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Might & Magic: Then and Now

Animeman73Aug 17, 2019, 2:00:08 AM

Hello, everyone, Animeman73 here. It’s time for another commentary. This one will be focused around a gaming franchise that is of personal importance to me Might & Magic. As with my Elder Scrolls commentary, all pictures used in this are legal under the terms of fair use. With that being said, here we go.

Might & Magic a gaming franchise that holds a special place in my heart. The franchise was originally created by Jon Van Caneghem back in the 1980’s on the heels of the Bard’s Tale. I was first introduced to the franchisee when I watched my older brother play Might & Magic Book 1: Secret of the Inner Sanctum on the Commodore 64. This was back in 1986.

The birth of a franchise!

There would be several games that would follow Might & Magic Book 2: Gates to Another World which was released in 1988,

Might & Magic II: Gates to ANother World!

Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra released in 1991, then Might & Magic VI: Clouds of Xeen (1992), and it’s immediate follow up Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen (!993). The mentioned games tell the story of two Androids from the time of the Ancients C.O.R.A.K. and S.H.E.L.T.E.M. The saga was originally meant to be a Sci-Fi meets Fantasy series. And it had plenty of Star trek references thrown in since it’s no big Secret that John Van Caneghem has mentioned he is a card-carrying Trekker.

Space, the final frontier. This show was the inspiration for the Might & Magic franchise!

I started getting into it when I played Might & Magic World of Xeen which was basically Might & Magic VI & V wrapped up into one plus some extra stuff added in.

Both Might & Magic IV and V with extras.

Then I played Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra, and have plans to do so again in the future, thanks to GOG.com. And Might & Magic World of Xeen (1994).

Might & Magic III: Isles of terra predeceessor to Might & Magic VI and V.

I never really got into 1 and 2 because those games, in my opinion, seemed a little too on the grindy side for me. 

Secret of the inner Sanctum was good...but a bi on the grindy side.

Likewise, Gates to Another World was interesting but a bit grindy!

But Might & Magic III, IV, and V were just right. The graphics were a little on the cartoonish side but it was really great gaming and I spent many hours on it.

Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra. Lots of hours, lots of fun!

I’m planning on playing IV and V and best of all, thanks again to GOG.com, I can actually beat the version of World of Xeen which actually has voice actors doing the dialogue of the NPCs in the game. Again, thank you GOG.com for making this possible.

Nothing makes a game more immersive then voiced dialogue and World of Xeen has it..

Next up was a big change when the Might & Magic series ventured into the world of Strategic gameplay with Heroes of Might & Magic: A strategic quest which debuted in 1995.

The next chapter of the Might & Magic franchise

It told the story of Lord Ironfist a noble forced to flee his world under rather dubious circumstances and establish his own kingdom, which he names Enroth.

The combat was kind of cartoonish by today's satndards but still good.

I played almost the entire campaign, and let me tell you that game is hard, very hard. In that game speed is of the essence in order to win because if you lollygag around for too long your opponent becomes super strong and then there will be trouble. 

Hop to it with those opponents, or you'll have serious trouble before you know it.

That was followed up in 1996 with Heroes of Might & Magic II: The Succession Wars and its expansion pack in 1997, The Price of Loyalty.

Choose your side in Heroes of Might & Magic II

Graphics, music and combat saw a big step up.

Behold, the covr for Heroes of Might & magic LL: The Price of Loyalty!

The Music in The Priec of Loyalty and Heores II Gold, espcaially with the Sorceress town, really grabbed me.

This was a big trouble especially in terms of sound quality both Heroes games were a big jump because they actually utilized real instruments, real opera and real singers. The music in Heroes 1 and 2 was different as it utilized actual music instruments. Heroes II took it a step further by actually putting little tidbits of Opera. All composed by the rather brilliant musician Paul Anthony Romero.

Following Heroes II with Might & Magic and New World Computing now part of 3DO they released Might & Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven (1998). In the game the player takes on the roles of four characters who are the last survivors of the town of Sweetwater. Having cheated death when the town was invaded and the people killed by mysterious demonic aliens from a strange gigantic rock that fell from the sky. 

