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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: November 24, 2000
New World Computing is one of the many game manufacturers that has been around since the first days that PCs were used for mass-marketed entertainment. Few people now remember their anime-style offerings like Knights of Xentar. This firm has left an enduing legacy with us; one that continues to this day in the Might and Magic series of medieval fantasy titles ranging from hardcore RPGs to first-person action fests. Among the most popular of this series are the Heroes of Might and Magic set of games — turn-based strategy where you pit armies of monsters led by legendary warriors one against the other, fighting for resources and ultimately survival. One area that the Heroes series always seemed weaker in was the storylines — until now. New World Computing has released their latest update to this classic cycle, the Heroes Chronicles tales.
This progressive system of games follows the life and death of Tarnum, Epic Hero who suffers through both victory and defeat, with tragedy ever pawing at his heels. The first in the series, Warlords of the Wasteland weaves the tale of Tarnum’s rise to power in the years before he became king. You start out in a land where powerful Wizard-Lords have enslaved the ethereally inept barbarian inhabitants, exploiting them for resources in much the same manner as Imperialism worked in the 18th century. Legend, however, speaks of a barbarian prince called Jarg, who once defeated the Wizards and drove them from the lowlands. Ages later, Tarnum comes across a wounded traveler who identifies himself as a Bard — one of the barbarian historians. This Bard urges him to remember the proud history of the barbarian people rather than hang his head low in solemn servitude. Never being one to leave well enough alone, Tarnum decides to follow in Jarg’s footsteps and form a resistance movement to drive the oppressive mages from his homeland once and for all. With the help of the remaining Bards, he must rally his people under a new flag and restore their tattered honor. As you assume his mantle of authority, it will be in your power to outmaneuver the crafty masters of sorcery by slowly building up your forces in the Heroes of Might & Magic tradition and making your enemies pay for the havoc wrought upon your people.
The Heroes series has always been more than the traditionally dull resource management turn-based-strategy style of game. Not only do you have to carefully control each one of the seven resources for your district towns and strongholds, but you must also maintain a healthy army and develop some sort of effective battle strategy. Part of the addictive fun stems from building up your castles to the point of producing the most powerful creatures, then adding them to your army and attacking the horde of powerful monsters who happen to be guarding that artifact you want. The entire formula has withstood the test of time with three titles and multiple expansion packs. New World Computing decided to stick with what worked in Heroes III and thus almost nothing has been changed. To be completely honest and accurate, the Heroes Chronicles titles are not really even new at all. They use the same engine as the previous two games with no updates even in what types of towns and monsters exist. This isn’t to say that no polish was applied, in fact the foundation of what makes the Chronicles stand out is their use of storytelling and plot driven elements that have never been present in another Heroes product, at least not to the levels of both quality and quantity achieved here.
Heroes III introduced plot driven occurrences that would sometimes add loot to your treasury or rob you of resources depending on the nature of the event. For instance, a dialogue box would pop up and tell you that a Cyclops ambushed one of your trading posts stealing a wealth of jewels and gold. You would then see an additional screen telling you that you had just lost three units of gems plus 2000 gold. This method has been expanded in Warlords of the Wasteland to include various plot elements that serve no other purpose than to advance the storyline. Now when you see a dialogue box pop up, you could be treated to anything from the romances of Tarnum and a Xena-like barbarian warrior woman, to a heartbreaking tale of the death of your best friend’s son. These story bits help keep up interest in the plot so that you don’t get involved in resource-management or army configuration to the point where you lose sight of your goals beyond just the next battle.
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