Standing on top of a creaking stack of Might and Magic games, Heroes of Might and Magic V hoists the entire strategy franchise straight overhead. Previously a simple 2D isometric game, this lavishly produced sequel drenches the series in three-dimensional splendor, while remaining faithful to the turn-based gameplay that spawned it.
The lion's share of the game consists of six intertwined single-player campaigns that highlight the six factions - each lasting scores of hours. As the title would suggest, you'll command a Hero and his army, building the power of each during battles with marvelously animated creatures and other powerful Heroes.
The battles take place on a chess-board grid, with armies lining up on either side to take turns clanking swords and slinging spells. The firing order is kept neat and clean by a handy indicator towards the bottom of your screen, letting you know just who gets to swash his buckle next. You'll also need to navigate obstacles on the battlefield, and strike from just the right angle. Further layering on strategy are ranged attacks, area-effect spells and brutal counterstrikes; you'll need to plan your attack order very carefully.
But take as much time as you need - this is a turn-based adventure, so folks will politely wait until it's their turn to stab you in the face with a pitchfork or send a magic missile sizzling toward your special place. Heroes themselves are outside the battle arena, but make powerful cameos. They'll hurl spells and swoop in for special attacks - eventually performing a staggering amount of different feats by the end of each campaign. Best of all, each bit of combat has an impressive mini cutscene. We often caught ourselves swinging our arms in the air in anticipation as creatures clashed (no one saw that, right?).
In between battles, you'll gather power, magic and treasure in the Adventure mode. But the world is littered with vengeful enemies like demonic Horned Overseers, undead Wights, and nearly unstoppable Academy Mages. These walking nightmares also guard over the most powerful artifacts and spells - everything a growing Hero needs - so you'll need to strengthen your army and defeat them if you are to survive.