The closed public beta for Might & Magic: Heroes VI is in full swing, and we got to spend some quality time with it, starting with the single-player campaign. The opening mission of this turn-based, high-fantasy strategy game put us in control of Prince Charming himself, Duke Slava, who is also the son of the deceased Duke Pavel. Slava, his aunt Sveltana, and a smart-mouthed raven have to band together to stop a renegade orc shaman, Toghrul, who has made a pact with a band of demons.
Like in other games in the series, we spent much of our time exploring the overworld as our avatar, Duke Slava, collecting resources and fighting monsters. These resources were wood, ore, crystal, and gold, which, as always, sometimes appeared in convenient piles out in the open, or guarded by enemies. Another way to amass resources was by controlling a production facility, such as a wood mill or stone quarry. While taking one of these stations was easy, holding it could be hard. Certain stations were under the control of a nearby fort. Holding the fort prevented others from taking nearby buildings; however, enemies could still capture them temporarily by leaving units garrisoned in them.
Once we were flush with rocks and gold, we returned to our keep to cash in our resources. There were plenty of different structures for us to build, but we focused mostly on the unit-producing ones. Once we had a sizable army in tow, it was time to take the fight to the demons. Whether we were fighting a wolf or a demon, combat was conducted on a large grid similar to a chess board. Both side's units took turns moving and fighting across the board, depending on which ones were faster. Our force was modest--only a handful of crossbowmen, spearmen, and healers--but our hero unit had some special skills to help even the odds.
Unlike the others, hero units don't move around and fight on the battlefield. Instead, they can act once a turn and either attack an opponent directly or use a spell or special ability. Because the duke was a might-based hero, as opposed to magic based, we mostly had him attacking enemies when he could. However, he also had a few useful abilities, such as stand your ground, which granted one extra retaliation and increased the defense of the selected unit. We used this to great effect on our spearmen, who were already pretty beefy. With them soaking up damage, we had Slava use the rush ability on our crossbowmen, increasing their initiative and movement stats, to keep them in a prime firing position.
Heroism (which increased a unit's morale, luck, and damage) and flawless assault (which caused a unit to deal maximum damage) were great all-purpose abilities. The number of turns these spells affected our units for and the percentage increase to stats varied depending on Slava's level. All of these abilities stemmed from the war cries skill tree, which is part of the might skill set. While we had fun cutting down wolves, demons, and their ilk, we found it much faster to skip through easier fights using the quick battle options, which let us speed up animations.
While the single-player campaign focused on the units from the Haven faction, we could also create new characters from the Necropolis, Sanctuary, Stronghold, and Inferno factions to use in multiplayer. However, the multiplayer was local only against either bots or other players on a single map. Against the AI, it functioned much the same way as in the campaign, with the option of playing on teams or in a free-for-all. For more information on the game, check out our previous coverage. Otherwise, you can get your hands on Might & Magic: Heroes VI on September 8 for the PC.