Wot I Think: Might & Magic Heroes VI

By Alec Meer on October 19th, 2011 at 5:41 pm.

I’ve spent the last week, on and off, peering at the latest in the Heroes of Might and Magic series. These are some words that express how I feel about this videogame. Disclaimer, I guess: I don’t think I’ve ever played a Heroes of Might & Magic game before, somehow. Maybe a demo in the 90s? I dunno. There you go, anyway: I am writing this from a position of ignorance. Hello, yes, ignorant, that’s me. Hence, I must address you as if you, too, were ignorant regarding this series. You IGNORAMUS, don’t you know ANYTHING?

Might and Magic: Heroes VI, irritatingly and pointlessly renamed from the handy HoMM title the series has borne for years (that much I do know already), is a turn-based strategy / roleplaying hybrid. You raise an army and upgrade the heroes that lead it, you seize towns and resources from across a wide, explorable map, and you complete what could loosely be called quests but really are but one, usually mandatory facet of the real quest – for more money, more resources and more experience points.

The game pings between zoomed-out movement of a handful of hero units around the levels and tile-based battles between the heroes’ armies. That’s pretty much it, in a sense, only the last thing HoMM6 (yes, I’m sticking with that) feels is simple and small. It is huge and slow-paced and escalating in complexity. It is the kind of game that’s designed to ensnare your attention for long weeks, or months, or the rest of your mortal life, and the reverential passing of your savegames onto your next of kin come your death.

So, despite having put the best part of a week into playing HoMM6, I weirdly don’t feel at all ready to offer a verdict on it. Until I’ve tried every faction and unit and upgrade and item and spell and all six of its campaigns and every kind of multiplayer and all the annoying online unlockable stuff I’m worried I haven’t got the game’s measure.

But of course I have. It’s the roaming across the map collecting stuff and starting fights with anything I think I can beat, and it’s the turn-based fights where I carefully weigh causing maximum damage with suffering minimum loss. It’s a far more elaborate game than my most immediate point of reference, Katauri’s King’s Bounty games, given the requirement for four types of resources, for creating multiple buildings in multiple towns before you can recruit the various units, and a wide spread of battle-affecting statistics to alter for your heroes. In a way, I find it a little overcomplicated: there’s a lot to remember to do and a lot of waiting that gets in the way of building up your army and going to kick some rival heroes in the nose.

Quite often, I’d find I didn’t really have anything to do of a turn (map exploration too is turn-based, with each hero having a limited number of movement points and each city only allowing one new construction before you must progress to the next day) beyond hero movementbecause I was short on something or other and had no way to get more of it without waiting. That’s part and parcel of the game, and perhaps speaks to my ever-shortening attention span, but I did feel like I was dragging my heels more often than I’d have liked.

This is despite, incidentally, the game having reduced its number of resources to four – I can’t speak for how this compares in practice to earlier games, but generally it was the case that I was doing just dandy for three resources and short on one. One that was necessary for making new buildings, usually. Deliberate limitations in this regard are one way in which the game enforces careful, efficient planning on you, as opposed to megalomaniacal ‘I’ll have EVERYthing, and RIGHT NOW!’ It’s a far more serious affair than the King’s Bounties, with the roleplaying stuff a definite second-fiddle to furrow-browed strategising.

Fortunately, it’s a good old looker once you’re into the fights, with some imaginative backdrops, an engine that doesn’t skimp on detail or animation and an impressive variety of unit types. I’ve certainly enjoyed it, despite an itching sense that I either hadn’t truly broken its back or that it’s a big tease. The real joy of HoMM6 – and indeed other games in the same vein – is slowly learning to recognise the many dozens of different units on sight, without having to consult some external lexicon or peer at their stats. Your first few encounters against a new type foe will be a clumsy, brute-force attempt to whittle them down, but a little later you’ll know that one teleports, that one retaliates twice, that one can resurrect other units, that one’s a double-hard bastard you need to stay the hell away from…

You will know them because they have cost you dearly, and you do not want to suffer that again. So you’ll work out, without the game telling you anything, strategies to manage all these orcs and demons and undead and archers and vampires and goblins and angels and paladins and cyclopes and hellhounds, well, a truckload of fantasy creatures ranging from the deeply generic to the super-weird.

You become a better general organically, a leader who knows the battlefield and how to respond to it. You build your own force accordingly and, slowly, you build your heroes (you start each map with one ‘you’ hero, but end up recruiting more as a game wears on) to suit your favoured tactics and spells. Much depends on chance, especially in terms of the magic items you find, but all-told you’ll work out where you want to get to and be able to focus on getting there. There’ll be some enemy heroes to best and some towns to conquer before the game’s script either ends the level or opens up a new section of it, but really it’s all one big toybox to use as you will. Except your rivals keep trying to take your toys away from you, of course.

The game does try and shove an uninspiring plot in your way, however. It’s sectioned into a half-dozen four-or-five map campaigns (and most maps take a good couple of hours to beat), each documenting a different piece of the overarching plot, revolving around some human nobility and their destiny and their conflict with the other factions of the world and demons and whatever. It makes a better fist of storytelling than a great many strategy games do, but it’s weirdly characterless despite clear attempts to have lots of character. Blame the strangely smug voice acting, blame Captain Exposition having a stranglehold on the writing, blame the fact it’s mostly just talking heads popping up at random, blame that your interest in this game are your personal goals of upgrading that city or getting your character to level 15 or finding 7 more Crystal in a hurry.

It tries hard, and I do appreciate the splintered but intertwining nature of the narrative, that it offers a ton of gametime and that it grants you free rein to try out each of the game’s major factions as soon as you’re out of the not entirely helpful tutorial rather than have to wait to progress to a new area a la King’s Bounty. But it’s just a bit flat, and as such in the way. The time and money spent on it would have been far better put into making cities more characterful – as it is, the only sense you get of building stuff in them is how many icons light up on a menu screen. It would have been lovely to see them visibly grow and evolve with each new addition.

Then there’s the online stuff. Not multiplayer, which I can’t yet speak for (quite fancy a crack at the hotseat mode, mind), but what appears to be an attempt by Ubisoft to make their infamous horror-DRM have some kind of merit. You can play the game offline, but bits of it are switched off. This includes a Dark Souls-like ability to leave and read in-game message orbs for other players, the worth of which I am most dubious of, given the game itself is pretty good at advising you how dangerous a prospective enemy is. It also includes Ubi-specific achievements and their overcooked UPlay virtual currency thing, and more irritatingly certain starting bonus skills and items. Their benefits are, in the grand scheme of monster-biffing, fairly minor, but the net result is that the game is slightly harder if you have the temerity to play it offline. I think I could only possibly express my feelings about this with a gesture, a short of shrug and headshake and sigh and sad, confused, smile. Oh, and if you play it online it syncs all your savegames to the cloud, but sometimes takes a bloody age to start and leave the game as a result of the server presumably having a moan at the other end. All a bit tiresome and unncessary, frankly.

It does, admittedly, tie into a system whereby yet another layer of point-scoring can be spent on bigger and better starting bonuses, but like so much of the game it just feeds into this irksome mass of over-complication layered on top of what’s actually a straightforward and highly satisfying game. That game, the real HoMM6 underneath the ocean of pointless numbers that don’t, ultimately, meaningfully affect your fighting, is confident and slick and good-looking; I wish I could wave away all the surface crap and just get on with it. I can, mostly, but there’s always that nagging fear of missing something important.

So, my affections remain very much with the simpler, cheerier King’s Bounty, though I would love to see a hybrid of both games’ take on things. I’ve had a good enough time with HoMM6, I greatly admire its generosity of content and I’d certainly recommend it as a worthwhile enough purchase in this rarely-serviced genre, but I wish it weren’t so caught up in 2011’s faddish spew of social networking and unlocks. It just doesn’t suit the introspection and masterplanning inherent in a title like this.

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87 Comments »

  1. CaspianRoach says:

    The main question here is — how does it differ from HoMM5 and why should I buy the same game again if it doesn’t?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      It doesn’t take 5 hours for the component opponents to take their turns. That alone is a fairly big change.

    • Khemm says:

      It’s not “the same” game, feels pretty fresh because the changes to the formula are well-thought out.
      I’m a huge HoMM3 fan and imo, it’s THE best game in the series since 3. In some aspects, I don’t think VI is any worse and has the potential to beat 3 when the expansion hit. I hope they’ll release the patch which make the town screens better looking and functional- that’s my only criticism.

    • D3xter says:

      Less resources, less clutter, faster and (arguably) better combat, heroes have huge skill-trees now that (some) may find even too large… I know I was lost at first, more interesting story and a lot of “comfort functions” that make sense and save you a lot of senseless running around (like immediately owning any “owned” mines around a fort or city after you take that so you won’t have to run between mines all the time or being able to buy your troops from one city alone and fill your hero up with em).

      I too prefer King’s Bounty: The Legend by a lot though, I like it more than any HOMM honestly and I’ve played the series since HOMM2 with 3 being my favourite.

      Also yeah, worst thing about it I find are the missing town screens.

    • Dominic White says:

      The fan-patch for HoMM5 addresses the thinking time AND makes them smarter overall, in addition to removing AI cheats. Anyone saying HoMM5 sucks in comparison to 6 clearly hasn’t looked at it anytime in the past six months. See this post on the forums for more info and links:

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?1678-Might-amp-Magic-Heroes-VI&p=47667&viewfull=1#post47667

    • shoptroll says:

      @D3xter:

      I think the devs or Ubisoft have said that they hope to address the town screens. That’s been a major bugbear since the beta.

    • caddyB says:

      Which is to say maybe 6 will be much better than 5 when the fans get to mod it.

    • Kaira- says:

      @ Dominic

      That is good to know, I was just thinking about installing HoMM V at weekend.

    • Azradesh says:

      Thanks Dom, this is just what I needed. I love setting up MASSIVE maps with many AI opponents, but the thinking time killed it.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Dominic

      Thank you for your complete pack, and for keeping it up to date. It makes maintaining this great game much, much easier!

  2. dontnormally says:

    Any HoMM veterans have comparison info to provide regarding This vs OlderVersions?

    • Jaedar says:

      I can’t think of a single reason for playing this instead of HoMM3 or HoMMV:ToE.

      Really. Not a single one.

