Matt Chat 58: Heroes of Might and Magic

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Matt Barton's picture

This week's video looks at one of my all-time favorite strategy games, Heroes of Might and Magic. Debuting in 1995 and based on earlier 1990 game called King's Bounty, HoM&M fused role-playing and turn-based strategy games. Hybrids of that sort typically fail, but Jon Van Caneghem is no ordinary mortal. The game is well polished, with great attention to detail and superb audiovisuals. I had a little fun with the video, so let me know what you think! I've also posted some personal notes below.

My interest in turn-based strategy games goes way back. As I mentioned in the video, my father and I played Empire: Wargame of the Century extensively on our Amiga 1000. We played it "hot seat" style, of course, and I remember that the turns would sometimes take up to half an hour! That was fine, though, since I enjoyed reading or even playing other games on my Commodore 64 as my dad took his turns. We eventually started playing Warlords (also on the Amiga), and that's the game I took with me to college. My friends fell in love with the game, and we had plenty of all-nights playing Warlords.

Like many people, I missed the first Heroes game. The reason is that Caneghem didn't expect the game to be a hit, and likely didn't promote it heavily enough. But the game impressed the people who did find it, and New World Computing (Caneghem's company) rushed out the sequel. That's the game I played, and BOY, did we play it. I even had a girlfriend at the time who got into it, and we'd play until five or six in the morning. Unfortunately, my friends eventually moved on, and I no longer had anyone to play it with. But I'll never forgot those fantastic evenings gathered around the computer as we battled on.

One of my friends introduced it to his stepfather, who became an absolute fanatic. I remember visiting him once, and he had several huge three-ring binders filled with notes and carefully made tables (he did it all himself). Apparently, he'd never even played a computer game before, but he became so addicted to the game that he bought the regular Might & Magic games, too. I wonder if he still plays them? I'm always surprised to find out that someone like that can still play the same game, even decades later. I know I've run into a few older people who still play games like Diablo or Starcraft for hours on end, never even thinking about "upgrading" to anything new. I think it really shows a game has reached a certain level of achievement when it just never gets old, no matter how much you play it. Heroes of Might and Magic is certainly one of those type of games!


Chadly (not verified)
Thanks for the Heroes of Might and Matt Chat!

This is my all-time favorite series. Even though I own all of them on CD, when recently had all the M&M games bundled together for sale for $20, I couldn't resist getting a digital copy. I've been playing through each game since, starting with 1. I'm in the 5th campaign of HOMM3 right now. This is probably the 4th time I've played through the game (starting over a decade ago), yet it still feels a bit like a new experience. =)

Some comments on each:

  1. HOMM1: This still holds up well. I enjoy playing the "good" and "evil" campaigns still. I bit shorter than the rest, though.
  2. HOMM2: I really enjoy the cartoon-y style graphics, and the orchestral soundtrack. Some other improvements include the creature upgrades and being able to take 7 creature stacks in your army instead of 5.
  3. HOMM3: Probably the best of the bunch. More RPG-ish, especially when considering the artifact system added by the Shadow of Death expansion. One thing I don't like about this game is that there the majority of scenarios in the expansion require your main hero to never lose a battle or retreat. One mistake, and it's over. And it makes some artifacts (like the Statesman's Medal) useless.
  4. HOMM4: This one changed a bunch of things from the formula, including putting the hero on the battlefield itself (or creatures without a hero, even), letting creature habitations "produce" creatures daily instead of weekly, and caravans. I really enjoyed the skill tree, and some of the abilities, like stealth, where you could gain experience by not fighting. The bad part of this is that at the beginning of the scenario, the heroes themselves are weaklings, whereas by the end of the scenario, the heroes are weapons unto themselves, and having an army just slows them down. It becomes unbalanced. All in all, I did enjoy the game, though this is the most controversial game of the series.
  5. HOMM5: The first one not done by NWC, and the first to have a fully 3D interface. This seemed to pay more homage to HOMM3 than HOMM4, but there are differences--notably, the 3D interface and the square battlefield cells (in place of hexagons). I'm not a fan of either change--on the overworld map, I hate futzing around with rotating and zooming the camera all the time. 2D was hugely superior here. The one advantage is that it makes for some zoomed-in scenes during battles. Also, I felt hexes allowed for more tactics than squares. Although I own this game and its expansions, I did not play through them completely. (My wife did.) =)

One note: When playing each game, I always turn the sound effects off and the animation speed up because otherwise, the battles seem interminable!

Some games this series inspired that I also enjoyed:

  • Disciples of Sacred Lands: Another TBS by Strategy First. A great game with a beautiful Gothic art style. Same overworld style of map, but a bit different battle system.
  • Etherlords: Nival did this game (and eventually would develop the 5th HOMM game, under the direction of Ubisoft), incorporating some "card-based" tactics into the combat, ala Magic: The Gathering.
  • King's Bounty: 1C acquired the property when 3DO went belly up, I believe, and turned it into a well-received success. Hearkens to fans of HOMM.

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