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H7: Would you prefer 2D or 3D townscreens?
2D
3D
I don't care.
game selector


 → MMX Preview

by Jeff

MMX Preview

August, 2013.


After waiting over eleven years, it is time to once again pull out the armor, sharpen the blades and practice magical incantations. Ubisoft has finally taken on the challenge of reviving a time honored and much beloved series. After several missteps with the Heroes franchise, I for one was unsure whether Ubi was the company that should do this game. I was lucky enough to play the preview over the weekend. Yes, there were bugs, but to be fair, it is far from finished and all but one of the bugs were identified in advance and did not impact gameplay.

The preview was restricted to only 4 of the eventual 12 classes. Party creation is very similar to that used in MMVI and old fans will have little trouble navigating the steps. As before, each race have advantages and disadvantages. You will assign skill points and attributes to each of your characters. A helpful menu pops up when the cursor is placed on the plus sign for each trait; it tells you what will change if you add to that category; for instance, Might in elves will increase health by 8 and melee damage by 16%. I would suggest that the player read up on the skills and attributes prior to playing the game as I suspect good choices here will make a big difference in the early stages of the game.


In my party, I selected one from each of the four races (elf, human, dwarf and orc). There are currently only two choices of portrait for each sex, while this may not be a problem; I suspect some fans will try single race or single sex parties and some of the portraits may need to be used more than once. Hopefully, the final product will have at least twice as many portraits. The only annoyance here was the background music. It was set too high with no way to adjust it lower; I could not hear the voices of the characters, so I had to guess which version, heroic or cynical, I wanted.

The game starts with a lengthy cutscene laying out the history of the land and the background for the adventure you are about to embark upon. This is good as I had never paid much attention to this new universe created by UBI. At the end of it, we find ourselves at Sorpigal by the Sea. As you might guess, there is a growing unrest in the land and only a group of heroes can save the day. Just how I like it.

The look of the game will be familiar to the old fans. The graphics have been updated, no longer restricted to the 256 color pallet of MMVI. The screen is first person perspective, with the portraits of the four members of your party, the minimap and several buttons opening the journal, inventory, spell book, movement and so on. There are also ten quick action buttons along the button which I will mention later. The scene changes with the time of day as you would expect. There is an indicator in the middle of the top that indicates threat level. When red, an opponent is in range. Something new is two rectangles in the top corners; the left side shows the results of your interacting with objects or NPCs. It lists damage dealt or taken during combat. The one on the right shows quests you have in progress.

Movement is a bit different from MMVI; there is no continuous movement - instead, you can only move forward, backward, rotate or side step with the arrow or letter keys. The mouse can only be used in movement by clicking on the six movement buttons; it can be used to interact with some adventure objects. Prior to entering the city you have a conversation with a former raider; he directs you to Maximus in the town garrison. You need to prove yourself to him, so he joins the group. Your task is to clear out a den of spiders in the town well. It is a dungeon reminiscent of the Abandoned Temple in MMVI but on a much smaller scale. This is a good thing, as it serves as a very good tutorial into how the combat system works. More on that later.

Interacting with the NPCs and shopkeepers is reminiscent of MMVI. You can buy, sell, identify or repair items in the various shops. Several shops have trainers to raise skills to expert and master levels, (there may be GM level as well but not that I saw). Most of the NPCs have gossip they will pass on and other offer quests. There are NPCs who will join the group for various quests or will aid your party. I tried to hire a chef but despite a couple of attempts he failed to join the group, but the scout outside the tavern readily joined once his fee was paid.

Interacting with adventure object is easy, simply approach it and a query pops up telling you what to do. Once opened, you are asked if you want to loot all and they are added to the party's inventory. A couple of panels in one of the dungeons were protected by a magic ward and a menu popped up asking which character I wanted to attempt to dispel the ward. Locked chest are supposed to operate the same way, for instance some may require might to open. This is similar to the skill challenges such as pulling the sword from the stone in MMVI. There was a lack of disarm trap, identify item, identify monster and repair item skills. I do not know how many, if any of these will make it into the game.

