Twenty Five years. That’s how long the venerable franchise surrounding the heroes of Might and Magic have been around, with the latest adventure in the fantasy realms bridging a five year gap between releases.
But unlike long-running franchises such as Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star, Heroes of Might and Magic has never quite catapulted itself into the stratosphere of gaming, having always been confined to a niche genre amongst the most dedicated of gamers.
Can this sixth instalment finally bring the heroes back to their glory days of early titles, or is it a heroic effort that is wasted by the taint of later releases?
The royal family is in trouble. Taking control of the royal children, five in total, at various points in the plot, players will take part in a growing family tragedy, as treachery abounds and dark forces gather to…wait a minute, that sounds exactly like the plot of Game of Thrones.
Potential George R.R Martin lawsuit aside, the plot winds out a decent rate, introducing a number of characters while trying its best to develop them, but ultimately, it feels stale and a trifle overdone.
A morality system in the form of “Tears of Blood” attempts to spice things up in the form of unlockable abilities based on your current alignment, but it’s not a truly agonizing system that will ask you to make life-changing decisions that you’ll regret later. Five factions are also available to choose from, in the form of Haven, Sanctuary, Inferno, Necropolis and Stronghold, with the first two being good, the middle neutral and the last two are presumably despicable.
Combat is turn-based once again, bringing players onto fields of battle wherein armies explore, conquer and clash. Win a battle, and you’ll get your share of the loot, which can be used for future skirmishes, a strategically useful idea, seeing as how characters and heroes have limited moves while in battle. Your hero, gets some experience points for some levelling up and stat-boosting, transforming them from a status befitting a weak little prince/princess into a King/Queen of battle as the story progresses.
It takes a lot of thinking, especially towards future actions to prepare your militia properly for whatever might be awaiting them on the other side of the loading screen, but do it right, and you’ll have an army that can take down any threat with genius tactics and abilities.
Your chosen hero at the time, will need some constant love and attention, as he/she is the frontline leader in battle, so save the best loot for your commander, and choose the best stats for them in between battles. Positioning troops correctly, while fighting off the enemy and making full use of hero special abilities makes for some exhilarating gameplay.
Managing resources and troops is key to this, and can take many many hours to shape correctly into a dominating fighting force. Fortunately, this sixth title happens to be particularly lengthy. Towns and fortresses can also be managed and upgraded, allowing for the construction of new units, while also meaning that all resources in the area fall under your control.
With a campaign that can take anywhere up to forty hours to finish, players are in this for the long-run, but it’s a little disappointing towards the end of the game when your army relies more on numbers than actual skill to win a battle.
Some fans have been quite grumpy over the rather intrusive DRM, but that’s unfortunately part of the package with PC gaming lately. Credit must be given however, to the manner in which Ubisoft forces the DRM on players, as the online community portal which players must access in order to game, the “Conflux”, works rather superbly.
Players can create profiles, customize their traits and dynasty of characters, while taking part in some seamless Skype-boosted chats, which works well in multiplayer games. Overall, multiplayer feels solid, but there is some room for improvement in future patches, and only having two preset army configurations to use in a quick match against friends does feel rather too simplified, resulting in some predictable matches.
The graphical capabilities of the latest Might and Magic game isn’t too stretched, but the characters themselves are nicely detailed, with spells giving off some beautiful effects, while cinematics help tell the tale in a manner that isn’t on the same level as a Blizzard CGI, but isn’t off-putting either.
For all its attempts at streamlining the franchise, MMH6 is still a long and challenging, cerebral title. It’s not going to appeal to people wanting a quick game in a fantasy setting, and requires a lot time and planning to be effective at.
If you’re looking for a title that values brains over brawn, then you’ve come to the right place. Its the tried and trusted Might and Magic gameplay at its core, but with a more streamlined approach to make those long campaigns more intuitive, making for an addictive time-sink, despite some mildly annoying bugs that pop up from time to time.
But it has little else going for it, and the more easily distracted player might be put off by the mountain of exposition and hours-long missions that form the center of this universe.
Design and Presentation: 7/10
Characters look great during a mission,while the voice work is top notch and the booming orchestra faithfully sets out a scene, even if the story is predictable.
There’s not a lot of players who are going to be thrilled by this game. But those players looking for a really in depth title that they can take online, this will fill that particular niche quite well.
Might and Magi Heroes 6 attempts to recreate the magic of the original titles with some new ideas and innovations, but it ultimately gets cold feet over the idea and prefers to stick to tried and trusted ideas.
This may not present much of an appealing atmosphere for gamers who have moved on with the times, but the title puts a lot of heart and effort into the end product, even if it means alienating a larger community of gamers for a more dedicated group, gamers who will appreciate the long campaign and addictive strategy elements that are present.
Last Updated: November 28, 2011