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Heroes Chronicles: Conquest of the Underworld

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: 3DO
Developer: New World Computing
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

The entire Heroes Chronicles series uses the Heroes of Might and Magic III engine, and as such, has the same graphics and sounds. The maps look drawn and tile-based, and the creatures in battle have a hybrid drawn/rendered look thatís quite nice. Not an ounce of 3D anywhere, unless you count the blurry FMV, but thatís not why youíre playing a Heroes game, now is it?

The same goes for the sound. Except for voice acting during the cut-scenes, Conquest of the Underworld contains mostly screeches and grunts from battles, the occasional trill when you find something cool, and nice background music. Itís not particularly memorable, but after playing the games for as long as I have, itís impossible not to remember the tunes.

Presentation has never been the Heroes seriesí strong suit, however. The good stuff is in the gameplay.


Gameplay:

The first Heroes Chronicles title cast you as Tarnum, leader of the Barbarians. Heroes Chronicles: Conquest of the Underworld, the second game in the series, casts you as Tarnum again. Only this time, itís post-death, and youíre a Knight now.

While that doesnít make this game have much more value (itís still overpriced for a single episode), it did make it more enjoyable for me. Iím not entirely sure why -- I believe that it has to do with liking the units of the Castle type more than those of the Barbarian type -- but this game had me a little more hooked than Warlords of the Wasteland.

Like in Warlords, youíll find yourself marching through more than half a dozen separate scenarios, this time in an attempt to rescue the soul of your killer. This ironic plot twist is done a little better than in Warlords, and made up a little for the more monotonous battle settings in this title. Thereís only so many ways to dress up the Underworld, and the levels start to show strain.

As for the gameplay itself, itís exactly what youíve come to expect from the Heroes series: finely tuned battles, massive maps, and a thoroughly enjoyable time. Some of the map goals in Conquest are amusing, such as the quest that has you fighting a blue guy stuck at the end of a one-way teleport -- I spent way too much time in that level, leading all my heroes around to get experience and whatnot since the last bad guy could never come after me.


Difficulty:

Conquest of the Underworld struck me as a good bit more difficult than Warlords, but perhaps that was because the maps were, as a rule, not geared as much towards my particular style of play -- build-up and smother. I got through one of the first few maps by the skin of my teeth for a bit, until my troops rallied to the point of swelling and walked all over the bad guys. The next one, however, was almost trivial, with a single entrance to my entire area. Once again, Tarnum and his top commanders transfer between each level, making the slow build-up at the beginning of each stage a little more bearable. And, as always in Heroes, the Tactics skill is key.

Game Mechanics:

The mechanics in Conquest of the Underworld are just as tight as theyíve ever been. The computer plays rather savvy at times, and at other times, you wonder what moronís behind the other team. But the sides are quite balanced, the maps are designed such that you get the resources you need when you need them, and the game itself moves along briskly. The menus are clear and understandable, although looking for the save button for the first time might be something of a pain.

Although Heroes Chronicles: Conquest of the Underworld appealed to me more than the previous game in this side-story series did, itís still not enough gameplay to warrant a purchase. With the ungodly number of hours of gameplay in Heroes III: Complete, thereís not much reason to pick up a title you can beat in a long weekend and never look at again. If youíre a Heroes completist, you may want to pick it up; if not, go for Heroes III: Complete instead.

Note: As an added bonus, if you buy two of the Chronicles titles, you can download a free fifth Chronicle off of 3DOís website. While nice, it doesnít quite make up for the cost.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win9x/NT4, P133, 230MB HD Space, 32MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, Sound Card, Keyboard, Mouse
 

Test System:



AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256 MB RAM, 6X/24X DVD-ROM, Sound Blaster Live!, Creative Labs TNT2 Ultra w/32 MB RAM

Windows Hangsim Nintendo DS The Urbz: Sims in the City

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated