2015 may go down in history as being the year of the remakes. With classic greats being remastered, given facelifts and having old injuries fixed, if you’ve missed some game from the days of old now is a great time to pick up something on the cheap. There are a host of services all competing for those dollars too, where online retailers like Steam offer a great clearinghouse for new, Early Access, and remastered old games. But just because something is being offered for sale and labeled as “new” does not necessarily mean that it is improved. And such is the case with Heroes of Might & Magic III – HD Edition (or H3HD for short, since there’s no way I’m typing, or pasting, all that again).
H3HD has given a fresh coat of paint to an old classic that was pretty darn good back in the day. But we’re talking 2015 and this week’s Steam release, and in those contexts, this is not a good game by any measure. First off, concerning the HD aspect of the game, the graphical changes made aren’t significant enough to warrant purchasing this version as opposed to the old one, because the original game wasn’t praised for being beautiful; it is a strategic fantasy game. So if in the event that this 16 year old classic is available somewhere for purchase and can be played on current generation machines, H3HD would have to be priced the same to compete with itself. Sadly enough, H3HD is actually available in its “original” form on sale over at gog.com.
(Honestly, does it seem all that different?)
Note that I say the game is in its “original” form; not only are the graphics fairly comparable to the HD version and the price is lower, but buying the Complete edition linked to there actually gives you more than the original. Additionally, both of the original’s expansions are included, there is a random map generator, there is an additional faction… the list of features just goes on. And it’s $5 cheaper than the price of the HD version on Steam. Having presented the most compelling argument first, for those still unconvinced and determined to spend money on what really was a good game back in the day, I’d like to point out a few more things inherent to the game itself (because as it stands, saying you should buy the original instead of the HD version presumes you’re already intent on purchasing the game). As for the genre, unless you’re a hardcore fan of this old series and have exhausted all other similar options you’ll be sorely disappointed; Heroes’ gameplay has not aged well.
H3HD drops you into a world that, at the time of its original release, was the third title in a series. As such, the tutorial on offer presumes far too much prior knowledge and at one point left me completely clueless as to how to proceed (to the point where I ended up quitting and just diving into the campaign). With no direction and no explanation as to how the game’s systems work, roving around the map with your hero feels purposeless. Collecting gold and loot seems like something you ought to aspire to, but after about ten minutes in the campaign you’ll receive a message stating that your character can no longer accrue experience (but that it “may” carry over into the next scenario). For an RPG system that allows you to upgrade heroes, hitting the level cap in less than an hour seems confusing.
Additionally, though you will gather resources and troops will spawn at your castle, the game does nothing to show you how to spend those resources, research anything, upgrade castles or cast any types of spells. There are spells in the game, and a spell book to keep them in, but hovering over the pictures provides no information, there is no wording beneath the artwork and no amount of clicking on them produces any kind of result. Basically, while I’m sure the hand-holding we’ve come to expect wasn’t necessary when this game first came out, having no prior experience with these titles means you’ll have no idea what you’re doing, and that is a significant problem considering how many other excellent, more modern (and cheaper) options there currently are out there.
For example, if you’re looking to play a fantasy game with a strategic overhead map and a spell casting hero who leads troops in turn based battles, any title in the King’s Bounty series far outclasses H3HD. And if you’re really, really looking for that sort of game (to the point where you’re willing to pay real game prices) then you can’t do any better than Age of Wonders III. Essentially, H3HD was the game that all these future titles emulated, and they have successfully learned from the original’s mistakes and have implemented far better, more intuitive management systems. This HD Edition does nothing to solve what in today’s market are untenable problems, but instead seeks to dress it up a little. But in so doing, still doesn’t look as pretty as it ought to, and nowhere near as nice as any of the game’s other actual competitors.
I’m sure to someone this HD remake sounded like a really good idea, and a great way to introduce gamers to a classic Might & Magic title. But in reality, it isn’t. If you want to experience the original, you can already do so. If you want to experience a great game in the turn based strategy/fantasy genre, that just isn’t Heroes of Might & Magic III anymore. It was 16 years ago. But that time has passed.
SCORE: 5.5 out of 10
A code for Heroes of Might & Magic III – HD Edition was provided to Pixel Related for review.