Saturday, April 30, 2011

Long Live The King

After completing Long Live The Queen, Dungeons and Devils, and Spoils of War, the game unlocks two additional campaigns. You can either help Queen Catherine fight back the invaders and liberate Erathia or you can join the forces of darkness and build an army of the undead. For this playthrough, I'm going to help the necromancers first.

With most of Antagarich embroiled in chaos and corpses piling up by the thousands, the necromancers of Deyja sense the perfect opportunity to invade.

The first thing they do is raise King Gryphonheart, former ruler of Erathia, from the dead. To me, this seems like an incredibly stupid idea. King Gryphonheart was the necromancers' enemy and would undoubtedly be furious at being reanimated. Did they need a general that badly?

Maybe that's the point. The necromancers didn't think before acting. At this point in the timeline, Finneas Vilmar is the one calling the shots in Deyja. In one of the later storylines, we learn that Finneas is essentially a puppet who is placed on the throne by Sandro the lich as part of the latter's plan for world domination. In short, Finneas is a useless idiot who's in over his head.

Finneas was too stupid to have one of his underlings conduct the ritual. It's completely fitting that the undead King Gryphonheart's first order of business is to choke him to death and take the throne.

Friday, April 29, 2011


As soon as the previous scenario ended, I was greeted by a cutscene informing me that my clients are now vying for the same territory.

Tatalia starts the scenario in the upper-left corner of the map. Krewlod starts in the lower-right. Separating them are two roads (with ambushes) and a series of Erathian forts. Both factions have their own advantages and disadvantages in the final scenario.

Since the map is almost completely covered with swampland, the Tatalian witches and beastmasters will mostly fight on native terrain and gain attack, defense, and speed bonuses. Tatalian heroes are also more likely to have learned Pathfinding, which neutralizes the penalties associated with swamp travel. However, Tatalia will be disadvantaged when constructing new buildings and hiring units due to the scarcity of sulfur and wood on the map.

The barbarians will have a lot of difficulty navigating the swampland, which makes up about 85% of the map. However, they will be able to compensate for their lack of speed with brute force. Krewlod will be able to recruit cyclopses and behemoths earlier than Tatalia, which enables them to more quickly burst through the starting garrisons and conquer the red Erathian army. Also, Krewlod has access to the sea, which allows its heroes to quickly reach Tatalia's expansion town in the southwest via whirlpool.

In the end, I chose the Tatalian army because I'd put more effort into building up their stats in the first mission.

I only trained 5 heroes in the earlier scenario and make certain to specialize in Pathfinding and Logistics skill.

The two most important resources for Tatalia are wood and sulfur. In fact, it costs 20 sulfur just to build a Hydra Pond. Unfortunately, the map is notorious for its lack of sawmills and sulfur dunes. It's critical for Tatalia to compensate for this weakness by doubling up on its efforts to obtain gold. With a large gold cache on hand, it will be easy to obtain all other resources through the marketplace.

My first order of business was to put together a quick strike force and break through the eastern garrison. One trick is to split up your dragon flies into multiple stacks and cast Weakness on as many enemies as possible. The Weakness spell reduces a unit's attack strength, allowing your army to survive longer.

Immediately outside the eastern garrison, there's a Library of Enlightenment. It gives a worthy hero a permanent +2 to all primary stats. That's the equivalent of gaining 8 levels!

I felt it was important to first capture the Erathian forts separating me from the barbarians. These forts protect two warp gates, one of which transports enemies directly in the heart of my territory. The enemy sometimes uses these gates to steal my fortresses from under my nose while my heroes are away. Holding the Erathian forts prevents the enemy from showing up on my door unannounced.

Securing the Erathian forts also gave me the ability to attack the barbarian cities without having to break through their garrison. I immediately sent two heroes to wreak havoc in barbarian territory. It's okay if the heroes aren't strong enough to capture the strongholds outright. Flagging enemy mines and visiting stat-enhancing buildings can be just as effective.

While I was exploring the map, I also noticed many gold mines controlled by large stacks of level 7 creatures like behemoths and hydras. I approached a few with my strongest army, intending to fight them and gain experience. To my surprise, at least two of them offered to join my army. I suddenly had 20+ hydras at my command!

Once I stomped out the Erathian army, I cornered the barbarians in their starting area and forced them to stay in their strongholds while I built up my army for a final attack.

