The Heroes of Might & Magic franchise has been on a bit of a hiatus these past few years, but when rumours started buzzing around in 2009, fans of this spin-off franchise started getting excited. What came next was a tad confusing - the announcement of a game called Might & Magic Heroes VI. Might & Magic is of course the parent franchise of Heroes of Might and Magic, but it's also in its ninth installment. Quite why the decision was made to rename the franchise to Might & Magic Heroes will probably continue to baffle people for years to come, but thankfully the quality this game possesses allows conversations to remain rooted elsewhere.
The narrative takes place four centuries before the one seen in Heroes of Might and Magic V and focuses on five heirs to the Griffin dynasty. During the tutorial levels you'll get to play as Duke Slava, but he is assassinated and the choice then comes down to who you want to play as.
As if Slava planned everything, each of his children has a specialty. Anton is part of the Haven faction, Anastasya is of the Necropolis faction and so on and so forth. Each of the different campaigns has a unique story and they're all intertwined with each other, so there is at least some incentive to play through the different campaigns if you want more.
The main problem is, that while each of the different campaigns does help you become more familiar with the different factions, the story isn't the best out there. It's all rather forgettable.
When it comes to the gameplay, quite a lot has stayed the same as previous installments, but there's also been a bit of a shake-up to some of the legacy elements.
For those who have never played a Heroes game before, it's a very old school turn-based fantasy RPG. You control various heroes (and their armies) as they travel around maps capturing buildings and cities, all while attempting to destroy their enemies.
What makes the game so interesting is the strategic element. While you're doing your own thing, the AI (or other players) are all formulating their own strategies. The turn-based element helps to add to the tension, but it also helps to keep the game at a nice pace. There's nothing worse than being destroyed out of the blue by an opposing faction, but there's also nothing better than doing the very same thing to someone else.One of the new elements relates to how you're able to venture around and capture points on the map. Previously, all low-level buildings were up for grabs. However, buildings are now affected by the cities in their vicinity. What this means, is that as long as you retain your city, you also retain your flow of resources. If someone visits one of your low-level buildings, they can take resources that are there at the time, but they don't actually capture it any more.
It makes expansion around the various maps a bit more strategic, as there isn't a great deal of benefit in wasting movement points to try and steal a few resources from an enemy. You're better off just going straight for the jugular, or biding your time.
Another of the new elements, boss fights, doesn't swan in with anywhere near as much elegance. They're one-off encounters that seem to detract from the overall experience due to the fact that quite a lot of abilities can't be used any more. For example, debuffs are largely taken out of the game.
When it comes to the heroes themselves, it's a bit of a mixed bag too. One one hand, Black Hole has implemented a skill-tree system. This allows you to customise your heroes however you like, or you can allow them to auto-upgrade. However, they've also been made quite a bit weaker. Yes, they can still do damage to a fair amount of units, but the amount of damage they do isn't really going to bother anyone any more. It seems like they're able to be more of an annoyance than anything else, if you exclude their debuffing abilities and troop boosts.
On the subject of troops and abilities, many of the different creatures have abilities that can drastically change the flow of combat depending on if they're used correctly. For example, the Praetorian has the ability to project nearby units and counter-attack if their allies are still engaged.
The presentation of Heroes VI doesn't seem as though it's been boosted up too much, but there is a solid amount of detail if you want to zoom in on the action and everything does have a pristine feel to it. There's also some rather hammed up voice acting, just to go along with the story.
If you're into the whole skirmish scene, then Heroes VI will, of course, keep you occupied for quite a considerable amount of time. But even if you aren't, doing the single-player campaigns will occupy you for more time than most games released this year. The diversity of the maps even allows for two play-throughs to make for completely different experiences and that's what makes the Heroes franchise such a great spectacle.
In a world where games are frequently becoming all about instant action and gratification, Heroes VI shows that it can more than hold its own. The gameplay has some refinements this time around, which make things a lot more manageable, but the core elements that made the Heroes franchise a success are still there. There's also a ton of replay value with the title and while the story isn't the best, it doesn't hamper the experience too much.
|Oodles of replay value.|
|On the whole, the gameplay changes work for the better.|
|Proves turn-based strategy games are still very much alive.|
|Boss fights detract from the experience.|
|Story isn't the greatest.|
|Heroes feel a bit too weak now.|