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.

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