Heroes of Might and Magic III
If the phrase'Might And Magic' seems familiar, it's probably because it has been on the boxes of at least eight PC games to date. Might And Magic I, II, III, Vand Wwere first-person hack-and-slash role-playing games, each set in the same Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy world. We didn't think a lot of them -Might And Magic VI scored 59 per cent in - but it didn't stop Ubi Soft coming up with Might And Magic VII, which is due for release soon.
Meanwhile, the other two games, Heroes Of Might And Magic I and II, are set in exactly the same fantasy universe, but the key here is strategy rather than role-playing. Combat is between armies, rather than individuals, and the game centres on exploring, recruiting armies, building improvements to your towns and scouring the map for treasure, which belongs to the first player to snatch it.
Town buildings boost your armies or increase your gold or precious mineral resources; most can be upgraded at least once -often more. Treasure can be gold, crystals, gems, mercury, ore, sulphur or wood, or extra spells, skills and artefacts with which you can equip your heroes.
Shrine Like A Star
There are dozens of shrines, temples and wandering characters on the map, many of which can add one of the game's 64 spells to your hero's book, or train him instantly in one of the 28 secondary skills available, which come in basic, advanced and expert guises. Ballistics, for example, enables your heroes to attack towns with catapults. Others boost spell power, earn additional gold and even recruit dead enemies from the battlefield to serve as skeletons or zombies.
Routine movement and exploration in Heroes 3 is carried out on the two-dimensional overhead adventure map with an icon bar to the right. From here, you can access any hero or town under your control. When the fighting starts, the game switches to the combat screen, an abstract, hex-divided battlefield with more than just a passing resemblance to SSI's masterpiece, Fantasy General.
Popping up in between are the town and hero screens, where you actually make the decisions, swap troops and artefacts from one hero to another, trade various items on the free market to balance resource production, and add town buildings. The screens are well-planned and neatly designed. A single click - never more than two - is all that's usually required to move from one screen to any other.
Your objective in Heroes III is to build bigger and better armies so you can dominate the map, take over things like sawmills and gold mines, and wipe out the opposition. Disappointingly, there's very little diplomacy or negotiation in this game - it's kill or be killed.
We Can Be Heroes
Single-player mode gives you the choice of one of 42 predefined scenarios or one of three initial campaigns. If the bundled scenarios become a yawn, there's a map editor, which enables you to create maps and new scenarios for up to eight players. You can multi-play over a network, by modem, over the Internet, hot-seat or linked by a null modem serial cable. Expect to do a lot of waiting, though. It's a turn-based game, after all.
You start Heroes III with a town, a hero and a small army of creatures under your command. There are eight different town types, including castle, fortress, rampart, dungeon, inferno, tower, stronghold and necropolis, each producing seven different troop types from the 128 types available. Start with a rampart, for example, and you can recruit centaurs, dwarves, wood elves, dendroids, unicorns and green dragons. Dungeons are limited to troglodytes, beholders, harpies, medusas, minotaurs, manticores and red dragons.
Heroes come in 16 flavours and range from bog-standard fantasy fare, like knights and wizards, to more exotic characters, such as beastmasters and necromancers. Each town supports only two hero types: ramparts, for example, attract druids and rangers, while castles have knights and clerics. Not that you can't recruit other hero types - it's just that they're less likely to appear.
The most irritating feature is that you have to choose one of the 100-odd pre-defined heroes in the single-player scenarios, rather than being able to 'roll your own'; in campaign mode, you get no choice at all. Whatever happened to role-playing?
Let Battle Commence
If you move your hero on to an enemy, you immediately activate the battle screen. Your troops -seven units at most - are set out on one side, witn the enemy on the other, and in the middle are randomly placed obstacles to liven things up. The fastest troop types move first, and they can either fire ranged weapons or move close up for hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, that just about sums up the range of strategies on offer.
With seven a side and roughly equal forces, it's virtually impossible to find a winning strategy. If you have more ranged fire units, like archers, you can stand off and whittle down the enemy, but that way you lose more of your own ranged fire units to counter-fire, and these units tend to be harder to replace and recruit. A hero with good combat spells can make a small difference but, in the end, the battles rely on luck more than skill. As always, whatever gods there are in the Might And Magic world are on the side of the big battalions.
Finding the right strategy on the adventure map isn't easy, either. You can't build new towns or fortresses, and once you've cleaned up the freebies you can only spread outwards.
There's nothing groundbreaking about Heroes III. Okay, it features 16-bit colour at 800x600 resolution, but although there's plenty of detail on the adventure map - and too much animation -it still looks somewhat dated. Mind you, it does have two levels the surface and the underworld which adds to the variety of the gameplay.
The big changes from Heroes 2 are to the game system itself, where there are bigger maps, more unit types, more spells and improved combat. Existing Heroes fans will be well chuffed. For many strategy gamers, it will seem inflexible and a bit too shallow, especially when compared to other games on the market.
And while it's often compelling enough to force us into 'one more turn' mode, I just can't for the life of me work out why.
Living In A Fantasy World
Three small steps for you, one giant leap towards success in the game
When you start a game, you usually find yourself with a hero, a town and some troops. The first thing to do is explore the area and grab whatever resources and buildings are within easy reach. Your hero, a knight, has 80 pikemen and 4I archers, so he's well-equipped to take care of himself. Note the four ships, which can be used for transport.
When your hero has finished moving, go straight to the town screen. Each building in the town has a function, and is highlighted when you move the mouse over It You can hire a limited number of extra troops In the town, and another hero or two to lead them. The more the merrier, because each can explore and Hag' mines and buildings.
Level One knight Christian starts with a balllsta and a healing tent But he's weak In spells, so you need to send him off to earn experience and improve his performance Most treasure items can be turned into experience, and entering some buildings gives you extra skills or bonus experience It's a good idea to let only the main man enter buildings and interact with neutral creatures, as he then gains the points. Some heroes should be hired just for exploring at first You can always develop them later if needed.
Download Heroes of Might and Magic III
Was it really two years ago that the 'original' Heroes of Might And Magic III was reviewed and got a hallowed? So what's changed since then? Well the answer to that is actually sod all. In all fairness this is really an add-on pack to the original, although 300 has included the original game with it, so if you didn't give it a try last year then you can now.
However, we were expecting a bit more. It has been over a year since the first release, and the only difference we can see between the first release and this one is a few new backgrounds. The gameplay is identical and the graphics are virtually unchanged. The resource management system is also identical to the earlier incarnation. Simply grab gold and resources, upgrade your cities, get new troops and fight. No big shakes either.
There were a lot of fans of HOMMIII in the office, and an add-on pack was expected at the end of last year. But this is now too little too late for die-hard fans (although any fix has got to be a good thing). Games such as Panzer General 3D have demonstrated what turn-based strategy games can do, even on lower-spec machines. Graphics and gameplay have moved on apace and this game now looks quite dated.
It is not all doom and gloom, though. The game is still as frighteningly addictive as ever, and 3DO has definitely made it a lot more difficult this time around (expect numerous curses when you get defeated in a dead-cert win situation). It's also priced at under 20 which means it isn't going to break the bank either. Want more of the same? Give it a go.
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.