Everything about this largely ignored game WORKS despite infamously reusing the M&M 6 and 7 graphics engine. I'll cut to the chase by talking about a single aspect: atmosphere. This one may be the most atmospheric Might&Magic in the whole series; no, I'm not exaggerating. Tinting and colored lighting seems to be a great help. The Abandoned Temple finally feels like an abandoned temple and not like papier-mache cutout. Alvar feels like a small town and not like a set of polygons. There are little touches here and there that were pretty much absent from previous parts: like a tiny park in Alvar with a pedestal in the middle that glows in the dark; or the tomb near Ravenshore with the eerie red glow on its top. Also, we are treated with got more varied landscape, more detailed textures in general. As a result, one feels sucked into this world instantly, something that may not quite work with previous parts.
True, it is all less than original -- variation on the age-old theme really: questmaster > dungeon > monsters > questitem > questmaster > levelup. And there are still problems with NPC interaction (or lack of). Villagers are still drones telling us the same lines over and over again. Many players label this series 'pure RPG' -- and quite falsely. M&M 8 is still closer to the action genre than to the all-immersive, in-depth role-playing experience embodied by the Gothic and Elder Scrolls series.
I for one enjoyed M&M 8 more than M&M 6 which, despite being a lot more popular, feels stale and spartan in comparison. The designers were in absolute control of their engine the third time around and felt free to experiment with it -- to the benefit of the player. It's okay to pass on M&M9, but M&M8 is an appropriate swansong to a highly esteemable 15 year-old series.