Might & Magic: Heroes VI Review for PC

Might & Magic: Heroes VI Review for PC

Might, Magic, And A Return To Form

It’s been a long wait, but at last, Might & Magic: Heroes VI is with us. Fans of the series—which is celebrating its 25th year—will be thrilled to know that developer Black Hole Entertainment has kept to the classic gameplay while adding just enough new features to keep everything fresh. While the game certainly has its flaws, players can look forward to an incredibly deep campaign that can last up to 80 hours including side quests, not to mention some serious multiplayer action.

For the uninitiated, Heroes of Might & Magic—that’s the order the words used to go in, which is why Heroes VI is sometimes referred to as HOMM VI—is like Total War in a sense. Your play time is divided between exploring a Civilization-style overworld (with resources, fog of war, and towns for you to capture and recruit soldiers from) and fighting tactical battles. But whereas Total War’s battles delve into the real-time strategy genre, the fights in Heroes of Might & Magic are a combination of chess and Dungeons & Dragons—they’re turn-based, on a grid, with you and your opponent trying desperately to outmaneuver each other using monsters with different abilities. Like D&D, Heroes VI uses a dice system to determine how much damage each attack deals.

Might & Magic: Heroes VI Screenshot

There’s a lot more to the battles than that, however. Each of your units is actually a stack of identical creatures (think the “stacks of doom” from Civilization IV), and they get weaker with every blow they take. Like many RPGs, Heroes VI places a great deal of emphasis on counterattacks; oftentimes, it does more harm than good to have a weaker unit use its turn to attack a stronger one. Further, the character that represents you, the “hero,” sits off to the side of the battle, and while he can’t be attacked directly, he can attack enemy pieces and cast helpful spells on your creatures once per turn. Each battle ends when one side or the other runs out of fighters.

To newcomers, it can be frustrating at first to work out the intricate details of this system. For example, if you place two of your monsters on adjacent squares, they might get a defense boost, but it will become easier for an enemy to attack them both with a single blow. You always have to make careful tradeoffs between dealing damage, healing, and avoiding enemy fire. Between battles, you can split up or combine your stacks, which has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The huge boss fights pose their own challenges as well. And a few hours into the game, you gain the ability to place your units on the battlefield before the fight starts.

Might & Magic: Heroes VI Screenshot

Sometimes you’re just plain outgunned, thanks to Heroes VI’s various RPG elements—maybe you let your most valuable units get killed in a previous fight and have no way to recruit more, or maybe you didn’t progress quickly enough and the enemy heroes got ahead of you. (Yes, the enemy heroes get better every turn, and they will leave you behind if you spend too many turns walking around without fighting anything.) You might need to load an earlier save game, so make sure to keep plenty of them handy. For n00bs, I would highly recommend choosing “Easy” from the difficulty menu before starting your first campaign.

This series is known for its factions, but when you begin the game, you won’t be given a choice—instead, you’re put in the shoes of Duke Slava, who is tasked with defending his society from a demon invasion. Not only does this set up the story, but it provides an excellent chance to learn the ropes without suffering through a traditional tutorial. Despite a few frustrating parts, the mission strikes a good balance between hand-holding and challenge in the end. You’ll be given numerous primary and side quests—as in an MMO, each of your tasks is given to you explicitly, with a prescribed reward that can include experience, gold, and gear. And while you accomplish your goals, Heroes VI gradually introduces all of the gameplay elements so that you can master them without too much trouble.

Might & Magic: Heroes VI Screenshot

It’s only after this mission, and a turn of events I won’t spoil, that you can explore the five different factions ruled by Slava’s sons. Through the game’s five interlocking campaigns, you’ll experience life as a member of the Haven, Sanctuary, Stronghold, Inferno, and Necropolis. In each campaign, using the ability points you earn from leveling up, you’ll mold your hero into a unique entity that fits your playing style. Yes, this is a huge game, with plenty of options to make replaying worthwhile.

Plotwise, this game takes place several hundred years before Heroes V, and unfortunately, storytelling is not Heroes VI’s strong suit. While a few of the cutscenes have intensely detailed graphics, most of them are just text boxes accompanied by absolutely horrible fantasy voice acting. It’s an embarrassing collection of caveman grunts, pretentious old-school English, and even animal noises. The plot may make sense to the Might & Magic faithful, but I got lost in the sea of cheesy-sounding proper nouns. (“Groknathe go to Hӱgermesh!” Okay, I made that one up.) The entire production feels like a Saturday Night Live skit mocking the fantasy genre, and I found myself just skipping the story scenes altogether.

Of course, longtime fans of the series will want to know what has and hasn’t changed since the last installment. For sure, there have been lots of aesthetic updates. The menus are slicker and easier to navigate. The graphics have kept up with the times with the aforementioned photorealistic cutscenes, though the in-game visuals aren’t nearly as impressive. The score is classical and world music, a great backdrop for this type of game that never gets repetitive.

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.)

Might & Magic: Heroes VI Screenshot

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.

The franchise has kept with the times, but aside from some great-looking cutscenes, it doesn’t stand out. 4.4 Control
The menus have been streamlined, and the tutorial does a great job of teaching you the ropes. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great music, with classical and world tracks playing in the background. 3.8 Play Value
There’s up to 80 hours of play time, but a lot of that time is spent watching the stupid story unfold. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Remastered by the well-known developer Black Hole, in close partnership with the franchise’s numerous fans.
  • Explore extra-large adventure maps, collect tons of resources, and build extraordinary cities. Perfect your tactics to level up your heroes, recruit troops, and ready them for combat on exclusive battle maps.
  • Lead the Heroes of the Griffin dynasty within intriguing scenarios. Choose your path and customize your gaming experience thanks to a brand new reputation system.
  • Discover fantastic landscapes and creatures from the world of Ashan. Enjoy revisited 3-D designs and an exclusive new bestiary.
  • Post content and compete with your friends using a new and intelligent online community interface.

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