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133977 No. 133977
Recently I was on Facebook talking with some folk and the topic of Heroes of Might and Magic came up. I forget which recent one was the topic, but a statement was made that Heroes IV was the last good one in the series. I was pretty flabbergasted by this because I remember Heroes IV as being objectively the worst one of all time (though I'd never played the very first one [and most other people hadn't either]). By happenstance, I saw a couple streaming it from a link in a GOG email, so I said "What the heck, let's buy it and try it out again." These are my thoughts.
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>> No. 133978
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>The premise?

For those who have never played a game on the series before, let me lay down just what the whole point is. Heroes of Might and Magic is a high fantasy game based on the RPG series with the similar title, sans Heroes. It turns the series’ magical but generic fantasy land from an RPG into a strategy game. The game sets up a variety of factions to house the various creatures you’d expect to find in such a game, usually at a rate of seven per faction, all on a very linear tier system in terms of power levels.

The game starts you out with a single town that’s only just barely constructed, a hero related to your faction, and small squadron of your weakest units. Your goal is to explore the world, fighting neutral monsters, collecting their treasure, and building up your city and army, all to ultimately defeat your opponent who has done the same. The key to victory is to do this as efficiently as possible. Moving around the map without wasting time or losing too many units, which will otherwise accumulate indefinitely, meaning no lost unit is a safe bargain.

In combat, your units are all stacked on top of each other, such that 100 soldiers take up the same amount of space on the battlefield as just one, so long as they’re of an identical type. When they attack, every single soldier in the stack attacks at the same time and applies its damage. When you get hit, damage is applied to the very first soldier in line until it’s dead, with damage piercing through each units until you run out. Since damage is so frontloaded and taking almost any hits at all is liable to make you lose units, the game becomes very aggressive, requiring you to do as much damage as possible as quickly as possible and without taking any return fire.

The setup they had in Heroes III was so loved that people still tout it as the best in the series, sometimes going so far as to simply continue playing it to this day, ignoring the three entries the series has had since then as inferior rip offs.
>> No. 133979
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>Changes in the formula?

That being the case, it seems obvious that they had to have changed quite a bit in order to elicit such a strong reaction, and holy hell did they. The first thing you’re likely to notice is the graphics. They attempted an early shift to 3D models (or at least things that looked like 3D models), but ended up with what is quite possibly the worst art direction in a game. Ever. You will be hard pressed to find a unit whose animations aren’t utterly repulsive, especially when dealing with anything roughly humanoid.

The next big change you’ll notice is that your heroes are no longer commanders that stand out of the battlefield somewhere to give orders and cast spells, they’re now full units of their own, capable of being attacked and also fighting back. Unfortunately, they’re not the sturdiest of units and are incredibly vulnerable unless you really work to toughen them up, which may lead to some fights where they die in just a single unblocked attack, leaving your army to fend for itself.

Once you enter the town screen, you’ll notice a couple more changes. First of all, they shuffled up the original factions in favor of something that looks more like the color wheel from Magic the Gathering. Not an inherently bad choice, since the color wheel is a pretty neat iconic thing to draw inspiration from, but it results in weird things like the Necropolis and Inferno each losing half their creatures and getting crammed together. Similarly, the centaur, elves, and dwarves from the ramparts were all sent to different factions, while treants and pegasi and green dragons were ditched completely. No matter what you used to play as, don’t expect your favorite faction to return in one piece. To make things even stranger, instead of a steady progression from tiers 1 to 7, there are only four tiers, and you have to choose which creature you get in the last three. This could potentially be an interesting change, but since for players who are feeling nostalgic, it only makes it more difficult to reform the armies you remember. Not to mention that in some cases the choice hardly feels like a choice at all, because one option is so much more powerful and useful than the other, though that isn’t always the case.

The final really major change (though there were a lot of other smaller ones) would probably be how combat is handled. The grid changed from a comfortable hex grid to a grid whose units are so small it feels like they were almost going for the feel of not having a grid at all, which really works counter to Heroes’ very strategic gameplay. Retaliation also changed. Previously (and also subsequently) when you tell one of your unit stacks to attack, it would attack, your enemy would lose its health and units, and then it would hit you back. In Heroes IV, however, the enemy retaliates at the same time as you’re attacking, with both sides doing full damage. This makes it far more difficult to avoid damage, and very heavily slants the power balance in favor of certain creatures over others.
>> No. 133980
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>So how does it play?

All that said, the good news is that if you enjoy Heroes of Might and Magic, that’s still the game you’re playing. You still travel around an exciting adventurous world collecting resources and trinkets while trying to build your armies up as strong as possible before clashing with your opponents. If you just want a new experience, then this is a perfectly reasonable game to turn to. If, however, you’re looking for the best Heroes of Might and Magic experience, this game is seriously lacking.

Since the core of the gameplay is the combat and trying to clear battles as efficiently as possible, the screen should be easy to use and understand so you can make proper strategic decisions. Unfortunately, the new grid makes that nearly impossible. While you are able to see a grid of where your enemies can currently move, it is very difficult to tell how terrain interacts with line of sight, or how you might maneuver your troops to control the battlefield. This can quickly become frustrating, especially when a misplaced or misjudged causes your archers to get stuck in melee combat with some terrifying beast that kills several dozen of them per swing, or simply stands in the way when you have other things you could be shooting at.

And on the topic of archers, the retaliation issue becomes most apparent. Because retaliation damage is calculated immediately, things that avoid retaliation take a massive preference over things that do not. This places almost every single melee creature in the realm of unusable, since entering combat at all is liable to lose you half your soldiers or more. Creatures with the First Strike or No Retaliation abilities, or creatures that simply don’t enter melee, become prized. One of the best strategies I’ve found is to have early melee units simply stand in front of your ranged units to take hits for them while they deal with the entire battlefield singlehandedly.

One place combat actually recovers somewhat is from heroes. A lot of emphasis was placed on making them cool and useful (even if their art and animations still leaves a lot to be desired). Slapping the Combat ability onto a hero can make it pretty difficult to kill in standard combat with neutral creeps. Since they regenerate their health to full every day, using your heroes effectively can be the key to keeping your army alive as they tank the majority of enemy attacks. Unfortunately, you run into problems with heroes whose abilities are mostly passive and don’t provide them with any defense. Without Combat, your hero can go down in an instant, making hero selection just as slanted and biased as creature choices.
>> No. 133981
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>The verdict?

The end result is a game that seems fun at first, while you explore the various mechanics, but then devolves into an incredibly biased selection of very limited strategies that don’t do much for replayability, even with how many different maps there are. Depending on how OCD you are, entire factions may seem to be completely unplayable by comparison, cutting down replays even more. All this combined with the laughable art direction shows off just why this really is one of the least liked games in the series and so many people decided to just stick to playing III.
>> No. 133982
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too long, did read

-1 not enough pictures
-2 no colouring section
-2 no word search
-2 having friends

this did not sound like a fun game

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