Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Exploring Might & Magic X Legacy

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 19, 2014

MMXL_GiantSpiderSometimes when you say, “Old-school RPG,” I think of games like The Bard’s Tale I, where you would get clobbered by villagers as soon as you left the guild. Or more primitive games that really had simplistic rules and not much by way of gameplay or graphics. On the flip side, you get the endless tutorials, hand-holding, of way too many modern mainstream RPGs. Often it feels like the training wheels never really come off.

Fortunately, I haven’t played many games recently that put you on too much of a ‘bunny slope’ when you start out. That’s a good thing, although it may be simply my own selection as opposed to a change in trends. I just remember a few years ago – probably around the time I was playing Neverwinter Nights 2 and Final Fantasy XII and a couple of minor MMORPGs – that commercial RPGs had become a just another flavor of action-game that started out holding your hand and never quite let it go.

Playing Might & Magic X: Legacy over the last few days (in little morsels of time) has been pretty satisfying. It feels like they strike a good balance between old-school and modern. The earliest combats in MMXL (which is, what, 2040 in Roman numerals?) has you going up against poisonous spiders, forcing you to decide between taking a turn to attack or to consume the (fortunately plentiful) poison cure. My initial thought was, “Are you sure this is a good thing? Hitting the player with the complication of poison as they are first learning combat?” But for me, it was pretty fun.

While they have streamlined it a bit from the old days, it’s not bad. The first few levels gradually open things up, and there is a pop-up help message that warns you that its easy to wander off into places in the world that are out of your league. But it doesn’t stop you, and it doesn’t hold your hand (much) after the first couple of quests.

The tutorial is in the form of an optional guided tour of the starting city, and there’s no combat for the first little bit. I really appreciate this. To me, role-playing games are as much about exploring and interacting with the world as fighting, and it feels like too many AAA RPGs of the last fifteen years or so have been about interminable talky scenes followed by waves and waves of combat. Instead, you are dropped off in a city that’s nowhere near your original goal, with your party members probably as overwhelmed as you feel as a player at first. While there’s a suggestion from the tour guide that you’ll want to eventually visit the barracks, the first order of business is still to explore. See what the world has to offer.

MMX-LegacyNow, I admit that the backstory so far about betraying angels and dragons and the political background leaves me pretty cold. There’s a good chance I’ll eventually give a crap about it, when I personally become embroiled in the events, but for right now its background noise. I’m more interested in what kind of treasure might be hidden in the nearby dungeons.

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the grid-based movement, but I don’t dislike it, either. What it really does do is bring back the old habits and skills from the late 1980s and early 1990s – though with the kinds of games I’ve been playing lately, I can’t say those skills are all that old now, either.

I hope it does very well and that other games continue this trend. Like I keep saying – I think that the RPG genre abandoned some really promising ideas back in the 1990s to pursue some semi-homogenized paths, and it’s high time we went back and explored what could be done with a few of these old gaming concepts with new technology, new ideas, and new designers.

Filed Under: Impressions - Comments: 10 Comments to Read

  • McTeddy said,

    I actually find it amusing that I meet ALOT of designers who refuse to look at game’s from the past. They believe there is nothing to learn from old games.

    Yet… looking at massively popular “New” features.

    – Cover Systems existed as far back as 1988 in Cabal
    – RPG mechanics in Action games were COMMON in NES days
    – Free roam play was very common in RPGs
    – Bloated storytelling was common in the early 90s

    VERY few games are exploring features that are actually “New”. Modern games have definitely IMPROVED the mechanics but they existed before.

    It just find it crazy that so many designers refuse to believe that there is value in the past.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    My own point of geek rage comes when journalists suggest or imply that Grand Theft Auto invented the “Sandbox Game” genre. I’m just like… “Are you just so far down the Dunning-Kruger scale that you have no comprehension of your own ignorance, or have you willfully cultivated it?”

  • Infinitron said,

    McTeddy, what do you mean by “bloated storytelling”? Which games are you referring to?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I was assuming he was referring back to the flirtation with “FMV Games” back in the 90s. Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s what I think of – there were some good ones, of course, but a lot of it was simply Silicon Valley trying to be “little Hollywood” and make movies instead of games.

  • McTeddy said,

    I actually meant pretty much EVERYTHING they make these days. Walk from point A to point B so that you can watch a cutscene that tells you a bunch of stuff to make you feel good about walking down the linear path.

    Even game’s like Mass Effect aren’t particularly unique. Similar methods of branching storylines and “choices” have existed for a LONG time.

    I’m fine with story… but if it isn’t needed for me to beat the game… MAKE IT OPTIONAL! 15 minute cutscenes are NOT acceptable.

  • Chad said,

    Can you speak to the DRM (Uplay)? What’s your opinion?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I was torn between a strong desire to not support the DRM and the desire to support an old-school RPG of this type. In the end, my desire to try it out broke the tie. I can’t speak to it otherwise, other than that it’s kinda annoying it loads UPlay first.

  • Pretty sure it was Bob who said,

    I found the DRM annoying but unobtrusive. They also had some kind of reward points system that tied into the game. I seem to recall an artifact set for 20 “Uplay points”(?). It meant an extra 5 seconds before I got in the game, but overall I didnt mind it.

    I agree with RC that the story was a little confusing. It started out clear enough, but then gets a little muddled around the middle and late acts. I often suspect that designers spend a year or more tweaking and modifying the story and so sometimes don’t see the missing logic pieces that they (the devs) already know. Kind of like writing a long post or report and not seeing the obvious errors until someone else reads through it. Alternatively, the story starts out simple enough but because the developer lives with it every day, the story becomes stale to them and so they tweak and add to it over time until it becomes muddled mix. Sort of like the cook adding to many great ingredients or spices. Individually each one is great, but add to much and the whole thing gets blurry. Last point is that I have played a lot of the different M&M games and whether its HOMM, M&M or M&M Clash of Heroes, the story is always an over-convoluted mess IMO.

    Overall though I enjoyed MMX a lot. I’m a fan of turn based games anyway but I liked the updated graphics, and the fun of trying to craft/build/buy the overpowered party. I had to refer to some online help with a number of puzzles and to find some Grandmaster trainers, but overall I had a great time. I was rarely “lost” as to what to do (although a few of the quests would have been unsolvable without the internet for me). I explored grew stronger, and conquered the game world. Fun times.

    I would have liked to have some “Frayed Knights” character interplay though. More than a few times I found myself wishing for the humorous “game table” character comments that Frayed Knights offers. I think the 4 characters laughing at some of the creatures or plot devices would have been fun. Imagine a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” playthrough with Rampant Coyote’s characters…

    Finally, a point worth making is that it ultimately left me wanting more. It wasn’t so long a game or story that I never finished it. Heck the fact that I finished it says something too. I think that is an important target or sweet spot for a developer to find. I’d definitely buy a sequel if they made one. Felt the same way about Frayed Knights. I know it can be a tough balance for a dev who stares at their own game all day for a year or more. MMX got it about right imo.

    Just my two cents.

  • Ryuken said,

    Glad you posted this. Read your blog posts for a while and love your blog content. More importantly, I feel a sense of trust from reading your posts.

    I will get this game on the next Steam sale..

  • Darklord said,

    Interesting, I to plan to buy it on a sale at some point, far to many games to play already.