Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Category: Games (Page 2 of 2)

Heroes of Might and Magic IV

There are three computer game styles I love. Shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament help me unwind after a stressful day. Realtime Strategy games like Age of Empires give me that wonderful experience of building an army and obliterating my enemies. And there are turn-based games like the Heroes of Might and Magic series.

The long-awaited fourth installment of “HoMM” makes a few significant changes to the gameplay that made the previous titles so successful, but keeps intact the best parts of the series. Anyone who has played either Heroes 2 or Heroes 3 will spend a fairly short time adjusting to the changes in the new game.

The most significant gameplay changes are the new skill system and the fact that heroes and creatures truly work together interchangeably now. You can have more than one hero in a group, or you can have a group without heroes at all. These creature-only groups are limited, but they make great decoys. Having heroes take active part in combat takes getting used to, but after a while you realize that this is how it should have been done all along. Your opinion may differ if you’re a longtime Heroes player, but for my money this is the way to go.

What takes more mental adjustment for veteran Heroes players is the new skill system. It’s complex. A hero that starts out with one title can be built to wear another with the proper progression of skills. Take my advice: If you buy this game, also buy a copy of the Prima guide just so you have a handy set of detailed charts.

Other changes include a totally new visual style, wandering creature stacks, caravans for creature transport, daily creature generation and a few new types of map structures. Oh, and as of this writing the game has no networked multiplayer capability. Hotseat is an option, however, so our household is okay.

Heroes IV is a splendid game overall. The only minor quibbles I have right now are the disabled multiplayer mode due to be fixed in a future patch release and a seemingly slow and difficult “early” game. In other words, when you’re starting out it takes forever to move around and you tend to have difficulty patrolling your area effectively. I haven’t completed any of the campaigns or larger maps yet so this may not turn out to be an issue in the long run.

If you want a game that looks great, is mentally stimulating and terribly addictive, pick up Heroes of Might and Magic IV. I highly recommend it.

Links LS 1999

I’ll have to preface this review, the first I’ve done of any software package, by pointing out that I’ve been playing golf on PCs and game consoles for years. Not all the time, perhaps, and I’ll go months without swinging a virtual club, but I keep coming back to the digitized-golf genre again and again.

It’s kind of sad, really.

About five years ago, give or take, I won a website design contest put on by Microsoft. To be more accurate, I was one of a number of winners. The prize was, oddly enough, $100 worth of Microsoft products. I picked up Windows 95, a Sidewinder Pro joystick, Fury^3 and Golf 3.0 out of that deal. The Sidewinder Pro won’t work with machines that have 100MHz-and-up bus speeds, Fury^3 is a lame rehash of Terminal Velocity, and I’ve long since given up Win95 for Win98SE and Win2K.

Golf 3.0, however, still gets a spin on our machines. It’s sadly dated, of course, as the graphics quality is so-so in its best moments. Putting is pretty easy, and you only get two courses so after a while the only challenge is in not screwing up the swing. (When you get right down to it, that’s probably the main challenge in any golf game, digital or otherwise.)

So we’re at the outlet mall yesterday, stopping in at the Kay-Bee Toys outlet for a laugh, when I notice a copy of Links LS 1999 in the software dumpster. “Hmm,” I say to myself, “What have we here?” A few minutes later we leave the store with a brand-new $7.99 copy of the game.

What did I get for my money? Vastly improved graphics. Four courses. The ability to conjure a variety of view windows in which I can aim my shot. Instant-replay that actually looks good and is useful. Much, much more realistic physics. A wide variety of gameplay “modes,” mainly consisting of fun rules/winnings changes.

If you’re a golf-gaming nut, you’ll obviously have better software than this on your PC. If you’re a much more casual digi-golfer like me, then go out and find a copy of Links LS 1999 for a few measly bucks and be happy. I certainly am.

(Final note: Access Software was purchased by Microsoft, and the next version of this game is Links LS 2000, a virtual re-release that only adds some courses and the ability to connect to Microsoft’s gaming zone. Yay. For my money, stick with the cheaper and identical product and duck the Microsoft empire once again.)

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