    • Danarchist says:

      I can, and will!
      The graphics, although not as important to the strategy minded that love this type of game, are much prettier and will actually catch you off guard at times.
      The AI still cheats, in fact I think it is almost as bad as homm5 in that respect.
      Unlocking “Heirloom weapons” ends up being like a crack addiction. It seemed like every time I got a new one I would end up saying “Oh that would look great on a demon hero….hrmm” and starting another campaign. The more you unlock the more you want.
      Hero leveling becomes an obsession, to the point you find yourself parked at a bottleneck outside an enemy area just to slaughter the heroes it sends at you every 3 turns.
      The story is…so so…but some of the cutscenes are really impressive, even without the ability to enable Anti aliasing.
      The different campaigns actually feel different.
      Units are very diverse, and mostly balanced with a few exceptions that are already being looked at apparently.

      The Bad:

      Unit attrition is the name of the game. The entire strategy revolves around building as many, and losing as few troops as possible. Strategy has good bit of effect but for the most part if I failed a tough fight I could reload, set the game to “Auto-resolve combat” and win without losing a soldier.
      Waiting on a resource for up to 4 or 5 turns sometime is a PITA.
      As I mentioned before the AI cheats badly, especially on anything above easy. But even on easy it cheats. You kill an enemy hero and will learn to expect his return 3 turns later with an even larger army he magically gathered from out of nowhere. On some maps if you forget to take the wood/stone/crystal mines before doing anything else this will result in you being chipped to death in a matter of 2 weeks.
      Magic is no longer learned by upgrading your town, you learn it by spending skill points on each individual spell. This results in a good chunk of the skills and spells never being purchased for any reason as they are slightly weaker.
      Early game Magic heroes do well, after the middle of the second campaign it starts to be MUCH less effective.

      Oh and Uplay tends to go down or crash late in the evenings when I have time to play. The savegame syncing should be turned off before you even start your first game, it will save you hours of waiting!

    • Dominic White says:

      As mentioned above, as of the latest community patch, the HoMM5 AI doesn’t cheat in the slightest. It’s bound by exactly the same rules as the player. It’s also smart enough to still be challenging. Advantage to HoMM5.

    • dbsmith says:

      I HATED the A.I. cheating in HOMMV, one particular major battle where the enemy had infinite mana made me quit in disgust and never pick it back up.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Complaining about the AI “cheating” is completely ridiculous. It’s the only tool devs have to provide a good challenge.

      I you want to be outsmarted, go play chess or some similar game where AIs can actually be better than a human, or go play online against good Heroes players.

      The AI cheating either with starting resources or in some other way is necessary to make up for the fact that it can’t be as smart as the player, and also to make up for the player eventually “cheating” by exploiting every flaw in the game rules.

      One thing I’d agree with, though, is that the cheating has to be subtle/not too noticeable by the player, so he can focus on the challenge and not the “unfairness”. So infinite mana might not be the best AI cheat to use, it’s easy to notice. Unless there’s a reason for it in the story, or whatever.

      tl;dr: If the AI didn’t cheat you’d be complaining about the game being too easy. I believe you actually don’t really like this type of game.

    • Lord Byte says:

      @MellowKrogoth: You believe exactly what the devs want you to believe don’t you, just so they can spend all their money and time on making it shiny and ignore a decent AI because it won’t sell anyway.
      Age of Empires II had an AI that actually learned from you, and was quite a challenge even at lower difficulties. It only cheated on the hardest (by getting extra resources). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Empires#Artificial_intelligence
      Then there’s AI’s that have been written to play Starcraft and actually be quite terrific at it: http://eis-blog.ucsc.edu/2010/10/starcraft-ai-competition-results/

      Another test in which they created an AI that would just learn to play Civilization by iteration. They gave it no advantages or anything, just what his “goal’ was. And it learned and got pretty good at it, then they gave it the ability to read the manual and it improved its win-ratio by about 30% http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/07/13/pc-ai-sucks-at-civilization-reads-manual-starts-kicking-ass/

      There are lots of games out there that shy away from scripting to much and give their AI proper abilities instead of cheating ( they see everything / in x radius). Arma 2′s AI actually have to see and spot people, they get spooked, look for cover, and do pretty much an entire war by themselves with minimal scripting needed! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6mI410K_ZU

      The problem is that AI writing is hard and good AI can be “expensive” in CPU cycles and it seldom sells more boxes in the shop. Your game may have the Best AI Ever Written, but if it looks like pong not many will play it :) Also sometimes you have to build mistakes into as the AI tend to have advantages that normal players don’t have (like instantly giving several hundred commands…)

  3. Vinraith says:

    My understanding is that once you’ve “synced your save games to the cloud” by playing online, you can never play those saves offline again, is that correct? That seems… dangeous, to put it mildly, and may be sufficient to keep me away from this one entirely.

    Which begs a question. I have HOMM 5 (and have played it a fair bit and enjoyed it, especially with the community fix mod whose name I can’t recall). I own HOMM 3 on GOG, but haven’t played it. I’m curious 1) what’s different between 3 and 5? 5 seems to be much-maligned, but I’ve never been clear on why, and 2) is there any reason to get 2 or 4?

    • CaspianRoach says:

      HoMM3 has no initiative bar, hexed battletiles instead of squares, older graphics and much more basic skill system.

    • Kaira- says:

      Also, HoMM3 has some really great music.

