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October 16th, 2011, 15:11
Originally Posted by ikbenrichard View Post
I agree. I do like homm6 alot too. tactical its good. However KB is a tiny bit better.
Character progression is indeed SUPER !. alot of choices !
Guess I'll do a first impressions/partial review. I should start by saying I have at least enjoyed some sessions so far - quite a good deal when it has been working properly; I have also been more disappointed with it than I have any previous Heroes release I've played

I'm a little bit more mixed about it - partly because I have the misfortune of having tried to play during the least stable times for UbiSoft's servers and have been booted out of my single player campaign games several times when connection to Conflux was lost. Poor decisions in how to implement Conflux, some fairly obnoxious bugs in the single player campaign, some minor but very obvious graphical glitches, a schizophrenic AI, and a few glaring balance issues make it hard for me to be glowingly positive about it.

Some of the feelings of bitterness that is being and will likely continue to be expressed towards this release have to do with the Dynasty and Conflux systems - rather than the otherwise mostly standard DRM/activation. A good deal of what they are calling "extras" really don't need to be tied to Conflux at least as far as their use in single player. No good reason they couldn't have set it up so offline play could have benefited from most of those features without posing a risk of abuse in multiplayer; it's not like having differentiations between local and server validated player profiles is a new idea either. Extras would be things along the lines of additional maps released periodically (more than the 10 it comes with) or new artifacts. Calling plot items from the campaign, the ability to create custom heroes, to unlock more of the prebuilt heroes than the paltry vanilla ones and scenario starting bonuses "extras" is a bit disingenuous. A few of those things shouldn't even have to be unlocked let alone tied to Conflux.

The thing that is most frustrating however is not so much that these features are tied to the online service and require a constant connection to use - but that the same applies to any save games created if you intend to be able to use them. If you are playing a single player campaign while in online-mode - required to use any Conflux/Dynasty restricted feature - you must remain connected while you play. Loss of connection results in you being unceremoniously booted from your game. While you are unable to connect you are also unable to access any of your saves or campaign progress made while you were connected. This means that legitimate paying customers may be left with the same limited content as pirates subject to the reliability and accessibility of UbiSoft's servers as well as the fidelity of their own connection.

Sadly, as many experienced with the release of Settlers 7 and are now experiencing again, UbiSoft does not excel at providing stable and consistently accessible online services. In peak hours and at other seemingly random times users have reported repeated disconnects and periods of complete server outage. Customers in the Russian market have effectively been cut off in large numbers with a sizable number pre-order and day 1 customers finding their keys invalidated or deleted. Those who entered bonus keys, incorrect keys, or whose keys were subsequently invalidated without explanation have found themselves indefinitely blocked from Conflux and the Dynasty features and are given no means to update or correct mis-entered keys. Re installation does not fix this problem either as the keys are linked to their account and not merely the installation and the key is entered upon first login and activation with the account being used to activate subsequent installations.

While pretty at times, there are some very noticeable problems with the presentation. Mostly I do like the UI, but it lacks polish in a way that can make it annoying. While some of the context menus are quite well thought out, many of the tactical view menus seem to lack thought or organization - list view in a few places would make far more sense where having to mouse over things to few their details is tedious. Graphical glitches and oversights - the flickering mouse cursor and the lack of anti-aliasing - are not overwhelmingly distracting but they seem to indicate a lack of care taken in finalizing the presentation. Curious sound behaviors - such as the chipmunk effect you get if you turn up combat speeds - also seem indicative of a lack of attention and finesse.

The AI is incredibly inconsistent - glitchy and suicidal at times, effective and efficient at others. I've had AI controlled heroes charge right at my strongest army - with 3 orcs making up their entire force. At the same time they would leave towns almost undefended hiring most of their creatures in forts. In combat they would often destroy more of their own creatures with spells than they would mine. At different the AI did a rather alright job of distributing and maneuvering forces and would give me a decent challenge and interesting (not funny) combat. All of this was on the hard difficulty setting in stand alone maps.

In the campaign there were some other balance issues - primarily related to the supression of AI behavior for certain things and the difficulty sub-settings. It seemed that the sole determining factor for difficulty in many campaign maps was what the growth rate was set at. High growth rates with all other difficulty options lowered made exploration in many scenarios ill-advised. This is partly because of how it affected neutral mob sizes but far more because it directly determined the AI players' army sizes.

They AI doesn't really build armies in campaign scenarios - or do much of anything at the strategic level - in the campaign. To a degree the scripted nature of these scenarios makes them more interesting and individual, at least the first time you play. As implemented it does not always result in a challenge as much as it does an accidental time limit. It spawns armies at certain intervals - sometimes daily in the absence of a surviving army - whose sizes appear to be directly determined by the total time elapsed in the scenario and the creature growth rate. This often means that making a bee-line to major objectives and avoiding any exploration is the only way to avoid enemy towns becoming spawners of infinite hordes unless you've selected a lower growth rate than default for a chosen overall difficulty.

I've also had to reload or even restart several campaign missions because the completion of quests failed to trigger and the scenario simply failed to recognize victory and end. This was particularly rampant in the necromancer campaign and, partly due to the limit of 10 online-mode non-autosaves, has been reported as frequently causing players to either have to restart missions entirely or roll them back quite a bit at least. I've also had to replay the final turn of several missions I beat to get it to recognize and save Dynasty items acquired on those maps; others have reported permanently losing these items and being unable to get Conflux to properly recognize their acquisition.

The game has some definite good points and does succeed on a number of levels. The campaign missions are fairly densely plotted and diverse for the most part. There aren't many missions that feel like filler - modestly dressed up stand-alone capture maps - and almost all of them do feel like they tell a story and the objectives feel distinct and purposeful. Though the blundering, cheating, or suicide of the AI gets in the way more often than it seems to help the experience the battles do have the potential to be quite interesting and they often are.

The weapons of war - characters and creatures - aren't too shabby either. The creatures' abilities and roles are far more diverse than I remember them being in any previous heroes game - though the tool-tips are woefully inadequate at times in explaining what they actually do. The character levelling system is pretty extensive and offers for a great deal of customization - a good deal than many popular action-oriented rpgs (The Witcher 2, Mass Effect 2, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution for example.) Artifact abilities, diversity, and sets are also far more interesting this time around - if only their text scaled better to my monitor and resolution.

It is very frustrating to decide how I feel about this game because it represents a lot of squandered potential but also some quite expertly realized potential at times. In its present state it feels like the results of the beta test were not sufficiently examined nor was proper attention given to quality assurance. It also feels as though much of the UI was created incrementally rather than planned out properly and this leads to a schizophrenic feeling to the menus and information presented. The way in which the online system was implemented will never bother some - but will genuinely infuriate many others. In the end it is a definite mixed bag which a great number will enjoy immensely but which many will feel fails to respect its lineage while also failing to respect them as a consumer.

At best I can suggest that people wait for the bugs and glitches to be ironed out - at least one more patch. Those turned off by the Dynasty/Conflux integration and online-requirement for access to some features and all saved progress which had access to those features may have to wait much longer with fingers tightly crossed as this behavior appears to have been the goal except for server-side reliability issues. I do have to say this is the first Heroes game I wish I hadn't bought when I had; it's certainly not the first where design changes didn't suit me at first but it is the only time I just wish I had grabbed it in a bargain been with all the patches for half the price.
Last edited by jhwisner; October 16th, 2011 at 15:32.
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