Friday, September 30, 2011

HOMM 6 - Good and bad in the demo

Initially I was looking forward to the release of Heroes of Might and Magic 6.  Yesterday I downloaded the demo and now... not so much.  Not to say that HOMM6 looks awful, because it doesn't, but it doesn't look nearly as good as I was hoping.  The graphics are pretty and the world rendering is clearly a cut above the old titles in the series (though there are still some glitchy graphics issues I assume will be ironed out for release) but pretty isn't what I am looking for.  I want enduring mechanics and endless variety!

I don't know that I will be getting that.  Instead of 8 factions HOMM6 has 5.  Instead of 9 resource types HOMM6 has 4.  Instead of the necessity of carefully figuring out which cities to recruit from and what sort of army to build you can just convert any city into the faction type you want.  There will be no more ferrying troops around the map and worrying about logistics either since you can recruit every creature available anywhere in your empire in any city at any time.  Your heroes can teleport all over the map too so positioning is going to be drastically less important.  In the old HOMM3 (the classic!) you could eventually set up your hero to be able to move about the map with extreme speed but it took a lot of time and a massive investment in skills, stats and resources to make it happen.  So are these good things?

The main thing that is undeniable is that these changes will make the lategame much faster and involve much less clicking around.  No longer will you have to manage 6 'delivery boy' heroes who just carry troops around the map to the main army.  No longer will you have to spend turn after turn slowly walking here and there - in the late game you will get your troops and go wreck or be wrecked by your enemies.  In some ways this is a great thing since I always found the exploring of the early game to be the strongest point of the HOMM series and the intense micromanaging needed for a large empire became tiresome.  On the other hand I wonder if making positioning much less relevant is going to make the game less fun.  One thing for sure is that these changes will make the AI much better at playing the game.  It was clear that the AI had issues with long term planning and positioning and making it more feasible to have just one army that goes wherever it is needed will make outsmarting the AI more difficult.

On the other hand I lament the reduction in choice.  I want more factions, I want more mines and resources and *stuff* to find and think about and do.  It seems like many of the complex decisions of the past will be made trivial and I don't know that I like that much.  Do I hire another random hero to go collect all those mines or just use the cash to raise more troops?  Do I add these off-Faction troops to my army even though it reduces morale?  Which city do I try to attack first?

There are plenty of things in the demo and beta that are downright bad.  Magic heroes are useless, Faction balance is horrible and there are plenty of bugs.  On the other hand this is exactly what a beta is for; to find the bugs and help the devs locate balance problems.  Maybe it will be fine.  However, HOMM6 is definitely going on my 'wait and see what the reviews say' list.  Maybe the changes will just make the lategame faster and make me enjoy HOMM even more and maybe it will just feel like a chopped down game with pretty pictures.  Hard to tell.

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