|Publishers||Bethesda Softworks LLC|
|Developers||Charybdis Limited, Climax Nottingham|
The first Magic & Mayhem was sort of 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.
The Art of Magic’s story can at best be described as tried and true, and at worst clichéd. 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. The pair fights off the bad guys, heads to town, and finds 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 non-player character (NPC) conversations, and the designers made sure the missions in the campaign mode are varied and interesting (there are also skirmish and multiplayer modes). One mission involves the aforementioned Goblin King, another has you storming a troll fortress for an artifact, and others have you fighting various evil wizards, sometimes in tandem, for territory or artifacts.
All three play modes basically center 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. Because conflicts against enemy wizards (especially in multiplayer or skirmish modes) 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, while looking for items to combine so you can 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 defenses. The experience track makes you take care of your creatures; they aren’t just cannon fodder.
The Art of Magic also features a 3-D point of view and fairly good 3-D 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 minutia, 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
- A full 3-D camera system and excellent graphics
- Plenty of options, spells, creatures, and gameplay
- At times a bit too many options; complicated gaming
- The conflicts sometimes devolve into tedious battles of inches
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Additional files, patches and fixes
Magic & Mayhem: The Art of Magic Screenshots