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Publisher: Freeverse    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Intel    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 2048 MB    DVD-ROM

Heroes of Might & Magic V
April 3, 2007 | Richard Hallas

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All at sea

Heroes in a parallel universe
Heroes V, with various small tweaks and refinements, maintains exactly the same basic set of ingredients the made its predecessors so successful. If anything, it's like a reinvention of Heroes III with the good bits of Heroes IV incorporated (and the bad bits left out). So far, so good; anyone who loved the previous games will feel at home very quickly in the new one. Yet players who did love the previous games may also be disappointed to discover that the game feels so different, and that their favourite characters have vanished. Familiar heroes like Sandro, Crag Hack, Yog, Gem and Lord Haart, who appeared in several or all of the previous Heroes game, are all absent; to an experienced Heroes player, it's rather like going back to an old house, looking for old friends, only to find that the house has been redecorated and the people you knew have moved away.

Nevertheless, the game mechanics are very much the same as in Heroes III. It's really not possible to discuss every aspect of the game, as it's so rich and subtle, so what I'm going to do is to examine some key areas and see how they compare with earlier games in the series.

Game maps and exploration
Like its predecessors, Heroes V comes with a set of linked campaign-based scenarios and a selection of individual stand-alone maps for single-player and multiplayer use. The campaign, which is broken into six sets of missions, is actually very extensive and will take any player some considerable time to work through. This is good, because the range of individual maps for 'random access play' once the campaign is finished is rather disappointingly small: just six single-player maps and a further twenty maps designed for multiplayer use (you can also play these against the computer). Curiously, there are no small-size maps at all. It's a shame that more content isn't provided as standard, although it would be fair to say that more maps have been added over the life of the PC game (the original PC release came with even less content), so the Mac release is better from the outset. Even so, bear in mind that Heroes III included nearly 50 original single-player maps, aside from all the campaign scenarios (plus more than 50 maps each for both of its subsequent expansion packs), and Heroes V still looks a little light on content by comparison. Luckily, third party maps are available for download on sites such as Celestial Heavens.

Anyway, questions of compatibility aside, once you've loaded your choice of map into Heroes V you'll find yourself presented with a richly attractive playing area, just as in previous Heroes games. Heroes V goes back to the Heroes III (and earlier) style of a map that reveals its contents permanently as you explore it; the 'fog of war' introduced in Heroes IV has gone, which I feel to be an improvement. However, the 'cover of darkness' from Heroes III (whereby Necromancer castles could be hidden on the map) have not been reproduced.

One of the improvements of Heroes IV which has been lost, though, is the presence of multiple oracles to reveal multiple buried objects in the adventure map. Visit all oracles of the same colour and you would be rewarded with the location of a valuable buried object which could then be dug up; multiple oracles of different colours would reveal multiple treasures. Heroes V returns to the single set of obelisks which reveal a buried grail, exactly like Heroes III. Again, if you discover this grail, you can use it to build a single very beneficial grail structure in the town of your choice. For no obvious reason, in Heroes V the grail has been renamed the Tears of Asha, but it's still the grail out of Heroes III in all but name.

Overall, the adventure map in Heroes V is very much like that of Heroes III in terms of content, and you'll come across much the same range of structures to visit, including signposts, creature dwellings, waterwheels, mana-replenishing wells, trees of knowledge and all the rest. They've often changed their names and their appearance somewhat (for instance, entrances to underground caverns are now spiral staircases rather than malevolent-looking caves), but there's a very high correlation of map structures between Heroes III and Heroes V. And that's a good thing, even though you may regret the lack of advancement that it represents.

Towns and troops
Like both Heroes IV and Heroes II, Heroes V features six town types (Haven, Inferno, Necropolis, Sylvan, Dungeon, Academy), though the names and contents of the towns are somewhat different from the previous games. Although this may seem lacking in variety compared with the nine town types of the expanded Heroes III, the balance is actually very good overall. Clearly, though, there aren't as many creature types in Heroes V as in Heroes III, but many familiar creatures do make a return. Don't be fooled, though: the organisation is pretty different from the previous games, and many familiar-sounding creatures are actually quite different in character from their earlier incarnations.

Creatures may still be bought in two versions (standard and upgraded), and, as in previous games, you'll want the upgraded versions whenever possible. Some creatures follow the same upgrade path as before (for instance, imps still upgrade into familiars) whilst others have new upgrades (skeletons upgrade into bow-wielding skeleton archers, which are far more useful than the skeleton warriors of Heroes III). Some creatures are renamed (dendroids are now treants, genies are now djinn), some have, sadly, gone AWOL (cyclops, gorgons, several types of dragon) and several brand new creature types have appeared (such as the rakshasa, shadow dragon, succubus and hunter). The phoenix, a favourite creature from Heroes II onwards, remains in Heroes V but is now extremely rare and difficult to obtain.

Overall, whilst Heroes V lacks the very wide range of creatures in Heroes III (there are 90 creature types in Heroes V; the expanded Heroes III features 140), the range is still amply wide and the variety and interest is considerable. Curiously, though, the range of creatures seems to be strongly related to Heroes III; all the new creatures introduced in Heroes IV have vanished again.

One small but interesting twist is that every town in the game now has its own 'biography' and specialisation; a fact that makes towns individual in a similar way to heroes. Each named town has its own history, which you can choose to read if you want to, and specialisation, which grants something minor but useful: more effective resource silo, better market rates, improved luck or defence bonus, cheaper ships and many other benefits.


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