Heroes of Might and Magic III
For the convenience of the readers, this review has been divided into two sections: one for those who played Heroes of Might and Magic II and one for those who didn't.
For those who did: Same game, more stuff, better graphics, get it if you're itching to play Heroes again.
Now for those who didn't: I would love to be in your shoes. I mean it -- I envy you. You have the opportunity to play a stunning game that has been lovingly polished over four iterations (King's Bounty was the original, for those who can count to three) and has resulted in a gem that will steal nearly as many hours from your life as the original Civilization did.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
In Heroes of Might and Magic III (HOMM3) you hire heroes to represent you and lead your forces across the map to accomplish your goal whether it be to eliminate your enemies, find a treasure first, or simply gather enough creatures or resources. Your heroes must explore the map, eliminating creatures that block your path or guard the way to the various sites of interest, most of which give you gold, resources, useful items or experience. Heroes also gain experience by winning battles against the opposing heroes, and in this game experience is key. Gain enough experience and you increase your hero's level which grants an increase to one of his primary attributes: attack, defense, power, or knowledge. These attributes increase the attack level of his troops, their defense level, the effect of the hero's spells, and the number of total spell points, respectively. When increasing levels, a hero also gains additional skills which help specialize the hero as a spell caster, explorer, siege master, sailor, or pure fighting machine.
Heroes, however, don't fight in battles directly, other than casting spells to aid their troops or damage the opposing side. They lead troops of other creatures, up to seven different types per hero. When battle is begun, the view shifts from an overhead world view to the side view combat screen. Combat takes place on a hex grid and a single graphic represents a stack of each type of creature. Stacks of creatures take turns moving according to their speed, and attack opposing units hand-to-hand, or with ranged weapons. Battles take place on open terrain or against fortifications when attacking a city.
Cities are the most important locations in the game, providing gold and places to recruit creatures as well as marketplaces and other special buildings. There are eight different types of towns, and each town has seven different buildings which allow you to recruit seven creature types. Each of these buildings can be upgraded to provide an improved unit of that same basic type. So eight towns with seven creatures each gives fifty-six creatures with two power levels each. It will be a while before you even see all the creatures, let alone discover the best combinations of arms for your battles. There is a lot to explore in Heroes of Might and Magic III.
The campaign game is composed of six multi-scenario parts detailing the war over Erathia from the point of view of the good, the bad, and the merely mercenary. The story isn't overdone and the scenarios are quite well made. There are also many single scenarios included on the CD and an infinite number can be made with the included scenario editor. If you get tired of playing by yourself, multiplayer is also supported over nearly every kind of connection.
The graphics are much improved from the previous versions of the game and eliminate much of the cartoony feel. That games of this genre are generally more focused on gameplay than eye-catching graphics is, in my opinion, simply how it should be. However, it is a pleasure to see a great game where the graphics are as good as the gameplay. The cityscapes are especially impressive.
The sound effects are fine, although they add little to the game itself. The audio track? Well, I left it on longer than I normally do with these types of games. I guess that says something.
Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0, P166, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 200 MB hard drive space, DirectX soundcard, DirectX 6.0, 28.8 modem
HOMM3 is a wonderful game, but I couldn't rate it higher than 85/100 due to the lack of any real innovation. It is the same game aswith better graphics and more stuff, as I said before. Without reservation, I recommend it to anyone with even a vague interest in strategy games who missed the previous versions. My only real wish is that one day a game this well-done would be a first release rather than the fourth iteration of a series.
A final note to New World Computing if you're still reading: Congratulations; well done. You've made an excellent game, the Heroes of Might and Magic that is everything we knew it could be. Now please let the series end in triumph and don't give uswith "New towns, more heroes!" If the name itself is too marketable to let die, then at least make the next one a completely different game.