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Heroes Community > Heroes 5 - Temple of Ashan > Thread: Week 2 Review
Thread: Week 2 Review
nocaplato
nocaplato


Adventuring Hero
Lover of Ancient Philosophy
posted June 10, 2006 11:25 AM

Week 2 Review

Newbie to the forums, thus forgive any trespass please.  On the plus side, I'm a long time fan of HoMM stretching back to King's Bounty.  Man sailing to square continents was weirdly fun, wasn't it?

Graphics:
The 3-D engine is a lovely addition that enables a more immersive RP environment in spite of the gameís focus on turn based strategy.  At first the graphics and display were disorienting.  Given you could change the camera direction vertical angle and zoom it was a bit easy to get lost (sort of like NWN in that senseÖ good thing thereís a compass).  Many of the map locations and goodies were hard to spot because they have a tendency to be next to taller objects like trees.  From the wrong angle the pile of gold or artifact might not be visible, and for a few days I was worried that the increased graphics would be equal part impediment and benefit.  Eventually however, its something you get used to, and by the second week of play I feel quite at home in the lovely environments of the gameís strategic map.

The town screen is also a lovely bit of work, very rich with detail and also available for 3-D exploration.  The main difference is the camera focus is always on the same point at the middle of your castle.  You can zoom in and out, rotate the camera and change the vertical angle, but youíre always focused on that central point.  Each of the buildings is located somewhere on the town screen and as you build the town gets bigger and more bustling.  

The tactical screen, the combat arena, is not as well executed.  On the positive side, the battlefield itself is as richly detailed as the strategic map, and there are some cinematic elements to the fights that add a bit of spice now and again.  The same camera angles and abilities exist here as do on the strategic map, allowing for camera movement of all the same stripe, however the map feels small and distant by comparison.  HoMM 3 gave you a sense that you might be a general overlooking the battle on a nearby hill, but this one feels more like youíre in a traffic helicopter a few hundred yards away from the battle.  In the fully zoomed out mode the icons are small, making the battle feel a bit impersonal.  You can zoom in for a closer look, which eliminates the distance, but in doing so you lose sight of parts of the battlefield which, in turn, means you might miss an opponentís actions.  Another drawback is that the attack animations are occasionally too slow.  The mage unit, for example, attacks with spells, or with a ranged blast of energy, both of which use maybe ten frames of animation, taking something like 2 or 3 seconds.  While in small groups itís not enough to worry about, in larger battles, it can really throw the pacing off and drag down the tension of the battles.

Hero Creation
When leveling up, you are given the choice of picking four skills, two primary, or two secondary.  The system that generates this selection is a bit odd, and purely random, which can occasionally be discouraging.  Because there is such a huge range of secondary skills that have prerequisites, one wrong skill pick can close off a path for that hero, or you might never get the chance to pick a cool secondary skill, because your arenít offered the prerequisites.  Iíve gotten to the point that I try to shoot for maybe three really cool secondary skills in order to get one of them.  If I get two Iím lucky, and if I get three, I feel like Iíve one the lottery.  Unfortunately there are some secondary skills that have so many prerequisites I just canít imagine them ever being uncovered in the game.  Itís the one major drawback to so much flexibility, and one that should be accommodated for in a patch, though I donít know if Ubisoft is addressing the issue.  

AI
It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I must say the AI is not the greatest in the world.  Fortunately it is nowhere near as horrid as the AI in HoMM 4, and so, it does intermittently represent a challenge, and will occasionally hound you if it thinks you are ripe for a fall.  At the same time it will get caught in decision loops where it canít decide what is the most important next step.  Iíve seen it jump into a whirlpool, then into it again, then into it again, then into it again and so on, never getting anywhere and slowly tearing its armies apart.  Iíve also watched it walk straight passed resources and mines just begging to be snapped up.  It doesnít do these things consistently though, which is the odd bit.  Sometimes the computer will really drive forward and focus on capturing things, especially if they are under a playerís control or near a playerís town or hero.  

My theory is that the program gives more value to controlled objects than to uncontrolled ones, which makes sense, but it shouldnít do so at the expense of its own development, which is what seems to happen.  I believe, though I canít be sure, that this is the cause for some of its bad ideas.  As the computer tends to overvalue controlled territories, it ignores its own natural borders and the treasures and mines within them.  Thus, it will make more effort at capturing a players mines several days away, over water, past monsters and through tricky border areas, instead of getting the mine one dayís march from its castle!  

