The Heroes of Might and Magic series is often fondly remembered by fans. Its third part in particular, released in 1999, stands out as the best in the series, with a combination of turn-based strategy and role-playing that has arguably remained unmatched. So, it's no surprise that such a gem would make a comeback for modern computer systems in Heroes of Might & Magic 3 HD Edition. Comprised of several campaign scenarios, players can experience the war to reclaim Erathia from multiple points of view.
An Old Game Entering a New Age
This remastered edition features updated graphics and widescreen support, along with both online and local hot-seat multiplayer. Apart from some graphical treatments, like a hex grid to show how far units can move, the gameplay has largely remained untouched. The developers took care not to mess with a winning formula. However, it should be noted that the HD edition only has the original "The Restoration of Erathia" content, and does not include the Armageddon's Blade or The Shadow of Death expansions, which is pretty disappointing. If you're going to remaster a fifteen year old game, might as well go all the way with it.
Despite the updated, high detailed graphics, the game still feels like it came straight out of 1999, with a landscape that's littered with treasure and enemies. Its age shows the most during the CGI cut sequences, where characters' hair look like thick strands of spaghetti, or waves drawn into a block of clay. That's fine - great, in fact - since being true to the original game is all part of the charm. Players have the option to switch between HD and blurry SD graphics to appreciate the excellent work the developer, DotEmu, has done to bring the game into the modern era.
Gameplay involves hiring heroes and exploring a land that's usually comprised of both an over and underworld, to gather together treasure and forces. Heroes gain experience in a variety of ways (usually through combat) to unlock new abilities, but the secret to success is in having an army powerful enough to eliminate your enemies and take their strongholds. To this end, resource posts need to be claimed or stolen to upgrade strongholds. Resources are gathered once a turn, and only one upgrade per stronghold is allowed per turn. Then it's a matter of waiting for a new week to begin, when fresh units are available for purchase.
Balancing between the strategic and economic portions of the game can be very tricky. When you get right down to it, HOMM is essentially a numbers game. You can fight with an overwhelming number of small units, or charge in with a handful of very powerful (but expensive) ones. Oftentimes, it's a mix of both. There's a nice variety of fantasy units, that include Angels, Demons, Dragons, and creatures raised by Necromancers. Heroes face-off against enemies and take turns moving units or casting spells. The endless balancing act shows here too, since mana for spells doesn't regenerate unless you have a special item or skill. The combat segments are what the Heroes of Might & Magic series is best known for, because it can be so unpredictable. You may think that you have the upper hand, but then your opponent will cast a powerful spell to hamper or decimate your army.
However, one of the game's drawbacks is that you need to act swiftly. There's not a lot of room for your heroes to wander around aimlessly. It could be that while you're out attacking every creature on the map to steal their treasure, whittling down your forces in doing so, your enemies are marshaling an unstoppable army. Unless you control multiple strongholds, the game will reach a critical point where it will be almost impossible to win the scenario. That means players should have a fairly clear idea of where to go and what upgrades to obtain. Doing that could require one or two restarts, especially when you're using a faction that you're not entirely familiar with. Things can be further complicated when you have more than one hero roaming the land, which requires you to divide your units among them. Especially when the enemy has three or four heroes of its own, grabbing up all the resources and threatening your strongholds.
Being that this is a turn-based game, each scenario can take a long while to complete, even when the animations are sped up. Even after you've beaten all the campaigns, there are still 50 one-shot skirmish scenarios to play, in addition to the custom map editor and multiplayer features. So, there's a great deal for both new and old fans of the series to enjoy, even though the lack of add-on content is still disappointing.
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 HD Edition delivers on its promise, almost to a fault, by remastering the 1999 classic with updated graphics. Everything from the map layouts to the creature animations stays true to the original (quirks and all), and for this game, you can't ask for much more than that.
Impressions are based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. Heroes of Might & Magic 3 HD Edition will be available on PC (Steam), iOS, and Andriod on January 29th, for $14.99. The game is rated T.