Heroes of Might And Magic 5 (referred as HoMM 5 from now on) is fifth game in popular Heroes of Might and Magic game series, and was developed by Nival Interactive and published by Ubisoft during the May of 2006. HoMM5, as all the earlier installments of the Heroes series, is hybrid of RPG and strategy games taking place of the world of Might and Magic RPG series, containing references to both series in forms of events and characters. This review is written basing on the vanilla 1.5 version of the game, so some of the problems may have been fixed in later patches and expansions. Graphics HoMM5 takes huge step graphically when compared to earlier games of the series, turning both the world map and the battle field in the 3D system. While the graphics are not even close to standards excepted from games released today back in 2006 the game was very beautiful. And it still is, with the bright colors and small details of creatures, buildings and terrain, the game is still good to look at. Even though the graphics are good there are several bugs and annoyances, which while do not make the game unplayable may turn more demanding players away from the game. First problem is that for some reason the game has quite much trouble of displaying the detailed graphics and textures. Even when played in top-end computer, most of the time the terrains turns lower quality of textures, turning the world rather ugly. This problem may occur in random occasions, and the problem exists throughout the rest of the map, and there is nothing that can be done to fix the problem. So, in the other words, the map may start as beautiful, but most of the time in some point it will fail to use the higher quality textures. The same problem occurs in smaller extend during the battles, where the game fails to load one or more creature textures, turning those creatures to ugly looking sprites. Another problem that I have experienced is that at times the game just shows black screen, even though the game is still running. Fortunately this problem can be solved immediately by alt-tabbing out from the game and then back, which will make the screen appear correctly again. While this problem is minor one it’s quite annoying, and in one occasion the game crashed when I tried to return to the game. Audio The audio can be described as good, though nothing revolutionary. Generally the audio is good, and all the videos are voiced, though few times the game failed to play the dialogue audio. Fortunately those moments were rare and not too annoying. Story, campaign and custom scenarios The following section contains some spoilers, though nothing major. Read at your own risk. The story of the HoMM5 takes place in undetermined time, though there are several hints of the general time of the game compared to other Heroes games as well as Might and Magic games. Prince Nicolai is the king of the Griffin Empire. The empire is in war against demon armies of Sheogh, and the basing on the initial video the war has been raging for some time already. The story of the HoMM5 is told by the series of campaigns, one campaign for each different factions of the game. While the campaigns tell the same story in linear fashion the point of view depends on the faction currently running. This affects which hero is under the focus, and that hero must survive each mission of the campaign for player to proceed to next mission. Each mission consist of series of quests, ranging from killing opposing hero, capturing certain town, reaching certain location before opposing hero to even escaping the opponent without being killed. Compared to earlier games this change is quite refreshing, as the goals in earlier games were mostly either killing certain hero, capturing certain town or just annihilating all the opponents. There are also lots of smaller secondary goals, which make the mission more interesting than before. The only complain I have with the campaign system introduced in HoMM5 is that, unlike earlier games, there is no possibility of choosing which campaign can be played. This is due the fact that all campaigns follow the same story in certain order. Still I miss the possibility of choosing from one or more campaigns to play. Generally the story of HoMM5 is well written, with lots of surprising moments and cliffhangers. More than once I was surprised on how the story events turns out, which is only a good thing. Besides the campaign there are several custom scenarios to be played, all telling own private story taking place in the same world. While the world is same not all of the scenarios are linked to the main story, so playing the campaign is not required to enjoy the custom missions. Bad thing is that there are so few of these custom missions available in the vanilla game, and as there is no random generator those maps offer too little in terms of playing time. On a side note, this problem was fixed in expansions, but I don’t discuss about that more here, as this review is about the vanilla game. World map and battle field The majority of the game takes place in the world map. This is where the player moves the heroes around, construct buildings in towns and hire creatures. As the game is updated to 3D the point of view can be turned around, tilted to different angles and even zooming is possible. While it’s nifty feature it also brings lots of problems. The biggest problem is that the tilting and turning is done by clicking right mouse button, and while holding the button down moving the mouse will rotate the camera. Now, the problem is that to get the tool tip of the object under the cursor is also shown by right mouse button, which will most of the time rotate the camera as well, which will move the object away from the location of the mouse, and thus no tool tip is shown. This is very frustrating as the description given in the tool tip also contains details like the vague amount of creatures in the group or in the army, so getting that crucial detail is quite difficult to get. To compensate this problem the game also offers the possibility of using original Heroes camera system, which will remove the possibility of rotating, tilting and zooming. While this mode removes that specific problem it also makes it nearly impossible to notice resources, building and creatures near other objects. So both modes have their pros and cons, and it’s quite difficult to decide which is better, resulting unnecessary changing between the modes. The only good thing is that the mode can be changed on the fly, so no returning to main menu and the reloading the scenario is required. The battles takes place in special mode called battle field. This mode consists of small map with square grids, armies placed on the different sides of the field. Each creature can be moved separately, the order depending on the initiate stats of the creatures as well as other factors, like affecting spells, special abilities used by creatures and so on. At the beginning of the battle each player can arrange their troops in their side of the field as seen fit, the area which can be used for this is determined by certain skills of the heroes. The game also features automatic arrangement, which works mostly poorly as it tends to place the melee creatures around the ranged units in tight formation, at times making certain units unable to move as their path is blocked. After the arrangement has been done the battle begins, and creatures act in turns, the order depending on factors described above. Now, regarding the hero usage in the battle, the game combines both systems from earlier Heroes games as well as Heroes of Might and Magic 4. This means that the heroes act as separated units, so casting the spells is only possible when it’s hero’s turn. This system was introduced in HoMM4, and makes the battle more interesting as the player has no possibility of casting those mass destruction spells immediately but waiting for hero’s turn is required. The change to this system is that, like in HoMM3 and earlier games, the heroes are immortal in combat and can’t move nor be targeted by spells. I wonder why this step back was taken, as it was good thing when hero was own separate unit, tougher than normal creatures but still killable. There is also similar problem in battles as in world map, as the camera can be turned by right mouse button and moving the mouse. When the battle contains bigger creatures this is more than required, as the cursor will focus on the creature blocking the tile behind it. Now, as itself this is not a problem, but as all the descriptions require pressing right mouse button to be shown it’s quite difficult to hold the camera still while obtaining this information. A flaw in design if you ask me.