At the same time, the computer is driven to build its towns, and so it will occasionally capture more convenient locations if the resources they represent are necessary for its structures to be built.  Hence, when the town comes to a developmental stop and can no longer progress without a crystal mine, it will attempt to capture the crystal mines nearby.  In the long run, of course, the computer will end up with a well developed town, and a well controlled territory.  However, since it tends to grab up these things only as it suddenly needs them, its development is much, much slower than what a human player will do.  Hopefully Ubisoft will include a component of the AI which is able to plan a week or more into the future, like a mid-level chess gameís ability to plan several moves into the future (making it more challenging for a decent chess player).  It should be simple enough to do since, unlike chess, the AI in HoMM doesnít have to worry about every possible move the human player will make.  It only needs to worry if the player represents an imminent threat, in which case it can increase the value of building armies and equipping its generals, or riding out to the field of battle.

These are all strategic elements, and really are the most significant element of the AIís control, however I should mention a word on the tactical screen as well.  In combat the computer does well, in almost all cases.  The tactical situation is generally a true challenge, where it will emphasize attacking the weaker archer units, or the most dangerous threat on the battlefield.  It tends to attack wisely, including the effective use of spell-casting heroes and armies to the best of its abilities.  Certainly I disagree with some of the decisions it makes, but typically when it casts the ĎStone Skiní type spell on its own forces, instead of the blast of lightning on mine, Iím more relieved than irritated at the AIís decision.  

It does occasionally get caught in weird loops that remind me of a story in philosophy:  There was once a donkey whoís only means of making decisions was based purely on logic.  While walking through the desert one day, feeling a desperate thirst, he came across two wells of water, each exactly the same in every way, and both very inviting to the thirsty beast.  Now it happened that when he saw the two wells, as luck would have it, he was standing directly in the middle of both.  Because the donkey could tell no difference between the two wells, he couldnít decide which to drink from.  Unfortunately, because he was also exactly in the middle of both, he couldnít choose the one that was closest.  There was, in fact, no reason whatever to choose one well over the other.  The donkey stood there, trying and trying to make a logical decision, but no matter which way he thought of the wells, he could see no reason to pick one over the other.  Eventually, standing between them, he simply died of thirst standing 4 feet from two lovely bodies of water.

This is a long way of saying that, every once in a while, the computer will get into a situation where it will leave huge stacks of creatures in the middle of two choices, but not have them act in any way.  In a recent battle, for example, I was well overmatched, and should have died on all accounts.  I fought in an effort to maim the army as best I could, with no expectation of a victory.  The main problem, you see, was a huge stack of Steel Golems.  At one point during the battle, the golems found themselves half way between their archers, and a group of my unicorns (placed to protect my archers from any sort of attack).  The AI is designed to protect its own archers, but it is also designed to attack enemy troops.  Unfortunately, the steel golems were in a position that, should they move, Iíd have been able to attack the archers.  Because the AI is not programmed to make purely random decisions in this situation, the stack of golems simply sat there, not doing anything at all, and letting me slowly rip them apart with the few archers I had.  No player would have let it happen, of course.  As soon as someone would have seen my tactic, theyíd have marched ahead with the steel golems, wiped out my unicorns ending the battle and to hell with protecting the archers.

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Doomforge
Doomforge


Admirable
Undefeatable Hero
Retired Hero
posted June 10, 2006 12:11 PM

Heroes 5 looks sweet, and the music is good too (Well, I still like h4 music more, but this one is like h3 music - not that "epic", yet good), but there are many things not included and it spoils the gameplay. Besides, the game is still incomplete, and needs a lot of patches to regain all the lost important features (scoreboard, editor, random map generator, good ai). The camera is sometimes pretty annoying, and the possibilities - compared to the infinite WOG possibilites - are kinda poor. I miss WoG's stack experience system, commanders and many other fun thingies.


Overall, a good game, but needs a LOT of patching/balancing/modding to reach the excitement that h3/wog used to give. I look forward to great fun, but it will take time..

