The line between role-playing game and strategy game blur even further with Might and Magic Heroes VI, bringing the ageless conflict closer to "the Blizzard standard".
Might and Magic is a series of computer role-playing games. Heroes of Might and Magic is a series of computer strategy games. So what is Might and Magic Heroes VI?
I sat in on a brief demo of the game at GamesCom yesterday, and the impression I came away with was that this is the classic strategy game with a stronger focus on role-playing than ever before, hence the slight name change.
The core change is an end to predetermined hero powers and skills. You choose your own path in Might and Magic Heroes VI. As you level, you determine the powers and skills you'll be using to dominate the competition. You can even choose an advanced class later in the game, further defining the role you'll play in battle.
Combined with the racial abilities introduced in Heroes of Might and Magic V, the system allows the player to play the character they want to play, instead of being constrained to a certain path.
The game takes place 400 years before the events in the other Heroes titles, focusing on a single family. The king has died, leaving five brothers and sisters to struggle for control of the throne, each grasping for power in a completely different way in order to gain a leg up on their siblings. One seeks out holy power, becoming a divine knight. Another chooses the path of the necromancer. Still another forges pacts with demons to achieve their goals.
Players begin the game by creating a character, choosing its sex and whether it will lean more towards might or magic. After that, they'll have 30 levels of progress to further define their role.
Each faction has their own unique units with unique play styles, directing towards what the presenter called "the Blizzard standard". Take StarCraft II, for instance. The Terrans play differently than the Zerg, who play differently than the Protoss. Such is the case for the factions in Might and Magic Heroes VI.
I witnessed the Necromancer in action. Necromancer characters and units siphon power and life force away from their opponents. The longer a battle lasts, the more powerful they become, so it'll be to the Necromancer's advantage to draw out battles.
Visually the game is a real treat. The overland maps are lush and filled with little details that will have players exploring every corner, looking for secrets.
One major change to the overland map is that cities will now change the way they appear on the map when you upgrade them. Rather than having to click on the city to see what fortifications it has, you'll be able to look at it and know if it's been upgraded to near-impenetrability, or if it's little more than a series of thatch huts.
When a player captures an enemy city, they'll also have the choice to convert it into one of their own, another new feature in this instalment.
The battle maps themselves are gorgeous, with creatures more lifelike than ever before. No longer mere pieces on a board, the combatants have tons of animation to them, giving the impression of a living, breathing army.
The battles themselves will have more variety this time around. Tides will slowly rise on some battlefields, changing the area as the match goes on. Differing goals, including defending objects and killing specific units will abound.
And there will be boss fights. At the end of the demo we were shown a giant blue water snake looking creature attacking via a cut scene, and then it was all over.
Again, this is a great deal like the Heroes of Might and Magic fans have come to love, but with enough extra added depth to keep the role-playing fans satiated until Ubisoft gets around to making the next Might and Magic RPG.
Might and Magic Heroes VI is due out on PC early next year from Ubisoft and developer Black Hole.