There aren’t too many veteran game franchises on the market these days. Final Fantasy and Super Mario are two of the more public ones, while Heroes of Might and Magic has stayed in the niche shadows for the last couple of years. With a new expansion pack that takes the game into standalone territory, Might and Magic is once again trying to appeal to a wider audience. But strangely enough, that approach veers into an opposite direction instead.
Shades of Darkness brings two new campaigns to the game, through a standalone feature that is designed to be a bridge for newcomers to the franchise that has been built on the gameplay of Might and Magic Heroes VI.
Overall, it’s very similar gameplay over a ton of new content, including some damn bugs that have yet to be worked out. A new set of antagonists make their presence felt here, the Dark Elves and Dungeon faction as players get to don a black hat and villainise their way across the landscape. But thanks to a story that drops the ball frequently, you’ll never feel like a villain, and be more of a misunderstood outcast instead.
It’s your usual swords and sorcery tropes at play here, so thickly constructed that you might just roll your eyes out of your head at the sheer volume of stereotypes and vanilla characters, barely serving it’s purpose to keep the momentum of the game going.
It’s still the same old Might and Magic gameplay at work here. Players engage in turn-based strategy, working various tactics and RPG elements over massive maps, and admittedly, the new abilities that are present here make the game more enjoyable in this regard.
But it’s the various bugs that bring an otherwise lengthy and enjoyable hybrid ideas down several notches. You’ll find assets fail to load properly, the game crashed frequently for me and various other problems have been detailed by other gamers.
BUT, the majority of these issues have been patched since the game launched. It’s not 100% watertight yet, but at least the aggravation of registering for a Ubisoft Uplay account on Steam makes up for some of these bureaucratic aggravations. Some of them time. Although I’d be beyond happy to see only one client server being needed for this time-consuming process.
But here’s the thing with this particular brand of Might and Magic. It’s marketed as a perfect game for newcomers to the series. But it’s nowhere near as inviting as what you’d expect. If anything, it’s paradoxically aimed at veteran fans instead, catering more to them. A tutorial is present, but teaching the subtleties of the game isn’t included, a big misstep.
By no means am I a Might and Magic expert, but even letting an experienced friend of mine sit down on my laptop to play the game for several hours, there was a confusing sense of what to actually do to play the game right.
Sure, it has moments where the action is considerably easier, but imagine trying to slice the head off of a chicken with an axe that came with a Japanese instruction manual. Something is bound to go wrong. But I will say this about the game, it’s not all bad.
The visuals are colourful and have a nice pop so long as you don’t zoom in to close, while the musical score is your usual assortment of fantasy sounds, mixing epic battle themes with steel on steel action. It’s a hell of a long game to get through as well, so when it comes to replayability, there’s plenty of it here.
If you can look past all the hurdles mentioned, and happen to love the franchise, then you’re going to be treated to a ridiculously massive amount of new content with which to engage in. This is a game for the fans once again, a game that will most likely not appeal to newcomers.