The Strategy Gamer’s Guide to Heroes of Might and Magic (1990 to 2015)25 Aug 2020 1
The universe of Heroes of Might and Magic began years before the release of the first game with two other titles: King’s Bounty (1990) and Might and Magic (1986). In 1989, their designer and creator, Jon Van Caneghem, decided to join the gameplay of the former with the setting of the latter in a new series: Heroes of Might and Magic.
The result was a turn-based strategy franchise (currently seven games strong) in which you control heroes, specialized in either magic or might, and an army of various creatures to defeat and conquer other towns, capture the holy grail and just walk about with angels, demons and dragons while being awesome.
Wow, okay, seven games across twenty years is something, huh? Which one should you play if you had to choose?
Well, to make things simpler for you, here’s how I’d rank them:
- Heroes of Might and Magic III: Best game for a well rounded experience: a lot of diversity, fun gameplay and cute graphics.
- Heroes of Might and Magic V: A sort of copy of III, but with less diversity, 3D graphics and cool mounts.
- Heroes of Might and Magic VII: Same style and feeling of the other two, more complex but with really good graphics and pictures – just don’t get mad at the many bugs.
- Heroes of Might and Magic I: A more simplistic and limited version of II and III, but I do like the graphics better than II.
- Heroes of Might and Magic II: A more basic version of the III, fun to play, but not as big, immersive or memorable.
- Heroes of Might and Magic VI: A lesser version of VII, with as many bugs, but not as much diversity.
- Heroes of Might and Magic IV: For me the worst game of the franchise: graphics that look awkward, heroes that don’t command armies and only 4 factions.
With that being said, I’ll present you a small guide of the games here so you can decide for yourself which would be the best one for you. Each game has a special touch and feature that made them unique – some add-ons and changes were more successful than others, but all present and valid. Though if you’ve already read my other article, you’ll know that the third installment is the best one, I recognize that if you’re looking for a particular something when playing, you might find yourself more comfortable with some of the other titles.
Heroes of Might and Magic: A Strategic Quest (1995)
As the first installment to what came to be a famous and successful series, you can imagine that the game was quite good for the time it was released, and I must admit it is still quite charming. Although way more restricted in terms of graphics, gameplay and diversity than its successors, one can’t deny that the game accomplished much. With hard to defeat computer opponents, bright and colourful graphics, Heroes allows you to understand where the series came from and it’s definitely worth playing if you get the bundle.
The game offers you four towns to choose from, two that are focused on might - Knight and Barbarian; and two focused on magic - Sorceress and Warlock. Each of these towns have their own unique units to build your army from, but you can also pick up to three different neutral troops across the maps. The campaign story, although the cliché ‘your throne has been usurped by your uncle/cousin and you were exiled and want to get it back’, is quite interesting to play through and you do get a sense of accomplishment when winning.
Heroes of Might and Magic II: The Succession Wars (1996)
Following the success of the first game, Heroes II came to win everyone over by storm. Improving on its predecessor with a larger diversity of towns, characters, monsters and maps, the new game pleased all fans. The graphics are just as colorful and bright, but with a higher resolution than the previous one. Aside from the 4 original towns, you can also choose Necromancer or Wizards - allowing the factions to be divided between 3 good vs. 3 evil. The heroes also get a little bit more freedom in what kind of skills they could learn and use during battles, allowing them to spend magic points instead of having a limited amount of times a magic could be used before needing to be relearned.
Just like with the first game, the second one is a pleasure to play if you’re looking to know where the Heroes franchise came from, but in terms of gameplay and enjoyment, you’d be better off buying the third one. Although if that’s a little too complicated for you or you really just like the looks of Heroes II it’s certainly a worthy game to play. If you played the first one you might want to continue the campaign as well, cause it shows the aftermath of you reclaiming your kingdom… things do not go as well as you’d probably hoped. It’s an interesting campaign and quite fun to play through.
Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia (1998)
HOMM 3 is, hands down, the best game of the franchise if you’re looking for great gameplay, charming graphics, a huge variety of maps and missions, and as many towns to choose from as you can in the franchise. With each of the nine available towns (one from the DLC, Armageddon’s Blade) having seven creatures to hire and all of them having an upgrade, the game really gives you the best the series can offer. It has all the colourfulness of Heroes II, but with updated graphics. The heroes themselves have a bigger freedom in the kinds of abilities they can use, and the amount of skills they can learn, ranging from battle and magic boosts to how much one can move and how far they can see of the map when they do.
For those reasons the game still holds up really well until this day. It's got the much loved Heroes 2 gameplay and expanded the possibilities and universe, allowing you to pick from the most diverse towns and armies possible, with a huge list of maps and team arrangements to choose from. The 2D style graphic remains charming if a little old now, but if you have no problems with graphics this will most likely allow you to have the best experience that the heroes franchise can give you. This was the last game of the series to be produced by Jon Van Caneghem, so that's likely the reason why the series suffered the many changes we see in the other games.
