By Al Giovetti
Might and Magic: Book One Secret of the Inner Sanctum
Before Might and Magic there was Wizardry which appeared in 1979. Role playing games were just coming into their own and those who owned these games were fanatics. Many have said that games have driven the sales of computers over the years. Might and Magic was a bright spot in the 1986 Christimas computer season.
Much of the game play of a role playing game is selecting the proper party of adventurers from those available. Each adventurer has a profession, including Knights, Paladins, Archers, Clerics, Sorcerers, and Robbers. Each has special skills. Clerics are good at healing and protection spells especially against undead, while sorcerers are good at offensive and shielding spells. Robbers are needed to open chests, disarm traps, and find secret passages. Along with classes or professions, one must select sex (two are available - grin -Ed.), and races which include human, elf, dwarf, gnome, and half-orc. The attributes of strength, agility, piety, intelligence, and constitution all control different skills and efficiency in your chosen profession. A good party contains both sexes, all races, and all professions and helps to develop all the available skills to tackle all the problems that the complex game plot throws your way. As the characters gain experience they will gain levels which will increase character skills.
There are various shops and guilds, including Smithy, Temple, Training Area, Food Store, Tavern, and Inn, that you can join that will give you even more information and hints. Every town has a series of quests to perform for either the king, the mayor or others that you find. When you complete the quest you receive another piece of the knowledge puzzle and experience to increase the power of your characters. This quest based plot and progression is an innovation that is very pleasing to play. You do not just kill the evil wizard in this game.
A party of up to six adventurers can take on the puzzles and monsters in the game world of Varn to come to grips with solving the riddle of the mysterious Inner Sanctum or to those who have been there the "Gates to Another World." The game requires that you get out your mapping paper and map over 50 separate mapped levels to decipher the clues and mazes to the goal. Starting without money or armor and only clubs for weapons the intreped team started out on their most difficult quest. (Al Giovetti was awarded the red T-shirt of courage for becoming the runner up in the race to the Inner Sanctum. Another managed to get Jon on the phone before Al could. Al had a job and other responsibilities such as tax season to complete. Excuses! Excuses! - Ed.)
Along with the game is shipped a high quality, full-color map similar to that seen in Ultima games which helps to orient the game player to where they are in the game. The map world of Varn includes distinct territories and within those territories are main castles and towns where the party can find refuge at the inn to rest, heal and restore. The game starts off the party near the Inn in the town of Sorpigal. Various quests are completed for experience and artifacts to help increase the party power and influence.
Each area in the game is a 16 x 16 grid of 256 spaces which is mapped easily by hand. There are twelve dungeons in the land that have multiple levels each. There are castles, including White Wolf, Blackridge North, and Blackridge South with seven quests from each lord to complete.
CombatEach party is composed of three melee weapon characters that stand toe to toe with the enemy in the front rank and are numbered one through three. The characters in slots four, five, and six are in the second rank and have distance weapons such as offensive spells and arrows. Since these are also the characters who generally have poor armor (protection from melee weapons) this is a good arrangement.
One of the goals in the many encounters that character parties are faced with is to quickly incapacitate the archers and spell casters in the opposing force. Area effect spells are particularly useful as are arrows in this task.
The graphics in the game are rather primitive with the right hand and lower portions of the screen filled with text both in battle and while exploring the corridors. The representation is in first person perspective with the upper right hand portion of the screen filled with basically black and white graphics of the blocky walls and doors to rooms. When encountering a group of monsters the central portion of the screen is occupied by a four color graphic of one of the monster groups which appears to be 30 x 30 pixels for each monster group.
AnimationThe animation is very simple slide show type animation that simply shows the characters in different poses.
Voice ActorsThere are no human voices in the game nor voice actors.
Sound EffectsWeapons clangs and simple explosions are the extent of the sound effects in the game.
UtilitiesYou can only save at the Inns within the towns. If your party is killed later you can restore the game with all gold, experience,and artifacts earned up to the point of saving.
Multi-player FeaturesThere are no multi-player features in this game.
Cheats, Hints, WalkthroughStay near the inn of Sorpigal early in the game and save often at the inn. Your characters must be careful to venture out for small goals until they gain power in levels and artifacts. Do not ask for an eighth quest from the king of Blackridge South.
JournalistsScorpia is the expert on role playing adventure games from the beginning of time. She is an authority on the major services such as GEnie, Delphi, Compuserve, and later America Online. Not only does Scorpia do reviews but she plays the games and does walkthroughs and hints for the games. Scorpia criticised the game for the difficulty in getting started.
ReferencesScorpia, Computer Gaming World, number 36, April, 1987, pg. 24 - 26.