Might And Magic: Heroes VI Review
This is not Might & Magic – that quasi turn-based RPG series fell by the wayside at its ninth episode with the downfall of 3DO in 2004. But the distinction between the two series’ is becoming ever more difficult for us to prise apart in the minds of those who have done little more than dabbled in either. Especially now that Ubisoft has jiggled the name about.
Formerly Heroes Of Might & Magic, the sixth episode in this epic turn-based fantasy series has had its title switched around to Might & Magic Heroes VI, potentially lending further confusion to any first-timers that subsequently discover Might & Magic VII was released 12 years ago.
Fans returning to the series will have no trouble dropping straight into the campaign, with or without tutorial. The fundamental turn-based formula that proved an enormous draw for millions of gamers, especially in Heroes Of Might & Magic III, hasn’t changed.
We hire heroes, build our castles, recruit creatures for our armies, tame the surrounding lands of its neutral monsters and reap its treasures, with the map’s winning objective in the back of our minds all the while.
That may be claiming a magical artifact or, as is usually the case, defeating all enemy heroes and capturing their towns. This is all performed to a regular beat, each hero having limited movement that’s replenished once we end our turn and allow the other factions to take theirs before it rolls around to us again.
On its surface Heroes VI has some comfortingly familiar features: it looks very similar to Heroes V and it sounds a lot like several of the Heroes games too, with reprisals from Heroes V’s battle music and some of our favourite scores from Heroes II and III having different roles in making the returning fan feel well at home.
But new developer Black Hole Entertainment has made a host of changes to key areas of the game that we have mixed, but mostly positive opinions about.
This is as thrilling as town upgrades become.
Towns now have a cursory pop-up window in which to choose upgrades from, rather than the ceremonious three-dimensional structure of previous episodes, and resources have been similarly downgraded.
Of the four precious materials that were standard in previous games, only one remains, leaving gold, wood, ore and crystal as the common constituents to build town structures with.
Conversely, heroes’ levelling and skill systems have been given much more depth and detail. We can now view multi-tiered trees with might, magic and adventure map skills that can be bought with ability points scored once per level gained, as long as we’ve hit the level requirement.
Of the 150-plus artifacts that our hero can collect, many are dependant on skills we may not have obtained, or on our hero’s alignment: whether we’ve ruthlessly chased down fleeing armies and chosen skills that align us with Blood, or whether we’ve taken the path of mercy, healing and the defensive skills aligned with Tears.
What these changes mean for Heroes VI and possibly, the future of the series is that we have a more RPG-focused game that could easily be expanded upon.
Heroes Of Might & Magic has always had a rudimentary RPG system, what with each map story focusing on a single hero who often persists from one map in a campaign to the next.
But with the introduction of Dynasties and online functionality via Ubisoft’s Uplay, the distinction between turn-based strategy and role-playing game becomes even more blurred.
A familiar sight for Heroes fans, the battlefield basics haven’t changed much.
By playing the campaign we immediately create a Dynasty under the name of our Uplay avatar. From there, any hero we create for a single scenario comes under our Dynasty’s banner and every bit of experience we gain will also level our Dynasty up.
A higher level Dynasty means the better rewards we can buy using the Dynasty Seals our heroes have acquired through in-game achievements. Rewards like better starting bonuses, new character portraits, character titles and powerful dynasty artifacts that can be used for any hero in any scenario – even against other players.
Dynasty awards are only available while we’re playing online and that’s the idea of course, that by logging into our Uplay account we can passively boast of our achievements to other players and even gain an starting advantage against them on an otherwise level playing field.
The flip-side to this persistent online profile is that we’re unable to play even the single-player online scenarios and campaigns we started if, for whatever reason, we’re unable to log into our profile.
With reliable broadband a standard for us, that’s a small price to pay because we really like this new direction that Ubisoft has taken the Heroes series.
As much as we still love the pinnacle in the Heroes series, Heroes Of Might Magic III, the game desperately needed to change to give us something else to sink our teeth into and reiterating a classic formula simply wasn’t going to do it.
It’s not as if there’s a huge compromise been made either: that classic explore, expand and conquer formula hasn’t been meddled with, multiplayer has taken on a new dimension of addictiveness and even the wonderfully detailed map editor (you know, that one that takes the same amount of time to learn as a 3D modelling program) comes as standard. It’s a brave new world out there, but it’s one Heroes squires and the knights of yore alike will enjoy exploring.