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Heroes of Might and Magic 4: Winds of War Review

GAME INFO
publisher: 3DO
developer: New World Computing
genre: Strategy

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PII 300, 128MB RAM, 4MB Video Card, 160MB HD
ESRB rating: E
homepage:
www.3do.com/mightandmagic/heroes4/expansions.html

release date: Feb 23, 03
» All About Heroes of Might and Magic 4: Winds of War on ActionTrip


March 07, 2003
Zvezdan "GTS" Obradovic

When any one game gets two expansions published in less than a year after the release of the original game, that means one of two things: that it either has great support from the gaming community, or that the developer is a raging megalomaniac.

About a year or so ago, 3DO published Heroes of Might and Magic IV, a very good fantasy turn-based strategy game, which won the hearts of many players around the globe in spite of an initial lack of any sort of multiplayer (this was later corrected through patches). It offered both the old addictive gameplay which made the previous incarnations of the series so well known, complete with new spells, new features, and updated graphics. HoMM IV gave gamers of the world hours, days and months of fun, including yours truly....

3DO knew that there is no quicker way to profit than to publish add-ons for successful titles, and so, less than six months after the original game appeared we had a chance to play the new expansion pack HoMM IV: The Gathering Storm, which did rather well, even though it didn't bring anything really new... still, with new maps, campaigns and the editor, The Gathering Storm was a plausible purchase. Many thought that the expansion pack appeared too early, but all the fans were obviously quite happy with it nevertheless.

And so, another six months later, we face a new HoMM IV expansion pack, named HoMM IV: Winds of War (original game required).

What? Why? What does it bring? The best answer to this would be it brings a lot of the same, but nothing remotely new, which, with this title, is not such a bad thing.

First things first, we get six new campaigns, with the sixth campaign locked until the first five are complete (sound familiar?). Then, we also get 25 official scenario single-player maps developed by New World Computing and more than twenty maps developed by the most talented fans. Is this enough? No? Well, let's continue... HoMM IV: Winds of War also brings three new level four creatures: Catapult (Life), Frenzied Gnasher (Might) and Mega Dragon (Chaos), as well as five new heroes, each of them leading one of the basic campaigns: Mongo, Erutan Revol, Mysterio the Magnificent, Baron Von Tarkin and Spazz Maticuss; a Witch King and a friend of Megadragons, and my favorite character. This is plenty of new stuff as far as most players are concerned. Of course, for the more talented fans, the expansion pack also brings an advanced Campaign Editor which will let you access all heroes, items and creatures, etc.

The plot is completely new: you assume the role of the five conquerors in turn, all of which try to capture the city of Rylos - the capital of the huge and rich empire of Channon. Each of the campaigns will require different strategies and tactics in order to achieve success, and after several hours of play, you will WANT to control the entire map, believe you me. When you win the first five campaigns, the sixth will become available...

In comparison to the previous expansion pack, the systems of resource management, structure building and army development remained the same. I should probably emphasize that this expansion pack focuses mostly on strategic approach, rather than on the spell system. The new creatures will not be available in the cities, as you will have to find them on the maps, and you'll have to work hard to acquire them. They will be available at structures as the Goblin Armory (Goblin Knights), Ward of Sorcery (Evil Sorceresses), Gargantuan Dell (Gargantuans), Dark Knight's Sanctum (Dark Champions), Siege Workshop (Catapults), and Beast Pen (Frenzied Gnasher).

Searching for the new creatures will raise the tension, at least until you try them out in battle for the first time. I, personally, best liked the catapults as it proved to be highly efficient even against hidden targets, and highly resistant to enemy fire. The Frenzied Gnasher is also a very dangerous beast; it has forty hit points and is resistant to enemy spells. The Mega Dragon, is fortunately something I never encountered in battle... it has fifty hit points and can only be countered with a handful of powerful spells. The combat system remained the same, which is good, as severe changes would probably only confuse players. All novelties in this respect are being saved for HoMM V which is already in development. On the other hand, some of the old bugs still remain present (path-finding in battle, and auto-combat calculations).

The graphics are identical to the graphics in the original or in the first expansion pack. I admit that I always hated the town screen and the way it works (I guess that many fans will disagree) but the entire idea looks a bit cheap. I sure hope that this will look better in HoMM V. On the other hand, some scenario maps really look fantastic...

Both music and sound effects are pretty much the same as the ones in the original game. It is not like I can say anything bad about them, it is just that I expected hints of something remotely new in this aspect... this way, after hours of play, and especially if you played the original game before that, the music will start to annoy you.

The unavoidable multiplayer mode is now present from the very start, and will allow you to play the game over LAN, or over Gamespy services. The choice of maps is excellent and after playing a couple of multiplayer games, I have to admit that it was a great experience.

All this is very nice, but what remains a mystery is why anybody would want to publish this expansion pack (profits excluded). The six new campaigns with five new heroes, about sixty new maps, three new units and the advanced campaign editor... this sounds like a lot, but think for a moment - have we gained anything really new here? There are absolutely no new spells and no new cities. The graphics and the interface are just the same as they used to be. Is this worth $30? I believe that hard-core players won't be bothered by the price, but I suggest the rest of you take a moment and think weather this is worth your time and hard-earned cash.

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HIGHS
All things that were good in the original game; the number of new maps; six new campaigns; Frenzied Gnasher;

LOWS
No originality; déjà vu all over again; combat animation; after hours of playing the music becomes obviously repetitive and tedious.

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