Heroes of Might and Magic V Q&A - Heroes, Combat, and More

We catch up with the producers of Heroes of Might and Magic V to learn about the recent developments on the latest chapter in the beloved fantasy series.

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When it appeared 10 years ago, Heroes of Might and Magic quickly established a loyal and fervent fan base, thanks in large part to its addictive and deep strategic gameplay. Heroes of Might and Magic was a turn-based strategy game that let you control a fantasy race, build up a fortress city, and then raise armies in an attempt to conquer a magical realm. It was so good that it led to four sequels, including the upcoming Heroes of Might and Magic V, due out in 2006. Heroes of Might and Magic V is a step in a whole new direction in a number of ways. First, it's being developed by Russia's Nival Interactive, as opposed to longtime series creator and developer New World Computing. Second, it's being set in a whole new environment. To get the latest details, we caught up with Ubisoft producer Fabrice Cambounet and assistant producer Thomas Le Grand.

It's got a new look and setting, but the goal is still to set out and conquer.
It's got a new look and setting, but the goal is still to set out and conquer.

GameSpot: How do you feel Heroes V was received at the Electronic Entertainment Expo by the press and the fans?

Fabrice Cambounet and Thomas Le Grand: We received great feedback and incredible buzz from fans, retailers, press, in the official forums and communities, and even other developers and publishers. Everybody wanted to know more about the game, and it seems we managed to deliver what they were expecting. Fans are always eager for one more bit of information or one more screenshot, and many journalists seem to be fans themselves. The Heroes franchise is still very strong and very popular. According to the feedback we received during the show and in the forums, it seems we are on the right track to make a great game that any Heroes fan will be proud of.

GS: Are the new factions starting to take shape at this point? Is it safe to compare the strengths and weaknesses of returning factions, like the humans and the inferno town (which seem to strongly resemble the castle and inferno towns of Heroes III), to previous versions of them in previous games? Or are the factions being changed significantly to add more variety, since there are fewer than there were in Heroes III or IV?

FC & TLG: Indeed, the factions are really starting to take shape at this point of the development. Most of them are already playable, and they look and behave very nicely.

From the outset, Ubisoft decided to revamp the whole Might and Magic universe into a revolutionary modern fantasy. So, we have created a brand-new world, with a new mythology and, of course, new factions. As a result, the current factions are not directly similar to the ones available in previous games. Since we have a new cosmogony, a new philosophy, a new world, and a new magic system, it is really hard to compare them. Nonetheless, as you pointed out, we decided to respect the franchise legacy. We have kept some of the most emblematic features, like, as you mentioned, the haven faction partially resembles the previous castle faction. We believe that subtle familiarity is great for the game and its fans. We wanted to remain consistent with the legacy and respect the heritage. We also have some surprises for you, such as a never-been-seen-before faction.

In addition to this new world and the new factions' composition, we also worked on an improved gameplay. This means you will find a new balance and new strengths and weaknesses, as well as specific abilities in order to let the players set up several tactics and strategies in Heroes of Might and Magic V.

It's not all sunshine and daisies, as there are plenty of dark places to explore.
It's not all sunshine and daisies, as there are plenty of dark places to explore.

GS: We've seen from the E3 version of the game that much of the classic overland exploration remains, such as finding treasure chests that can be converted to gold or experience, resource nodes like lumber mills and gold mines, and monsters guarding artifacts and gateways. Can we also expect to see underground, or perhaps, multiple layers of underground exploration? Will there be overseas navigation, as in the previous Heroes games? What other enhancements or additions are being made to the exploration aspect of the game?

FC & TLG: To keep some things a surprise to fans like yourself, we can't reveal a lot of the content of the game. We can say, however, that the exploration part of the game will be as detailed as it was in previous games, and better. Thanks to the detailed 3D world that is being built, you can spend a lot of time simply exploring and discovering regions of the map. Hopefully this will not distract players from actually conquering enemy towns, but, in any case, this will greatly improve the experience of playing the game.

