Its a quirky little series so let's see what I have and even some actual screenshots of games to show you all what it looks like and how it evolved. (Well the core series anyhow.)
(As always click for larger if you want.)
Shall we start at the start? Sure! The original Might and Magic which I sadly only own digitally outside of the nice manual and Macintosh addenda was the first. Its really primitive but it is a mid 80s Apple II RPG of the Wizardry style "Blobber" genre that took the basics of Wizardry and its DnD roots and made its own thing with a massive overworld (see the printed out megamap there!) and multiple towns and dungeons to explore. Where many RPGs of this style kept to DnD conventions Might and Magic balanced the more powerful spells with a material component, food to be eaten if your party rested, and massive massive attribute increases which would become a hallmark of the series.
Back then it was kind of nice only needing 2 key presses to choose a spell as opposed to a code. And like many old games I get, this one has some writing in it. Bad for collector value good for emotional value. The game was played.
Back in the day you had to map. A good game showed you how to do it. Might and Magic wanted to be a GOOD GAME. They even mapped the full first town to show you what yours should look like.
If I am gonna party like its 1986 I am gonna use an automapper program. And Where Are We? is one made primarily for playing the old Might and Magics via Dosbox. (It covers a few games now and there are a few similar ones for various games that are free before you get fancy with paid ones like Campaign Cartographer.)
Combat and magic in the first game is very much a text screen and practically memorizing the spell list. This program negates that little issue while adding a number of other Quality of Life features such as seeing various character status infos and the like that even the later NES port failed to have. (Its prettier but it is showing even less information on screen at once. And sadly the PC Engine CDROM version is Japanese only. And the translation crowd has to redo Final Fantasy 4-6 for the dozenth time instead.)
Oh you do get to see a pre combat encounter picture but.. its not exactly good. (The NES monsters are ADORABLE though. I still want a copy but I am cheap and this little thing we are dealing with in early 2020 kind of makes money tight.)
The Macintosh version at least improves with mouse control and giving you more on screen party information and a little sound. Sadly you won't be using the above automapper with it.
It does look a lot nicer overall in spite of just being high resolution (for the time) black and white.
Again I do a little internet printing to make my life easier but now I have a legitimate physical copy of Might and Magic 2 with its nearly 160 page manual and clue book.
While Might and Magic 2 on PC does improve the graphics a lot its still not really up to late 80s 8 bit snuff.
The Where Are We program doesn't seem to show as much. And this sequel has a built in automap as your crew can learn skills that allow for an automap or a smaller on screen minimap.
(No images at the moment but the Mac port is in color and its a bit nicer looking.)
The Genesis port is clearly the way to go. It looks a lot better and again shows you the info you need.
Even the enemies look nicer more or less.
The next 3 (ish) games in the series all use the same basic engine. And I am lucky enough to have one of them in a super rare and expensive Turbografx 16 SUPER CDROM edition. And a really big cluebook for these 3 titles.
A nice CD size manual to help you along plus another of the lovely maps that come with these games. Sadly no cloth radness of Ultima but it still is nice.
Sadly the 4-5 (Known as World of Xeen because they are effectively 2 games later combined onto one CDROM and are meant to be played together to get the complete game.) box back just avoids showing you the game in action and it just shows some monsters.
The series is still not quite showing the correct amount of info for gear in game so if nothing else the clue book is fantastic for that. The maps in here are more or less just ones from the in game mapper with maybe a little extra annotations.
The game doesn't exactly take itself all too seriously but 3 and especially Xeen get pretty goofy and jokey. Your party members will do funny faces at various status effects and now it is virtually hiding info from the players on a numerical basis. Monster name colors change as they take damage just like your party.
Not having to remember spell names helps a bit in the wizard department.
Xeen looks a little nicer but not to any serious degree.
Then we get to the Win 9x era of Might and Magics where 3D0 more or less owned the original company (New World Computing) and pushed them to shove a game out every year or so which lead to 6-8 being the same game engine but tweaked a little (sometimes even copy pasting elements between games!) and 9 being a fully 3d engine but largely considered to be in an Alpha Build state.
Sadly I don't have 7's manual in a physical form. But as some of the prices show I got these clue books or manuals super cheap.
And an anthology release buy on Ebay got me all 4 maps but sadly manuals are PDFs. The physical copy of 9 above is where some of these things not from a retro shop came from. I like what I have played of a patched 9 but I can see why others might not.
6 in action. Sadly the party have to be all humans in this one. This is where the weird real time or turn based combat thing the series would have until 10 started. 3d world with 2d monsters and such.
A stock version of 8 which obviously did some tweaking but is more or less the same engine as 6 and 7. In 8 you start by making one character (including Vampires and Minotaurs!) and hire various folks as you explore. It helps one not spend an hour or so rolling up a full party and ease into it.
The Celestial Heavens forums have lots of links to various fan made mods and patches which sometimes are all but required to get the Win 9x titles rocking on a modern PC. And even in the starting area my Minotaur character is already finding nice attribute buffs to be a more powerful moocow.
9 could have been great with another 6 months or so. The graphics are fully 3d and can be pretty great for the time.
That time was about 20 years ago but I care more about interface and core gameplay than I do graphics, audio, or story. (Not that I mind some nice looking or sounding games but I care more about a good playing title more than if its got bloom lighting or something.)
10 was mostly a digital purchase by the next owner of the IP (Ubisoft) and went back to fully turn based step movement gameplay and its the only one I have completed of the main series.
Unfortunately I only have these two screenshots as I haven't had the game installed or am willing to go through that much effort just to show you how it looks. But I really like it. The Might and Magic fanbase isn't as keen on it however.
Yet maybe you want more proper turn based Blobber play and the more real time nature of the more modern titles doesn't appeal to you nor dealing with Ubisoft nonsense to play X? Well Sword and Sorcery on Steam might be for you.
Old school play heavily inspired by the first two Might and Magics but now with modern Quality of Life features!
Some pretty decent in game art!
It is an indie game yes but it looks good enough for me. The guy behind it has done a lot of modding and tweaking over the years. It didn't remotely look like this when I first played it. Same basic game but the interface and such was way different.
Proper turn based combat the way I like it.
How it used to look. Somehow like the 10 images I had this uploaded to Facebook. I am kind of surprised some of the thirstier images the artist drew for monsters I didn't have saved to mock but I guess I like skeleton pirates?
And now the spinoffs!
These are all various forms of action games. I have not played any of them but I do want to play Dark Messiah because its mostly about killing things using PHYSICS. Stress relief via kicking Orcs off high ledges and dropping chandeliers on people! Plus look at the prices. Didn't cost me much.
And their backs.
But the longer and possibly more popular than the main line game is the Heroes series, many of which take place in the various game worlds of that series. (And its predecessor Kings Bounty. Which itself got a series from a different company that had some assistance from the original creator!)
I don't have the 2 newest Heroes installments nor most of the King's Bounty series. But I have plenty of Strategy RPG fun. (More strategy than RPG in the Heroes, more a balanced mix in Kings Bounty.)
Get heroes (usually multiples in Heroes, single in Kings), fight hordes, build armies, crush your foes. Or in my case get owned heavily because I put in a fan mod to 5 here.
So all of these skelliemans die. And once in a while I have a giant skeleton dragon.
Well that is what I have for this long running series. It isn't my favorite franchise but I have some fondness for it since it does go back to my Commodore 64 days. Lots of them are available pretty cheap on ebay or Steam so maybe check it out and see if either the RPGs or the strategy games are your thing. Lots of us have little else to do besides feel sorry for ourselves so why not find a new favorite?
Stay safe out there folks! If not for yourself for other people!