The tile based movement works fine in tight dungeons; however it is awkward out in the open. I frequently had to side step in order to interact with a door or object. When adventuring in large areas out in the open, being able to move diagonally just makes sense; this is minor and I believe most will adjust to it. It also becomes an issue in combat. Your opponent must be in the same column or row as your party in order to attack them. I much prefer the MMVI method where you could attack anyone in the field of view. In combat when multiple creatures are in a group; the computer decides which one you attack. No more using the mouse to select your opponent. This was particularly annoying as my party took much more damage than necessary because I could not concentrate my attack on a specific opponent.

After clearing out the nest of spiders, you should return to Maximus for more information. After investigating more of the city, it was time to head outside. The transition between areas is similar to earlier editions; a load screen appears while the new area is being loaded. Adventuring outside the city is more dangerous with numerous creatures that need to be dealt with and at time this may seem tedious, but it is necessary. The party has to improve their skills and increase their experience.

Here is where the tile based system needs adjusting. The passage of time is based on the party moving forward or backwards, time does not run continuously as before and clicking the enter key no longer functions to start and stop time. This method is in need of adjustment, as time passes too quickly. My party might be a bunch of geriatrics but it seemed as only minutes had passed between times I needed to rest them. This caused an unexpected problem when adventuring. The party could only carry 4 foods, the level the tavern sold. I did not find any other sources like the apple tree in MMVI. This limited the amount of adventuring I could do in a foray. Between having to rest to heal and replenish spell points or (if lucky) in combat, the passage of time and only four foods became a limiting factor. This is easily fixed by having other food sources or having the chef join the party (I am assuming he would make food). The adventure maps and the minimap were helpful but I am hoping for the ability to put notes on the maps to help keep track of locations.

The combat system is turn based and I am a big fan of that style. I have already discussed the impact of the tile system, but the system itself in intuitive and easy to use. You quickly learn how to initiate ranged and melee attack, as well as the use of magic and potions. I really like the ten quick action buttons along the bottom. The first three are for melee, ranged attack and defend; the rest/all can be set however you want. I had my mage set a couple of useful spells and potions. These speed up the combat and make it much simpler, and if you plan on using an item out of inventory, then as before you just switch the item into one of the ten slots or use it directly from the inventory screen. This is a very nice improvement on the old theme.


Also, the use of a shared inventory simplifies the use of potions and scrolls. All party members draw from the same source, so you don't have to rearrange items on the fly as frequently happened in MMVI. If a type of attack or spell listed is not available (lack of spell points), it is dimmed, so you can quickly select the correct action. Experience points, gold and treasure, if any, are automatically added in. You no longer have to seek out a trainer once a new level is reached; you simply add the skill and attribute points where you wish. Trainers are still necessary to reach expert and master levels in the different skills just as before.

Conclusion
So what is my overall impression? It is a new chapter in the MM series, and giving the series a much needed update. It probably could be said it is MMVI with updated graphics and a new story. That would not be far off the mark; all aspects of the game are similar to its predecessors. A few improvements such as the quick action buttons have been made, and a few steps backwards, like the tile based movement, as well.

It could be compared to the first Star Trek movie; not a great movie but it served the purpose of reintroducing people to a show that has been off the air for years. This serves the same purpose, it is not revolutionary but it is a good reintroduction to the Might and Magic series, and like the Trek movie, I hope this is just the start to a series of new games in a genre that has been underappreciated by many gaming companies.

The best endorsement I can give this game is to say I will buy it. Ubisoft appear to have learned the error of their ways with the Heroes franchise, and seem to have listened to the fans and the enthusiasts. It may not blow away the younger gamer who looks for continual combats and spectacular graphics, but I think the fans of MMVI will find this game comfortable to play. What I mean by that is the learning curve to this game will be very small. The tutorial-like menus that appear are more than adequate for anyone who just wants to sit down, install and play without spending time reading any of the documentation that should accompany any game.

