There are basically two types of gamers – those who hate turn-based games and those who adore them.
If you consider yourself as one of the latter, then you’re probably familiar with the Heroes of Might and Magic series. After all, it is the most popular western game in the genre.
The main story in Heroes VI revolves around the royal Griffin family – Duke Slava and his five children. The campaign is split into five distinctive sections in which each child acts as protagonist that leads their own faction to glory.
These sections can be played in any sequence and is a great way to get to know each one of the five different races in the game. Overall the campaign is tolerable but you’ll probably spend most of your time playing the skirmish and multiplayer modes.
As mentioned, the game features five unique factions: Haven, Stronghold, Inferno, Necropolis and the new Sanctuary faction. The Sanctuary is a fascinating mixture of aquatic creatures with strong Japanese influences. Their creatures include Kappa’s and dragons from Japanese folklore. The new race is a great addition to the game and has a satisfying appeal, but it’s sad that they’ve completely removed Elven races from this instalment.
At a glance, it’s difficult to distinguish Heroes of Might & Magic V from Might & Magic Heroes VI. The developers kept most of the core mechanics and functionality from the previous title in place – which is a very good thing. Your hero still travels around on a lush adventure map in search of resources, creature dwellings and enemies to plunder. Heroes receive a set amount of movement points at the start of a turn and will give the opponent a chance to act once it’s depleted.
Combat hasn’t changed either: once your hero engages an enemy the battle takes place on a grid-like field – like an enlarged chessboard. Your hero stands outside the battleground and assists his army with spells and abilities. Like previous installments your creatures are represented as ‘stacks’. There’s only one instance of a creature on the map but it represents a whole batch of identical creatures. The unit will only be slain when all of the creatures in the stack are defeated.
Veterans of the franchise will quickly notice that there are a whole lot of subtle changes to the game. The introduction of the Blood and Tears morality mechanic lends a distinctive “good versus evil” aspect to your heroes. Righteous actions are rewarded with ‘tears’ while mindlessly slaying fleeing creatures will reward a hero in ‘blood’. These points are used to unlock unique abilities that can be used alongside those you acquire through regular levelling.
I was pleased to see that the developers tried to draw a clear line between the ‘might’ and the ‘magic’ aspect of the game; a clear step back to the origin of the series. I felt that Heroes of Might & Magic V often had a blurry outlook when it came to choosing skills and abilities. In Heroes VI skills are clearly divided between the two strategies and players can advance their heroes with a clear goal in mind. A warrior will select skills from the might section while a wizard will choose from the magic side.
Like all good things there’s always a ‘but’ and this game is no exception. The single biggest issue I have with the game is the tight internet integration known as the Conflux. The Conflux gives access to your Dynasty – stats, custom heroes, achievements and weapons unlocked through the campaign. Players are required to have a permanent internet connection to access these features.
In fact – when I erratically lost connection to the Conflux while playing a custom game I was simply returned to the main menu without the possibility of saving or continuing. The Conflux over-complicates things. There’s absolutely no need for it – except to ensure that you’re not using a pirated copy of the game. Incorporating internet-based features is the general trend these days – but it should be done in such a manner that it doesn’t interfere with your gaming sessions.
I’ve always enjoyed the Heroes series for the skirmish and multiplayer modes – another concern I have with the game.
They’ve completely removed the random map generator that instantly created a custom map to play on. The customary Map Editor is still available but that’s only useful for when you want to create a map from scratch. It was great to get an unfamiliar map on the fly and this functionality will be missed by returning Heroes V players.
Once you’ve decided on one of the handful of default maps your next obstacle is the inconsistent AI. At times you’ll find computer owned heroes wandering around with a single creature in their arsenal, and a moment later they’ll be knocking on your doorstep with hundreds of elite creatures. It took a substantial amount of time to recruit enough creatures to just get through the tutorial on easy difficulty – I’m pretty sure the AI is a cheater!
The insanely difficult computer players, internet ‘bloatware’ and a few graphical glitches can lead to frustration.
Might and Magic Heroes VI has its flaws, some of which will hopefully be patched up soon. Nevertheless the game still contains the tried-and-trusted core gameplay mechanics, loads of unlockable content and great detail and animations which should be pleasing to all fans of the series. If you’re into turn-based games this title should be on your list.