Over the weekend I was able to play some Heroes of Might and Magic 6 (beta) hotseat multiplayer, and overall came away impressed. I’ve also now played enough of the single-player to get a solid feel for that as well. For a beta Heroes 6 is in good shape, but there are certainly some issues that really need to be fixed up before the game goes live.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first: the game has some display bugs for skills and spells. For instance, when viewing a monster in the town view, their skill description usually does not fill in the monsters name, and the % values are usually off. So a goblins trap skill will read: “The (blank) lays a trap, dealing 0% damage and slowing the enemy for 0 turns”. Not very helpful. The skill description works during combat, but still. A similar bug happens when viewing some hero skills and spells, and I’ve noticed some spell descriptions are simply untrue. Regenerate, for instance, says it will last 17 turns, but in combat it fades after just three.
I’ve also noticed that certain skills either don’t function correctly, or are damn near impossible to use. One unit I was playing with had a charge ability, yet no matter how close or how far he was from the enemy, the skill could not be activated.
I had the game crash once during the hotseat game, but with auto-saving not much progress was lost. Finally, the AI (on normal) was not very smart, as it would often leave towns undefended and would only build and upgrade the first tier of units. It was able to clear its section of the map, and occasionally would attack, but watching it for a good number of turns, it was clear the AI did not have a solid plan or any long-term goals. It looked like it was just happy to continue amassing units and wandering around the map.
Now the good: All five factions have very interesting units, and each faction really feels unique. The basic combat strategy for the undead is very different than that of the Haven troops, and learning how to maximize what your faction does well is key. With a ton of unique abilities across all units, there are a lot of little strategies to learn, and some pretty cool stuff can be accomplished with a little planning. The one big blowout fight I had with my friend lasted many turns, and even though we were both new to the game, we still pulled off some nice moves and really did some creative stuff. This to me shows just how deep Heroes 6 combat will be in multiplayer, which for me is the most important factor.
The different abilities a hero can learn while leveling up also feel very solid, and there is a lot of room for customization here. Magic items are also very powerful, and many not only give stat bonuses, but have abilities of their own. This again adds good depth and randomness (items are placed semi-randomly every time you start the map), giving even just the one multiplayer map in the beta some good replay value.
Instant auto-combat also seemed pretty accurate, in that if you used a superior force against a random enemy, more often than not you would come away without a single loss, which is what would happen if you actually played it out. This was not 100%, but enough to speed up the game significantly. Considering how long Heroes multiplayer games can get, this is another very important feature.
The single-player map that I finished, along with the second that I started, were both enjoyable with a good mix of cutscenes to keep the story going. I did not see enough to really ‘get’ much of the story, but what was there was good enough, and I think when the full game is released will be worth playing through.
I’m a bit surprised that the beta has not received a single update, but perhaps that’s just the MMO player in me talking. With still over a month to go until release, there is certainly enough time to clean Heroes up a bit and get rid of the last few bugs/errors. Considering the shape Heroes 5 went live in, Heroes 6 is already a much more polished game, yet I would not consider it ‘done’ just yet.
At the end of the day however, Heroes 6 feels like a Heroes game, which might be the most important factor of all.