For many, the name New World Computing means absolutely nothing. However, for those of us that have played a lot of classic computer games, that name means a great deal. The now defunct developer gave the pc world some very fine games. The series it was most known for is Might and Magic, a popular role playing experience where you lead your warriors on quests fighting magical creatures and solving puzzles. Personally, I didnt like them, the lack of direction is frustrating. However, they created a spin off of the series and turned it into a popular turn based strategy game with just the right amount of role playing elements. This series is known as Heroes of Might and Magic. To this day, there are 6 of them each with its own unique storylines and play styles, however, the last one that was made by New World Computing was Heroes 4. The newest two were picked up and developed by Ubisoft and are great games in their own right. However, of the entire series, Heroes 3 stands the tallest and is a shining example of what strategy games should be.
To begin, its worth noting the game play elements. This is a rather complicated game that has a rather sharp learning curve, especially at the beginning. It is definitely one of those games where reading the manual is mandatory. To begin with, there are a couple of play modes, the first is to select a campaign and play through the stories therein. Another is to select and play a scenario, which are there to challenge you. There is also a tutorial and mulitplayer, more on the multi later. I highly recommend by first playing the tutorial as it gives you a basic understanding of the game. I do find however, that it isn’t the best tutorial system and leaves out a lot of important details. From there you can launch into one of the three campaigns. The first is Restoration of Erathia, which is the easiest. The second is Armageddons Blade, which takes place after the events of the Restoration. I find this to be the second most difficult, but probably the most fun because the battles are huge. Then we have Shadow of Death which is a prequel to the entire thing. This one has some missions that are brutally difficult so its only for seasoned veterans. Normally, Armageddons blade and Shadow of Death are released as expansions to the original but New World Computing released a Complete edition which has everything in one. Currently, it is 10 dollars on gog.com, that is where I purchased it and it has compatibility with Windows Xp, Vista and 7.
Anyway, after that little diversion, lets talk about the factions that are available (when you pick a campaign, you don’t get a choice). For starters, each faction has several tiers of units that they can hire. For example a simple skeleton is a lower tier unit where a vampire and dragon represent the middle and upper tiers. Each unit has a variety of different stats, such as attack damage and health. Some also have special abilities that lower enemy unit morale or even drain enemies magic power. Each of the 9 factions have 7 different units that they can purchase from their towns. There are also upgraded versions of these units that can be purchased as well. For example, taking a skeleton and then upgrading it to a skeleton warrior thus making it a tougher unit. While this may not seem like a lot of unit variety, its all you really will need because of the fact that you can always incorporate other faction’s units into your armies. This increases the army possibilities to a staggering number. (I made a list at the end of this review that gives some insight into the factions and their units)
However, it isn’t that simple, you will first need to construct your town and hire the individual units into your army. This, however, costs money and resources. This is where your hero comes into play. You can use your hero to move around the world map. On this map, you will encounter resources, enemies, other towns, magical artifacts and other misc. things. All of this is daunting at first because you can only move a hero so far and build only so much in one turn. However, you can hire additional heroes to aid in the process. On top of exploration, your hero gains experience points by succeeding in combat or by performing missions. Once you level up, your stats increase and you get to choose a new trait or skill. These vary from adding additional damage when a unit attacks or giving you the ability to learn new spells. These can provide a huge benefit to an army. On top of experience and levels, you can equip artifacts to your hero to further boost stats and skills. Eventually you can make your hero so powerful that large armies will quiver with fear at the very sight of him/her.
Next we should move onto the combat aspects of the game. This is where the game shows its age a bit. The combat is a simple turn based affair where numbers generally defeat tactics. You and the enemy take turns moving units, based off of their statistics, the faster units move first. That is pretty much all there is, but you can also use your heroes to cast spells that can wreak havoc or give your units bonuses. Thats really all there is to it. Its fun but can be monotonous after prolonged exposure.
Next, i need to discuss the graphics. They hold up really really well today, the over worlds are lush and full of detail. The resources stand out amongst the landscape making it easy to find that pile of wood laying there next to a forest. Also, some of the buildings have small details built into them. For instance you can see little fires burning outside of a tomb. Not only that, but the character models look good during the battles. Their movement is a bit stiff by today’s standards but its really good considering that it was made in 1999.
Finally, I have to talk about multiplayer. This game has a fun multiplayer component, if you can get it to work. The servers for the game have long disappeared with New World Computing going out of business. However, there are gaming clients that you can use to get a game going. I used game ranger for mine. This mode is where the real competition can begin and its fun to play against live opponents as the computer has some tricks that you can exploit. This gives even more longevity to a game that already has absurd amounts of replayability.
All in all, this is one of my personal favorite computer games that I have ever played. It has a really deep system that rewards creativity but it also is simple enough for a basic gamer to get into after some practice. I find that the campaigns are interesting and provide some unique challenges, with the scenarios and mulitplayer rounding out the entire package. This game also has a sense of humor, it has sections that are built in for comic relief. I won’t spoil these.
As promised, I am going to talk about the factions:
Castle: Basically your knights and good hearted creatures. They are the most well rounded of the factions and boast some fantastic units, including the mega powerful Angel and Archangel. Id say that this is the best faction to start with as they are the most straight forward. Heroes include the Knight and the Cleric
Rampart: The friendly woodland creatures. Such as Centaurs, Pegassi and my favorite unit, the Grand Elf which is an archer that can fire 2 arrows each turn with deadly precision. Overall, this is a solid choice that requires some tactics to use properly. Heroes include Rangers and Druids.
Fortress: The fortress is a swamp home that has creatures such as Lizardmen, Basilisks, Gorgons and Hydras. I’m not the biggest fan of this race as their units tend to be weak. Heroes include Beastmasters and Witches.
Dungeon: An underground city that has a wide range of units from Harpies to Black Dragons. I really like this race because they have some awesome unit abilities such as the medusas ability to turn enemies to stone and the Harpies ability to attack without enemy retaliation. Heroes include the Overlords and Warlocks
Tower: The tower faction is one of the most interesting in the game. The creatures are of a magical nature and include the Magi, Titan and Gremlin. This faction has the greatest number of ranged units with 3 of the 6. However, this firepower comes at a cost. This one requires lots of resources. They are also the most magic centric of the factions, so this is the one to pick if you love using a variety of spells. Heroes include the Alchemist and Wizard.
Stronghold: The polar opposite of the Tower Faction. Stronghold units tend to be difficult to kill and do large amounts of melee damage. Their ranged units are ok but there is nothing that is tougher than the Behemoths. They simply do not die. I love this faction. They are so powerful when leveled up enough. Heroes include Barbarians and Battle Mages.
Necropolis: The undead comprise some of the most amazing units. The Vampire Lord may be the best unit in the entire game. Every time they attack they drain the enemies health, this draining even allows you to resurrect dead vampire lords. With enough of them, they are almost unstoppable. The Necropolis also thrives on the ability to create thousands of units and swarm over their enemies. I love this faction. Heroes include Death Knights and Necromancers.
Inferno: Demons and Devils, they are the antithesis of the Castle Faction. They also have the really powerful devil unit and the fireball throwing Magogs that can harm more than one enemy at a time. They are an overall decent faction. Nothing too special. Heroes include Demoniac and Heretic
Conflux: This race is interesting. They are the golems and elemental units. They tend to be very weak and die easily but they have some awesome units. The psychic elemental and firebirds do some crazy damage. Overall, an interesting race to play around with. Heroes include Planeswalker and Elementalists.