Release date: 2011
Developer: Black Hole Entertainment
Genre: Turn-based strategy
Spieldauer: >50 Stunden
Everything was better in the old days
Disclaimer: I did edit this review, which I wrote back in 2014, I guess. Some of the information is outdated, but I’m too lazy to fact check everything – or anything for that matter. In its core, the points of critics within this review still hold true though. Happy reading!
I doubt that everyone is familiar with what the Might–and–Magic-series is about, so I’ll give a short explanation on how the game works, what’s different in this title and, of course, my opinion. For anyone who does know what to expect of a Heroes–of–Might–and–Magic-game, I can already cut to the chase: It’s better than IV, worse than III and definitly not as good as V. You got no idea what I’m talking about? Then let me explain:
So Heroes of Might and Magic (as it was used to be called until this derivative), is a turn-based-strategy-game set in the fantasy world of Ashan. This universe can be explored in various games, such as the old Might & Magic RPGs, the stand alones like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and the Heroes of Might and Magic strategy games. This review is about one of the latter. As it is custom for a fantasy world, there is a seemingly infinite lore, as well as tons of races, creatures and factions, each with their individual goal. Whilst the necromancers fight for world domination, the demons fight for world annihilation, and the good guys of course fight both undead and demons. Anyone surprised? I hope not.
Now let’s get into the actual game. Since it’s a strategy game, we command the eponymous heroes and their armies, explore the adventure-map, capture resources, fight monsters and conquer cities. Those cities can then be upgraded with the looted resources, allowing you to train better units for your army. Since the game is also turn-based, your heroes‘ actions are limited by movement-points, which refill at the start of your next turn.
Unlike e.g. the Total–War-games, where the actual battles are in real-time, those too are turn-based. On the battle-map, the unit’s stats and initiative decides the order in which they take turns. Each unit can only attack and retaliate once per turn, in addition your hero may attack enemy units or cast spells. This system, however, varies massively in the Heroes–of–Might–and–Magic-series, so I won’t go into further detail. In fact, each Heroes-game has its downright own community, which claims that their game is the best – to me that’s Heroes of Might & Magic V by the way.
Same old, same old?
In comparison, there really aren’t that many changes in Heroes VI: The graphics are quite nice, but haven’t changed greatly except for maybe that characters in cutscenes now at least try to move their mouths. But to be precise, the game looks less comically, which, in my opinion, does not help the visuals. Though some of the animations and effects have been improved and do look quite nice, it’s pretty much the same there. The races too are quite similar to the predecessor, except that they exchanged the name of the elves to „sanctuary“ and made the faction be more eastern-oriented, with Asian water spirits and such. Also, the dwarfs from Hammers of Fate are missing.
To make up for those shortcomings, some new units have been added, of which some were already in the older games. In fact, the Heroes-series has a tendency to remove creatures in one game, just to reintroduce them in a later one. Shockingly, the music in Heroes VI does also not contain many new pieces, but in fact some old tracks from Heroes V, as well as some that sound like remastered versions of the good old Heroes of Might & Magic II. So, it’s all the same? Frankly, no. There are some quite relevant changes in matter of gameplay, which I’ll list now. Note that these differences are mostly compared to Heroes of Might and Magic V, the immediate predecessor. About those changes: Some I do support, others less so.
- The number of resources has been reduced to 4 (wood, ore, crystal and gold) – a matter of taste. I didn’t mind the variety of resources from the previous games though.
- There now are sectors. Each sector is controlled by a city or bastion. Any mine or dwelling within the sector may be looted by enemy champions, but will not change owner unless the controlling stronghold has been taken as well. On the one hand this takes the stress out the enemy raids in your territory, as you don’t need to retake everything one by one. On the other hand, the same goes for you, as you cannot easily cripple an enemy’s economy anymore.
- Another new feature is the afore mentioned bastions. These fortifications pose as smaller cities, which cannot be upgraded and just serve as a recruitment hub for units from the surrounding dwellings.
