How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

The game Might & Magic: Heroes VII, developed by Limbic Entertainment.

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How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby cjlee » Sep 11 2016, 16:20

I finally figured it out.

And no, I am absolutely not trying to make fun of Ubisoft or Limbic here. I really figured out their thinking, and it is perfectly valid.

I’m sure we have all heard about how unchallenging the H7 AI is. Do I need to go into details? Play the game yourself, and judge by the standards of H1-5, and clearly not that much attention went into creating an AI that could really put up a fight. On Heroic, your computer opponents are total wusses. You go into enemy territory and find that not one mine has been cleared. (Clearly the AI is getting free resources and castle construction.) In the rare occasion that you see neutral stacks cleared, resources and artifacts are lying on the ground for you to pick up for free.

The enemy pumps out 5 or 6 heroes and never levels them up. Or else gives them no troops. Or barely puts up a fight that makes your attack costly. Even back in Heroes 2 the AI was capable of training a powerful warlock, attacking you with armageddon or elemental storm, retreating, and coming back again to hit you with that super spell. In H7, the AI is suffering senility thanks to this franchise being so old.

H7 castles are barely defended, if ever at all. Their heroes wander the map aimlessly without leveling up or at least grabbing resources and artifacts so that I can’t pick them up. Sometimes they just walk past you like you’re not there, or else four level 8-18 heroes with no troops walk past you and let you kill them easily with any level 1 hero with a 1 unit stack, while their main castle is guarded by a level 1 hero with all their troops.

Again I (and other gamers) have been complaining about this stupidity.

But every game does have its logic, and we can’t ignore the intentions of the gamemakers.

I have been playing medium or large, 6 to 8 player, resource and item-rich maps. I finally figured out what it is all about.

Every heroes game is a set of puzzles. Heroes 7 isn’t designed for the AI player to put up a fight. If you insist on playing this like Heroes 3, and barging straight into enemy territory with your second-day Wyverns hoping to kill the enemy in some challenging fights before the end of the first week, you’re wrong. The Heroes 7 AI is useless at protecting its territory or its castles. It sucks at launching invasions of your territory.

But Heroes 7 has its outstanding designs aspects too. We have been undervaluing these design features, but the more I play the more I understand the genius of Limbic. They have indeed made a game with enough differences that you can sit and spend time puzzling out everything. (BTW when I use the word Genius, I am referring to the technical meaning of this word, Creativity. I don’t mean to praise Limbic.)

Heroes have their attack types. Some heroes hit with Earth magic-type attacks, some with Might attacks, and so on.

Artifacts promote some attack type or faction skill.

Units all have their own vulnerabilities and specializations.

Even within the same faction and same type (eg Might, Defensive, Offensive), heroes don’t share the same skill wheels. Some Wizards can level up in Fire Magic, some in Water, some in Dark. Some Dungeon heroes can become grandmaster diplomats and others grandmaster logistics.

The number of variations, of ‘moving parts’, of counters and bonuses, is tremendously high. Even Offensive Might heroes within the same faction play very differently depending on what their skill wheels look like. Magic heroes have different spell schools and interact very differently with their troops. You don't have this Heroes 3 system where even a barbarian can max out his wisdom and excel in every school of magic just because the mapmaker helpfully put witch huts nearby.

It is hard to design an AI that can think through everything. So the gamemakers have not tried. I don't think anyone can. This game has far more variations than Heroes 3.

But we are human players, and we can always adjust our playstyles to the requisite levels of challenge.

And this is what makes my Heroes 7 so interesting.

In Heroes 3 we almost always hired as many troops as we had cash for. Experienced players knew that by the time we arrived at the enemy territory, they would have more time to grow their castles, hence more hires than us. We always expected the enemy to have a full army, and to use that full army fairly well, and to pose a sufficient threat to keep this game a puzzle.

