|Crusaders of Might and Magic|
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
|System requirements||32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 6.1, Windows 95|
|Input methods||Keyboard, mouse, or gamepad|
Crusaders of Might and Magic is a third-person action/RPG game developed and published by 3DO's Austin, Texas studios. Different versions of the game were released for both Microsoft Windows-based personal computers and for the PlayStation.
The PC version of the game was intended for simultaneous release with the PlayStation version, targeting the 1999 Christmas season. However, while the PlayStation team had been working on their version for several years, the PC team was given only 7 months to generate a full-length game's worth of assets and retrofit an existing first-person shooter engine to handle third-person combat. In the end, both games shipped for Christmas, though received lukewarm reviews.
The game takes place in the fictional Might and Magic universe, upon the world of Ardon. The prologue depicts the burning of a small village in the Fairfield Lowlands by the Legion of the Fallen, an undead army under the command of Necros, a paragon among Necromancers who sold his soul to the dark gods in exchange for unparalleled sorcerous aptitude.
A young boy named Drake, the only survivor of the massacre, escapes into the forests of Duskwood and roams Ardon for years, seeking revenge against the undead. During an attack on his camp by Ogres, Drake is saved by the blind hermit Nomandi, who becomes Drake's mentor over the next few years.
The first playable portion of the PlayStation version takes place in Stronghold following Drake's capture by Shamblers, the lowliest of the undead. Drake escapes Stronghold with the aid of Celestia, Lady Archon of Citadel, and is enlisted into the ranks of the valiant crusaders under her rule.
Traveling to Corantha, city of the Dwarves, Drake enters an agreement with Prince Dain Stonefist against the Ironpick rebels who attack the city from within, exposing Dain's brother, Tor, as an agent for the Legion. Travelling to Duskwood, Drake retrieves the Coranthan Scepter of Regency from a band of Ogres with the aid of the insectoid Dashers and their leader, Tamris.
Returning to Corantha, Drake discovers that Earth Elementals have awakened while both Dain and Tor have gone missing, with the Ironpicks continuing to battle the Stonefists. Drake navigates the deep mines and defeats the revenant of King Aiden, Dain's recently slain father raised through necromancy, thereby saving the Prince and gaining Corantha's favour against the undead.
Returning to Citadel, Drake is then tasked with retrieving a talisman named the Star of Erathia from the northern Glaciers to aid in the war effort. After doing so, he returns to Duskwood to combat the Legion in the grub-infested tunnels below the forest floor, successfully destroying Necros' supply lines. With this victory in hand, he travels back to Stronghold, to aid Celestia's crusaders and the Dwarves in the final siege against the Legion's bastion.
Upon his arrival, Drake encounters Celestia fleeing the battlefield, and finds the leader of the crusaders, Captain Ursan, missing. Nevertheless, while the crusaders fight on the front lines, he penetrates the walls of Stronghold, battling the Legion's armies. Drake finally comes face-to-face with Necros in Stronghold's depths, but the wily Necromancer departs through a portal, leaving the crusader to combat his lieutenants. Drake claims victory, and follows the Necromancer through the portal.
Finding himself in Necros' floating battleship, Drake discovers Necros' forces docked at a massacred, Legion-occupied Citadel. Drake fights his way to Celestia's throne room, finding no sign of the Lady Archon. He then comes upon a hidden chamber filled with arcane, futuristic mechanisms, discovering an elevator leading to an outer-world location. There, he finds Necros standing before an enormous interdimensional portal - the Kreegan Gate.
Necros claims that Celestia sought the power of the Kreegans just as much as he did, taunting Drake into doing battle. Instead of attacking the Necromancer, however, Drake destroys the Gate itself, causing a rift in space. Necros is drawn through the Gate's portal, screaming promises of revenge against Drake. Drake, triumphant, returns to Citadel, finding the crusaders victorious against the Legion. With Celestia still in hiding from Necros and her newly-enlightened armies, Drake becomes the Lord Archon of Citadel, and the new leader of the crusaders.
Numerous aspects of the storyline differ in the PC version. Before reaching the Citadel, Drake must pass through the small village of Cador-Sûl, which is not present in the PlayStation version. Also, Prince Dain must be rescued from the Ironpicks before he can be spoken to, and Tor is not present. Two dungeon-like locations, the Catacombs and the fallen Starship, are accessible only in the PC version. Ursan plays a larger role, Celestia does not flee Citadel and the final battle takes place on Necros' Battleship, with no mention of the Kreegan Gate.
In both the PC and PlayStation versions, Drake starts with no weapons, but the player can quickly find a melee weapon and shield. The game is partially combat-oriented, though features an inventory system with a range of equipment to locate and choose from. While the PC version features a simple experience system which involves defeating enemies to level up, the PlayStation version expands upon this, allowing the player to improve their skill with individual weapons, spells and projectiles through battle.
Drake himself also gains in experience as he defeats enemies. With each new experience level, he is restored to full health and gains an increase in maximum hit points, mana and offensive ability. The game has three difficulty levels to choose from. Selecting an increased difficulty rating primarily affects Drake's ability to dodge and attack enemies.
Over the course of the game, the player can discover spell books which allow Drake to cast new spells (or, in the PC version, upgrade spells they already possess). In the PC version, spells themselves do not cost mana in a traditional sense; after each use, a spell requires a cooling down period before it can be used again. The PlayStation version instead employs spells which cost mana to be casted. Spells also have a brief casting time, during which Drake is vulnerable to attack.
While similar locations are present in each, both versions of the game feature vastly different level design. One such common location is the Citadel, a floating city depicted as a standard medieval castle in the PC version, with conches and shell-like structures prominent in the PlayStation's variation. Other similar areas include Duskwood, populated by the tribe-like Dashers, Corantha, the underground realm of the Dwarves, Stronghold, the bastion of the Legion of the Fallen, and the Glaciers in northern Ardon, populated by hostile snow-dwelling creatures.
The PlayStation version features the ability to "empower" weapons and armor by purchasing elemental-, essence- and aether- based talismans and runes, attuning each to different properties - Air, Body, Earth, Darkness, Fire, Light, Mind, Spirit and Water. Every individual character in the game is based upon one of these nine properties, and use of separate runes and talismans allows the player to defeat certain foes more easily.
In addition, the PlayStation version contains a New Game Plus feature. Completing the game on any of the three difficulty levels unlocks a "Special" difficulty level, which grants the player all weapons, spells, talismans, runes and infinite items at the outset.
The game received a good amount of hype, especially as a result of being considered true 3D, the ability to "cast spells without using mana," and its supposedly revolutionary ideas. However, most reviews were lukewarm.