Heroes of Might and Magic V E3 2005 Preshow Impressions

The next game in the Heroes of Might and Magic series will be on display at E3 2005. We take an up-close look.

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Ubisoft will be showing off the next game in the Heroes of Might and Magic strategy series at E3 2005. Heroes V will be the first game in the series that is not developed by the now-defunct New World Computing. Instead, this new game is in development at Nival Interactive, the Russian studio responsible for such games as Silent Storm and Etherlords. Like its forebears, Heroes V will be a colorful turn-based strategy game that takes place in a high-fantasy world of griffins, knights, and dragons. However, unlike any other Heroes game before it, Heroes V will be a fully 3D game. That's right; the next game in the series will use 3D polygonal graphics to represent its lush overland environments, its huge towns, and its many hero and monster units.

We were able to watch a very brief gameplay demonstration that revealed a number of details about Heroes V. To begin with, we saw an early version of what a fully upgraded town will look like for the "human" faction (apparently the new name for the original castle/knight faction). These developed towns will have a huge central castle surrounded by familiar structures like a griffin aerie and mage towers, while less-developed towns will appear as just that, even on the overland map. The 3D graphics will come complete with a 3D camera that will let you zoom in on various features on the overland map, such as waterwheel mills, which, like in the previous games, will yield resources when captured but will also spring to life and become animated once you or someone else has claimed them.

From what we've seen so far, overland map exploration in Heroes V will be very similar to what it was in previous games. You'll lead your hero's army across the land on a path lit by a series of green arrows, which will mark the extent of your reach this turn. You'll be able to recover artifacts, such as a pair of magic shackles, and pick up treasure chests full of gold that can be added to your coffers or donated to the local peasantry in exchange for bonus experience. Gaining enough experience, either through recovering treasure or being victorious in battle, will let your hero character gain a level and learn an additional skill, including classic skills like pathfinding and mastery of different schools of magic, along with new skills that have not yet been revealed.

Of course, the heart of the Heroes series is combat, and while the battles will be staged with colorful 3D graphics, they seem like they'll retain the spirit of the classic Heroes games. We were able to witness a battle between the human faction and the inferno faction (the demons from Heroes III). The demonstration we saw took place on an open field map, and, according to Ubisoft's Fabrice Cambounet, the game will let you place hex squares on the map to track your units' movement. Also, combat will continue to be about strategic decision making, unit placement, and matching up the strengths and weaknesses of different units against each other. On the battlefield, we were able to see traditional inferno creatures, like nightmares and devils in action, along with traditional castle/knight units like cavalry, griffins, and archangels. Top-level units like archdevils and archangels seem just as devastatingly strong as they were in previous games. This particular battle was won by the humans. The archangels mopped up after the battle was over, but at the very end, a skeletal dragon swooped down on the battlefield for some reason and decimated the survivors. Cambounet suggests that unpredictable events like this will take place in Heroes, which should make battles even more interesting.

Other details about Heroes V remain sparse at this time. There will be a total of six playable factions in the game, including the humans, the inferno, and four other factions, which, according to Cambounet, will include some that "should be familiar to fans of the Heroes series," as well as one all-new faction. Siege combat--that is, battles waged in and around towns--will apparently take place on very large maps and will look "very impressive." The team is also planning to add in an optional, alternate setup for combat that will resemble the "timed initiative" system of most console role-playing games, in which each unit will have a continuously filling time meter and will be able to move or attack once its meter is full. Cambounet also made sure to point out that the game will have the highly requested feature of hotseat support, as well as an all-new mode that will apparently let you play through a session in 15 to 20 minutes (though exactly how isn't yet clear). Heroes V is scheduled for release later this year. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates from E3.

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