September 29 2006.
The second, and last, edit to this review.
Well, the map editor is finally out, and I must say that they did a excellent job with it. Sure, it needs a little trail and error to lean how to use it. But it is pretty much 90% the same editor like in H3. If you know how to use that, you know how to use this one.
Now, as for the rest of the game, have 3 patches changed it? Yes it definitely did. It still isn't perfect, there still are bugs in the game, but they are (relatively) small, and the kind you will find in any game nowadays.
Now this game is worth buying, and I would suggest that you do.
A few more things. In my initial review I said that the game was very stable; it is... for me. I never had a single crash, never had a problem with the game freezing; nothing like that. But I have read in the official Ubi forum that not all people are that lucky. Most interesting, the more... exotic... you computer is, the more change there seems to be for a problem. So it might very well be that someone with a beast of a computer all geared to playing games has a problem with it, while the other person that has a more common computer that only just makes the system requirements has no problem with the game at all.
If you do buy the game, my advice is to immediately download the patches and install them before even playing the game. This also because some save games didn't work anymore after a new patch was installed. Very importantly, DL the right patch. If you have the U.S. version of the game, you also need the U.S. patch. There is even a difference between normal and collectors edition. In total there are something like 7 patches for every version of the patch, so make sure you got the right one. If you try to install a patch and you are told that `Heroes 5 is not installed' then you are using the wrong version of the patch.
It took 4 months, but now I can finally suggest; go buy the game. It's fun, it's good, and it keeps you entertained. The map editor (btw no Random Map Generator, that comes with the first expansion) is out 2 weeks now at the moment of me writing this, and some good fan made maps have already appeared. So now you really will get those countless hours of fun.
Edit: Somewhere in the last two weeks, the line `map editor provided' was finally removed. Notice the date when I posted this review (May 25th) and the fact that somewhere in the last two weeks that line was removed. So the line was in the description for two months after the game hit the stores. Also, just so that you are up-to-date, as of this date (August 4th) the map editor still not exists. It is rumored that it will be `provided' in the next month, but Ubisoft is NOT giving out a clear date.
I'm sorry to say this, but at the moment this game is a joke.
(The reason for the never the less high rating is given at the end of this review.)
Even worse is that they lie to you. I don't mean a little bit of enhancing of the product that everyone does, no I mean lie. In the product information above it clearly states: `Battle opponents in exclusive Duel mode; map editor provided' and `Experience everlasting adventure thanks to the map editor provided.' See the `map editor provided'? Well, it's not. There is no map editor on the CD. Did you also notice the wording `map editor PROVIDED.' They don't say included, no they say provided. The reason for that is simple. The plan is to at a later point bring out a map editor and PROVIDE it to you through a patch. So, I guess if you wait long enough the words will eventually be true. That doesn't take away that at the moment of me writing this, there is no map editor. I bought the game retail, (so it's not some kind of demo or trail), I installed it, I also went to their site to look for patches. Nothing. There is no map editor at this point, so... they lie.
That's not the only thing that is badly in need of a patch though. Other things in the game as well. There are for instance items that have no description. Case in point, I found a necromancer helmet. Great, what does it do? I don't know. Why don't I know you wonder? Because the description of the item was... necromancer helmet. That's it. Does it enhance my necromancer skill? In that case I can't use it because my hero is not a necromancer. Does it grand me the necromancer skill? In that case I most certainly want it since my hero doesn't have that skill at the moment. See what I mean? A description would be nice.
Now, I'm not going to complain about how few artifacts and recourses there are on the maps that have been provided, nor about the fact that the maps seem incredibly small (the largest maps give you the same feeling of plying on a small map in Heroes 4, and a medium map in heroes 3. The reason I'm not going to complain about that is, frankly, I haven't played the game long enough to do so. It might very well be that in fact this time around they have the balance right and I simply have to get used to it yet.
I AM however going to complain about maps, or the lack thereof. There is a ridicules small amount of maps provided. In the product info above they boast that there are over 30 maps in 6 campaigns. Yes, that's true, but just look at that and ignore the big number. What you see is that in fact there are ONLY 6 campaigns on the CD. If you want to play a standalone map it's just as bad. There are 6, count them 6, standalone maps (or custom games as they call them) on the CD. Want to play multiplayer? Great, at least there you get more. Well, 4 more; 10 in total. So what you get is 6 campaigns, 6 standalone and 10 multiplayer maps, and no way to get more maps at the moment. See the problem? That's just enough to play so that you can get a feel for the game. In fact, the six standalone maps are each set to one faction, which you can't chance. So it really is nothing more than an opportunity to play with the different factions and see which ones you like. I assume that they think that by the time you played those maps they might have the map editor out and you can create random maps. I just hope that their wishful thinking time table works out.
