Might and Magic 3 logo

Sequels. Love them or hate them, you can't deny that they're follow-ups to other games. Ultima 6, EOTB 2, Monkey Island 2, where will it end? Quite possibly, deep in the heart of Might and Magic 3.

Taking the view that size is important after all, MM3 is a massive role-player that takes up, not surprisingly, where MM2 left of. The Isles of Terra (terror - he! Nice pun) are in deep trouble, thanks to the unglorious plans of someone called Sheltem. He seems to have an irrational hatred of isles and thus desires to blow Terra away. Your job, brave stranger, is to find him and persuade him otherwise.

Reel around the fountain head
The game begins in the intriguing town of Fountain Head, where strangely enough the fountains look like heads. After visiting the inn to roll up some characters you're off on the quest. MM3 uses the usual first-person Dungeon Master-esque perspective view and movement of your six-character party is achieved in the conventional way, square by square. A bank of icons allow more complex actions like resting, casting spells and viewing a map of the surrounding area.

Obviously you're not going to bump into Sheltem strolling down the road, the ultimate goal is achieved by completing many smaller sub-quests over the five islands. Wandering around Fountain Head you eventually hit upon your first quest, to free the town's founder Morphose from the Rat Overlord. This is quite a task, which involves a further sub-quest, and is a good introduction to the game's workings.

It's possible, but certainly not advisable, to leave Fountain Head and go off wandering without completing the quest. In fact you can go pretty much anywhere you like provided you've got the right objects. Towns are always good places to visit because of the facilities they offer: spells can be bought from guilds, as long as you're a member, taverns are good places from which to get clues, shops offer new weapons and armour, and there are even vaults in which you can deposit some of your gold and earn interest.


If you've never been inclined to go for an RPG, Might and Magic 3 could well change your mind

Although MM3 isn't an official Dungeons & Dragons game it's very much based on D&D rules. Characters have races and alignments (good, bad or neutral) which affect the weapons and spells they can use, together with all sorts of stats related to their armour, weapons, etc. There are plenty of chances to temporarily or permanently alter these stats through the potions and spells. Like fighting, spell use is improved through practice.

One interesting innovation is the use of the screen decoration as warning indicators. Case in point: if one of your characters has the skill 'Detect Secret Passages' (which can be learnt), and you're facing a wall with said secret passage, the gargoyle at the bottom right of the screen waves his arm, so you know it's possible to bash in the wall. Other creatures around the main display animate in certain important situations. It's a small but pleasing touch.

Magic, roundabout
If you've never been inclined to go for an RPG, or if you've been disheartened by past experience, MM3 could well change your mind. It's a huge, detailed and immensely ejoyable sprawl of a game. Graphically, it varies from the really quite cool, semi-animated graphics of static screens (like the shop), to the amateurish look of the country-side scenery.

The monsters won't scare you, having only two or three frames of animation each. Sound-wise there are a few standard samples and some annoying music.

The lack of stunning visuals doesn't matter. The effects are, or should be, secondary to the gameplay, and for once the gameplay is enough to keep you bashing away for ages. It's only when you look at the game map that you realise what a huge undertaking completing MM3> is. Fountain head along should keep you at it for four or five hours, and that occupies a tiny part of the game world. MM3 comes on five disks and while playing from floppy is bearable you're better off with a hard drive.

Might and Magic 3 offers genuine value for money. Perhaps now and again it leans too heavily on combat, and at other times on its lists of statistics, but on the whole it's a rattlingly good ride.



Might and Magic 3 logo

Voller Eifer schnitzen die Jungs von New World Computing an einem dritten Standbein für ihr berühmtes Rollenspiel-Duett - das Ergebnis war ein PC-Abenteuer vom Allerfeinsten. Nun steht endlich auch die Amigaversion, und um ehrlich zu sein: Wir stehen drauf!

