Need I say more?
After playing the beta for a while and digesting the impressions, I have written this preview of the game.
If you're curious about the state of it and what it looks like some three months away from its scheduled release in September, have a read and check out those videos I made as well.
Heroes VII Preview
Ever since it was announced, the byline of our forum has been "third time lucky?", referring to this being the third "Heroes" game produced by Ubisoft. The first - Heroes V - had many interesting features, such as an innovative skill system and quite good campaigns, but on the other hand the multiplayer system was rubbish and the high system requirements gave you little value for money. The second - Heroes VI - was terrible in pretty much every way. This, then, is the chance for Ubisoft to get everything right. To stick with a single developer rather than hire and fire them after failing to deliver an all-round solid product. To produce something that will convince the fans that their taking over the franchise is a good thing rather than the abomination some claim and keep claiming.
It starts out quite promising. The developers are a bunch of Germans who have done good work in the past. They worked hard trying to fix the unfixable H6, they did well developing MMX, considering the scope of the game, and they have revealed a genuine interest in what the fans have to say, through the official Shadow Council blog site. They also seem to care about quality.
Based on the beta I have been playing recently, this preview is going to be primarily positive, but point out some issues. I have already set up a dedicated topic on our forum discussing the impressions, so I recommend you check that out as well. There's also the gameplay video I made to show you what it looks like.
- Wonderful music. I mean, come on, it's King and Romero. Free reins, they were given - complete carte blanche to do what they wanted, and who doubts this dynamic duo can come up with the bacon? It's King, Romero and Karin-freakin'-Mushegain - an absolutely awesome team! The music's gonna be wonderful, guys, make no mistake about it.
- They seem to be getting most of the gameplay features right. The creatures are familiar, you ride around collecting resources, flag mines, build your town, fight creatures, level up and pick skills ... Limbic aren't trying to reinvent the wheel here. That's a good thing.
- Great scenery. Limbic are using the Unreal engine for this game and that works great in rendering realistic movements of trees and water. Not sure about the hills and mountains, though; I liked the way they looked in H4. Smaller, but realistic.
- I'll get straight to the most serious aspect: the game has performance issues. It gets choppy after playing a while, probably a memory leak problem. We hate those and this has to be fixed if the game is to be playable at all. There should also be some work done on AI turn times and general speed of the gameplay.
- The bugs, oh woe is me, the bugs! Nah, c'mon I have tested betas before and I always forget this aspect. There are many bugs in the game, still waiting to be sorted out. Everything from a main hero disappearing from the map to game crashes occurring when you mess with the graphics settings. Seriously, what do you expect from an unfinished game? I think Limbic will handle the bugfixing nicely. I'm more worried about those performance issues.
- The high system requirements. Given that the performance issues are actually fixed, the game will still have quite high hardware needs. I mean, being forced to buy a new PC is what AAA games are about, not simpler games like "Heroes". I have always been against such extravagance in "Heroes" games, since I feel that they should be more about the gameplay than the graphics. Moreover, with slightly lower requirements, you open up the game to more players, which yield more user-made maps, which yields increased longevity. You get the idea.
- No, that's not a placeholder question mark; I actually mean the thing I'm not sure about. Something I can't put my finger on. What is it? The feeling. I'm not getting "The Heroes feel" with this game. At least not yet. Why? I don't know. Could be the angle of the camera, which is too low and should be raised to look downwards a bit more. Could be the map layouts. Could be the fact that because of the abysmal H6, I haven't really played a "Heroes" game in a couple of years. Maybe it takes a while to get used to it again? I hope it's that simple. If it's not, I doubt I could ever get the right feeling about this. And that would probably stop me from playing it. Ever.
- There's also something less serious for the casual gamer and more serious for those who want to play competitively. A comment on my video reminded me of this. I didn't play this beta with the aim of doing well - I just rode around, collected stuff, built my town and fought creatures. I didn't plan what to do first and what would be the most effective route to a bigger town. I just played to see what it was like. That means I don't have much to say about the balance and the skill system yet. I don't know what a serious player would think about it. Guess they'll have to find out themselves. After all: if they're that serious about it, they have probably tested the beta too.
It actually looks quite good, this. If Limbic can fix those performance issues and iron out the bugs, we might be looking at quite a good game. If the editor is simple to use as well, we might be talking about one of the best.