Interview: Heroes of Might & Magic V: Hammers of Fate

October 4, 2006

When Ubisoft captured the flag from the annals of computer gaming history to bring strategy enthusiasts the latest chapter in the Heroes of Might & Magic franchise, many were skeptical. After all, the series had already been in a slump prior to the company taking up the reigns, and would-be developer Nival Interactive’s back catalog up until that time read like an exercise in inconsistency. Even so, few could argue against Ubisoft’s track record at delivering steller game experiences, though most of that success was resigned to the console market. Could the same company that gave us Splinter Cell and resurrected Prince of Persia work that same magic on a series that traced its roots all the way back to the Apple II with 1990’s King’s Bounty?

Some would say yes, though as expected the critics were conflicted. While those of us at eToychest enjoyed the new spin on the franchise, others, such as 1UP’s Matt Peckham, were not as impressed. However, both of us, as well the lion’s share of reviewers, agreed that the game was flawed. It was just an argument as to what degree.

However, sales don’t lie, and Ubisoft and Nival soon announced an expansion. Subtitled Hammers of Fate, the expansion will broaden the scope of the original game, introducing a new faction, dwarves, which are made up of heroic warriors and rune magic adepts who stalk Ashan’s deepest mountains and most hostile regions. Hammers will also boast fifteen new missions, new heroes, improved cut-scenes, and the new campaign. All of this adds up to an array of new spells and abilities, as well as five new single-player maps, ten new multiplayer maps, new buildings, new artifacts, and new neutral creatures. Nival is introducing a lot of new meat to the game, but even with improved gameplay mechanics such as caravans and a random map generator, will it still just be more of the same?

To find out more on this, Heroes of Might and Magic V producer Fabrice Cambounet has offered up his insight into what players can expect from Hammers of Fate when it ships this November.

Of all the possible factions to add, why did you decide to add the dwarves in this expansion?

First, I think the dwarves are a race that was eagerly expected. I hope they will fulfill these expectations! They are a tradition in fantasy worlds and they couldn’t shy away from fame in Ashan. We indeed have other factions in mind but the dwarves were the logical next step in terms of history and game balance.

What are the main abilities of this new faction?

Dwarves will have a specific magic school, the rune magic. They are the only ones who can access and use it. They have runes on themselves or on their equipment. The rune mage (the dwarven hero) commanding the army can activate these runes by spending resources (not mana). So you will have to be careful of choosing the right moment to activate them and not waste resources! Runes will have various effects such as allowing a unit to attack twice or to dispel any negative spell effects.

What kinds of units will be available to the dwarven faction? Can you give us more details on 1 or 2 creatures?

Here are a few details on one nice unit, the Berserker. It’s basically a storm of flesh and armour and pointy bits. It may be a dwarf storm, but not one you would like to encounter! It’s a melee fighter with very powerful offence and immunity to mind control. They can also charge the enemy for improved damage, but at the expense of all defence.

It seems some of the dwarves will look like gigantic dwarves, is it due to gameplay or design?

One of the dwarf units is a giant dwarf indeed – ending up as quite a normal height. We are talking about the Thane, who is a clan elder, a warrior imbued with magical abilities. They actually need to be quite big if they want to be able to wield the huge axe they carry around. This axe is imbued with magical runes of thunder and his allows them to add a chain lightning effect to each of their strike or to cast once per battle a Storm Bolt attack.

Where does the add-on take place in Ashan? Will we have new environments?

Yes, from the screenshots released you see that the dwarves there are situated in a new, snowy environment. They mostly live in the mountains north of the Griffin Empire, a fact that was already guessed by the people who looked closely at the Ashan map provided in some game editions. The add-on scenario will bring you there and also underground to settle a few accounts the dwarves have with some of their neighbours.

What is the background of the dwarves? Why did they remain silent and hidden in Heroes of Might and Magic V? Who is the main opponent of the dwarves? Who is their leader?

The dwarves are led by their king, Tholgar. He was once a brave warrior but has grown complacent and is now relying on counsellors. One of them, Hangvul, leads the belief that dwarves should only care about their own problems, and thus led them to isolationism. This is also helped by the fact that they have lost contact with their god, since the death of the Haven king Alexey. Perhaps the fact that they didn’t help at the time is being punished? The ravaging civil war in the human kingdom will awaken the dwarves and also their hatred of the dark elves, which they fought in the A