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rainalcar
rainalcar


Promising
Famous Hero
Heroji su zakon
posted June 10, 2006 12:16 PM

I like H4 music better also. There are only a few themes that are really great in H5 to me - castle sieging/town and sylvan town come in mind.
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Thanatos
Thanatos


Known Hero
posted June 10, 2006 12:51 PM

I absolutely agree on the hero building thing... at the moment I'm building an imbue arrow-and-ballista type of ranger, however I'm now level 20 and war machines hasn't been offered to me a single time They should've made a system that simply lets you choose skills from a tree or something.


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rainalcar
rainalcar


Promising
Famous Hero
Heroji su zakon
posted June 10, 2006 12:55 PM

The imbue ballista is truly powerful, but sylvan has no hero that starts with war machines, and I've found they are very difficult to get.
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rainalcar
rainalcar


Promising
Famous Hero
Heroji su zakon
posted June 10, 2006 01:00 PM

Choose skills? I totaly disagree. Heroes was never a determined game where a better player always wins (if so, my hotseat friend would won like 10% of the games ) - the point is in inpredictability - once we played a small closed map with lots of black dragons guarding the pass - believe it or not I started with inferno and got Isra and assembled Cloack of the Undead King. 2xThrong of Liches anyone?
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Thanatos
Thanatos


Known Hero
posted June 10, 2006 02:28 PM
Edited by Thanatos at 14:29, 10 Jun 2006.

Quote:
Choose skills? I totaly disagree. Heroes was never a determined game where a better player always wins (if so, my hotseat friend would won like 10% of the games ) - the point is in inpredictability - once we played a small closed map with lots of black dragons guarding the pass - believe it or not I started with inferno and got Isra and assembled Cloack of the Undead King. 2xThrong of Liches anyone?


I don't like that kind of unpredictability since I simply hate it if games are decided by a random number generator instead of skill It also prevents you from planning ahead for your hero (after all what's the use of planning out a hero that uses multiple skills in conjunction with each other when there's virtually no chance to get them in the first place?) which encourages to always go with an archetype since there are always some skills that you have a high chance of getting with a particular hero class.

I also find it very strange that Sylvan has been given Imbue Ballista and Destructive Magic if they barely have any chance to get War Machines - it seems the only way they can get some use out of Destructive Magic as they simply lack the spellpower to make good use of it in the convential way (aside from an imbued Rain of Arrows fired on a bunch of favored enemies, but that's really too situational to spend a skill slot for Destructive Magic on IMO)

Ah well, maybe Sylvan just isn't my faction *goes back to Academy*

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Shauku83
Shauku83


Promising
Famous Hero
posted June 10, 2006 03:58 PM

Quote:

I don't like that kind of unpredictability since I simply hate it if games are decided by a random number generator instead of skill It also prevents you from planning ahead for your hero (after all what's the use of planning out a hero that uses multiple skills in conjunction with each other when there's virtually no chance to get them in the first place?) which encourages to always go with an archetype since there are always some skills that you have a high chance of getting with a particular hero class.


That would ne fun at all, if you were able to chooce from the start THAT would always give you the Archetype hero. Everyone would go fr the most efective combination immediately. In this game you have to adapt!!! The one who can best adapt to the continual events and happenings in the game wins. That requires skill, and it will be noticed when an experienced player takes on an unexperinced player. For example, if you only know how to win a fight with a hero with Light Magic, does that make you a good player? . A good player has alternative strategies for Heroes and for combat.
Take football also for an example, the outcome is quite unpredictable among very good teams, yet it is definately a game that requires skill. (not the best example, but hey, I just had to use football in this post )
Quote:

I also find it very strange that Sylvan has been given Imbue Ballista and Destructive Magic if they barely have any chance to get War Machines - it seems the only way they can get some use out of Destructive Magic as they simply lack the spellpower to make good use of it in the convential way (aside from an imbued Rain of Arrows fired on a bunch of favored enemies, but that's really too situational to spend a skill slot for Destructive Magic on IMO)

Ah well, maybe Sylvan just isn't my faction *goes back to Academy*


Imbue ballista is very very effective. To get it everytime would be no fun. And you don't have to use only Destructive spells on it, don't you? How about Disrupting Ray Other choices are also there. But Academy is definately not a bad choice, me likes it too

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