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Holding The Line
by Daniel Tack on Oct 05, 2015 at 10:50 AM

Your army, bristling with champion and elite units and war machines as backup, encroaches on the enemy capital. It’s all led to this, a showdown for the ages between dragons, angels, hydras, and troglodytes. Will you emerge successful with your carefully mapped-out hero and your hand-picked troops? Is the final showdown going to be fun? Maybe. Although developer Limbic was keen to tap into aspects of the franchise favorites like Heroes of Might & Magic III and play up convenience options, Might & Magic Heroes VII lacks personality and soul.

The first troublesome quirk comes during the campaign. Seated around a table, the leaders discuss what’s happening in the world – but their mouths don’t move. Watching these champions and leaders talk back and forth like deranged mannequins is a bizarre way to start the game, seeing their stoic faces as the camera cuts back and forth while blasting dialogue. It’s off-putting, and sets the pace for what ultimately feels like a rushed-out-the-door iteration of the beloved franchise. The rest of the game continues the trend; I ran into a number of strange, frustrating bugs as I charted my course through the realm, including crashes and heroes actually disappearing.

Bugs aside, the campaign is decidedly average. It’s structured quite well from a gameplay perspective, allowing the player to engage with the story from a variety of different faction perspectives as they prepare for the more challenging unlockable campaign maps. Little events happen and stories collide to craft a passable single-player trek.

The mode I enjoy most as a Might & Magic Heroes fan is simply skirmishing with A.I. opponents on individual maps. Many things that players love about the previous games are here, and some aspects have been improved. The caravan system lets players like me – who love building up one strong hero instead of micromanaging many – ship troops to our key character instead of forcing constant trips home. You find valuable loot, level up your hero, and navigate a needlessly complex hero wheel to specialize your abilities.

The combat grid and cool units are still there to engage with, although you may just be auto-resolving battles much of the time. That means you never have to deal with the lengthy and drawn-out battles, since things can be taken care of right from the overworld map with simulated combat if you want to save some time. The various factions all feel different enough from one another and include cool units, mechanics, and special buildings to make it a joy to try each one a few times at least. You collect resources, build your army, and eventually push through and defeat the enemy. It’s fun Might & Magic Heroes gameplay, even if it doesn’t really move the bar. 

Multiplayer is another story. Even after release, I could only begin one game out of dozens I tried to join due to connection issues or myriad other error messages. Might & Magic Heroes VII features the simultaneous turn option to help multiplayer matches move along faster, but in my single multiplayer match that actually started, this didn’t play out in practice.  You are forced to watch a load screen every time an opponent starts a battle with enemies, so this approach doesn’t appear to knock any substantial time off the notoriously long player turns when it comes to multiplayer.

If you’re a die-hard Might & Magic Heroes fan, this addition to your collection is probably justified for the skirmishing alone, but it does little to tread new ground. If you’ve always wondered about breaking into the series, one of the classics would be a better choice.

Play as classic franchise factions through skirmishes, multiplayer, and a campaign
Things look strangely dated in comparison to its recent predecessors, though you can still check out your favorite units up close
The music and sound effects are appropriate, but nothing special
Even with no real tutorial, newcomers should be able to learn the ropes quickly, although some of the options could feel overbearing
This installment does little to move anything forward or conjure up the memories of classic titles like Heroes of Might & Magic III