Grab your sword and lead your troops into battle against the terrifying demon scourge! Might and Magic Heroes VI is the latest entry in a series that I have never played, so I wasn’t sure what to expect after installing the game. I did a little research on the title before starting and I came away with the impression that Heroes VI was a real time strategy game, a genre that always seemed to beat me at every attempt to better understand it. However, after getting settled in, I came away surprised with the game’s unique blend of real time strategy and turn based combat. Although the game has a few missteps, it is a pretty solid title.
In a land long forgotten, a brother and sister have been pitted against each other over the throne of their dead father. Slava, the male heir of the Griffin kingdom must contend with his sister’s allegiance to dark forces and while the two battle it out, there are hints that their conflict is but a mere skirmish in the grand scheme of things. With Slava crowned the ruling Duke, he along with his aunt respond to reports of demon sightings within the kingdom.
Might and Magic Heroes is broken up into two distinct parts. Exploration and resource collection is done entirely through the Adventure Map, which looks not unlike what you’d see in a typical RTS. A fog of war covers the entire map and lifts when you explore new territory. There a number of structures such as weaponsmiths, lumber mills and mines that, when captured, will provide you with resources to spend on building up cities and earning more units. Enemies are peppered throughout the map, but they do not stray from their initial placement. In fact, the only enemy unit that moves on the Adventure Map is the opposing faction’s Hero Unit.
Movement across the map is monitored by a set number of movement points. Clicking on any accessible path will move Slava to the destination, which decreases his points with each step and when he runs out, the turn is over. The passage of game time is similar to real life, in that one week is divided up into seven days, with each day ending once you’ve run out of movement points. When you start a new week, you can go into town and purchase more units and city upgrades and any remaining enemies on the map get stronger, so be sure to engage in combat and earn experience points. Fighting and defeating enemies will award experience as will collecting resources and finding treasure. When your hero unit reaches a level, you’ll be give points to spend on a skill tree that grants perks for both you and your units.
When you confront an enemy on the Adventure Map, you’ll be given the choice to fight or retreat. Before combat begins, an in-game menu will list the number of units on the enemy’s side as well as the expected level of difficulty. Engaging in battle takes you away from the adventure map and into a grid-based battleground which looks a lot like what you’d see in a tabletop RPG. While your hero unit stands outside of the battle grid, the units you’ve acquired function as the primary combatants in any fight. What is interesting about the game’s set up is although you may only have one or two avatars on the field, each actually represents a stack of units. In other words, instead of seeing thirty individual warrior units and fifteen bowmen units, you’ll see a single unit with the number “30” or “15” representing the number of units for that group. If the stack number reaches zero, that unit is lost and removed from play. During your turn, you can move units across the field to attack targets or if you have bowmen or mages, they can perform ranged attacks. Scattered around the map are objects that have positive and negative effects, such as slow movement or boost to attack power. For some reason, the game points out that you can attack a unit from any angle, but I fail to see the benefit of this because the enemy will turn and face you and I was under the impression that attacking their flank would yield some sort of damage bonus.
Your hero unit stands outside of the battlefield and can perform support spells and attacks but interestingly enough, enemy units will not attack you and the game is over if the enemy manages to destroy all your units which is kind of nice because it really takes the pressure off of having to constantly protect the hero unit. However, the door swings both ways as the enemy is given this benefit as well, so don’t plan on trying to win the boss battles by going after the leader. The flow of combat is handled in turns, with a meter on the lower left of the screen showing the battle order. You have the option of having your unit wait and take a turn later or spend the entire turn in a defense stance.
Of course, if you don’t want to do any of this yourself, you’re given the option to let the AI fight your battles. The computer isn’t that bad actually and really looks like it knows what it’s doing for the most part.
Might and Magic Heroes VI is a really pretty game to look at, especially in the Adventure Map. The game is played primarily from a top down perspective, but the environments are rich with detail and vary throughout the course of the game. When in combat, you’ll have the option to zoom in close to your units, revealing nicely detailed avatars. With the exception of the Helm’s Deep-inspired opening CG cutscene, plot exposition is presented with sequences rendered using the in-game engine as well as fully voiced exchanges between major characters.
I liked the twist in gameplay the title offers, separating out the combat from resource collection because it allows me to focus on one thing at a time. I’ve never been really good with RTS games and not having to worry about the enemy storming my defenses only after I’ve collected enough material to build a wall is definitely a bonus. If you get bored with the campaign, you can take the fight online with multiplayer or a custom game creator that pits you against up to three human or AI controlled factions.
I only wish the game would hold my hand a little bit better. The first few “weeks” of the game function more or less as a tutorial, but the problem I had was that the instructions seem to come and go a little too quickly for a game this technical. From what I could tell, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to access the tutorials once they've appeared on the screen. Another issue I have is the process of gathering more units. You can create more fighters at the beginning of the week, but in order to do so you’ll have to trek back to the map’s major town. This is an annoying process considering that I had to halt my advancement through a completely different area and backtrack to the city to purchase more units. It would be nice if it functioned like any other RTS game, where you could click on the city, spend the correct amount of resources and have units spill out and make their way towards you. Having to go back and forth really slams the brakes on the action. Later on, you can capture enemy towns and use them for yourself, but you’ll still have to backtrack to them.
I can’t speak for those who have been following this series since the beginning, but coming into it new has certainly been an interesting experience. Fans of strategy games and those looking for something a little different would be interested in the title. For beginners, there is a bit of a learning curve to get through and with an adjustable difficulty setting, you can easily take things slow. I just wish certain aspects of the game were explained a bit better.
Fans of Ubisoft’s Uplay should take note. I have never seen a game with such heavy branding! The game’s launcher is taken up primarily by the in-game achievements earned and the amount of Uplay points that have been accumulated. As with any recent Ubisoft product, you can spend the Uplay points you’ve obtained on a selection of various digital items such as branded wallpapers and in-game perks. Oh, Uplay!
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.