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Heroes of Might and Magic V
Review by muddasheep, October 09th 2006, 23:28:43
[-- History

Basically (for those of you who don't know) Heroes of Might and Magic is a series of games in which you own towns, add and upgrade buildings, create creatures, buy heroes in taverns, collect various stuff on the world map, defeat enemies and take over their towns. This principle is - for many - incredible addicting, especially the HotSeat mode in which you can play with your friends on one computer, turn by turn.

Up until now every HOMM game has been completely in 2D. Also, up until now 3DO and New World Computing have been in charge. The fifth installment however has been taken over by Ubisoft and Nival Interactive. They started from scratch, with a lot of thought in balance and 3D graphics.

[-- What's new?

First of all, the intro movie is rather well done (still not up to Blizzard quality, but almost). The main menu with its real-time rendered fighting in the background reminds a bit of Warcraft III, which also had real-time rendered graphics behind the main menu - but nevertheless it simply looks awesome.

The first thing you will notice when entering a map is that the camera angle is kind of weird. It's really rather confusing if you're still accustomed to the top-down 2D view of previous HOMM titles. However you can simply right-click and move your mouse around to adjust the camera, and use your scroll-wheel to zoom in and out. Violà. Perfect HOMM feeling.

After a while though you will actually make use of the free 3D camera to have a better look at world objects (sometimes it's hard to click on a chest behind a tree, for example).

The next thing you will notice is that the graphics are simply amazing. There is so much attention to details everywhere. You can zoom in on your heroes and see them swinging around their weapons, you can see the wood in the sawmill getting split up.

But that's not all. Once you enter your town the camera will start to float around your city. And regardless of what race you're playing (Human, Elf, Demons, Undead, Dark Elf, Wizards) you'll be simply blown away.

[-- Gameplay

With so much eye candy one could assume that it would just distract players from bad gameplay. But not in HOMM 5. Once you get past that magic graphics barrier you find a very well balanced and addicting game that will make you endure sleepless nights because of the "I'll-just-do-another-turn"-effect. In fact, the graphics just make the game perfect in every way. They enhance the gameplay, instead of just distracting from it. If you buy creatures you will stare at the highly detailed models and you'll say: "Yes, this is definitely the creature I want to send against my enemies!"

Combat has not changed much. You still coordinate your creatures around, and, unlike in Heroes IV, the hero just stands next to the battlefield and casts spells or - and this is a new feature - shoots with arrows or actually runs into the battlefield to damage creatures in melee and leave it again afterwards. Of course, with the new 3D engine combat has a very refreshed feeling to it. All creature abilities seem to be rebalanced, some creatures from previous installments have been left out, so others could join in. All in all combat feels very solid.

Navigating around in the town menu is a bit confusing at first, but eventually it starts to grow on you. For the tech tree in which you can select the upgrades for your town there is a little button that shows the whole tree, and not only the things that are possible for purchase next (which makes the tree confusing as well, so be sure to press that little button). There is a new implementation called Town Level, which is the amount of already built buildings, and which also unlocks more buildings if you reach certain levels.

Of course, you can also still level your heroes. If one of your heroes reaches a new level there are two columns, one for new skills and one for new abilities. Every new skill can have three abilities based on it. For example, you can have Basic Warmachines as a skill, and specialize on First Aid Tent, which gives you manual control over it.

Apart from dozens of new abilities for your hero there are new abilities for creatures as well. Demons, for example, now have "Gating", which basically means that a creature can call for help from the depths of hell and then, based on the hero's gating skill, get a "copy" of the creature with up to 40% of the amount of the original one, which will last until the end of combat.

[-- Sound

I just have to say it: The music is awesome. It was already very good in HOMM IV, but in HOMM V it seems to be much more sophisticated, and much better fitting in general. I remember in HOMM IV whenever the music changed from town music to world music it was always a bit out of place. But this has been improved in the fifth game. The music also stays in your head for a while after gaming and you keep finding yourself humming the soundtrack.

The sounds are very good as well, everything sounds just like it should sound. Armors clank, dragons roar, ghosts cry, succubi laugh manically, magic sounds like magic. It's all there where it should be. The only thing I recall to be a bit annoyed from was that whenever you kill a unit of the enemy your whole army cheers, which got repetitive after a while.

[-- Overall

HOMM V has more in common with HOMM III than with HOMM IV. In my opinion the fourth part had a few issues, like the heroes were way too overpowered and creatures didn't make much sense anymore. Also in HOMM IV creatures were able to run around without heroes. So, with HOMM V they seemed to step back to HOMM III and go from there. And it turns out to be a good decicion.

If you're into strategy games, RPGs, or if you already enjoyed HOMM III and didn't like the fourth part, I can only recommend HOMM V to you. I bet you won't be disappointed. Be sure to get the updates first, though!
Prime example of a human town.

Creating creatures. Archangel on display.

The world map.

The hero's skills and abilities.

In combat mode.

>Official HeroesV Homepage
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How readers rate this Review: 9.6/10 (5 votes)
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