While design changes in Heroes of Might and Magic IV distinguish it from the other games in the series, the essence that makes the series a classic remains intact. The combination of turn-based strategy and RPG elements is guaranteed to keep you at the computer for hours at a time, as you control a persistent hero who can specialize in magic, regular combat, or both. He gains beneficial experience and levels, raises an army from his base town, builds strength through resource collection, and ventures out to explore the map to complete mission goals.
Heroes belong to one of six groups: Nature, Order, Chaos, Life, Death, or Might. As in previous games of the series, every town houses several types of creatures for recruitment to the army, along with different buildings containing a variety of magic skills. Some of the towns provide bonus points to boost character morale or strength.
Six pre-designed campaigns, a host of individual scenario maps, and a campaign editor prolong the life of this engaging title, with the last allowing you to create scenarios and link them together to create additional campaigns. Due to the well-designed maps, scenarios, and campaigns, gameplay is even more addictive than previous games in the series, if possible. With maps featuring so many treasures, resources, artifacts, side quests, and assorted buildings that teach skills and temporarily boost heroes' power, the main story is just icing on the cake.
Your recruited troops battle wandering monsters and the armies of enemy heroes. A notable change in the combat system is that your armies give and take all damage at the same time, so a few of the creatures, like Sprites and the Cerebus, feature an element of "no retaliation" that prevents them from taking damage after attacking an enemy. Another enhancement is a line of fire system for creatures with ranged weapons, thus accuracy can range from five to 100 percent, depending on their view. Some creatures, like Titans and Devils, can now cast spells as well.
One of several new options is the ability to choose quick combat to have the computer determine the outcome of fights between your troops and random monsters that actually seek you out and attack as you wander the map. The branching paths of the tech trees have also been improved, resulting in a basic and welcome change to strategy. Instead of simply racing to construct as many creature-based buildings and the largest army possible, you must now choose between creatures of the same power level. Depending on that choice, different buildings and creatures become available or locked out. In execution, this change helps even out the game and creates a better challenge with more in-depth gameplay.
Unlike previous games in the series, your hero now takes part in battles and can be attacked by enemy creatures. Even if he dies, the battle can continue, unless the event of his or her death is a preset condition of losing. With this change, the incentive to build a hero who can possibly turn the tide of battle is stronger than ever, and the ability to hire multiple hero characters increases strategic options even more.
For example, combine a warrior of Life in the same party with a wizard of Nature, along with other creatures from both camps, or, split your army and have two heroes cover different locations. In yet another new element of gameplay, when an enemy hero is defeated, he or she is imprisoned in your town, but if it gets overrun, all captured enemies are set free. Obviously, better planning for battles and town defenses is now more challenging.
Unfortunately, the designers have yet to develop any multiplayer options. Even though the scope of the game could be increased enormously by such an addition, the sheer enjoyment and immersion of Heroes of Might and Magic IV couldn't be greater. With tons of new features and careful attention given to the original formula, the series remains one of the best in the genre.
Graphics: Movement of 3D creatures on the battle map is a bit stiff. Otherwise, the rest of the graphics are bright and detailed, with a distinctive look to all elements.
Sound: The music and sound effects add to gameplay, with different types of music for the overland map and the battle area maps.
Enjoyment: A stellar game with all the elements of classic gameplay, with an immersion factor guaranteed to keep you playing for hours on end, whether it's to eliminate one more enemy, construct one more building, or recruit more creatures or heroes. All elements of gameplay are exciting, from simple map exploration to battle decisions, and the option to create campaigns is further inducement to keep playing.
Replay Value: Just one campaign, with its varied scenarios, will keep you playing for days. With the campaign editor available, there's no limit on gameplay. The only element missing is a multiplayer option.
How to run this game on modern Windows PC?
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Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Heroes of Might and Magic V, Heroes of Might and Magic II (Deluxe Edition), Heroes of Might and Magic, Heroes of Might and Magic 2: Gold Edition, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Age of Empires III
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