In Heroes 7, I have been playing these big maps with many interesting locations to visit, many resources, etc. I have been training different types of heroes, each with his own strategy or preferred playstyles. The AI players are terrible and pose no challenge, but the same cannot be said of the neutrals.

In Heroes 1-6 we got used to the idea that enemy heroes are dangerous, but neutrals exist for us to bully for experience. (Yes, even H6 has more dangerous enemy heroes.)

That’s not the case with Heroes 7. Now there are all kinds of battlegrounds and terrains. Neutrals no longer come in a rigid, prepackaged fashion like in Heroes 2. There are many mixed armies of neutrals now. The numbers of troops can vary a lot. They are arranged differently. There are all kinds of combos in attack/ defense types. Within the same neutral army there can be 5 or 7 different troop types. Even if you master 2 types of magic, often you can’t take down more than 4 stacks and have to figure out how to deal with the 600 gargoyles descending on your tiny army. (Sometimes you must run all over the battlefield and defend or regenerate while your war machine takes out the gargoyles.)

Once you have such diversity, the potential for challenge is there.

Now if you insist on hiring all or most of your castle’s production, you will regret it. You will steamroll the AI.

But as I said previously, we are human players. We can adjust. And I have adjusted.

I don’t do much hiring now. I don’t have hero/squire chains to bring the castle productions to the front line. (You don’t really need hero chains if you have the summon troops spell, but of course you don’t always get that spell. In any case I rarely use it because it would make the game too easy.) I still equip my best hero with my best troops because I hate to lose, but I have many heroes, and I outfit them with different skills and artifacts and troops. Their armies are typically small. I don’t have time to play many different scenarios so I use these heroes in the same scenarios.

How else do you think I have the time to write about so many different hero and battle types?

I’m at the stage where almost every battle I fight is with a Severe or Deadly enemy.

In Heroes 3 the AI is good enough to give you a hard time even if their army is smaller. I’m sure we have all fought Death Knights with Armour of the Damned and Expert tactics. It wasn’t easy even if you outnumbered them. AI can really give you a black eye and a broken nose before you bring it to heel.

In Heroes 7 the AI cannot give you a hard time if their army size is smaller or equal. Most enemies can't threaten you even if they are 50-100% bigger. About the only real difficulty I have with an AI army that is moderately bigger, is if I’m meeting a Stronghold Might hero on an open battlefield. They are guaranteed to get the first round attacks thanks to Bloodrage and the warcry Advance!, and these really hurt.

Do not play Heroes 7 with one or two main heroes supplied by hero chains from fully hired castles, bashing straight into enemy territory. Play heroes 7 with a fat bank account, tons of unhired troops, and a bunch of your heroes wandering around with small armies taking on neutrals. Use these undersupplied heroes to defend your territory. Or practically invite the AI to invade your home region by hiring no more than 1/4 the enemy army’s size for your castle defence. You will find the game much more challenging. There will be more puzzles to solve.

In Heroes 2-5 I have always considered myself a fairly experienced, but very mediocre player. I struggle a lot with the more difficult player made maps. I can't complete a single Salamandre map. I could not finish Timothy Duncan's THUNK maps. Thanks to the disasters of H6 and H7, we seem to have lost our best minds. These guys are probably off playing chess somewhere. So consider me an average player at best, and take it for granted when I tell the average guy reading this, that he should never play Heroes 7 with a fully hired army. It's perfectly safe to go into month 3 with the same troops you had at the end of month 1, without even bothering to hire a single troop from one of the castles you conquered. Enemy heroes can't kill you. But unlike previous versions of Heroes, you cannot laugh at the neutrals. Even in Month 3 with a level 30+ hero with his Month 1 army, there will be a lot of neutral guards that you cannot take down without suffering significant losses. Heck, even if you hired your entire castle, thanks to all the diverse variations and combinations of opponents there will often still be neutral armies that you cannot attack without suffering losses however modest.