Comments

Marzhin at 2013-09-08 22:35 wrote:
The barrels containing colored, stat-increasing liquids will definitely be in the final game though :)

jeff at 2013-09-08 19:23 wrote:
To me, it's a Might and Magic game in name only.

I agree with many of your points, but I disagree here. It has all of the feel of a Might and Magic game. Remember this version is not much more than an alpha and many items will/should be adjusted; such as the rest cycle, weapons breaking and the long wait for the AI to finish its move. Others need to be improved such as the minimap, the attacking of opponents and though a long shot improvement in the movement system.

@StoneCold
There are barrels but most hold items and are not the colored barrels of the past. :(

StoneCold at 2013-08-31 01:25 wrote:
Barrels???

Ryder at 2013-08-23 11:05 wrote:
Notice a good thing: you don't need to learn any skill from a certain house/shop/person, etc. Just pull up skill book and put a point onto that skill, its learned automatically.

I find that a bad thing, almost as bad as auto levelup.

Day/night cycle is ridiculously quick.
The game forces you too rest too often. Give me atleast 18 hours of up time before been forced to nap.
Weapons break way too easily.
Waiting for enemies to move when red light is on is painfully slow.
The automap from MM2 is better than what's been delivered here.

I could go on forever.

To me, it's a Might and Magic game in name only.

jeff at 2013-08-22 22:55 wrote:
One question, becuase I am not sure, is this 50 space inventory for all team or each member has own 50 psace inventory?

As mentioned it is a shared inventory, like potions automatically stacked, and so only take up 1 slot, but weapons and such did not stack . Whether 50 different items will be limiting or not I can't say.

Ya5MieL at 2013-08-22 20:27 wrote:
Inventory is party shared. Might have more than 1 page tho.
Edited on Thu, Aug 22 2013, 16:28 by Ya5MieL

Avonu at 2013-08-22 19:40 wrote:
One question, becuase I am not sure, is this 50 space inventory for all team or each member has own 50 psace inventory?

jeff at 2013-08-21 20:44 wrote:
It is mystifying as I went ahead and bought the game and paid for a disc back up, which they are shipping to me. So what is the problem with the other materials. ;|

Kalah at 2013-08-21 20:15 wrote:
I cannot support it either; as the manager of an M&M fansite whose majority of members are from North America, it's completely unacceptable to me.

The reason I'm guessing has something to do with this not being a AAA game and Ubisoft not wanting the increased distribution costs.

jeff at 2013-08-21 18:13 wrote:
In the end I believe the game box is only available in as few countries as boxed edition of H6 was.

Sad about this but i will pass on the game as i cannot support this.

I understand and sympathize with your position. I truly believe it is time that Ubisoft comes clean and state exactly why these things are restricted. They bought the rights in a bankruptcy court here in the US and I don't recall any restrictions placed on them when they bought it. ;|

Ya5MieL at 2013-08-21 16:02 wrote:
So, I can confirm that boxed version won't be available for Croatia, and judging by one tweet from ubi support earlier it seems to be the case for some other countries as well"Ubisoft Support ‏@UbisoftSupport 5h
@JaromirSebela Unfortunately we're unable to ship items to the Czech Republic and as such the physical copy will not appear on the website.."

In the end I believe the game box is only available in as few countries as boxed edition of H6 was.

Sad about this but i will pass on the game as i cannot support this.

jeff at 2013-08-21 15:11 wrote:
@crislevin

I agree with pretty much everything you said; I don't see why they at least didn't use a hexagonal tile system, that would at least allowed for diagonal movement.
crislevin at 2013-08-21 14:04 wrote:
Notice a good thing: you don't need to learn any skill from a certain house/shop/person, etc. Just pull up skill book and put a point onto that skill, its learned automatically.

The tile based movement is slowly growing on me, I just don't know if there is enough old school players who will tolerate the learning curve to let it grow on them. This definitely need to be adjusted somehow in future game. The developers listed many reasons for not doing free movement in this game, and at this late stage, there may be too many technical difficulties to implement it in this game.

