Game Site: MightAndMagicHeroesKingdoms.ubi.com
Rating: Worth a look
Ubisoft’s Might and Magic: Hero Kingdoms, (not to be confused with the Heroes of Might and Magic series), is a tabletop-infused OSG that feels more like a solid PC strategy game than the browser-based game it is.
You control a territory of 5×5 squares. You can zoom in on the starter city within your territory, zoom out to see your territory within the local region map, and zoom out farther to see the world map. You begin with one hero commanding a small army, and four raw material collection sites—for wood, ore, gold and rare metals, which could be one of sulphur, mercury, crystals, or gems. Your remaining twenty squares are overgrown with monster-infested woods. Using your hero, you first clear out the monsters within your realm.
All this fighting has to have SOME purpose, and in this case, you’re supposed to college Dragon Tears. But who cares? Yeah, Dragon Tears give you bonuses and what have you, but they aren’t really the point of the game. Might and Magic: Hero Kingdoms gets that the reason why people play OSG’s is to build up their own forces, form alliances, and then beat the tar out of each other. The M&M: HK spin is to give users a wide variety of customization, while never letting its own design get in the way.
Customization starts with the faction you select, of which there are four: Haven (knights), Academy (wizards), Necropolis (the undead), and Inferno (demons). At least one of these should fit your playing style. I tend to like more balanced forces rather than strong military- or magic-focused ones; I want a decent enough economy so that I can quickly raise lots of cheap troops; and if I can swing it, I like to play on the evil side. That’s why I went with the Necropolis faction on my play-through.
Each faction has several different military units, all of them unique, and all of them piquing my interest enough to want to try the game again under a different banner. If you’ve played enough fantasy games, you’ve seen all the types before: for your D&D’ers out there, the Necropolis faction lets you build Liches. Maybe they could have come up with some more innovative monsters, but I quibble.
And uh-oh…today the Manticores showed up
If you opt for the tutorial, it’ll take you through the basics of setting up your city and learning how to command your army. I’d recommend it, as it does a good job of teaching you how to play, but if you prefer to learn on your own, you’ll find a thorough strategy guide, plus a wiki, plus widely used forums.
It’s a good idea to complete the in-game quests, as they will guide you through the intermediate stages of your development. They’re also an indirect subsidy from the game itself, as they’re clearly set up to grant you a ton of resources without much effort on your part, making it easier to build your city and thus sucking you into the game. (Example: 1,5000 gold just for clicking on the “Invite a Friend” button; you don’t even have to invite anyone). There’s also a hilarious feature where the main NPC goddess character, “Asha,” is apparently so interested in your survival that she grants you a generous gift each day, either resources or troops. I didn’t mind. I was glad to get the cavalry.
As you set about freeing your region, you’re also developing your starter city. You’re technically the ruler of a kingdom, with “subjects” and all that, but let’s be honest: the city, and really everything within your kingdom, is meant to support your conquests. Might and Magic doesn’t even bother with a “happiness” monitor. Your people are ALREADY happy. They want to rule the world and get those Dragon Tears as much as you do.
That single-mindedness does lead to simplicity in what you can build, though. This game isn’t for aspiring city planners. Most buildings within the city only afford you new types of soldier classes to recruit. You can also build on your territory once you’ve cleared out some of the monster-infested woodlands, but it’s the same idea. (I hate to wonder what’ll happen to my faithful subjects once the wars are over. I wish I could give them a GI Bill or something, but nothing in the game covers that).
If it’s customization you want, look to the heroes. In addition to your starter hero, the free version of the game lets you recruit up to two more. Each hero can have three of the thirteen class types, all of which afford their own bonuses.
The classes cover the range of military, economic, and magical abilities, and it’s up to you how your design your hero. I made my starter hero a triple-threat leader-attacker-builder, so he could recruit soldiers and successfully attack monsters, and in his downtime shore up my mines. I made my next hero a wizard-merchant-morewizardpowers type, and my third a pure defense specialist.
Game progression leads to my favorite aspect of Might and Magic: Heroes Kingdoms, which I liked for its ingenuity as much as its subtlety. As I mentioned above, you only get one type of rare metal to mine on your territory, (I got Mercury), but you’ll need all four if you want more advanced buildings or soldiers.
If you’re of the isolationist bent, and prefer to build an irresistible army before engaging any of the other players, you’re out of luck, because without the other three resources, you’re army will be weak and small. The only way to get these scarce resources is to interact with the other human players—either by trading with them or pillaging them. (True, you can buy these rare resources with your gold, which is great if you want to pay hugely huge markups to the NPC merchant). Whether you’re peaceful or warlike, you’ll have to leave your own region before you’re powerful enough to survive on your own, and that forces you to rely on other players. Knowing your survival depends on others, and theirs depends on you, is the strongest draw that sucks you into the game and it’s why I’d recommend Might and Magic: Heroes Kingdoms especially to gamers unfamiliar with MMO RPG’s.
Ubisoft is pretty clear in wanting you to be sucked in so much that you’ll pay for the premium version. The free version limits you to three heroes and one town for a couple months, putting you at an extreme disadvantage to paying players who have no such limits. But I’d say the game is strong enough for that salesmanship not to be too off-putting. My litmus test for a good strategy game is, do I find myself strategizing for it while I’m not even at my computer? This one fits the bill.