After reading everyone reminisce about the glory days of Master of Magic (1995), I decided to pony up the $5.99 at GOG.com and give it a try. Until this week, I had never played MoM. Heresy! I know. Back then I was playing the crap out of Final Fantasy I and II (US) and loving them. Computers weren't on my list of fun until '97 or '98 (Diablo/Civ 2) and certainly not in 1995.
Therefore, I find myself today playing a game in DOS markedly similar, in ways. to every other 4x or TBS game I've played in the last 10 years. In many ways FE seems, in beta 1, close to MoM with all the faults everyone cries about. Hero stack of doom? I had one before the first 200 turns:
(I got that Dragon as the first Hero to recruit and never looked back; I made that ring for ~1500 MP)
This unstoppable stack trounced every AI Wizard's (and neutral) city when I felt like it; which was often. The AI is also pretty ineffective on normal and hard, remind anyone of anything? The only thing this stack couldn't destroy was 2 Sky Drakes and 8 Phantom Warriors guarding a Sorcery Pool on Myrror. Regular units only really feel particularly useful to guard cities and in the early game. Once this stack is leveled and fully enchanted it can pretty much do anything. (They all have awesome items/artifacts I made and have flight/eldritch weapon/holy armor cast.)
Furthermore, there is just as much "city spam" in this game as there is in any other game:
(Most of my cities are on Myrror, which I didn't feel like taking a pic of because it is a pain to get in and out of DOSbox everytime.)
What I do like about this game is Heroes coming to you because of your fame or not coming because of your lack of it. Said fame influencing the quality of said Heroes. The all inclusive cities. The monster lair/magic nodes exploration. The item/artifact creation mechanic, which is arguably the best thing about the game. It is a satisfying payoff when you have to wait 10-20 turns just to get a custom designed ring you made for your Hero and even more so when you see your enemies driven before you.
Overall, yes, this game is worth the $5 I paid for it but not much more. I've played and won several games already and they don't feel all that unique on subsequent playthroughs. I make a custom Wizard and take the best traits, why play with an inferior one? The magic system is pretty unique but it also feels similar to FE, in ways. In fact, a lot of this game does.
Just as I do with many video games from my "early days," I let nostalgia and novelty cloud reality. I think this is also happening when, often, people draw parallels to MoM and FE. Ultimately, to each their own.