|Dev: Black Hole Games|
|Release: October 13, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Language, Sexual Themes, Violence|
There have also been some gameplay tweaks, including new abilities, the option to take cover from enemy projectiles in battle, and an amazing new feature that allows you to choose your abilities rather than having them assigned by chance as you level up (imagine that). Thanks to a new "area control" system, you won't have to worry about weak enemies taking your resources when you're not looking; if you control a town or fort, your nearby mines can't be raided. To encourage people to connect to the Internet while playing (which isn't required, unlike in some other recent Ubisoft-published titles), Heroes VI offers special bonuses for doing so, including powerful weapons. There's even Skype support.
Some other elements of the game have been streamlined in controversial ways, however. For example, there are only four resources instead of seven—a cause of much griping among the series' hardcore devotees. And the process of town building has become much simpler and less interactive; the cities no longer feel like real places, but more like checklists. (In fairness, a press packet provided by Ubisoft says that "we're now looking into bringing back the depth of the old town screens," so if the lame towns are a deal-breaker for you, wait and see if there's a patch that fixes it.)
Perhaps the biggest change, however, is the introduction of a morality/reputation system (cue BioWare comparisons), another aspect of character development to go along with your faction, Might and Magic powers, and ability tree. The decisions you make are classified as "Blood" or "Tears." Blood players are aggressive and offense-oriented. Tears players, by contrast, focus on healing and are more likely to have mercy on defeated enemies. The two styles make for different ending sequences, adding yet more replayability to the game.
Even once you've mastered the campaigns, your time with this game won't be over. You tinker with the map editor. Or, you can head online or have a friend over for hotseat multiplayer on 15 maps. There's nothing groundbreaking about the modes here—you, with or without allies, try to vanquish your enemies by controlling resources and doing a good job on the battlefield—but multiplayer is always a must for board-style games like this. Fortunately, there are new options for setting the time limit in multiplayer, which is important considering how long a strategy game can take if everyone mulls each move for too long.
There's no way that Heroes VI could have pleased everyone—relative to its predecessors, some people will say it didn't change enough, and some will say it changed too much. Nonetheless, this is a huge, well-made title that stays true to the roots of the series without throwing in the towel and becoming a straight-up nostalgia trip. It can be punishing at times, and its elaborate plot is a spectacular misfire thanks to the horrendous voice acting, but it's a must-play for Might & Magic fans.
CCC Contributing Writer