PC REVIEW: HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC 5

The more things change, the more they stay the same. by Darwin C.

June 16, 2006 - Heroes of Might & Magic V may have been saved from certain death but to what end? The game’s future was in jeopardy until UbiSoft decided to revive the classic. Sometimes games just run their course. I do like the M&M series and I do appreciate having another sequel to play but let’s face facts. The series is in trouble because it’s not a big seller. The genre is all but dead. Those of us that enjoy a good turn-based battle are limited in numbers and it takes a fortune to produce a quality game in this day and age. What Nival Interactive has done is delivered a refreshed version of M&M IV which is unlikely to wow anyone. It won’t cultivate new players, and because the content is rehashed, fans have already been-there-done-that.

M&M has included some new elements such as the top-shelf graphics that give us a 3D perspective of the environment. Not to mention some streamlining of the gameplay that actually makes it more accessible and yet deeper. There are so many different variables, combinations and hybrids available to let you dig deeper than ever before – if you want to. Just don’t expect the manual to help you out. It doesn’t go into much detail. It only gives you the basics, as if to avoid scaring off any curious first-person shooter fans that may be experiencing the series for the first time. To uncover all of the nuances of this game it helps to have an understanding of past games in the series, but it’s not crucial. It will all be revealed to you in due time through replay and experimentation. It’s actually a great way to learn because things get so complex that a beginner couldn’t possibly grasp all of the gameplay elements at one sitting. This results in tremendous replay value for the beginner, but those of us that have been with the series since the beginning will pick up immediately on the new stuff like rainfall on a dry, thirsty dirt road. It may be enough to keep us from dehydrating but it’s not enough to allow us to thrive.

In this turn-based strategy, the premise of the game is lead a civilization to greatness. This is accomplished through a number of means such as securing resources, building a city, locating treasures, recruiting an army and conquering other civilizations while attempting to defeat the ruthless enemy of demons that threaten the realm. Of course you may wind up on the defensive, protecting your territory from more aggressive and powerful armies.

There numerous civilizations to choose from including elves, the undead, demons, wizards and knights, along with more than a hundred different classes including ghosts, rangers, zombies, skeletons and of course the heroes. This time the heroes aren’t at the forefront of the army. They are safely relegated to the back where they can strut their stuff and influence their army with impunity. It makes the game last longer since you can’t just target the enemy’s hero at the onset of battle and hope to gain a quick victory.

Heroes’ skills are upgradeable through experience, much like a RPG but unlike most RPGs, the hero won’t always be around for the next campaign. As each campaign can last a couple of hours, that’s long enough. You can start fresh with a new hero with new skills. You will also have to rebuild your army. There isn’t much in the way of customizing options for your army, just volume. Although you are limited by the size of your army you will find it in your best interest to reach that number as soon as possible, before you are confronted by a larger army which will almost certainly spell doom for you during an encounter. These ever-changing scenarios help to keep the gameplay fresh, but it’s also nice when you can take your hero with you into another campaign.

The combat is turn-based but it’s dynamic. The AI is not only aggressive but reactive. There are some good counters that will keep both sides on their toes. The AI can be predictable and that’s even further exacerbated by the addition of the initiative bar. It’s a new feature that allows you to see the order of attacks by each unit. It allows you to make more advanced planning as you can focus on the units more likely to cause you problems. Morale affects the initiative feature by returning units back into the cycle based on how high their morale is. It speeds up the combat significantly and gives you just a little more to think about. On the negative side, you will see the outcome of the turns before they actually happen. In this case the initiative bar acts more like a crystal ball, but since you can’t use that information to your benefit since the moves have already been selected, it’s still makes things a little anticlimactic.

Online play is still not perfect. There are some hiccups with the connection that causes some annoying delays and dropouts to occur. You can play against another player with LAN. It’s virtually bug free. If you can’t find a formidable opponent you can always play these modes against the computer. While waiting for your opponent to take his or her turn you can access the ghost mode, which lets you fiddle around with a ghost army in an attempt to disrupt your opponent during his turn by messing with his resources among other things. Other modes include a hero verses hero mode which is basically a head-to-head mode. It’s fast and addicting.

Graphically this version of M&M is the best one so far, and hopefully it won’t be the last. The scenes are in glorious 3D, full of life, color and imagination. They are certain to attract the attention of newbies which this series badly needs if it’s to survive. The music is rich, with lavish orchestral movements that set the perfect tone. The voiceacting however, is not so good. It’s exceptionally bad in places. Even the text suffers from overt ornamentation that makes it difficult to understand, unless I’m just stupid.

This might be the last kick at the can for M&M but unless it can offer something more than some new graphics and a few new features, I can’t say I would be looking forward to the sixth version.

Features:

  • Cutting-edge visual technology: For the first time, experience the world of Might & Magic in a full, breathtaking 3D animated world supported by a consistent and modern graphic style.
  • New darker heroic fantasy universe: Includes all the features that made the series successful in a completely revamped and more mature universe – with six unique factions and over 40 different creatures and spells.
  • Complete strategy experience and RPG gameplay: During six campaigns and more than 30 missions, explore and conquer territories, manage your cities, recruit armies and raise and upgrade your heroes through a user-friendly yet deep turn-based system.
  • Complete scalable turn-based battle system for challenging and tactical combats: Discover the combat system that made the Heroes series successful or experience the brand-new active-time battle system that transforms a chessboard into a lively battlefield.
  • Competitive, addictive, and intense multiplayer mode: Play five different online modes via hot seat, LAN or the Internet. Challenge your friends in furious battles and create your own level with the editor.

By Darwin C.
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Heroes Of Might & Magic 5 (PC)
4.2
Graphics
The best looking M&M game to date. The civilizations are rendered in full, glorious 3D affording you a look at the cities from numerous perspectives.
3.5
Control
There are some new moves but the real depth of the gameplay comes in by layering different skills and abilities with the huge variety of classes.
3.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is very Hollywood with dramatic orchestration, but the voiceacting is grade-school drama class.
4.4
Play Value
Any newbie will be overwhelmed with the sheer variety of options. There are lots of different modes to play around with, although the online mode is full of bugs and will be largely avoided.
3.3
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PC
Dev: Nival Interactive
Pub: Ubisoft
Release: May 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Darwin

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best