Might & Magic's next big step with The Mandate of Heaven

The party make their way through the Kingdom of Enroth which has become infested with all types of nasty monsters. 

Give it time, climb higher in the levels and faae tougher monsters to find better loot.

The players go through various Dungeons and areas gaining experience, treasure, and more powerful weapons while climbing higher in the ranks of their chosen professions as they search to uncover the conspiracy involving the Demons and a new religious cult which is gaining in strength in Enroth, so as to stop the Devils.

In 1999 two games would come out from 3Do that would take Might & Magic to new levels. The first one was Heroes of Might & Magic III the Succession Wars. In the Mandate of Heaven, it was briefly mentioned that Queen Catherin, wife of Roland Ironfist, who in canon won at the end of the succession Wars, is forced to return to her home country of Erathia after her father is murdered. The end result is a strategic game which follows Queen Catherin and several factions including the Devils, known by this time as the Kreegans, the arch-enemies of the Ancients. And they’re still a presence and a threat on the continent of Antagarich where Heroes III takes place.

Big Improvements for Heroes of MIght & Magic III: The Restoration Wars.

During 1999 another game was released from 3DO Might & Magic VII: For Blood and Honor. In Heroes III at the end of the Restoration Wars there’s a Scenario in which a region known as ‘The Contested Lands’ is fought over by humans of Erathia and Elves of Avlee. These 'Contested lands would eventually become known as the kingdom of Harmondale. However, by the time that Might & Magic VII: For Blood and Honor starts, Harmondale is up for sale to whoever wins a contest being held on a place called Emerald Island. 

Welcome to Emerald Island and your up and coming party's future as Lords and Ladies of a new kingdom!

This of course is where the party of four the player creates comes into play. The major improvements in this game over Might & Magic VI was that the player could use more than just humans. The player can create a party with Orcs, Elves, and Dwarves as well as humans. As Before the party goes to areas throughout the land of Antagarich going into hostile areas and dungeons to look for money, weapons, and collect experience while climbing the ladders of their chosen professions. The thing is unlike Might & Magic VI certain characters are better at certain professions than others.

New oppurtunities, new characters

And certain skills in the game have limits based on profession. The biggest change in the game is at some point the party must choose whether to be become a force for good or evil. That I think was an interesting change because afterwards certain ranks and abilities are cut off while others open based on that choice. Consequences are a wonder don’t you think? The ending of the story is also affected by the choice of whether to be good or evil. I, for one, chose the path of goodness. I’m a nice guy, I can’t help it.

Will you become Goody two-shooes or incredibly evil?

Later on, in 1999, 3D0 released an expansion pack for Heroes of Might & magic III called Armageddon’s Blade. In the title story a powerful Kreegan is determined to set the world on fire with a nasty blade called Armageddon’s Blade. Catherine Ironfist is forced to go into battle again to stop this Kreegan lord. 

Expansion pack to Heroes III.

It also tells the stories of several other protagonists including an Overlord from the underground realm of Nighon, A Wizard who is a Dragon Hunter, A barbarian who seeks to carve a bloody road to the kingship of the Barbarian lands of Krewlod, Also a Prequel story of a Knight named Christian and his efforts to escape from a chain of islands.

New stories to tell, new characters and factions to play with!

Moving into the decade of the 2000’s First game released was Might & Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer. On the continent of Jadame a mysterious figure has opened gateways to other realms unleashing strange elemental creatures who are wreaking havoc on the land and could potentially bring about the end of the world. Unlike the other Might & Magic games there were some very big changes to this game. For starters rather than having four characters the party can have five characters.

Might & Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer 5 characters per party now instead of 4.

Secondly, the party starts off with one character and they have to recruit others to be in the party. The professions the player can choose from are Knights and Clerics, anyone who’s ever played RPGs can pretty much guess what they do. But the player can also choose to play a Dark Elf which is a mixture of offensive and Thief abilities. The Vampire who is a lot like a thief and a spellcaster, A Necromancer which is basically a wizard in this game. You also can play a Minotaur who is an offensive creature who specializes in axes, and a Trolls who can regenerate wounds. It was a great game I thought but one level the Hornet’s Hive proved to be a bit difficult with all that jumping.

