Ah, video games, you evil drug that somehow manages to convince us that one extra number is all that important because the new number just might be the one that breaks all previous records. Or, in the case of Heroes of Might and Magic V, what you’re really going for is “one more day.”
In Heroes V, by Ubisoft, you the gamer gets to build up cities and engage in epic battles with all sorts of mythological creatures like angels, demons, succubi, vampires, elvish druids, cyclopses, phoenixes, and far more than I care to write up here. Each of the 8 factions (if you consider the Tribes of the East expansion) has 7 different kinds of creatures, each representing a specific tier of power. These units can then be upgraded into two different types of specialties.
Your armies are added to a hero unit who has a unique specialty. Some are good at moving across the overworld map, some can bring specific army units greater power, some have magical capabilities, and some even boost morale or combat luck. As these heroes level up, they get new specializations (morale, attack, defense, one of the four classes of magic, war machines, movement, etc) and if the stars align, they might even master a super-powered race-specific ability that essentially makes your hero unit OP to the Max! But in all honestly, you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to get the next specific ability in the list but are given no options for that skill, and you’ll rage quit the scenario and start it all over again. In the process of this, you’ll have thrown away several hours of hard work. Yay! Yay? <sadface>
The battles and maps are two-fold: you’ve got story-driven campaigns, where you can follow specific hero characters from each race; and you’ve got single map missions, where it’s just you kicking tuchus and taking names. Or, if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can set the map difficulty from easy to Impossible, and whimper and cry in a fetal position as massive forces of gremlins shoot you to death in the first week of the mission.
For a glimpse of what this all entails, check out the video below.
All together, this allows for some massive replay opportunities (read: consumption of time). Each map can last anywhere from 20 minutes to hours upon hours. It is terribly frightening just how much time one can spend on a map, especially as there is a whole lot to explore, there are treasures to pick up, levels to gain, and monsters to kill.
If you like having a life in the Real World, this is not a game for you. If you’re like me, however, and love exploring new places, gathering treasure, seeing which mythical creature can compliment an attacking harpy, is an utter sucker for repetitive city-building with brutal battles, and who likes to create utter tanks of monsters that can utterly stampede any opposition with a brutal onslaught of udders, this game is for you (sadly, no. There are no cow units to moo enemies to death with).
The Nostalgia Factor
While I got into the series in college, Heroes V was a Thailand thing. As Head Teacher of ECC Chaeng Wattana, I was in office 6 days a week, from morning until 8 pm. While I was often teaching at this time, when I wasn’t, I found that campaigning in this was a wonderful way to utterly devour hours at a time. I even introduced one of my students to it, and got him into the utter annihilation of enemy factions. (Hi Oat!) Good times.
- Impossible is harder than impossible, and any cheat codes you punch in earn you the distinguished title of “Cheater!!!” on the Hall of Fame listing. Kind of disappointing a result if you work hard swiping a personalized in-game identity from a Transformer. Easy is really easy, and the middle-ground games are “die in a week” or “limp out of the first week to be slaughtered in the second week.”
- The heroes. Logistics kicks ass because you need to move around quickly in this game. There is nothing worse than overextending your main battle unit only to have an invader approach your only city, and take it over because they can move just that little bit further than you can. Because 3 heroes in the game actually specialize in Logistics (and whose movement points increase with each level up), these individuals are the most valuable heroes in the game. You will find yourself playing as these heroes again and again at the expense of any variety of hero choice. There is one Sylvan hero who specializes in experience (yes, he gets more experience the higher his level goes, which is kind of a massive cheat) who just barely shoves these Logistics masters aside, but I stand true on my statement that you’ll be swapping out losers left and right (looking at you Orson).
- Some specialization skills are awesome. Others are far less than impressive. War Machines are the worst. But two factions require their specialization in order to master their Race-specific special ability! Urgh! Additionally, I’m just going to put this out there:
Eagle EyeArcane Intuition. Why is this freaking troll of a skill even still in this damn series?
- While magic in this game is a bit better than previous iterations of HoMM, it is still lacking, and the powers are limited. Instead of an “Effect All” mastery of a magical house that happens automativallly with the casting of a spell, you’ve got to specifically focus on a particular type of magic within that house so that you get upgraded versions of that spell that will actually affect all. But honestly, the only magic you’ll wind up using after the second week of your time in map is destructive spells, Slow, Haste, and maybe raise dead (raise undead). No other hero-cast magic is really worth it. Army magic, on the other hand, is pretty awesome, and I cringe every time I have to enter into a battle with a group of random Magi or Druids. Why? Because they use powerful magic that devastates my ranged units!! Ranged units are gold, btw. Annihilate the opposition without losing a single unit? Yes, please.
- For one reason or another, some of the races are far more bad-aft than others, and you’ll probably find yourself shying away from the Haven (Knight) faction because they generally suck. Expensive and with gryphon units that die way too easily, you will nonetheless find yourself cowering from Haven armies that are made up of Gryphons and Priests (and their upgrade units), who can somehow roll right through you. Yet, when you attempt to make an army of such units, you blow all your gold on 20 and have nothing left for the other 1000 units that you could buy, and thus wind up getting steamrolled. Does that sound like an in-game double-standard of a contradiction? It should because that’s exactly what it feels like. What are the best races? Inferno (devils and demons), Sylvan (elf and nature), and Stronghold (whose Rage abilities make their armies quite formidable).
- A Clock. Seriously. This is the biggest drawback to the game. You sit down to play, and the next time you look out the window, it is dark, and you’re left wondering where the hell all your time has gone to.
9 of 10. – Amazing replayability options in this baddie. There is even a map generator so if you get really bored, you can waste hours meticulously crafting your very own maps. Did I mention that if you get into this game, you’ll be throwing massive hours away? No? Well, it’s as much a certainty as April Fool’s Day jokes (which this is actually not).
3 of 5 – It loses points because it’s a more recent game and as the 5th installment, I can’t play it without thinking of a specific precursor that got me into the series in the first place. But that’s a review for another day.