Lords of Magic: Special Edition (Jewel Case)

4.2 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews
Rated: Everyone
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Platform: Windows 98
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Product Description


The Lords of Magic Special Edition combines the turn-based exploration and real-time combat of the enhanced Lords of Magic with the all-new Legends of Urak Quest Pack.


When we first looked at Impressions' Lords of Magic, we were less than impressed. The game had tons of potential but was marred by numerous flaws, both in the overall design and several specific gameplay elements (you can see our original review here). Lords of Magic Special Edition promises to address the original game's shortcomings - and lo and behold it actually does. The only problem is that the game is still flawed in many ways and is not all that much more compelling than the original.

Without rehashing all of the basic information on story and game flow, we'll stick to addressing the changes in the Special Edition and how they affect the overall gameplay experience. One of the more notable new features is the included Legends of Urak Quest Pack. This expansion set of five scripted campaigns challenges you to complete a series of specific quests, sort of like the scenarios in Civilization II. For example, in one quest you play a Death Mage and must find and recover a sacred scepter for your lord, the King of Darkness. Another quest is based on Arthurian legends.

Another new feature is the lord editor, which basically allows you to modify your character at the beginning of each game. Instead of accepting the game's default settings for starting heroes, you can modify your starting army choosing units from any of the eight faiths. Using the new map editor, you can also customize the world in which you play.

The Special Edition features a number of new creatures, including one legendary creature for each faith. There are also many new wandering creatures as well as a general increase in "marauding parties" - easily the game's most annoying and infuriating feature. Marauding parties seem to be the rough equivalent to Civilization's barbarian tribes, except that they appear at alarming rates and mete out rather severe beatings in the face of seemingly superior opposition. Many a time I found myself cursing the puny marauding parties of wolves and centaurs who would take out half of my precious units and set me back by several days (that's game time, not real time).

One point in the Special Edition's favor is the fact that, although you spend far too much time battling marauding parties, you will probably spend far less time quarreling with your neighbors - even Balkoth. This is due to the game's enhanced diplomacy model, which offers more options and seems to have fewer loopholes. No longer will Balkoth fork over a level 5 hero when you plead for him (offering nothing in return). You can still acquire another faith's hero, but you have to put up some serious barter to do so. Also, whenever you put an offering on the bargaining table, the game will tell you whether or not it's a fair deal before you accept or decline it. This can be useful for avoiding ill feelings over unintentionally one-sided trade demands.

As a result of the improved diplomacy model (and presumably of improved AI), the game plays out a bit more like the story would dictate. Individual faiths are not necessarily at each other's throats and, if you play your cards right, you can actually win the game more easily by befriending your neighbors (except that Balkoth character; nobody likes him). I should point out, though, that the Fire faith begins the game in a very deep hole. No other faith has a positive opinion of Fire (except Chaos, which is typically the weakest of the AI-controlled faiths), and most are downright hostile right from the start.

In terms of problems that have been fixed, load times in the Special Edition are generally speedier (a very good thing), and Impressions has added an option to auto-compute battle results before loading the real-time combat engine. There's a trade-off to this, however, as now the auto-compute results are a bit less favorable to your side than they were in the original game.

You can now interact with any of your buildings without actually marching a hero to it - a very big improvement. This both saves time and allows you to manage your campaign without running back and forth to the capital city all of the time.

Though the Special Edition features several improvements, there remain a number of unresolved issues. For starters, it still takes far too long for your troops to recover from battle wounds, especially when they are low-level units. This means that for every minor skirmish you fight, you often have to rest for three or four days just to get your grunts back into fighting trim. While you rest, your AI opponents are building bigger fortunes and bigger, more-powerful armies.

Of course, the computer faiths may just have an advantage because they all seem to begin the game with armies that are at least twice as powerful as yours. They also seem to begin with more gold, more crystals, and more ale - all for no apparent reason.

Catching up to the AI requires that you take over your fair share of mines and breweries, but that is a nearly impossible task in the early going. In general, there seem to be fewer first- and second-level caves near your starting city, regardless of your faith. This means that you have to attack higher-level monsters earlier than you should. As a result, it is very difficult to keep your troops alive, let alone develop them into seasoned veterans.

And even unit advancement seems to have been slowed considerably. Troops often go through numerous battles - against higher-level foes - without gaining enough experience to move up a level. The final result of all these minor issues is that the game is far more difficult now, even on the easiest difficulty setting.

Real-time combat certainly doesn't help matters much. In fact, apart from adding multilevel dungeons and buildings for the combat mode, this aspect of the game doesn't seem to have changed much. It is still difficult to see all of your units clearly when they fight the enemy at close quarters. More to the point, it's extremely difficult to target the enemy units in these situations. This wouldn't be a huge problem except for the fact that your units often stand there doing nothing after they kill off their initial targets - whether or not there happen to be enemy units nearby. Troops still get hung up on the scenery, so real-time battles are still the same old micromanagement madness that they have always been.

