I know that multiplayer has been a part of the Might & Magic series for a while now, especially under the Heroes banner, and I also know that PVP, or Player vs. Player content, is prevalent as well. It’s never been something that interested me in those games, as the series has always been about my building excessively large armies just in time to get crushed by the computer.
I went into Might & Magic Showdown putting all those notions to the side. Described to me as “tabletop PVP miniatures,” I was too intrigued to let my normal attitude towards PVP keep me from finding out just what the hell this was. And surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, tabletop PVP miniatures is a fairly apt description.
The game opens on a dining room table, with a diorama set up in the background and a clear space right at the front for miniature playing pieces. When you start the game, you are given a figure for free, a frightening melding of brimstone and pewter named Veyer, to serve as your Hero, or the main character you deploy against another player.
Now ask anyone who’s really, REALLY, into miniatures about painting, and I’m sure they’ll have all kinds of opinions on what kinds of colors to use, and the proper way to paint. Those same people designed the customization area of Showdown, as each miniature comes with not only a few default paint looks, but a whole digital palette of colors and tools to make whichever characters you choose your own. Additional characters of both the main Hero and Creatures varieties can be purchased using in game money from the Miniatures store, using currency won from either the exhaustive Tutorial or by dueling other players.
Once I was done staring at all the paints and options with my jaw agape, I quickly assigned the default colors to Veyer and set off into the tutorial. Split into three levels of difficulty, the tutorial/campaign allows you to face off against the A.I. in a hodgepodge of different scenarios. Most of them aim at delivering a specific lesson, like taunting Creatures or Heroes off of your Heroes or Creatures, or the difference between a damage creature and healing creature. As you move through, you pick up a few more miniatures to play with, eventually claiming a healing Inquistor, a tank-ish Orc Warrior, and a glass cannon Free City Mage, providing you with a free, fairly well rounded team.
During the actual matches, you take direct control of your Hero through their skills. Displayed on a bar at the bottom of the screen, you don’t move your Hero as much as point to a target and launch one of the skills you’ve equipped. It takes a little getting used to, especially when you have a ranged character and they’re getting pounded by some close melee and all you want to do is rip them up from the table to stop them from dying, but once you learn how to get moving and switch between enemies to create space, the system really opens up.
What makes the fights even more tactical are the A.I. Creatures you can bring with you. Using a skill system similar to the Heroes, you actually program small routines for the creatures to work through before simply settling down to wait on the closest enemy. It’s a system built on a fairly robust set of essentially “if/then” statements. For example, when facing off against an opponent in a duel, I programmed one of my Creatures to always go after the ranged DPS first, thereby eliminating a big portion of the damage they dealt. All in all, I spent about 2 hours playing with another Darkstation editor, Jonathan, and we found the programming to be not only fun, but a major hole capable of eating a huge portion of your time as you try to come up with a plan to defeat your opponents set up. Whether or not this carries through to the main game, when your opponent is random and you don’t necessarily know the figures they’re going to use, is yet to be seen, but the incredible list of options encourages experimentation. In fact, I was less disappointed when something I tried ended in a loss, and more interested in getting back in the lab, so to speak, to see if I could improve.
The only glaring issue I saw in my time with Showdown was a total lack of a friends feature. In order to properly duel, Jonathan and I had to queue up in the standard random fashion, and it was only through sheer luck, and us apparently being the only people playing at the time, that we were able to get matched to each other. Hopefully, this is something that will be addressed before release, as I can easily place the majority of the fun I had with this game on the interactions between Jonathan and I over the miniatures and their abilities.
Even though the game does feature a miniature shop to purchase additional figures to play with, I didn't see a way to spend real money, pointing to, at least right now, a surprising lack of microtransactions. Whether or not it stays that way is a question left only to time, though I hope that, if they are implemented, enough time is spent balancing the figures to avoid a pay-to-win scenario. I would also hope that the final price reflects whether or not they are included.
Overall, I was left impressed with the direction of Might & Magic Showdown. The duel mechanics and programmable Creatures add a layer of tactical pleasure I did not expect, while the ability to customize the pieces through a wide variety of digital paints will give those with an eye for that kind of thing hours of detail oriented excitement. I look forward to seeing where this ends up.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!