Worst come to worst, you can always trade in all your resources and unused artifacts, hire everybody, and use brute force of numbers to finish the scenario!
Last edited by cjlee on Sep 12 2016, 14:21, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: How

Postby markkur » Sep 11 2016, 16:51

That was interesting. Yeah, a lot of folks have not figured out how to make a game more difficult by their own choices. i.e. I play HoI3 TFH and there are easy steps (my game rules) that make the game much more enjoyable than if I instead took advantage of any shortcomings.

A couple of thoughts about your post. I would like to watch the enemies and see what they do with these BA neutrals your describing. Maybe there is a Cheat or and map-object to reveal the whole map?

It's been my experience that A.I. Heroes in H2-H5 "usually" were more aggressive against Neutrals and like in H5 TotE w/ Q's A.I. the A.I. Heroes did well and usually level-up faster than I do. However, H5 has a not-too-lame Auto-combat" that only loses a little more than I would, if I use it. So after reading your post I wonder how the A.I. Heroes fight neutrals and how those battles are resolved? If the Auto-combat is terrible that could be at least "one" part of the problem.

Cheers

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby cjlee » Sep 12 2016, 4:01

Markkur, in H7 the AI rarely kills neutral stacks. Sometimes you do see an AI hero with a full hire, and they do get very aggressive against neutrals - but often I can see them ignoring the artifacts even if these were good artifacts that could be equipped on their heroes.

There are cheats, called Cartographers. (Haha). Unlike Heroes 5, they charge only 1000 gold.

Although I could not resist a mocking tone at times, I honestly believe that Limbic did not design Heroes 7 with the intention of the AI players being good. Heroes 7 is very much a gameboard with a lot of puzzles scattered everywhere. I'm always thinking, how can my undersupplied secondary or tertiary or quarternary hero take down this big neutral army. Fire Elementals for instance, are awesome range attackers and I always hire them whenever possible. But there are neutral stacks where 16 Fire Elementals plus a Fire Magic hero would decimate, and there are neutral stacks half the size that can pose a severe threat to the same hero and army.

In Heroes 1-6 you had to kill everything in sight in order to level your hero fully. Often you made 1 hero do all the work so that he could get all the experience, because 1 level 22 hero is almost always better than 2 level 17 heroes.

That is totally not the case with Heroes 7. On any of the official scenario maps, you don't need to kill more than 2/3 of three areas of control and can already have several level 20+ heroes walking around. And due to the skill wheels being so different, level 20+ heroes all play very differently. My governors and diplomats literally need 100-300x as many troops to accomplish the same tasks as my Lord of Storms or Blademage with Expert War Machines. A Grandmaster in Magic School Type x who has mastered 2 other school types and has a big army, sometimes fares worse than a Master in just one magic school and a few troops just because of some creature immunity.

For instance, when you are playing Wizard, some Deadly opponents are much easier than Modest opponents. It could even boil down to whether they have lots of low-defense Core Troops rather than a lineup of Strong Elite troops. (Djinn channelers suck 1 mana for each killed enemy, so if the enemy are champion units a Wizard has difficulty recovering his mana.)

So in conclusion, I urge everyone not to think of Heroes 7 as that type of game you fight against intelligent AI factions. Think of it as a gameboard with many puzzles, with the AI factions as extra dynamic inputs that occasionally disturb and distract your gaming. The more I play Heroes 7, the more I fully appreciate their neutral stacks. Even in month 3 or 4 when your hero is level 30+, neutrals are no pushover. Sometimes your best hero with a big army has more difficulty killing a neutral army than a level 21 hero with a small army.