To compensate tile based movement, the game has to make the content more fun and exciting. I hope thats being done, since they stated they used tile based system so they can free up time to do other things better.

One thing many people pointed out already, is the easily broken weapon, fast day/night switch, insufficient store re-stocking of supplies. Fixing these would help greatly the game experience. Its slow enough already on a grid, it becomes tedious when you have to run between towns and fields every 5 minutes on the big tile "chess board", thereby spending most time moving step by step doing meaningless labor.

jeff at 2013-08-21 13:12 wrote:
It seems there will be unlimited arrows.

I don't have a problem with that as the previous chapters were this way; it's all in how much logistics you want in a game. Wizardry and others had depleting arrow supplies, so it really is a matter of taste

Kalah at 2013-08-20 23:09 wrote:
It seems there will be unlimited arrows.

Variol at 2013-08-20 22:50 wrote:
Re the bows still the same; requiring no arrows?

jeff at 2013-08-20 18:58 wrote:
Not here too. And according to new Ubisoft info, boxed edition won't be in North America for sure.

I don't understand the constraints that do not allow the boxed edition to be sold in the US. I may have to rethink my commitment to buy; if they don't have the commitment to make it available everywhere. :mad:

Ok it's been an hour and I have rethought it. I will still buy it as I am intrigued by the modding package. If I can figure that out it opens some very interesting possibilities. :)

Avonu at 2013-08-20 18:52 wrote:
Nope :devil:

GreatEmerald at 2013-08-20 18:45 wrote:
> Not here too.

Wait, there will be no boxed edition of MMX in the City of Griffin? :P

Avonu at 2013-08-20 18:27 wrote:
Not here too. And according to new Ubisoft info, boxed edition won't be in North America for sure.

jeff at 2013-08-20 17:37 wrote:
Unfortunately, boxed edition doesn't seem to be available for me from uPlay (Croatia), so i will pass on this until i find a way to grab a box.
*sadface*

Yeah I don't know where the boxed edition will be available; hopefully world-wide, but that is the edition I am waiting for and will pre-order it. As of right now I can't find where that is available.

Ya5MieL at 2013-08-20 17:04 wrote:
Unfortunately, boxed edition doesn't seem to be available for me from uPlay (Croatia), so i will pass on this until i find a way to grab a box.

*sadface*

GreatEmerald at 2013-08-20 16:19 wrote:
Yeap, in other words, just like in second generation games.

jeff at 2013-08-20 16:18 wrote:
Well, yes and no. It would make sense to be able to fire diagonally, yes. But when you can't, and the enemies can't as well, you can use tactics. Either get closer to them before they get the chance to fire (if their projectiles hurt a lot), or run away without them getting the chance to fire, or get into a position where you are a safer distance away from them so you could fire an extra shot or two.

Once the middle indicator turned red I was not able to run away, but what I did was backup until they finally moved into my column or row and then used a ranged attack until they closed to melee.

GreatEmerald at 2013-08-20 15:46 wrote:
Well, yes and no. It would make sense to be able to fire diagonally, yes. But when you can't, and the enemies can't as well, you can use tactics. Either get closer to them before they get the chance to fire (if their projectiles hurt a lot), or run away without them getting the chance to fire, or get into a position where you are a safer distance away from them so you could fire an extra shot or two.

jeff at 2013-08-20 15:28 wrote:
Again, it worked fine before. In the overworld you could get to another town in 29 steps, encountering enemies on the way. It didn't feel restricted and each step changed the environment and possibly revealed something interesting. So as far as I can see, either the overworld in MMX is using too small tiles (which ought to be fixable), or the overworld is too empty (which again ought to be fixable). It's not an inherent flaw of the tile-based movement in the slightest.

I agree and Does not work well , may be to strong a term; it didn't feel logical when moving. It may only need a tweak; you are probably more knowledgeable than I on that. Being able to direct the party's attacks to specific target within the field of view would go a long way to improving the product.