- Cities can now be converted to your faction, which is great. I hated it when I was running around with my hero, just to conquer cities which units were of no use to me.
- A new leveling-system for your heroes, which lets you choose between two paths, blood and tears, both with unique perks. A nice addition, but nothing to lose one’s head over.
- Also, you can now freely choose which skill you want to learn. This replaces the concept of the previous games, where you were randomly offered skills as reward, and where to pray for getting the right options for your personal playstyle – great, though it takes a bit of the feeling of familiarity away…
- For Heroes VI the 3D town-screens were removed and replaced with the old fashioned 2D version. Shame! Also, when the game released, the developers actually intended not having town-screens at all, but were forced by the community’s feedback to add them in later. And rightfully so! Why I too was so furious when they announced this? Well, I dare you to take a look at the town-screens of Heroes V and tell me, to my face, that those aren’t beautiful. I dare you!
- Another alteration is the above-mentioned initiative-system, which now allows units to only act once per turn. It certainly is a question of balancing, that if you allow fast armies to take multiple turns, the slower army will be at a disadvantage. But I believe you can make a fair system without constraining the player. Oh well, yet again a question of taste to be sure.
There certainly are more changes which I have forgotten about, but enough with the nitpicking! As I said, these changes are mostly in comparison to Heroes of Might & Magic V – if you’ve already played it and didn’t like it, presmuably you won’t have much fun with Heroes VI either. But since I did like Heroes V, I was really looking forward to this game – and now I have a mixed feeling about it.
Is it good, though?
As stated above, on the one hand I really do enjoy some of the changes: the idea of sectors sounded interesting and is, in fact, well integrated. But on the other hand, there are some changes which boggle my mind. I didn’t list it above, but the developers also removed the stats info when selecting units in battle, which showed you the possible outcome of an encounter, the buffs and debuffs as well as strengths and weaknesses. I mean seriously, despite having played most of the older Heroes-games, I sometimes had to guess what a unit was capable of and what its abilities were. Of course, you do want something new in a new game, but it just didn’t feel well explained, even to me as a seasoned veteran of the series.
The other thing are the town-screen. I know, it’s a minor aspect, but in this game, they were nothing but a plain window displaying the level of your city. Though it shows some of the essential buildings, it can in no way be compared to the town-screen of Heroes V – did you check them out as I told you? Go, do it. I’ll wait. But let’s get back on track with one question: Simply why did they have to change this feature at all? It’s not like it affects the game itself. It’s just part of the overall presentation and immersion. And this is in fact my biggest complaint. Might and Magic: Heroes VI feels shallow. It doesn’t stick with you, it leaves you numb to the fantastic universe, and feels more like some fantasy tabletop game, which later you stow away with no memory of it whatsoever.
Though, back when I originally wrote this review (about 5 years ago), my conclusion was a bit different. I quote:
However, sceptical as I was and having read some of the tests (which were not as polite as mine above) I did play the game and… I don’t know, it just sucked me in, like a real Heroes of Might & Magic or Might & Magic: Heroes does. Maybe I just play it for the love of it, but it really isn’t that terrible, and it can also be a lot of fun – as it is supposed to be. Yes, some changes do still piss me off, but by now I’ve seen all (or mostly all) the units and know what their powers are. I’ve spent as little time in the town-screens as possible and got acquainted to the static turn-system. It’s fun, and that’s what counts.My original review from 2014
Though I do agree with past me on the final verdict, the question arises: does this still hold true? To which I reply: I don’t know. I don’t know if I played it because I wanted to like it, giving premature praise because I loved Heroes V so much, or because it was genuine fun. I know that I did spent a lot of time on this game, but did it stick in my memory? Not really. Well, if you just want a good, fun time, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with giving it a try, or even better, trying out one of the older games like Heroes of Might and Magic III, which many consider to be the best part. Or, as you might have gathered by now, I really do recommend playing Heroes V – it’s awesome.