Greed is one of my favorite scenarios in Restoration of Erathia. It has two balanced factions and a very well designed map. It's too bad the map isn't available for multiplayer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gold Rush

Mongol General: "Conan! What is the best in life?"

Conan: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

In Gold Rush, you're tasked with helping the barbarian nation of Krewlod attack settlements and procure 200,000 gold pieces. The scenario has no time limit, which means you'll probably win by doing nothing and clicking 'end turn' until you win.

Remember that you don't actually need to collect all 200,000 gold pieces from your mines and towns. The marketplace allows you to exchange your other resources for gold, speeding up the process significantly. The more marketplaces you control, the better the exchange rate becomes.

There's also a red keymaster tower that leads to a huge cache of gold in the upper-left corner of the map. You know, just in case the scenario wasn't easy enough.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


In Borderlands, your goal is to flag every mine.

Because the map is largely comprised of swampland, it's absolutely essential to teach your heroes the Pathfinding skill. Without Pathfinding, a hero will be severely impacted in his or her ability to travel in swampland. Observe the chart:

No Pathfinding: 175% penalty
Basic Pathfinding: 150%
Advanced Pathfinding: 125%
Expert Pathfinding: 100%

Although swamp travel can be a huge pain in the ass, it's important to remember that your enemies will suffer the same movement penalties. Thankfully, the witches and beastmasters of Tatalia have a high chance of learning Pathfinding compared to other hero classes. Everyone else has to use a Witch Hut or rely on dumb luck. If you've hired a team of fortress heroes, you'll have a huge advantage against enemies when maneuvering in swamp terrain.

One thing I do love about the swamp is its music. The theme effortlessly captures the feeling of desperation one might associate with a filthy bog by combining sublime woodwinds with insect noises. It's a shame that ambient sounds were not incorporated in the music of later Heroes games.

The music in Heroes III really highlights the importance of good sound design in games. Ambient effects such as the chirp of a bird or the buzzing of insects can help immerse a player in their environment. In fact, good audio can even make people addicted to a game.

Case in point: I recently started playing CityVille, a popular Facebook game by Zynga with excellent sound design. From a gameplay perspective, CityVille is a pretty typical town simulator. However, Zynga has meticulously designed CityVille so that every graphic and sound effect subtly influences players to constantly return to the game and beg for more. They've turned game addiction into a science by fulfilling a basic human desire: flashy rewards.

Humans love being rewarded. The same evolutionary trait that explains why wars are fought and fancy cars are bought motivates CityVille players to constantly revisit their towns and click on buildings. Every action in CityVille rewards players with coins, XP, and most importantly a pleasing chime. Bling! Clank! Cha-Ching!

We initially derive pleasure from hearing these sounds because they're the game's way of telling us that getting coins and XP is a good thing! The chimes remind us of successful actions in our own lives such as a turkey being cooked or an elevator reaching its destination. Ding! CityVille inundates us with so many wonderful chimes that our minds become rewired to crave it. Pretty soon, hearing the chime becomes a reward in and of itself.

If this tactic sound familiar, it's because Casinos have been using fancy sound effects to attract would-be gamblers for decades. A slot machine basically tricks you into thinking people around you are constantly winning money. Humans want to be rewarded. If you associate playing the slot machine with winning money, the machine has successfully hooked you.

One of the 'stickiest' aspects of Heroes III is in fact its sound design. I'm not saying that the audio of Heroes III is the only element that makes the game fun and addictive. But if you play the game with the sound turned off, it doesn't feel quite as interesting.

Not surprisingly, the chimes in Heroes III are similar to chimes in CityVille. When you pick up a new artifact or resource, you're rewarded with a little musical cue. Blooong! When you capture a mine, the game triggers the sound of a harp. Bliiiiiing! The game constantly uses these cues to appeal to your innate desire to be reward. Every reward reminds you that another reward is right around the corner. As a result, you never want to end the game.

In my opinion, it was foolish for Heroes V's developers to downplay in-game sounds. In Heroes V, when you take over a mine, there is no chime, only a muted thud. When you pick up a stack of resources, there is only silence. Not surprisingly, clearing a map of resources in Heroes V feels like you're cleaning up trash rather than obtaining awesome goodies that will make your kingdom the greatest kingdom in the history of the world.