Then there's the minor issue of defeating one of the other lords in battle. You might think that by defeating another faith's leader - and thereby eliminating them from the game (at least as far as Balkoth's goals of conquest are concerned) - you would have made your life a bit easier. But no. As soon as you fell your colleague, vast armies of his faith will pour into your lands, hurling themselves against your forces until they eventually overwhelm and destroy you. I wouldn't find this "feature" so odious if not for the fact that the same courtesy is unavailable to you (when your character dies, the game is over).

The Special Edition corrects a number of flaws and adds several new features but somehow ends up being only a tiny bit more appealing than its predecessor. For those players who enjoyed the original game, the many enhancements in the Special Edition probably make it a must-have. But for the rest of us, Heroes of Might & Magic II (and soon III) and Warlords III are simply better options for a fantasy-strategy fix. --Michael E. Ryan
--Copyright ©1998 GameSpot Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of GameSpot is prohibited. -- GameSpot Review

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Right up front, you need to know that this is not an easy game. Video jocks who play all those fast paced (and basically brainless) real time strategy games will probably not go for this one. However, thoughtfull players with some tactical skill who like a real challenge will find this game very rewarding.
The heart of the game is its tactical combat system, which is by far the best that I've seen in any fantasy game. Maneuver plays a big part in it: Using your faster units to circle around and hit your opponent's archers. Using your slower melee units to screen your archers from his troops. Using the terrain to set up "kill zones" that you can lure your opponent into. It will take a little getting used to, so expect to loose your first few battles until you figure out how things work.
The game has an interesting variety of units and spells, and a particularly nice selection of artifacts that you can find in dungeons and such.
The strategic level is good but not great. You collect resources, you build things, you research spells, same as in most games. One nice addition is the ability of high level characters to train new units, letting them start off with some experience. This solves the problem that occurs in so many games of this type, where new units starting late in the game are basically hopeless.
The two real weaknesses in the game are 1. A very limited diplomatic engine. There are a total of eight powers in the game, but your options for peacefull interaction with the other seven are pretty limited. 2. Weak AI players, at least on the strategic levels. Some of the computer players do absolutely suicidal things, like walking their undefended leader up to one of your strongholds.
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A Kid's Review on November 15, 2002
This game is very exciting anc challenging, even on the easiest setting. You play a Lord (A barbarian, human, gnome, elf, dwarf, undead guy, etc.) who sets out on a perilous quest to slay the terrible Lord Balkoth, who is planning to (what else?) rule all of Urak with his undead army.
You start out with little of anything. Your first priority is to liberate your Great Temple, and then amass a large army to fight with.
This is a sort of turn based strategy game. You group your units into little groups, and select Champions to lead them. You'll need to spend and gain 3 resourses: Ale, Crystals, and Gold.
You also can direct little followers to work in the various buildings of your kingdom, to give you more recourses.
RIVAL LORDS: There are seven other lords as well, each building their own empire. Some like you, some hate your guts. There is a very good AI system they use, allowing you to barter and fight with them as you wish. The best part is slaying an enemy and then taking control of their empire as well!
GRAPHICS: The graphics are so-so. They aren't 3D, but they are beautiful and painting-like.
MUSIC: The music, I think, is beautiful, pulling you into the world of Urak. Sometimes haunting, sometimes thoughtful, it always makes you think. Why? I don't know.
COMBAT: This is really cool. No matter where you are, if you initiate combat, you zoom from a bird's eye veiw of the map to a close-combat realtime mode, where you can direct your troops into battle! The combat system is very developed. You can fight a number of enemies, explore a number of lairs and dungeons and caves, and invade a number of strongholds. You can pause the game a lot, though, so if you want more strategy, you can play it in a more turn-based fashion.
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I first encountered Lords of Magic as a demo and immediately fell in love with this engaging, difficult, sometimes maddening but eminently addictive game. Even in the relatively spartan demo game LOM's strong points were irrisistible: the classic theme of pure good vs. pure evil, the picturesque maps, the enchanting and absolutely gorgeous music (probably the best of any game I've encountered), the multifaceted tactical combat system, and last but not least the game's superb replayability.
Naturally, when I got my hands on the full game I was hopelessly spellbound. My wife might say "hexed"! Be warned: if you do buy this game, be aware you will be investing not only hard-earned cash (though not much--the price is a steal), but huge pockets of your time. This is not only because LOM is great fun, but because it's exceptionally difficult as well. Beating this game is not easy. Be prepared to take your lumps and go through a lot of frustration (albeit fun frustration!) before you finally win the day.
The game itself is strategy-based, and runs on turns during which each of the eight paths--called "faiths"--that populate the world of Urak make their moves. Though the turn system is convenient and offers your character many choices of action, each turn does take a while. Healing and resource accumulation are based on the passage of time, so after a tough battle you will have to sit passively through a few turns to recuperate. Moreover, the map of Urak over which your character moves is pretty big, and it can take several turns just to get from A to B, during which time you may be attacked by wandering monsters or see one of your fortresses sacked by raiding parties. To put it mildy, LOM is not for the impatient!
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