(This is part of my journey playing through Heroes of Might and Magic III. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
Back in college in the 90s, the gaming circles that I ran in weren’t that concerned with online titles just yet. Mostly it was either about sitting with a friend playing a console or gabbing about a shared computer game obsession. X-Com, Master of Magic, Colonization, Jedi Knight II, TIE Fighter, Red Alert 2, and Caesar III were probably the most dominant PC titles for us.
But when I visited a longtime friend in Texas, I found that she was entranced with a different game: Heroes of Might and Magic III. I hadn’t heard about this title or its prequels (or, really, the RPGs that it spun off of) before, but what I saw in her was pure addiction. She craved this game like no other. And a little of that rubbed off on me, although I never did have my own copy until I recently purchased it on GOG.com.
HoMMIII is a fantasy strategy game that plays like a board game. You move your heroes (and their accompanying armies) around a detailed landscape, trying to accomplish as much as you can each turn. You capture cities and resource nodes, discover all sorts of goodies, make decisions as you go along, and invariably get into combat. The fights are played out on a tactical grid of sorts, although you can toggle it to auto-resolve if you don’t want to sit there for a half-hour moving each stack.
Out of all of the Heroes of Might and Magic, it seems that the third game was the most beloved and successful. It certainly is chock-full of content, boasting so many campaigns and expansions that it would take hundreds of hours to do them all.
I was glad this tied for first place in the latest poll, because I’ve really wanted to dig into HoMMIIII and hadn’t done so since I purchased it.
So let’s get through the tutorial today!
So here’s the opening screen. In my opinion, older games that stuck to sprites, 2-D, or isometric views have fared a lot better than late-90s 3D titles. The charm of HoMMIII to me has always been in its colorfully detailed game world, which you can see part of here. On the right are options to flip it from the overworld to the underworld, to check in on how my cities (as resource/army building centers) are faring, how I’m equipping my hero, and the map. On the bottom is a list of my resources.
Nearby is my starter city. The screen here gets more detailed (and cluttered) as you upgrade buildings. It produces gold and soldiers per turn, although I think I have to send my hero back to actually grab those soldiers (they can defend the town but can’t move out on their own).
So here’s an example of the choices that you get from encounters. I find a chest that’ll give me either gold or XP for my hero. I choose the gold. Then my horse trots on to capture an ore pit and sawmill to increase my resource gains per day. A fountain of youth gives me more movement turns for that day, which is welcome.
Here’s my hero screen, which should be quite familiar to anyone who’s played an RPG. There are basic stats and gear, although the most interesting part is the perk area on the left-hand side. Each hero has several perks (and can gain more as he or she levels) that give specific advantages.
Haart and I dive into the underworld, which is like the “basement” of the top world screen.
The combat here is pretty simple — you toggle the auto-attack and watch as your stacks mosey over to the enemy and dish out the damage. In the case of this fight, it’s over before the enemy even gets a turn. Man, I sweated bullets over it and everything!
The rest of the underground is just there to let you capture one of every type of resource node before heading back up to the surface. When we get there, we find that it’s a smoking wasteland. Are we in New Jersey now? Nay, it’s just Infernal territory — one of the several factions in the game.
Yeah, this is such a one-sided fight it’s hilarious. Archangels are like wrecking balls at this level. We win the day and my hero gains two levels. The town captured, we head out and build a ship to cross the ocean.
There isn’t much over there other than an enemy army, which we quickly dispatch. Oh wait, there is something: an obelisk. This gives me a “puzzle map” that shows me something is buried between two tree stumps near the start of the map. So I trudge back and spend about six minutes trying to figure out how to dig because the tutorial apparently doesn’t think it needs to actually tell me this. I find the command and discover a grail. That ends the tutorial and prepares me for a full campaign, which I’ll start next time!