Rating: ESRB – Everyone
The Heroes of Might and Magic (HoMM) series is for me the definitive turn based strategy game in the entire history of gaming. Since its humble beginnings in 1995, the game has already seen six iterations.
PS – The latest version, HoMM6 is set to be released next month.
|I love this game a lot|
Incidentally, the rich fantasy world, characters and concepts in HoMM is shared by a great number of other games that bear the Might and Magic and the Heroes tags. The other games include the equally well-known and respected Might and Magic series of role playing games, a couple of first and third person shooters (Crusaders of Might and Magic, Legends of Might and Magic, and the more recent Dark Messiah of Might and Magic), and even a card game by the name of Arcomage.
Tonight, I will be talking specifically about HoMM3 Complete. I have had HoMM3 Complete for many years now, and every now and then I would take it out to play this game again and again (unlike HoMM4, and HoMM5 which I keep safely in my collection of games).
|Multiplayer is fun|
This is a compilation of the main HoMM3 game also known as The Restoration of Erathia, plus its two expansions Armageddon’s Blade and The Shadow of Death. When combined together onto one collection, you get a whopping 18 campaigns to play through. Throw in another 159 game maps to explore and I think that’s more than enough to last a life time of turn based strategizing.
What’s available right off the bat?
After watching the rather interesting movie of Queen Catherine returning to reclaim her lands, you get to select either Single Scenario, Multiplayer, Campaign, or Tutorial mode.
|Take your pick|
- Single Scenario allows you to play any of the stand alone maps against the AI with up to 7 opponents.
- Multiplayer has several modes for up to 8 players: Hot Seat, IPX, TCP/IP, Modem, Direct Connect, and Online Service (which is no longer available after the demise of 3DO). I found the Hot Seat mode to be the most beneficial to me as I could play with my wife using a single PC for a quick afternoon match. The game is smart enough to maintain the correct fog of war picture for every player in the Hot Seat. Neat.
- Campaign mode presents you with three main choices – The Restoration of Erathia which I feel is a good introductory campaign to start with, while Armageddon’s Blade and The Shadow of Death is a bit more for advanced players.
- Finally, the Tutorial mode serves up a small map for you to learn the ropes of the game. You will need to cross reference to a Tutorial PDF. I had no Windows 7 problems switching between the game and Adobe Acrobat.
Game play and graphics
After picking the Campaign you want to play, you are brought to a screen to select one of the “mini” campaigns to play. The campaigns usually comprise of 3 to 4 maps to play, I think the length is just about right. Too many maps will make the mini-campaign into a dragged out affair.
|What must I do?|
You are then given a description of the mission for that map. There is a background story for every campaign, followed by a description of the objective you need to achieve to win the map. Below that is a small section that tells you how many enemies and allies share the map as well as a little box depicting the difficulty level (it seems you can only adjust the difficulty level of maps from The Shadow of Death expansion).
Next to the difficulty level are three choices available to you when you begin the mission. The choices range from having a building advantage, a resource advantage, an artifact, a special character to start with, a certain number of additional troops, and so on. Pick one to proceed with your mission.
|There’s so much to see and do|
Personally, I love the sprite based graphics of HoMM3 Complete. A lot of effort went into them and you can generally tell what each little piece of artwork represents.
The landscape terrain varies from sand to dirt to grass to snow and even water. Mountains, hills, and forest block your way and force you to pick your route through the map. Best of all through are the hundreds upon hundred of interesting locations and treasures that you get to explore and find. There are locations that reward you all sorts of things such as resources, gold, experience, skills, and even luck. In addition, you may find a number of locations to purchase monsters, do converting of one resource to another, and more. Treasures such as chests, artifacts, and spells are all waiting to reward the plucky adventurer who gets his grubby hands on them first.
|Beauty is in the eye of the beholder|
Next, let’s cover the 9 different towns one by one:
- The Castle town features the Cleric and Knight hero classes and their armies are human. You will also get to field griffins as well as the all powerful angels.
- Dungeon towns are for Warlock and Overlord hero classes. Their armies are the type of nightmares you may find in a Dungeons and Dragons game – troglodytes, harpies, beholders, medusas, minotaurs, manticores, and evil dragons. Looks like these creatures walked straight out of the Monster Manual.
- The Fortress town is a swampy place that Beastmaster and Witch hero classes inhabit. They have gnolls, lizardmen, and other swamp monsters they can employ as armies. Their most powerful creatures are the chaos hydras.
