Freeday 11 June 1999

Master of Magic

Pic of the day: Screenshot from Master of Magic. (Oh, and the picture is a link to an external MoM site. This can happen, though it probably won't become a habit.)

Oh, I'm tired. Last night I finally got Master of Magic up and running again on the old old PC. (It requires lots of conventional memory, which is hard to get on modern computers with all their extra stuff). Master of Magic (usually called MoM or MOM by fans) is one of my all time favorites, probably only second to the roleplaying game Daggerfall. Witness the fact that the title of my web site, Chaos Node, is a phenomenon well known to the players of this game. (It also has a way technical meaning, but that's not it.)

So what's so great about Master of Magic that I sit up till 4 in the night playing just 5 minutes more? Years after I first got it? It can hardly be the graphics, which look dated by now. [1] And the artificial intelligence, such as it is, was doomed from the start. You can be pretty sure to win, even at the highest levels of difficulty, if you survive the first critical minutes long enough to actually implement a decent strategy.
But there are so many ways to win. Well, actually only two, but there are so many ways to arrive there. The game has lots of different races, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. You start out with one of these, but can absorb others into your empire. Or not, if you so choose. Some of them go well together, others hate each others guts on sight.
Then there are five different colors of magic, each with its own spells. These also can be mixed, except for two of them; but if you don't specialize in one color, you don't get the most powerful spells in the end. In addition, you may choose other bonuses instead of spellbooks, such as a proficiency in channeling magic over long distances, or a bonus to making magical items.
Oh yes, you can make your own magical items, from a simple ring of speed to enormously powerful enchanted weapons for your heroes. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the heroes, of which there are many, and if you don't hire them, they may go to the enemy instead. Some may come to you by themselves as your fame grows, others can be summoned. Just like you can summon heaps of fantastic creatures, from tiny pixies to deadly storm giants. All of this takes lots of magic points (mana) which you have to build up through temples etc, so you have to keep an eye on city development too.
In short, it's something like Dungeons & Dragons meets Civilization. The replayability is stunning, if you like it the first time you will probably love it years later.

With all the good computer games out there, who needs a life? Of course, this works the other way around, too, but games are cheaper.

Today's quote: "The bird brain, though much maligned, can perform feats while sleeping of which we can only dream - namely, it can stay awake." Scientific American, May 1999.

[1] (Which reminds me, it must absolutely suck to be an archeologist. You spend much of your time trying to date lifeless objects.)

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