Might & Magic Heroes VI Preview

Might & Magic Heroes VI may have been delayed to address fan feedback, but that doesn't stop the press from giving their opinions of what they've played so far during the first phase of the game's beta, with the latest in line being the folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
From the preview code, I'm getting a strong sense that despite superficial visual similarities it's a less characterful game than 1C's King's Bounty titles, and certainly one that's terribly caught up in its own long-running lore which of course it treats deadly seriously. However, it's much more elaborate, with a beefy choice of strategies, skill trees and build options. While the number of resources you need to gather has mercifully cut from seven to four, you're still presented with a battery of choices whenever you poke your nose into a city. It's a game of careful planning and a great many statistics, and while the turn-based nature of everything including movement across the world map tends to put the initiative in your hands (in singleplayer at least) I'm not convinced that this is a game that could be bludgeoned through. It's shed a bit of bloat, but it's not interested in anything other than proudly being a true-blue PC strategy game.

While the meat of your mightiness and magicking is setting armies of assorted fantasy tropes against other, and trying to mitigate losses so you don't have to spend a fortune replenishing for the next fight, the hero leading your silent armies provides structure and strategic nuance. Each turn, you can have him/her/it dole out either a straight-up attack, free from the risk of damaging retaliation which your units suffer when landing a turn's first blow on each enemy, or a spell. On top of that, your actions and choice of spells dictate whether you generate Blood or Tears, which are the game's reputation system and in turn open up new stuff. (The reputation system also extends to out-of-battle choices, such as whether you prevent a weaker enemy from fleeing from you or even giving you the fabled choice to talk to the monsters.)

The magic I dabbled in wasn't terribly interesting on a whizzbang level, focusing on buffs and debuffs rather than big, crazy, wild mayhem, which rather speaks to the nature of HoMM6. Its flashy in its way particularly in the occasional cuts from the standard isometric perspective to close-up, dramatic mega-stabs starring highly-detailed character models but primarily its interest is in tactics, not bombast or the silliness of King's Bounty. This numbers first/showing off second philosophy even extends to the city building, which isn't much more than buttons on a flat image. I'm the kind of guy who likes to see the results of his building, to see his settlement visibly improving, not just have an icon turn a different colour.