    • Khemm says:

      I’m playing entirely offline from the beginning, it’s fine. The lack of a few items available in online mode you can easily stomach. I’ll go online for my second playthrough to get access to all those goodies.

      I think the current solution is miles better than always-online DRM which was mandatory.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      4 is quite different and worth trying just to see what they tried to do. It’s probably a little underrated.

      It’s been a long time, but I think if you’ve played 3, 1+2 are a bit redundant.

    • idiotapocs says:

      also, beware, HoMM IV is just plain ugly, even compared to HoMM II

    • NekroJakub says:

      The music! Now I remember why I loved HoMM3. Reinstalling now.

    • imperialus says:

      HoMM3 is pretty widely regarded as the ‘golden age’ of the HoMM series. As for why… well it’s tough to explain. HoMM3 is a beautifully balanced game, the units of the individual towns have real character, but remain balanced to each other. Probably the biggest thing for me is the sense of exploration that you got in every game. Take a look at the map maker for Heroes 3 and look at some of the unique tiles and the like you can put down. There is so much flexibility with the map designer, that it creates a real sense of wonder when exploring the world.

      Also, and this is just personal preference but HoMM3 was released when sprite based graphics really hit their zenith just before they started getting replaced with 3d models. I just think it looks better than a 3d representation.

      *Edit* as for 2 and 4… 2 is quite similar to 3 but with more rough spots. Still a fun game, and the Price of Loyalty campaign is a brilliant piece of design. 4 on the other hand… well it was 3do’s swan song. There are glimmerings of brilliance in its design but it doesn’t ‘feel’ like the earlier HoMM’s. Not only that but it was buggy enough at release that it turned me off from the get-go. I understand that the Equilibrium mod fixes a lot of these problems but I just haven’t been able to get into the game.

    • Vinraith says:

      Thanks everyone. It sounds like I’m pretty well covered until/unless HOMM VI becomes viable. I should really go back and give HOMM 3 a proper try.

    • Flint says:

      The gist between HOMM3 and HOMM5 is mainly that while 3 lacks fair amount of the features that 5 has, it’s generally balanced better and crafted more splendidly (as abstract as that is). It’s simpler but its feel is noticeably different. And if you’re into single scenarios, HOMM3 does that better – the game comes with a huge list of ready-made maps and the easy to use yet immensely rich level editor does the job of creating new maps far better than HOMM5′s rather wonky random map generator. I don’t really get the HOMM5 bashing myself either though, it’s a good game and a lot of the gameplay changes are excellent. Both definitely worth playing.

      As is HOMM4. Like mentioned above, it does things a bit differently and experiments with some of the gameplay basics of the series. While HOMM5 (and HOMM6?) integrated some of its new twists to the series’ core gameplay to some degree, it still has enough flair of its own to be worth playing IMO. Plus its soundtrack is fantastic, for what it matters (as is HOMM3′s).

    • Rhygadon says:

      One other smallish difference that, for me, makes 3 much more enduring: starting with 4, the hero skill system started to favor campaign-scale development, and by 5 it got to the point where you had to start plotting out your skill development several *scenarios* in advance if you wanted to see some of the most interesting powers. In 3, the early-to-mid-level development was just as important as, and in some ways more interesting than, the late levels; there was none of this “unlocking special final mega-powers” nonsense. This in turn meant that custom fan-created scenarios (the series’ traditional strong point, along with skirmishes) could be entirely rewarding. In 5, it’s harder to enjoy a one-off scenario because you’re aware of all the interesting abilities that your heroes will never see.

    • Sinnorfin says:

      HommIII is more compact.. like a good board game.
      It also has different more relaxing graphic design by not being so ‘epic’ and ‘wow/anime’ stylized as 5…
      Same with music.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Having followed the series from the start, I disagree about HoMM3 being the best. I think it’s actually when the series started losing it’s spirit, by following the “more is better” philosophy. The game’s a big mumbo-jumbo of random fantasy creatures whose association in towns makes even less sense than in previous games, especially with the artificial good/evil separation. The angel vs demons stuff is totally cliché, and I’m befuddled as to how some players actually got attached to that element and now see it as a staple of the series.

      The one that made the strongest impression on me is actually HoMM1, with great music, graphics (for the time, of course) and combining strategy and simplicity. HoMM2 was a nice improvement (except for the change in music, wtf opera?) and was better balanced, unfortunately it introduced that good vs evil bullshit. Before that change, you’ll notice that the warlock and barbarian castles were rather charming in their own, cartoony way, but no, after that they had to make them look generic evil, thus killing the charm.

      Haven’t tried HoMM6 yet, but a return to simplicity rather than the jumbled mess the series got into in HoMM3-4-5 sounds great. Now I’m just hoping for a return to beatiful hand-drawn (2d) graphics for the town screens (also, instant loading please, unlike HoMM5). Getting rid of generic demons/angels would be the finishing touch, but I guess they integrated that into their reshape of the Might and Magic universe by now.

