Might & Magic Heroes VI Impressions

The long-running turn-based strategy series returns with an updated look, story, and gameplay mechanics.

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Though it was just recently announced, Might & Magic Heroes VI (notice the name change) is on display at Gamescom in Germany in the form of a very brief demo. But before jumping into that, we got some background on the game in development at Black Hole Entertainment. The first thing we were told about was the story, which takes place 400 years before the events that transpired in Heroes of Might & Magic V. Members of Ubisoft demoing the game said that the story won’t follow the typical fantasy outline of a young boy who sees his family killed and takes up arms against those responsible. Rather, Might & Magic VI’s story will be a bit more complex than that, revolving around five brothers and sisters who chose very different paths in life that will ultimately be reflected in how their individual campaigns pan out. Ubisoft representatives even went so far as to say that the game’s story would have more in common with something like the Song of Ice and Fire series of books.

As for the gameplay, the development team has spent a lot of time refining and attempting to perfect the formula that has made Might & Magic such a fan favorite over the years. In fact, Ubisoft and Black Hole Entertainment even set up a special message board for VIP fans of the previous games to discuss what they would like to see improved or changed for Heroes VI. For example, many people complained that the 3D in Heroes V made it difficult to see items and other objects, so that has seemingly been addressed already for VI.

But one of the bigger changes we know about so far deals directly with resource management. All resources are linked to castles in Heroes VI, so if you choose to attack a castle and you win, you automatically get all of the resources tied to it as opposed to just fighting for a single resource--over and over. Additionally, once in possession of a castle, you can decide what you want to do with it. You can convert it completely to your class (for example, if you’re a necromancer, the castle changes accordingly) or decide things like how it can defend itself. When engaged in turn-based combat on the battle maps, you’ll see an initiative bar that shows you the attack order (units can have only one action per round). Hero characters will also have special faction capabilities, and there will be alternative objectives for some battles that may require you to do things like rescue a specific character or just survive. Also, 40 percent of the creatures per faction will be entirely new, and there are also two whole factions that have yet to be revealed. And finally, the last bit of gameplay info we gleaned from the demo is that there will be boss battles. We didn’t get to see one in action, but we did get to see the cinematic leading up to a confrontation with what appeared to be some kind of water dragon.

Even at such an early state Might & Magic Heroes VI looks quite detailed (the new jungle tile set looks especially impressive), and it seems like the foundation for the gameplay is well in place. Of course, we’re curious as to how it plays given that there seem to be so many relatively minor modifications--most of which we don’t even know about quite yet. It’s also nice to see a continued effort toward making games like Might & Magic a bit more accessible through user-interface customization (deciding which spells you want immediately accessible and where). We’ll have more on this and other details before the game’s release in 2011 for the PC.

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