Heroes of Might and Magic V PC DVD-ROM
Published by Ubisoft
Developed by Nival Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Heroes of Might and Magic V, an introduction.
The Heroes of Might and Magic series is one of the true classics of the turn-based strategy genre. Of course with the closure of 3DO and New World Computing it looked as though the series had gone for good. Thankfully that isn't the case as Ubisoft picked up the rights to the Might and Magic games and Nival Interactive were charged with creating a fifth game in the Heroes of Might and Magic series.
What's the game about?
Like previous titles in the series, Heroes of Might and Magic V is a fantasy turn-based strategy game. Essentially the basics of the game are that you control heroes that move around a map amassing armies and collecting resources, amongst other things. In addition to this you have towns that can provide you with other heroes, and these towns usually need to be developed by way of building facilities that in turn provide you with war machines and troops etc. That's just the basics of course. On top of this you have scenario specific quests and challenges. Heroes of Might and Magic V comes complete with six races (Haven, Sylvan, Academy, Inferno, Necropolis and Dungeon) to play as, six campaigns, a handful of standalone scenarios and various multiplayer options. In fact there's enough single-player content here to keep you busy for months on end.
What's good about the game?
As you all know, this is the first Heroes of Might and Magic game not to be created by New World Computing and as such you always tend to be wary about what a different developer will do with an established series. Thankfully Nival Interactive has managed to keep much of what made the series interesting and addictive and there's no denying that the game definitely feels like a Heroes of Might and Magic game. Nival have moved the series into 3D and with some performance issues aside, it's a move that has worked really well.
If you've played Heroes of Might and Magic III, you'll find this fifth game in the series a very familiar experience. Some of the refinements that the fourth title in the series offered aren't here but nothing is missing that wasn't essential to the Heroes of Might and Magic formula. One of the improvements I really like is the battle screen. The appearance of the battles was one area of the previous games that never looked quite right. With the battles now in 3D (and the characters animating very nicely) the whole effect is much more visually satisfying. The battles feel like the ones in Heroes of Might and Magic III, which seeing as that game is widely regarded as the best in the series makes a lot of sense. You'll have 3 choices with the battle system. You can opt for an instant result, which isn't that satisfying to be honest, or you can choose to play out the battle either in the usual fashion or with the addition of a time limit. If you enable the time limit feature, you'll only have a few seconds to give your orders to a unit.
For the most part the single-player experience is a very familiar one with your heroes collecting all kinds of resources and items. They'll gain experience and level up. As they level up, you get to choose abilities that they should earn and it's all very satisfying because you can customise your hero as you see fit. During a battle you can't move your hero around, although they can attack (they move automatically to attack and then return to their original position) and use their special abilities. However if all of your troops fall, you will be defeated. The multiplayer options are Hot-Seat (for 2-4 players on the same computer), LAN online using the Ubi.com servers. As well as the typical game you can also play Duel and Ghost games (ghost games allow those who are awaiting their turn to control a ghost to create mischief for their opponent) which add some variety to the multiplayer experience.
What's not so good about the game?
Longstanding fans of the Heroes of Might and Magic series will be upset by the lack of a scenario editor and map creator facility. A random map generator feature is also missing. Both of these omissions prevent the game from having endless replayability. Previous Heroes games were actually pretty fluid. Load times were minimal and battles played out fairly quickly. In Heroes of Might and Magic V the flow of the game isn't anywhere near as quick flowing. Load times are on the long side (even with 1GB of RAM). By default, battles can feel like a drawn out process. Thankfully you can turn off repetitive close up battle animations and you can also alter the battle speed to create a snappier feel to the battles. However this does impact the frame rate at times. Whilst the campaigns are certainly enjoyable I don't feel they quite live up to the standard of the ones found in earlier games in the series, particularly those found in Heroes of Might and Magic IV. It's also worth noting that the difficulty of scenarios within the campaigns does fluctuate and it's possible to run into a fiendishly difficult scenario right after an easy one, which is something I'm not personally fond of as I like the difficulty level to gradually rise (although in fairness this can hardly be described as a problem and it does keep you on your toes).
How does it look?
Previously all of the games in the Heroes of Might and Magic series have been in 2D. Heroes of Might and Magic V sees the series moving to 3D and on the whole it looks very good. The maps are nicely detailed and you'll notice plenty of animated objects such as water flowing in fountains and trees swinging in the breeze etc. You can zoom right out and right in, although for the most part you'll probably want to leave the zoom on its default setting. The one side effect these new 3D environments have is that you'll need a decent PC to avoid any performance issues (and even with a great PC you're not going to avoid frame rate dips completely. Unlike the previous Heroes games you'll need a good CPU and graphics card, if you're going to have the game looking its best. The towns have never looked so detailed and the battles look pretty good too, although the close up animations can become a little tedious but thankfully you can turn them off. The cutscenes are disappointing with the characters having no facial expressions or animations. Overall though, the game looks good, providing you have a good enough PC to run the game in all of its glory.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Heroes of Might and Magic V is generally OK for deaf gamers. The introductory cutscene isn't subtitled but everything else appears to be fine. The cutscenes during the campaigns and scenarios are subtitled. All tutorial messages are shown in text. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled. You're also notified in text when new objectives have been received and when you've completed objectives. During a battle you can also access a text description that recaps the events of the battle. Whilst the game manual can be described as adequate (although it could go into more detail on certain aspects of the game), it's a little disappointing to find that no tech tree pullout has been included.
There's always a niggling worry when an established series moves from the hands of one developer to another. Thankfully though, Nival Interactive has created a game that retains the feel of the Heroes of Might and Magic series. Whilst it's great to see the series in full 3D there can be no denying that there are performance issues at times and even on a well specified PC you're going to experience frame rate dips. Those with lower end PC specifications will find themselves reducing the screen resolution and turning down the graphical details. I personally think the campaigns are not as good as those found in Heroes of Might and Magic IV but having said that the ones on offer here are certainly enjoyable. If you're a fan of fantasy turn-based strategy games the big questions are whether or not this is the best game in the genre and whether or not it's the best game in the series. In my opinion the answer to those questions is probably no as I would say Age of Wonders Shadow Magic is still the best the genre has to offer and I would still say Heroes of Might and Magic III or IV have been the best titles to date. Nevertheless I would still recommend Heroes of Might and Magic V to anyone because it's a great game that's very much in the same vein as previous titles in the series. It's definitely a game I'm going to be playing a lot of and I'd certainly like to see Nival create expansion packs or further sequels.
Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10
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Nival Interactive have done a great job with their first title in the Heroes of Might and Magic series. It would have been nice to have had a random map generator and a scenario/map editor but overall the game is a great fantasy turn-based strategy title that looks and feels like a Heroes of Might and Magic title.