Art of Magic
Genre Strategy -> Strategy
Today's Rank 24369
USA
Date 2001-10-22
Publisher Bethesda
UK
Date 2001-11-02
Publisher N/A
North America Retail Box ArtThe first Magic & Mayhem was a sleeper hit. It didn't have cutting-edge graphics or audio, but it played a deep amalgam of role-playing and real-time strategy, garnering critical praise and more than a few fans. Whether you played it or not is immaterial to enjoyment of this sequel. There are enough changes in Magic & Mayhem: The Art of Magic to make it an entirely new game, plus this one is more of a prequel, as it takes place a half century before the events in the first game. Art of Magic's story could best be described as "tried and true", and at worst, clich├ęd. You play a magically inclined farm boy named Aurax who wakes up one morning to find his sister Nadia under attack by goblins and other monsters. They fight them off, head to town, and find it under siege by the fearsome Goblin King. During the battle to defend hearth and home Nadia gets captured and Aurax, as any good magically inclined farm boy inevitably must do, has to rescue his sister from the clutches of an evil wizard and steal back powerful magical orbs of power, thus saving the world. The story is well told through NPC conversations, and the designers made sure the missions in the campaign mode are varied and interesting (there's also a Skirmish and Multiplayer mode). One mission involves the aforementioned Goblin King, another has you storming a Troll fortress for an artefact, and others have you fighting various evil wizards, sometimes in tandem, for territory or artefacts. All three play modes basically centre on what the game calls "Places of Power." You've got to stand on one of these, or summon a creature to stand there for you, and this helps your spell power recharge more quickly. Since battles against enemy wizards (especially in multiplayer or skirmish) generally devolve into battles of inches, taking and controlling these places is extremely important. During the game you can recruit allies, like an archer or warrior, and you have to find items to combine to access a whole host of spells. Picking which spells you want to use, and gathering the materials necessary to cast them, really affects your play style. You can spend your time and items creating defensive spells, or instead opt for an offensive strategy. The AI does a good job of learning your playing style and trying to counter it. By far your most important magic is summoning. You can summon weak creatures, like skeletons or wolves, or opt for more powerful minions like a fearsome giant. Your choice is basically one tough monster or several weaker ones, but these beasts gain experience as they go so eventually your puny skeletal warrior may become a skeletal lord and gain new attacks and defences. The experience track makes you take care of your creatures; they aren't just cannon fodder. Art of Magic also features a 3D point of view system and fairly good 3D graphics. The spell effects are fantastic, even if the voice acting isn't so good. The gameplay is very involved but can at times bog you down with minutiae, especially concerning the sheer amount of spells, items, and creatures. But fans of the first game, or fans of strategy gaming involving high fantasy, will find plenty of magic and mayhem to go around.--Bob Andrews
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