GreatEmerald at 2013-08-20 15:08 wrote:
> I agree the tile based system does not work well outside and I am not sure that can be modified at this point. However this is a relaunch of the series and if it canít be done this time; hopefully sales will be good enough to justify more game with a much better movement system.

Again, it worked fine before. In the overworld you could get to another town in 29 steps, encountering enemies on the way. It didn't feel restricted and each step changed the environment and possibly revealed something interesting. So as far as I can see, either the overworld in MMX is using too small tiles (which ought to be fixable), or the overworld is too empty (which again ought to be fixable). It's not an inherent flaw of the tile-based movement in the slightest.

darknessfood at 2013-08-20 14:54 wrote:
Nice article! Beginning to doubt and getting this game ASAP. It looks pretty amazing!

jeff at 2013-08-20 14:49 wrote:
It doesn't sound great enough to me to buy it, but I feel a sense of relief.

Thanks Jeff.

I will not argue to convince people to buy; I feel that is an individual's decision based on their situation and how they feel toward the game. Perhaps after it is released and you hear more input from other fans you'll change your mind. In my case this game initially appears a giant step in the right direction, and unless something tragic happens between now and release I will buy to encourage their movement in this direction. I am not advocating others do that, but let's wait for that final release before deciding not to buy. :D

Avonu at 2013-08-20 13:50 wrote:
Pretty much how I described it.
Yeas, sorry. I meant "as Jeff already pointed out" but somehow this didn't end in my post.

cjlee at 2013-08-20 13:48 wrote:
It doesn't sound great enough to me to buy it, but I feel a sense of relief.

Thanks Jeff.

Ubisoft might actually be making improved products going forward. This doesn't sound like a disaster. (EG at least no chipmunk noises, you managed to play it fairly smoothly, etc.)

Hopefully they will put as much commitment to quality for Heroes VII as this. It won't be the best game in the world, but it will bring me back to play.

And come on, Ubisoft, isn't that what you want? To get money from us? I've given up the idea of you guys ever making a fantastic game or even of Heroes VII being better than Heroes V. Just make a decent turn based game and you'll get your money, I promise you. An old man like me can't survive in an RTS like Starcraft!!!
Edited on Tue, Aug 20 2013, 09:51 by cjlee

jeff at 2013-08-20 12:56 wrote:
Too bad jeff you didn't mention two things:

1. There are some tech problems with game and some people can't even start it (laptops mainly).

2. You need U(won't)Play to launch game. These "feature" for sure will hav none negatives to game... none at all, just ask H6 players. :P

I also didn't mention you had to install steam to play the preview, because I was blissfully unaware they were releasing it to everyone. I had never used steam and will take it off as soon as I am done messing with the preview. I did not mention the laptop issue, because I played on a laptop without any problems, and this was not a technical review on issues; this is a preview of a game that is far from complete. The need for Uplay has frequently been mentioned already. You will need to use it to launch and register the game the first time and then never need it again. I suspect as patches come out Uplay may be needed, but I donít know. Had I known a public release was coming I would have mentioned those and the fact I had a repeated problem of corrupted game save files.

From what I seen in few gameplays:
- cities looks deserted - there are some NPCs outside buildings, but only a handful, no compare to MM6-9 cities or even Stonehelm from Dark Messiah.

Here I agree with you, but again this is early and hopefully it will be more populated in the final form. However with a tile based movement system, ( referencing crislevin comment ) if the NPCs move you had better have the ability to move through NPCs otherwise you could get blocked or trapped by an NPC in tight passages.

- while in spider dungeon there is no discomfort to use tile based movement, using it in outside areas (and in cities) just don't work - you really need free movement there, no restrictions like now.
- From what I heard, you can't choose which creature to attack in group, you can only shoot/attack at target chosen by AI.

Pretty much how I described it.

@crislevin and GreatEmerald

I agree the tile based system does not work well outside and I am not sure that can be modified at this point. However this is a relaunch of the series and if it canít be done this time; hopefully sales will be good enough to justify more game with a much better movement system. I mentioned that it seems as Ubi is finally listening, and including a up to date movement system is a must for any games that follow, and this one if possible.

