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If some of you, like I, have become familiar with Heroes of Might and Magic through one of the later renditions then the lineage with this first edition will be quite clear. Everything which makes a game "Heroes" is there. Heroes, creatures and spells, towns to control and expand, a world to discover and plenty of monster and opposing armies to fight.
Heroes stormed on the scene in 1995 in both a DOS and a Windows version. The version discussed here lacks the world editing tool and is thus the DOS edition. I don't expect anyone to start creating new maps for a nearly ten year old game so that's not a problem.
In heroes you have the choice to play either a single map or a campaign (only one). The single maps are by far the most interesting. No fewer then eighteen shipped with the game and those will keep you playing for hour upon hour. The replay ability is high since you can choose from four different species of creatures to play with. The difficulty rating is adjustable and the maps are listed with a difficulty rating as well. It is all very user friendly.
All the more strange that the campaign lacks any difficulty settings. You can choose from among the four species again but that is all. The campaign itself is nothing but a prearranged series of single maps which is disappointing. There is story interwoven between the maps by short texts that you have to read but there is little relation to the game. The campaign in itself is too difficult for the casual player and I had no fun playing it. I soon found myself going back to the single maps.
The game plays just like its younger compatriots. You control armies that explore the map and do battle with other armies and monsters in a separate semi 3D environment. Towns house buildings that produce creatures. The fights are fought in a Master of Orion style. Creatures are stacked in groups that fight. You never see the individual creatures.
It all looks far older then the ten years it is. For some reason 3DO (developers of Heroes) never managed to hire some decent graphics artists. If I were told this game was released fifteen years ago I would have believed it. The colours might as well have been restricted to sixteen and the animation is laughable. This is not a flaw that hurts the game but there is one that does. Balance. Namely, heroes has none. With certain species the going is much tougher then with others. Specifically the mountain species is a lot stronger then any other because their creatures are better then any other. This flaw would haunt the series during its entire life and in all its incarnations but it is especially bad in this version.
I have saved the most remarkable aspect of HoMM for last. It's multiplayer support. In 1995 only few games could boast a multiplayer option at all and HoMM not only has one but it has four. Modem, direct connect, network and even hot seat play are all included making the life span of the game even longer. After beating the campaign and all the single maps you can challenge your friends even if you did not own a modem or two computers.
Sadly 3DO went bankrupt last year meaning the four games that have been made are all that we will ever see of HoMM unless someone picks up the licence. A fifth game was being made when 3DO kicked the bucked but we will never see where they wanted to take the series next.
All in all HoMM is a game well worth playing even today and if a friend comes over you can have some nostalgic fun with its multiplayer option.
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