Heroes Online Preview

February, 2013.

Znork has once again been on the move for the benefit of the Might & Magic Community - taking a sneak peek on the upcoming free-to-play game Heroes Online. To comment on the article, go to our forum.

On january 30th, Blue Byte flew me down to Düsseldorf for a hands-on session with Heroes Online. First a small disclaimer: Sneak peeks like this is that I get to see about 5% of the game to get a general feel for it; I got to play for about 3 hours with the Blue Byte people filming and proudly jumping up and down, trying to tell me how cool everything is - so bear with me here. I'm not a journalist, just a fan, so don't expect me to be entirely objective either. Also, when you get to play a sneak peek like this, it's really hard to see how things will end up.

So what is Heroes Online?

It's not Heroes VII, so don't fool yourself to think so - you'll just be let down that way. This is an online Flash game you play 30 minutes a day. It's not something you play for 4 hours and then quit. Building towns will take weeks, reaching the final level will take time and won't be done after a hard gaming weekend.
It will be free-to-play, so you can log in and play without paying for anything and still get a full game. Although you can pay to get things faster, it will follow Ubi's FTP principles so you get to play everything for free.

How will this play out, then?
Well, you have your town, which I did not get to see in this sneak peek. Then you have your units and you have your hero. Your hero has items and skills like in all the Heroes games. There will be some more stats due to the special online principles, but they were only talked about and not shown. My gut feeling tells me this might be a danger point with the game, but we'll get to know more about this as the development progresses.
So, you have your hero and you have your maps. You do missions and get rewards. And you'll have some epic battles - you'll have to plan for weeks in advance before you take them. The adding of new contents will be the main focus of the team after release.

So hex is back?
Yes, but spell books are out. You'll have hero attacks like in H5-6 and you'll have skills, but due to some constraints with Flash, no spell books. But you'll have the beautiful hexagonal squares back and all creatures will be back to one hex. And I must say the combat was really fun - it was like playing the old games again. Again, not without huge drawbacks due to Flash. Attacking units was two clicks, not one, which is what annoyed me the most when I was playing. But the epic battle I got to play was really fun, even though the graphics were buggy and things were unfinished. The initiative is back to the way it was in H3, which is great in my view.

The adventure map
Yes, well, they are now called "instances" - you gate in and out of them and you do missions on them. But for being a Flash game, these maps were beautiful in a very moving way. The had shadows that moved with the wind, oceans and beaches - it was stunning and I forgot I was in a browser game. The things these guys have done with Flash is close to magic. But as I had to point out to the BB team, good graphics don't weigh up for a poor game.

How many factions?
We got to play Haven and Necro. Each faction had 3 tier one units, 2 tier two units and 1 tier three unit. We don't know if the other factions will have a different setup. We did not see any unit level up as we played. They have also promised us more factions. If the fame is a success, we'll wee lots of them and then maybe we can finally see the Forge.

So, what does Znork think?

I played it for 4 hours and I had fun. That is a good start. There is potential, but I have seen that wasted many times before. Normally when I play games like this, I get a good feeling, but my gut tells me that they are on the right track this time. The hex grid is a huge improvement from the other heroes. The Flash graphics area great, the people are smart and we are talking about Blue Byte here - Ubi's golden boys.
My biggest problem is the need to control how long you play. The mechanism they are talking about for how they plan to implement it has left me with some troubling thoughts.

So should I even bother to sign up to the beta?
Well, if you're tired of playing H3, why not. Everybody's feedback is needed. I'm sure your site admin will have some beta keys to dish out.