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Publisher: 3DO    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: G3    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 450 MB    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit


Heroes of Might & Magic III Complete
February 20, 2001 | Richard Hallas
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The Shadow of Death
This second expansion pack again adds a lot of new maps to the game and some further new features. There are seven more campaigns to play through, along with 38 new stand-alone scenarios (not counting allied versions). The Shadow of Death is less radical than Armageddon’s Blade in terms of the new game features it adds; there are no new town or creature types in this expansion. Nevertheless, there are some significant changes and improvements, as follows.

• Combination artifacts: it is now possible to combine several specific artifacts into a more powerful new artifact, and one of them (Titan’s Thunder) even gives your hero a brand new Titan’s Lightning Bolt spell, which does a lot of damage but doesn’t cost any spell points to cast. The twelve combination artifacts are fascinating, but you’re not likely to meet them very often; they’re only really effective in longer games because of the amount of time it takes to build them up.
• New terrain types: there are now eight new special types of ground which improve your morale, luck, spell-casting skills or ability to travel at sea.
• Creature changes: the statistics of some creatures from the original Heroes 3 game have been updated. For instance, you now need more gems to buy Angels and Archangels, and Lizardmen and Lizard Warriors are now stronger and more plentiful.
• Moat damage: during siege combat, any creature (friend or foe) standing in a moat will receive a significant amount of damage per round of combat.
• It’s now possible to define the difficulty level for any individual scenario within a campaign.

That’s it for new features in The Shadow of Death. There aren’t many major changes, and the emphasis is on providing some strongly story-driven campaign games. The storyline in the Shadow of Death is by far the most detailed yet and, whilst it won’t win any prizes for literature, it does keep you wanting to play through the scenarios to find out what happens.

As the second expansion pack, The Shadow of Death was obviously intended for the most enthusiastic players, and this is reflected in the overall difficulty. If you’re an experienced player then you’ll enjoy the challenge, but if you’re relatively new to the game then The Shadow of Death is definitely not the place to start. Some of the campaigns can seem downright unfair at times; but if you get really frustrated, at least you can now decrease the difficulty level.

The games in combination
The beauty of this Heroes 3 Complete pack for Mac users is obviously that, for the first time, we get access not only to all the exciting new maps from the PC expansion packs, but also to the huge number of (often excellent) user-created expansion maps available for downloading from the Web. There’s really a tremendous number of third party maps out there (try www.astralwizard.com), and many of them are very good, but a lot of them require one or the other of the expansion packs. Now we can play them all. So, you’ve still got a lot to go at even when you’ve played through all the 20 campaigns and the nearly 160 stand-alone maps provided in the Complete pack.

The effects of the expansion packs are actually cumulative across all the games: the original Restoration of Erathia maps now include Conflux towns, moat damage and a variety of new creatures and heroes. So there’s even more replay value than there was before; and Heroes 3 is a uniquely replayable game. Console yourself with this thought if you feel a little sore about having to buy the original game again just in order to get the two new expansion packs. This Complete set really does provide massively good value for money in terms of the quantity and quality of what you receive.

Computer players
Although the criticism is sometimes leveled at this game, I am convinced that the computer does not cheat. At harder levels it starts off with a significant advantage over the player, but it doesn’t cheat as such; it just has remarkably good AI. In fact, I can’t think of any game which has more impressive AI, particularly considering the number of subtle game elements that are involved, and the extremely open nature of the game design. Obviously there are shortcomings, but it’s a remarkable achievement in terms of the programming, and at the higher difficulty settings it will give even the most experienced players a very worthwhile challenge.

One criticism of the AI, though, is that it does not seem to have been updated appropriately for the new ‘moat damage’ feature introduced in The Shadow of Death. The computer will happily move creatures into a moat, apparently oblivious to the danger. This generally works to the player’s advantage, but it’s a silly oversight. In other respects, though, the AI actually seems to have improved slightly in the expanded game, and is extremely impressive overall.



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