Might & Magic Trilogy
Might & Magic III
When Might and Magic III was released in 1991 it was immediately a big hit, especially among college-age gamers. This is not surprising, as the game represented a visible leap forward in RPG design, compared with the previous two chapters. MM III was a get together-and-play kind of game that could entertain both the person sitting at the controls and the people watching over his shoulder.
Given the state of the art in the early 90s, the interface is a joy, with a 3D display window, that we take for granted today, in which all the action unfolds in real time; a row of face icons, one for each of the up to eight characters in one's party, that allows quick access to the party's skills, possessions, and information; a mouse driven action menu that changes into a combat menu when danger threatens and clever graphic signals scattered around the screen to serve a variety of functions. (For example, there's a gremlin crouched in one corner of the display window who waves his arm when a secret passage is near.) Combat and movement are quick and the controls are responsive, which in this case makes the difference between a game that would be good but frustrating and one that excels.
Might and Magic III was the first in the series to use 256 VGA graphics, as well as the first to use sound cards, to superb effect, including a good helping of speech. It is easy to see why Might and Magic IV won awards for its audio production with this installment as its foundation. The results floored me in 1991: For example, the game begins with a full-screen image of arch-villain Sheltem describing in digitized audio the menaces which the player is about to face. Also, at the other end of the game, when a player's last character dies, a pair of giant dragon jaws clamp shut over the screen before the final fade to black. Memorable.
Might and Magic III was a top-of-the-line system showpiece, marrying the aesthetic sophistication of then in vogue "interactive movies" to the down-and-dirty campaigning of a hardcore RPG. There is something to please almost every stripe of gamer.
Might & Magic IV
For the uninitiated Clouds of Xeen is the 4th chapter in New World Computing's Might and Magic series of fantasy role-playing computer games. You create and control a six-member party of various classes and races, exploring an extensive countryside in your attempt to find and destroy the evil Lord Xeen.
You have an RPG-standard set of character attributes (Might, Intellect, Speed, etc.) which are randomly rolled. As you roll the dice, the classes these statistics qualify you for are highlighted. You can roll as many times as you want, but stats are not super hard to increase in this game, so I wouldn't suggest spending hours going for perfect scores. Next you decide on a race, class, gender, and name. Then it's off to free the Wizard...
The meat of Xeen lies in exploring the realm, searching high and low through caverns and towers and lairs (oh my!) for the means to slay Lord Xeen. At the beginning of your game, however, you do get to choose your "gaming preference" mode: Adventurer or Warrior. Adventurer mode is more puzzle-based, and Warrior mode is more for the hack 'n' slash artist. With jittery memories of the exhausting weeks I had tackling Wasteland back in '88 I choose Adventurer whenever possible.
Might & Magic V
In Might and Magic V things have not been going well for the people of the Darkside of Xeen. The Tyrant Alamar appeared shortly after that night and deposed Queen Kalindra, ruler of the humans. The Dragon Pharaoh's pyramid has been besieged by Alamar's army, and rebel monsters are ravaging the country side and destroying the travel pyramids. Humans, and their ilk, have been confined to the slums of Castleview. And now fate has elected you and your friends to carry a message of vital importance to one of the few people who can still make a difference.
So begins your journey to save the Darkside of Xeen.