If some of you, like me, have become familiar with Heroes of Might and Magic through one of the later titles in the series, then the resemblance between them will be quite clear. Everything that is typically found in HoMM games is here: Heroes, creatures, spells, towns to control and expand, and a world to discover with plenty of monsters and opposing armies to fight.
Heroes stormed onto the scene in 1995 for both DOS and Windows. The version discussed here is the Windows version, which includes the world-editing tool that the DOS version lacks. However, I don’t expect anyone to start creating new maps for such an old game, so this area will not be analysed.
In Heroes, you have the choice to play either a single map or a campaign. Sadly, there is only one campaign. The single maps are much more interesting. No fewer than eighteen shipped with the game, promising to keep you playing for hour upon hour. The replay factor is high since you can choose from four different species of creatures to play with. The difficulty rating is adjustable, and the maps are listed with a difficulty rating as well. It’s all very user-friendly.
This makes it all the more strange that the campaign lacks any difficulty settings. You can choose from among the four species again but that is all. The campaign itself is nothing but a prearranged series of single maps, which is disappointing. There is a story interwoven between the maps by short texts, but it has little relation to the game. The campaign in itself is too difficult for the casual player and I had no fun playing it. I soon found myself going back to the single maps.
In combat, you control armies that explore the map and do battle with other armies in a separate semi-3D environment. Towns contain buildings that produce creatures. The fights are fought in a Master of Magic style, with creatures stacked in groups to fight. You never see the individual creatures, only their overall representation.
The game looks far older than its ten years. For some reason, 3DO, the developers of Heroes, never managed to hire some decent graphics artists. If I had been told that this game was released fifteen years ago, I would have believed it. The colors might as well have been restricted to sixteen, and the animation is laughable. This is not a flaw that hurts the game terribly, but there is one that does: balance. Heroes has none. When you control certain species, the game is much tougher than with others. Specifically, the mountain species is a lot stronger than any other because their creatures are superior. This flaw would haunt the series during its entire life in all its incarnations, but it is especially bad in this version.
I have saved the most remarkable aspect of HoMM for last: its multiplayer support. In 1995, only a few games could boast a multiplayer option at all, and HoMM has not one but four. Modem, Direct Connect, Network, and even Hot Seat modes are all included, making the life span of the game even longer. After beating the campaign and all the single maps, you can challenge your friends even if you do not own a modem or two computers.
Sadly, 3DO went bankrupt in 2003, and the license is now held by Freeverse.
All in all, HoMM is a game well worth playing even today, and if a friend comes over, you can have some nostalgic fun with its multiplayer option.
IMPORTANT!!! In order for the game to run you must mount the ISO image using Daemon Tools. If you get an error the first time you start it, just restart and everything will be alright!