The Might and Magic games have always been great. From the glorious World of Xeen back in the golden era of RPG classics, to the incredibly buggy (yet still pretty gosh-darn fun) Dark Messiah, these games have made a long-term impact in an ever-evolving market. For this delightful little review, we’ll turn our discussion to what’s possibly the greatest game ever offered under this umbrella: Heroes of Might and Magic 3.
HoMM is a game series without peer. Sure, certain competitors do exist. There’s Lords of the Realm, Lords of Magic, and some other games which have tried mixing turn-based strategy and empire building with the intense tactical experience of a fully-controlled battlefield (seasoned with just a dash of RPG goodness). HoMM, however, remains the cream of the crop, and its third installment is the finest of the lot.
HoMM3 takes place in the oh-so-magical and fantastical world of Enroth, where the likes of necromancers and demons are making life difficult in a way that only necromancers and demons can really manage. In response, the Various Nations Of The World are clumping themselves into tight little units led by heroes of varying spellcasting and swordarming capabilities, running around a colourful game world, following giant green arrows for some or other reason, and basically getting into a fight every time their green arrow leads to another tight little unit led by some spellchucking, swordfighting scallywag. Along the way, they have to control resource points, manage town construction, and recruit the biggest, toughest fighting force around.
That describes the overworld bit. The real joy lies in the battle scenes. Every time two armies clash, they’re confronted with a screen that puts both forces on a grid of honour and glory. Sometimes, you’re required to lay siege to a castle. On other occasions, you’ll be fighting on cursed or rocky terrain. The basic goal is to fight your enemy until somebody surrenders or gets annihilated. Units are well varied: some cast spells, others can fly, and others just pepper enemies with projectiles. Standing on the sidelines will be the aforementioned heroes who (in lieu of fighting directly) will contribute to the battle with spells, special abilities, and passive stats.
While the game is quite complex, it’s fun for players of all levels. Beginners can just purchase the basic units, make a beeline for the enemy, and start whacking them really hard with swords and magic arrows, while those who take it seriously will find an astounding level of detail that can help them turn the most seemingly useless spell or trait into something that can actually decide a battle.
HoMM3 is currently available as a complete set of three games: the original Restoration of Erathia, its prequel (Shadow of Death), and another expansion pack called Armageddon’s Blade. Any one of these alone would stand as an excellent purchase, but having all three together makes this a shoe-in for anybody even remotely interested in this sort of game. I can’t think of a better way to introduce people to the genre, and I’ll eat my hat if anyone ever develops a title that does it better.