Wie man das von der mächtig magischen Saga gewohnt ist, soll einmal mehr dem Finsterling Sheltem das Handwerk gelegt werden, diesmal bedroht er die Inseln des Landes Terra. Die Hatz beginnt in der abgelegenen Stadt Fountain Head, wo sich ehrbare Bürger wegen der vielen Monster kaum noch auf die Straße trauen.

Neben "Strassensäuberung" steht noch eine kleine Befreihungsaktion für den entführten Schutzpatron des Örtchens auf der Tagesordnung. Durch viel Wilderness und über Zwischenstationen wie den Temple of Moo geht es dann zu anderen Inseln und Städten, wo weitere Teilquests auf die ruhmreichen Helden warten, ehe es irgendwann zum Showdown mit dem Obermiesling kommt.

Doch bis dahin ist es ein derart weiter und vor allem dornenreicher weg, daß sich Rolli-Neulinge am besten an das fertig ausgerüstete und bereits bewaffnete Instant-Sextett halten sollten - alte Recken aus früheren Teilen können leider nicht übernommen werden.

Versierten Haudegen dürfen freilich auch ein eigenes Team basteln, stehen dann aber anfänglich ziemlich nackt in der Landschaft. Dazu kann man unter fünf handelsüblichen Fantasy-Rassen und zehn Berufen (Paladine, Kleriker usw.) wählen, und es stehen mehrere Konterfeis zur freien Verfügung.

Die Charakterwerte wie Intellekt oder Ausdauer hingegen ergeben sich zufällig per digitalem Würfelwurf. So oder so bleiben zwei Charakter-Slots am Hauptscreen frei, gesellige NPC's brauchen schließlich auch ihr Plätzchen.

In den Städten findet man die übliche Abenteuer-Infrastruktur, also Kneipen für das leibliche, Schmieden für das waffentechnische und Banken für das finanzielle Wohl.

Aber auch die Tempel der Heilung sind erwähnenswert, ebenso wie Gilden oder Trainingslager, in denen Zaubersprüche gekauft bzw. höhere Level erklommen werden - genügend Erfahrungspunkte vorausgesetzt.

Wer die Paßwörter kennt, kann gar per Teleporter von einer Stadt zur anderen reisen, und falls einem mal ein sogenannter Meister begegnen, sollte man sich von ihm nützliche Skills wie Kartografie (Automapping) oder Schwimmen beibringen lassen.

Einen Kampfscreen sucht man vergebens, die animierten Monster sind schon von weitem sichtbar und werden beim Herandackeln immer größer, bis sie halt auf Nahkampfdistanz sind (natürlich kann man sie schon vorher mit Spells oder Pfeilen beharken).

Nun blendet das Programm ein spezielles Iconset ein, und es darf per Klick und in Echtzeit gerangelt werden. Im Gegensatz zum Vorbild "Dungeon Master" ist hier aber auch ein Quickmode vorhanden, bei dem nur anfänglich einmal die Befehle für alle verteilt werden. Zwar liegt der Schwerpunkt generell eher im Metzeln, weshalb man möglichst weder wanken noch weichen sollte - wenn jedoch gar nichts mehr hilft, dürft Ihr Euch vom eingebauten Notausgang in Sicherheit bringen lassen. Das kostet allerdings Erfahrungspunkte!

Wie schon angedeutet erscheint die jeweilige Umwelt im großen 3D-Fenster (Party-Perspektive) des Hauptscreens; auch die Fortbewegung findet mit Hilfe von Richtungspfeilen hier statt. Okay, ganz so bombastisch wie die VGA-Optik des PC-Originals wirkt die Amiga-Grafik nicht, aber immer noch sehr hübsch und ansprechend schnell.

Noch mehr Lob verdient die bequeme und durchdachte Maus/Icon-Steuerung: Ob man schlafen, zaubern oder nur einem seiner Helden ins Innenleben schauen möchte, ein Klick am rechten Ort genügt; wenn auch gelegentlich ein wenig nachgeladen werden muß. Außerdem ist vielen der Verzierungen und Skulpturen am Rande des 3D-Fensters eine Sonderfunktion zugeordnet, z.B. Kompaß oder Monsterwarnung - immer vorausgesetzt daß irgendjemand aus der Equipe die dazu passenden Skills erlernt hat.

