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Review by: Gavin Carter
Published: April 5, 2002
The Heroes of Might and Magic series is a stalwart defender of the turn-based strategy genre. Just when you think real-time games have beaten down turn-based offerings once and for all, developer New World Computing releases a new Heroes title or expansion, and players and critics alike are enthralled. Still, after three successful iterations, fans were wondering if 3DO could maintain its standard of excellence. New World’s soothing answer to such concerns is Heroes of Might and Magic IV, which in some ways is a departure, and in many ways is the same title people have loved since the initial release. I tore into Heroes IV to see how much has changed since 1999′s Heroes of Might and Magic III, and whether it was for the better.
For those who haven’t played a previous episode, Heroes IV involves building your kingdom and completing quests in a picturesque fantasy world populated by colorful characters and monsters. The plot is almost immaterial to the experience as each individual campaign has its own story, although Heroes IV picks up where the Heroes III expansions left off: A great war broke out and two powerful artifacts, the Sword of Frost and Armageddon’s Blade, clashed in battle. The resulting energy caused an explosion so massive it destroyed the entire world. Fortunately, a portion of the population escaped through magical portals to an unexplored world; six campaigns tell their individual stories in Heroes IV.
As in the previous titles, the gameplay revolves around your Heroes, units that can lead armies, gain experience and skills, and confer bonuses on your population. Heroes IV introduces some changes to their management. First, Heroes use a redesigned skills system allowing them to become any of 48 separate classes. Each time a Hero advances to a new level, you’ll be able to get a boost in or learn one of three skills: combat skills that increase troop morale and ability; magic skills that allow the casting of new types of spells; and nobility skills that can increase rates of production and loyalty. Further, as Heroes progress, they specialize into classes. For example, a Hero skilled in Nobility and Chaos Magic becomes a Witch King, while one skilled in Tactics and Scouting develops into a Field Marshal. Each class has its own specific benefits that are added to the skill and experience bonuses. In addition, you can further customize Heroese with any number of items or artifacts obtainable throughout the game world.
Another change in Heroes is they’re no longer disembodied, spell-flinging entities in combat; they’re actual battlefield units, weak and fragile at first, but as they advance, they can become as powerful as any large assembly of troops. This adds more strategy to the battles, since enemies often prioritize your Hero over other units. Keeping your Hero protected is a must, as upon their death, they’re captured and transported to a prison in an enemy town. The only way to retrieve him or her is to conquer the town. However, New World Computing also de-emphasized the Hero a bit in Heroes IV, as they’re no longer a necessary component of an army. Your creatures can form their own armed forces and move around maps just as well as the Heroes. However, armies without Heroes lack bonuses, and they cannot claim enemy towns for your side.
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