RPGs, like most games, have undergone an evolution with the advent of powerful consoles and improved PC hardware. These days gamers are more likely to associate World of WarCraft and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with RPGing, but before that there was the Might & Magic series. A popular 3DO property, Might & Magic made the jump to Ubisoft in 2003, though the publisher has mainly focused on releasing titles under the spin-off banner, Heroes of Might & Magic. Unsurprisingly, this left many fans pining for a new instalment in the main series. Their prayers seem to have been finally answered in the form of Might & Magic X: Legacy, making it the first real addition to the franchise since 2002’s Might and Magic IX. Early impressions indicate that the familiar Might & Magic gameplay is back, with enough adjustments to make it play like a modern title.
We had a chance to go hands-on with Might & Magic X: Legacy at Ubisoft Digital Days 2013, where Ubisoft creative director, Erwan le Breton, talked about the ins and outs of the epic RPG adventure.
Ubisoft is the first AAA publisher to venture into old school RPGs. What motivated this move?
Ubisoft creative director, Erwan le Breton (EB): To be honest, this title was in our minds for a long time. It was hard for us to be sure there was an audience for such titles, but many Kickstarter successes in all those old-school IPs and genres, and also the great interest aroused by old school games, have proved the audience is there.
What are the essential features of a Might & Magic game?
EB: To us, Might & Magic RPGs are about a party of adventurers exploring a large world in first-person view, meeting a variety of characters, visiting cities, and of course, exploring dungeons and fighting monsters in turn-based combat. The specifics may vary from one game to the next, for instance Might & Magic VI introduced free movement while the earlier games were grid-based, but these basic ingredients were always there and they are still at the core of Might & Magic X: Legacy.
Which of the previous Might & Magic games have influenced Might & Magic X the most?
EB: Since there have been several “eras” as far as the gameplay of the series is concerned, we had to think hard about the kind of game we wanted to make. Several pitches were made, more or less faithful to the original games, but we finally decided to go for a gameplay similar to the World of Xeen episodes. We still kept some ideas of the later games, notably our skill system is similar (though not identical) to the skill system featured in Might & Magic VI to VII.
What didn’t make the cut?
EB: There are a couple of things we didn’t keep from the Xeen games. First gems aren’t needed to cast spells, a system that was not present in later games, and second, party characters don’t age. It felt inconsistent that your characters could age and die while the world around them did not change. However, we kept the food/resting mechanic.
To you, which features are now outdated?
EB: One of the strengths of the Might & Magic RPG series is the fact the previous games always aimed for greater accessibility. Might & Magic II introduced the automap feature and the third game had one of the very first questlogs, maybe even the first one. The series quickly embraced mouse control, icons and colours to make the information clearer. Thanks to that, a game like World of Xeen remains very playable today and has aged better than other RPGs of its time, though not speaking of the technical side of course.
How do you keep the balance between “old school” sensibilities and today’s “state of the art” standards?
EB: For Might & Magic X: Legacy, we tried to maintain this tradition of accessibility. Accessibility, by the way, is not to be confused with simplification. Accessibility is not about making the game less complex, but making it easier to use and understand. So Might & Magic X has detailed tooltips, clear signs and feedback, drag-and-drop interface, quick-action bar, and so on. Nothing extraordinary, but important features players are used to finding in modern RPGs. One thing we didn’t keep from the older games is the need to “validate” your level-up by spending gold in a training center. This seemed a little too old-school and in a grid-based game would have meant a tedious amount of backtracking.
Might & Magic games have always been open-world and not just corridor-based, which distinguished them from other first-person RPGs such as Wizardry or The Bard's Tale. How open-world will Legacy be compared to the previous titles?
EB: Might & Magic X starts with a smaller area. This is the “beginning” area, which we call Act I. Here you’ll explore your first town, get your first quests, complete your first dungeons, learning how to play along the way. When Act I is over, the rest of the world opens and what you do next is really up to you. If you want to go to that mountain over there despite the fact it’s notoriously full of angry Cyclopes, nothing will stop you.
Will the game have level scaling of any sort? Will it scale the power or number of enemies in an area to your level like in Might & Magic II?
EB: There will be no scaling of the monsters depending on your level. We feel it’s one of the great pleasures in RPGs to become a demi-god and then return to those Cyclopes and teach them a lesson. However, as you progress through the main story some new creatures and monsters may appear in some areas.
Does Might & Magic X have any sci-fi elements as in the older Might & Magic games?
EB: No, there won’t be any sci-fi elements in Might & Magic X: Legacy. More accurately, you won't explore spaceships, fight killer robots or wield blasters. This decision is directly tied to the new world called Ashan we created since Might & Magic Heroes V, as those elements are definitely not part of the lore of this world. But it doesn’t mean there's no connection to the older games of the series. Actually, if you know the “ancient universe.” you should keep your eyes open while exploring the world of Might & Magic X.
Can you tell us more about the three-classes-per-race restriction?
EB: Each race has access to one Might class, one Magic class and what we call a Hybrid class, a class that has access to both Might and Magic skills in “balanced” proportions. Of course, all classes have access to different skills, so for instance, the Human Magic class is different from the Elf Magic class.
How do you control your heroes in a combat? As a whole or individually?
EB: We tested different systems. At first, we reproduced the combat system found in World of Xeen, meaning ranged actions are made by the whole party, and it breaks down into individual actions when in melee combat. This is the system found in the current demos. After playing the PAX demo several times, we noticed the World of Xeen system felt weird and didn’t allow us to micro-manage our party. So we started thinking about switching it to individual actions, all the time. Finally during PAX, a lot of players that tried the demo found this system confusing, even veterans of the old Might & Magic games, so we’re confident we should proceed with this change.
Is there going to be a map editor?
EB: Yes, there is going to be a map editor. We consider this tool as being one of the major features of the title, as our fans love to mod our games and create new content for other players. Basically, the tools we’re using to develop the game will be released and available for all players. We’ll talk about this topic later, providing more details and also demonstrating what can be done.
Is there an automap to see what squares you haven’t mapped yet?
EB: It’s not yet implemented, but there will be.
What kinds of DRM or always-online copy protection will Might & Magic X have?
EB: No, there will not be “always-online” copy protection. Buy, download, play, and that’s it. However, implementing Uplay is a Ubisoft corporate policy and Might & Magic X: Legacy will not be different from any other Ubisoft title. So yes, Uplay will be in and you’ll need to be online for one time activation.
Note: This interview was conducted by Ubisoft on behalf of PC World.
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