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Master of Magic is the second title developed by SimTex Software, the company that created one of the best strategy games, Master of Orion. Although both titles have the word "Master" in common, they are very different. Strategy is the essential key for the two games, but one is based in space while the other is set up in a magical world where powerful wizards are fighting each other.
First of all, you must configure the game options. There are four options available: difficulty, opponents, land size and magic. The first one allows you to decide the level of difficulty from intro to impossible, a total of five possibilities. Each level of difficulty will modify your starting amount of gold and city population, as well as your production and population growth rates. The second option is the number of opponents ranging from one to four. Land size will enable you to play with a greater size of continents with three possible sizes (small, medium and large). The last option permits to change the magic strength of the nodes. Weak nodes will produce half the magic power of Normal modes but Powerful nodes will give 50% more magic power than Normal modes.
After this, you must choose or create your wizard. You will be allowed to create your own wizard only if you selected a higher level of difficulty than intro. If you are playing the tutorial level (intro), you must choose one wizard among the 14 available. Each sorcerer comes with various abilities depending on what kind of magic he or she is specialized in. There are five types of magic in the game: Life, Death, Chaos, Nature and Sorcery magic. The spells have to be known by the wizard before being casted and you will find them in your spell book. However, as their number is limited in the beginning, you must do some research to discover new spells. Just before starting the game, you must choose your type of banner and you will be asked for the name of your initial city.
When you play Master of Magic for the first time, you might think that you are playing Civilization or even Colonization, as the main screen uses an interface very similar to both games. On the map window, you discover your city with one or more units. Each unit has its own characteristics like attack strength, experience level, defense, upkeep cost, etc... and when you right-click on their pictures, you will get complete information about them.
Movements are handled the same way as in the two previously mentioned games, and the map will be revealed to you as you discover new territories during the game. It is wise to produce fighting units to conquer other cities as they will provide you with gold, food and mana. Food is necessary to maintain your troops, gold is essential for your growth and mana is the source of your magic.
The amount of gold will increase if you promote trade with market places, banks, merchant's guilds, etc.. and the money will help you to acquire magic items for your heroes when they are available.
In order to keep your units alive, you must produce enough food to feed them and therefore, it is essential to build granaries and farmer's markets to improve your food production.
As the mana increases your magic power, you must build shrines, temples or parthenons for example to increase the level of mana gained each turn. Sometimes, the creatures you summoned or specific spells you casted require a fixed amount of mana per turn to upkeep them.
The research, as mentioned above, is very important because it will allow you to cast new spells against your enemies. Research units will be provided by specific buildings such as libraries, sage's guilds or universities. New spells may request a lot of time to be found if your research level stays too low. To prevent this, you must assure each city to have a library or greater buildings.
Spells are divided into several categories from summoning, city spells, combat spells, global enchantments, etc.. and you should have a look in the spell book to see what type of spells your enemies might cast against you. They will be used directly against you, your cities or your armies. When fighting an enemy army in the combat mode, you will be able to cast directly or let your units cast the spells (if they have that ability).
Combats are in a 3D isometric view showing all the units on the terrain and even the city, if the attack is against one. You always have the choice between an automatic mode where the computer takes control of your units and the manual mode that lets you battle the enemy yourself.
The goal of Master of Magic is to become the ultimate wizard in defeating all the enemy wizards. Although some opponents might not want to attack you at the beginning, because of treaties for example, you will have to destroy them anyway, so it's better to start when they are not too strong!
Master of Magic is, as Master of Orion was, a must for strategy fans. It is a turn-based game with nice graphics, great gameplay and a lot of spells to try out!
The initial release in the US was famous for the number of bugs, but we had no problems at all with the European version (1.2) that we reviewed.
MicroProse UK Ltd., GRAPHICS ------------------ 85% The Ridge, Chipping Sodbury, SOUND ------------------ 89% Avon, BS17 6AY, England. MUSIC ------------------ 88% Tel: +44-(0)1454-326-532 GAMEPLAY ------------------ 90% INTEREST ------------------ 95% MicroProse Inc., 180 Lakefront drive, Hunt Valley, MD 21030-2245. OVERALL ------------------- 90% Tel: 410-771-0440
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