Yeah, yeah yeah!!! I know this game has been about for ages and probably you've read about a million reviews of it, but Ubi Soft sent us a copy of the expansion pack and well we obviously needed the actual game to play it. As Ubi Soft were kind enough to send us a copy of the full game we thought it was only right to write a review on it. Also by reading this review it will be easier to understand what I am gong on about in the review of the expansion pack. Right well that's all the excuses over, "Onwards!.....To the game!".
The games starts with a nice bit of video, which attempts to explain what is going on in the game (This has nothing to do with the single games but it is meant to make the campaigns have a bit more of a story line). It talks about some dark lords generally wreaking havoc and killing everything.. Heroes of Might and Magic III (HeroesIII) has two styles of play, a single game, and campaign (as talked about above). In both games you play a hero (or actually up to about 6ish heroes), who's objective usually is to take over all of the land and kick every other players butt. In campaign games you get to do a series of 'missions' like kill some dragon or something of that sort, then you are able to advance to the next section of the campaign, but generally apart from the story following on from campaign to campaign, the idea of the two games is essentially the same. Well it does get a bit more involved than that......
Now I don't know how many of you have played any Warhammer style games before but you get loads of monsters and heroes much like games of this sort. All are set in a medieval, jousting, wizards, the walking dead, goblins and such like, time period. So if you don't like that sort of thing I would give up on this game now. If you do I would read on because this game is a real treat. There are a multitude of different heroes you can hire for your cause and play against. These range from necromancers, who generally have the undead with them. To clerics and rangers, who have all the nice happy things like fairies and sprites (not the washing-up liquid and the drink btw). Each type of hero also has different characteristics and advantages/disadvantages, for example a necromancer sometimes gets to cast a raise the undead spell after a victorious battle so a few more skellingtons get recruited to do your bidding.
There are three main types of in-game view. The main view is in the exploring mode where you romp around as adventurers do getting into fights claiming land, (which is symbolised by your colour's flag on various buildings) gaining resources, such as wood, gold, mercury, sulphur, and gaining experience points. Reasons for needing these will be explained later. This view look very like the view used in the Civilisation/Age of Empires types of games and even has some of the characteristics of them, that is, in a more killing less building sort of way......
The second is the battle view. The only way to get into is view is to pick a fight with someone when you are in the main exploring view, or another player trying to fight you. Of this part of the game there are many different "styles" of battle, all of which may affect the way in which you need to fight. For example if you were to storm an enemies bastion, the battlefield would usually involve you being on one side of the screen with all of your catapults (that is one thing I didn't understand about this game, you may never pick up a catapult throughout the game but still when you are trying to take over an enemies fortress then rento'pult or someone of that nature seem to give you one to use, well I dunno. Anyway), and your foes being hidden in behind their fortress which had to be smashed to pieces by the catapults before you could get inside to slaughter the lot of them! Then there are other types of battleground such as open land, and cursed land, (which can effect things such as spell casting). The battle views are a lot more "zoomed in" than the main exploring view, this helps a lot for trying to see what the hell in going on. Where as the exploring view is good because although you cant see everything in it's most minuet est detail, you can see a large amount of the landscape at once.
The last style of view is the "controlling your towns/villages" view, (you get towns and villages by conquering them) in this view you can build new buildings, such as places to train various mages, fighters, and a wide array of monsters. In addition to this you are able to hire men/beasts or sometimes even new heroes to assist you in your adventures. All these depend on what types of building you have in your various towns, and all building need resources to be build. (See I told you I'd get back to why you need resources). For example new heroes usually hang out at the local taverns, and devils usually frequent the gates of hell, and such like. All these things are just a few of the things you can do and need to do in order to progress further into the game.
Right, now you have the general idea of what is going on, I will get into some more of the nitty gritty details, such as how battles actually work. Well lucky for me the battle style is turn based, (I always found that controlling your forces all at once because too annoying in games such as Warhammer - Shadow of the Horned Rat). I like this style of play because you can have as mich time to think about your tactics as you like, although to make it more of a challenge you can limit the time per go. I know some people don't like turn based games though, as they can prove to be a tad slow to progress through, so I might have been nice to have had that as an option before you start the game.
Battles take place using a grid system, each regiment has a certain amount of move points which they can use, and usually reflect the characteristics of that regiment. For example horsemen would have more move points than say, zombies and therefore can more further. In a battle this is shown by the highlighted area around a selected unit. Also each unit has a number next to them, this refers to the no of men left in that unit. At the start of a battle some players get an option to move their units around. This is called the tactics phase and you are able to place your army anywhere in the highlighted area. This is only possibly if your hero has obtained enough wisdom points, else you don't get a tactics phase. In the 'in battle' options menu, you have the option to do things such as toggle the battle grid and the highlighted movement area on/off. After that you have many choices, either, move some of your regiments, fight some of the enemy, put a regiment into defence mode, (which they gain +1 to defence for every turn they are in defence mode. This bonus is lost when they move or attack.), or retreat. In every turn you also have the option to cast a spell, depending on if you have enough magic points to do so and if you have learned any spells in your travels. Spells are either offensive or defensive. In addition to all of this there is an auto combat mode which can be initialised at any time. Auto combat mode is where the computer conducts the fighting for you. This I found was especially useful when just fighting small bands of enemies, as some of the battles can get slightly tedious. I personally wouldn't recommend using this in any large battle though as the computer seems not to be the cleverest of souls when on your side. Although you are able to regain control of the battle at anytime if you feel the computer is just being too crappy, you then regain control at the start of the next movement turn.
Enough of how it works, what did I think of it then.....
Well the graphics through the game are not bad, considering that the game has been out for a little while. The game is mainly lots of small stuff all on a landscape, so detail isn't really a problem. Even though, they seem to have crammed quite a bit of graphical detail into this game.
If you like this sort of game it will last you for ages. I like all of the options such as the battle settings, some people don't like the 'hexagon look' all over the screen, but for others it is a great help, so it is nice to have the option. Other things such as you can choose how you want your hero's various attributes to progress, what type of heroes you want to go with, all make it easy for each player to play each game the way he/she likes best. Also combat is really easy (not the winning but the way you play it), if you get bord with the small skirmishes you can always turn in on to auto combat. I like the way you don't have to play the good guy all the time, so you can be a heretic and have loads of devilish minions on your side...which is nice.
The sound is not bad, it's not exactly 'sound track' material but more like 'mood' music which complements the whole gaming experience. It definitely fits in well into the game. There's not a lot else I can say about the sound really, ("Yay! It will be all over soon!", I hear you cry).
Anyway, if I had to choose one thing which I would say is the best part of HeroesIII then I would have to say that multi player wins it for me. I found nothing better to 'do in' you opponent with overwhelming no's of troops at your disposal and superior tactics, even though it is just a greatly annoying to then find that they had been saving their best hero 'till last just to weaken yours.
This game is really addictive, loads of different characters, loads of cool monsters to fight for you and against you, tonnes of different magical objects, spells and such like. So much cool stuff you could play it for ever and not get bord. I could probably write a book on all of the stuff I have missed out (the tutorial games, map editor etc etc.). So if your fed up with the endless and mindless building of houses in games like Age of Empires and Civilisation, but are looking for a game with the same type off 'feel' and look, this game is most definitely for you, and even if your not I still think this game is for you.
"Well done. You managed to brave my review of Heroes of Might and Magic III, your training is complete. Ahh but wait! A new challenger has entered the ring. This time you must face the Heroes of Might and Magic III Expansion pack - Armageddon's Blade. Now go forth my son, and kick some ass!"