  4. Coriolis says:

    Yeah this is a game where knowing how it compares to the rest of the series is rather important to the review. So having played all of them from 3 to this 6th, here’s a short list of big changes:

    1) No more random skills, you have a list of skills you can pick from. You can take 1st tier skills from lvl 1-5, then second tier from 5-15, and third tier past lvl 15. Heroes separate into “might” and “magic” types, but both types have access to 1st and 2nd tier skills, but the third is exclusive based on type of hero. The might tree is generally more passive, but there is a set of active “warcry” abilities as well that are not mana-dependant.
    2) A “reputation” good/evil system of sorts. Various actions give you good/evil points and if you gain enough you pass to the next lvl of good/evil and gain special skills from it. Also, certain spells/abilities that you select are tied to the good side and others to the evil side, and gain bonuses by being used by an evil/good hero, as well as giving a good/evil point every time they are used. There are also neutral skills not affected by this system however.
    3) There’s a special skill per faction that “charges up” during battle with different effects – haven is a damage immunity shield, necro is a heal. It can charge up to 4 levels (eventually). They also charge differently – for Haven it’s from getting a morale boost or taking damage, for necro it’s from taking and doing damage (and also killing enemies marked by your hero’s attack). Btw this skill does not use up your hero’s ability to use a skill/spell or attack – you can do both.
    4) All the heals also resurect. This makes fighting without loosing any units somewhat easier, if you have healing spells.

    All in all, this is oddly enough the HOMM that brings the most change from the previous version as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure if it’s well balanced or thought-out long term (i.e. I’m finding necro absurdly overpowered compared to the tutorial haven, up to now), but it is interesting.

    • Alec Meer says:

      That’s based on the presumption that the only people who might buy the game are people who’ve played the others. It’s limiting your audience massively. Plus, a lot of those guys will already have made up their mind and/or derived all the info they’re after from forums.

    • pakoito says:

      All factions resurrect? mmmmmmmmmmmmmmeh.

      PS: Necro is always overpowered :p

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      @Alec:

      I think it’s always worth discussing the changes when reviewing a franchise entry. You can’t presume that every player will have prior experience with the series, let alone played each and every one, but a brief comparison of major points when compared with at least the preceding entry (which, in this case, is readily available in an inexpensive, DRM-free compilation) is worth the time. Your review made it seem that you have no prior knowledge of the franchise–which is fine!–but it’s slightly unreasonable to write long-time fans off.

      And for the record, I have only played HoMMV, andI did not find a lot of valuable info on forums. Perhaps that can be attributed to not being a big-enough fan, but I like to think its reasonable to look for this kind of info in a review rather than an informal, open discussion.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I’ve never played a HoMM game (well, maybe a demo of one years ago),so I’m glad Alec WITed it from a position of ignorance on the series.

    • Coriolis says:

      @Meer
      Ah come on. If you really believed that making comparisons to other similar games just “limits your audience”, why include a dozen comparisons to King’s Bounty in your review? Obviously when you have 2 games that are really their own genre to the degree that KB and HOMM are, a big portion of the interest in them is from people who have played one or both of them at some point, and a short list of notable differences is in order. And no, I didn’t find any good info on this myself until I played it. I was waiting for good reviews, but didn’t find any hehe.

      And yes, all heals resurrecting changes up the flow of the game quite a bit, and there’s also castable health leeching spells in the dark school that are quite OP heh. I personally like it – it’s alot less based on the one hit to completely wipe out a stack gameplay of previous HOMMs. You can get into a rough fight and loose units but then ressurect most of them by the end, so the tactical portion feels alot more long-term in how you plan it all out.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Because those are the games I’ve played.

  5. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    Alec “Battles in his Pants” Meer has never played any HoMM? Now that’s a surprise. The earlier HoMMs are certainly not as mad as Kings Bounty, but could very definitely tickle your fancy. Try number 3 or four, for most accessibility these days. Might have to do some fiddling to have it look good on Win7 or widescreen or similar modern technologies, but it’s all here somewhere.

    • tyren says:

      I heartily recommend HoMM3. 4 was considerably less impressive IMHO. GOG has both the Heroes 3 Complete pack (base game and all expansions) and the Heroes Chronicles collection (a series of single-player HoMM3 campaigns originally released as standalone box games) for $10 each.

  6. starseed42 says:

    If you spend most of your time standing with nothing to do, you’re doing it wrong.. Even on Normal difficulty this game is a challenge. The enemy armies are growing every day, so the longer you putt around the more difficult they become to defeat.. Most maps are a balancing act of finding the most efficient route or multi hero strategy to ensure that you even have a chance when you get across the map

    • Alec Meer says:

      No, never standing – always en route to somewhere.

    • starseed42 says:

      Ohh sorry, I read it as you were just hitting the Next turn button to say, wait on units to be produced.. Never a good strategy I found :)

  7. Lars Westergren says:

    Thanks Alec, I was waiting for the RPS judgement. I much preferred the earlier HoMM to King’s Bounty, so this sounds like a must buy. The only thing that stopped me from pre-ordering was the always-on DRM nonsense, and the small drawbacks of not using it sound like something I can live with.

  8. Viserion says:

    I’m playing this literally non stop since Thursday, I’ surprised by how much I like it. Completely addictive

  9. Drake Sigar says:

    “Disclaimer, I guess: I don’t think I’ve ever played a Heroes of Might & Magic game before, somehow. Maybe a demo in the 90s? I dunno.”

    In the same boat here. This sounds like something between King’s Bounty and Age of Wonders, both of which I enjoyed.

