I’ll say this right off the bat: I still play Heroes III. I changed a lot of PCs in the 12 years since its release, about five operating systems and plenty of socks, but not my turned based strategy. Actually, the Might and Magic series is one of my favorites and it went through many transformations along the years, some good, some bad, just like every other thing in life. And yes, there’s some nostalgia, but it’s time to let go of the past. So I won’t compare Heroes VI with Heroes III. More with V, if it’s the case, but I’d rather leave the third game of the series on its throne and look as objectively as possible at this one with its changes, good or bad.
If you look at the whole after the campaigns and some multiplayer, you realize Heroes VI is a child of its generation. Even from the name change, actually more of a switch (Might and Magic Heroes VI), you know something’s different… and not necessarily in a good way. Everything is lighter, easier in terms of tactics and strategy, the aspects that mattered most to the fans. I even remember talking to one of my colleagues who said that one of designers declared at some point that, among other things, Heroes VI was meant to be sexy. Charlize Theron is sexy, maybe a Dominatrix succubus is sexy, but a game like Heroes should have treated very seriously these things that actually gave it the place that now has not only as a strategy, but in the gaming history as a whole.
At least story wise, it’s serious. The designers went once more for the Griffin dynasty, the humans that rule Ashan. The tutorial not only introduces you to the mechanics, but also builds on the story, following events in Duke Slava Griffin’s life and, further on, the destinies of his 5 children: Anton, Kiril, Anastasya, Sandor and Irina.
So we have five campaigns, each with a main hero, plus a final map that changes depending on the hero’s alignment. All of them are open from the start and can be played in any order, though the one in the menus is preferable (Necropolis, Haven, Sanctuary, Inferno, Stronghold) for a better understanding of the events. Each narrative part has some nice events, so in all, even if it’s not too complex or profound, the story is motivating enough to keep you playing.
On the other hand, much of the impression is lost because of the voices and the totally inappropiate names for a fantasy universe I won’t understand why the producers chose Sveltana, Ishtvan or Kiril for heroes that have nothing in common with Pannonia or the Siberian woods (while other characters are named quite well, from Sarah and Michael for the angels to Azkaal, Jezebeth or Ka Beleth for the Inferno demons).
Fortunately, the TBS mechanics are there, since they are the trademarks of the series. The gameplay is still split between the overall map and the fights. And just like before, the hero travels on dark trails, undergrounds and water to accomplish missions, collecting resources and items on the way to better himself and his armies. When facing an enemy, the action goes to a chess like screen, the two forces facing each other with leaders on the side, indirect actors to the slaughter (they cast spells or hit once a turn, an idea taken from Heroes V, but without actually entering the battlefield).
Once inside my first castle, I was shocked (I got over it in the meantime) by the visuals… in the worst way possible, because I was in love with the castle design in Heroes V, huge vistas that could be turned for a spectacular show (I still can’t decide if the elves or the devils had the most beautiful palace). Now, instead of huge castles we got a tiny picture, slightly animated as you build different structures. But nothing is interactive, which is a huge disappointment for me. For a veteran, the interface is a walk in the park, but I had normal players take it for a spin as well; and for an occasional strategist, the construction menus aren’t too intuitive and the hero screens don’t really tell you where to go to improve your alter-ego.