With release coming up and the early beta in full swing, it’s time to take a closer look at the upcoming Might and Magic Heroes VII. Obviously the standard disclaimer applies here – this is a “preview” version of the game and as such is obviously incomplete. Only a few of the campaign missions are available, there are still some gameplay quirks that obviously need to be fixed before launch, things may change between preview and release and so forth. Now let’s get down to brass tacks and take another trip in the world of Ashan, but be sure to bring a towel and a calendar.
To get us started, let’s talk timeline – an important thing to understand in Heroes 7, as each campaign will take place during a different period of history. To provide an anchor point, Ivan Griffin’s story (or the “Main” story if you will) takes place at 853YSD. To put it in perspective, that’s 200 years after the events of Might and Magic Heroes 6’s expansion Shades of Darkness, a decade after Holy Empress Maeve Falcon has been assassinated and a full 100 years before the events of Heroes 5. All the other campaigns take place at various times relating to their stories. For example, Murazel’s story takes place during the Orc Revolt in the late 460’s, while Anastasya’s story begins in 770YSD during the last days of the Purge of Necromancers. Aren’t you glad I told you to bring that calendar along with you?
The reason for the wild time jumps is simple: Duke Ivan of Griffin is about to change Ashan, as he reunites the warring factions under his banner and establishes the new Griffin Empire. This decision did not come to him easily nor was it quick, so to help him decide he has gathered his war council. Each campaign is a story told by a council member – vaguely relating to the situation at hand. Of course, if you’ve played the previous Heroes installments, you should have a fairly good idea of how these stories end. Despite this, the campaign missions I played were interesting and rich in lore and dialogue, and I am definitely looking forward to all the campaigns.
Might and Magic Heroes 7 brings us some interesting gameplay changes in both stronghold management and in combat, as well as the return of several features cut from Heroes 6. First among the returning features are the resource types – once again, Heroes is back to 7 different resources you’ll need to accumulate: Gold, Wood and Stone are joined by Dragon Blood Crystals, Starsilver, Dragon Steel and Shadowsteel. Your faction will usually need only 2-3 of the special resources, following the traditional Heroes formula and opening the option to trade away whatever you don’t need in exchange for what you do.
Along with resources, some buildings and town mechanics have been redesigned. For example, the “Fortification” type buildings now generate a local guard of units which can’t be moved out of the city but act as a “standing army” to deter invaders. Of course, higher-level fortifications allow for a larger force, as well as higher-tier units. This force obviously isn’t how you stop a massive invasion but it certainly can and will tip the scale in those close-call sieges. Another change to buildings is the new “Pick One” type of structure – offering you a choice of a single upgrade from two mutually-exclusive options. Interestingly, the top-tier creature for each faction is handled in this manner – it might seem confusing in the beginning but as you familiarize yourself with the game you’ll be able to pick the right champion creature for you.
To top off the list of city upgrades, special new skills called “Governor Skills” have been introduced for your heroes. These skills don’t do anything for the hero who unlocks them, but rather provide a certain bonus to an entire area, assuming the hero has been designated as the governor of the city. Governor heroes don’t need to stay in or even near the cities they govern, allowing them to provide a bonus even when they’re off fighting the good fight.
Your heroes themselves have mostly remained the same, with a “Might” and “Magic” specialization and the derived skills and abilities. The leveling system is an upgrade over what we’ve seen in Heroes 6 – your heroes do not get random skills, but instead earn skill points which you can then spend on abilities. Heroes 7 further upgrades the idea by granting bonuses for unlocking a tier, as well as special abilities that can be unlocked separately in each tier. For example, each tier of the “Leadership” skill wedge improves your hero’s leadership by another 10 points. However, once you unlock each tier, you can also unlock special skills – some are hero skills while others add various “Governor” abilities.
Of course, stronghold improvement and hero management is just half the fun. The other half is the turn-based combat for which the series is famed for. I’m happy to say that it’s everything I wanted it to be and then some. The basics, once again, remain the same. Your hero’s units face off the opposition on a grid, with each unit acting according to its initiative. In Heroes 7, war machines are making a comeback and certain heroes even get a “Warfare” skill to make them more effective. Apart from the “Catapult” type which is used exclusively in sieges, each faction has 2 war machines which are unique to them both in appearance and function. The only completely new mechanic introduced in combat is “Flanking”, to allow faster units to outmaneuver slower ones and strike them in the back or sides for additional damage. Of course, some units take better advantage of flanking than others and Dungeon heroes are especially adapt at striking from behind for those extra few points of damage.
While realizing this is just a preview and the full release isn’t until the end of September, I can say that what I’ve seen so far deserves praise. Might and Magic Heroes VII is poised to be a sequel that will overcome its predecessors’ shortcomings and return the series to being one of my personal favorite franchises in gaming.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.