One cannot face the world of Day of the Destroyer all by one's lonesome!

Also, in 2000, a final expansion pack was added to Heroes III in the form of The Shadow of Death. This game is a prequel to The Mandate of Heaven and The Restoration of Erathia saga. The game circled around the treacherous Necromancer Sandro, Gem a Sorceress turned Druid, Yog, a part human, part genie barbarian who has rejected his magical heritage, Barbarian Crag Hack, and Gelu before he became captain of the Forest guard in Armageddon’s Blade.

Dark designs are afoot thanks to Sandro, the Necromancer.

For the next couple years, a series of games based on Heroes III called Heroes Chronicles was released. In the story a certain Orc protagonist and was meant to introduce casual gamers to the Heroes of Might & Magic universe. It was during this time that certain characters from Armageddon’s Blade were reintroduced. The series culminated with Wake of the Gods in which the world of Enroth was wiped out when Gelu and the newly crowned king of Krewlod possessing the dreaded Sword of Frost meet in combat. The end result is an apocalyptic event known as the Reckoning which destroys the world.

Two years after the last Heroes III expansion pack was released two Might & Magic games were released. Unfortunately, at the time of their release 3DO was going through some financial difficulties and out of desperation but out Heroes of Might & Magic IV and Might & Magic IX: Writ of Fate. Heroes IV consisted of the original game and the expansion packs released late 2002 The Gathering Storm (2002), and Winds of War (2003). Unfortunately, both games well…were rushed out because 3DO was desperate for money being in financial trouble.

Heroes IV, interesting game but half-finished and kind of messy.

Might & Magic IX Graphics and gameplay left a lot to be desired!

Unfortunately, the games ended up being half-finished. I myself tried playing Heroes IV and really didn’t like it all that much. It seemed half-finished not to mention the mechanics were really confusing. While I didn’t play Might and Magic IX from what I understand the game is completely unplayable without a certain couple of mod packs that were developed for it. Yeah, a shining example of what happens when a product is rushed out half-done.

Before I continue let me say this. I think Jon Van Caneghem’s decision to destroy Enroth and move to the world of Axeoth for Heroes IV was a mistake! Admittedly Enroth had some problems, but nothing a good able writer couldn’t explain away quite easily. Also, Axeoth never really quite lived up to the potential that Enroth had when it was so callously destroyed. So, like is aid Jon Van Caneghem’s decision to just throw away Enroth was a mistake of the worst kind a that needs to be corrected. I’ll go more into that later.

By 2006 3DO’s doors had been shut for good and the Might & magic franchise was bought by Ubisoft. Then produced Heroes of Might and Magic V the game done by the Russian company Nival. Released on May 24th 2006 in the U.S. and Canada the game was good. However, in this version of the game they completely abandoned the original format Jon Van Caneghem had created of sci-fi meets fantasy in favor of just fantasy. While I liked the high fantasy aspect, I thought the decision to abandon the original format of what the game was about…was a slap to the face of the Might & Magic fans!

Heroes V, good high fantasy feel, very Game of Thrones-like, but ti's just not Might & Magic!

The game focuses around several characters including Isabel of the Greyhound Duchy, Clan Lord Raelag of the Dark Elves, and others from the various factions. All taking place on a world called Ashan. The world had a very High medieval fantasy vibe to it and the characters were compelling. Heroes of Might and Magic V had some…shaky gameplay, but in the later versions the problems were corrected. Then came Hammers of Fate, released November 24th 2006, which introduced the Dwarf clans and the intrigues going on with them. The third part of the game was Tribes of the East, released on October 25th 2007, which introduced Orcs into the equation. Hammers of Fate and Tribes of the east made the game better because they introduced a system in which the player once they grabbed a creature dwelling could have those creatures and ones from other castles transported to any castle the player chose. Granted they did have to avoid getting ambushed But really though that added to the game. Tribes of the East wrapped up things nicely for the game.

Trbes of the East. A gritty and nice wrap-up to Heroes V.

