Might and Magic - World of Xeen
For this article we will be talking about two Might and Magic games in one: Might and Magic IV - Clouds of Xeen, and Might and Magic V - Darkside of Xeen, released in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
The reason for handling these two games as one is the fact that they actually do combine into one game if you have both installed. This game takes place on a world that is basically a big flat square. Might and Magic IV takes place on one side of this flat square, while Might and Magic V takes place on the other side, usually referred to as the dark side. The player can travel between the two sides of the world through pyramids. There is also a spell, Lloyd's Beacon, which lets the player set a beacon that can later be teleported back to. This will also allow easy travel back and forth.
I also have an article on Might and Magic III, which might be of interest.
If we were to ignore the fact that the games combine and look at them as individual games, they still play identically. The only difference is the setting and the enemies you face. Before we delve a bit deeper into these two games, I also want to point out one very important reason to play these games together. After you have completed the main story of both individual games, there is an additional final ending. This ending first requires you to complete the individual endings of each game, then you need to visit certain dungeons that can only be entered if you have both games.
The gameplay for this game is pretty much identical to Might and Magic III. Everything is turn based, which means that until you perform an action, time actually stands still in the game. However, for every action you do perform, time will pass and any enemies that are aware of you will move closer. There is one action you can perform without time progressing, and that is turning around. So at least you can safely look around before deciding on a course of action.
In all the previous Might and Magic games, your movement is constricted to the four cardinal directions, north, east, west and south. World of Xeen follows the same formula, which means that every game area is essentially divided into squares. The game does have a automap feature, but you can also map areas yourself using graph paper if you are so inclined. Exploring is a big part of this game series, and the only way to succeed in this game is to take the time to explore the game world. But that should not be a problem as it is the exploration that is likely to get you hooked.
You are controlling a party of six adventurers, and unlike the previous game, you can't hire additional hirelings. Your characters can belong to any of the same five races that were featured in all the previous games. Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes and Half-Orcs. Each race will modify your stats slightly, except for Humans. The available classes are the same as in Might and Magic 3, Knight, Paladin, Archer, Cleric, Sorcerer, Robber, Ninja, Barbarian, Druid and Ranger. Each class has varying abilities in Might and Magic. The primary thing that differentiates the classes is what weapons and armor they can use, and how much hit points and spell points they gain on each new level. The Archer and Sorcerer can learn the same spells, Ranger and Druid share the same spell list, and lastly Paladin and Cleric also share the same spell list.
Each class start with some secondary skills, and you can learn additional skills through the game. These skills are quite varied, some will let you automap, others let your characters swim over shallow waters. More skills can be learned throughout the game by finding the appropriate trainers.
For each new release in this series, there has been greater emphasis on more dialogue and plot development. World of Xeen is certainly no exception. Dialogue in this game has been greatly expanded since Might and Magic III. This game also makes much more frequent use of cinematics. There is an intro cinematic for both Might and Magic IV and Might and Magic V, and both give a good introduction and backstory. Both also feature satisfying ending cinematics. There is also an additional ending cinematic for completing the expanded World of Xeen storyline.
I will first handle the story in each individual game before moving on to the combined story. The party of adventurers you play in this game is not the same group you played in Might and Magic III. They were supposed to follow Corak, but apparently did not make it to Xeen.
Might and Magic IV - Clouds of Xeen
Your heroes have all had the same recurring dream for a while, King Burlock's advisor, Crodo, has apparently been trying to contact someone through dreams. The King's brother, Prince Roland, apparently returned from an expedition. He has convinced the King to focus all his attention on finding the sixth mirror, a portable mirror for teleporting. As everyone in court seemed to fall under Roland's influence, Crodo discovered that it was not Roland at all. Masquerading as Roland, an undead creature who called itself Lord Xeen, was essentially taking over rulership. Crodo was imprisoned, and through magic contacted the wizards of Newcastle for help, but Newcastle was suddenly destroyed by magic. Your heroes were apparently accidentally receiving the same magical communication through their dreams.
While exploring the land of Xeen, the heroes visit King Burlock, who only seems to be obsessed with finding the sixth mirror. When the heroes come upon the ruins of Newcastle, they can purchase the land. With ownership of the land, the heroes can search the dungeons of Xeen for megacredit, which can be used to pay for the reconstruction of Newcastle.
There are towers scattered across the land, and at the top of each tower the heroes can access the cloud world above Xeen. In one of these towers, the heroes find Crodo who tell them that they must fully rebuild Newcastle. There they can find the secret weapon that was being constructed to fight Lord Xeen. In the reconstructed dungeon of Newcastle, the heroes find the Xeen Slayer Sword. With this sword in hand, they will find Castle Xeen in the clouds above Darzog's Tower, where Crodo was imprisoned.
Exploring the clouds above the tower, the party will find Castle Xeen. In this place, strange metallic creatures are encountered. Fighting through these, the party eventually face down Lord Xeen. Upon defeating the undead creature, the party discovers the Sceptre of Temporal Distortion. They also find the sixth mirror, but when they get close to the mirror with the Sceptre, the mirror shatters, resulting in the destruction of the castle.
King Burlock thanks the party for vanquishing Lord Xeen and saving the kingdom. After this, the heroes enter the pyramid outside the town of Vertigo and is transported to the other side of Xeen.
One thing of note with this game is that there are almost no technological elements present in the world.