The next time you play Heroes III, try closing your eyes and fully immersing yourself in the audio. Listen to the sharp, elongated schwinnng sound of a new building appearing in town and the deep whoooooosh sound of an enemy hero vanishing from the map. Then, think about how much you took these sounds for granted. Whatever NWC paid their sound engineer, it wasn't enough.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spoils Of War

In Spoils of War, you are a mercenary. Your clients are the beastmasters of Tatalia and the barbarians of Krewlod and they've decided to take advantage of Erathia's unrest by initiating a land grab. The problem is, these factions also hate one another. Before the campaign is over, you'll have to betray one of your clients. Such is the life of the mercenary.

Back in 1999 when Heroes III first came out, I remember thinking it was really novel for NWC to create a neutral campaign. The ultimate outcome of Tatalia and Krewlod's border dispute isn't very important in the grand scheme of the war. Both factions ultimately expand their territory and fatten their wallets at Erathia's expense. But it's a testament to the vibrancy and complexity of Heroes III's world that players are able to enjoy perspectives beyond the typical angels vs. demons and good vs. evil plot. Heroes III is about the continent of Antagarich and the evolution of its factions. Erathia's invasion is just a very tiny part of the bigger story in the same way that the events in The Lord of the Rings is really just a tiny speck in the grand history of Middle Earth.

Just as in the Dungeons and Devils campaign, you'll have the opportunity to pick your starting scenario. In the final scenario, you'll need to choose one of the factions to ultimately side with.

In Borderlands, King Tralossk (whose name sounds like a sound a lizard would make) decides to expand Tatalia's borders by conquering some nearby Erathian settlements and stealing their resources. To complete the scenario, all mines must be flagged.

The other scenario is Gold Rush, which requires you to aid Duke Winston Boragus as his barbarians plunder Erathia's gold mines and overtax its citizens. To complete the scenario, your kingdom must acquire 200,000 gold.

There's a common theme that runs through these missions: you are a greedy bastard.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Steadwick's Fall

After a great deal of tunneling and dragon slaying, my Kreegan army has arrived at the outskirts of Erathia's capitol city. Catherine's march has been delayed, allowing the evil army exactly three months to figure out a way to capture Steadwick.

The siege is no cake walk. While the time limit adds a level or urgency to an otherwise straightforward scenario, it's the map design that will frustrate you the most.

Steadwick is stationed in the center of the map, protected by magical garrisons and a huge army. Additionally, the enemy has forts with large armies and moderately high level heroes surrounding Steadwick. The northern half of the map is separated from the southern half of the map by two additional garrisons, both armed to the teeth. Enemy heroes will be able to move freely through the garrisons, forcing you to split your army in order to hold all of the forts. Amidst the constant skirmishes, you'll need to raise a large enough army to knock down all of the garrisons (without the benefit of spells) and then raise second army to invade Steadwick. The capitol city is guarded by a very high level hero called Gen. Kendal. He has a huge army, a garrison advantage, meteor shower spell, and powerful artifacts.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the castles, ramparts, and towers you capture on this map don't allow access to creatures above level 5. This means your armies won't have unicorns, gold dragons, cavaliers, or angels to match Gen. Kendal's seemingly endless supply of Cavaliers.

In the 5-6 times that I've played this scenario, I've always resorted to trickery to capture Steadwick. Specifically, I would use a hero to lure him Gen. Kendal away from his post and then try to capture the empty Steadwick with a secondary hero. This time, I was determined to defeat Gen. Kendal the correct way: on the battlefield!

The three strongest heroes (Nymus, Rashka, and Calh) loaded up on troops from my towns. Calh led my castle units, Rashka my inferno units, and Nymus my dungeon units. I softened Gen. Kendal's defenses and drained his mana with some hit and run tactics. Then, I went in with Nymus for the kill.

In the final battle, I immediately cast Blind to disable Gen. Kendal's stack of champions. Then, I used black dragons and scorpicores (both flying units) to block his marksmen and zealots (both shooters).

Finally defeating Gen. Kendal in battle so many years later was an incredibly satisfying experience. There were two major advantages that led me to victory this time around.

First of all, Nymus learned the Expert Town Portal spell early in the scenario, which enabled her to quickly recruit large armies by teleporting from town to town. The map makers must have realized how effective Town Portal was because they surrounded some of the towns with cursed ground to prevent abuse.

