Heroes of Might and Magic 4
The undisputed king of turnbased fantasy games is back (well, if it is disputed it’s not often, and nobody listens anyway), and in time-honoured sequel tradition it does all the things that every other sequel to every other game out there does. That’s right, they’ve changed the graphics a bit. Take a peek at the screenshots on these pages and you will notice hi-res, crisp, new, colourful graphics with highly detailed landscapes. Given the addictive nature of the gameplay in the Heroes series, if all New World Computing had done for Heroes IV was slap pretty new graphics on top of Heroes III and put it it in a box, this would be enough to keep turn-based geeks all over the world perfectly happy.
We at ZONE Towers, however, require a little more than a bit of gloss from our high-profile sequels. So you can imagine then, how we were less than impressed when the first couple of hours of gameplay appeared to present an almost identical gameplay experience to what was offered with Heroes III. You know the sort of thing: take your hero, ramble round the landscape, pick up a few units before plodding into battle, and pick up treasures, gold and items along the way before meandering into battle against various creatures guarding the better (ie useful) items and goodies. Did we yawn? Well, yes we did, but as always in these situations we pressed on in the hope that things would get better, and almost without us noticing, they did.
Bury me deep
Heroes Of Might And Magic IV, as the more intelligent among you will have guessed by now, is all about heroes and how you develop them. No change there then, but how you develop them is now entirely up to you. Hero classes can change dramatically depending on the choices you make when they gain a level (levels are gained through experience won from successful battles). There are five schools of magic, and you can train your heroes in any of them, from a basic level right up to grand master level, and the huge array of skills and spells can be mixed and matched so you can develop your heroes to suit just about any situation. Heroes also take an active part in combat now, making it even more crucial that you choose the right paths for them along the way, and this has the net effect that you actually care about whether they live or die.
Guide your heroes through an ever more complex path of choices and you will be upset when that huge horde of minotaurs kicks their heads in and ruins all your hard work. This is a good thing. It makes you think long and hard about the choices you make on the main game map. It makes you think twice before you take on that enemy stronghold with dozens of strong units, and it forces you to develop increasingly more powerful units of your own to protect your heroes on their way to mastery of the more difficult skills and levels of magic in the game. The core of the game then, is just about right. Let's move on then to the most controversial area in a game of this nature, namely: combat.
After You Then
The battle sequences may have had a graphical facelift, and the combat maps are not as claustrophobic as in previous incarnations of the Heroes series, but combat, it has to be said, is still as singularly unexciting as it ever was. You can, if you wish, activate auto combat to get things over quickly, but even when you appear to be evenly matched with your opponents you will lose more often than not with this option, so taking control of things yourself is the only way forward. Admittedly, battles become more exciting later in the game when your heroes have advanced skills and spells, and strategy becomes more important in order to win, but after the incredible combat sequences in Etherlords, Heroes Of Might And Magic IV feels decidedly flat in this department. Does it matter? To be honest, no it does not.
There’s so much to do in Heroes IV outside of combat that the battle scenes suffice as a means to an end and are no great annoyance. The most important thing about Heroes IV is everything matters. Every structure you build in your towns, every skill and school of magic you choose for your heroes, every key landmark you conquer on the map. all of these things are important when it comes to determining your overall success, and this is what makes the game so hugely addictive. The only downer was a bug that kept crashing me to desktop every time I left the build structure screen. We assume this will be fixed very quickly with a patch (check the homepage listed here before buying to see if there’s an update) but other than that Heroes IV is a triumph for New World Computing, and probably the last truly great old-school turn-based strategy game that we will see on PC for a long time to come.
Download Heroes of Might and Magic 4
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP