Preview: Heroes of Might and Magic V – Tribes of the East


Heroes of Might and Magic V (HoMM5) was developed at French studios Nival Interactive and released by Ubisoft on May 24, 2006. Dear reader, I’m letting you know from the start that this is a slightly biased review, filled with Heroes fanboyism, and will richly relate the strong points of the game while casting a shadow on the bad parts. Maybe I’m not the only one who played Heroes of Might and Magic II with his high school friends on game launch. Just maybe there are some of you who even played the franchise in its infancy, before Might and Magic 6 even hit the market, making a stir with its then revolutionary 640x480 graphics. But if you’re not, I’ll keep a long story short and let you know that Might and Magic was a first person, party style, fantasy role playing game which evolved into Heroes of Might and Magic, the turn based strategy game I came to love. Both titles share the same game-world; feature the same lore and hero characters.


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<-125x125 Button - left->HoMM V: Tribes of the East is the second expansion and the first stand alone expansion pack being released for the series since Heroes IV. It is currently developed by Nival Interactive and is scheduled for release by Ubisoft Entertainment on October 9 in Europe, three days later in the US and afterwards other major World countries releases will follow. The demo features a key episode in the HoMM V storyline where you guide the young Orc Warchief Gotai in his quest for revenge against the Griffin Empire in a full scale invasion.


Gameplay

First off you must understand that starting with Tribes of the East, each creature dwelling upgrade provides two actual creatures. Thus you can upgrade your lowly Shaman into a devastating caster to wreak havoc from a safe distance, or turn it into a powerful melee to supplement for the lack of close combat warriors. It’s a far more efficient solution compared to the alternate upgrades Heroes 4 offered. You can at any time re-upgrade your troops for one third of the price, so don’t think too much about the end game situation. Just upgrade your troops as your current needs demand. This change is available for all races, but the demo is fairly limited in this regard and shows only so much.


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You’ll notice straight away the new Stronghold faction featured in Tribes of the East exclusively. I must admit this addition was needed, since there can be no Heroes of Might and Magic without the might component, namely the good old Barbarians. With a mixed lineup mostly taken from the old series you will meet the Goblins, Centaurs, Warriors, Shaman women, Slayers, Wyverns, and the most fearsome vision of Cyclops you have ever seen. They are strong on lumber use, along with sulphur so be sure to quickly get all these resources available in the vicinity.


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Introducing Goblins, they are the equivalent of peasants - having incredibly low life and damage, now even weaker since they possess this skill called cowardice. These useless creatures will run away whenever they get hit, and that counts for retaliation strikes too. It’s pretty embarrassing, since you can’t use them to defend your archers, all lined up in a perfect row. However, Goblins have their uses when upgraded to lay traps or even dispel enemy creatures as Which Doctors. Trappers will use the combat turn to lay a hidden bear trap on a selected place in the battlefield, lowering enemy movement points by half. A hidden and hilarious use will be detailed later on.


Centaurs are your standard large creatures using now and arrows, with a relatively high hit point pool which makes them better than average. One upgrade enables them no melee penalty which is a big plus in end game battles when numbers add-up.


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Warriors will pretty much represent the bulk of your army within the first week, complementing your Centaur ranks with much needed defense. With help from their good health pool and decent damage, you will fill in the hole presented by your weakling goblins.


Shaman women are the first casters you’re going to see. Although they lack offensive spells in the beginning, Haste and Slow will just increase Centaur efficiency while waiting for your enemy to approach. Rage gains are huge and they hit very hard in melee, so don’t be afraid to push shamans in front and let them work their magic. The upgrades feature the heavy melee Earth Daughter and the Chain Lightning Casting Sky Daughter. The trick is you need to sacrifice Goblins in order to get mana and attack power. Nobody likes goblins.


Slayers come next and can deliver more pain to the enemy through cleave as they attack twice for a world of hurt. You can see by their looks that they’re mean and you can be sure their Mauler and Warmonger upgraded versions are even tougher. For instance, Warmongers have 20 hit points, up from 12.


Wyverns, unlike their previous incarnations which prompted them as obvious flying units, now look more demonic and have no rider. It’s a great creature for fast attacks due to its high initiative and speed, a perfect archer stopper. Through regeneration they will receive 30 hit points each turn, thus you might get lucky and resurrect one before the battle is over. Unfortunately this ability does not scale well with greater numbers of wyverns so it’s basically useless in massive fights.


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The paramount Stronghold unit is the might Cyclops, large creatures with a massive 220 hit points without any upgrades and good damage. They are also known as the goblin’s best friend. In the course of battle, Cyclops will occasionally grab a nearby goblin and eat him to restore full life. Sometime you might want to launch a goblin stack into orbit, or just to a faraway enemy archer. Cyclops will do that, since they love to play catch. On a side note, I’d suggest you rush the city development to level 15 and get Cyclops as soon as possible since they have no building restrictions and are cheap to attain.


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Tribes of the East showcase the addition of rage mechanics since all barbarian creatures’ gain rage when attacking; killing enemy stacks or from faction heroes’ shouts. Units gradually reach rage level one, two and three respectively after topping a certain rage threshold. The higher the rage level, the more effective your unit will be. I should warn you that waiting, defending or being attacked causes your creatures to lose rage. I love this system because it’s consisted with the barbarian lore (we’re dealing with orcs mostly), a great way to help people get under the character’s skin. While playing Stronghold you’ll find it’s more advantageous to go all out and attack that turtling and waiting for the enemy to reach your defensive positions.


The special abilities Barbarians possess follow the trend set by runes in the Hammers of Fate expansion. Stronghold heroes learn Shouts, abilities unique to their faction which grant rage, morale and other benefits to your troops, not unlike spell casters use magic to the same end. Blood Rage is their specialty, enabling creatures to reach higher rage levels. The Shout skill has similar effect as Sorcery for Casters, enabling barbarians to use shouts up to 30% more often. They also have Dark Shatter, a group of skills designed to limit the influence of enemy spells. All in all, the stronghold is “THE” might faction, all brawn, with creatures resilient to spells and heavy handed.


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Sound and Video

Overall the graphics are the same as in the previous installments of HoMM5, but the interface has been redesigned and incorporates better access to the Might and Rune abilities. I was saddened to notice the poor voice acting in the original release, but voices in Tribes of the East are far superior. For once, orcs sound as they should and the lore connections are thicker. Unfortunately cut scenes still show “Orc1” is saying this, and “Orc2” is saying that. It’s a bit of a turnoff, don’t you think? But I’m talking about the demo here, so the final release might see some improvement.


Conclusion

HoMM5: Tribes of the East is a stand alone expansion thus looks like a really good deal if you’re new to the title, or held out thus far in acquiring a copy. Unless you’re keen on playing the two previous campaigns, this expansion will provide all that you need to start your way into the Heroes universe or simply clash with your friends in lengthy multiplayer battles. With optional upgrades to each and every unit in the game and the addition of the barbarian Stronghold, you can be sure that the game just got 100% more challenging. Get ready for the October 9th launch with a taste of things to come and play the demo now.


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Evochron Renegades Released This Month


Another space simulator was released recently for the PC platforms.
Developed and published by StarWraith 3D Games LLC, but designed by Shawn Bower, Evochron Renegades has some unique features which differentiate it among freeform First Person 3D Space-Sim games.

Evochron Renegades Released This Month

<-125x125 Button - left->A wide range of choices like buying, trading, negotiating, bribing, spying, racing, transporting, mining, exploring, cleaning equipment, clearing paths through asteroid fields, recruiting, protecting, hiring crew members, fuel harvesting, and designing your ship, are make this game very complex.
You can easily switch between single and multiplayer modes, without losing the upgrades, ships, equipment, money, and commodities you eared. Same thing happens when joining different multiplayer sessions.

Evochron Renegades Released This Month

Forget about the loading screens or sudden environment flipping.
The game’s universe is limitless and you can travel everywhere, anytime.