Secondly, Rashka's diplomacy skill enabled him to quickly maintain an army while pressing into enemy territory without having to backtrack to a fort. Rashka was able to cut through random creature stacks effortlessly and conquer enemy castles early, preventing Erathian forces from fortifying their positions.

These two advantages allowed my heroes to disable the enemy's secondary army and then amass an army by the second month. Gen. Kendal had no other option but to sit quietly within Steadwick's walls as my army closed in from all sides.

Here's Shadowden, my dungeon.

Here's Tartaros, my inferno.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Since I decided in the previous map that I'd carry over the heroes from A Devilish Plan to the final scenario of the campaign, there was no need to recruit a large team in Groundbreaking.

When I think of the Heroes III fanbase, I imagine hardcore OCD strategy fans meticulously counting learning stones and hero stat enhancers to determine which map offers the highest hero growth potential. However, I didn't think a few stat points would make that big of an impact in the big picture. Instead, I just hired two heroes and swept through the tunnels like a whirlwind.

As I played the map, I noticed a few interesting things.

Groundbreaking is the first mission where players experience a fully built-out underground map. Previous scenarios had sections of caves for players to explore. But here, tunnels cover the entire map. As I send my heroes into the shroud, I began to notice a great difference in the design philosophy of overworld and subterranean areas.

Subterranean maps consist of long, linear tunnels connected to hubs like spokes on a wheel. They feel constricted and claustrophobic (as they should). Overworld design, on the other hand, is open and expansive. You'll rarely see tunnel-like paths implemented on the overhead map. When they do appear, it's usually a map design trick to force players to attack a garrison or trigger an event. Because impassible areas on the overworld (mountains and forests) are generally clumped together rather than set up as walls, it feels like heroes have more directions to travel.

I disliked the map design in Heroes V because it relied heavily on tunnels, even for the overworld. The demon campaign (where Agrael stomps through Irollan) is the biggest culprit. When players are forced to travel on preset paths, the map starts to feel constricted and the illusion of choice is diminished.

Let's be honest. No matter which Heroes game you play, the map designer's hand will always be present to influence players. However, good maps hide the designer's hand, allowing players to approach the map as intended but without the realization that they've been subtly nudged along the way. Bad maps force the hero to explore on rails. Replaying Heroes III has helped me better discern good maps from bad maps.

Both the intro cutscene and the in-game dialog box mentions the arrival of Enrothian warships and the fact that they "cannot be led by Roland Ironfist." When I originally played this scenario, I was very confused. Roland was the happy king from Heroes II with the Freddie Mercury mustache. How come he couldn't lead the fleet?

Roland's disappearance is a major plot point in Might & Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven. I've never played that game. But I researched the game on Wikipedia and YouTube and discovered the basic premise. Prior to Catherine's return to Erathia, the Kreegans landed in Enroth (Roland's continent) and took over the land by influencing a cult called Baa. They also managed to kidnap Roland in the process. In the game, the Kreegan hive is ultimately destroy and their invasion halted. However, the party never manages to rescue Roland.

Of course, if you never played the game, the cutscene for Groundbreaking would be very confusing. I do wish Heroes III had been packaged with an in-game lore book to explain the greater Might & Magic world. Most of the game's history had to be pieced together by fans after New World Computing and 3DO became defunct.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top 5 Heroes Themes

I wanted to take a quick break from the Heroes III and write about the series' fantastic music. The gorgeous melodies of the game are possible thanks to the talents of a famous concert pianist and composer named Paul Anthony Romero.

Romero has worked with Rob King (and occasionally Steve Baca) to write some of the most memorable tunes in the history of PC games. Below are my five favorite tracks from Heroes of Might and Magic.

The videos are embedded from the YouTube channel of Shyranis, game archivist extraordinaire.

5. Heroes V - Haven Theme

Baba Yetu, the intro theme for Civilization IV had the honor of being the first song from a video game to win a Grammy. As a result, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences decided to formally recognize 'video game music' within four of its categories, granting video game soundtracks the same respect as film and television soundtracks. With the floodgates now wide open, one can't help by look at the Heroes V soundtrack. If there was any song worthy of a Grammy nomination, it would be the Haven theme. Combining the Latin hymn Dies Irae with the game's main theme, the song is an epic masterpiece that demands to be heard.