GreatEmerald at 2013-08-20 11:51 wrote:
Tile-based movement worked fine outside and in towns in 1st-2nd generation games. Maybe the problem in MMX is that those places are too big? 2nd generation games explicitly made time go faster in the overworld, simulating that you move further when you move one tile there, and thus the overworlds weren't as expansive as in 3rd generation games.
crislevin at 2013-08-20 10:38 wrote:
There is no walking NPC, everybody is standing at a location.

The tile based movement/turning really sucks, this is 2013, making a game without continuous movement/turning is not a great idea. I am unsure what kind of players the team is trying to capture, those who played MM before 1998?

Avonu at 2013-08-20 08:53 wrote:
Too bad jeff you didn't mention two things:

1. There are some tech problems with game and some people can't even start it (laptops mainly). Anyone who played H6 should know what this can mean in long run. MMX beta or not, H6 had the same problems and still have. And Limbic was working on H6 too.

2. You need U(won't)Play to launch game. These "feature" for sure will have none negatives to game... none at all, just ask H6 players. :P

From what I seen in few gameplays:
- cities looks deserted - there are some NPCs outside buildings, but only a handful, no compare to MM6-9 cities or even Stonehelm from Dark Messiah.
- while in spider dungeon there is no discomfort to use tile based movement, using it in outside areas (and in cities) just don't work - you really need free movement there, no restrictions like now.
- I hope you can turn off this white thing which shows you enemies, chests, doors, etc. I never liked it in H3 and neighter here - it's helpful for new players for sure, but for me it has opposite effect.
- From what I heard, you can't choose which creature to attack in group, you can only shoot/attack at target chosen by AI.

Sometimes I feel like this game is simple: "let put all ideas togheter and see what we get". MMX for me lacks general idea how it should like and to be. Being WoX2 + LoG isn't enough.

GreatEmerald at 2013-08-20 07:14 wrote:
Hmm, so it seems that the technical foundation is fairly sound. It might be interesting once there are mods that take place in the original universe.

Also, ack, the forum connection with the comments here is broken! If it keeps being broken, what's the point of keeping phpBB2 around :P
HeroofPunk at 2013-08-19 23:32 wrote:
Great review, I downloaded and baught the deluxe edition. I can't stand it to be honest.. I hate the movement so bad that I decided that I am going to keep playing MaM VII until I get bored of it (started it for the 100th time last night).

Kalah at 2013-08-19 21:29 wrote:
There should definitely be free movement in later games, though... with modern technology, being able to move in only 4 directions doesn't make too much sense.

jeff at 2013-08-19 20:49 wrote:
Thanks for the preview Jeff. You raise some fair points, and they are duly noted :) Glad you liked it ^^

I did indeed and I look forward to the final release.

Sounds promising. Say Jeff did you play any of the MM games before VI? I was wondering because the combat system is pretty much the same as those games but you keep comparing it to MMVI. I bring it up because going completely old school might not be the worst decision combat wise.

Yes I like Marzhin, MM2 on the Sega Genesis was my first MM experience, and have played all of them even 9. I compared it to MMVI as that is the one I believe most people are familiar with. I have no problem with old school, but I am not sure which aspect you are referring to. I'll assume you talk of the tile based system. It was hard for me to see the logic not to be able to engage opponents in range but not in the row or column of the party. To be fair they couldn't attack me either, so its a trade off. I prefer the MMVI system, but that is not to say I did not enjoy the combats.

Apeman at 2013-08-19 20:28 wrote:
Sounds promising. Say Jeff did you play any of the MM games before VI? I was wondering because the combat system is pretty much the same as those games but you keep comparing it to MMVI. I bring it up because going completely old school might not be the worst decision combat wise.

Marzhin at 2013-08-19 19:40 wrote:
Thanks for the preview Jeff. You raise some fair points, and they are duly noted :) Glad you liked it ^^

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