Calm down, you don't need to have played the previous nine games, although the bewildering and beyond-tedious opening sequence to this old-school roleplaying game might have you worrying otherwise. That five minutes of lore-lost waffle about Might & Magic X's fantasy world aside, the game's fairly self-explanatory. You are a party of adventurers: go adventure.
M&MX is a consciously retro-feeling affair, harkening back to the first person, turn-based dungeon exploration games of the mid 1990s. The primary change from its ancient predecessors is simply the graphics and a more polished user interface, and frankly neither of those are on the cutting edge either. This is not a particularly attractive or visually dynamic game, but that's not the point. It exists to answer protests that today's roleplaying games lack tactical depth compared to the blocky, slower but more thoughtful RPGs of the past.
The control system takes a bit, or a lot, of getting used to for anyone who wasn't brought up on similar fare. Rather than the analogue movement of today's action games, here you move step by step through a world divided into tiles, and hitting the Q and E buttons to turn 90 degrees rather than freely waggling the camera around with the mouse.
Combat sees your party of four - either off-the-peg heroes or custom-created - take it turns to attack semi-static enemies with assorted weapons and a quickly enormous range of spells. It feels more like a boardgame than Skyrim, and the odd stiffness of it all will likely turn a lot of players off at first glance.
If you can stick with it, it gradually becomes suitably rewarding and engrossing, with a rich range of tactics and satisfying choice on how to customise your characters' abilities as they level up. M&MX feels far too small at first, locking you into a tiny and uninspiring area while you learn the ropes, but once it opens up a few hours in it's a different game.
The tunnel-feel drops away, offering a large amount of monster, quest and secret-packed world to explore, with a fair bit of freedom about what you approach and when. Sadly the archaic movement system means getting from A to B can take an age, which is particularly dismal when you're backtracking through areas you long ago cleared of foes, but on the other hand it beats getting jumped every five minutes.
There's a puzzle quality to a lot of the fights, which while not having fixed solutions as such do require a level of understanding of the game's mechanics and what abilities counter what that you wouldn't find in your average hack'n'slash roleplayer. At times it goes a little overboard, when you need either an inventory full of specialist armour sets to protect against, for instance, dark magic or earth magic, or to have bought and upgraded exactly the right spell sets with your mage characters. In this it fits the mechanical nature of the game, but sometimes it makes it a wearying grind.
Not helping matters is the woeful dialogue, which appropriately feels as thought it was generated by a computer. It's a real droner of a game, but sadly the occasional attempts at humour are even more grating. Hearing your characters bark the same dull, pantomime-accented gags again and again stops being amusing about three minutes in - we opted to entire mute voices in the end. This aspect of the game feels simply low-budget, and it's a real shame it didn't opt to stay minimalist and texty instead of going for this irritating half-way house of endlessly repeating speech samples.
For all that, the clever and unusual roleplaying game at M&M's heart just about shines through the mess on top of it. It's a thoughtful and variable solo adventure with tons of flexibility and a preference for really thinking about how to handle a fight rather than frenziedly flailing at whatever's on screen.
It's unfortunate that Might & Magic X couldn't have seen a little more spit, polish and superficial flare in order to save it from looking and sounding as old-fashioned as it does, but that aside it's extremely pleasing to revisit roleplaying values that had been all but abandoned for no good reason.