4. Heroes IV - Necropolis Theme

Heroes IV's Death Campaign introduces Gauldoth Half-Dead, a tragic character trapped between the realms of life and death. As the story progresses, Gauldoth comes to terms with his paradoxical existence and tempers his dark plans with a living conscience. It's fitting that the game's Necropolis theme is as complex as its protagonist, capturing Gauldoth's inner conflict by alternating between sinister cues (0:55) and sweeping heroic cues (1:21). Some songs in Heroes IV sound beautiful but ultimately lack substance. This one tells a story.

3. Heroes IV - Academy Theme

Here's a fairly subdued theme that's supposed to represent the Mediterranean-style, wizard-dominating Order faction in Heroes IV. Is it just me or do all of the town themes in Heroes IV contain a hint of tragedy? I feel like I'm always a few notes away from crying my eyes out. I guess starting off the game with the destruction of an entire planet will have that effect.

2. Heroes II POL - Necromancer Town

Heroes II's expansion pack was called The Price of Loyalty. It didn't have any new races, creatures, or castles. But it did have brand new town themes that were (in some cases) better than the original. The Necromancer Town got one of the most dramatic overhauls. The original song was slow, calculated, and dark. The replacement song was... well... listen for yourself. It starts off with a moody intro but quickly transitions to an amazing piano solo by Paul Romero.

1. Heroes II - Magnificent Field

Magnificent Field (or is it Magnificent Fields) is hands down my favorite theme of the series. It may lack the bombastic orchestration of the other tracks on this list. But in my mind, it perfectly captures the carefree spirit of adventure prevalent in Heroes II! The harpsichord gives the song an old-timey Renaissance Faire feel that I love. It's a reminder of how simple and cartoony the Heroes games used to be and how dramatically everything has evolved.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Devilish Plan

I decided to go with the Kreegans first and slay the Gold Dragon Queen. I always wondered why a group of elves would choose to live in Erathia rather than AvLee. But then I remembered that this is Antagarich, not Ashan. Not every character has to live within the borders of their race-based nation.

According to Heroes III lore, the entire region of Eeofol where the Kreegans make their home used to belong to halflings. When the Kreegans landed in Eeofol, they drove the halflings out of their homeland and corrupted the forests into a barren, volcanic wasteland. Why did the Kreegans choose to disperse the halflings of all races? It's because they are huge dicks.

This trend can be seen in the design of the map. While most of the map is green and full of life, the Kreegan fort is surrounded by volcanoes and ash. For the Kreegans, it's not enough to just take over a land and enslave its people. The world must burn.

I decided early that I would carry over the characters from this scenario into the final one. The next scenario is filled with tunnels that are hard to navigate. I figured it'd be easier to recruit and train 'Team Evil' on this map.

The Members Of Team Evil
To create this team, I focused on two aspects: faction diversity and innate hero skill. Because there are Tower, Castle, Rampart, Dungeon, and Inferno towns on the final map, I knew that it was important to have at least one hero representing each faction in my party. This way, I could match the right hero with their faction's respective units instead of mixing them and putting a demon general at the helm.

I also wanted to make sure I recruited Inferno heroes with good starting skills, particularly ones that granted bonuses to specific types of troops. This way, I could have have each of them specialize in a particular unit type.

My starting hero was Rashka, the efreet demoniac. I was happy to see that he had the ability to boost the strength of efreeti in his army. I also trained him in the art of Diplomacy, which allowed him to approach random stacks of enemies and bribe them to join Team Evil.

After a few weeks, I recruited Nymus, another demoniac. I had forgotten that demoniacs are the 'might' hero of the Inferno faction. These heroes start the game without a spellbook, forcing me to have to go back to town and buy one. After a while, I made it a habit to check each hero for a spellbook immediately after hiring him or her.

Both Rashka and Nymus reached level 12 fairly quickly. So my next hero was Calh, another demoniac. In retrospect, I should have hired at least one heretic to balance Team Evil's might with magic.

I hired Solmyr because he is a badass. I imagine if he and Rashka would have been at odds, being from rival races.

The next member of the team I hired was Kyrre, who I wanted to use as a go-fer. I was happy to see that he started with Logistics skills. In the final map, I plan to use Kyrre to grab resources and transport troops. He will also lead the Rampart armies.

Surprise, surprise! It turns out that Caitlin the cleric was a double-agent! While she supported Team Catherine in the last mission with gusto, Caitlin was secretly aiding the Kreegan invasion all along. Where do her true loyalties lie?

