Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting Back to My Roots

Once upon a magical time, in the fourth
Incredible bad guy-killing text!
grade, my friend Josh told me about this new game he'd got. It was called "Heroes." It had heroes in it! And...creatures...and you killed bad guys and took their castles and were able to make MORE creatures! He was really excited about it but I wasn't sold. He went on to say it was like Civilization 2 except with monsters and stuff. "Civ 2 with monsters" didn't sound very cool to me. However, it turns out the game, Heroes of Might and Magic 2, was freaking AWESOME. We played that game a lot. A whole lot. My favorite sides were the Warlocks (dragons = the best), but I liked most of them equally (except the humans, they were kind of meh). We even tried to play it online (back when you only needed one copy of the game in order to play each other of the modem), but it turns out two fourth graders 20 miles apart with only one phone line each were not very good can getting connection to work. (At one point, I called him to ask what was going on. It never rang, but just sounded blank like someone had picked up. I started talking, but he never responded. Turns out he could hear me over the computer speakers and kept trying to yell back to me through them.)

Oh city screen, I'll always miss you.
Once Heroes 3 came out and was even better, I was hooked. It's too bad they didn't really put counters on time played on games back then, I would love to know just how long I spent in sixth grade and beyond play it. I already know it's an unhealthy amount, but we'll never know just how unhealthy. Except then Heroes 4 was lame. And 5 had such annoying battle cameras and cut-scenes that I only put about an hour into it before calling it quits.

A few months ago, I starting seeing advertisements on Steam for "Might and Magic ® Heroes ® VI". That's right--two registered trademark symbols. (Sidenote: of the 65 games I have on Steam, this is the only game with those in the title. And there's two of them. In other news: Holy crap I have 65 games on Steam.) And why did they change the title? That made me a little nervous. However, I know better than to judge a book by its cover. Once it released, it got good but definitely not great reviews. I'd been burned in the past, so I decided I'd wait for it to go on sale and try it later.

Much less cartoony, that's for sure. 
That day came on December 31st. It was a perfect storm of contributing factors. It was 50% off on Steam for one day only. I had just won Chore Wars (more on that in another post) for the month of December. And then Aubrey's computer died, meaning in part that if we were going to play a game together, it would have to be on the same computer at the same time. (Hint: As the Heroes games are turn-based, you can play them in "Hotseat" mode, meaning more than one person can play in the same game on the same computer, you just switch out.) So I went ahead and pulled the trigger.

The Good so far:
Good graphics on the adventure map.
The creatures all appear to be very unique.
Solid Heroes of Might and Magic gameplay.
New mechanics on how to guard mines/other buildings on the adventure map.
The introduction of Dynasty Heroes and Weapons.
Using achievement points to buy items (I was worried about this at first, but they give you a ton of points).
The soundtrack.

The Less Good:
Runs pretty clunky. If I can run Skyrim on my laptop, Heroes 6 has no excuse.
Removal of the City Screen. What? Where did it go?
Objects are somewhat harder to identify on the adventure map. It all kind of runs together at first.
Other small interface changes.
The terrible-sauce DRM.

More on the Dynasty stuff and the DRM. Dynasty Heroes and Dynasty Weapons persist from map to map. So if you level up a hero in one custom game, they stay leveled for your next match. Dynasty Weapons are weapons you equip to your heroes that can also level up and persist beyond a single match. There's about 25 of them that you can find through the campaign and other sources. I'm totally digging both of these additions.

Ok, now, which things can I pick up and where can/can't I walk?
The DRM, on the other hand, is terrible. As I bought the game through Steam, I'm already about as DRM'd as I can be. However, Ubisoft decided that each player also needed to have a personal login for the game itself. All of your game progress is stored on Ubisoft servers. This is kind of cool, but if you don't have an internet connection or (much more likely) the service just goes down, you have no access to your saved games or Dynasty heroes/weapons and cannot unlock achievements. Sigh.

Either way, I'd definitely recommend picking it up. It's not Heroes 3, but it is very good. I think the only real reason not to get it would be if you're a stickler about DRM, as most of my other complaints were either personal preference or things that I just need to get used to. I've even got Aubrey hooked on it after only one game. Thank goodness for Hotseat mode.

Pick up Heroes 2 or Heroes 3 on Good Old Games! (Link to GoG front page here)
Heroes 6 on Steam or Amazon or, you know, whatever.

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