Die Freunde feiner Sound-Untermalung kommen angesichts der vollmundigen Tracks ebenfalls auf ihre Kosten, und so bleibt uns schließlich nur ein Fazit: Was ein echter (und geübter) Rollenspieler ist, der wird der Macht dieser Magie wohl kaum widerstehen können... (jn)



Might and Magic 3 logo

Gird up your loins adventurer-style and take a trip with us through New World's

You will need:
(1) One copy of Might and Magic III (£35.99)
(2) One megabyte of memory (peeled and stoned)
(3) One (fresh) external drive plus two (lightly toasted) formatted named floppies OR one hard drive (with at least five megs free space)

Fortunately these are the sort of requirements that are unlikely to have out-budgeted serious RPG fans in the past (surely they would make a wise upgrade anyway?), so we should look at is the actual game; a straight RPG following the well-worn path trodden by the likes of Dungeon Master, Bloodwych, Black Crypt, Abandoned Places and most recently the perfectly-formed Eye of the Beholder 2.

Whether M&M III out-RPGs this current best-of--the-bunch is rather a moot point though. Consider Beholder 2 for a minute: how would you explain toa complete newcomer exactly what you have to do? Come on. Try. Practice on your teddy bear. The chances are you'd come up with something like "well, you have to walk around a maze killing people".

Asked to expand, you'd probably mention pressure-pad and lever-related puzzles, you might drop in a snippet on communicating with other characters or on spells or on the different locations, but, well, walking around a maze killing people is what it is about really. Teddy will not be impressed (although I'd be impressed to meet your talking talking teddy - Ed.) It's not just I'm knocking Beholder 2 (a great game indeed, as its 86 percent score and appropriate chart placing quite rightly show) - it's just that, from teddy's point of view, surely there should be more depth to an RPG?

Indeed there should, and as if by magic, here's Magic III - an RPG with enough depth to allow experienced gamers to dive right on in, but at the other end, shallow enough for beginners to wade in slowly, avoid getting their hair wet and take the time to double-check that they've done their trunks up tightly enough.

Perhaps at this point in the review you would be interested to know how far through the game I got. Assuming you would, let's begin. The adventure unfolds as a series of inter-related quests. As you solve them, new ones appear, pointing you in the right direction to locate more. The first was to locate Morphose, the protector of Fountain Head (your starting village), and release him from the clutches of the evil Rat Overlord.


It even feels quite realistic

Wandering around the auto-mapping village, I came across Kanion the Skull Master who, in my second quest, required five silver skulls to complete his statue. Leaving Fountain Head, I burnt down several hideaways to gain booty, experience and some extra weapons - including a flamberge (answers on a postcard) - enough to be able to take out my welcoming committee in the ancient Temple of Moo, where the skulls were lying. Back to the city, I handed over the skulls to Kanion. He gave me a password which let me pass the altars in the caverns below the village.

I trained my characters in the training grounds, created two more at the Inn, bought access to the Guild, added to my spells and even managed to take out a party of undead skeletons in the arena. A few spells later I was down the pit and into the caverns below the city, where my party had become strong enough to withstand the blows of the deadly swinging pendulums and the attack of many a killer moose-rat. I located (and killed) the Rat Overlord, and rescued Morphose and was given a new quest.

A 24-squared map consisting of 13 islands should give you an idea of how large the playing area is - all the above took place in little more than two squares, and thinking about it, I'm not sure that I'm a twelfth of the way through the adventure yet. It is also perfectly possible to sniff out other (nearish) locations to get a taste of what's to come. Although still of the 'solve puzzles in one location then move on' style, the gameplay takes place in far less tight a way than Beholder with its 'work out how to open this door or get past this pit or - ha! - you won't be able to get any further' puzzles, and that's what makes Magic more a far more realistic experience, and hence, for me, the superior game.