The final hero was Synca the overlord. I knew that I needed at least one Dungeon hero to round out the team. Her ability to boost Manticore strength should come in handy against Steadwick's garrisons.

I spent some time mopping up every last enemy on the map. But in the end, it was the double agent Caitlin who struck the final blow against the Gold Dragon Queen. Thus, the forces of AvLee were crippled and Erathia found itself cut off from its allies.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dungeons And Devils

Dungeons and Devils is the evil campaign in Restoration of Erathia. It sees the dungeon overlords of Nighon joining forces with the Kreegans of Eeofol to take over Steadwick, Erathia's capitol city.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the campaign takes place before Long Live The Queen. However, I noticed that in one of the cutscenes, the narrator mentions Enrothian warships landing at the continent's southern coast. This suggests the evil campaign takes places roughly around the same time as the good campaign.

Unlike the good campaign, you're given a choice between two starting scenarios. Regardless of which one you pick, you'll have to do the other later.

In A Devilish Plan, the Kreegans launch a preemptive strike on Erathia's closest ally, the elves of AvLee, by slaying the Gold Dragon Queen. I'm not sure why the creature resides south of Eeofol instead of AvLee itself. But I suppose the AvLee region isn't very hilly.

The other option is Groundbreaking, which sees the dungeon overlords sneaking into Erathia through a network of secret underground tunnels. The Nighon forces appear to have developed this strategy by watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.

In the third scenario, you'll have the opportunity to pick one of the earlier teams to lead the final attack.

The last thing I'll say before jumping in to the campaign is that I find the evil narrator oddly endearing. He doesn't have that muffled, demonic, Darth Vader voice usually reserved for demons. In fact, his voice most closely resembles the Old Spice guy? Also, he refers to the Nighon and Eeofol forces in a way that suggests he's not allied with either faction. Who is this mysterious man?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Team Catherine Final Stats

Here are the final stats of Christian, Sandro, and Caitlin from Long Live The Queen. You can click on the images to enlarge them.

Attack: 24
Defense: 19
Spell Power: 18
Knowledge 14

Specialty: Badass explorer, field general, and teacher of spells

Attack: 25
Defense: 20
Spell Power: 28
Knowledge 21

Specialty: The guy with the skeletons and spells

Attack: 12
Defense: 20
Spell Power: 17
Knowledge: 23

Specialty: Money maker and castle defender

Alas, in Heroes III, you can only carry heroes from scenario to scenario, not campaign to campaign. Where will the winds take these brave souls now that Griffin Cliff is secured? We shall see.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Griffin Cliff

Griffin Cliff is the final stop that Team Catherine must make before heading to Steadwick to retake Erathia from the bad guys. Sandro and company must free the noble griffins from Nighon and Eeofol control.

In gameplay terms, completing the scenario requires you to flag 7 griffin towers along the northern edge of the map. Each tower is guarded by a heavily fortified garrison or high level hero. Thankfully, our heroes start with three castles already in their possession and have plenty of time to build up their forces.

The scenario also grants the heroes one of three bonus artifacts at the onset: the Lion's Shield of Courage (+4 to all attributes), Endless Sack of Gold (+1,000 gold per day), or Golden Bow (no long range shooting penalty). My choice was the Golden Bow, although the shield was enticing.

Leading the pack is the noble knight Christian. While not a strong magic user, his high attack power has made him a robust, offensive explorer.

Equally powerful is the evil lich Sandro. While his army suffers from bad morale, Sandro can raise skeletons after every battle thanks to his Expert Necromancy skill. By hunting down gremlins and imps, Sandro ended up with nearly 700 skeletons in his army by the end of the scenario.

Finally, Caitlin the cleric has matured into a strong town defender thanks to her mastery of the Town Portal spell. I can't emphasize enough how useful this spell is. Every time an enemy hero came close to a town, I would have Caitlin warp there and destroy the invading army.

The sidequests ended up being pretty pointless. In my last post, I talked about how useless the Eagle Eye skill was. As if to mock me, the game actually granted my hero Expert Eagle Eye as a reward for retrieving an artifact. No thank you.

I had Sandro visit a Witch Hut to obtain his final skill. Sadly, he ended up learning Navigation skill. The moral of the story is to never visit Witch Huts. They will sometimes surprise you. But most of the time, you'll get a terrible skill that you'll never use.

