By Shane Mckay
Video Game Reviews
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
The coveted series "Heroes of Might and Magic" returns once again with a new standalone expansion to its sixth installment titled "Shades of Darkness." Developed by Virtuos and published by Ubisoft, the expansion features a new faction known as Dungeon which is led by the Dark Elves, new creatures and buildings, as well as an entirely new campaign following Raelag, leader of the Dark Elves, and his quest to save his race. Despite this being a new game, it doesn't stray far from what the series has offered in the past and relies on being more of the same in a different package.
The story takes place over a century after the events of "Heroes VI" in the realm of Ashan. In the Dark Elf campaign, you follow the story of Prince Raelag as he attempts to unite warring factions to rally his species to survive and once again dominate the above-ground world they once inhabited. If it sounds a little generic to you, that's because it is. The story itself is rather bland and unimaginative with much convoluted lore and backstory that makes it difficult to jump right in.
I have liked the "Heroes" series for a while now but found it difficult to get accustomed to the gameplay, which has always been an interesting mix of strategy and RPG that can get a little tedious. "Shades of Darkness" continues this trend of venturing around a world map as your hero, collecting items, capturing buildings for resources and getting into battles with various monsters, which tends to undermine the strategy aspect during the campaign unless you're in combat.
Combat is standard for the series, where your army is set up on one side, the enemy on the other, in a grid battlefield. The first to defeat the other units wins. The stealth mechanic for the new Dungeon Assassin units was a neat addition, as it makes them invisible until they attack or are adjacent to an enemy. But aside from this, combat stays true to the series by continuing what made it popular in the beginning.
Overall, "Shades of Darkness" felt well-polished, and I found very few bugs or glitches. Easily the most annoying part about the game would be the Uplay account that Ubisoft forces you to use. It causes you to have an active Internet connection while playing, and it requires syncs to save all games to Ubisoft's cloud, which causes a delay when starting and exiting the game.
For series veterans, they will find very little in the way of innovation. Whether this is good or bad is entirely up to the player, but for newbies of the series, this may not be the best place to start as it can be confusing and unforgiving. The $29.99 price tag offers fans many hours of gameplay, but it does little in the way of pushing the series forward.
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