Critics' early comments about the PlayStation 2 included assumptions that most developers wouldn't have the know-how or the budget required to create the kind of games that would truly tap into the system's power and that the differences between development powerhouses like Namco and Square and smaller outfits like Jaleco and Takara would quickly become even more apparent. As if to prove these comments right, along comes Warriors of Might and Magic for the PlayStation 2, probably the least impressive game to arrive for the system to date.
Warriors of Might and Magic plays similar to last year's Crusaders of Might and Magic. You're a warrior who travels through a series of large, three-dimensional environments, fighting monsters, casting spells, solving puzzles, and completing quests. You can find or buy new weapons, armor, potions, spells, and special items for your character to help him in his goals. As he gains more experience, his skills improve, too. It's a basic premise that has worked well in the past with games like Crave's Draconus: Cult of the Wyrm and poorly in titles such as Sirtech's Excalibur 2555 A.D. Warriors of Might and Magic falls into the latter category.
At first glance, many of you will assume Warriors of Might and Magic is a game for the original PlayStation--with good reason. Except for the lack of pop-up and the improved textures, there's little to differentiate it from a game running on the PSOne. The environments are sparsely populated with objects that appear incomplete. Levels are either so wide open that they're reminiscent of a Nintendo 64 game or so claustrophobic that you--and your foes--get stuck on objects while simply moving about the room. Spells produce effects similar to those in PlayStation games like Deathtrap Dungeon and Ninja: Shadow of Darkness, which are low targets to shoot for as far as eye candy goes. Characters such as the orcs, ghouls, and gnolls are well designed, while the others look awful. The worst offender is the main character, a mulleted adventurer who wears a mask similar to the old Malibu Comics character Night Man and who couldn't match his clothes to save his life. Good and bad models alike are undercut by the game's low-grade animations. After roughly 15 seconds, you'll have seen all the animations that a character is capable of. With the visual advances in other PlayStation 2 games, expectations are that PS2 products will look significantly better than PlayStation products--and there are many PlayStation games that look better than this.
The controls are ridiculously complex, enabling not only all the buttons on the PlayStation 2 controller but both analog sticks as well. The D-pad manages item, weapon, and spell selection, as well as item use. The left analog stick controls movement, while the right swings the camera around. X and O attack, square casts spells, and triangle jumps. R1 initiates actions such as talking to merchants and picking up items, R2 locks a target, L1 blocks, and L2 crouches. And the select pad calls up your armor and weapon inventory screen. This control setup is less complex than Crusaders of Might and Magic's, a game that spent considerable time walking you through all the different actions available. Based on the introduction in Warriors of Might and Magic, it seems as if the creators planned to teach you all the game controls, then quickly gave up, hoping that you would eventually figure them out on your own.
One of the greatest faults of Warriors of Might and Magic is its combat. There's a lock-on system for targeting your enemies with hand-to-hand attacks, projectiles, and spells, but your movements are slow, giving multiple enemies the opportunity to surround you. This forces you to either keep moving so that only one enemy is near you at any given time or to run away from your foes, only to return when your mana has regenerated enough that you can use spells on the enemies again. Spell use is the ultimate cheap out in the game. You can stand just out of range of where the enemies will notice you and blast them with spells until they're dead and they can't even move in to attack you. In other PlayStation 2 games like Onimusha, the combat never gets old. In Warriors of Might and Magic, it never gets interesting in the first place.
The other big problem facing the game is its camera. Instead of the perspective locking in place behind you, providing a look function for you to explore your environment, the creators set the camera to float freely, giving you a control option to swing it back behind you. This means that walking over thin catwalks and jumping platforms is much harder than it needs to be. Want to look down to see if you're about to walk off a precipice? No luck. Sometimes it's impossible to see where you're going, which leads to "death by camera." When you die because of a game's flaws, it's especially humiliating--and it often happens in this game because of the camera and combat systems.
If there's one positive thing to say about Warriors of Might and Magic, it's that it's a decently sized game. However, most players would rather have a smaller good game than a longer bad one. In addition, several of the songs that frame the gameplay are effective, but many are simply not. In either case, you hear them play over and over again much too often. The game's sounds are also poor quality. The environments have only a basic general sound effect, such as water flowing, and the monsters' grunts and groans will sometimes sound nearby when the monsters are nowhere near you or when they're running in a different direction.
As with many of 3DO's games, you get the impression that there's a decent game hidden here somewhere; it just exists under many layers of detritus. Every aspect of the game makes it apparent that the developers didn't have enough time to fine-tune and polish it. It doesn't come off like a game that was designed with the PlayStation 2 in mind, and the fact that it was released earlier for the PlayStation supports the reasonable assumption that it wasn't.