The Might & Magic series is a well known and loved franchise that has games in several different genres. Perhaps it’s best known sub-series is Heroes of Might & Magic which is loved for its solid turn based strategy RPG action. This time out Ubisoft has changed the name up a little bit calling this entry Might & Magic: Heroes VI. Fans of the previous Heroes games will find an old friend with an updated paint job. Heroes VI plays a lot like Heroes V, but with the usual graphical improvements that we would expect to see in a current game. But, that’s also this game’s problem; it’s so much like Heroes V that if you didn’t enjoy that game then Heroes VI certainly won’t change your mind.
If you’ve never played a Heroes game, but you like board games and turn based battles, then get ready to invest a ton of time into this one. The single player campaign is very long (so far I have put over 40 hours into it and I still haven’t finished it) and it is broken out into several dozen different chapters. With each chapter having its own playable faction to control. The factions are all led by different heroes who have their own storyline and motivations, but in the end the heroes’ stories are all connected. The story itself takes place before Heroes V and deals with the children of a murdered Duke and their own individual experiences with the fallout of his death.
Maybe a Good Story
The storyline could have been better, but for two poor choices. The first is that the storyline is entirely voice acted, but the combination of cheesy/clichéd fantasy lines and bad voice acting really makes it hard to listen to. I found myself reading the storyline text as fast as I could then skipping to the next paragraph of dialogue (thank god this is an option) just so I wouldn’t have to listen to the entire line being voiced. The next problem is the structure in which the game’s chapters are presented. Once you complete the required tutorial levels you are presented with the choice of starting separate campaigns for five different factions. The problem is there is no real indication in which order you should play the campaigns if you want to follow the story in chronological order. So if you pick the wrong order (and chances are you will), you will be treated to major spoilers. It’s a silly design decision and one that could easily be fixed with a patch.
Turn Based Gameplay
The gameplay is turned based and it starts out with you looking at an adventure map from a bird’s eye view. Once it is your turn you must move your character along the map, collecting treasures, fighting enemies, and capturing towns/castles. The more castles and structures you own, the richer you will be and the larger your army will be. The game utilizes resources and gold for the hiring of troops and building of helpful structures. Oddly this version only has four resource types, as opposed to the series standard of six, but I don’t really see this as a negative. Another change from previous installments is that areas on the map are broken down into zones, and whichever army controls any given zone also controls the resource nodes for that zone. So an enemy can’t just waltz in and steal your gold mine, they actually have to take over your castle if they want that mine.
The battles themselves play almost exactly like they did in Heroes V. The battle screen is grid based with the army stacks starting on opposites sides of the grid. Once it is your turn you are free to move your units about the grid and either attack enemy units or assist friendly units. You also have the ability to use your commanding hero once per turn. The hero can use powerful offensive spells and attacks and they can buff or heal friendly units. However, the hero units themselves can’t actually be attacked; instead the battles will end when one side’s army is completely wiped out or surrenders. There is a strategic element to where you move certain units and which units you use to attack with, but ultimately most battles come down to who has the larger army. This is definitely an aspect of the game I would like to see improved on if there is a Heroes VII.
Visually, Heroes VI maintains the series art style that fans expect and amps all of the details way up. Looking at the adventure map you will be treated to moving vegetation, improved lighting and shadow effects, realistic water, and tons of environmental detail. The game map and battle screens can both be zoomed in on in order to get an even more detailed look at the action. One downside to the visuals is that many of the game’s cutscenes use the game’s engine to render them, and it’s apparent that this engine is not meant to be used close up. It looks great from a bird’s eye view or even closer, but once you get into an FPS type view it’s really limited.
Once you finish with the game’s extremely lengthy single player campaign you can jump into local and online multiplayer matches. These game modes really aren’t for me, as they tend to take more time than I can spend in one sitting. But, there are plenty of players out there who will love the ability play with and against multiple human opponents on rather large game maps. Heroes VI also features a hotset option for local matches between friends.
Please Ubisoft Fix the DRM
Perhaps one big area of controversy with this version and Ubisoft PC games in general is that the DRM used in this game can ruin your experience at times. The game wants you to be connected to the internet at all times and will run a check every time you fire the game up. If you play while connected to the internet then your saves will be stored in a cloud, giving you access to them on various computers. However, if you choose to play while online then your saves won’t be saved locally. Further complicating this setup is the fact that if you lose your internet connection your game will close, which means that any work you put into the game will not be saved. Thus you just wasted a bunch of time. I personally never had this happen to me, but plenty of people have reported it happening to them. You do have the option of saving and playing exclusively offline, but then you lose any DLC content you may have and you don’t get access to some of the game’s best weapons. It’s a silly system that Ubisoft really needs to improve.
Crazy DRM policy aside, If you’re new to the series or even this genre of game then Might & Magic: Heroes VI may be a bit overwhelming and difficult at first, but the learning curve is well worth it. I have really only scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. Those looking for a good turn based strategy RPG with a lengthy campaign will find a lot to like with Heroes VI. Just like its predecessors I found myself having to complete just one more turn before I shut the game off, which usually resulted in another hour of gameplay. Sure Heroes VI plays a lot like Heroes V, but I liked Heroes V, so for me this isn’t a negative thing. It’s more of what you like about the Heroes franchise, with a couple of changes thrown in, and much prettier graphics.