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Heroes of Might and Magic V (PC) artwork

Heroes of Might and Magic V (PC) review

"Throughout the series' history, Heroes of Might and Magic has asked one simple question: Might or Magic? Players of the turn-based strategy RPG have always had to deal with this dilemma, and this game isn't any different. Heroes V improves upon the old, combining the best features from all previous installments, but it also adds unique features all its own. "

Throughout the series' history, Heroes of Might and Magic has asked one simple question: Might or Magic? Players of the turn-based strategy RPG have always had to deal with this dilemma, and this game isn't any different. Heroes V improves upon the old, combining the best features from all previous installments, but it also adds unique features all its own.

Unlike its predacessors, this game focuses mainly on the campaign, with very loose connections to the campaigns of Heroes III. The mythical world of Ashan is under siege by the Demon Sovereign's armies, and only Queen Isabel of the Griffin Empire and her allies can defeat them. The campaign takes you through a complex story, tying in Isabel's troubles with those of five other nations.

The campaigns themselves are very extensive, and good thing, too, because the lack of standard maps effectively limits the game's potential. While there are downloadable maps on the Internet, the series traditionally has had literally dozens of random maps to play. Even the few non-campaign related maps in this game are designed like a campaign: you are given objectives to complete, a hero who must survive throughout the mission, and a pseudo-storyline that fits the particular map. Most fans of Heroes of Might and Magic may be disappointed by this, but fortunately the length of the campaign more than makes up for it.

Throughout the campaign, the game lets you play as each of the six races, each with its own unique creatures, special skills, favored attributes, and particular strategy. In order to succeed, you must be intimately familiar with both the castle(s) you control as well as those of your enemy. However, one is not expected to know everything about all the races right off the bat, and the main way of learning them all, besides playing the campaign, is through combat. In battle, you are allowed to see the creature abilities of your enemies. Once you know what these are and what they do, you can think of a strategy to counter that ability and ultimately win the fight. For example, spectres have this ability where fifty percent of attacks thrown at it can miss, meaning it's twice as hard to kill them than any other unit. However, they were given substantially weak health, and magic is still as affective as ever. Thus, the best way to handle these spirits is to cast damaging spells.

The mechanism of combat has changed slightly from the previous four games, modeling itself more off of Heroes IV. Instead of taking turns based on speed, turns are based on initiative, meaning if one or more of your units had a really high initiative, that unit could potentially attack twice before one of your enemy units. The morale system changed to fit this model, too. In the previous games, morale allowed for an extra turn; here, however, it allows your creature to take its next turn in half the time it would normally take.

Creatures aren't the only units with special abilities to consider when playing the game. One of the most effective and permanent mechanisms of the game is the hero system. Since Heroes I, the hero has played a major role in the outcome of battle. Leveling up allowed for the acquisition of skills that aid your creatures in combat as well as a point increase in one of four attributes, making your army all-around stronger. However, until Heroes IV the hero had been relegated to a spellcaster only, unable to actively participate in battle. Heroes V combined the old system with that of Heroes IV and made the hero capable not only of casting, but of attacking enemy units as well, except that this time, unlike in Heroes IV, the hero cannot be attacked directly. This feature allows for a whole new line of strategic thinking as Heroes V also includes abilities as well. These act as "modifiers" to the particular skill responsible for it, giving the hero even more power. For example, if one possesses the "war machines" skil, the abilities following that skill allow for manual control of one of three war machines. Further adding to the game, each race has a unique skill only applicable to heroes of that race. Advancing that skill grants abilities that will strengthen the hero immensely in battle and give his or her army a huge advantage in battle. Knowing how to use these skills and abilities as well as maneuver your troops in battle will more than likely assure you a victory.

...unless it's a game of outrageously high numbers.

Each week in game produces new troops for your army. In order to purchase these troops and the structures that create them, you need resources. Lots of them. Your enemy usually has an advantage over you in this since the AI often starts with multiple castles, thus raking in income much more quickly than you. This race against time adds further to the strategy, as you must decide which buildings are more important, which creatures more useful, to obtaining your goal: the annihilation of your adversary. Balancing the time can be tricky, for if you start venturing out too soon, you may be overpowered by your enemy's forces or even by neutral creatures guarding pathways and resources. At the same time, however, venture too late and your enemy will surely be stronger than you, forcing you to fight an uphill battle against fate that is very difficult to win.

A skilled hero and brilliant tactician can win a battle in which the enemy has numbers in its favor, but there are just some cases where this is not possible. Take the Necropolis, for example. This race of undead is renowned for turning killed living creatures into more undead, and it is this ability that can make fighting them a harrowing experience. While skeleton archers may be one of the weakest units in the game, when facing thousands, they become a very big problem, especially when they knock out all of your strongest creatures in one shot. It is for this reason that one must time carefully when to begin a raid; doing so incorrectly can lead to your downfall.

Of course, there is one branch of skills that can aid in the war of numbers. Magic has always been the complement to brute force in this series, and so it is here. However, just like in all the games, the system has been restructured, but this reconfiguration only adds to the strategy. Again, this game models the system after Heroes IV. Instead of needing one skill to learn all the spells in the game, magic is broken up into four different "schools": light, dark, destructive, and summoning. A deft mage can enhance his army's attributes to near indestructable levels, weaken an enemy force's attributes so that they inflict miniscule damage, deal a horrendous amount of direct damage to an enemy force, or even conjure creatures to do the majority of fighting for him, provided he is trained in the respective school. Magic can be extremely potent if used correctly, and as such, you must be aware of the race you're playing as so you can choose the best school (if any) to enhance. Knowledge of magic will only aid you in battle, but your opponent will likely be skilled in its use, too. Just another thing to keep in mind when playing the game, further adding to the overwhelming number of ways to play.

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (December 29, 2007)

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