Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra. (computer adventure game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Bob Guerra
Quick, what comes to mind? If your first thought was of a small, round, candy-coated piece of chocolate, then you're probably not one of the thousands of gamers who have made New World's Might & Magic one of the most popular fantasy/role-playing (FRP) series ever to enchant a PC. M&M III lets you lead a band of adventures through the towns, caverns, castles, and dungeons of Terra in search of clues to the diabolical plans of Sheltem. According to the journal left for you by Corak the Mysterious, Sheltem must be stopped before he destroys the Isles of Terra.
You can begin your quest using the prebuilt party of six fully equipped adventurers, or you can check into the local inn to create your own characters from scratch. This involves little more than selecting a character portrait fine-tuning the character's statistical values, choosing a character class and alignment (Good, Neutral, or Evil), and giving your new adventurer a name. In addition, two nonplayer characters, or "hirelings," can join the party during the adventure.
Although M&M III is similar in many respects to most other FRP games, the thoughtful design of its game screen sets it apart. For instance, the ornate display window through which you view the outside world is framed by several indicators which, depending on the skills of your adventurers, can provide various types of information. If any character in the party has Direction Sense, for example, a gem at the bottom of the screen indicates the compass direction the party is facing. If a character has the Detect Secret Passages skill, a gremlin on the right side of the frame will wave its arm anytime the party is facing a secret passage. Similarly, a gargoyle on the left flaps its wings whenever a Levitate spell is in effect. Other indicators tell when the party is in danger of being attacked or when there is a protective spell in effect.
Besides the game screen, there is much else to like about M&M III. Other pulses include an icon-driven Options menu (with keyboard equivalents for all options), a vast fantasy world to explore that spans more than a dozen islands, a well-designed combat system, and a host of carefully drawn and animated monsters to battle. The game is as visually impressive as any FRP game available; it also features exceptional music and sound effects, as well as a superb end-game sequence that makes it clear that there will eventually be an M&M IV.
About the only real fault I could find with M&M III is that there is no option to rename your games as you save them. If you wish to avoid writing over your previously saved games, however, you can always back up your saved game files before you begin each session.
Despite this inconvenience, Might & Magic III is one of the most entertaining and challenging role-playing games to come along this year.