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.