Developer: Mayhem Studios
Release Date: May 01, 2003
Buy 'EMPIRE OF MAGIC': PC
The world of strategy games was turned upside down with the creation of games like Diablo, Command & Conquer, and Neverwinter Nights. All of which turned into amazingly successful series’. It is these series’ that are the inspiration for many rip-offs and other attempts at strong strategy games. In attempts to make a quick buck, many companies will throw table scraps together and use the box as a façade.
Summitsoft was the next company to venture into the world of strategy games and entered that world riding their new title Empire of Magic. A turn-based RTS set in a fantasy world much like that of Diablo, that featured battle sequences resembling the early Final Fantasy games for SNES. The player is able to control various units from wizards to dragons, in 12 single player missions. In the vast 3d environments that player is able to strategically place his/her units to ambush the enemy, and is also able to lay siege to enemy castles. An interesting addition to the game is the ability of the player to influence the loyalties of each town to him / her. Shipped in an intricately designed box, Empire of Magic looked like it could definitely leave its mark on the genre.
Installation was average length at a little over 1 gigabyte, and took only a few minutes. Once completed it was time to start the game, for the video settings could not be tweaked at all due to Mayhem Studios’ lack of integration of such features into the game menus. The game starts off in a sort of tutorial mode and walks the character through the various features and abilities at ones fingertips. For someone not that experienced in the genre, the tutorial was a god sent, as it teaches the player everything he/she needs to know about the game (which turns out to be not very much). Once introduced that the style of gameplay that is Empire of Magic, the player embarks on the 12 scenario quest to completion. As the game wares on, it goes from a quest to a task to a hassle.
In most cases this game would be ridiculously short, but due to the terrible combat design, followed by an annoying point system (dragging the game out longer), the game is far too long; a chore to complete. When designing this game, Mayhem Studios must not have expected to make much money off the gameplay so they spent all of their time and money on the box. The mission objectives are ridiculous, rescue this, kill that, escort them, it is as if no creative effort went into this game.
Not only is the game dry, but the AI is so dumb that it is hard to even refer to it as AI. In Empire of Magic, the AI works like this. You hit them, they hit you back, and that’s about it. If you are within their range they will attack you even if it is hopeless for them to win. So in all fairness there really is not AI included with this game and that is quite a shame for if there had been even the smallest bit of AI, the game might have been enjoyable.
The graphics in this game actually weren’t too bad, saving it from a failing mark. Each environment is designed in full 3d with articulately textured surfaces that provide the right ambience at the right times. Along with that are the full 3d characters and enemy units that also feature full 3d facial renderings on the side screens during battle. The game also featured stunning cut-scenes that were truly a pleasure to watch. Unlike the game itself, it was apparent that Mayhem Studios put quite a bit of effort into making these cut-scenes.
The sound effects in this game were simply mediocre along with the soundtrack, there was nothing special here. Mayhem Studios need neither be commended nor scorned for their sound effects in this game. It would have been nice to have an epic soundtrack and intricate environmental effects somewhat like those of Diablo II. The ambience of the game cannot ride on the graphics alone, and unfortunately that is what Mayhem Studios did leaving the feel of the game to the graphics which kind of hurt Empire of Magic.
When talking about multiplayer for a game like this, one would think that the poor single-player campaign, was only poor because of the work the company put into multiplayer. The multiplayer here was even worse than the single-player, featuring only two different maps to play over LAN or TCP/IP, completely limiting the potential of the multiplayer experience. On top of that, each of the two maps only supports two players, making it so that the multiplayer wasn’t even remotely fun.
Many of the issues that the game suffers from could easily be fixed in a few patches and if Mayhem Studios wants to make even a few dollars off of this title, that is what they should do. It is tell a budget title from a full title, and the difference between Empire of Magic and a game like Diablo II is like night and day. It is actually a shame that the game turned out the way it did, for it received such good publicity before it came out and now that its out, is getting blasted by just about every gaming media site on the internet. If it were not for the stunning cut-scenes and the detailed environments, this game would surely be sitting in the bargain bin at the local Radioshack.
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