The Heroes of Might and Magic III are back, and this time, they’re in crisp HD. What does this mean? If you’re a fan of the original, it means several more hours and weeks of strategic combat goodness. Yes, the Heroes are extremely seductive that way. Not all is well though, since there are already versions of the original still available for purchase online. And the price tag certainly isn’t helping.
Minor details notwithstanding, Heroes of Might & Magic III HD is a near replica of the game which was a commercial and critical darling. Except this time, it has received a little do-over and got some fancy new high-resolution graphics to satisfy the pixel-crazed gamers of today. The gameplay remains the same. You play as several powerful heroes in a few dozen campaign missions. Once you’re done with the single player, you head online or invite a few friends to duke it out over LAN.
There are three major parts to the action – exploration, combat and constructing cities. If you’re a returning Heroes gamer, you will love how detailed the new maps in Erathia look. Scattered all over the different maps are several undiscovered treasures, resource rich areas, powerful monsters and several magical items which strengthen your abilities. The intensely populated maps are a hallmark of Heroes of Might & Magic. There’s loot to be plundered, monsters to kill and of course, enemies to fight. You can walk a few steps in any direction on the map and expect to find something worth doing. It’s frantic and chaotic, but it’s always fun. It is also a nice change from the more realistic and dour aesthetic which most fantasy strategy games have chosen to adapt in recent times.
The combat itself is equally excellent. All of your armies are led by powerful heroes who gain experience and magical abilities as they indulge in battle. But these aren’t your traditional armies. They’re filled with archers, sorcerers, monsters and other unit types you would expect to find in an old-school D&D game. The type of units you can spawn is based on the castles you build. You can build a total of eight different castles in Heroes III, and all of them grant you access to different unit types. And yes, there is a castle named Castle, and it allows you to spawn angels and griffins. The Necropolis grants you liches and wights. The Tower allows you to spawn wizards and magical constructs. The battles are turn-based and are played out over hex configurations. Due to the wide variety of units you have at your disposal, there are a lot of variables which dictate which way a battle will go. If you build too many melee units, you might be able to rush a lesser foe, but an army with a mix of properly insulated ranged units will inevitably wipe you out. And of course, there’s magic. Your heroes have access to powerful abilities which can turn the tide of battle if used at the correct moment.
The final element of the game involves the art of conquest. You have to fight, conquer and then build up towns relevant to your factions all over the map. Having more bases around the map increases your resource gathering rate and allows you to vary your attack strategy. The upgrade system for buildings and units is quite limited. Once you get the hang of things, it’s just a question of repeating a formula that works several times around the map.
Even a quarter of a century after the original was released, Heroes of Might & Magic III still remains a tremendously fun experience which will easily keep you up at nights if you aren’t careful. There’s a ton of stuff to do here. Even after you’ve finished the entire campaign, which by itself could run for hundreds of hours, you can go online and pit your wits against other players. It still remains one of the all-time classics of strategy gaming. The maps are diverse, there are lots of different unit types for you to consider and the game is not a cakewalk, even at the lowest difficulty settings. Don’t be surprised if you have to adjust your difficulty level a few times.
Heroes of Might & Magic III forces you to think about the way you position your troops, how you conduct them in battle, and how you build your cities. You might have to try a few different factions before you find one that fits your play style. If you’re too focused on building your defenses in one corner of the map, you leave the rest of the map for your opponents to plunder freely. On the other hand, if you try to build too many bases too quickly, you are setting yourself up to be ambushed. The AI is ruthless, and it will make you pay for bad moves on the battlefield.
Heroes of Might & Magic III HD is still the game you once loved and cherished. Unfortunately, Ubisoft didn’t find it necessary to bundle the expansion packs into this package. Which is a glaring omission, considering the high price tag. Regardless, the updated graphics make all of the units and terrain look great and will induce hours of nostalgia-filled gaming. Even if you have never heard of the series before, pick this one up. It is a true classic and another reminder that great games never truly age.
Game Review Score: 7.0 Out of 10