Heroes of Might and Magic IV

Balancing issues and a questionable 3D overhaul mark the lower points of Heroes IV.


The new 3D rendered art is a love or hate thing.

In developing the fourth installment of Heroes of Might and Magic, New World Computing has focused attention on the core game engine. The result is an engaging turn-based strategy game that manages to retain the overall flavor of the series while being distinct from its brethren. The game boasts six non-related campaigns, consisting of four to six scenarios each (for a total of 32) that vary greatly. Each is set in an entirely new Heroes world, with just a few tangential connections to previous games. Included, too, are dozens of standalone scenarios, giving you once again countless hours of turn-based gameplay.

Leading a group of heroes and their squads of creatures, you fight AI-controlled armies, battling to fortify towns as you finish each scenario’s objectives. How your armies, towns, and heroes’ skills develop is completely up to you. Choosing between hero knights, mages, or priests and equipping them with either swords or sorcery skills will have a dramatic impact on your progress.

Besides the completely 3D rendered graphics, the most significant change is that your heroes are active participants in battles. Rather than just slinging spells in the background as in previous games, they’re now subject to combat risks. While this update adds strategic depth — lose certain heroes and it’s game over; imprison enemy heroes or leave them to rot where they fall — it’s also frustrating. At the outset of campaigns, when your heroes are very weak, they easily die.

You can now establish caravans to transport troop reinforcements to desired locations, rather than requiring a hero to manually recruit new troops and have them serve as troop freights. Creatures can no longer be upgraded, but each now possesses a unique ability or two, so more care is needed when choosing what creature types to build in each town.

snap36_1In other regards, too, Heroes IV — while a solid game — shows some lack of polish. Some of the campaign scenarios are unfairly balanced, forcing you to replay previous scenarios (which can take several hours) to develop your heroes’ skills differently so you can pass roadblocks you never saw coming. And as with previous Heroes games, Heroes IV won’t offer up quick, one afternoon matches – clearing up levels can take hours, even with the useful ability to resolve one-sided battles instantly now. Nevertheless, Heroes IV, while not quite as classy as the previous game, is a good step forward for the series.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 750 MB HDD, Win95

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