- Inferno towns are for Demoniac and Heretic heroes. Their armies are diabolical nightmares such as imps, gogs, hell hounds, demons, and devils.
- Necropolis towns are home to the Necromancer and Death Knight hero classes. Their armies are the undead denizens that go bump in the night – expect skeletons, zombies, wights, vampires, and more.
- Rampart towns are the home for Ranger and Druid types. They field centaurs, dwarves, pegasi, treant like creatures (called dendroids), unicorns, and gold dragons.
- Stronghold towns are the homes of the Barbarian and Battle Mage heroes. They mostly harbor goblinoid warriors, rocs, cyclops, and behemoths.
- Tower towns are the beautiful homes of Wizards and Alchemist heroes. Their armies include magical beings such as gremlins, gargoyles, golems, genies, and giants.
- Last but not least, is the Conflux – home of the Elementalist and Planeswalker. Their creatures include pixies, elementals, and phoenixes. The Conflux was first made available in the Armageddon’s Blade expansion.
|Yikes… I need so many resources to build this pond?|
Exploration is a necessary evil as the maps can be quite big and it will take many turns before you find and meet your first opponent. To add another dimension to it all, the maps have two levels – an overland and a subterranean level. This complexity allows for some tedious backtracking if you go off on a wild goose chase down a dead end path.
The other part of the game involves turn-based battles against the enemy heroes. The heroes don’t really partake in physical battle. They just stand one side commanding troops to do their bidding, and at the very most, they will cast a spell to wreak mayhem on the battlefield. If you don’t like micromanaging your battle, you can enable Auto Combat and the computer AI takes over the fight for you. It does quite a decent job too, but you may want to interject to cast offensive or defensive spells.
|A fierce battle|
Troops are moved on a hexagon based map. A single animated graphic represents a troop of creatures. Each creature type has their own movement points, so some can close in with your enemies in one quick turn, while others take forever to even engage in the battle.
The number that appear next to your creatures is used to compute damage that is inflicted on your enemies, so it pays to have a whole battalion of creatures in your army before you set off on an exploration trip. As you get more experience in the game, you will probably employ more heroes; these secondary heroes will be used to move troops to one particular super hero. This super hero is used to accumulate creatures brought over from all your towns – you must use him to take out any enemies that come your way.
|This should be a cinch|
You can lay siege on towns and if you win the battle, the town is yours. Taking towns are not so easy when your enemies are equipped with moats and defense towers, so don’t get too cocky.
Audio and Sound
The music in HoMM3 is truly epic and feature beautiful orchestral tracks. It’s all composed and arranged by Steve Baca, Paul Romero, and Rob King. In fact I just reviewed Paul and Rob’s music from another game just a few days back. The sounds effects are not too spectacular (troops marching, weapons clanging and banging, heroes galloping, magic spells blasting, etc.), while the voice work for each of the mini-campaign movies are delivered with conviction.
Here are a few negative points that I would like to highlight. They don’t really detract too much from the enjoyment of the game:
- This game really stretches you when it comes to micro-managing and macro-managing. Fortunately, you have quite a few useful status screens that will help you make the right decisions in the game.
- Games can take really long, especially the extra large maps of 144 x 144 units.
|A handy summary screen|
- For those who don’t like to read fluff (that is, role-playing background story), don’t be surprised if you load a map and have to face several small windows of text.
I have a few more good points I need to raise that I didn’t mention before.
- HoMM3 comes complete with the full featured map and campaign editors that allow you to tweak any map or expand the game with your very own campaigns. I found the editors to be simple to use and not overly complex. I love editing a small map every now and then for my own private fun.
- There is a random map generator if you don’t feel like having a go with the editors. It’s quite a handy feature that allows you to get a new playable map in a jiffy.
- Single player maps have quite a variety of victory conditions, so you won’t get bored that easily with all the variety. Here’s the full range of victory conditions: acquire a specific artifact, accumulate creatures, accumulate resources, upgrade a specific town, build the grail structure (through the use of obelisks that reveal a treasure map to the holy grail), defeat a specific hero, capture a specific town, defeat a specific monster, flag all creature dwellings, flag all resource mines, and transport a specific artifact.
- And I didn’t even mention anything more about the spells available to the hero classes. Suffice to say, you can reveal portions of the game map, throw lightning bolts, cast fireballs, and do more fancy shmancy stuff with just a little magic up your sleeve.
|Look at all them artifacts at the right side of the editor|
Don’t belittle yourself the right to own this game. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 Complete has made me happy for many years now, and it still continues to do so, even today.
It’s that good!