Might & Magic Heroes has been an ever evolving franchise since its inception twenty years ago. It has always been a strategic title with a deep lore that fans can enjoy. The latest iteration, Might & Magic Heroes VII takes place chronologically in the year 853YSD between the events of Heroes V and Heroes VI. We got a chance to sit down and play a bit with the Stronghold faction which Limbic Entertainment has emphasized will be a focus as it is a fan-favorite faction.
If you are unfamiliar with the series and the lore behind the game, the Stronghold faction focuses on the Orcs who are the Ashan’s fiercest warriors and a race that has been created by the Wizards for slavery. Their story will focus on Imani, a female Orc Chieftain who inevitably leads her people to their promised land. The story opens up with players having about a month to recruit four groups to fight alongside the Orcs to rebel against the Wizard’s rule.
Players will utilize ‘move points’ to move around the area map that is represented by a green semi-circle around the hero portrait. After starting out by exploring around the map a little, collecting resources like gold, and wood. The map slowly began to reveal itself as the fog of war lifted and I came across a Gnoll named, Kaftar. Gnolls are half-man half-hyena creatures created by the Wizards also as slaves, so freeing him had his tribe join our Orc crusade. I then came across a structure that I was able to enter and take over, Blackfang Hideout. After entering it, the building revealed other observatories on the map. Taking over structures like this tend to cause various things to happen, always positive, so exploration is encouraged.
After meeting another group and being tasked to free them, I quickly learned that gold is an ever-important resource as I was introduced to a Griffon who agreed to join me for a sum of money. I proceeded to explore some more, pillaging a saw mill for weekly wood, and an Elemental Conflux that gave me my choice of allies to recruit, once per in-game week. Continuing on, I visited several other structures gaining +1 defense, and horses for my Fortress and then I finally decided to battle. At first, I thought that having seven different resources would be a bit overwhelming but in actuality, the fans asked for this to have a sense of economy in the game and it is rather nice to trade at the marketplace and always have a constant flow of resources as to have ownership to something greater.
Might & Magic Heroes is known for their turn-based battle system that can be difficult for newcomers to grasp. At the start you are given a choice to either do a quick battle, which takes many things into account, such as the levels of the competing forces, and how many there are. Alternatively you can try your luck and participate in the battle, at which point you are drawn into a chess-like battle map that offers more strategy and control. Each Hero oversees the battle on each side and are able to affect the fight with magic or ranged attacks. Certain creatures/units can do ranged attacks that vary in damage based upon distance and angle of attack. Flanking is new to Heroes VII and allows players to come at the enemies from an angle, doing significantly more damage. The cover system has also been improved from previous iterations that allows players to use structures in the battle map to hide and take cover from ranged fire. Graphically the game is what players would expect from a strategy title, even though it utilizes Unreal Engine 3, the battles do look pretty cool.
Gleefully Imani and her newfound allies won the battle and leveled up. As a default in Heroes VII players are shown an intricate skill tree for their hero to utilize and distribute leveling points and earn new skills. Fans who enjoy the ‘random skill’ from Heroes V will not have to worry, as this is an option that can be turned on so your Hero’s destiny can be in faith’s hands. After freeing the Harpies and exploring some more I came across a patrolling enemy hero. These NPC’s are usually a lot tougher than normal foes but also garner larger XP rewards. Once I defeated him and moved north to explore more of the map I came across a Centaur work camp. I was given a choice of how to free them, Imani could either use her forces and fight through the camp killing the guards or use a nearby Siege Engine and destroy the dam flooding the work camp, killing the guards and saving the Centaurs. I chose to first kill the lone guard who blocked my access to the Siege Engine and entered the pyramid-like structure which fired arcane energy into the dam. Choices like these are going to be littered into the maps across all the factions in the single player, they encourage replay value and player choice.
Shortly after, I was treated to a cut scene to which I was shown that despite Imani’s hard work, her efforts were fruitless as the Orc army had been invaded while she was gone to recruit. When a fight broke out between Imani and Jengo, another powerful warrior in the tribe who wanted control of the army, there could only be one leader. The goal of the next map was to bury the fallen Orcs, and speak to those who are left to see if they are willing to join Imani’s fight against Jengo to take control of the Orcs, and put them on the right path. Many scenes are a combination of voice-acting and on-screen words but the scenes themselves are like paintings which adds an interesting aesthetic to the game
After, I was introduced to the Fortress, which can be leveled up and expanded upon as you progress the game. As you continue, from map to map you can carry over all your resources and continue to grow your army. Later, I explored and paid respects to the fallen Orcs and decided to take on an enemy who was ranked ‘average’. I subsequently died, which taught me a lesson that all Might & Magic Heroes fans know, no matter how prepared you think you are the enemies can destroy you with a few stupid mistakes.
In the end, I enjoyed my time with Might & Magic Heroes VII. It showed elements of strategy, RPG, and a heavy focus on economy that Limbic Entertainment has promised their fans. It feels like a culmination of everything that fans have come to expect from the Heroes series. Six factions will be in the full game with twenty-five maps available for the single player. Already, the game has a large community with over 200,000 active users. If all goes as planned, barring any online issues at launch, fans should be prepared for the definitive Might & Magic Heroes experience to celebrate the 20th anniversary when Might & Magic Heroes VII launches later this year.