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Might and Magic: Heroes Kingdoms
Platform: PC/Mac/iPad
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Genre: MMORPG, Strategy RPG
Format: Browser-Based
Release: US July 2010



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Something, something, castles in the sky.
 
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You ain't crossing that moat.
 
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Is that an angel or an axe on that building?
 
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Some more gorgeous city art.
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John McCarroll
Hands-On Preview
07/14/10
John McCarroll

When most people think of browser-based online titles, they think of Zynga's Facebook games, like Mafia Wars and FarmVille. It's a market that's boomed lately, with these microtransaction-based titles making millions for their owners, something that would have been unheard of a decade ago. Even then, a company like Nexon, with its microtransaction-based MMORPGs, was a vanguard, and they weren't working with a browser-based title. The market is here to stay, however, and the big boys are finally coming to play. Strategy fans are expecting the Facebook-based Civilization Network, and this month, RPG fans can expect an MMO Strategy-RPG from a classic series: Might and Magic.

It's been no secret that Might and Magic is a favorite brand at Ubisoft, a company that is well known for leveraging its branding - look at how easily recognizable their series are: Shaun White, Tom Clancy, Petz, and Prince of Persia all come to mind. These titles see release across many platforms, and this new title is no exception. If I were to have told you that a new Might and Magic title was coming, you'd likely think it was Heroes of Might and Magic VI slated for a release on the PC. You'd be half right.

Next up in the series, aside from the fantastic Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes HD, is a game entitled Might and Magic: Heroes Kingdoms, a free-to-play, browser-based MMO Strategy-RPG. The title features everything you'd expect from a Heroes of Might and Magic title: Experience points, grid-based combat, all of the classic Might and Magic factions, and most importantly: an overarching story. Touching on that last point first, it's difficult to convey story in this type of game: players will play at their own pace, and while there are alliances and players working together, there aren't the raids, quests, and dungeons that most standard MMORPGs use to convey their story and lore. Ubisoft conveys the story here over the course of six-month seasons to all players, and story events are triggered not by individual players, but how the world itself evolves. There will be cinematics at the beginning of a season, near the middle of the season, and as players get closer to the end-game. Additional seasons will have unique stories, although that's where the game's subscription model comes into play, with expansion packs.

To get to that end-game, players have to play the game; the core of which has the individual player leveling up their hero through strategy-based combat. With their own city area, players can build up their citadel into different kinds of specializations, command eight different troop types for their faction (with regular and elite variations), clear monsters from areas and set up future movements. The game, like many browser-based titles, is meant to be played in cycles, and players can set themselves up as such. Once in combat, the classes conform to a rock/paper/scissors style of gameplay. Players will actively take part in the economy, and can buy, sell, and trade resources, of which different types are important for different factions.

Players, once they have begun to build their own cities, will forge alliances with other players, and these alliances form the core of the overgame. Alliances gain power through honor, through military might, and through economic dominance. Players who want to indulge themselves in any one aspect of the game help their alliance by doing so, as every part of the game has an overall influence on the victory. Honor is gained through PvP combat, and players will gain proportionately larger amounts when presented with more and more difficult situations. Once the end-game is triggered by a certain faction gaining a large chunk of the overall map or power structure, players are on a mad dash to collect as many artifacts as they can from the world in PvE combat. As such, it's not simply about making the most friends; you've got to make sure you can strategize as well. Players' individual heroes will gain experience as well, as they gain unique skills, have professions, get phat loot, and allocate talent points. It's everything you would expect out of MMORPG heroes.

Unlike many games, which force players to go to the outside world to manage everything, Might and Magic: Heroes Kingdoms also provides players with in-game forums, in-game e-mails for updates, and a robust, always-available help system. As mentioned above, there are two facets to the subscription system: players will gain access to expansion packs, and they will have access to many comfort features. It's still not clear what the model will be in the US market. Might and Magic: Heroes Kingdoms is an interesting hybrid of MMO, Strategy, and RPG. Its basic gameplay is fairly simplistic, but the overall game is complex. Perhaps it's like a game of chess - easy to learn but impossible to master. Only with 3000 players to fight with and against.



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