    • Moth Bones says:

      That’s what I was thinking, but I can’t seem to see anything unique in this that is lacking in KB, AoW or Dominions 3. Can any fans of the series make a case for what sets it apart?

    • Rhygadon says:

      For those who’ve only played KB, the easiest way to explain it is that the tactical combat and unit types in the HOMM series (I haven’t played 6 yet) are very similar to KB — since KB was inspired by HOMM (and indeed is named after the ancient precursor to HOMM 1). But the strategic level is more of a traditional turn-based strategy game, with all that entails — resources, cities, multiple armies, strategic locations — rather than an RPG-style free-wandering map.

  10. Vegard Pompey says:

    I’ve only really played the fourth one extensively, and apparently that’s one of the less popular ones in the series. But I don’t have much desire to play the others because I really, really, really liked having heroes on the battlefield. Sure, they were crazy unbalanced (a high-level hero with a decent number of Potions of Immortality in vis inventory could take on, well, anything) but they ought to have fixed that instead of removing heroes from combat entirely. I doubt I’ll try another game in this series until they revisit that idea.

    Got to admit, though; Heroes IV was one damn ugly game.

  11. TLGAthena says:

    This game left me cold. I beta’d it and that was enough to convince me to shelve my pre-order.

    I’ll pick it up in a steam sale once it’s down to £10-15, maybe. It’s serviceable, and it does what it says on the tin, but it lacks the absolute silliness and inbred crazy that came with the Kings Bounty series, and it lacks the depth and charm that HOMM V had once it was patched and updated and the AI was mended.

    The problem I have with it is that for all it’s pretty, and for all the service it pays to the previous games, it doesn’t -feel- like HOMM. It feels like disciples. If you’ve played renaissance thoroughly, you’ll see too many similarities to be overlooked, at which point you start going “OH SWEET JESUS WHY DID THEY THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA.”.

    For people who haven’t had the exposure to things like KB or HOMM V, this is a perfectly acceptable entry point into this genre, but sadly KB is often available at 1/10 of the price on steam or other digital retailer sales, and is frankly a stronger game.

    Oh yes, and UBI’s heinous DRM system can die in a chemical fire, with urine, and camel dung…

  12. rocketman71 says:

    So HOMM is not HOMM even in the name anymore. Great. More Ubi idiocy.

  13. pakoito says:

    To everyone saying KB is better.

    HOMM is a multiplayer VS game with a weak meh campaigns. KB is just the campaign. You can’t play your friends in KB, you can’t minmax your character and you can’t strategize your economy.

    Different games.

    Thank you.

    • TLGAthena says:

      No, they’re not. Disregard the MP vs. SP part. They’re both macro/micro turn based strategies with some variants. KB is a very valid comparison to the HOMM series overall, Disciples III even moreso with HOMM 6.

    • Bullwinkle says:

      So what you’re saying is: KB is better.

    • pakoito says:

      Single player, KB is waaaaaay better, for sure. I liked the Crossworlds arena mode like the next guy :D

      Multiplayer/backstabbing your friends and balancing gold/resources, which is all HOMM is about. Nope.

      @TLGAthena: KB has no macro. You kill monsters, you get gold, you buy better monsters for yourself. Grinding. There’s also no turn or time restriction to your actions. The leveling system is straightforward and a bit pointless overall.

    • Maldomel says:

      People are always making that comparison with KB because it brought some fresh air to the genre with some new ideas and all, but you are right. These are not the same games and while the genre is the same the way of playing them is totally different.

    • Rhygadon says:

      One very significant difference is that HOMM gives you more play variety, even in the campaigns, since you can hire a variety of heroes and play as different factions. I loved both KBs to death, but they *did* involve spending an awful lot of hours using basically the same hero and army to grind down many many of the same types of foes in a row.
      Edit: Not as true of Crossworlds, but somehow that one never caught on for me; it was so heavily scripted that I felt like I never had enough information to make well-grounded decisions in advance.

    • Vinraith says:

      HOMM is a strategy game, KB is an RPG, they both have similar tactical combat resolution but that’s really the extent of the similarity.

    • TLGAthena says:

      HOMM 5 (including xpacs, patches, etc) is a strategy game. HOMM 6 is essentially Disciples 4. Go play renaissance. I’ll be waiting.

      And if you were playing KB as an RPG, “ur doin it rong”, sure, you don’t have an economy to fret over, but in effect it’s no different to playing HOMM6′s campaign mode, but without all the annoying crap that goes alongside HOMM6′s campaign mode.

      On the topic of KBL’s unit spread, fair enough, there were some terrible low to mid level units, and incrementally the stuff was “always” better as you went through, but it was kinda fun to play around with each race’s units and put together a workable army. At the end? Dragons baby. Tons of the bloody things. KB never had to worry about balancing units for an MP environment so it could go a bit further with the wacky.

      Then again, the whole “healing also resurrects anything that died” means you can afford to be -really- careless and scrappy, and then at the end you wind up in this absurd game of chicken whilst your healer puts together your recently diced army. I’m not sure I’m a fan of that concept either.

      I love the HOMM series, but 6 has left me cold. It feels too commercially cynical, too focussed on getting my money, and giving lipservice to it’s forefathers, but somewhere along the line it’s forgotten the magic dust.

    • Nick says:

      As a series lifelong HoMM fan, I’d like you to stop forcing your definition of the game as The One True Thing. They are excellent singleplayer games up to 4 anyway.