In a way this reminds me of the reality of war. Some military lineups are good for winning most situations, but would be totally crushed in a few situations. You go to war with tanks and fighters and infantry and submarines and aircraft carriers, because each of them has a role to play. In Heroes 7, you are often better off having several highly competent heroes with their own specializations and troop lineups, rather than having a single Alpha Hero with a full army followed by a bunch of weak squires.
Last edited by cjlee on Sep 12 2016, 4:20, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby cjlee » Sep 12 2016, 17:20

When playing Heroes 7, always go for the Deadly battles. EG in this case, my Storm Lord made short work of the enemy. He wiped the entire Deadly enemy out in the first round with no casualties. Enemy never got to move. My hero never cast a spell – it was all done by the Storm Lord area attack perk.
http://imgur.com/n3igLLh

http://imgur.com/EhsUemX This is no bug. I fled. I had sent my Theodorus walking around to visit some green +50000xp learning stones. He didn’t have any useful spells, but I upgraded him to Storm Lord/ Grandmaster Air Magic. When he was attacked by Drakon his tiny stalker army inflicted a really fantastic amount of damage thanks to the Storm Lord perk. They could have done more damage if the enemy remained in their starting lineup, but Drakon moved first and only 4 of his stacks were next to each other.

http://imgur.com/kUwV3TY http://imgur.com/WijUTFN
Storm Lord perk is best for invading the Haunted Ruins, because the enemy units are all lined next to one another. I didn’t cast any mass spells and my 1-unit stalker stacks did all the work. If I’d cast Lightning, I would have zero casualties. Here 1 stalker died because I let the ghosts get near him.

http://imgur.com/fQ4zPfC
A lineup like this is pretty hard to deal with if you’re a might melee hero with a modest sized army. If you’re a Storm Lord (anyone who has Grandmaster Air Magic), its really easy to kill with a tiny army. I can’t remember if my hero had to cast any spell, but probably not. Also note that some of my troops have already moved- they killed many of the mermaids and manticores using the Storm Lord perk already.

http://imgur.com/e3pdW6i I also used this photo for illustrating a bug. It was extra fatal in this case because the hero is Johari and my Small Pyramid was absolutely crucial towards winning. (Note in the photo, both war machines got deselected. My stalkers also vanished but they aren’t essential.) This particular lineup of 2 Arcane Eagles, healing tent, small pyramid and a few stalkers is pretty good when fighting non-spell immune, non-Prime immune creatures concentrated in big stacks. The small pyramid dishes out Prime Magic damage, so it is very weak against Genies and Gargoyles.


Never fear the AI telling you that an enemy is deadly. http://imgur.com/2qdGFKl
My Storm Lord Theodorus had a very tiny army of just a few Water Elementals, 5 Stalkers and 1 Troglodyte. Enemy was 81 Krakens. Implosion and Implosion Echo plus some hero attacks wiped out the Krakens. (Note that Krakens can move 6 steps each turn, so to keep them from coming near I sent my 1-unit Stalkers forward to block the Krakens. This prevented Krakens from coming near my Water Elementals which I really did not want to lose. Also note that I didn’t have good earth magic – at the start my entangle could only decrease the movement by 2 – so I had to sacrifice units to buy time for Implosions.)

These guys are going down hard thanks to my Storm Lord perk. Alternatively I could cast Chain Lightning, but it turned out to be unnecessary towards winning this battle.
http://imgur.com/G5OHbue

This is another Deadly battle that I won easily. I trained Sephinroth as a governor since she comes with +1 precious resources every turn. She’s an incredibly... poor fighter and pathetic spellcaster since I levelled her Dark Magic but my Academy was not specialized in Dark magic. Anyway the enemy invaded my territory and I decided not to teleport my fighting heroes back. To increase the challenge I didn’t deploy anyone except the Elementals that Sephinroth had been collecting on behalf of my other heroes. (I had given her the Diplomat perk so all her neutral hires cost half as much.) The 10 Disciples and 10 Genies you see come from the castle garrison. Wasn’t even a remotely hard battle, since once you deny Stronghold a wide open battlefield, they are weak. http://imgur.com/XKWtBrY
This is how Shani looked before she attacked Sephinroth in my castle. http://imgur.com/2j5D4zi Now that I’m looking at the picture again I notice Theodorus is selected rather than Sephinroth. The Deadly status is the same for both of them.

