The sixth instalment of the Might & Magic: Heroes series hasn’t had an easy ride since its release in October 2011. With relations between Ubisoft and Developer Black Hole Studios tanking following the release of Heroes VI, Ubisoft found themselves with a product but no development team to work on it. Despite Limbic Entertainment (a relatively unknown developer active since 2002 hailing from Germany) being brought on board to save the day, it took nine months and four patches to get the game into a more palatable state.
Now, with the 1.5 patch (hopefully) striking down the last major issues, Ubisoft are finally moving on to what’s next for this game – the first ‘Adventure Pack’ DLC, Pirates of the Burning Sea. Like all good tales, this one starts with a man: Crag Hack.
Fans of the franchise will recognise this name, hopefully with fond nostalgia, but for those of you who don’t know, Crag Hack is like Final Fantasy’s Sid (and for those of you who don’t know what that is, well…. never mind). Crag is a character that pops up in many Might & Magic games… rarely as the ‘same’ person as far as continuity goes, but always with recognisable traits – male, barbarian, beardy… sometimes a dwarf, more often a human… you get the idea. Crag makes a triumphant return to the franchise in Savage Sea. He’s one of the many new heroes you encounter, and is one of the more notorious pirates that roams the waves.
Being an ‘adventure pack’, the majority of the games’ content is focused on the new area of the Savage Sea – a rough and ready patch of ocean that is home to a network of islands, large and small, that is ruled by pirates (like Crag), where every port and town is basically Tortuga. Clocking in at around ten hours of content, the main campaign of Pirates sees Crag coming out of retirement to find out what’s behind the stranger-than-usual occurrences around the isles. People going missing, and not from kidnapping, ships being sunk, and not from piracy… rumour has it that a legendary creature has returned to the area, a creature so evil, foul, and, well, literal, it goes by the name ‘Thunderbird’.
Limbic has put a lot of effort into making sure each island is rich with content and diverse in art-style (clearly, none of that effort went into naming things, but what can you do). The only things each island is going to have in common is that they all will eventually be visited by the player, and that they’re all stuff to the brim with ‘content’.
As a quick side note – Pirates also comes with a bonus map. The world of Varn – from the very first Might & Magic game – has been recreated with its own characters and quests as a fully playable area, which we believe is separate from the Crag Hack campaign. So you’re getting two campaigns for the price of one.
We’ll give a brief mention to the improvements coming with the 1.5 patch as well – which is releasing for free at the same time as Pirates. Along with finally fixing the issue with online/offline saves, 1.5 will also be providing a new, more classic town screen to finally bring that element of the game more in line with previous titles. The ‘town screen’ in particular has always been a bit of a key staple in Might & Magic games, as it allows you to watch your capital develop and provide a simple interface with which to management.
Ubisoft recognise that they lost their way a little bit in Heroes VI, so this new patch will add in a more classic town screen for every faction that will be fully intractable.
Considering this is the first pack being released for Heroes VI, and more likely than not a statement as to how Ubisoft is going to approach DLC for this game, Pirates of the Savage Sea certainly hits the ground running. At $12.99 AUD, you get as much content as many full games, along with new traits, loot, legacy weapons and if you manage to defeat Thunderbird, you may get a surprisingly epic reward.
Combined with the 1.5 patch, Ubisoft hope they will have finally done right by the players, and they can now focus on more DLC and whatever’s next for the Heroes franchise. Thunderbirds are go on July 12, where Pirates of the Savage Sea and the 1.5 patch will be launching simultaneously (but separately). Keep a weather eye on the horizon.