Maintaining a strong army is crucial to your success because victory can only come through combat. The turn-based battles take place on a grid of square tiles. Your armies can be arrayed in up to seven stacks, from a single towering cyclops to hundreds of crossbowmen. Creatures act in order of initiative, though like many attributes, this can be boosted or dampened by a number of factors. Your hero can act during combat as well, and effectively using your abilities is one of the most enjoyable parts of battle. Sure, it's fun to cast implosion and severely damage an enemy stack, but what if you choose to first unleash a war cry that makes your entire army counterattack with renewed vigor? Blinding a powerful stack can take it out of the game while you tackle your lesser foes, but casting a retribution aura will cause each melee attack on your stack to damage the attacker. Wielding your arsenal is a blast, and the opposing hero is likely to feel the same way about his or her own abilities.
6346822NoneThe Necropolis and Sanctuary factions duel online.
Combat gets even deeper when you consider the individual attributes of the creatures on the field. Knowing your own armies is as important as knowing your opponent's capabilities, and you can easily learn about each creature and its unique abilities in the midst of combat. Strategic considerations include who can fly, who can shoot, who should wait to attack later, who benefits most from certain buffs, who is weak to which spells, how many retaliations a creature can deliver, and who is worth resurrecting. The tactical challenges start off simple and get more complex as creatures get more advanced and your enemies get tougher. In a well-matched battle, making smart moves can mean the difference between life and death. In a not-so-well-matched battle, smart moves can help you rout the enemy with zero friendly casualties.
Seeing the creatures take the field gives you another chance to appreciate the excellent character design, especially when a lucky hit results in a close-up view of the action. Tough matches are almost always engaging, but most battles are not very tough. Taking the time to manually stomp out every creature stack that stands in the way of your exploration can be tiresome, and this is when the quick combat option comes in handy. With this option on, all fights are resolved with the single click of a button. If you right-click on an enemy, you can see the threat it poses to you and decide whether the fight will go your way. If you don't like the outcome, you can repeatedly play it manually until you do (just once in multiplayer), though the AI usually does a good job of battling on your behalf.
Poisonous gases emanating from nearby trees always make a Necropolis more appealing.
Quick combat is a double-edged sword, however. On the one hand, it allows you to skip tedious combat and progress more quickly through a given game. Players who prefer the noncombative aspects of the game can play almost the entire game without fighting. Though you may be tempted to delegate combat to the AI, fighting is one of the most appealing elements of Might & Magic Heroes VI. Relying on quick combat can drain much of the excitement out of the action, making you feel more like a risk-management assessor than a powerful adventurer.
It's best to use this feature in moderation, especially during the lengthy campaigns. Each of the five factions has a multi-mission story arc to follow that happens more or less concurrently with the others. They follow the Duke of Griffin's children who have been scattered throughout the realm of Ashan. Though they take place in the same realm as previous games, the stories here are new and varied. Following twin siblings on their divergent journeys into the Inferno and Necropolis worlds provides a different narrative experience than joining their brother's righteous Haven crusade. The stories are serviceable and feature some thoughtful moments, along with some dull filler, and the voice acting is similarly hit or miss. Intermittent cutscenes add some nice context, and on the whole, these campaigns feel more varied and well-developed than previous campaigns in the series.
You can also play a single-player or multiplayer custom game on any of the 14 skirmish maps with up to eight players. Human turns take much longer than AI turns, naturally, and though you can impose time limits if you host a game, multiplayer matches still take many hours to complete. You'll want to find opponents who are on the same page as you in terms of time commitment and play frequency (matches can be saved and reloaded at a later time) because joining a random game often results in opponents quitting early. Fortunately, Might & Magic Heroes VI features Skype integration and a friends list to help you connect with friends, and there's always the tried-and-true local hotseat play. If you want a shorter contest, you can compete in a one-off battle with a preset army against an opponent. These duels are a great way to get a quick combat fix without the investment of having spent time and resources building up your army.
Tonight's main event: Putrid Lamasu vs. Sacred Kirin.
Be warned, though: Before you challenge anyone to an online match, you need to spend some time setting up your dynasty. Here, you can create and edit heroes to use in your online play, assigning ability points, dynasty traits, and dynasty weapons. These ability points are crucial in one-on-one duels because if you haven't assigned them, your opponent will outclass you with spells and abilities. Dynasty weapons and traits offer smaller bonuses, but they can also be used in single-player. The weapons gain experience as you use them, leveling up and conferring bonus abilities that persist across modes. There are also a lot of achievements that chronicle your successes and earn you currency that you can spend by unlocking things (extra heroes, dynasty gear, online titles) in the altar of wishes.
Whether you're embarking on an epic contest with friends or adventuring through the dozens and dozens of hours of campaigns, Might & Magic Heroes VI is very entertaining. The appeal of Heroes games has always come from the three pillars of exploration, development, and combat, and the action is in fine form here. Beautiful new lands and creatures provide a welcoming world to explore, streamlined development makes it a pleasure to build up your towns and heroes, and tactically rich combat fills your fights with potential. Though the name may have changed, the allure is the same, and Might & Magic Heroes VI is bound to entice both veterans and newcomers alike.