The venerable Heroes of Might and Magic series returns for a fifth installment, with updated graphics, gameplay, and missions. New publisher Ubisoft wisely re-creates the formula that made the first four installments classics of their time -- streamlined, simplified, and stunningly presented, though not without some minor flaws.
By now, the description of this game should be as familiar as a pair of well-worn Boots of Striding. After choosing a map, you select one of six fantasy-inspired races as well as a starting hero. This hero acts as your agent, leading your armies as you explore the map turn by turn, capturing resources, artifacts, and mines along the way and allowing you to upgrade your town to produce more powerful creatures.
Battles themselves take place on a specialized tactics map, on which each of your creature armies move and engage enemy stacks with colorful (if repetitive) attack animations. Noticeable graphical slowdown accompanies some of the more epic conflicts, detracting from the visual action but not impacting the game due to the turn-based nature of combat. Though skillful use of your troops can sometimes result in victory over numerically superior forces, sometimes these battles come down to who has the most massive army, meaning that Heroes V tests both your strategic and tactical intelligence.
Heroes V also features a campaign mode, with a story sequence set in the persistent world of Erathia. Campaign missions, though uneven, provide a nice alternative to the typical Heroes map, with the story told through well-voiced and animated cut-scenes. One of the best parts of the campaign is that you carry over your hero, along with his/her accumulated experience, from mission to mission, though you'll have to rebuild your army from scratch each time.
Campaign as well as standalone maps can take several hours to complete -- hours which fly due to the game's addictive "one more turn" dynamic. Exploring the map and developing your hero happens at a satisfyingly rapid clip, meaning that you're always wanting to grab just one more treasure, defeat one more wandering army, build one more creature dwelling, until you look up and realize that the sun's coming up. Heroes V does away with some of the "improvements" from Heroes IV, notably the simultaneous attacks during battle and the wandering neutral creature armies, changes that Heroes purists will appreciate. Newcomers to the series should budget plenty of time since it's mighty hard to stop playing once you're hooked on Heroes V.
Graphics: The series looks great in 3D, particularly the fun character attack animations and 2D art. It's a bit buggy during battles, however, with significant slowdown and glitches present during large battles.
Sound: A wonderful, classically inspired score, particularly in the town/castle scenes, complemented by above average sound effects.
Enjoyment: The addictive Heroes formula is even more habit-forming in its newest iteration.
Replay Value: Replayability is hurt by the lack of a random map generator and a relatively small selection of multiplayer maps.
People who downloaded Heroes of Might and Magic V have also downloaded:
Heroes of Might and Magic 4, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Heroes of Might and Magic, Heroes of Might and Magic II (Deluxe Edition), Diablo 2, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Heroes of Might and Magic 2: Gold Edition, Might and Magic 9
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