Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World

Stryker: Might and Magic has some features that were true innovations for its time – an open world to explore, plenty of sidequests, a first person perspective – that you might be tempted to think of it as kind of a great-grandparent of more modern RPGs like Mass Effect or Oblivion. At least until you sit down and play it, at which point you’ll realize that it’s really more like some cousin of Dragon Warrior that kept running headfirst into filing cabinets as a child. RPGs have a bad tendency to turn into boring grinds of endless leveling via menu-driven combat, with little in the way of real gameplay or strategy. Might and Magic’s solution to that problem is to make that game less efficient, more menu-driven and to push the story as far into the background as possible. I realize that porting a game to a console from a PC can be tricky, but did anyone even try with this one? Honestly? I really don’t think it should be asking too much that a Genesis RPG be, at a bare minimum, at least as intuitive and playable as 1986’s The Bard’s Tale.

Brad: I took a Latin class in high school, and one day we got to watch a movie called Theseus and the Minotaur (read a full descritption of the film here). Although the film introduced a lot of, um… interesting, techniques to the world of educational cinema, its most striking innovation was using plywood cut-outs as stand-ins for… the backgrounds? No. Some of the sets? No. They were used for half of the cast. Trust me, you haven’t seen great acting until you see Theseus challenging a piece of wood with the evil King Minos painted on it.

So what does any of that have to do with Might and Magic? Well, M&M uses a first person perspective, with the towns, dungeons and other environments rendered in a sort of primitive 3D perspective, not unlike many PC RPGs of the time. But the monsters are all flat, 2D drawings which, when encountered, are simply superimposed upon this background. The difference is striking, and creates a rather strong impression of fighting that same bunch of plywood cut-out monsters seen in the Theseus movie. This sort of undermines any sense of urgency in your quest.

Combine this with the game’s noticeable de-emphasis on any kind of story, and it gets really hard to stay motivated in this rather inefficiently designed RPG for more than about 10 minutes.

Mr. Do!: You want me to do menu-driven combat? Fine, that happens in most RPGs. You want me to have to go into a menu to do everything else too, from opeing doors to getting XP and Gold after a battle? Fuck you, that sucks.

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