Griffin Cliff's design really speaks to the importance of having a good opening strategy. When I first played this map many years ago, I had a lot of trouble amassing an army to defend against the relentless onslaught of tan and orange. This time around, I immediately rushed to build a Capitol (which grants +4,000 gold per day) and grow my treasury.

Building a Capitol requires first upgrading a Town Hall into a City Hall. This involves building a Blacksmith, Mage Guild, and Marketplace. After that, the town's Fort must be upgraded into a Citidel and then into a Castle. As you can imagine, this is not cheap. In fact, rushing to build a Capitol can be extremely risky because it leaves a town understaffed. It's especially dangerous in a multiplayer game. However, the map designers have conveniently placed hellhounds to block the enemy from trespassing in your starting area. Investing in a Capitol early means receiving more gold per day... which in turn lets you hire larger armies later.

All in all, the map was pretty straightforward, even with just 3 heroes. There's no climactic battle at the end. After I captured all of the tan and orange castles, the two enemy heroes guarding the cliffs abandoned their post without a fight.

Finally, I wanted to point out something interesting I noticed about the Castle town's theme music after hearing it several hundred times in the course of this campaign. It's a remix of the Wizard theme from Heroes II: Price of Loyalty.

Here's the Castle theme from Heroes III.

Here's the Wizard theme from Price of Loyalty:

What do you think? Personally, I like the Heroes II version better. But the Heroes III version sounds great too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guardian Angels

Team Catherine's march toward the Erathian capitol of Steadwick continues. In this scenario, Christian, Sandro, and Caitlin find themselves investigating the sleepy town of Fair Feather. For reasons that are unexplained, Fair Feather has a giant celestial doorway hovering above it. Although the forces of Nighon and Eeofol have managed to surround the town with tunnels, their attempts to take the city have failed thanks to the town's angelic guardians. It's up to Team Catherine to fight off the bad guys and recruit the angels.

As far as map sizes go, this one is so tiny that visiting a single redwood observatory reveals everything. Fair Feather is stationed at the very center of the map and there are two skull-shaped subterranean gateways on either side. Occasionally, a dungeon or inferno hero emerges from the tunnels and tries to invade. Thankfully, the random stacks of angels scattered around Fair Feather serve as buffers and will also join the party if a hero approaches.

This map also presents a sidequest. Specifically, Team Catherine needs to find a pair of winged shoes to give to an old man. The reward is 10 free angels, which gives our heroes a huge advantage against the invaders.

The sparkling land that surrounds Fair Feather is called a magic plain. Any hero that stands on a magic plain will find his or her spells boosted to expert proficiency.

Speaking of skill levels, I've concluded there are a few skills in the game that simply shouldn't be learned when playing a long campaign. The first such skill is Eagle Eye, which enables heroes to learn new spells when an opponent casts them. In a long campaign, spells carry over from map to map, meaning a hero will naturally enlarge their spellbooks by visiting Mage Guilds. The benefits of Eagle Eye are thus overshadowed by the cost of neglecting more important skills like Ballistics or Logistics.

Another skill to avoid learning is Scouting, which grants a +1 bonus to scouting radius. Unfortunately, Scouting becomes useless as soon as the shroud is removed. The developers improved the skill in subsequent games by introducing fog of war and enabling heroes to spy on opponents' skills and army size. But in Heroes III, Scouting sucks.

In developing Team Catherine, I tried to focus on skills that would make my team more effective in combat. Leadership (better morale/extra turns) and Luck (better luck/double damage) allowed my armies to cut through hordes of weak enemies while suffering minimal damage.

These skills, combined with the awesome might of angels, made it easy for our heroes to destroy the Nighon and Eeofol presence in the area. Caitlin and Christian guarded the subterranean gateways to prevent the enemy from escaping the tunnels. Then, Sandro went around to each of the enemy towns and went medieval on their asses!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Antagarich Map

Heroes III takes place on Antagarich, a continent that is apparently rich with antagonists. While the name is undeniably silly, the game does a good job fleshing out the motivations and backstories of each faction.

Yes, I agree the name is kind of silly. Below is a composite map of Antagarich.

The largest faction is Erathia, the kingdom of the knights and griffins. Erathians are the de facto 'good' faction and most of the stories involve protecting its citizens from various invasions. The lands of Erathia are green plains and grasslands.

