Might & Magic IX - Review

A Journey Through Chedian

By: Angela Anuszewski

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 1
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 10
   Plot 6
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

30+ hours


Title Screen

   Might and Magic IX was released to much fanfare in March of 2002 to much fanfare. It had been two years since the last M&M release, and New World Computing seemed to be betting the farm on the success of this game. Well, we all know what happened to New World Computing shortly after the release. The Big Old Chapter 11.

   If youíve played previous installments of the series, itís almost tradition to run through clouds of enemies too tough to face at breakneck speed to get to places beyond. Donít even think of trying that tactic here. You will die horribly and repeatedly. If you rush into a town -- if you can call it rushing, more on that later -- trying to avoid them, theyíll be waiting for you as soon as you step outside again. Fighting at a distance is almost mandatory if you want to survive. Inch up on enemies when you walk, pick them off one at a time if possible.

   The interface to the game is improved on from the past in some ways, in other ways, it is a total disaster. No longer do you walk into a tavern, shop, etc. and have a large somewhat animated image on the screen while you navigate menus. Now, you walk into the shop, up to the shopkeeper, and navigate menus underneath their image. This is how all conversations go. There is also voice acting in the game, and you may have to stand around in a tavern eavesdropping on what the people are saying for plot clues. Of course, this could make things difficult for a deaf person to play this game in relation to past installments. There is another major interface problem. When your characters do promotion quests, you must select who you want to do the quest before you complete it. If you happen to forget to select a character, or select the wrong character, there is absolutely no way to change your mind. I found this very frustrating. Make sure you save your game before committing to a quest in case your hand slips, otherwise your character you were grooming to be a Lich might be forced down a different path. One big plus Ė gone is the silly moving around objects in your backpack trying to make room. Also, the alchemy skill is gone, as are many other skills, so no reagents to take up all that space. Also, the time it takes to go from area to area (and towns are a different area from the outside environs) is excruciatingly slow, even on high end systems. On a system that just meets recommended requirements, you are looking on the order of minutes. Collecting treasure from fallen enemies is annoying, because it comes in little sacks. If the sack contains more than gold, it brings up the characters inventory menu. Every time. It is incredibly annoying. Also, sometimes the compass on the screen gets out of sync Ė it says you are headed north, but when you look at the map, you are headed east! Awful.

Some nasty skeletons
Some nasty skeletons 

   The music in this game is ok Ė usually subtle and relaxing except in the midst of the fight. It is all in mp3 format so you can have the joy of listening to it even when not actually playing the game. Dark and mysterious is the general musical theme. Sound effects are great, be it the way voices fade in and out as your distance from them varies, or the crack of an arrow being flung at some enemy.

   The Might and Magic series are like no other game Iíve played. There are many more sub-quests than actual plot quests that it is easy to forget that there is a plot. The classic NWC humor is there Ė one of the earliest areas features a pasture of cows that you most definitely can enjoy tipping. One of the main groups that you have to deal with is a group of fanatic goose (aka honky) worshippers, members of the Temple Of Honk. Thereís even a ďWhack a HonkyĒ game similar to Whack a Mole at the carnival site. Trust me, you arenít likely to find this kind of stuff anywhere else, kids.

   The plot starts out ho-hum, go convince the leaders of towns that they must unite to defeat a big powerful adversary. Hey, didnít we do that in M&M 8 already? After thatís done, the plot does start to get interesting. You are going to have to do some side quests to be strong enough to complete the main plot.

   This is an American Game for an American audience. No weird translation issues on this one. The massive interface problems and the lack of features (e.g. skills, no more Arcomage, Wizard Eye is a vastly different spell) made this game less enjoyable to me than previous installments of the series.

A shop keeper
A shop keeper 

   Compared to past installments, the visuals are stunning. The monsters seem very lifelike. There arenít enough designs for townspeople, though. You basically have the adult male, adult female, child male, child female, and if they arenít directly related to a quest, they all look exactly alike.

   This game is hard. I wouldnít try it without a hint book or walkthrough. You need to plan carefully which areas you are going to visit when since the enemies are so much harder in this installment than previous versions. Without a hint book to tell you what sort of enemies to expect in an area, you might not survive very long.

   Unfortunately, I didnít keep track of the hours it took me to play through this game. If you actually do all the side quests and promotion quests, I could see it taking a long time indeed.

New inventory screen
New inventory screen 

   If you are patient enough to wade through the interface, there is gaming goodness here. Personally, I found the interface too much of an obstacle for me to enjoy the game. In some ways it is the M&M of old, in many ways it is not. If you go into this game with installments 6-8 in your expectations, you may be disappointed. It is a good game, but not one that lives up to the past. If you donít have past experience with the series, except for the interface, this is an excellent game and Iím sure you will enjoy it.

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