Might & Magic Heroes VI

There’s nothing like a new HoMM title to remind you it’s time to upgrade your aging hardware. The Might & Magic Heroes VI beta stubbornly refused to run on one PC, and would only work on a second, newer one (as in: manufactured in late 2010) after much patching and updating of drivers. The whole installation process could be likened to ripping through many layers of well-taped gift wrap to reach the actual present… but would the contents be everything you could wish for? Or some tacky trinket you’d immediately try and flog on Trade Me?

A long time fan of the series, I’ve dallied with most of the other incarnations, but always drifted back to the earlier HoMM games, which were a turn-based strategy spin-off from the Might & Magic RPGs. So it was happy news indeed to hear another such title was on the way - even if it has recently been rebranded as Might & Magic Heroes. Somehow, ‘MMH’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but we’ll roll with it.

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Set some 400 years prior to the events in Heroes V, the campaigns revolve around a power struggle between five scions of the Griffin dynasty, prior to its rise to the throne. Good to see the tradition for dramatic storylines has been upheld here, with good emphasis on the heroes’ backgrounds. There’s plenty of text dialogue between characters – some of which is quite entertaining, and cinematic-style interludes link each scenario to the next.

Visually, the game is as much a step up from Heroes V as that game was from Heroes IV. There’s no denying it’s beautiful to look at; however this does come at a cost. Under the video options menu, there are plenty of tweaks to coax better performance from a slower machine; however being unable to feast your eyes on the entire visual banquet is like having to settle for ‘lite’ beer, when you really want a real one. Being unable to rotate the camera initially felt quite restrictive compared to Heroes V, although you do get accustomed to it. During my hands-on session I experienced the occasional drop in framerate, plus other text and graphics-related issues. Such things are expected in a beta, however, so we’ll cut them some slack… for now.

The interface is very user friendly, and from what I’ve seen, the menus are laid out in a logical manner, with simple to access functions, and useful hotkeys. There’s an awful lot of new information to digest, but a tutorial goes some way towards ensuring you have a basic level of competence, before embarking on further scenarios. A game of this depth really requires a manual, and it will be interesting to see how it measures up.

If you’ve played any of the previous Heroes games you’ll pretty much be able to jump straight in, although there are some obvious changes. For instance, there are fewer resources to worry about, which is a plus. The expanded skill trees are far more sophisticated, and I must admit to feeling ambivalent about this aspect. With the new system, heroes can potentially wield might and magic abilities equally, and it does allow for more hero customization – provided you know what you’re doing. It certainly complicates matters, though. Having relatively few skills to manage was what made the earlier titles so accessible. Perhaps these changes were driven by the developer’s aim to deliver innovation - and I’m sure we’ll all warm to them, but it’s going to take some getting used to.

With regard to combat, I won’t go into too much detail here; we’ll save it for the review. Suffice it to say, it flows well, looks fantastic, and there are enough new units and features to keep fans and tactical buffs happy for a very long time. Multiplayer offers both hot seat and skirmish modes, and the introduction of an online hub known as the Conflux provides a sense of community, as well as the enticement of extra features for online play.

With its appetiser of three single player campaign maps, a classic hot seat multiplayer map and the Conflux, the beta gives us a taste of the various maps, factions and units, while setting the stage for the upcoming full version (currently due for an early September release). It has certainly whetted my appetite for more... should be interesting to see what the main course delivers!

+ Bags of depth, detail, and new features
- Need a high spec PC to run it
"Something old, something new... something to look forward to!"
- Might & Magic Heroes VI: Complete Edition
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Comments Comments (4)

Posted by OriginalSin
On Tuesday 26 Jul 2011 7:37 PM
Can you please elaborate on the specs of the PC you used, and the overall performance of said rig at maximum settings. Cheers.

It seems a bizarre choice that it doesn't have a rotating camera, especially as the last one did. Why on earth would they take a step backward? If you can't rotate, can you zoom in and out or tilt?
Posted by Silvon
On Thursday 28 Jul 2011 6:55 PM
I've been playing a bit of the beta myself, really enjoyed it. I had no issues with installation or running the game, the graphics look amazing on the highest setting, I've had no real problems in the 10 or so hours I've put into it.

There is camera rotation, just not by using the mouse. Ctrl+left arrow or ctrl+right arrow (alternatively delete or page down) rotate the camera as the default keys though you can set those to whatever you want. You are also able to zoom the camera in which is quite nice as there's a fair amount of detail to view, especially on your armies during combat.

Really looking forward to this game. I still have high expectations for the full version.
Posted by Huntress
On Friday 29 Jul 2011 6:19 PM
PC used: Intel core quad CPU 8300, 4GB RAM, 32 bit, ATI HD 5570 graphics card. It ran okay at maximum settings, but was a bit sluggish in places. Unfortunately I couldn't get the camera to rotate using the keyboard. :(
Posted by Silvon
On Tuesday 2 Aug 2011 5:25 AM
29 July 2011, 06:19 PM Reply to Huntress
PC used: Intel core quad CPU 8300, 4GB RAM, 32 bit, ATI HD 5570 graphics card. It ran okay at maximum settings, but was a bit sluggish in places. Unfortunately I couldn't get the camera to rotate using the keyboard. :(
That's a shame about not being able to rotate the camera with the keyboard, it really does enhance the experience. Hopefully whatever issue causing that is fixed up in the full version!

The only real issue I had with the beta was that sometimes, higher tier units didn't seem to be doing enough damage. Maybe it's just me, I just felt it was a bit on the low side in places.