You can build a space ship to compete in races and win credits; set up a tractor beam to clean large solar arrays; convert star particles into fuel which can be sold for an increasing profit.
Learn how to make money and advance.

Evochron Renegades Released This Month

Participate in retrieval missions together with other players in multiplayer mode, and share the rewards.
The Clan ID linking system helps identifying players from the same group.
The different IDs show hostile contacts.

Explore planets during rain, snow or turbulences, and find hidden objects, trade at city stations, mine their surfaces for valuable materials, or hide in their atmospheres.
Have complete control of the universe by moving objects in space, removing or replacing them, and change the environment.

Evochron Renegades Released This Month

Encounter the zero gravity inertia based Newtonian style flight model which includes complete 3-way rotation and 3-way direction control with optional variable input.

The game supports keyboard, mouse, gamepad, and joystick flight control, but also the Natural Point's TrackIR 3D head control system for managing the viewpoint from the cockpit with all six degrees of movement.

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Painkiller Battle out of Hell Video Game Review


DVD CoverI was recently watching one episode of the “Painkiller: Jane” TV Show when I realized I should have another look at a game with a similar name, “Painkiller: Battle Out Of Hell”. This game is the continuation (like an add-on) of the first game, namely “Painkiller”, where the long story made short goes something like this: Daniel Garner goes out with his wife, Catherine, on a rainy evening and a car-crash happens: they both die and he wakes up in the Purgatory, a realm where there’s no Hell but no Heaven either and he is given a choice to see his lady again if he fights against the forces of hell who are planning to attack heaven. He manages to get into the depths of Hell and to destroy the evil forces. The Gaming requirements are 2.4GHz CPU, 512MB RAM (or more), DVD-ROM and 1.2GB HDD space.

second DVD Cover


The Game Story:
The second story, (that comes after the ending of the big battle from the first game) is structured on 10 long levels, with a much improved game-engine (extraordinary use of physics – it was among the first games that used such technology). Battle out of Hell is meant to give an end to the story and to bring our hero back to his lady. Each of the 10 levels brings you closer to the end and gives you a clue on what awaits you at the finish line. The male characters are typical, the “minions” that need to be executed throughout the entire game are more or less easy to dispose of, and just as in the first game, and they leave their souls behind them when they perish. As a bonus trick, you can capture the souls and turn yourself into a demon for a very short period of time and shred the enemies into pieces. There are not many weapons, but you just have to make sure you have enough ammo to blast the uglies onto walls. Just like you would expect from a good FPS (first person shooter), the action is fast-paced and messy (a lot of blood is splattered on walls or any other surrounding elements).

The Levels:
Black Edition CoverThe Battle Out Of Hell starts in the “Orphanage”, where you will have to smash every enemy you encounter, without getting hurt in order to unlock a Weapon Modifier Card. Along the various methods to kill the enemies, you will have to use magical cards that give you unique abilities, which range from enabling you to run faster or inflicting more damage to the demons to temporary invincibility. Right from the start of this level, you must try to avoid touching the water as it will bring damage on you. But this level is quickly going from nauseating to genuinely disturbing when you will have to “hurt” some demon children – yes that’s right – the devil can take any shape or appearance and you will have to kill and destroy anything that moves and looks evil. At the end of the level, there a “big” bad guy, but you don’t have to waste your ammo on him as soon as you see him – just look around for an armor, kill all the little pestering brats, and then attack the big one, by shooting at his back.

little demon girl naughty boy Easy with that noise, silly Pinocchio!

