The Might & Magic series had lain dormant for some time, with no new releases in a good while to keep longtime fans happy. It's been longer than it really should have been, for sure, but now it's back in the form of Might & Magic: Elemental Guardians. Ubisoft has taken the series in a decidedly free-to-play direction this time, however, so it's unfortunately a much different Might & Magic than you may have grown up with or be used to.
It's certainly a well-made mobile game with high production values, but unfortunately that doesn't mean it has anything to do with the franchise or offers the same kind of fun. Ultimately, I ended up feeling more than a little disappointed after my time with the game, despite how colorful and fleshed-out it seemed when I began playing.
Heroes of Akadimia
If you're expecting traditional Might & Magic lore, don't. This game is a completely different beast than any of the games that came prior to it. It spins a new yarn around a new student who's enrolled in the Akadimia school of magic, who's tasked with summoning and leveling up groups of magical creatures to overcome dungeons and other challenges. In a way, it's a little like Pokemon or other monster-collecting titles. In this, it's a very kiddified universe that features a wide variety of monsters and a dumbed-down narrative that anyone can follow. You may recognize some of the monsters from Might & Magic games prior, but that's about it.
It starts out very promising, as well. You're introduced to a series of characters, a vibrant and colorful world, and plenty of creatures to collect. These range from magical knights to Djinns and everything in between. Of course, it's immediately evident that if you want to summon more creatures, it's going to cost you, by either grinding or spending cash on premium currency. That shouldn't come as a surprise, but it's still frustrating nevertheless.
Summon and Play
There are several game modes you can lose yourself in, with both PvE and PvP battles to try out, but most of what you'll be doing in Elemental Guardians revolves around auto team-based battles. It's essentially the same exact thing you've probably seen in dozens of other mobile games. You round up your strongest team, head off into a dungeon to complete waves of combat, and then profit. Then, you go do it all again. If you lose, you can pay a few gems and energy to start where you left off, but most of the appeal is lost in the fact that you don't really do anything in combat at all.
The battles themselves can be fully automated, and while you can take control of every monster you have at your disposal, it's much more time effective to start up a dungeon, and then let the game play for you. That's basically all there is to do, anyway, is let your most powerful monsters hammer away at enemies while you do something else. At that point, you can barely even call Elemental Guardians a game, since you're letting it play itself.
I found it was much more time-effective to start up battles, and play something on my Switch while my monsters would work on finishing up a few fights for me, then occasionally monitor it if they needed to start over during the middle of one. I had been choosing every move carefully for a while, but since the game really only rewards grinding out progression, it stopped making sense to do this, much to my disappointment. I would have much preferred spending time choosing moves and fighting enemies on my own than watching the action play out in front of me -- or in my case, waiting for it to end so I could start the cycle over again and make progress.
Free-To-Play, Too: Electric Boogaloo
Might & Magic: Elemental Guardians' free-to-play trappings aren't as frustrating as they could be, but they're still an annoyance. It doesn't veer too far into pay-to-win territory, as it could have, and there aren't any ads to worry about, but spending cash on premium seals can suck you in pretty quickly. You do get free seals for new players, and there are a ton of rewards as you play through the game, but the luck of the draw with the game's gacha systems will hold you back if you do decide to spend any money.
There's a lot to be said about how the game treats progression, however, as leveling up your monsters and seeing them grow does bring about a certain feeling of accomplishment. When you level up your creatures to their max level, they'll evolve, which can change their appearance, and it offers a noticeable jump in power. It feels fantastic once you've started to play with your new monsters, and in this regard it does feel a lot more rewarding than other similar games of this ilk.
It's a shame, since there's so much quality that went into putting this game together. The visuals are crisp, the music is great, and there's a wide variety of things to do, but unfortunately it veers too far into freemium territory to elevate it above other, extremely similar titles. Hopefully the next entry in the Might & Magic series can take the games back to their roots and away from this direction, as it has so much more to give.
This review is based on the iOS release. The key was provided by the publsiher. Might & Magic: Elemenal Guardians is available on iOS and Android now for free. The game is rated E10+.