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Publisher: 3DO    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 350 MHz    RAM: 192 MB    Hard Disk: 750 MB    4x CD-ROM    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit

Heroes of Might & Magic IV
January 17, 2003 | Jay Swartzfeger

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The reports of the demise of turn-based strategy games may be premature. Sure, tens of thousands of gamers overload every night to play WarCraft III, but something has to be said for a genre that can measure the length of a game not in mere minutes, but in hours (or even days).

Every time you think that turn-based strategy games are on the wane, a new title is released that affirms that they are still as relevant as their more popular real-time strategy brethren. 3DO continues as one of the remaining turn-based torchbearers by releasing Heroes of Might and Magic IV (HoMMIV), the newest installment in the popular Heroes of Might and Magic series. Despite being released earlier in the year for the PC, it was ported courtesy of Contraband Entertainment just in time for the holiday shopping season.

For those of you immured in a gulag the last twenty years (how did you break into the commandant’s office for net access anyway?), here’s a quick lowdown on the Heroes of Might and Magic series:

The series is a fantasy turn-based strategy game where you begin with one hero and a town, which serves as your base. You travel across a map – or, in the case of a campaign, a series of maps – and gather resources, unearth powerful artifacts, conquer other towns, and vanquish monsters and opposing heroes. Your hero gains experience through combat, which will give your hero more power and skills. Gathering resources like wood and mercury allows you to upgrade your towns into formidable fortresses and build even bigger armies to annihilate your foes. While some games are won by completing a quest or meeting other criteria, more often than not you win through pure might by conquering all the enemy towns and heroes.

HoMMIII was an excellent refinement of the series-- the game’s producers refined an already great series. With 6 campaigns, 24 scenarios, 11 hero classes, 27 skills and 66 different creatures, HoMMVI looks to be just more of the same— not a bad thing, since HoMMIII was arguably the best in the series. HoMMIV was hailed as a predecessor that fans of the series would be familiar with, but a game that was going to see a few major changes. Did 3DO succeed? Read on...

We Could Be Heroes...
Like the game’s title suggests, heroes play a big role in HoMMIV. Heroes accrue experience after each battle; when they gain enough experience points, a hero ‘levels up’ and can raise attributes like attack rating, defense rating and spell points. Heroes can also upgrade their skills when they level up, which gives them more abilities in melee and magic.

One new feature of HoMMIV is the flexibility of the new hero class system. There are 11 base hero classes, but once a hero levels up, you can combine skills to upgrade to a specialty class. For example, a hero with the Nobility skill could then choose Chaos Magic to become a Witch King. A Priest starting out with the Life Magic specialization can become a Monk by specializing in Order Magic, while a hero skilled in Tactics and Scouting levels up to a Field Marshal. The possibilities seem endless (48 classes in total), and it really gives you a sense that you’re developing a character instead of a hero stuck in a handful of cookie cutter classes.

The other big change with heroes is that they now take a much more active role in combat. In HoMMIII, heroes stood far behind the front lines and cast the occasional spell. In HoMMIV, heroes become active participants in combat-- they can not only cast spells, but move and engage in combat like other units. Heroes can even be captured and held prisoner in the conquering hero’s town. The addition of specialty classes and increasing a hero’s role in combat definitely gives HoMMIV more of a RPG flavor than its predecessors.

Also, heroes aren’t required to lead and army. Stacks of units, minus a hero, can now roam around freely and attack monsters, although they can’t capture towns-- you still need a hero for that.


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