Old Game Reviews: Might and Magic 2 Gates to Another World

Although I did play Might and Magic I before II, I wanted to review II as I felt it was certainly the better game with more depth and content. Also, it was horribly addicting and something I could easily spin up today and play for hours.

Might and Magic I was New World Computing’s first foray in the burgeoning CRPG space and certainly made an impact. While not innovating that much, it was the game play that captured the imagination and hearts of numerous die hard RPG/CRPG fans that cemented the name as a huge brand in the genre. Might and Magic II continued improving upon the foundation that Might and Magic I laid down and solidified that universe for sequels in terms of lore and direction.

One thing that the Might and Magic series attempted to do was differentiate itself a little by changing statistics names and classes. For instance, it used might rather than strength, knights as opposed to fighters and archers rather than rangers. The first game started you off with Knights, Paladins, Archers, Clerics, Robbers and Sorcerers and this one added two new classes in the forms of the Barbarian and Ninja. Along with these two classes, you could add two NPCs on top of your 6 other slots to bring the party total to a whopping 8. Not many games back in the day that had parties would provide that many slots, usually varying between 4-6. Yet in this game, you really needed every helping hand you could get.

Races were still a thing at this time and you could select the traditional humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes and half-orcs. On top of that, you would select the gender and alignment. I vaguely recall gender having a slight impact upon statistics but for certain it would impact one portion of the game where you were required to have all females. Alignment mostly affected your interactions with NPCs as well as being able to use certain magic items, which had other restrictions.

While you do not have typical weapon skills, you do have some useful miscellaneous skills that you pick up as you go from town to town. In a few cases, you are required to have at least two party members employing the skill to be effective such as mountaineering. While the programmatic effect is merely a boolean flag, the stage is set here for future games in incorporating the idea of using more custom skills to enhance the game play and strategy.

Most of the game is, indeed, hack-n-slash from a first person viewpoint and turn based combat. However, the game is very puzzle laden and the final encounter is a riddle rather than massive boss fight. Outside of one specific encounter, there are not a lot of epic fights, although the latter stages of the game can border on ridiculous depending on your power level vs the monster’s. One of the most infamous grinding tricks in the game is the Cuisinart fight where you can accumulate millions of experience just by fighting 3 Cuisinart knights in a hidden part of the outdoors map.

Although the game provides the capability to have an overhead map through the cartographer skill, you still should either employ graph paper or a hint book since you’ll want to note every location. Also, you’ll need to gather up the clues for the end game puzzle and a few other spots.

Time is a key feature here as well. The game is an actually timed where you need to resolve the final riddle before the world explodes. I’ve never reached that point but it is an aspect to keep in mind. More importantly, time drives certain events as well as forces you to keep watch over your characters’ age attribute. Age plays a critical factor in lowering your attributes once you hit a certain number. You’ll see degradations in things like Might, which means your performance in combat proportionally will decrease. There are ways to reverse this process but you have to be extremely careful in avoiding accidentally a misfire in a few cases.

Also, going back to the idea of character development, you eventually will want to spend time developing not only your main characters, but a second or even third party and the various NPCs. The main reason is that you’ll eventually need to face a few class specific encounters. These vary in difficulty. With good equipment and a properly leveled character or two, you should never find these encounters overwhelming.

For parties, many people would suggest taking a balanced party of each class. In my experience, certain classes are horribly handicapped like the robber, barbarian and knight. In this game, archers and sorcerers are the real power houses. Archers with a high level Ancient Bow and twin sorcerers shooting off high level AoE and Implosion spells are what will get you through typically impossible odds. The only positives knights and barbarians bring to the table are hit points. But a good paladin serves far better with the capability of healing to supplement your cleric.

For myself the hardest part of this game was surviving the first 1-17 levels. You start off with almost no gold nor equipment and occasionally must face large groups of mobs. Without powerful AoE spells and armor for protection, the early stages of the game can be extremely brutal to any newcomer. And even when you acquire reasonable armor, weapons and some gold, the next area will provide enough of a challenge that can wipe out your party mercilessly.

At a certain point though, the game’s difficulty really tapers off. Once you learn how to increase your attributes and get enough levels and gear to handle the infamous E2 area, a few runs here and there will start advancing you 2-3+ levels. Soon, you’ll find yourself capable of defeating almost every encounter, right up until the Cuisinart fight. At that point, you can simply grind to level 255 (which is the max) or pursue the main plot.

What made this game incredibly fun for me was the long grind. Yes, as I mentioned the initial stages were really challenging in getting that momentum going. Just gaining a single level early on could be a nightmare. But there was always ways to farm for XP, gear and gold that superseded those barriers. The huge amount of content, quests and monsters kept the game compelling for hours. Obviously by today’s standards, you could probably finish a game like this in a week’s time even if you played a few hours every night.

But part of the greatness of games back in those days was that you weren’t at the mercy of unending grind sessions. There were endpoints where you could just finish the game, pack up the box and feel satisfied. Might and Magic 2 certainly was one of the peak games at that time which provided those long hours of enjoyment.

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