On October 24th 2006 the game Dark Messiah of Might & Magic was released which picked up the story of what happened to Isabel’s child, The Dark Messiah, now named Sareth over 20 years after he was born. It was an action-packed adventure. It looked fun but, in all honesty, as much as I enjoyed watching the let’s plays of it, I never played it. Ashan is a good world but in all honesty, it just wasn’t the J.V.C. universe.

Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. Action-packed but just not in the spirit of J.V.C.

In 2011 I preordered the game Heroes of Might & Magic VI or as the game was renamed, Might & Magic Heroes VI, a game I think was one the biggest insults to the original fans!

Heroes VI or (cringe) Might & Magic Heroes VI This is where things started going downhill!

The game takes place several generations before the events of Heroes V, a move I must admit I found rather curious. And let me just say this, I am not that hard to please, as frustrating as the latest Sim City game could be, I took some fun in it. But Heroes VI proved to be one of the most ill-conceived messes I had ever seen. It’s almost impossible for me to get buyer’s remorse, but this game gave me that.

It's usually almost impossible for a game to give me buyer's remorse. But Heroes VI did it!

The War between the Angels and the Demons seems more like a war against a race known as the Faceless. This game completely spat in the face of the canon for Heroes V. While I liked the Naga faction in it, the rest of the game was really confusing and badly written. So much so I never even bothered buying or playing the expansion packs for the game. Heroes VI was an absolute disaster.

On January 23rd 2014 the game Might & Magic X : Legacy was released by Limbic Entertainment under the guidance of Ubisoft. 

The 10th installment of the Might & Magic franchise.

Taking place on Ashan following the messy and hard to follow events of Heroes VI, four Raiders (Adventurers) arrive at the town of Sorpigal-by-the-sea with the remains of their master to take it to another larger city that was their teacher’s home to have then interred. Along the way they learn something odd is happening on the continent they’re on. 

Something fishy is going on in the neighborhood!

I played the original game and actually beat it. As interesting as the grid pattern and turn-based style was I for one found it a trifle tedious. Once I figured out what items my characters needed to use to protect themselves from the effects of the main bad guy in the game and his minions it all became a more tedious than anything else. While the game’s story was good, the gameplay itself left more than a little something to be desired.

Might & Magic X had a good story.  The expansion pack didn't and the overall replayability was lacking.

Around 2013, a group called the Shadow Council was set up as the premise was Ubisoft wanted to learn from the mistakes it made in Heroes VI. I joined and at first it all seemed to go well. But then as the Shadow Council forum went on petty drama stirred up and Ubisoft didn’t take care of the problem before the damage was done. Also, some of the moves made when creating the game were highly questionable. Such as making the Lich into a priest rather than an undead wizard. To me it was becoming apparent that between the drama and the company not listening, at least in my opinion, to the customers that there was no sense in sticking around so I left. By the time the game came out in 2015, I saw it on a Let’s Play video on YouTube. Let me just say, oh dear God, this game turned out to be a complete and total disaster.

The Ubisoft Shadow Council fiasco was a sign of the disaster to come.

The premise of the game is set 100 years after the events of Heroes VI Ivan Griffin must unite several factions in order to end a war that is tearing the former Falcon Empire apart. 

Heroes VII, oh my God, this thing was a disaster from the get go!

To be bluntly frank there was hardly any animation in the cut scenes so to me it looked like I was observing statues as I listened to them speak. Sort of around the lines of a Disneyland ride or some such. The graphics I admit were beautiful. But the storyline which had Ivan listening to stories from his various advisors before making his move was in my opinion rather lazily done. Overall this game was highly disappointing. The Downloadable Content that followed up in 2016 Lost Tales of Axeoth and Trial by Fire were too little too late to save the game!

The Lost Tales of Axeoth, too litle, and too late to save Heroes VII.

Now let me just say this. Since Ubisoft bought Might & Magic, they have done a terrible job with it! They’ve completely veered away from the formula Jon Van Caneghem had in mind of Fantasy meets Sci-Fi and turned into a personality lacking Dungeons and Dragons copycat series. In the process of doing so they spat in the face of every original Might & Magic fan there is. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry with them, I am, very much so! However, I also know how to control and channel my anger. So now, in the name of fairness, I have some solutions.

