Written by  :  Frecklefoot (203)
Written on  :  Jul 31, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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A good continuation of a great franchise

The Good

I got hooked on the Heroes series right away with Heroes II. Heroes III was even better, with 3D rendered versions of their 2D graphics. I eagerly awaited Heroes IV, but was disappointed with a Zaxxon-like movement and an awkward combat system. It was obviously shipped by the floundering 3DO before they went under, but I couldn't even see where the designers were headed. What were they trying to accomplish with such an awkward attempt?

Enter Ubisoft who bought up all of New World Computing's IPs. They assigned a veteran game designer to re-establish the series. And he did. Ubisoft's treatment introduced a 3D movement and combat system. The mangled storyline was discarded a new one introduced. New towns and hero types were introduced to re-interest tired players.

I have to point out that the game had huge problems before patches were released. Not only did they fix bugs (both cosmetic and functional), they included the scenario editor, which allows players to build their own maps. My impressions are based on the patched version of the game, not the version fresh out of the box.

While Heroes III had a decent 2D movement and combat system, Heroes V replaced it with full 3D versions. I didn't see the benefit of a 3D movement system until I started using it. Not only can the world be rotated and otherwise adjusted, but you can zoom in and out to better view your current context.

The combat system is a real treat. The combat area is larger than in either of the previous games and--one huge gripe I had with the previous games--setting up your army before an attack is much, much simpler. While you can't see the opposing army's formation before the battle (as you shouldn't), you can see all battlefield obstacles before attacking and avoid them by strategically placing your troops. Also, certain troops can be left out on a per-battle criteria, if you so choose.

The combat system in also in 3D, which greatly improves fighting. The battlefield can be rotated to see behind obstacles and zoom in on details. One of my favorite features is the cinematic attacks. The game will occasionally zoom in on an attack, so you can see it close up. It really draws you into the game, a feat the 2D battles of the previous games couldn't pull off. The battles can even be saved for later viewing.

Many new creatures were introduced, but many of the existing ones were given makeovers. They have new attacks and new looks that further improve the game's appeal.

The game (via patches) comes with a level editor, an expected feature with most modern PC games. It is full featured and allows the user to create maps with any assets found in the game.

Overall, Heroes V is a great game and a worthy addition to the Heroes franchise. I keep coming back to it again and again.

The Bad

I hate to nit-pick with such a great game, but...

While it has an expansive campaign with dozens of scenarios, the stand-alone scenarios are sparse, about half a dozen. With the scores of stand-alone scenarios that came with Heroes III, this feels like a rip-off. Of course there are scenarios available (for free) off the Internet, but it'd be nice to have had more shipped with the game for those times you feel like playing, but don't want to invest in the entire campaign.

The level editor, while full-featured, isn't intuitive in the least. The eManual doesn't explain well how to use some of the more advanced features. It's obvious it was meant only as an in-house tool and wasn't really intended for consumer use.

The campaign forces the player to be evil, at least for part of the storyline. I prefer to play on the good sides and being forced to be evil really bugged me. I'm not a religious nut, but I hate being forced to play on a side that isn't my normal inclination.

Of course, like most modern games, Heroes V uses their spiffy 3D engine to display in-game cinematics. While this is okay, it doesn't really add much to the game. The graphics are fine, but the voice acting is atrocious. It sounds like the actors didn't understand the lines they were reading. The voices are fine, but the acting is almost non-existent.

Some of the explanatory text for spells doesn't make any sense. It's obvious the French developers of this game need to hire some native English speakers to clean up their translations.

The Bottom Line

While the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise was nearly destroyed by the sorry Heroes IV installment, this game re-invigorates the series with good 3D graphics, a new storyline and an intuitive and cinematic combat system.