      And the games are quite similar in their tactical aspect.. but then the HoMM series was basically started BY the original KB.

  14. Dlarit says:

    I’ve been enjoying the game but its in need of a patch due to a few issues, my top 4 gripes below:

    1) my favorite race Inferno seem to be seriously underpowererd
    2) the always on DRM is annoying if you lose you internet connection it kick you out (can you turn this off?)
    3)on hotseat there seems to be no option to remove tears of asha, this means whoever gets it has a major lead (5Kgold per turn plus a class related buff
    4) Is there a manual with the unit stats in? i found a basic manual in my steam folder but its not lie the usual HOMM manuals…

  15. Maldomel says:

    So, nothing about the weird IA who just passes by your weak hero while having a huge badass army to kick your ass? Or the enemy hero who just go back and on the map doing nothing but moving aimlessly between two definite parts?

    I just can’t cope with the IA in this one, it seems so bad whenever it’s about other IA controlled heroes on the world map.

    Otherwise the changes are well-thought indeed, even if once again it seems like the enemies always have more troops than you and more resources (specially crystals, I’ve seen enemies with the 3 types of elite creatures while I struggled to get crystals to unlock one).

  16. Was Neurotic says:

    “It is the kind of game that’s designed to ensnare your attention for long weeks, or months, or the rest of your mortal life, and the reverential passing of your savegames onto your next of kin come your death.”

    That’s HoMM in a nutshell, baby. :D

  17. endintears says:

    I installed and start replaying King’s Bounty as a result of this review

    I might consider HoMM6 if (when?) they give up on their loathsome DRM

  18. CDTJ says:

    I have been lurking on RPS for quite some time, but I made an account to ask this question:
    In reference to HoMM3, the golden child of the series, is it as addicting?

    I remember when I was younger, just getting lost in that game and whiling away the hours on map after map. What made that game great? Probably the code was infused with a little bit of heroin. Regardless, to the ones who know what I’m talking about with HoMM3; does it bring back the glory and fun?

    That will definitely determine my stance on the game, and whether I’ll be poised to purchase over Steam’s holiday sale or not.

    Also, Vinraith, it is very worth it. It is a life-sucker once you get the hang of it and learn!

  19. akumen says:

    Best instalment since III and will probably be better once patched and expansions are released. I am enjoying it a lot more than I thought.

  20. piggydiggy says:

    I like Age of Wonders 2, will I like this?

  21. Sidorovich says:

    I still play HoMM3 now. Not bad for a 12 year old game. It’s code is pure crystal meth.

    As a long-time fan of the series, I simply cannot stomach the idea of having to play singleplayer online just to use the key storyline artifacts. I know you can allegedly complete the game without them, but that’s not the point. I wanna be able to use all artifacts without being at the mercy of Ubihole’s servers.

    On the retail box, there’s a warning that the publisher reserves the right to withdraw ‘online components’ with 30 days notice. So my hard won magical items may be perishable? Screw that.

    How about first finishing the game by shipping it with proper town screens Black Hole? (rather that just vaguely promising that this will be the thing you will ‘fix’ with subsequent patches).

    The tragedy is, this HoMM game seemed to have the lushest of over-world maps seen yet, some truly lovely sights. And some of the new unit designs looked fab. But trying to disguise DRM under a thin veil of ‘social gaming’ bollocks isn’t going to wash frankly. And it gets you no sale Ubisoft.

  22. K. says:

    I agree with the sentiment. IV was the best part, mostly because of the heroes.

    Thinking a bit about this statement led me to the conclusion: I feel like the combat in HoMM and KB is too negative: You are going to lose units. Every lost unit will cost you resources and, worse, time to re-stock. So instead of gradually levelling up and getting stronger with combat, you are constantly fighting attrition.
    This also explains why I always preferred Tower (Strongest Ranged Army) and Necro (negligible attrition due to Raise Dead).

    So… I’ll probably pass on this one. Hopefully the studio gets to do another part and feels comfortable enough with the base material to do some more heretical, interesting things with it then.

    Clash of Heroes is excellent, though!

  23. jiminitaur says:

    HOMM2 is still the best.

  24. Pheasant Plucker says:

    OK fellas allow an old man his reverie.

    HoMM 1 Different.
    HoMM 2 Beguiling.
    HoMM 3.Astonishing.
    HoMM 4 Dumb.
    HoMM 5 Better.

    HOMM 6? Sounds like 4.5 with 2011 style DRM and DLC. Meh.

    Personally if anyone did HoMM3 with better graphics then it would be an auto-buy.Yep, I am an old git!

    • TLGAthena says:

      *pulls up a rocking chair* … in my day…

    • Matzerath says:

      It’s a little more alarming when ‘back in my day’ is also ‘pre-dystopian’:

      “Back in my day we didn’t have your newfangled ALWAYS ON DRM. Now get off my lawn!”
      “Actually, we’re authorized to stay on your lawn forever.”

  25. Tony M says:

    I love the HOMM series. But its always been a painfully bland type of fantasy.

    • Jody Macgregor says:

      Yeah, I wish they’d licence it to an existing fantasy setting. Warhammer is similar enough, but has loads more colour. I’d love a Might & Magic: Warhammer with Skaven and whatnot.