Size and flexibility aren't the only things Magic waves ostentatiously over the heads of its counterparts. Its control system is also a gem to use - and so, for once, is the method of combat too. Here, a quick fight option can be set (annoyingly, only after you've actually entered battle though) - choose each character's most effective method of attack, be it with weapons or by repeated casting of a certain spell. As soon as you are attacked, simply press the right-hand mouse button - the computer cycles through the characters and each one lets the enemy have it with the method you've just defined.

For the less tame enemies, you'll probably want to be more specific with your attacking moves, and so you can call up each character separately and decide to attack with a certain weapon, cast a certain spell (if you're a spellcaster), or run away as you see fit. Luckily the enemy stop as soon as any lists appear so there's none of that frantic weapon-selecting business you get in certain other RPGs I could mention.

In fact if you try to be too quick then you may face problems - the control buffer is prone to filling up, throwing you into a state of confusion whilst the Amiga tries to catch up with your button clicks or key presses - on more than one occasion the entire game even locked up on me.

Hollywood-based New World Computing have had three attempts to get things right, so they don't really deserve excess congratulations for, well, getting everything (apart from the above niggle) right, really. The graphics of the locations and the characters are excellent (the animation still isn't quite there - nine mooserats waggling their tales in perfect time just looks silly).


The biggest, deepest D&D clone

I might add here that, although using nine disks in all, this game still plays perfectly well from floppies, requiring the absolute minimum number of disk changes, although there is some hefty accessing at times. Actually, I installed part of the game on the RAM disk of my two meg machine and was able to do away with the external drive altogether, but that's just me being smug. (And terribly techie and tedious with it. - Ed)

So, all in all, what have we got? The biggest, the deepest, and the best looking D&D clone to date, that's what. There's room for improvement (artificially intelligent members of your party would be nice - not leaving you to do absolutely everything for them), but surely the next straight D&D clone to come out won't be much of a significant improvement?

What we really need is a completely new approach, something like the 3D cartoonism of Legend, the Gauntlet-style view of Ultima VI of the board-game approach of a Space Crusade.

Whether you agree, and whether you like RPGs in the first place (if you've never tried one, then you really don't know what you're missing - this would be a great one to start with) will determine how high Might and Magic III will be on your shopping list. The 'done-most-of-it-all before' feel of the otherwise (almost) flawless Magic would point me towards one of the other three (Legend, since you ask), but then again, maybe you won't agree. I look forward to finding out from your letters what you thin about it.


SOME IMPORTANT PLACES FOR YOU TO LOOK OUT FOR ON YOUR JOURNEY:

Throughout your travels on the Isles of Terra, you will come across places that are well worth a visit or two to assist in your character development programme. Don't forget that these places only stay open during sensible business hours, by the way, or you'll have a long wait to opening time!

Might and Magic 3
You can have up to eight characters in your party at any time - six real members, and two hirelings whose fee increases with their experience. At the inns you can create, store or swap characters at will - if you've ever fancied controlling a party of female ninja elves, then this is the place.

Might and Magic 3
Knackered? Poisoned? Drunk? Cursed? Dead? It's marvellous what they can do with temples today. Make enough donations (HINT: it's rather expensive to make a donation on a Sunday) and you'll be blessed, which can come in handy.

Might and Magic 3
Nothing very surprising here at the blacksmith's - you can buy things, sell things, or get things fixed. (You've got another four lines to Pelley, and if you think I'm going to fill them up for you, then you've got another thing coming - Ed)

Might and Magic 3
Gaining experience does not increase your characters' levels - they have to be trained at the training grounds. Skills like map-making, or the ability to sense danger or secret passages, have to be bought or found, not here, but from some of the characters you meet.

Might and Magic 3
Buy food, listen for rmuours and hear handy tips at the taverns. The barman is likely to be more helpful if you buy a drink or two - but watch out you don't get al your party drunk!

