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Crusaders of Might and Magic
"Real-time 3rd person action coupled with captivating role-playing elements."
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Developer  3DO Game Type  Strategy
Distributor  3DO Review Date  May 00
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Setting the Scene:
 
      Just what is it about gaming companies and those Dungeons & Dragon themes proclaiming all that mystical, magical nonsense from the middle ages? Do they think that most gamers feel better about casting a thunderball spell on a hunchback half-wit rather than lobbing a grenade into a Russian encampment? Heaven knows, but they have obviously grasped onto something addictive as medieval games sell with a regular consistency.

Crusaders of Might and Magic is one such game attempting to combine third person action with role playing elements. The player takes control of a lone crusader, Drake, toughened by exposure, hardship, and a life of fighting the scourge that destroyed his family as a boy. He is swept up into the midst of a new Crusade joining the High Guard as they try to rid the lands of the Legion of the Fallen.

With swords and sorcery, Drake must fight his way through 5 distinct realms. From the spires of the Citadel to the murky depths of Duskwood, Drake will run, jump, duck, fight and cast spells as he becomes ever more powerful and must eventually challenge the leader of the undead army himself.

Sound and Vision:
 
      The days when these types of games were all top-down, or side scrolling platforms are now long gone. Try showing a Playstation owner The Tower of Druga and he'll surely spit in your eye. You see it's all real-time 3rd person action these days and environments must be in 3D, or else they're out. Strangely some developers seem to have grasped the technology more than others.

Not that I'm saying Crusaders of Might and Magic is a bad looking game, only that it has too many niggles to be considered a fine work of art. But first I must commend 3DO on their CG work as the intro and pre-rendered cut scenes are of the highest quality. We keep hearing that in-game graphics will one day be like this, but after witnessing some of the first Playstation 2 games we are still some way off, so don't hold your breath. Maybe E3 will change our minds.

Moving into the main game first impressions seem fine. The dungeon your character initially sets off from has been solidly constructed from seamless polygons creating a solid stone clad prison. On opposite walls reflections of light flicker across the brickwork from fixed flame torches bringing Deathtrap Dungeon back to mind. The levels are all huge sprawling affairs, some continuous that don't require loading times. Thankfully there are only a few doors blocking the main route because opening them seems to be an animated task too far, while sliding crates around the ground is also a messy activity. Most of the game is situated in long winding tunnels and it's only when you occasionally step out into the open that pop-up occurs. Moving onto the forest area you are faced with a solid green winding wall that neither looks anything remotely like trees, nor does it have any obvious use apart from reducing re-draw distance and maybe fencing your character in. Overall there's good and bad graphical representation in most locations.

The game characters that inhabit this world have been fairly well constructed and I was most impressed with the movements of the Citadels High Guards. Whether out on patrol or standing guard their actions were very realistic. Generally the enemies throughout the game are wide and varied making the action sequences all the more interesting.

Drake is viewed from the third person perspective (Tomb Raider style) and his animations were found to be remarkably fluid when running around a level or slashing a sword at an enemy. Sadly this praise cannot be heaped upon him when moving around some parts of the scenery. Jumping and climbing is very awkward to judge and often leads to premature death. Then there are the camera angles. Always intelligent and smooth until needed. Once a fighting scene begins they try to follow every single bit of the action causing confusion rather than aiding the cause. Slowdown can also become a problem when multiple enemies appear on screen at once.

The sound effects are average, but it's the speech segments that are truly awful. Obviously ham actors were alive and kicking back in the Middle Ages. Do these people get paid for this, or is it just work experience?
 
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