Gaming nostalgia is a weird thing. Sometimes the idea of playing something again is a lot better than the actual act of doing it. Ultima Online is one such game for me. It still holds up in many ways from a systems and design perspective, but the overall charm that it had in 1997 is gone in 2014. First MMO love and all that. The recently released Might and Magic X: Legacy is basically the opposite.
It plays like an old-school Might and Magic game; each move advances time, its turn based, you create a part of four, the world is quasi-open, it has a lot of older design elements going for it, and it has that (now iconic?) first-person perspective that is undeniable Might and Magic. The setting is post Heroes of Might and Magic 6, so if you have played that game, you will enjoy the references and recognize some of the characters (including the use of portraits straight from that game).
If rumors are true, it’s also a budget game from Ubisoft, testing to see if the market for such a game still exists. The graphics aren’t state-of-the-art (though very decent if you crank everything up), the total amount of content can’t hold a candle to something like Skyrim, and while charming, you do just get the sense that this was a small-team effort.
But man is the game fun. The mix of open-ish world and dungeons is fantastic. Just as you might be wishing for something more open, the dungeon ends and opens up more world. Just as ‘more world’ starts feeling overwhelming, here comes a perfectly timed dungeon with a new, interesting tileset. Towns and conversations are spaces such that you never feel flooded with text, or have a quest log suddenly stacked with a dozen new objectives. The flow (up to chapter 3 of 6 so far) is perfect.
Progression feels more meaningful than in any recent game I’ve played. Monsters that were tough become fodder a few levels and gear upgrades later, and with a wonderfully satisfying feeling to it. Party and character builds give you enough control that you can see other tactics working in a different playthrough, while also seeing your party grow and expand in capabilities as you go. Returning to a once-impossible boss monster to just barely beat him gives you that awesomely rewarding gaming feeling so few games get right.
Combat is simple but not insultingly so. You have a good range of spells and abilities to use, while at the same time you need to pace how often you chug potions or rest if you want to finish a dungeon without having to return to town to restock. There is no penalty (other than your gaming time) for restocking, so the difficulty is something you can somewhat control (the game also has normal and hard modes), which I think is a smart design decision and doesn’t force you to min-max your characters. That said, you absolutely CAN min-max and see results, which makes the inclusion of a hard mode a nice option for a second trip through the game.
The game has been a great surprise, and if you are looking for a bit of old-school RPG fun, or are curious what all the hype was for the Might and Magic series back in the day, MMX:Legacy is well worth your time.