Sunday, 22 January 2012

Might & Magic Heroes VI

Might & Magic Heroes VI is a turn-based strategy video game for Microsoft Windows, developed by Black Hole Entertainment and published by Ubisoft. It is the sixth installment in the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and was released on October 13, 2011, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Might and Magic franchise. Heroes VI acts as a prequel to Heroes of Might and Magic V, occurring almost five centuries earlier, and is set in the fictional world of Ashan. The story follows the five heirs to the Griffin dynasty in their quests to repel a demon invasion and assist or impede Michael, a legendary Archangel general plotting to revive an ancient war.

As in previous Heroes of Might and Magic titles, the player can choose between single-player or multiplayer modes of play, and controls a number of heroes and towns associated with various factions, commanding armies of creatures between tactical overland exploration and a turn-based combat system to satisfy each scenario's victory conditions. Heroes VI alters some of the series' long-standing conventions, overhauling its chance-based skills system and reducing the number of resources in its economics model and also introduces new mechanics, including a points-based reputation system and the ability to convert one faction's towns to another.

Heroes VI has been received positively, attaining a score of 77 from the aggregate review site Metacritic. Reviewers praised the title's replay value, visuals and improvements to the Heroes formula, but were critical of the numerous bugs and glitches in the release version and its intrusive DRM system, which requires players to maintain a connection to the Internet to avail of several features. Despite software patches, the game's list of problems and errors remains extensive.


Heroes VI has two different turn-based gameplay components. Your hero, whom you can customize with loot and level up in an RPG manner, moves around a campaign map each turn. With an army in tow, you direct them towards enemy forces and use them to gather loot and other special items. You then use collected items and resources from conquered lands to grow your economy, which is important for building up cities and further expanding your lands. A good deal of strategy occurs during these sections, because your hero has limited movement. I found myself having to make careful decisions about which enemies to attack, which resources to pursue and what items to go after. You have to plan out moves several turns ahead, and adjust your strategy as the enemy reacts to your movements.

The other turn-based part of Heroes VI comes into play when two armies clash. You can auto-resolve most battles, but if you want to get knee deep in strategy you can play them directly. Combat takes place on a grid, and it's up to you to direct your troops based on the layout of the enemy. You have an array of troop types at your disposal, so a clever commander will play their abilities off one another, as well as use their hero's spells and abilities to turn the tide.
If you manage to complete the various campaigns – no small feat since they're difficult even on Easy – there's still custom maps and multiplayer. You can play local multiplayer in "hot seat" mode, as well as go online.

The Plot

Pavel Griffin is slain while defending his lands from a demon onslaught. His sister, Sveltana, attempts to conserve his soul and traps it in the Griffin familial sword, but an Angel steals the sword and soul away before she can reclaim it.

Counseled by Angels in the impending war against the demons, Emperor Liam Falcon posts a decree enabling Duke Gerhart of the Wolf duchy to exterminate Orcs in the Empire. Duke Slava, Pavel's son, retaliates in solidarity with the Orcs, and the Dukes' bickering forces the Archangel Uriel - Michael's brother - to intervene. Uriel decides that Slava's eldest daughter, Irina, is to be betrothed to Gerhart to force a lasting peace. A decade passes, and Sandor learns that Irina has been imprisoned in the Wolf Duchy's jails for injuring Gerhart. He rouses an army of Orcs to free his half-sister, and the renegades flee to the Jade Ocean, where Sandor leaves Irina in Hashima and departs. Irina quickly befriends the native Naga and assists them in destroying a Wolf trading port, before discovering she is pregnant with Gerhart's child.
Gerhart accuses Slava of orchestrating Sandor's attack, and the two dukes are called before the Emperor, where Slava's daughter Anastasya - Uriel's pupil and lover - kills Slava with a concealed knife before the court. Anton is crowned Duke, but the inquisition tries to force a confession from Anastasya, fearing she is in league with the Faceless; Anton elects to euthanize his sister before she can be tortured. He learns that Jorgen - one of Slava's former advisers - is an undercover Faceless, but not Slava's killer, while Anastasya is resurrected by Sveltana as an undead. Resolving to learn who manipulated her into slaying her father, she frees Jorgen from the inquisition before traveling onward to Heresh with her aunt. Meanwhile, Kiril finds himself abandoned in Sheogh by his mentor, the Archangel Sarah, with the soul of a demon prince sharing his body. Desperate to expunge the demon, he pursues Sarah as a renewed demon invasion begins.

Sveltana is kidnapped by Anastasya's rival, Miranda. Suspecting her of Slava's murder, Anastasya kills Miranda, and she explains that Anastasya was controlled with a comb empowered by Faceless magic. Irina ransacks the Wolf duchy, slaughtering Gerhart, and both she and Sandor devote their resources to the eradication of the demons. Michael dispatches Anton to assist Gerhart against the Naga, but Anton soon learns the Duke has already been killed. Using the comb, Anastasya enters the mind of her betrayer: Uriel, who had sought to use her soul to reincarnate his mother. Enraged, Anastasya destroys Uriel's mind, and both he and Emperor Liam are slain in battle, leaving Anton to eliminate the remaining demons. Kiril finally apprehends Sarah, who reveals she sold Kiril's soul to the demons in order to cripple the Faceless by destroying their repository of knowledge; Kiril usurps the repository and frees himself of possession, while Sveltana discovers that Pavel's soul was used to resurrect Michael.

With the demons overcome, Michael appeals to the Griffin heirs to assist him in ending his war against darkness. If the alignment of the player's chosen heir is Tears, the heir rejects Michael's calls to arms and leads armies against the Angels, alongside Cate. Michael is killed in battle and Cate succeeds in sending the remaining deceased Angels' souls to Elrath, but the ritual ultimately results in her death. Alternatively, if the heir's alignment is Blood, they launch an offensive against Cate, sponsored by Michael, and succeed in slaying her to apparently prevent the impending conflict.

In both instances, the Griffins lament Cate's death and bury her with Slava, while Jorgen conspires with the Dark Elf Raelag to instigate the war against Elrath in the wake of her absence.

Initially, the game was plagued with numerous in-game crashes, lock-ups, errors, "bugs", poor Artificial Intelligence, significant faction/hero/creature imbalance and abusive DRM. As of January 2012, the game has been updated with several patches, bringing the version to 1.2.1 Despite the updates, the list of outstanding defects remains extensive. As a result, there is a considerable and persistent backlash from the customers directed at Ubisoft and Black Hole Entertainment.

Also, it has some issues with battlefield tactics in the late game and its story, but the strategy remains a blast nonetheless. Near infinite hours of gameplay await, and anyone looking for a well-made and addictive turn-based strategy game need go no further than this.

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