Might & Magic Heroes VI Review
developer: Black Hole Games
|ESRB rating: RP
release date: Oct 13, 11 (released)
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Ah, I happily recall the good old days when gaming wasn't about fancy 3D visuals and movie-style voice acting. It was simply about the core of the gameplay. The gameplay is what made games work and that was it. Sure, in most cases, a convincing story and solid artwork were needed to make the universe believable, but none of that would matter if the gameplay was crap. It was back in those days when I was first given a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic III. At the time, I was relatively new to the whole genre of turn-based strategies, albeit in this case, I was hooked almost immediately. The fantasy themed world was rich in detail and lore. The races and factions were cool and there was a tone of content to go through and I appreciated the challenge of each scenario. Yes, that was my first encounter with Heroes of Might & Magic (HoMM). Of course, the series has come a long way since then and the franchise has gone through different publishers and development studios. Additionally, numerous changes were made along the way and in May 2006 the franchise was handed over to Ubisoft and the developer Nival Interactive. With Heroes V, the series made a successful transition to 3D graphics, while most of the core gameplay was still there. Amongst other things, the challenge was also there, which is one of the main reasons why we enjoyed Heroes of Might & Magic V ( especially 2lions).
It's clearly a jungle out there.
Damn this cape! It always gets caught in the horse's arse!
Might & Magic: Heroes VI, the latest installment in the series, takes us on a relatively similar journey. However, even though Heroes VI preserves the basics of all of its predecessors, the developers (Back Hole Entertainment) excluded some of the traditional elements of the turn-based series, in favor of other features. Improving towns and cities is something I've always enjoyed in HoMM games. This time around, emphasis remains on upgrading heroes and their abilities, while building up cities is secondary. As soon as you enter the city screen, you'll notice that most of the stuff is rather basic - only a few available structures, some upgrades, available armies and that's about it. Although it is possible to construct a range of buildings, the whole aspect of gradually perking up cities is gone. Slowly upgrading towns, adding new structures, upgrading them and then watching them become part of your expanding city was definitely a cool component of earlier games. Removing this feature was a bad move.
On the plus side, there's a decent amount of content on offer, so you don't have to worry about that. You are able to select one of the following factions: Haven, Sanctuary, Stronghold, Inferno and Necropolis. The good news is that the familiar Heroes formula is very much in there. The key to making things easy is realizing that it's important to win each battle with as little casualties as possible (preferably none). That's probably why you may want to replay certain battles if you've experienced heavy losses. Why? Well, mainly because it takes time to bring in new troops. If you choose to wait and expand your forces slowly, you have to be aware that your enemies will be doing the same thing. So, it's always smarter to attack when the odds are even, perhaps even slightly against you, as opposed to taking too long to prepare for battle. As before, enemy armies will replenish their numbers after each week, thus becoming stronger the more you linger. Mind you, there are tactical solutions to deal with enemies effectively. One of the best ways is to convert enemy structures and conquer as many zones on the map as you can. Controlling zones is the key to controlling recourses. The resource system has been simplified to some extent, and that means you have to make sure you have enough gold, ore, wood and blue crystals. This is a welcomed addition, reducing your worries about resources has, thus allowing you to focus on individual battles and exploration.
The new streamlined gameplay works rather well when coupled with the classic Heroes recipe, which is quite commendable. Character development has also seen some changes, featuring a reworked upgrade system, skill tree and the like. The well-designed interface helps a great deal when you're deciding how best to upgrade your hero. There's a vast choice of unique skills, spells and combat abilities on offer, so you'll need to take extreme care when leveling. Improving certain skills is not the end of it, because their timely use may sometimes determine the course of a battle.
The game's art style and the music may not be as compelling as some of the earlier HoMM classics (well, HoMM 3 anyway), albeit they seem to create a satisfying fantasy themed ambience. On the technical side, Heroes VI is a game crammed with glitches most of which are quite annoying and remain even after you've installed the game's latest patch.
The lovely castle is not what it used to be.
My turn, no my turn, no my turn... no!
And now we come to the clincher. Playing this game for a few days felt really fun and challenging. It felt like getting back to that very same classic -- HoMM 3 -- a game that withstood the test of time thanks to its incredibly addictive gameplay. As I jumped deeper into the core of the game, my motivation to play on declined with every passing hour and pretty soon, good old boredom started to creep in (wtf?). Pinpointing the reason wasn't easy at first. After a while, I discovered the root of the problem. This game wasn't King's Bounty. To enthusiastic turn-based strategy fans, the difference between King's Bounty and Heroes of Might & Magic should be evident. At times, it almost felt like I was playing a King's Bounty rip-off. That can't be right? Can it? King's Bounty was inspired by the Heroes franchise, not the other way around. The source of this dilemma lies in the fact that Katauri Interactive (the developer of KB) effectively brought the Heroes formula to a higher level, offering more gameplay variety, more choices, more challenges. In Heroes VI, things tend to get stale very fast, despite the fact that the heart of the franchise is present in the ever-popular turn-based combat mechanics. Somehow, with King's Bounty, the genre felt like it evolved somewhat and with this game it feels like it's stagnating.
Still, there is a lot to enjoy here, but once you're done with the single-player mode, it's always possible to go for the multiplayer custom game in one of the game's 14 skirmish maps (playable with up to 8 players). Also, joining a game online is relatively simple, now with the newly implemented Skype feature. This inclusion simplifies the whole process of finding people to play with. The key ingredient to enjoying a proper online multiplayer match is preparing for it. It's crucial to establish your dynasty before you can confront other players. You do this by gaining ability points and distributing them to improve the character, thus unlocking dynasty traits and dynasty weapons. If you don't spend time doing this, most gamers are bound to outperform you in battle thanks to their powers and skills. If you have enough time to spare, playing Heroes VI in multiplayer can provide hours of fun.
Rich content and relatively large maps will keep you occupied for a long time, plenty of stuff to do, different units and skills to use, various spells to cast, cool art, all in all it's a nice little fantasy themed tale;
Several annoying technical issues, building up towns and cities is not the same, still not quite as fun and engrossing as some of the earlier installments, the game undoubtedly lacks more gameplay variation to separate itself from genre competitors.