Heroes of Might and Magic V

Those of us who prefer to batter unicorns alone should be equally well catered for. Each of the game's seven races has its own suitably mighty and magical campaign and a lot of effort is going into the narrative.

Unhappy with the aliens and UFOs that got inexplicably dragged into the universe by the M&M RPGs, a team of experts were brought together to redesign the world and give it a new 2,000-year history, keeping only the bare essentials from before. Better still, the plot of HoMM will intertwine with the moderately more juicy looking first-person RPG Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, with certain characters cropping up in both games.

So why was going so far to please the fans the right decision? Well, HoMM V was originally scheduled for a March release this year. A beta version was released in January for testing and feedback, and the community were horrified with what they found. Promised features and modes weren't present, while a plethora of bugs was.

This struck a nerve after the disappointment following the debacle of HoMM IV: a game with fewer units than expected and no multiplayer support whatsoever. Unwilling to let that happen again or pass the flaws of the beta off as stuff that would be fixed later, the fans leapt into action.

A website - www.saveheroes.org - was created, home to a petition demanding that Ubisoft, HoMM V's publisher, give the game the extra development time it needed. On top of fixing the code and ensuring all the features are added, the fans wanted a marked improvement in the AI, "high quality" single- and multiplayer and a map editor; all things that have been integral to HoMM games in the past.

They said an unrushed game would "not only show the players that a company (Ubisoft) is willing to do what it takes to satisfy its customers, but also generate dedication, loyalty, and repeat business."

Five days and over 2,500 esignatures later, the game's producer, Fabrice Cambounet, announced on the official forums that Ubisoft were delaying the release of the game. While it would be a bit optimistic to say that this was solely down to the community, it almost certainly had some bearing on the decision, and we should be grateful. Essential or not, the extra time will mean further development and, hopefully, a better game.

It's good to know that given all this palaver and extra time, Nival simply has to produce a game that's polished to within an inch of its life. After all, if it doesn't, the Russians might start making good on their threats.