I’ll admit that my initial impressions of the seventh (seventh!) Heroes of Might and Magic game wasn’t favourable. However, they had nothing to do with the actual game and everything to do with code redemption. There were three means for redeeming a beta key- one via Steam, one via Uplay and one via the game’s website and Uplay. Honestly, I’d have appreciated the publisher providing me with a diagram showing me what to do next along with the code. I’m telling you this because it did take me a while to get the game up and running. As such, I might have a slight negative bias towards it, purely on that basis.
For those who have not touched a game in this series before, or who’s memories of having done so are hazy, a Heroes of Might and Magic game (or Might and Magic, Heroes– nowadays, technically) centres on a hero who’s purpose is to gather an army and resources. Venture forth and conquer. Heroes don’t engage directly in battle, though they aid their supporting creatures from the side-lines. Much of the game involves uncovering and exploring a region. Gathering treasure, expanding your towns and building an army will take up most of your time.
Now, I’m afraid that what will proceed is, for the most part, a comparative view looks at Heroes VII in relation to previous entries. To me, it is almost impossible to seperate the game from its legacy. As a series, HOMM provides finely-tuned (for the most part) strategy RPGs set in a classic fantasy universe. I’d emphasize the strategy over the RPG part, if that gives you an idea. Good preparation outside of combat is vital, given that it can come down to an unbalanced numbers game if you have not been building a decent force. On an unrelated note, the narrative seems less essential.
As far as Heroes VII goes it is… one of those. I rather get the impression that it was made with the series’ dedicated fans in mind- given that the experimental VI had a rather lukewarm reception. The developers, Limbic Entertainment, went to the community for their input in making a lot of the decisions for this one. Not that such a move need translate to this game being fairly intimidating to newcomers. Although it looks it- at this stage- given that it lacks a good tutorial. Intimidating in a ‘what do all these buttons do?’ sort of way.
During the beta, I sampled the skirmishes. Story mode had been closed off to avoid spoilers, naturally. Heroes of Might and Magic VII seems perfectly serviceable, I came across few bugs and the presentation was technically fine in my experience. However, it should be noted that there were plenty complaints of bugs on Steam. If you were an early beta tester, some major issues from the earlier versions have been resolved. For instance, enemy AI no longer takes an age to make its move.
Heroes VII does not seem to innovate, rather iterating on previous versions of the game. Visually, it is similar to Heroes VI, with a 3D environment that makes it resemble games in the King’s Bounty series. Though the 3D townscreens have been replaced with 2D ones but the options for expansion in your town has increased. For instance, magic guilds have made a return although the spells you can gain from them are now less random. You can choose a kind of magic to specialize in, and you are then guaranteed spells in that vein.
Combat remains similar- although, flanking mechanics have been added to place a greater emphasis on positioning. You also get attack bonuses when you attack from behind.
Other differences from VI include the number of resources, which has risen from a paltry three to seven. Creatures, by and large, have fewer active abilities and more passives. The skill system takes it’s queues from Heroes V and VI, skills are structured in a wheel and you can choose to progress by manually selecting skills or you can enable a randomizer and choose one from four each level. Caravans return- meaning that transporting your troops is another consideration. The use of portals has been restricted, also.
There should be a map editor and a random map generator included in the game at launch. I wouldn’t know if they were included in the beta for I didn’t touch them or seek them out. Still, those features should easily add some novelty and replayability to the game.
Overall, Heroes VII seems to be a return to form after Heroes VI switched up the mould. In general, it seems to be a slower-paced game. That requires more consideration and is a trifle less deterministic. Given the mixed reception that VI received, this move will likely be appreciated by core fans.
I am just uncertain to what degree. The fact of the matter is that Heroes VII, by design, brings little new to the table. Since this is the seventh game in the series, the chances are that this won’t be your favourite one of them and so it might disappoint. Just, superficially, regarding the soundtrack and the graphics, there is little change there. No gleam or polish that lights up the part of my brain that appreciates a shiny, new update.
If you are fond of the series, or of some of the games, unless you like your nostalgia with a bit of variety or somehow the story in VII turns out to be knockout, I feel you might be taking a risk with this one. Perhaps I am being too harsh. Watch a let’s-play, maybe. My opinion is too wrapped up in the manner the game was digitally distributed.
Might and Magic Heroes VII releases September 29 on PC.