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby cjlee » Sep 16 2016, 5:02

I have been playing Graxstar custom maps. These can be downloaded online.

I have only finished about 1/10 of each map. eg Big Boss Bongo, Doppelganger.

Graxstar is an excellent example of how to make maps for this game, and a further confirmation that my 'How To Play H7' observations are correct. His maps are designed with a weak AI in mind. He doesn't try to get the AI to build up, explore, conquer territory and fight you. Instead all his neutral stacks are strong. He refrains from placing artifacts everywhere so that you wind up with 50 items and have to keep juggling them to get the best use out of them.

In a Graxstar map you won't be attacked by a dynamic AI enemy popping out of some portal. That's reserved for H2-H5 AI. Graxstar often lets you move to another region without fully clearing your first region. But he has planned it such that you can't really progress until you swallow hard and fight his mighty guardian stacks - or spend time thinking how to best defeat them.

The only disadvantage is that it is totally useless to get diplomacy on his maps because all stacks are designated as hostile.

I have tried on Normal, Hard and Heroic:
Heroic Graxstar is definitely beyond me, a guy who played the Campaigns and Lost Tales on Heroic.

I tried on Normal, but gave up within 2 days because the neutral stacks nearest me were Low Threat or Average only. This made me think that Normal is pretty easy. I did not play enough to figure out if the entire map was really that easy.

I am trying on Hard now with Heroic AI, and am struggling. Graxstar maps are not official Limbic maps, and average players should not assume that you can breeze through on Heroic the way I did during the campaigns. Looking at the maps4heroes forums it seems most players played on normal, including Graxstar himself, although it seems people have completed all maps on Heroic also. I have absolutely no idea how they calculate these things.

But the basic takeaway I offer here, is a reiteration of what I said months ago about the lousy AI. Yes, AI sucks. But mapmakers are smart people, and they always can figure out how to make the game challenging. I am very pleased to see that at least one mapmaker has succeeded in making the game interesting. Right now I don't even care that there is no dynamic AI. Every set piece on the board is a puzzle in itself; every battle has to be thought through before I dare fight.
Last edited by cjlee on Sep 16 2016, 16:20, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby cjlee » Sep 18 2016, 3:57

I have observed that if a creature misses its turn due to morale or incapacitation, some effects remain without the timer counting down. EG entangle, agony, frostbite. So by overlapping your spells and abilities, it is possible to make a creature take a very, very long time to reach you allowing your ranged troops to whittle away at that stack. It is probably not a bug since the creature has missed its turn.

I didn't post about this earlier because the official campaigns were THAT unchallenging even in heroic. But when playing custom scenarios and you have a 4 week army facing Legions of enemies, being able to slow the enemy down becomes so important. .

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby Steven Aus » Sep 19 2016, 10:27

In H5, if a unit misses a turn with bad morale, it doesn't get to regenerate. However, Decay still fires on a missed turn.

Of course, H5 uses a initiative system rather then each unit getting one turn per round.

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby cjlee » Sep 24 2016, 6:06

Some observations from v2.2:

Ranged attacks nerfed since the double shooting bug eliminated.

Teleport nerfed. Now I can only teleport to a free position - ie like the Behemoth Leap and the Dire Wolf attack, the square I teleport to must be attainable by the creature's movement.

AI still splits their army across many heroes, rather than consolidating their forces. They still insist on approaching me with a Trivial army. They still abandon their minimally defended castles to walk aimlessly around, and don't clear their area.

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Re: How to play Heroes 7 (sorry title truncated and I didn't notice)

Postby Antalyan » Sep 24 2016, 14:37

cjlee wrote:Some observations from v2.2:

Ranged attacks nerfed since the double shooting bug eliminated.

Teleport nerfed. Now I can only teleport to a free position - ie like the Behemoth Leap and the Dire Wolf attack, the square I teleport to must be attainable by the creature's movement.


Or bugs?
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