The last browser game I played was Facebook’s Mafia Wars (MW). For the unacquainted, MW boils down to clicking daily objectives that either increase your virtual balance, level up your character or let you fight against other mobsters. In reality it’s a repetitive grind that requires no thought or skill – it’s just a matter of who out of your friends can logon the most. Thankfully, (I’ve since gotten clear of MW), Might & Magic Heroes Kingdoms (M&MHK) is the complete opposite.
Taking stock from its source material, the long running PC series of the same name Heroes of Might & Magic, Kingdoms converts the turn based strategy title to a miniature form that you access like any other website. The comparison between Kingdom and its rival browser games is limited to say the least – sure your actions have specific time limits (building something will take x number of hours while fighting a battle will take 30 odd minutes), but there the similarities end.
That blasted last square!
M&MHK is the thinking man’s game, putting you up against a wonderfully realised world that has a wide range of strategic elements to overcome – there’s no grind here. If you’ve played the Heroes series, you’ll be familiar with a lot of the game’s lore – if not; a helpful tutorial system guides you through your first steps, gradually revealing the game’s features through quests. There’s a fair amount of content to get your head around, but for most it’s digested in bite-sized chunks.
Like any Heroes game, you’re given a choice of factions (ranging from hellish evil to almighty holy) and a starter city. The next step is to capture the surrounding mines (for resource generation), cull the land of the monsters inhabiting it, hire some heroes to lead your troops and build up your citadel to churn out stronger armies. Whatever you choose to do, (a typical play session takes around 15 minutes – perfect for the busy individual on a lunch break), it will provide you with a timer for when said task will see completion.
While that happens, you’re then free to go off, live your life and return when the time’s up (a helpful bar at the top of the game indicates what time things will be done). Generally, you’ll log on once a day, maintain your keep and lands and then forget about it until the next.
It sounds simplistic, but in reality it’s actually a complex, but still accessible, game. Your choice of action needs to be thought out – there’s a lack of linearity unlike most browser titles. You’ll still progress through the ranks, getting stronger troops and more cities as you go, but you’re free to advance how you see fit. One day you might focus on improving your economy while another might see an investment in recruitment structures. With plenty of neighbours sitting on your doorstep, it’s wise to think about the development of your kingdom.
Fear the kingdom of Grondola
It’s a harsh world outside your borders and while there’s only around 2,500 people on my server (tiny when you compare it to the bigger fish in the sea), there’s plenty of PVP combat going on. Alliances are broken and battles regularly take place between the warring factions. The chief aim (for those who wish to aspire to greatness) is to band together and search for a relic called the Tears of Asha. Each game lasts 6 months and then it resets itself, awarding those who have invested time with special achievements.
A stand out anecdote is when I sent out scouts to survey my neighbours. Not thinking anything of it, (I was merely curious as to how others are playing the game), I swiftly received a message sternly stating that I was being overaggressive and any further actions upon his kingdom will be seen as a sign of war. That put me in my place, but at the same time, it came across that the people playing the game are fans, those who enjoy playing their roles and aren’t just in it for the game’s sake.
Since the above event, I’ve received invites to alliances but gracefully declined. My kingdom may be a minnow compared to the others, but it’s safe staying neutral at the moment. No-one’s come pillaging yet and it seems as though veteran players are respectful of newcomers – an atmosphere which is often very rarely found in games, let alone browser titles where anonymity is everything.
Exotic languages galore
Shooting off topic, it’s worth nothing that despite being in a 2D form, the game’s narrative is brought to life with a variety of flash cutscenes – an often rare feature in browser games. It makes the player feel as though their actually playing a traditional game (not that [causal] browser games aren’t ‘real’ games).
It’s difficult to assess what a non-fan of the Might & Magic series will think of Kingdoms. For those who’ve followed the series, it’s a nice addition to the canon and one to enjoy daily while we wait for the appearance of the 6th in the series. Still, for those who are looking for a browser title with substance – it’s hard not to recommend Kingdoms. It’s been around for several years in closed beta, but now it’s open to all. It’s free to play, but limits do exist (like the number of towns and heroes, which increase as the months go by) for non-subscribers.
Check it out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
MIGHT & MAGIC HEROES: KINGDOMS VERDICT
Check it out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Slowly watching your kingdom progress to greatness