Heroes of Might and Magic II
Heroes II continues 25 years after Heroes I left off. Lord Ironfist has passed away after settling the land of Enroth, and his two sons, Archibald and Roland, both wish to take his place. The result is a civil war pitting Archibald and his more sinister leagues against Roland's forces of Good. At the onset of the game you choose which side you will serve, starting one of the whopping total of 40 campaigns offered in Heroes II. Once started, you act as a lord in control of heroes. This is more of a strategy game than any other role-playing game I've come across, in that you have your hero scout the land for resources and build his or her forces in preparation to take over the enemy before the enemy defeats you. The game also offers a Standard Mode option in which you can play a computer-generated round and can select the difficulty level and who the opponent will be, either the computer or another player. Heroes II supports up to 6 people via hot-seat, modem, network, direct connect and Internet play. The game also comes with a level/map editor.
Simply put, the gameplay is addicting. This is one game that will cause problems with any significant others, if you know what I mean. You'll find yourself telling others as well as yourself, "Just fifteen minutes more, I promise," only to be followed by another such promise. The gaming environment is laid out exactly as before, only now the playing field is a bit larger. There are three gaming screens: 1) the castle where you add and upgrade structures to your base, 2) the land where you point and click your hero through gathering resources for the castle building, and 3) the combat screen.
The land portion of the game is similar to Warcraft II or Command & Conquer. You point your hero from one resource to another. Unlike real-time strategy games, Heroes II is turn-based. You can only go so far in one day, and while you do so, your enemy must wait for his or her turn. The advantage is that you can take as much time as you need on strategy without having to worry about the enemy attacking or building forces while you think. On the other hand, Heroes II doesn't offer the real-time action you get from other strategy games, or the kind of adrenaline rush real-time games provide when you know the opponent is just over the ridge somewhere and moving in fast. For me, this is the way Heroes of Might and Magic is supposed to be, and the way I would want to play it, but I imagine some of you would have liked the option to go real-time as X-COM: Apocalypse, another traditionally turn-based game, promises to be.
The controls and interface of all screens are as simple as they can be. If you are the type who hates spending time reading the manual rather than playing the game, the kind who just likes to jump in, you will be pretty happy with Heroes II. Everything is completely intuitive. Part of the fun to newcomers of Heroes of Might and Magic is learning the simplicity of the interface. If you've played Heroes I, the controls and layout are virtually the same with only a few minor aesthetic changes.
The graphics for Heroes II are excellent and add to the overall feel of the game. They have improved greatly from Heroes I, but still have a similar feel. Everything is crisp and sharp with more detail than before. The colors have more of a holiday feel to them than a cartoonish or a hi-tech feel, which makes this game a perfect holiday gift or treat. This may sound like an odd comparison, but playing the original Heroes I reminded me of the feeling I had playing the children's board game Candyland when I was a kid. Heroes II is a magical game, to say the least. Pointing your hero across the land to pick up treasure after treasure is quite a treat. Pure eye candy.
Heroes II has all of this and plenty more. Along with the light, magical atmosphere of the original we are now treated, also, to the gloomy mood of the dark side, which almost has a Tim Burton feel to it -- think Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice. Instead of having the same border theme as in the original, you can now choose a dark or light theme which is different enough to give a slightly different feel to the interface. The dark side is cold and metallic, while the light side is warm and golden. Increasing the size of the landscape and decreasing the size of the objects on screen was a good way for the Heroes II design team to go as well. It makes things a bit sharper and hence more enticing. There just seem to be more treats to discover here than in the original.
The audio to Heroes of Might and Magic II adds just as much to the game as the graphics. The musical pieces change from one scenario to the next and the feel appropriately varies from light to dark castle. Music in the light castles has a cheery, melodic feel, while in dark castles it's more ominous. Lots of harpsichord in both. The feel of the music is enchanting and magical, appropriate for the days of knights and magic. The only thing I found in Heroes II that I did like better in Heroes I was the audio selection while in the open land screen. In Heroes I there was a little music wafting in and out in the distant background, while in the foreground you heard birds chirping and other natural sounds. This offered a nice transition from the castle to open land, it gave you the sense that the land and the objects there were alive. It was refreshing, it gave you the feeling that your were out in the open, ready to explore. Although Heroes II does have such sound effects, the music continues when players leave the castle, diminishing the sense of transition when moving to open land and lessening the refreshing effect of all the outdoor sounds. I found myself turning down the volume every now and then because of this. Too much of any music over and over can rack the nerves. One nice feature of Heroes II, though, is that you can select between MIDI, Stereo w/o Opera, and Stereo w/ Opera which sounds pretty darn good compared to just plain MIDI. You can also completely adjust the volume of both music and sound effects, though unfortunately these settings are global in that if you were to turn off the music while in the open land screen, the music in the castle screen would also turn off.
Although Heroes of Might and Magic may look light and although the controls are intuitive and simple, the gameplay and AI is tough to say the least. Unlike Warcraft II, in which you are pretty much given the first scenario, the first scenario of Heroes II is definitely a challenge, especially if it is the first time you've played. Enemy AI basically does what you would do, and sometimes does it better. At times I found myself cursing the AI for being so irritatingly clever. Fortunately, you can adjust the difficulty levels in Standard Mode. Not in Campaign Mode, though, unfortunately. New World Computing claims to have improved the AI, and I think it is fair to say they have.
No other game even comes close to the feel of +Heroes of Might and Magic II_ except for Heroes of Might and Magic I. Unlike Command & Conquer and Warcraft II, there are no clones for Heroes of Might and Magic II.
Heroes II is appropriate for all age groups and makes a good family game. Youngsters can learn basic resource management as well as basic strategy skills without being exposed to adult material and unnecessary violence. This is definitely a game that the entire family can enjoy.
The documentation in Heroes of Might and Magic has more than you will ever need. 120 pages for any game, especially one as intuitive as this, is more than I'll ever go through. Simply put, it covers everything you need to know and more in order to play the game.
As you can see below, the system requirements for Heroes II are not as demanding as other games. One thing I did notice in my system was a slight flicker that ran through the screen while playing. I didn't notice it until after a couple of games, so it's pretty minute, but it is there. I do not have this problem outside the game. I just installed a Rendition-based board, Intergraph's Reactor 3D -- which is killer, by the way -- so it might be a driver incompatibility issue or the like with the chip or the board. I've had other display related problems with the board, mainly DirectX release 3, so I wouldn't be surprised if that was the problem.
DOS System Requirements: IBM 486/66 or greater and 100% compatibles, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, 60 MB hard drive space, SVGA graphics card, DOS 5.0 or greater, Microsoft compatible mouse
Windows 95 System Requirements: IBM 486/66 or greater and 100% compatibles, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, 60 MB hard drive space, SVGA graphics card, Windows 95
Macintosh System Requirements: 68030 or greater / Power Macintosh (Power Macintosh Native), 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, 50 MB hard drive space, 13" or larger monitor (minimum 640x480x256), System 7.x
Heroes of Might and Magic I has already been deemed a classic by many, winning strategy gaming awards from almost all the major gaming press. Now, in Heroes II, you get more characters, more artifacts, more terrain types, two new character classes (Necromancer and Wizard), nicer graphics and 6 rather than 4 person multiplayer capability. The graphics are great, the music is great and the gameplay is extremely addictive -- consider yourself warned. Heroes II is destined to be a classic. If you want to get a feel of the game, try the demo for Heroes I for the time being, and realize that Heroes II is even better. This game will sit on my current system's hard drive along with X-COM: UFO Defense and other classics for as long as the hard drive lives. Overall, Heroes of Might and Magic II earns a 94 out of 100.