Might and Magic V - Darkside of Xeen
The Pyramid takes the party to the town of Castleview, on the Darkside of Xeen. Here they meet a Herbalist named Zelda who hands them an orb. She found this orb in a crater outside the city. With the orb in hand, the party seeks out Ellinger's Tower, which is inside the city. Ellinger tells the party that they need to recover Energy Disks. The Queen's castle has been brought out of phase with the rest of Xeen, and Ellinger can bring it back with Energy Disks.
So the heroes set out, exploring this part of Xeen. Eventually they find enough disks and Ellinger can restore Castle Kalindra. In the castle, the heroes find Dimitri, captain of the guard. He needs cheering up, and his daughter sends the heroes out to retrieve the Songbird of Serenity. With this in hand, the captain tells the heroes to find the queen's knight, Ambrose. He would help the heroes enter Castle Blackfang. Inside of this castle, inhabited by vampires, the heroes find Queen Kalindra, but she has been turned into a vampire. She asks the heroes to go to Castle Kalindra and retrieve her crown. With the crown returned to her, she is filled with renewed faith in her purpose, and this cures her of vampirism.
The Queen sends the heroes off to the pyramid in the Desert of Doom, where they shall meet the Dragon Pharaoh. The forces of Alamar has besieged the pyramid, and the heroes must fight their way through. At the top of the pyramid, the Dragon Pharaoh tell the heroes about Alamar. He also tells them to investigate a strange metal craft that is located close to the city of Necropolis. The heroes do indeed find a strange metal craft. Inside it they find log entries that detail a strange tale. Corak had been chasing Sheltem through many worlds, Varn, Cron, Terra, and now on Xeen. There was also a third ship following them to Xeen, but it did not seem to make it to Xeen. This refers to the heroes from the previous game, they ended up another place and will make a later appearance in the series. The important thing to learn here is that it appears that Sheltem has once again taken the identity of Alamar as he did on Varn. He intends to use something called the Cube of Power to steer Xeen through space, an act that would kill all life on Xeen.
The most important discovery in this ship is Corak, which explain that he will need something called a Soulbox which can be used to smuggle Corak to Sheltem. The heroes report their findings to the Dragon Pharaoh, who give the party access to the city of Olympus, which is located in the clouds above the Darkside of Xeen. With the Soulbox, the heroes can return to Corak who will be able to hide inside of this mystical object.
Next the heroes must fight their way into Castle Alamar. Here they will fight against mechanical creatures as they make their way to find Alamar. When they reach Alamar's throne room, the heroes throw the Soulbox inside. Corak emerges and fights Sheltem, and after what appears to be a stalemate, Corak activates Sheltem's self destruct. They both perish in the explosion.
And with this, the plotline that was started in the very first Might and Magic has now ended.
World of Xeen
After having saved both sides of Xeen, it is time for the heroes to fulfill the destiny of Xeen. There are mechanical devices in each corner of the world on the Clouds of Xeen side, the heroes need to find all four and activate them. Then they will need to travel to the Darkside and enter the skyroads above. In each corner is an entrance to the four elemental planes. In each plane there is an elemental sleeper which must be awakened.
Prince Roland must also be freed from the dungeons under Castle Alamar. He will provide the party with the amulet that grants entry into the Southern Sphinx on the Clouds of Xeen side. Here the heroes will meet Picard, an immensely old being. He is the only one that has the item required to enter the clouds above Darkstone Tower. And it is there, on the Clouds of the Ancients, they find a great pyramid. Here, Queen Kalindra and Prince Roland will be married. They each present the Cube of Power and the Sceptre, which combines on an altar. A grand process is set into motion which unites the two sides of Xeen into a planet.
These two games play identically to Might and Magic III, yet at the same time the game world feels richer and more alive. The expanded dialogue makes a huge difference, and improved visuals are also big plus. Despite the many similarities to the previous game, there are some changes I really like. You now have one cleric spell called "Day of Protection", which basically casts all kinds of protective spells. This spell replace all the protection spells from Might and Magic III. Then you have the sorcerer spell "Day of Sorcery" which casts lots of utility spells such as levitate. Now you only need to cast these two spells to be ready for a day of adventuring, instead of going through lots of different spells.
Exploring the world feels exciting, this is something the series has always gotten right. The series has also always been fairly combat oriented and this game is no exception. Combat is handled just like the last game in the series, which means that combat is a fairly quick and easy affair. By "easy" I mean that it is easy to understand and execute. At a distance you either shoot with ranged weapons or cast spell, or run away. Close up, each character get their turn to either attack or cast spells. This system works very well, especially since you do a lot of fighting in this game.
In Might and Magic IV - Clouds of Xeen, there are practically no science fiction elements. The entire game is pretty much entirely consisting of standard fantasy elements. Might and Magic V - Darkside of Xeen, is different in this regard. It fully embraces the science fiction elements by including spaceships and some robot enemies. This would only be expected since it is the finale for the whole Corak/Sheltem plot that started in the first Might and Magic game.
I really like the concept of two games combining to make one larger game. I can't seem to recall any other games where the same concept has been utilized in this way. Traveling between the two worlds and seeing the expanded storyline really made me feel more connected with the game world.
This game is extremely dated by modern standards, however I honestly believe that anyone could get into this game provided they know what to expect. Playing World of Xeen is just such a rewarding experience and the introduction videos are awesome. I also want to point out that the music is really good, especially for the Darkside.
If you get a chance to play this game, take it! You will not regret it.
For the next game, we will be taking a detour to Heroes of Might and Magic. It was the next release following this game.