Next, you’ll literally take a long ride in the “Loony Park”, you will meet some clowns (both in outfit and as brains) and some other variations of circus characters, and the basic idea remains the same – sweep the floor, look around for some goodies (gold coins or ammo) and move on to the next level. This is where you will get to have your first rollercoaster long ride during which you will have to kill as many enemies as you can. It’s a bit of an aberration how hanging clown are spawned in the middle of the air and the threads are “tied” on just thin air, but hey, it’s a shoot-n-run video game, not a very realistic one.



stupid clown! tied up? rollercoaster

Here comes one of my favorite levels, the “Lab”, where you will meet some red nutheads eager to blow you to pieces and some sexy nurses who definitely wish to force you into getting some poisonous injections. Say “hello” to them and move forward. I like the fact that in each level there are some new types of foes, but it’s just the bosses who have various weaknesses that must be destroyed in a different way every time. In order to get the bonus points for this level, you have to finish it just by using the Bolt Gun – not an easy thing, but you can try.



red-nutheads getting owned in the face I’m gonna “do” you both, …with blood on the wall meat-feast

The “Pentagon” level can be played only in nightmare mode – so you will have to finish the game 2 times in a row to get to that (or you can search the Internet, if you don’t have the time to play the game too much, for some level unlockers and get the “free-ride” from the start – but that is spoiling the fun). What’s this level all about – well, it’s mostly an ugly and big metal spider, recharging its life from lightning. I would suggest shooting the beast in the face (when all the feet are down) after you collect all the goodies in the room. When the health bar of the spider reaches half of its level, go to one of the cannons and press against them to shoot the beast in its mouth when he opens it and is ready to shoot a fireball at you. It’ll die soon.



Spider-beast you’re all big mouth! firing the big guns

In the “Dead City” you will be challenged to finish the level in 20 minutes – it’s pretty fair – it’s not like you’ve moved slow so far. The flying monsters are to be noticed as something to be aware of on this level. When you get out, you will arrive on the streets of “Leningrad” (wow, this game actually takes you to various places in both time and history!). Some Russian soldiers jump on you with their silly semi-automatic machine guns, and also some “generals” (or at least that’s how they look like). The surroundings are quite well built – but the music is horrible here, just as in the “Loony Park” – typically annoying and it might affect your game play. Yeah I understand that those are communist soldier, but do I really need to listen to a communist song?




Dead City Video
big spider again drop dead soldier! smell the coffee, general!

The “Colloseum” (it's Colliseum, correctly spelled - but the developers who wrote the name have skipped the History class!) level begins in some castle catacombs, and you will meet some crazy knights (of course, what else, this game is totally "wysiwyg " - what you see is what you get, that is). If you wish to get the bonus for this level, you will have to morph into demon exactly 5 times . What I hated the most about this level is the hoops you need to jump over – the first one has spikes and the second a burning fire – the main problem is that the character does NOT jump high and long enough – and you will start hating the game because of that. Jumping exactly from and to the closes edge is a solution.



c’mere, silly boys…! that’s right, run! that’s for being nasty!

The “Underworld” looks like a “mineshaft” in this game and the more you go deep through it, the more enemies swarm towards you – but don’t worry, you can still use the Painkiller weapon - it’s still very effective. And you do have to rip all the enemies in the area to pieces in order to get through to “The Stone Pit”, which is quite similar, with some more “free-shoot-rides” which get you ready for the final battle from the “Shadowland”, where you will meet your final and biggest opponent, Alastor, king of demons, huge and ugly too.



I feel like Heavy from Team Fortress 2! pirate skeletons Come to “Daddy”, “little” Alastor!

Up to this you must have noticed throughout the game that you can use some cards to boost your qualities – choose the Mercy, Double Time and the Rage cards to finish Alastor in less than 4 minutes and gain access to the nightmare/trauma types of games. If you finish the game in trauma mode you will unlock a bonus level where you will see the faces of the developers. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, throughout the whole game, there is the character Eve, oh yes, the "mother of all" and she looks genuinely hot, until she turns to the dark side.



hot Eve Eve’s outfit Temptation doesn’t work this time…

The sound in game:
I enjoyed the music very much, except the ones from the “Loony Park”, and the “Leningrad” levels – those are really annoying, but all the rest are very nice and stimulating. The sound of the shotgun is very realistic, as well all the sounds of all the other weapons.


Digitainment Mark: 7.5 out of 10 (good, but not very smart)
Producer: People Can Fly

Official Site: http://www.painkillergame.com


Buy: $19

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