Preview: Two Atomic forum regulars try their hand at the Might and Magic VI: Heroes beta, and return to tell their tale of blood and tears...
Might and Magic: Heroes 6 (HOMM), is the most recent in a critically acclaimed dynasty of turn based strategy games with an initial idea derived from another New World Computing game, Kings Bounty.
The preview code for this latest entrant in the series contains both massive changes for the established player-base to absorb, and new opportunities for those who haven’t played a Heroes of Might and Magic game before to get into the series. I’m TinBane (TB), a HOMM veteran who has owned and played every game in the franchise to date. Gharphield (Gharph) is a HOMM novice, whose first experience is the pre-release beta code for Might and Magic: Heroes 6. Together we hope to give people from both sides of the fence some insight into this game.
The series is known for some core concepts that have been used in other turn based strategy games, but not to the same effect. The basic idea of Heroes of Might and Magic is that you start on an unrevealed map, with one town, a weakling hero, a limited income, limited ability to train troops, and (depending on difficulty) a store of resources. From this humble beginning the player builds their empire, building up an economy, a range of sources of troops, and a hero who specialises in skills that either assist inside or outside battle.
Gharph: For those like myself you're probably venturing into unknown territory here. But don't worry, Ubisoft has your back. While the preview version we’re playing was only in beta form there was already enough helpful advice in the tutorial as well as the Single Player to get you started. This was clearly designed to smooth out that learning curve where players new to the series can ease their way to the levels of the veteran players and beyond.
TB: The combat system is almost chess-like in its simplicity. Each side is made up of up to (currently) 7 ‘stacks’. Each stack is a group of identical monsters, and regardless of whether it’s one skeleton, or a thousand, they take up the same battlefield space. When a monster stack is damaged, individuals are removed as HP is lost until the HP of the whole stack hits zero. At this point, no troops will remain, and the stack becomes a body on the battlefield.
The interplay of spells, bonuses, and the fact nearly every troop has some kind of ability or bonus, keeps things interesting, and the tactics varied. All the classic mechanics and thought-processes of ‘more complicated’ games such as the Total War series come into play. When to stand-off (and when to realise that a stand-off is impossible), when to refuse a flank, when to focus down the enemy’s main stack, and when to bog them down in a battle of attrition are all vital decisions in determining the outcome of a battle. Sometimes there is no right answer, and sometimes the interplay between your forces and the enemy’s will necessitate your tactics.