John Van Caneghem in 1995 created the Heroes of Might and Magic videogame series based off the Might and Magic franchise, which he also created. Heroes of Might and Magic would invite the player into a glorious high-fantasy universe with captivating lore and memorable characters. The player would lead their armies against powerful rivals on the battlefield in a turn-based fashion. For two decades the franchise has provided both strategy and RPG enthusiasts the adventure and battle they crave as they march their army across the land. Now twenty years later, from publisher Ubisoft and developers Limbic Entertainment, the 7th installment of this famed franchise: Might & Magic Heroes VII has arrived as a celebration of a strategy/RPG franchise beloved by fans worldwide. That celebration however, might be short lived as this new chapter might not provide as much of an exciting adventure in the world of Might & Magic as before.
The Ten Years War rages on between Duke Ivan Griffin and Duke Seamus Stag. Growing weary of battle with his rival to claim the Imperial Throne, Duke Ivan assembles the Shadow Council made of his most trusted companions. Here he hears tales from each of his council members, which will influence him how to end the war as swiftly as possible before claiming the Throne for himself.
This new chapter of Might and Magic Heroes follows the gameplay style of its older predecessors. It’s a turn-based strategy game where your goal is to amass an army and destroy your enemy’s fortress to achieve victory. In campaign mode or your own custom campaign, you start off on the map near your town. You control your hero and move him or her around the map. Like in previous games you gather resources, construct buildings and buy new units. You can acquire buildings like lumber mills and mines to get a steady supply line of resources and you can trade resources with other factions. You’ll have to gather lots of resources and capture enemy territory if you wish to build a bigger army.
At your town you can build more advanced structures that will allow you to recruit better soldiers. There are standard units from like infantry, archers, magic users which lead to more elite troops depending on your chosen faction like Druids, the Cavalier, the Vampire and even beasts like Golems, Centaurs, Wyverns and many more. You can also learn spells which increase army morale, provide defense bonuses and strike opponents with poison, fire, lightning and much more. Your hero will become stronger over time allowing you to develop them in strength, magic, defense, diplomacy, governance and knowledge depending on your faction and your hero.
The battlefield is set in a grid based system where you march your troops over to the enemy and engage with them in turn-based combat. Before the battle begins you can arrange your men in a certain formation which may give you the tactical edge you need to emerge victorious. Each of the units has their own special abilities giving them even more attack power. You can even utilize the spells you’ve learned to help your men on the battlefield. Powerful attack spells and units aren’t going to grant you an immediate win all the time however. The AI is cunning and will have some nasty surprises up its sleeve, thus preparation, troop management and quick thinking will have you emerging victorious in any battle you take part in.
There are options galore in Skirmish mode. You can set the victory conditions, the size of the map, the number of factions and more. There’s not a lot of maps to play on, however the game comes with an impressive editor where you create your own custom maps. You can engage in one-on-one duels against the AI or a friend. Some players of Might & Magic Heroes find skirmish, duels and multiplayer more enjoyable than the campaign and these modes may be where you’ll spend most of your time.
As the latest installment of this franchise released 20 years since the first Might & Magic Heroes game was released, one might think that this would live up to the legacy of its ancestors and provide the definitive Might & Magic Heroes experience. Sadly too many corners we’re cut, too many old ideas and assets we’re used, not enough time was taken and the result is a Might & Magic Heroes game that lacks anything that makes it a Might & Magic Heroes game, aside from similar gaming mechanics and sharing the same universe. The more you attempt to play this game, the more you realize that it just wasn’t made with the same amount of care as previous Might & Magic Heroes instalments. Everything feels like it’s just mashed together sporadically with ideas from Heroes of Might and Magic V and Might & Magic Heroes VI while presenting them in a manner that lacks any appeal or enticement. It’s so disheartening to see a prestigious and much loved video game series falter this way.
The visual quality has decreased dramatically since Might & Magic Heroes VI or even Heroes of Might and Magic V. It just looks so dated and old, which is embarrassing in this age of gaming. In previous Heroes of Might and Magic games, everything was presented brightly, vividly and in fantastical fashion. Here however, not so much. Units, buildings, campaign maps and battlefields just look so cheap with no sense of design inspiration and innovation. Textures are simplistic and there aren’t enough special effects which makes the visuals less dull. Unit animations look sluggish, timid and fail to convey the imposing nature of any of the units. Spells look pathetic when cast and makes you wonder if your opponent was even scratched by what you cast.
Sound design doesn’t help this game much either. The musical score sounds great and the voice acting is good, but sound effects in battles sound cheap and don’t convey any power behind any of your attacks, instead generic thuds, clanks and zaps are what you’ll be hearing most of the time, making battles not quite the spectacular and exciting situation as they we’re in the earlier games.
It’s rather uncanny to see how the in-game cutscenes are not animated at all. Watching highly detailed and fully 3D rendered characters sit there like statues as their voices emote fully and where everything else around them is animated doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience.
The UI is not much to look at either. Aside from its cheap color scheme, the UI doesn’t tell you as much as you need to know when it comes to upgrading your towns and recruiting your units. No tutorials for anything in the game doesn’t help much either so you’ll really be at a loss with how to interact with the UI for town management, combat and just about everything else.
The game is filled with bugs and performance issues, ranging from stuttering to frame rate drops and complete crashes which occur on the campaign maps and the battles. Multiplayer is unplayable right now as many matches that you’ll want to play in will desync and even crash the game.
Might & Magic Heroes VII may unfortunately be signaling the series’ decline and the publisher’s lack of commitment to the franchise. This game just doesn’t feel the same as the titles that fans of the franchise adored for over two decades. It doesn’t have the same grandiose and epic feel that the earlier games had. You don’t have this feeling that you’re on a quest leading your armies to victory. Battles can be fun at points and the level editor will lead to some truly impressive projects, but the game’s implementation, presentation and progression makes the whole experience not really worth the effort. The developers relied too heavily on rehashed ideas from the previous games without showing what made the franchise so good and why people from around the world continue to play even the classic Might and Magic Heroes games even today.
If you’re a fan of the Might and Magic Heroes franchise and even if you’re not, your wartime efforts are better spent on other battlefronts.
This review was based on a review code of Might & Magic Heroes VII for the PC provided by Ubisoft.