Monday, July 28, 2003

Smart, Practical, Personal.

Heroes of Might and Magic III

My life has been destroyed by a single game, and that game is Heroes of Might and Magic III. There is no escape; there is no salvation. Once you start a game, you’re hooked clear through to the end. The Heroes series has always been addictive, but this third installment offers up even more of what makes the series incredible.
A brief synopsis of the series thus far: The world of Might and Magic is vast in scale and filled with all manner of fantastic beasts and peoples. Most creatures in the game are directly drawn from mythology, such as harpies, Minotaurs, gorgons, and everything else you’d expect from the Greeks. There’s also a healthy heaping of D&D and Tolkien characters, such as dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, and all manner of undead. Into this world you are flung and told to conquer the realm. You play a king and start out with control of a town and one hero. Your hero has, under his or her command, an army of fantastic creatures that he or she commands in battle. Your town is the source of these creatures, and as time passes, you can upgrade buildings in your town. You can build things such as a labyrinth, which will allow you to recruit Minotaurs into your army, or a gate to hell to bring demons into your fold. There are hundreds of creatures, each one with two forms (Griffins are strong but Royal Griffins are stronger) and their own special powers. The heroes who command your armies are just as diverse and claim professions such as Heretic, Barbarian, Wizard, and Knight. Each hero has his or her own special power, such as exceptional skill at commanding swordsmen in battle.
Gameplay is turn based and you move your hero and army across the map exploring and gathering treasure. And what would a fantasy game be without some evil overlord trying to take over the world? (Of course, you can play the evil overlord and try to smudge out the beacons of virtue as well.) While you explore the world, conquer towns, and gather resources (gold, iron, wood, sulfur, gems, etc.), your opponents are trying to do the same thing, and there’s never enough room for everyone to get along.
Playing a game of Heroes of Might and Magic III is like stepping into another world. With eight games worth of story to draw on, there’s no shortage of intrigue and mystery. The Might and Magic world is extremely rich, and old fans of the series will love this new installment. But, unlike previous versions, Heroes III is much more forgiving and open to the newbie. There are no more random attacks, as there were in previous installments: Now you’ll only be attacked by other heroes or when you confront monsters on the map. This allows for a lot of saved load time, which used to mostly be spent recovering your last saved game when your hero died unexpectedly. Otherwise, the gameplay remains the same as in the first two versions. 3DO has kept its hands out of the cookie dough and stayed with the motto “If it ain’t broke … ” — a good thing considering that the first two games were universally lauded throughout the games industry.
Graphically, Heroes III makes the same steps forward that its previous installments made, adding more colors, more animations, and crisper characters than before. And since the game isn’t in 3D, you can run it on fairly old equipment — say a 604 chip or better, although the game is said to run on 603s as well. This is a perfect game for the strategy fan in your life. Battles play out more like chess than a video game, and there is very little blood to be seen. While some themes aren’t for the faint of heart (the idea of playing a demonic knight might put some people off), there is something here for every kind of player.
With any luck GameRanger will soon support Heroes III, and if it does, multiplayer games will be even easier to set up than they are now. While games are easy to organize already, they’ll be a breeze with GameRanger. Multiplayer games play out well, and the only problem is the long wait between turns. Since each player has to make all of his or her moves, however, there’s not much that can be done about these long wait times.
Heroes III is a well polished piece of art. It is almost infinitely replayable and will keep you happily addicted.

Heroes of Might and Magic III:
3DO  |  |  


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