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Only spell-casting characters need to bother to enter the guilds - but they'll need to become members before they can go in and start learning spells. Why not go and talk to that nice-looking fellow outside the Tavern?

Might and Magic 3
You can safely store all your excess gold and gems at the bank, without fear of robbery, Robert Maxwell, or 90 days notice on withdrawal. And, of course, you earn interest at competitive rates!


Might and Magic 3 logo CU Amiga Screenstar

Dungeon Master, Steve Keen, explores the bright and attractive world of Might And Magic Are these the best graphics yet to appear in an RPG?

NEW BEGINNINGS...
After fighting your way through the first two Might And Magic adventures, it's only natural to assume that you're hungry for more. The evil forces of darkness are back and it's guaranteed that someone, somewhere, is going to be calling on your extraordinary services again, very soon.

Might And Magic's game engine has been given a thorough going over. The combat system has completely changed, and although it's far from perfect, it's much improved from its flawed predecessors. Slashing its way in on six disks, the game is at least four times bigger than fellow U.S. Gold stable-mate, Eye Of The Beholder, and an incredible clue book consisting of 250 pages has already been put together in anticipation of Joe Public's problems.

BATTLE COMMENCES
The expedition commences at the entrance to the watery catacombs of Fountain Head. You are given a well-balanced, predetermined party of six characters, including a Dwarven Barbarian, a half-Orc Knight, and a human Paladin. The setting provides a steady introduction to the game world, and eases the player into the intricate levels.

To begin with, nothing will attack unless you're provoking it, and the main objective is to seek out the various masters of the arts to improve your skills and guide you through the late stages. These experts include a Cartographer, who will train you in the art of map making; the Pathfinder, who imparts knowledge of the fastest ways to pass through the game's dense forests; and the Swimmer, for those of you afraid of getting your hair wet.

As well as the creature content, the countless corridors also hide all manner of secret rooms and partitions. Once they are located, you can click on an icon in the control icon in the control panel to break them down and pillage their contents. Creatures lurk behind every wall. The first stage monsters are limited to rather wet Rats who squeak a lot and do very little else, but on later stages they get rapidly tougher.

Whilst the first batch of nasties can be fought off using a combination of fire spells and brute force, they often group together and consequently cause umpteen times more trouble.

ONE STEP BEHIND...
All magic users are advised to keep their spells at the ready. Combat is slow at the best of times, and another bad point is that you can't choose which character is going to attack next. Instead, a yellow box highlights the player next up to fight and you must wait until it selects one you wish to use. Normally, this wouldn't be so bad, but the computer gets rather confused if you press the mouse button too many times. As a result, when it finally reaches the character you wanted to pause on, it often skips past.

If you're lucky, you can obtain a spell from one of the fountains by throwing a coin into it. In addition, there is a resident Magician's school which will take on young hopefuls, providing that they have bought a membership to the Guild - and this can be found via a wandering Sage. The Magician's Guild is used to understand and learn the magical properties of the game's many spells, and also reveals the mystical power of the countless gems which are dotted throughout the play area.

As you travel through towns it's advisable to help people as you may reap great rewards. Tasks completed on behalf of others will either result in materialistic gain or aid in future puzzles. You start off with 2800 gold pieces which are rapidly eaten away by regular visits to equipment shops. In addition, if you're not happy with your team members' statistics, you can visit the Forty Winks Inn and hire another gang, or create a replacement. Once the computer has rolled the new warrior for them to follow, taking into account their new skills.

MAGICAL GRAPHICS
Might And Magic 3's graphics are nothing short of fantastic. The detail used to depict the play arena is suitably subdued, and makes the monsters seem even more lifelike. The Trolls can be seen breathing and you can even see their stomachs moving in and out as they attack. Globular bubble monsters undulate towards you, creeping across the floor, boils bursting randomly as they approach. The fountains that adorn the first level enclosure actually look like they're comprised of digitised pictures of women's faces, rather than the expanded pixelized renditions they actually are - and the overall effect is simply excellent.

All the usual inventory screens are included, as well as the endless lists of carried items. However, I never came across the need to pick anything up using the cursor, as any items acquired were automatically placed in my inventory. The on-screen movement controls were a bit of a handful at first as there aren't any separate icons on-screen.
Instead, you must place the cursor at the very top of the game window to move forwards and to the sides to move left and right. The position for turn left and sidestep are very close together and unless you take real care, it's easy to become disorientated, especially in the rambling wilds outside the towns.

SIZE IS EVERYTHING
Exploring the towns, forest planes, villages, castles, mansions and underground labyrinths, it's easy to understand just how large the game's play area is. A staggeringly simple intro, consisting of some thumping music and a disembodied head floating in space, grabs your attention from the start. This talking semi-skeletal face is that of Sheletem, your nemesis, and he recounts in detail his plans for you during this third challenge in crystal-clear digitised speech. There are no real fancy graphics, but the combination of music, facial animation and the lengthy samples is stunning, and sets the scene perfectly.

The programmers have gone to great lengths to maintain the tradition of the Might And Magic series, and this is made obvious by the game's distinctive style. Dungeon Master freaks take heed, this is not necessarily for you, as the game's roots are placed firmly in the Bard's Tale style of adventuring. Whatever your preference, though, this is top quality stuff that you're not likely to tire off quickly.

With over ninety full-animated and detailed monsters, I doubt it many of you will finish it within months of constant play - but it will be fun trying!


THE DEVIL YOU KNOW The enlarged combat/world window isn't just a pretty facade. The ornate devils provide a useful function. The Sprite to the left of the screen flaps when a levitation spell is in operation, whilst the Imp on the right waves his arms up and down whenever a secret door or entrance is present. Likewise, the Gargoyle's face at the top of the screen screeches when it senses danger. There's also a self-mapping feature located on the main control panel which can be accessed at any time to tell you where you are.

SALE OF THE CENTURY In every settlement, there are locations which will provide help and assistance. However, nothing in this world is free and it's advisable to have a large amount of cash ready before bothering the store owners. Fine's Fineries sell armour and weapons, as well as that little extra something for the weakened. The Lonely Hearth allows you take a breather, get a drink and some grub, whilst take a breather, get a drink and some grub, whilst savesdropping on some rumours. Unlike many other RPGs, whenever you rest your party will be restored to full health within six seconds. However, a resting party are sitting ducks when attacked, as they'll continue to sleep until the characters are hit, which often leaves one hero to face the enemy alone.


Might and Magic 3 logo

Electronic Arts/ £29.99/ Out now

Amiga reviewIan: When David reviewed the PC version of Might And Magic 3 in last December's issue, it received a score of 89, putting it right up there alongside Dungeon Master and Eye Of The Beholder (from which this game obviously draws its inspiration). So I eagerly ripped open the box and prepared myself for a treat.

Unfortunately, I had to wait quite a while for that treat. After formatting two blank discs, copying files onto them and renaming them, I was finally in a position to play the game. (You need at least 1 Meg of RAM and an external disk drive.) If you think all that sounds a bit of a hassle, try actually playing the game. With its disk swopping and disk accessing, this game is mega frustrating.

If it wasn't for this, the game would be a surefire winner. Almost identical to the PC version graphically and sonically, it also shares the same user interface and gameplay.

Another annoying quibble comes to light at the beginning. The experience (and therefore strength, etc) of your party is initially so low that survival becomes very difficult as soon as you leave the town of Fountain Head. Going out, beating up a few orcs and then returning to rest is the best way to progress until your party of six builds up strength.

Long-term interest is provided not only by the RPG elements, but also the achievement of awards for tasks and services which are not necessarily vital to completing the game, but can prove useful in terms of gold, magic items and such like.

A great game (almost) ruined by the hardware requirements and a severe case of fiddlydiskitis.