Now, is all about this game bad? No. There are some very good points. First, it's stable. In a time where games are brought out with flaws in them so big that you can't play them without crashing until a patch is provided, such a stable game like this a welcome change.
Second, they clearly used Heroes 3 as the basis of the game. If you don't know Heroes 3 or 4, trust me, it's a good thing they used 3. You are once again back to Heroes being part of an army and that those Heroes can't go outside the town without those armies, nor can creatures go out anymore without a hero to lead them. You are once again back to building your city and upgrading structures so that if you want you can still buy the base or the upgraded creature. Gone are the choices of just which creature you want to build and where choosing one means that you can't make the other anymore. I really do think that they did very well in getting the Heroes 3 feel in to a 3D game.
Third, the graphics are truly stunning, but come on, doesn't it say enough that you need to use great graphics as a selling point instead of a great game play? As wonderful as the graphics are, they get boring. When I saw the first battle I was in awe about the beauty they managed to get in there. By the tenth battle however, I had set the computer to `quick combat' (skips the fight and just tells you what you lost or won in the battle.) Why? Because as wonderful as the graphics are, they are still just the same thing over and over and over. A blade warrior uses the same `slice, slice' move over and over. You are tired of it after having seen that a couple of times. By that time you are more interested in the game play, and then great graphics don't take away from the fact that this game still needs work. A drawback to these great graphics is also that they battles themselves are boring. With Heroes 3 and 4 the battles were more of a chess game with the focus on which creature should you have attack which other creature. The graphics of the fights there were just to dress up those `chess moves.' Now they take their good time to show the move. As I said; great at first, boring later.
So, where does all of this leave us? It leaves us basically with a half done product that has been pushed in to the stores too soon. I honestly think that this game does have the potential to be absolutely great. I do think that with a little bit of extra work this game can even surpass Heroes 3 in popularity. But...
We aren't there yet. This review was about the game that you get on the CD, and as I started out; that's a joke. Now, you could say that in a time where there are games being sold where the CD only enables you to get online and play the online game that it's not a big thing that you have to download patches. If you think that, than you are right, BUT, the problem is that these patches don't exist at the moment of this writing. If you buy one of those `online game CD's' the online game is there and you can play it as soon as you installed the rest of the software on your computer.
With Heroes 5 you buy a half finished product and HOPE that they will add the rest in patches. What if they decide that the map editor isn't needed since the sales are good enough? You aren't sure, and that's my point. You aren't sure what they will hand to you for free in the future. Why would they spend a lot of time on patches if they don't make any money from it? Because of that, if you buy the CD you have to look at what you get on the CD. The game is sold as such; everything is supposed to be on the CD (well, PC-DVD-rom actually) and it's not.
If you are new to the world on Heroes and are wondering why I make such a big fuss about the fact that there is no map editor, let me tell you why. Just for the heck of it, do a internet search for `Heroes III maps' or `Heroes IV' maps. You will see that there are hundreds, if not thousands of maps on line to download; made by fans of the game. That's literally thousands of hours of fun. And if you ever do get tired of those maps, or worse, don't have an internet connection and you can't download them, the map editor has a `create random map' function which simply makes a new map for you. You never again run out of maps with heroes 3 and 4.
Now compare that to heroes 5. Just how long do you think it will take you to run out of maps there; seeing that there's no real number of maps to speak of. THAT is why I'm so annoyed about it not being there. Especially since they clearly say that it is and even use it as a selling point. Not nice.
There being no name tags for some things? Sloppy, but forgivable. There being no map editor? Now that's plain and simple false advertisement.
Let me point out again that the map editor does not exist at the time of me WRITING this. At the point of you reading this it could have been added as a download on their site.
So, I assume that you are reading all of this because you are wondering if you should get the game. My opinion on that; yes and no. Don't buy it yet. First go to the official site of the game maker and see if they have patches by this time. If they do, and especially if they now have a map editor then my advice would be by all means run, don't walk, to get this game. If however they don't have those patches yet, eh, just skip the game and wait. Trust me, the anticipation of the long wait is better than the disappointment of getting the game now and seeing just how big of a joke the game is without the improvements hopefully provided by patches.
Lastly, you might wonder why I have given the game such a high rating if I'm clearly not that thrilled with the game. The answer to that is simple; the high rating is based on hope. As I said, there is a very big potential for this game. I honestly think that if they put some more work in to it (patches) this could be the best game you have bought in quite some time. The rating I have given the game is based on that. On that, and on the hope that those promised patches really will arrive at some point.