Ubisoft, you botched up the Might & Magic franchise! But I have soluions to repair the damage.

1. Get back to where you once belonged.

This Beatles song reference has to do with Might & Magic getting back to the Fantasy meets Sci-fi formula that worked so well for it before. The decision by Ubisoft to leave that formula behind and become a Dungeons and Dragons clone has proven to be a 24-karat mistake! If Might & Magic is to survive it needs to return to its roots. Also, instead of it being Might & Magic Heroes change it back to Heroes of Might & Magic as it was always meant to be.

Get back to the roots of what Might & Magic is about, Sci-Fi meets Fantasy!

2. Combine J.V.C.’s universe with Ashan.

Now while Ashan has a lot of problems that’s not to say that it doesn’t have potential. On the contrary the time following the events of Heroes V has arguably some of the best potential for some really great material.

Let's combine J.V.C.'s universe with Ashan while taking Ashan into the future!

I believe through some interdimensional travel both universes can be combined especially when you have all that leftover energy from the reckoning.


Sorry about putting everything in capitalization. It’s just this is something that gets me so enraged! I’ve been playing Necromancers since Heroes of Might & Magic II and at no time has there ever been spiders in the Necromancer faction.

Even back in Heroes II there were no spiders. I don't care if Asha is the Spider Queen! Spiders have no business being with undead period!

Even in Heroes V they didn’t have spiders. Now I know Asha is supposed to be the Spider Goddess, but the idea of combining spiders with a spell caster who specializes in creating undead is just absurd beyond belief! Now if they wanted to create a faction dedicated to Asha and spiders that’s different. But spiders do not belong with the Undead period. Get those eight-legged freaks out of there!

4. The writing needs to be fixed…badly!

I’ll be the first to tell you I cannot program worth jack squat! But I can say I could do a better Might & Magic and/or a Heroes of Might & Magic story easily. Not to mention they need better developed characters.

My initial impression of Heroes VII, the writing needs to be fixed...badly!

Again, I can help with that as I can develop some pretty quirky and relatable characters. Hey I’m a writer it’s what I do! Better characters and better stories will help capture the imaginations of people. Better, more relatable characters will really take the game to more impressionable levels.

5. More effort and love into the games!

The fact of matters is since Heroes VI it seems that Might & Magic has been treated more like a cash cow than a beloved franchise. This most definitely needs to change! 

Might & Magic X's expansion pack the Unicorn and the Stag was interesting...but also tedious!

People need to be brought in who genuinely love what they do in terms of graphic designers, the storyline, the characters, and the overall atmosphere of the game needs to change. Only when the franchise is taken more seriously, that doesn’t mean get rid of the humor, it means actually put effort into creating something out of love that will be beautiful. When you have a good game then the money will roll in.

Heroes VII had a lot of flash adn flare...but not much elsed.

6. Keep some of the material, ditch the rest.

Okay while I was most certainly not a fan of Heroes VI and VII and Might & Magic X: Legacy, there were some things that I liked. The Nagas had a very complex, very Japanese style system that I really found intriguing and I’d like to continue to have them in future Might & Magic and Heroes of Might & Magic games.

The Sanctuary and the Nagas have lots of potential...keep them!

I could really see a developing faction that could bring a whole new level of excellence to the game franchise. I also like the idea of the lost Shantiri Empire, in this there’s a lot of potential to explore Ashan’s ancient past in ways that were never conceived of while staying true to the Fantasy meets Sci-fi formula of the series.

Let's develop the Lost Shantiri Empire more. Lots of potential there is.

So, in closing Might & Magic has come a long way from its debut in the 1980’s but it’s got some serious problems. That’s not to say it’s beyond saving. But Ubisoft needs to get its act together and clean the franchise up to make it the way it was always meant to be. I can help in the writing department. But they need to get some better talent in terms of the graphics and such. But I can hope that one day Might & Magic will make its triumphant return to PC.

Maybe someday the franchise will return in triumph.

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Thank you for reading this commentary. I’m Animeman73 until next time stay true to yourselves stay classy, and God bless you all.


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