Disclaimer: this review is based off a beta copy of the game; certain features such as campaign mode were thus unavailable to review. Information in this review is tentative and subject to change – At the time of writing, the game is due for release in just over a week, so make of that what you will.
If timeless classics such as Sid Meier’s Civilization or Super Smash Bros. have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when producing the next installment of a long established popular franchise. Just update the A.I. and the graphics and throw something new and shiny into the cogs to keep consumers happy – it’s not that hard (relatively speaking). That’s why it’s so perplexing that Might and Magic: Heroes VII, by Limbic Entertainment, has ended up in the state that it has.
The fantasy turn-based strategy game involves various factions battling for control of resources and map dominance. Each player begins the game with a citadel which can be upgraded in a number of ways to provide different services and units. The player can recruit several heroes who can be assigned units to travel the map, collect resources, and do battle in a turn based manner. The citadels this time around provide increased options and a welcome layer of complexity. Unfortunately, the services and benefits provided from your home base are almost uniform across the faction barrier, providing little in the way of uniqueness to the faction you choose, bar visuals and their units.
For games like this, it’s the multiplayer that will decide if the game will stand the test of time. A well supported multiplayer can keep a strategy game popular and relevant for years to come post-launch. Might and Magic has all the components to be successful. It’s just the right amount of complexity, and various settings are in place to make multiplayer run smoothly. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see that the multiplayer simply doesn’t work. A quick Google search will tell you that only a small handful of players seem to have success. With any luck, Steam users will have a better chance with this, but for now, consider this a warning about using Ubisoft’s own Uplay service.
With nothing but disappointment after an hour of trying to get multiplayer to work, users can make do with single player. Considering this is basically all you’ll be doing, the four maps you have to choose from leave more to be desired. Map variety is crucial as previous iterations of Heroes of Might and Magic have seemingly agreed with, some launching with over 30 maps – so why so few this time around? This leaves players with the campaign mode, which was regrettably locked away for this review.
The disappointment doesn’t end here. The initial excitement of playing a 1v1 versus an AI is misleadingly enjoyable, and in fact, short lived once a player wishes to add further difficulty and add an additional opponent into the game. As a turn-based strategy game, it’s important that your opponent’s turns don’t take so long as to lose the player’s attention. On multiplayer, against other humans, it is forgiveable that a turn may take a couple of minutes. Against multiple AI, having to wait between three to five minutes for a computer to take a turn is a cardinal sin, and nothing short of simple bad development – if the same game series 12 years ago can include an AI that takes turns in a matter of seconds, so can Limbic Entertainment.
Poor English that simply doesn’t make sense is a fairly common sight throughout the game and hammers the final nail in the coffin, adding to the amateurish air associated with this project. The mind boggles as to how anyone on the development team or the publisher, Ubisoft, believes that this is an acceptable state to release a game in.
Heroes of Might and Magic is a game I have many fond memories of as a child. I want to like this game – God, do I want to like it. But releasing a game in this state is inexcusable. The core game plays wonderfully, and has so much potential, but lazy development has all but ruined the product. Maybe with some post-release love and care, the game will become the next great instalment of Heroes of Might and Magic it knows it can be, but in its current state, this is on track to be nothing more than a frustrating disappointment.
Ubisoft is developing an image of releasing unfinished games as of late, and it’s one to which Might and Magic: Heroes VII will only add.