavern, fighting ghosts in a large canyon, then puzzling your way through a futuristic looking building that is the mages lab.

Another aspect I thought was great was the fact that there was a nice liberally applied number of puzzles throughout the game. Many weren’t impossible to figure out, but they did force you to think a little as well. It helped break up the game play a little.

One common complaint for others that I found in this game was the lack of Arcomage. One reviewer I heard say that, because of this, there was no real distraction from normal adventuring to be had in this game. This is something I will disagree with because there are two carnival areas with minigames in them. There was a boat racing mini game, a stones minigame, and a rather amusing whack a goose game (amusing given other elements in this game). So, there are distractions from normal adventuring, but they aren’t as time consuming as Arcomage. Would the game have benefited from having Arcomage in there somewhere? Yes, I can see it being a great addition, but to say that there were no distractions in the game is a bit misleading.

Generally speaking, I found this game to be one of those games that takes a bit to get into, but once you play for a little while, the game does grow on me over time. One person that disliked the game suggested that they played for 5 minutes and disliked it. I would say that, in that case, that person didn’t play the game. You need at least a couple days to get a good feel for what the game is about before you can at least have something productive to contribute. There was a lot to experience in this game and it doesn’t get too repetitive either. The only time I lost patience with this game was when I was attempting to slay the dragon at the end of the game. The upside is that this was entirely optional, so I just continued on to a different quest.

There are really two portions of this game. The larger portion at the beginning allows you to go forth and complete quests as you saw fit. It was really an open world concept at that point. The other part is a much smaller, but linear part of the game. Once you have united the clan, the quests become very linear. Having both was interesting to have to say the least and I had no problem with having both in this game. Some guides suggest that you have to ensure that you have completed as many quests as possible before you go forth and tackle the last linear portion of the game. Either I completed too many quests to notice or a version I have fixed this or the guides are misleading because I found very few parts of the linear portion to notice this. There is a time sensitive quest and a portion where you are stuck in a particular dungeon, but those were the only parts where you couldn’t freely roam.

A positive aspect of this game, I thought, was the level of environmental interactivity. One dungeon had skeletons dropping from the roof. Another are had enemies peaking out at you at the top of cliffs before jumping down to attack. One part, you got to drop a whole floor area to defeat an enemy. I found these elements to be a positive in this game.

One criticism I do have of this game is that, in previous games, you have a large area to explore in the different outside regions you can explore. This seemed to have stopped in this game as all you have are mostly canyon-like areas in the open world areas. There was still plenty of space to explore, but it wasn’t seemingly of the same magnitude as the previous games. I thought this was actually kind of sad because, in that respect, I felt like I was getting less of a game. Guberland, for instance, was simply a down on the side of a large hill and the entire outdoor area consisted of a ring with a few points that break away to either The Gathering or dungeons. The only other feature was a beach where you can meet a hag in a small cave on the coast. I thought this could have been better.

Graphics was a major sore spot for a lot of players. For a lot of people, this game had very dated graphics for a 2002 game. I can agree that some of the textures could have been better (namely environmental textures). I also agree that, for a 2002 game, the models were a little blockier then what would have been expected. Note that Super Mario Sunshine was released in the same year and you can easily see the difference in graphic quality. I will say, though, that this game did finally take a turn in the right direction because this series did some hardcore sticking to 2D sprites even as other games were transitioning to full 3D models. The fact that this game finally took the plunge and used nothing but 3D models was a very nice thing to see. Unfortunately, you can get the sense that this was too little, too late for the series. The draw distance was certainly impressive, but that’s where a lot of praise ends for the graphics of this game.

The audio was nicely done. The variety of tracks in outdoor worlds as well as in the dungeons were nice to hear. There was also a nice small set of tracks for different cities as well. My problem with the music is that there was only one track for battle music. Since you spend so much time battling things, the music does start to wear. Even though the battle music was good, I did start getting tired of it by the end of the game. So, a small set of tracks for battle music would have done this game good. The sound effects were pretty decent, though if your character gets, I think, cursed, you hear the character sometimes behave as if he’s going insane instead. I’m guessing insanity was being implemented, but it never was, but the sound effects were never stripped out. Beyond that, I don’t think I have any qualms with the sound effects. The idle monster sounds in the next room were a nice touch.

Overall, this game had its fair share of positive and negative elements to it. On the upside, this game is immersive, had a lot of great dungeons, and had a nice variety of quests – not to mention and interesting storyline. On the negative side, this game suffers from a number of glitches and the graphics are a bit dated for a 2002 game – though the draw distance was a positive. Generally speaking, I found this to be a pretty good game to play. If you are into more modern gaming, this isn’t a bad game to get into. If you’ve played previous Might and Magic games, this game is also not a bad one to play as well. It’s not, in my opinion, as good as Might and Magic 6, but it certainly did show that this series was headed in a good direction after the previous two games.


Furthest point in game: Completed all but Lich promotion quests. Beat the game, but didn’t complete the Golden Goose (thought I had played enough of the game to get a good feel for it) or the Slay the Dragon quests. End screen:


General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 74%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top