by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
When publisher 3DO went belly up, fans of the Might & Magic games feared the worst. Yet a seed of hope remained for the franchise as things could only get better. In its early days, 3DO had developed and published quality games that tickled the imagination of many a gamer but as so often happens, they lost touch with their creativity somehow. Might and Magic IX was a disaster of a game, and don't even get me started on the milking attempts that resulted in Crusaders of Might and Magic and the pinkish Heroes of Might and Magic IV. And so, my heart leapt when I learned that Ubisoft announced that they had acquired the right to publish games based on the Might and Magic universe. I think I remember going through an out of body experience when I saw the first screenshots of Heroes of Might and Magic V. Now that I've been playing the game for a couple of days, it is time to take stock.
After years of peace, the Griffin Empire is under attack by the Demon Lord's minions once again. Lady Isabel, tired of waiting for her beloved King Nicolai, can no longer stand idly by while the empire is falling apart. Demons are devious creatures however, and through careful scheming and plotting, Isabel is taken prisoner by one of the Demon Lord's most trusted aides, Agrael. But, all is not as it seem. Griffin's former allies, the Mages and the Elves, are not offering their support. Why would they not act against their sworn enemies? And are all of the Demon Lord's minions as loyal as he thinks they are? You, the player, are thrust into the role of Isabel (and others) to figure out what is happening. Not an easy task at all and one that will send you to the far corners of the empire and beyond.
The more things change...
For fans of the series, it is impossible not to notice the change in graphics. Finally Heroes of Might & Magic makes it into the realm of 3D gaming, and does so admirably I might add. The town views are breathtaking and the landscape is richly detailed and perfectly fitting for the fantasy setting of the game. Developer Nival Interactive has made considerable effort to create factions and units that are unique in both their behaviour as well as their looks. Whether it be in their walk, their way of attack or how they're animated when they're waiting for commands, every unit looks completely different. There are 6 playable factions and each has 7 base units. Each unit can also be upgraded,; changing not only their strength and armour, but often their attack options and animations as well.
Overall, it is fairly difficult to get bored while watching your screen and playing Heroes of Might & Magic. The spell effects and other attack animations are fantastically done and great fun to watch. But for all its graphical splendour, there are some issues with the graphics engine. The game does feel a little sluggish. You can partially solve this by changing the speed settings of battles and movement, but the feeling of slowness doesn't completely disappear. It is not a major problem but it deserves mentioning.
The more they stay the same
If you've played any of the previous games in the series, you'll feel right at home. Nival changed very little in the basic gameplay mechanics, which I think was a good decision on their part. The transition from 2D to 3D and the switch in publisher and developer are daunting enough for die hard fans. For those unfamiliar with the game, a short recap:
As the title implies, Heroes of Might & Magic V is all about Heroes. Heroes are leaders who will command vast armies in battle. Armies can be raised in towns and cities that are spread across the map, but can also be purchased in encampments or through your hero's diplomatic prowess when he encounters neutral forces. While you don't have any choice in the type of units you retrieve from the field, you do have control over what becomes available in your towns and cities. By upgrading buildings, you get access to stronger units. Most units require only gold to recruit, but a few of the more advanced ones sometimes require a specific resource such as gems before they can be purchased.
Once you have built up your army, it is time to take it to the field. Preparation needs to be balanced here by speed. If you're not fast enough, you may end up being too late, and the enemy brings the fight to you instead. Either way, the idea is usually to go up against other heroes who have their own agenda's and armies.
No Pros and Cons at this time