The nation of Bracada lies in the south. Bracada is a snowy, mountainous region that's home to wizards. They are mostly neutral in war but are known to ally themselves with the game's two 'good' factions: Erathia and AvLee.

The kingdom of AvLee can be found in the northern forests. It's the home of elves, dwarves, and centaurs. They don't do much in the Restoration of Erathia but feature prominently in the Shadow of Death storyline. Erathia and AvLee occasionally clash over a stretch of forest land called The Contested Lands. There's a side-campaign later about how the people of that region declare independence and form a nation called Harmondale. But it mostly impacts the story of another game: Might & Magic VII.

Krewlod and Tatalia are neutral factions. Krewlod is a wasteland that's home to barbarians. Tatalia is a swampy jungle region that's home to gnolls and lizardmen.

Deyja is the land of the necromancers and the undead. They live in a decayed land near AvLee. As well see later in the Restoration of Erathia storyline, the leaders of Deyja seek power and dominance but aren't very good long-range thinkers.

Nighon and Eeofol are two evil factions that ally with one another in order to invade Erathia. Nighon is led by warlocks living in tunnels. Eeofol is led by demons and heretics. One of the unique things about the Might & Magic world is that Eeofol's demons are not associated with hell or hades. Heroes III's demons are called Kreegans and are actually technologically advanced space aliens that travel across the galaxy on meteors and coincidentally resemble Judeo-Christian devils.

The only other region worth noting is Vori, a snowy island to the northwest of the continent. You never visit Vori in the main game. It merely exists to explain the origins of a key character who later destroys the planet.

Okay, that's enough backstory for now.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Homecoming is the first scenario in the Long Live The Queen campaign. Something I didn't catch the first time around is that the map is supposed to be located near Bracada.

In Heroes III, each faction is associated with a different type of terrain. For example, the kingdom of Erathia (the human knights) are associated with grasslands while Nighon (dungeon overlords) is associated with underground tunnels. The map designers all did a good job ensuring the locations were consistent with their arrangement on the larger continent. Bracada (wizards) is associated with snow. The map is filled with snow. It all makes sense.

Too bad Gavin Magnus, the immortal king of Bracada, is nowhere to be seen. He basically does nothing in Heroes III. Then, in Heroes IV, he suddenly becomes a nihilistic megalomaniac who commands robot dragons and tries to take over people's minds. Yeah.

We start with Christian the knight and a bunch of archers and pikemen. There are also four ships that are supposed to represent Catherine's landing party. The archers and pikemen quickly join Christian and make him so overpowered that 90% of the random enemies on the map flee in terror.

The ultimate goal of this map is to capture the town of Terraneus, which is located in the Nighon tunnels. Most of the overworld is completely optional however.

Case in point, there's a portal in the upper-right corner of the map that leads you to a large snowy forest with endless artifacts. They're not needed to win the map, but are really tempting to pursue. I was distracted by them and ended up getting Christian lost in the tundra for several weeks.

In Heroes III, the type of terrain your hero travels on will affect his army's movement speed. Unless the hero has pathfinding skill, snow and desert terrain are best avoided. With Christian essentially trapped in Siberian winter, I knew I had to recruit a second hero. Lo and behold, Sandro the necromancer was waiting in the tavern.

The entire story of the Shadow of Death expansion focuses on Sandro setting into motion all the terrible things that happen in Restoration of Erathia. Seeing Sandro partnered with Christian, attempting to save Erathia from evil forces, is pretty funny. His appearance in this map is probably due to a map glitch. As far as the story is concerned, Sandro was betrayed by Vinneas Filmar, the king of necromancers, and rotting in jail. Therefore, we'll pretend this is Sandro's Earth-2 counterpart: Sandra. God, I wish we could rename the heroes in this game.

Later, I recruited Caitlin the cleric because, well... you can always use an extra 350 gold. I doubt Caitlin will really contribute much in the later maps in terms of combat. Clerics are pretty much the worst heroes in the game. However, you can never have too much gold.

You can tell Terraneas is an evil town because there are dead bodies littered all around it. This is actually 'cursed ground,' a special terrain that prevents heroes from casting spells. Thankfully, knights are naturally bad at magic. So fighting on cursed ground actually gives Christian the advantage against Terraneas' magic-savvy warlocks.

On to the next mission!