Video Game / Magic And Mayhem

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Back in 1984, Julian Gollop (later known for X-COM) created Chaos for the ZX Spectrum: a turn-based game in which up to eight wizards, controlled by humans or computers, battled against each other by summoning creatures and casting spells. In 1990, this was followed by Lords of Chaos, which added maps, independent monsters, and the ability to choose what set of spells the player took into battle.

In 1998, the next game in the series was released: Magic and Mayhem. Many of the spells and game mechanics are recognisable from the earlier games, but the move to the 32-bit PC platform brought substantial improvements to all areas of the game. These included, for the first time, a single-player campaign with a scripted storyline: Rookie wizard Cornelius arrives home from university to find his uncle Lucan missing, and goes in search of him. It becomes apparent that much more than Lucan's life is at stake.

A prequel, Magic and Mayhem: The Art of Magic was released in 2002, with similar game mechanics but using 3D polygon graphics rather than the isometric graphics of its predecessor.


Magic and Mayhem contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Bomb: The Lucifer's Farewell spell transforms any creature into one.
  • All Myths Are True: The three Arcane Realms are based on Celtic, Greek and Arthurian myths.
  • The Battle Didn't Count: Bosses frequently portal away when defeated, rather than dying. Amusingly, the second time you meet Ariadne, the developers forgot to do this, and it's possible to kill her. She still shows up a few levels later to do her Heel–Face Turn, though.
  • Cast from Lifespan: As the single-player game progresses, it is revealed that use of magic in the Arcane Realms causes its owner to age prematurely. The Overlord is attempting to retrieve various plot tokens to reverse the process.
  • Claymation: Used for the cutscenes.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Ariadne's character arc.
  • Escort Mission: In the Valley of Owain you have to keep a slow, weak brownie alive for long enough to open the castle gate and let you escape. Other levels tend to become this when your allies insist on wandering into danger.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Percival's obsession with the Grail leads him to turn on Cornelius.
  • Familiar: Hermes the raven, the game's method of feeding useful information to the player.
  • Glass Cannon: The Skeleton is one of the best-armed low-end units, but can't take very much damage before collapsing. The same applies to the Basilisk: its bite attack is one of the most deadly in the game, but it's very easily killed.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Zombies attack by pulling their own left arm off and using it as a club.
  • Herd Hitting Attack: The Chain Lighting spell leaps from one target to another, the Judgement spell destroys all creatures in a given radius, and the Totem of Pestilence infects creatures near it with plague (and they, in turn, can infect other creatures...)
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: From time to time the Overlord shows up, menaces Cornelius and portals away. In these encounters, it is (theoretically) possible to defeat him — but it isn't possible to stop him killing Lucan on Salisbury Plain.
  • I Broke a Nail: When allies' health reaches 50%, they call for assistance. On the level where Ariadne first becomes the player's ally, the message has her complaining of having broken a nail.
  • Liquid Courage: In one set of levels, Cornelius has to recruit King Arthur's surviving knights to his cause. In the case of Kay, this involves finding a flask of wine to give him courage.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Delivered by the Overlord to Cornelius before their final confrontation. And promptly repeated a few seconds later when Lucan's ghost shows up to reveal that no, actually, Lucan is Cornelius's father.
  • Mana: Mana is used up when casting spells, and recharges when a wizard, or creatures under their control, stand on a Place of Power. Gaining control over Places of Power is usually the main objective for the combatants.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Lucan gets offed by the Overlord.
  • Protagonist Centred Morality: In Fiddler's Green, the local wizard Yeorick is a reasonably friendly character who's happy to help Cornelius on his quest. In order to complete the level, Cornelius is required to murder him and steal a magical ingredient he possesses. (It's possible to play this as self-defence instead: remain in the village for a given time while avoiding Yeorick, and he takes offence and attacks first).
  • Real Time with Pause: In contrast to the turn-based system of the earlier games.
  • The Scrappy: Invoked in the last level, if played on the highest difficulty: During the game the player has had to keep Twigkindle the Brownie King safe on various occasions, no doubt got annoyed at his habit of straying into danger, and breathed a sigh of relief when he was killed fighting the Overlord in the final battle. On the highest difficulty level, the game resurrects him; the characters promptly decide he's 'nauseating' and ally to kill him again.
  • Shaped Like Itself: One artefact is called the Campaniform Bell. 'Campaniform' means 'bell-shaped'.
  • Shout-Out: The effect used for the portals looks very similar to a Stargate ring teleporter.
  • Taken for Granite: The effect of the Gorgon Stare spell.
  • Taking You with Me: The Phoenix bursts into flames when killed, and the Hellhound explodes.
  • Teleportation: Provided by the Teleport spell.

Magic and Mayhem: The Art of Magic also contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Aurax and Daephus must traverse one to reach the Thieves' Guild.
  • Art Shift: Not only are the game graphics polygon-based rather than isometric, but the user interface graphics have a more cartoonish look to them.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Nadia, when Aurax finds her in Sassari.
  • Captain Obvious: Lampshaded by Orgon.
    "Walking into a dungeon containing the ruler of all Chaos makes you sense danger? Your magic powers amaze me, Aurax."
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Aurax has two possible love interests: Gaion, his mentor, and Vex, an elf warrior. Gaion doesn't survive.
  • The Dragon: Milesius, the wizard Aurax first meets, turns out to be the Necromagus's right-hand man.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Numinon after his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Fanservice: The female characters tend to be young, pretty, buxom and scantily clad. Special mention to the Totem of Healing, which manifests itself as a curvaceous water nymph (as opposed to a static fountain in the earlier game).
  • Fanservice Pack: When Nadia is kidnapped by the forces of Chaos, she's wearing reasonably sensible clothes. By the time Aurax finally reaches her in the Hell-Pits of Sassari, she's changed into the bikini-and-cloak combination favoured by most of the game's witches.
  • A God Am I: The conclusion of Numinon's speech after revealing his true nature: "People of Karnak, I am no longer your leader. From this day forth, I am your God: Demonuminon! [Evil Laugh] "
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The death of a wizard is marked by a tolling bell.
  • Horns of Villainy: Milesius has a prominent pair on his helmet; so does his boss, the Necromagus.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Necromagus brings Aurax to the Hell-Pits of Sassari. It's just as nasty a place as it sounds.
  • Large Ham: The voice acting for the two Chaos wizards in the encampment level on Azoria, who would like nothing more than to hear some elves squueeeeal in paiiiin.
  • Mercy Kill: After Aurax defeats vampire!Gaion in battle, a cutscene shows her begging him to stake her so she can die as herself. He does.
  • Pillar of Light: The "Judgement" spell appears as a column of light.
  • Reforged into a Minion: Poor Gaion..
  • Spirit Advisor: Gaion puts in a final appearance as one, after her death.
  • Torture Technician: Glut, the warder of Karnak Prison.
  • True Final Boss: After finally defeating the Necromagus, Aurax returns in triumph to Numinon, the Big Good... who turns out not to be as good as everyone thought.
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