Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death

Doesn’t quite avoid the shadow of repetition.

snap19_1With Shadow of Death installed, Heroes III stands tall at 86 scenarios, 14 campaigns, 16 hero classes, 145 different units, a random map generator, and 138 magical artifacts. It also has a new campaign (with seven parts) starring everyone’s favorite Necromancer, Sandro. The core game remains an incredibly refined evolution of the original Heroes of Might and Magic. It’s still a turn-based game where you hire heroes and supply them with an army, scour maps for resources, build towns and defenses, discover artifacts and try to complete simple goal-based scenarios.

The Shadow of Death expansion enhances Heroes III by tweaking the balance a bit (Archangels and Angels are no longer the game’s greatest bargains), adding some new terrains (each of which have positive and/or negative effects when fighting battles on them), damage from moats surround cities and most significantly, 12 new “Combo Artifacts.” Essentially, equipping certain artifacts will cause additional bonuses. They’re quite powerful—and worth the effort—and somehow do not throw off the balance of the game.

Most people will want to jump right into the new “Shadow of Death” campaign, but it’s something of a mixed bag. While it integrates all of the new features mentioned above, its disjointed narrative and, more problematic, wildly varying difficulty levels make it a bit more tedious than past campaigns in the series. The first isn’t a particularly damming problem, because you tend to ignore the overriding narrative and focus on each individual scenario and its goals. But while many of the individual campaigns and scenarios are excellent and of moderate difficulty, others are a real chore to play.

snap21_1Once you’ve slogged to the end of the campaign, you come to the realization that it’s all mighty repetitive. While games like Civilization and Alpha Centauri allow you to utilize slightly different tactics from game to game (and both have different winning conditions), the Heroes series has always had a fairly limited amount of overall global strategic possibilities. You essentially approach every scenario identically, with some variation. Most of the actual strategy takes place in the individual battles, which are surprisingly deep and satisfying due to the elegantly simple combat system.

While The Shadow of Death doesn’t have as much to offer fans that already own the original game and it’s add-on, judged as a standalone game it represents an incredibly good deal. Despite any deficiencies in the “Shadow of Death” campaign, it’s still a superbly crafted strategy game.

System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95

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