Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Bigger, brighter, and bolder than ever, New World Computing's latest flight of fantasy is so charismatic that it nearly jumps off the screen. From the opening credits--with a clever parody of MGM's Leo the Lion--to the rogues' gallery at game's end, designer Jon Van Caneghem displays the confidence of an artist at the top of his form.
Caneghem utilizes the same dynamic front-end of his previous hit, Might and Magic III. Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen may well be the perfect role-playing interface: detailed, yet streamlined, and colorfully intuitive. The main display window is among the largest in the genre, pulling players into this 3-D fantasy world. Even the ornate window frame is interactive, featuring unique animated signs of nearby danger, secret passages, and active spells. Character portraits also provide visual clues to your party's health: Facial expressions change to show conditions such as pain, unconsciousness, fatigue, and insanity. Select any portrait to display the icon-driven character screen, where you can view individual attributes, track party statistics, and manage inventories. Every aspect of the game is easily accessed via keyboard or mouse.
Beyond these familiar trappings, the game's story line takes the series in an entirely new direction. Your party of six adventurers gathers in the town of Vertigo, summoned through their dreams by Crodo, adviser to King Burlock. He warns of a stranger who has appeared, claiming to be the King's long-lost brother. The impostor is in fact Lord Xeen, a demonic fiend who imprisons Crodo and poisons the land from his elusive cloud kingdom. Your quest: Search the vast nether world, battle hordes of terrible creatures, and put an end to Xeen's rule.
The game world is huge: five towns, nine mines, three towers, three cloud worlds, four castles, five dungeons, three caverns, and 24 unique outdoor areas. The game's open-ended design encourages spontaneous exploration, allowing you to branch off on dozens of miniquests. Although most have nothing directly to do with your main objective, these subplots earn characters experience and rewards while adding flavor and variety. The game also contains built-in links to the Darkside of Xeen, a forthcoming sequel.
Other new features include two initial play modes: Adventurer and Warrior. The first, designed for novice players, softens the combat aspects of play. The second unleashes fulltilt carnage from the game's roster of 90 ghastly creatures. These oversized characters, beautifully rendered in 256-color VGA, spring to life with vivid animation and chilling sound effects. Fend them off with specially modified weapons and armor, or master each of the 76 unique cleric and sorcerer spells. Veteran players will be especially pleased with the new adventurer's journal, which automatically records important clues, locations, and quest items.
The only shortcoming worth mentioning is the rather rudimentary nature of your quest. Role players itching to solve complex puzzles might be disappointed by the combat-intensive plot. On the other hand, hardcore hack-'n'-slashers will revel in melees that grow more intense with every turn.
Nearly perfect in design and execution, Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen is one fantasy you'll wish would never end,
IBM PC or compatible, 2MB RAM, VGA, hard drive; mouse optional, supports Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, Ad Lib, Sound Master II, Pro AudioSpectrum, and Disney Sound Source--$69.95
NEW WORLD COMPUTING P.O. Box 4302 Hollywood, CA 90078 (818) 999-0607
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