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Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: 3DO
Developer: New World Computing
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The map graphics in Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death are simple and tile-based. That doesnít mean theyíre not beautiful, though. Someone (or some people) spent a whole lot of time designing each map, adding shrubs and lakes and trees and such just because it makes the game look a lot nicer. And as such, the world really feels more alive than most tile-based strategy games. Most of the creatures in the game, especially in the combat scenes, have a half-rendered, half-drawn feel to them that is not all bad. This game wonít blow you away with 3D graphics and special effects, and its spell effects leave something to be desired, but the graphics more than get the job done.

Itís a testament to the music of this game that, despite the fact that I played HoMM3 for hours on end, I donít remember a single note. Thatís a good thing in that the music didnít suck, but itís also a bad thing in that it didnít particularly rock. The voice acting, such that it is, is quite good. The best parts of the aural experience, however, are the ambient sounds that come from the various locations on the map. Near stables, youíll hear horses. Near mines, youíll hear pick-axes and such. Anywhere you go, you hear understated sounds that represent whatís -really- going on there. A very, very nice touch, and one I really enjoyed.


Gameplay:

This is definitely a sequel (well, an upgrade of a sequel) that doesnít suck. Basically, 3DO took the already-great Heroes III and added a whole other campaign, more single player missions, a few gameplay tweaks, and repackaged it. The thing is, itís so good, no one will care.

For those that havenít played a Heroes game before, the game works pretty simply. You have one or more Heroes, who wander around the world, gaining troops and fighting enemies. There are hundreds of different sorts of places to visit on a map such as places that give you a certain resource each day to places with artifacts that make your heroes more powerful to heaps of gold. Your heroes gain levels, like most RPGs, and each level gives them new skills and new abilities which you can choose from. Many of the campaign levels have a cap as to how many levels you can gain in the campaign, but that turns out to be not much of a limit.

There are also cities, and they are where your troops generally come from. There are tons of different kinds of cities, from your generic Human town to Infernal ones, ones reeking of Magic, and everything in-between. Part of the fun of the game is acquiring lots of city types so you can make crazy armies. Most of the buildings in the cities can be upgraded, making you more money, stronger units... whatever.

Shadow of Death itself is a blast, and each map may have you trying to protect a town or vanquish the enemy or find the Holy Grail. (Blue? No! Yellow! er...) If that isnít enough, you can build your own maps and campaigns and give them to your friends or keep them all to your lonesome. HoMM3 has so much customization, youíll never grow bored of it -- and it comes with hundreds of hours of gameplay anyway.

Thereís really only one flaw -- the combat engine. On your side, every unit of a specific type is represented as a single unit with a number signifying just how many you have. This may make for less bookkeeping and makes the battles faster, but sometimes itíd be nice to flank an enemy with two griffon groups or two devils, but you canít because theyíre only one unit. You learn to manage, though, and itís still damned fun.


Difficulty:

Depends on the map. Some are quite easy, others have you fighting to stay alive from the get-go and only get worse. It all depends, really.

Game Mechanics:

The menus and game system, once you understand whatís going on, become second nature. Itís unfortunate that the printed manual only refers to the changes in Shadow of Death with the new units and such, but the manual for the original HoMM3 is installed in PDF format, along with a tutorial. Such is life. I noticed a few bugs such as picking things up and then not having them in my inventory, but nothing life-threatening or that couldnít be fixed with a reload.

If you like turn-based strategy games, fantasy warfare, the Might and Magic world, or just clean fun, pick up Heroes of Might and Magic: Shadow of Death. It seems to be the only incarnation of the world thatís still fun (although hopefully Might and Magic IX will turn that around), and it is a whole lot of fun at that.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win95/98/NT4, P133, 32MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, 320MB HD Space, 800x600x16bit Video, DX 7.0-compatible sound
 

Test System:



Windows 98 running on a K6-III 450 w/256MB RAM, 6x24 DVD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster Live!, Creative Labs Riva TNT2 Ultra w/32MB RAM

Windows Heroes of Might and Magic III: Complete Windows Homeworld: Cataclysm

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated