The last Heroes game was released in 2006, and stuck closely to its turn-based strategy-mixed-with-RPG roots (which began in 1995). The series has always been strong on story, a throwback to the original Might and Magic games which were strictly RPGs. Now, though, Heroes VI is taking things a few steps closer to what we have come to expect from modern RPGs, by adding a morality system — a system that can change the ultimate outcome of the game, and is dependent on choices you make while you play.
The system is called Blood and Tears, and works on the premise that players typically fall into one of two categories when playing strategy games: defensive; ensuring their units are always healthy and playing cautiously, or offensive; mitigating the loss of life by destroying enemies as quickly as possible, and being totally ruthless on the field of battle.
New to VI is the reputation system, designed to boost role-playing in a Mass Effect Paragon-Renegade way. Value-burdened actions will add to your Blood or Tears reputation. Blood is the path of strong attacks and retribution, the kind of person who negotiates with his sword, and seals the deal with a kick to the downbelows. Tears is the kind of path that will let a fleeing army escape, and spend its Hero’s mana on healing, and spells like Martyr – a passive-aggressive buff that increases the fighting power of your stacks as they’re whittled away. Missions you’ll find on the map will also have “negotiate/fight” options, giving you another chance to up your Blood or Tears stat.
Then there’s the script and acting. I had to go back to V, just to remind myself how much better it all is – and sure enough, everything from the the unit tile pictures to the in-battle animations is ten times better. But that doesn’t mean the acting’s… good. It’s still earnest and slightly uncomfortable, in that Two Worlds 1 approach to fantasy kind of way – with lines like “ah, but now it is you who is the pupil, not the teacher, and the lesson is not theology, but punching horses in the neck”. Well, not that exactly, but you get the drift. However, although the script might not have the casual ease of Superbad, there’s an intelligence about it that lets you see that good people can disagree, and come to blows, both believing they’re right.