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From Mythos Games, the developers of the X-COM series, Magic & Mayhem takes Real Time Strategy beyond human limits...

You are Omnipotent. Nature is your ultimate weapon.

Never before has a commander wielded such power. You have the power to send a plague upon the enemy, and to bring the dead back to life. Use magic to command the forces of nature. Lead your army of mythological beasts. Use strategic thinking to defeat your foes. Combine these elements and you will become a legend in battle.
  • Revel in the Realism
    Buildings and forests burn. Creatures can hide in ambush or gain advantage from using high ground.
  • Conquer 36 Regions
    In Celtic, Greek and Medieval realms housing ever more dangerous opponents and challenges.
  • The Enemy will Adapt
    No two campaigns will ever be the same.
  • Dominate the Internet
    Fight it out with up to four players - the most enjoyable action strategy game to hit the Internet.
~ from the back of the box

If you look at the events surrounding Magic & Mayhem, it seems like it had a rough time at retail. Developed by British studio Mythos Games, originators of X-COM, with influential designer Julian Gollop at the helm, it would ultimately be the studio's swan song before its closure in 2001. Virgin Interactive handled the European release, experimenting with different titles in different regions. In France it gained the moniker Arcanes while in Germany it was simply called Mana, neither of which capture the tone as well as the original title. They were to rename it to Duel: The Mage Wars for the United States, but before it could come to fruition, they got cold feel passing it off to Bethesda instead. At least they kept that title.

It seems like Virgin Interactive didn't know what to do with it, which is a little surprising considering the popularity of fantasy titles like Diablo or Heroes of Might and Magic. That could partly be down to the graphics which were seen to be behind the times in 1998. It did little to expand upon the look of X-COM Apocalypse the year prior using an isometric perspective and digitised sprites. In my view, they had nothing to complain about. The imagination of the visual design is there in spades, using Claymation to create and animate their creatures. It's a style that provides a lot of personality that does a lot to alleviate some of the more repetitive game design choices. When you include the spectacular soundtrack by Afro Celt Sound System you have an incredibly handsome package.

In the Portmanteau, place magic items on the right into talismen on the left to prepare a spell (left).
Information about the items, spells and most everything in the game is in the Grimoir (right).

At its core, Magic and Mayhem is a real-time strategy game with mild role-playing elements scattered in here and there. You are an apprentice sorcerer who is being taught the magical ways by his uncle. When returning from chores, you find that he is missing leaving you with a bad feeling. So, you head off on an epic adventure through Celtic lands, Grecian cities and Medieval realms in your quest to find him. While you have adequate close-combat skills, it will be your magic that will get you past some treacherous situations, particularly your ability to summons beasts and magical creatures. This is the main mechanic of the game, and it's a doozy.

You spell loadout is determined by what you have in your Portmanteau or spell box. You can prepare as many spells as you have talismen which come in three varieties; Chaos (Red), Neutral (green), and Law (blue). To activate them, they must first be infused with a magic item. To begin with, you only have three; a chunk of Brimstone, a twig of Holly and a Mandrake. Tie them to a talisman and different offensive, defensive or summoning spells will become active. For example, the Brimstone could raise the dead, project a fireball or cure an ally depending on which talisman its in. The Mandrake on the other hand could summon a blood-thirsty Redcap, a Giant Bat perfect for scouting or a rock-throwing Brownie. There's a huge number of items to collect and attach to an increasing number of talisman which provides a great incentive to search each stage thoroughly.

Have a creature stand on Place of Power to syphon it magical Mana to you (left).
Portals left by defeated wizards will mark the end of the stage (right).

In each stage, spell management can get a little fiddly. You may want to create little troops to wander off in different directions of the map, but I quickly found it not wise to leave a team to their own devices. They won't attack unless an enemy is right on top of them and none have the wherewithal to help an ally in need. If they can't get a way in to attack an enemy, weaker allies may push a stronger one aside to get a hit in before falling. It can get quite stressful to manage, especially when enemies seem to be able to do everything you can instantaneously.

Other than this, I feel like the game design is highly entertaining. In the campaign, there's a big bad that will wonder the lands until found or teleport in after a certain amount of time. They are your main target and will leave behind a portal that marks the end of the stage once defeated. They're not the only objective, though, as plot points, treasures and other goals can be stumbled upon too. In one stage, if you're quick enough, you can parlay with the Brownie King to form an allyship before the evil wizard targets them. Subsequent levels that feature the magical creatures will ignore your presence or even assist you on rare occasions, as long as they aren't under the control of the enemy that is.

As later levels get more complex, you will encounter puzzles and traps. In this instance, summon a
bipedal creature to stand on a switch to let you out. That four-legged unicorn didn't work.

As magic is your primary means of offence and defence, you will need to replenish your mana reserves. While single-use Mana Sprites can be found randomly on the map and used to gain back a generous chunk, the primary means is to take control of a Place of Power. They can reside in a a variety of locations, be it on an open field or hidden within a temple or hut, but you can guarantee that there are always a fair few in each stage. Position one of your summoned creatures on an altar and it will syphon the power directly to you. The more you have in your control, the quicker your mana will fill up. But beware, the enemy is trying to do the same. He will have access the same spells as you do (and more often than not, more powerful ones too) and he'll want to use them. He will send his armies around the map to fight off anyone controlling a Place of Power so it will be a gamble as to whether the creature you place there can defend themselves should you leave him. Find all of these mechanics too complicated? Don't worry, a helpful crow will guide you throughout the game, providing an entertainingly concise tutorial in the process.

Along with the summoning spells, the Places of Power mechanic is one that's incredibly rewarding. It's simple enough to understand for those who don't generally like the complex nature of strategy games, yet it allows for some interesting tactical choices; do you put your powerful griffon on that power pad, or a simple zombie? Do you have enough mana to summon loads of fauns or wait until you can call in the dragon? Do I hold my wizard back and cast offensive spells, or get in the fray along with my unicorns and centaurs? The game may be a tad flawed, but when it's as overall entertaining as this, you can easily forgive them. I'll have to dig out the sequel (made by a different studio without any input from Gollop) to see if it will be just as good.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses dgVoodoo & CDAEmu (CD Audio Proxy) to run on modern systems. Patached to official Product Version 1.100. A real or virtual CD drive may be required to play. UK and US Manual included. Soundtrack included as separate download. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 318 Mb.  Install Size: 429 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Magic & Mayhem is © Virgin Interactive Ent & Mythos Games Ltd
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. Wow what a release Biffman! A hidden, forgotten gem if there ever was one. I remember playing this game on release and thoroughly enjoying its campaign, setting and graphics. As you mentioned it was unfortunately largely ignored on release and sadly seems forgotten today, even among people who enjoy Gollop's work.

    Can't wait to play through it again, thank you! Also I didn't even know there was a sequel, looking forward to having it released here (fingers crossed).

    1. Thanks. I've not touched it I'm hoping to get the sequel working soon. It was made by a completely different team, so I'm sure sure if it keeps the charm of the first one. Plus, I'll need to souce a manual.

  2. Been waiting a long time for this to be in the chambers

    Hopefully the sequel can come along too

  3. There is also a German version of this (fully dubbed) called "Mana - Der Weg der schwarzen Macht".

    1. I only focus on the English versions for this site, but there is a surprising amount of variation for this game in different regions.

  4. Yeah never heard of this at all. Surprising for a Gollop release! Sounds a bit like an isometric version of Sacrifice (which it presumably predated).

    1. Now that I think about it, it does actually. M&M was 2 years before Sacrifice but both play very differently. This controls more like a mouse-driven RTS like WarCraft than the direct control of its main character that Sacrifice has.

  5. I remember that was a bug with a sound file in some level and i need it to change the name of the file for the game to work...

  6. Hey Biffman, thanks for exhuming this fantastic game. The soundtrack alone is worth playing the game for but the charming art style and well-paced gameplay (disregarding how slow the wizard avatars lumber around) make this a low-key favourite of my childhood.

    I'm having some trouble launching it though - if I install and launch Chaos.exe then it closes back to desktop straight away. It will launch if put into Win95 compatibility but without the soundtrack audio and with numerous glitches.

    Probably something simple I'm missing but any ideas? Thanks again for this excellent website

    1. Compatibility mode will break the CDA Emulation, so that's why the music isn't working when running like that. Do the videos work at all though? The game will initially start with an AVI video and if you don't have the codec that could be why its crashing. It's worth following the steps in the PCGamingWiki link below regardless.


      The only other thing I can think of - which is becoming more necessary as I put together more Windows Native packages - is Windows Visual C++. There's a link in the FAQ regarding that.

    2. Thanks Mr B - it won't even open to the logos, which I'm guessing run on AVI so it might be that - I'll give it a go