Preview: Heroes of Might and Magic's Getting the MMO Treatment
By Vincent Haoson (Vincenthaoson), OnRPG Journalist
Heroes of Might and Magic Online (Writer's note: I'll call the game heroes online from this point on) is the MMO spin-off of the turn-based fantasy-themed franchise, Heroes of Might and Magic. For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, the game's premise is that you're a hero of a certain race, and through your strategic prowess both in military and economic management of your kingdom you eventually become the leader feared by all.
Heroes doesn't go far from its predecessors in terms of the overall game concept. However, the game takes liberty in adding the MMO elements that are never part of any of its past incarnations. I personally did not mind the additions since it adds the MMO feel that we're all so used to experiencing.
Heroes is not newbie friendly. You'd easily get lost in the game if you don't pay attention. I personally had problems in finding certain NPCs to go further in the numerous quests that were lined up for me to finish.
The game's tutorial is definitely lacking. There are a lot of important areas in the game that are not explained in the series of tutorials you that you may or may not take. I think the game assumes that you need to explore the game to figure things out. This doesn't bode well for those who are used to having the game information spoon-fed to them by the game.
Personally, I have no problems in terms of trying to figure things out, but there's a difference between being tolerant of the tedious discovery process because it's part of the game's "atmosphere" and just being ridiculously tedious. I mean it took me almost more than half an hour to figure out how to learn spells, and the NPCs that are supposed to help out don't have the answer. Even their wikipage gave me the wrong information.
Regardless of the initial inconveniences, once you get the hang of the game it's an enjoyable experience through and through (as long as you're a fan of turn-based battles)
As I mentioned earlier, the game retains the gameplay elements that Heroes of Might and Magic is famous for. However, with the game being an MMORPG, there's an additional layer of "adventuring" that's not part of any another Heroes game.
This "layer" is the real-time adventuring you will have to take to navigate through the world. Unlike in old heroes games where you move in turns and the primary gameplay core is resource management and military warfare, this version allows you to travel in real-time. The game also has random instanced battles once you get out of the city.
The old-school heroes gameplay is still found in the game, however, it's now a separated instance in the form of "quests" or areas of exploration.
The separation of these two major gameplay elements is pretty awkward. However, I think this is a necessary evil specially since the original gameplay is more of an acquired taste.
The game's battles is still pretty much the vanilla Heroes trademark turn-based combat. Regardless if it's a random instanced battle, PvP or PvE you still fight in a hexagonal grid. While personally I have no problems with the combat system since this is in fact a Heroes game, the problem of this combat system is still present.
I'm referring to the point where it's pretty awkward to manoeuvre your units specially on areas on the map that have monsters grouped together. It doesn't help too that the color of the movement boxes isn't too clear specially on specific maps.
Even with those problems present it doesn't change the fact that the combat is still challenging. It pushes you to think of better unit placement prior battles and during.
The spell book system is still part of the game feature. However, unlike in previous heroes titles where you learn your spell from your "library", the game requires you to do quests and go to specific areas to gain them. While gaining spells has become tedious, it's at least a refreshing change from the usual "you need to study spell so-and-so at your lv. 5 library".
The other thing I liked about the spells system is the alternative proficiency system the game has. Normally, you have to use the spells a lot before you get to be "master" of it, however in Heroes Online, you get to "meditate" and increase it gradually. The downside of this is that you can't move while you're meditating, but honestly, it's not a problem because that'd only mean you can leave your game on as your character "meditates" while you do other things.
Heroes Online's town management seemed to have been put in the background, unlike in other titles where it's your central most important game element (except for your hero of course). You can still upgrade structures and recruit units. However, that's basically the town's use.
Heroes Online has put more importance in your character growth instead of your town/city. Since a lot of the game elements that used to belong to the town/city has now branched off into separate game features, you can say that the prominence of your town has lessened, but it's still there to remind you that the game is not just about your character.
The game allows you to establish your town outside of the "city zones" into the "suburbs". These suburb towns are the scaled versions of your city which brings various benefits for your character. I personally liked the idea of the inclusion of such towns since it adds goals to your Heroes Online experience.
I for one liked the idea that Heroes of Might and Magic got itself the MMO treatment because the game has a lot of potential in the MMO scene. My only gripe with it is that the execution of the game lacks terribly. The game in my perspective is like a very rough version of Heroes of Might and Magic III (VI is already coming out next year so you can imagine the difference). Or maybe it's just that I expected too much from the game that delivered too little.
If TQ Digital planned on making the game a full-fledged MMO then they have succeeded. However the game lost the Heroes of Might and Magic feel that I was expecting to have. Still the game is solid enough to grab your attention.