As a game critic, I typically try to distance my emotions from my ability to judge a game; I think I do a pretty good job. However, once in a while a game comes along that I truly wish was better. In the case of Might and Magic Heroes, it’s a series I’ve been playing off and on for years. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced the franchise. I got a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic III at a garage sale almost entirely because of the epic box art.
At the time, I was primarily a console gamer, so strategy games involving turn-based tactics, resource management, and ruling over armies was entirely foreign to me. I ended up playing for several hours in one sitting and was hooked.
In the years since, the game from my childhood has been re-released in HD with mixed results, and the next four games in the series have all been either loved or hated. It’s a long-running series that’s changed developers and publishers more than once, yet they continue to churn out new games every few years. And time after time, the HoMM games are released before they are ready.
It’s a reality of the games industry nowadays that if you buy a new game from a AAA publisher, there will be bugs. There are lots of reasons for this, including the sheer size and scope of modern games making it impossible to find every issue, and the fact that in many cases, publishers would rather release an unfinished project than miss their launch window and delay things further. In the case of HoMM VII, it desperately needed more time.
For starters, the lack of stability was unbearable. It crashed on me numerous times during each play session. Everything from clicking something in the UI, to the loading screen, and even just leaving the game on without doing anything would cause it to crash. It became like a game-within-the-game just to see how much continuous play-time I could get in before running into an issue.
Beyond the technical issues, there were plenty of other little bugs as well. Weird graphical glitches, audio skipping, screen tearing, and the abomination known as UPlay, all pulled down the experience even further. When you have to go into a game immediately struggling to find something positive or enjoyable, that’s really not a good sign.
If you’re lucky enough to actually get into the game, things aren’t much closer to expectations, but still a step back from HoMM VI. There is such an abhorrent lack of regard for the player’s experience that it borders on insulting. I’ve never felt so confused by an interface in my life and this is a series I grew up with. Then the campaign itself is a watered-down version of what we’ve seen in the past. It feels more like loosely strung together short missions that lack cohesion and consistency.
Even a game like this, though, still has positive aspects. First of all, it shows that Ubisoft hasn’t forgotten about the franchise, which means that maybe next time they can do a better job. The maps themselves are visually interesting and well laid-out. The skill selections for heroes make sense and feel useful, at least more so than in VII. But all of that is essentially meaningless when the AI itself lacks the ability to put up an intelligent fight.
While playing Heroes of Might and Magic VII, I was struck with an overwhelming wave of disappointment like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I truly wanted this game to recapture the magic that the series has been lacking for so many years, but it’s not even close. If you’re interested in seeing what these games are about, then I insist you try HoMM V instead for single player, or HoMM VI for multiplayer since V is no longer supported.
As a reviewer, I was bored, as a gamer I was confused, and as a fan, I was disappointed. Ubisoft’s indifference for a long-running and beloved series is a problem, and I hope they realize that.