Extensively delayed during its development period, Kingdoms was initially announced on December 13, 2007 to coincide with the release of the Heroes of Might and Magic Complete Edition. A series of closed beta-test periods followed, bypassing several proposed release dates. Eventually, Kingdoms was released - exclusive to France - on November 3, 2009. Ubisoft re-announced the game for other territories in early 2010.
The game was shut down on September 1st, 2014.
Kingdoms Heroes was a real-time strategy and massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game playable in web browsers. Unlike many MMOs, each game was not persistent, but lasted approximately six months.
Based on servers with approximately 1,500-2,000 players each, the game was isometric, and was divided into four stages of progression known as seasons, with each season ending when an alliance has achieved a particular victory condition. Throughout, only the Haven, Academy, Necropolis, Inferno and Sylvan factions were available for play, with players controlling heroes and towns as in the core Heroes series. Actions occurred in real-time, with each taking a certain period to complete, varying from minutes to days. The number of resources a player invested in the action could reduce the time required to complete it.
A day/night system existed, with night spanning 22:00 - 08:00 GMT or 11:00pm - 9:00am CST; during this period, no armies could move across the adventure map and therefore players did not have to be awake all hours of the night watching for raiders. Players controlled one town to begin with, and could settle or conquer new cities by achieving certain thresholds (milestones toward one of the three paths to victory). Towns contained four mines each, producing the standard Heroes resources, and twenty squares where NPCs resided which could be battled for experience or resources. Heroes could also learn spells or recruit by constructing buildings. It was a broad mixture of strategy board games like checkers and chess, mixed with the intricate details and options of an RPG.
Three paths to victory were available: Domination, Wealth and Honour. The Domination path entailed construction, expansion and mustering forces, the Wealth path involved calculating the total value of a player's kingdom, and the Honour path required extensive player vs player combat. Each path enabled players to obtain Tears of Asha, a certain number of which were required to win the game. Domination players had to locate an Obelisk which directs them to a tear, which must be dug up. Wealth players could synthesise Tears using an oven, which required exhorbitant amounts of resources to build. Honour players had to fight NPC characters with army restrictions enabled.
Alliances between players were necessary for victory; befriending and uniting with others generated a control zone, in which players could control adventure map objects and travel more quickly. At one point, the victory condition for all servers was to build thirteen Tear structures and hold them for fourteen real-time days.
Although the game was free of charge to play, a restriction to three towns and heroes at any one time was imposed on non-subscribers. It was possible to subscribe for 1 month (£5), 2 months (£9.50) or 3 months (£13.50), during which period the limit was removed, and additional features were enabled, including an upgraded battle calculator, an improved mailbox, a permanent connection to the game, a "training mode" server and faster artifact unbinding time.
Kingdoms was set in an alternate reality of Ashan's history, and took as canonical one of the dark endings of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, in which Sareth releases Kha-Beleth and opens the gates of Sheogh. In the divergent timeline, Urgash thus escapes, engaging in a second War of the Primordial Twins which ends in Asha's defeat and exile. Four of the Elemental Dragons begin to vanish, leaving their respective children-races to fend for themselves in the now-broken world. The storyline progressed through short animated cinematics, narrated by an unknown priestess loyal to Asha.
Upon her banishment, Asha's tears were scattered across the surface of the earth; obtaining the Tears of Asha - thereby consolidating Order in the world and resurrecting the fallen Dragon Gods - was the player's primary objective. At the end of each game season one of the four Elemental Dragons was returned to activity, and the faction it corresponded to was introduced (for instance, Sylanna's return introduced the Sylvan faction). The events of the game were classified as the "War of the Tears".
The official site describes the factions as follows:
Haven nation is a feudal holy empire protected by medieval knights, monks and "Angelic" troops. Haven has very strong armies but limited use of dark and light magic. Troops include:
- Imperial Griffin
The academy is composed of human wizards, with their spirit servants and animated constructs. They are proud seekers of knowledge, and subjugators of the natural order. Their power relies heavily on light and summoning magic. Troops include:
- Stone Gargoyle
- Iron Golem
- Rakshasa Rani
- Master Gremlin
- Obsidian Gargoyle
- Steel Golem
- Djinn Sultan
- Rakshasa Raja
Demons are embodiments of Chaos. They believe that the only meaningful moral value is individual freedom. They kill because they can, or want to. Their armies ravage countries, with limited help from dark and destruction spells. Troops include:
- Horned Demon
- Hell Hound
- Hell Charger
- Pit Fiend
- Horned Overseer
- Succubus Mistress
- Pit Lord
- Arch Devil
Necromancers began as a splinter sect of the Wizards, and grew into a powerful nation. They worship the "Death" aspect of Asha. Their armies may seem weak, but they are surrounded by summoning and dark magic. Troops include:
- Bone Dragon
- Skeleton Archer
- Plague Zombie
- Vampire Lord
- Arch Lich
- Spectral Dragon
The development of Heroes Kingdoms was overseen by Heroes V producer Fabrice Cambounet, and the game underwent a series of evolutions prior to its ultimate release. Following its initial announcement, the game suffered from extensive delays, and was originally not made available to players outside of France.
A large number of original hero portraits were created for the game in the style of Heroes V artwork - the portraits were modelled on Ubisoft's employees, their relatives and associates. Composition for the cinematic sequences was handled by Olivier Derivière (who notably worked on Atari's Alone in the Dark 5).
Exclusive beta keys for the game were granted to fans who purchased the Heroes of Might and Magic Complete Edition, though could not be redeemed at the marketed date; instead, these players were offered access to a later closed beta.