April 09, 2012

Heroes of Might and Magic

I just bought and downloaded the first four HOMM games from Good Old Games. They were on sale, but that was just fortuitous.

I've played so damned much Master of Magic that I think I'm wearing out the bits. It really is time to find something else  I can enjoy. (Please note that this post is not a request for suggestions about other games besides these.)

So I decided to give the HOMM series a try. Way back, I bought the first game, and wasn't very impressed by it. But Wikipedia says that it was the second release where they really hit their stride, and that was the one that made a name for the franchise.

It must have been popular, since they just released the sixth one last year. But that alone doesn't prove that I would enjoy it.

What I found interesting was the size of the installers:

HOMM 2: 283 MB
HOMM 3: 820 MB
HOMM 4: 948 MB

Yikes! #2, #3, and #4 include all their respective expansion packs, but still!

When I originally bought them, I figured I'd use the sequence to learn the system, so I'd play the first one until I got comfortable with it, then move to the second, and so on. But between my memory of finding the first one rather dull, and the Wikipedia statement that the second one was widely regarded as being vastly better than the first, I'm thinking about diving straight into #2.

I'm just worried about the learning curve. Anyone who remembers these games, do I really need to play the first one before trying to learn the second? (I solicit advice on this point. As long as it doesn't include the phrase "You might also want to consider...")

Actually, I'm considering diving straight into the third one. The first two games installed DOSBox, but the third one didn't.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 04:04 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 321 words, total size 2 kb.

1 The second one is where the formula came together.  I don't see any need to play 1.  3 is basically 2 with a few extra goodies, but I don't remember anything really different in terms of mechanics; ISTR feeling it was largely milking the same formula for all that it was worth.  You'll probably be fine starting there.

I don't really remember 4 at all; it's possible I never played it.

It's vaguely like MoM, only strategic movement requires a (non-fighting) hero to lead your stack, and tactical combat takes place on a hex grid.  I found magic to be either too weak (most spells), or curb-stomping (certain spells like Chain Lightning, or Armageddon with a hero sporting nothing but Black Dragons).

It's been years since I played it, but the tutorial, followed by the campaign, should be enough to teach you the basics.  Basically, between the high move and low hero count, you have to constantly decide how aggressive to be.  Most maps reward a very aggressive initial game to gain resource sites (and one-shot hero-upgrade sites), followed by a retrenchment and buildup, defeating enemy stacks in the field, and then hitting their castles with high-tier units in late-game.  There are different ways to play, and some campaign missions force you to use them, but that always seemed fairly reliable.

Posted by: Big D at April 09, 2012 04:43 PM (qLkdZ)


OK, that's good to know. And it's also good to know that they included a tutorial game.

So I guess I will skip the first one. Probably I should pick it up with #2.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 09, 2012 06:32 PM (+rSRq)

3 I played several versions, but I forget which ones.  I know the first one I played was decent, the next one was better, and the one after that didn't hold my attention long at all.  I would suspect it was 2, 3, and 4, but it could have been 3. 4, and 5.

Posted by: David at April 09, 2012 06:42 PM (Kn54v)


According to Wikipedia, the first four were created by a company called New World Computing.

They were eventually acquired by Ubisoft, who created #5. A guy named Jon Van Caneghem is credited as the writer for the first three. Someone else wrote the fourth one, and then with #5 it seems to be an entirely different development team.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 09, 2012 07:25 PM (+rSRq)

5 It's not often that I feel qualified to chime in, but since I actually played games 2 through 5 as they came out, here we go:

1: Never played it, have never been told that I ought to, either.
2: Arguably the purest/best of the lot, this is the defining HoMM game. Everything that comes later is a refinement, tweak, expansion or re-jiggering of this one.
3: Actually my favorite, because I like many of the refinements, tweaks and re-jiggerings in this rendition over 2. Think of 3 as the "fun one" while 2 is the "pure one." If that makes sense.
4: I've a soft spot for HoMM4 while many purists loathe it. Introduces a "your hero gets down & dirty with the critters in combat" mechanic, in tandem with a "your critters can wander the countryside hero-less to pick up stuff" ability. Also, the hex-field combat maps aren't actually hexes, more of a free-form... thing. Kind of weird, but I like it.

And for chuckles...

5: HoMM gone 3D with a whole new publisher & everything. Surprisingly good, though the grand scale of the earlier games is chopped down to accommodate all the 3D-ness. All in all, I like it, but it's nowhere near as engrossing as the earlier titles. Combat maps are divided into squares instead of hexes, if that matters. (It really doesn't.)
6: Avoid like the plague, apparently... Ubi has saddled it with an "always-online" DRM scheme that is known to break your saves and do other random violence upon your hard-earned enjoyment. Sigh.

Posted by: GreyDuck at April 09, 2012 08:35 PM (Buiw/)

6 I am a big fan of this series, particularly the third one. Fun turn based 4x games.

I second most everything GreyDuck said. 2 is when the series really came together and established its identity. 3 extended the magic model significantly and added a lot of bells and whistles, and is my favorite. Although I spent many, many, many happy hours playing 2 and the expansions for 2, 3 is the one I come back to every 18 months or so to play some more, just because it is so enjoyable.

I was one of the people who did not like 4 as well as the previous games, although it is still interesting. Putting the heroes directly on the battle field changed many aspects of the game in ways I did not like much.

I enjoy the balance and trade offs of deciding where to invest your limited resources: more heroes to have more actors on the field, economy for more resources in the future, more units to expand now, building up your towns for higher tier units later, pushing magic to turn your heroes into army-killing terrors. It definitely has that one-more-turn, watch your empire grow, hey how did it get to be 3 AM feel that characterizes really good games.

Posted by: haphazard1 at April 09, 2012 09:33 PM (9yBYR)

7 Play Heroes III with the utility, Heroes 3 HD. Other than allowing higher resolution support, it also includes a lot of small bug fixes, and even some additional features, all of which are optional.


Posted by: cuc at April 10, 2012 07:59 AM (yfVp2)

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