Before Ubisoft purchased the franchise, Heroes of Might and Magic V had already been under development at New World Computing. Though the original incarnation of the title went unreleased when publisher 3DO filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-2003, several relevant interviews and pieces of concept art offer some insight into the developers' intentions. Ultimately, Ubisoft chose not to adapt any elements of New World Computing's work in the finished game.
Jon Van Caneghem was more closely involved in the design of Heroes V than Heroes IV, and attempted to redesign the Heroes IV engine to more fully support a pure strategy game than one with abundant roleplaying elements. The game was to feature more of a focus on strategic decision-making than questing, and its maps would have storylines more suited to such gameplay. The AI was to undergo a complete rewrite from scratch, reusing no code from any of the previous games.
The spell system was intended to include a pool of generic spells available to all factions, along with six additional schools unique to a certain faction, in a similar vein to the Rune Magic and Warcries of Ubisoft's Heroes V. The Underground map layer was planned to be removed for creative reasons, and a random map generator was under development. Rendered artwork suggests that towns were to expand on the adventure map when sufficiently upgraded.
Three town lineups out of a total of six had been created and awaiting refinement. One was a purple-attired Haven similar to that of Heroes IV, another was a feline-style town in the style of the Sorceress town or Preserve, and the third was a reptillian faction blending elements of both the Heroes III Fortress and the Lizardkin society of the Dagger Wound Islands in Might and Magic VIII. Rendered artwork of all three factions was created and later released by Tracy Iwata, one of the series' long-time artists.
Keith Talanay created several architectural renders, while Nowa Morisaku-Yu drew concept art for the team. Other creatures with such art which had either not been modelled or released include the Cyclops, Harpy, Minotaur, Vampire, Valkyrie, Warlock and Wizard. Titans, Giants and several Dragons were to return, alongside all-new creatures. Additionally, Jon Van Caneghem essentially confirmed that Genies would make an appearance. An undead faction was on the drawing board.
Though no concrete information was released regarding the game's storyline, Christian Vanover strongly hinted that it was to take place in Axeoth. The presence of purple-attired Haven units and an Elven faction could suggest that the campaigns were to involve Palaedra and Aranorn. Alternatively, the Lizardkin imply that it may have taken place on Aalondor, Axeoth's only known unexplored continent.