Or ‘Heroes of Might & Magic VI’, as it should have been called. The strategy-roleplaying hybrid series has graced the PC for decades, but many fans feel it’s been downhill since game number III. The sixth in the deathless fantasy exploration and army-building franchise is an attempt to return to those glory days, but with a few cues taken from rivals such as King’s Bounty and Disciples. Has it worked out?
Well, sort of. There’s a massively compulsive and highly strategic game in there for sure. As is series tradition, Might & Magic Heroes VI is comprised of two major facets - turn-based battles between fantastical armies and a top-down mode where you explore large maps looking for fights, items and resources in order to gain experience and abilities necessary to defeat ever-more powerful foes. Thrown into this is conquering settlements and upgrading them with new buildings, necessary to raise larger armies and more resources. To a casual observer, it’s going to appear fiendishly complicated - tons of numbers, tons of unit types and somewhat slow progress.
In fact, it’s pretty straightforward once you’re past the initial confusion - mostly it’s a matter of buying the right stuff once you’ve enough resources and gradually learning the strengths of weaknesses of the various units you raise and battle. Once you start to recognise enemies on sight, you’ll know how best to defeat ‘em - for instance, you know Orc Marauders get a bonus retaliate, so they’re better picked off from afar, while Sisters should be neutralised as soon as possible or they’ll resurrect fallen comrades.
There are around half a dozen factions in the game, for instance humans, orcs, undead and demons, each of which has their own fairly broad selection of units. You get to play with all of them yourself, with the game offering a mini (but still approaching double figures of hours long) campaign for each faction, as part of an overarching story covering one human noble family. Alas, the plot drowns in dry exposition and the setting rarely escapes a fairly generic approach to fantasy, so really it’s the strategy and battles that will engross you, not the goings on or even the solid but unremarkable aesthetics.
Fortunately, it’s a huge game that will, if you so wish, hold your attention for weeks or months - even before you tackle the similarly substantial multiplayer. MMH6 lacks the freshness and verve of the earlier games in the series, but it’s certainly not skimping on content.
Where it really does fall down is the DRM masquerading as social networking. Publisher Ubisoft have an increasingly bad reputation for saddling their PC games with draconian copy protection, and while MMH6 can mercifully be played offline, doing so denies you access to some pretty beefy bonus items and abilities, plus if you don’t specify that you’re playing in offline mode when you load it, you’ll be booted back to the main menu if your connection drops.
It’s unnecessary and irritating, and on top of that there are multiple, bewildering and faddish layers of additional unlocks and virtual currency that don’t add anything except obfuscation, menu bloat and immersion-breaking to the experience. Were it not for the slicker interface and graphics, our advice would be to stick with Heroes of Might & Magic 3.