I Need a Hero

GS: Could you discuss more details on the role of hero characters in the game? As we've seen, heroes will return to their positions off the battlefield (rather than on it, as in Heroes IV), and they will still be able to learn different types of skills, such as combat abilities or advancing in different schools of magic. Will each hero still have at least one distinct, inherent advantage (such as, for instance, an attack bonus with a specific kind of unit) or possibly multiple advantages? How else will their roles be expanded and enhanced? Will they be able to learn larger numbers of skills?

The battle system still lets you pit units in turn-based action.
The battle system still lets you pit units in turn-based action.

FC & TLG: Heroes are the center of the gameplay of course, and their roles remain critical in winning battles. They will be able to enter the battlefield at some point, for specific actions, which will depend on their race. These types of actions will be gained during their growth in power.

The skill and magic system implemented in the game are fantastic new takes on the previous games. It will feel familiar when you choose the progression of your heroes, and leveling up is as simple and quick as before. You will also discover new ways of expanding your capacities.

GS: What can you tell us at this point about the strategy involved in creating armies in Heroes V? In previous games, players would often be faced with the choice of hiring larger armies or buying specific town upgrades; or hiring a few units instead of waiting an entire week for a larger army to become available. In Heroes IV, players were actually forced to choose between certain army types (such as choosing between minotaurs and evil eyes, for instance). Will these features all be back in Heroes V? How else will the strategy behind building armies be changed and improved?

FC & TLG: At this time, we can't say much about the strategy details. This is the core of the game and more will be revealed later, once all the factions, creatures, and towns have been unveiled.

GS: We've seen from the combat demonstration at E3 that, for instance, armies that don't have a first strike or other ability will attack simultaneously--a change that was originally made in Heroes IV that had a subtle effect on strategy. Then again, a lot of the appeal of the Heroes games has been about strategy that lies just below the surface, like the strategic effects of abilities like hydras attacking all nearby units, or sprites not eliciting a counterattack (and therefore being very dangerous in large numbers, despite being relatively weak). Will the game have the quick-resolution combat option that Heroes IV did?

FC & TLG: A major addition to the gameplay of battles is that you will choose how you want to play: either remain in a turn-based mode or increase the action and pressure with a dynamic system. We decided to add more time pressure in the game for more thrills. In this mode, units will slowly get ready to move, and when they are, they will do so at once. Everything will keep moving, and the enemy will not be waiting for you! We have developed several tools and a brand-new interface that wasn't shown at E3, which will make this experience very intuitive. This will also be helpful for the classic turn-based mode. Thus, you will have to discover how to use creatures' and heroes' abilities in the best way in order to overcome the opponent. The underlying tactical choices will still have a great influence in Heroes of Might and Magic V, perhaps more than in previous games.

GS: Can you reveal any more information on the game's multiplayer modes? Traditionally, the Heroes series' multiplayer, while enjoyable, could often be so time-consuming that only highly dedicated fans played it for very long. How will the new multiplayer enable everyone to participate?

FC & TLG: That's indeed one of our main objectives: We have to deliver multiplayer game modes that are fast and exciting, but still be tactically challenging. There are a lot of different ideas being incorporated into the game to make it faster and more appealing in these modes. For example, we will provide a lightning-fast mode of play for one-on-one action; fate can be decided in just 15 minutes. In another mode, you will still have a vast array of actions to perform, even when it's not your turn to play. This will be a revolutionary mode for turn-based games, and it will prevent any downtime in multiplayer games.

The game certainly looks spectacular.
The game certainly looks spectacular.

GS: How far along is the game at this point? Are the different factions still being implemented, or are missions still being created? What is the team working on now?

FC & TLG: The development is on time, in full-speed production phase, for our early 2006 release. We are now testing a lot of new stuff (maps, creatures, etc.) each week, while continuing to search for any possible improvements. This is why opinions and requests from the fans are useful to broaden our views.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Heroes V?

FC & TLG: Our objective with Heroes of Might and Magic V is to unify the fans and communities as we begin a new series and era in fantasy strategy games. In the coming weeks, we will reveal lots of details about the game: races, creatures, and story. Stay tuned!

GS: Thank you, gentlemen.

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