Heroes of Might and Magic IV (2002)
Heroes IV was, in my opinion, the perfect example of ‘great idea, horrible execution’. They started off the idea of innovating some of the gameplay and while that might have been interesting, most modifications they went with weren’t really popular. In this game you can create a party of monsters only, heroes only or have more than one hero there; which defeats the whole purpose and main idea of the Heroes games of developing a hero through might or magic who will command an army to win battles. It just doesn't feel like a Heroes game.
Two positive new features of the game were the caravans and heroes being able to do physical attacks. Although the latter is self-explanatory, caravans allowed you to hire monsters from far away buildings and have them delivered directly to your town - which is really brilliant. Unfortunately, another very negative point was the graphic. Gone were the charming 2D and well aged screens; looking at Heroes IV, the creatures, maps and heroes just look plain awkward, and I’m not even sure I liked them all that much when it was first released. The worst part was the fact that instead of 7 creatures, you can only hire 4 and they can no longer be upgraded. Still, the campaign’s stories are actually enjoyable and quite varied so if you’re looking for an interesting campaign in the turn-based style this could be worth a try.
Heroes of Might and Magic V (2006)
After the trainwreck Heroes IV proved to be, when taking over the series Ubisoft decided to go on a more traditional route, using most of the gameplay that was so attractive in Heroes I to III. It also brought up the number of factions available to 8 (with the DLC) and created more units to be hired. They also added more than one upgrade to each creature, which, although it looks cool, is kinda useless because instead of being actually different units with positive and negative aspects, one is simply better than the other. The campaign is interesting enough and it does take you through all factions, each with a separate story that allows you to learn their basic setups and towns.
It was also the first game of the series to let go of the old style, using only 3D graphics. While they do look cute, and the town screen looked really nice, the game lost some of its charm and the faction development became somewhat confusing. Instead of the usual open building structures, you now have a tree based one, in which you can only see stronger buildings after you’ve built others, something that is really annoying and makes it harder to plan ahead. Despite all that, the gameplay is so similar to Heroes III, with some added features like the caravans from the its prequel, that one can’t help actually enjoy playing – the different mounts they gave for heroes/towns are also adorable. If, for some reason, you can’t stand 2D graphics and prefer 3D, this is a good option.
Might & Magic Heroes VI (2011)
Heroes VI is a great choice for those looking for a simpler, ‘prettier’, more basic version of a turn-based game in the same style as its predecessors. The game has made it easier to manage your resources and build up your structures by lowering the number of resources available from seven to four – and while it might have made things easier, it also made it less challenging. Furthermore, the game suffered a huge wave of complaints for changing their town screens (which they had transformed into a simple pop-up) and had to release a free download add-on within one year of publishing to fix that and another number of bugs. Unfortunately, the process had to be repeated and the game ended up having around 27 patches to fix them and even then it was not enough. Even if it had, none of it could change or compensate for the fact that you only have six factions to choose from.
Still, in Heroes VI you do have a little bit more of a control on how to develop your hero. No more are their skills up to chance when you level up, now you have a talent tree in which you can build up your character abilities – though that means the Magic Guild building was no longer necessary which was particularly upsetting since it helped having it when you hired new heroes, but I digress. It was an interesting development, particularly when playing the campaign, for it allowed you to more consciously build up your hero, to better prepare for what laid ahead. Good game, good graphics, quite nicely written campaigns, but far too many glitches and to few factions to be worth it.
Might & Magic Heroes VII (2015)
Okay… I have no words to describe how much I love Heroes VII’s graphics. Five years later and they still look beautiful. They added a seventh faction in the 2016 DLC and have 8 basic units in every one of them. They also went a bit trigger happy with the resources, so instead of returning to seven or making it even with eight, they decided on 10… Which you know, fair. It, alongside the large number of constructions you can build on your town and the enormous talent tree your hero has, adds a lot of complexity to the game, and if that’s what you’re looking for, go for it! Just be prepared to face an unfortunate amount of glitches and bugs that were never solved since Ubisoft stopped releasing any kinds of patches to the game little after the release of the last expansion.
Still, if you’re looking for a fantastical, strategy turn-based game with high resolution and high complexity, this is the game for you. It has the same style of the well loved first few versions of the games, a good variety of towns and units, and it even has the caravans; definitely a worth purchase despite the glitches… the many, many glitches (122 by the count of one of the players on 2018). Each faction also has a well rounded campaign that allows the players to really explore them in depth before you can venture in a good variety of multiplayer maps (something that was lacking since Heroes III).
What was your favourite Heroes of Might and Magic game? Let us know in the comments!