Might & Magic Heroes VII
Copy provided by publisher.
The Might & Magic Heroes franchise seems to be in a difficult place. At best it has stagnated, at worst it is actively moving backwards, budgeting itself and catering solely to the current fans who already know exactly how to play it, what it will entail and need no instructions going in. While there is nothing wrong with playing it safe and doing what you’ve always done, making just the improvements that are needed, Limbic Entertainment failed to understand that a sequel should improve on, or include new features, not take away, which is what they have done with Might & Magic Heroes VII.
Newcomers need not apply when it comes to this game. Without a doubt, Might & Magic Heroes VII has been designed under the impression that somebody who hadn’t played a previous entry wouldn’t be interested in picking this up. How this shows most clearly is that nothing is actively explained and even features not found in the previous few games, one example being the inclusion of town governors, are not explained in any way. What makes this more concerning, particularly in the town governor aspect, is that a main quest in one of the campaigns demands you set a hero as a governor and there is no means, bar through a website or guide, of reading how to do it.
Not everything is a negative, though even the positives have their downfalls. The campaign offered is reasonably strong, offering itself up in smaller chunks; it centers around Ivan Griffin and his six advisers, meeting after the assassination of the Empress. Ivan is seeking the crown and wants advice on the way to go. The six campaigns on offer give a separate perspective on a rise to power, each having a little story of their own. Once all six all six are complete Ivans campaign is then unlocked.
This sectioning of the campaign into seven separate stories has the benefit of offering more concise and manageable entries, easier to jump in and out and specifically for shorter sessions or the ability to jump in and out as and when needed. Indeed, I would argue that this has by far the best campaign of any of the Might & Magic Heroes series.
Where the campaign falters is where the budgeting rears its ugly head once again. The cutscenes shown throughout, particularly during the beginning campaign and in between the stages, are nothing short of terrible. Ugly 3D character models sit around a table while the voice actors go at it; as the conversation progresses, we get yet another still of the characters sitting there as if in the middle of talking, slack jawed. It’s downright hideous to say the least and would be much improved if the characters were simply hand-drawn stills, alongside the voice acting, much like what is used in the middle of a mission when a story event occurs.
This ugliness sadly permeates throughout the rest of the game. The majority of character models, particularly those found in the battles, are rugged and a large number of them appear to have been reused from the previous iteration. Just a few of the models are animated reasonably well, but the rest are merely passable, often quite clunky in movement and never really seeming like they are interacting with each other and the world around them. Not only that, the relation between them and the sound effects are non-existent; this is a world where a giant ogre hitting a soldier with a club the size of a car results in the same sorry splat of used tissue paper being thrown against a wall.
Far beyond the models being rough, something that can be forgiven to some extent in a turn based strategy like this. The unforgivable sin that Limbic Entertainment committed with Might & Magic Heroes VII is in making some of the city development menus downright painful to view. What makes it all the more strange is that, if you don’t count bugs where text overlaps can occur and the unintuitive nature of navigation in the menus, it can be very attractive to look at.
Going by the loading screen, something you’ll find yourself looking at a little too much, Limbic were going for a stained glass theme throughout. It shows when the day counter in the bottom right has that effect, the overall town view shares the same theme and looks downright beautiful as a result. Why, then, the development menus within the town resort to blocks and circles with no real link to the theme is a wonder.
Sadly, as previously mentioned, you find yourself looking at the loading screen a long time. Launching the game can take minutes even on a higher spec PC, which makes me shudder at the thought of how long it would take on a lesser system. If it were limited to launching it could be forgiven, but should you play a large skirmish, which is genuinely the best time you will have with the game, then the time you sit there doing absolutely nothing in between turns is downright unforgivable. When games like Civilization and King’s Bounty can manage to run through AI turns rapidly, there’s no excuse for a top priced title like this to slog as it does.
Game breaking bugs can be encountered at any time, one such bug I encountered in a campaign game had my general stuck inside a city, irretrievable and making the quest impossible to complete. Of course I was able to resort to an earlier autosave, which is done at the end of every turn, but to have to resort to that is a failure in itself. Other performance issues include the camera which has a tendency to go haywire, looking where it decides you should look and not where you need to. Slowdown can occur seemingly as a result of uPlay and of course being tied to Uplay results in the much-too-common downtime when a connection cannot be made.
Going back to what I said at the beginning, something needs to change. What should be a flagship title for Ubisoft to prove that they have a place in the PC market has stagnated. Budgets seem to be getting smaller. Features are cut, in this case the feature is the game simply telling you how to play it.
Might & Magic Heroes, or Heroes of Might and Magic, is one of the longest running franchises in PC gaming history. Spanning seven main games in the series, with seven spin-offs for both PC and consoles, in the past twenty years, it should be a celebrated franchise that has the care it deserves. From the deterioration in the previous two entries, particularly Might & Magic Heroes VII, I don’t see a particularly bright future ahead.
Even as a budget title the game would struggle to be worth it, but at a full retail price and as an extension of one of the PC's longest running franchises, it's in a sorry state. Whatever the reason may be, this game is little more than a failure in my eyes.
- The battles are solid, offering the tried and tested turn-based tactical offering that has been around for years. With a variety of units to choose from, offering territory control and city development, it can still keep you engrossed, especically in skirmish games against multiple opponents.
- Almost impenetrable for anybody new, even those familiar will struggle due to an unintuitive design which has left a game that feels the need to explain nothing. Performance issues and long loading times, combined with graphical inconsistencies, poor textures and models lead to a sub-par experience.