  26. bill says:

    I’ve never really played HoMM, but I too would like something that was a mix of this and Kings Bounty.

    I surprised myself by really enjoying Kings Bounty at the beginning, but then it got REALLY repetitive. There wasn’t enough flexibility in the battles.
    On the other hand, 4 resources and some of the other elements of this seem to be overkill.

    I’d love something with an overland map more like KB, but with the ability to capture towns and develop them and the units they can produce. And with tactical battles where you could use varied and interesting tactics instead of just using the same ones in every battle.

    • Jody Macgregor says:

      You’d have hated it when there were seven resources. Heroes VI does away with gems, sulphur and mercury to get it down to those four.

    • bill says:

      I would indeed. I always hated resource gathering in RTS games as well.

      King’s bounty did a pretty good job with just Gold. I don’t really get why you need all the other resources.. if you have gold you can buy them. ;-)
      Of course, KB also had other RPG like elements to gather and expand (mana, command points, rage, etc.. but you didn’t have to juggle lots of random elements. )

      I want Kings Bounty with:
      - more tactical battles (terrain, blocking units and flanking playing a factor) and
      - less timewasting/grindy battles (losing forces surrender, minor losses are automatically replenished, taking out the “king” can win the battle) and
      - more flexibility in recruiting units (control/upgrade towns/recruiting points) and
      - units that don’t become obsolete so quickly (upgrades for units).

    • Nick says:

      There may have been more rescources, but each faction generally relied on certain ones more than others and denying them access to specific was part of the strategy. Gathering them was just a matter of taking a mine (and/or holding it from the enemy).

  27. Burning Man says:

    “You can play the game offline, but bits of it are switched off. This includes a Dark Souls-like ability to leave and read in-game message orbs for other players,”

    *facepalm*

    Ubisoft, that is very silly, even by your standards. It’s also pathetic.

  28. innokenti says:

    As a HoMM fan and certain to buy a HoMM game whatever it’s faults… VI is actually rather good.

    It wins me over mostly with intelligent innovation and a move towards a little bit more RP on the hero side of things. My personal favourites have always been HoMM 2 and HoMM 4 which have had personal charm and interesting innovation over the moderately bland or ‘stock’-feeling 3 and 5. So the fact that VI dares to do things differently is re-assuring.

    And for the most part it succeeds – the mix of factions is a good one, and the introduction of the Naga/water faction is a long-awaited thing. The hero abilities are a good mix and let you play around with different builds to not only suit your play-style but to try and work out good combinations for different towns, armies, purposes. The de-emphasising of repetitive actions is a great welcome (you no longer have to run out to make sure you visit some sort of building somewhere on the map each week to make sure you don’t miss out on resources/creatures etc) and I don’t mind the lack of a detailed town so much – the town management is functional and well-built. But they’ll add the proper town screens in later, so that will be a nice extra bonus anway.

    But yeah… I think the real strength of the Heroes series has been that each game has broadly been quite different and so there is a bit of something for everyone. A selection of styles and thoughts on a theme – whether it’s the cheery and deceptively tricky Heroes 2, the crunchy and precise Heroes 3, the wildly alternative and curious Heroes 4, the bright, bold and retrospective 5 or the flowing, deep 6…

    As has probably been mentioned – people should stop moaning about their personal favourite MUST HAVE feature being absent from this iteration and play what they enjoy – if they can’t take 6 for what it is, the whole series is not exactly lacking in variety. And the older games remain incredibly robust and playable to this day.

    • innokenti says:

      Also – thanks for having a look at this Alec! Good to have a more outside perspective, because it is obviously hard to judge whether this would actually be a fun game for someone not couched in Heroes legacy to pick up and play. Glad to hear that it at least manages that a bit!

  29. origo says:

    I get a feeling game makers followed the plan called “If Mario was made in 2010″, as shown here:
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/if-mario-was-made-in-2010

  30. adonf says:

    It’s sad no one ever seems to remember Warlords.

  31. RegisteredUser says:

    Reading some of the fine print I cannot help but think: Can we finally rename Ubi to FUUUUbi?

  32. mmorpg games says:

    i dont know. Maybe i am sick of Heroes, but after 2 hours, i quit the game and never entered again. I think i loved HOMM V more, with patches.

  33. bbor says:

    I think the game has some major problems:
    1) almost all buildings on adventure map are one-time visits, when you’ve sacked an area you will never go back. No mills, neutral dwellings, etc.
    2) you don’t fight for mines or any other type of building. I find it disappointing in a ‘strategy’ game. You either have more castles or less, and when you have more just wait.
    3) leveling is not random, at all – all your heroes become the same (see 4)
    4) mentor skill – any hero you met receive 75% of your xp – so they all have your_level -1. Now you just don’t have to distribute xp between heroes or carefully build additional supporters (with expert logistics :-) ) you just have to pump one guy.
    5) overpowered skills and totally crappy ones (especially magic) – there are many skills (too much I would say) but you just don’t use most of them. Never.
    6) all units available in every castle. If you have town-portals (Inferno) you just need one, max two heros on any map.
    7) AI is non-existent as was mentioned in other posts
    8) BUGS. In graphics, in calculations (crits, recruiting),

    Maybe some of the issues will be covered in patches, but it may take years to achieve.