The final scenario in the Playing with Fire campaign is Burning of Tatalia. It's a massive jungle map featuring four strong allied enemy factions, a slew of hidden ambushes, maze like architecture, and very tough AI.
The undead Lord Haart has burned his way into the inner jungles of Tatalia. Only Adrienne can save her people from the undead menace.
In the intro cutscene, we finally get a glimpse of the newly resurrected Lord Haart. He looks kind of like the old Lord Haart, but decked out in evil looking armor and sitting in a room filled with bone architecture. What is it about undead lords and their macabre decorations?
I seem to recall that Arthas from Warcraft III had the same problem. Once his mind was corrupted by the Lich King, he started putting skulls all over his armor. Why?
I guess man has always had a fascination with death. My friend Ryan went to Czechoslovakia last year and returned with pictures of a chilling landmark called the Bone Church. Yes, it's a church decorated with bones. Chandeliers... altars... everything. I imagine religious ceremonies there take on an extra layer of spookiness.
If you've been playing along with me, I sincerely hope you managed to level up all of your heroes in the two previous scenarios. If not, you're in for a very long battle.
I found it incredibly important to begin the map with the maximum number of heroes allowed at the highest level possible. That's because I needed them to spread across the map and secure as many fortresses as possible. By doing so, I obtained enough gold to fund the rest of my war effort. If I moved too slow, the enemy would attack my cities and overwhelm my heroes, forcing me to restart the map.
Near the starting area, there is a subterranean gate that will lead the the first necropolis city. Since this necropolis is isolated from the others, the enemy won't try to recapture it until late in the game. So I made sure to capture it as early as possible to use its City Hall and obtain extra gold.
After defeating some bone dragons west of the starting fortress, I gained access to a stone lith. It transported me to an inaccessible jungle area and a lone fortress. I discovered that the enemy rarely goes through the lith to attack this hidden fortress. I decided to build my Capitol here to avoid the pain of continually shelling out 10,000 gold to rebuild it later.
I also noticed that there were many red garrisons on the map with allied troops. Luckily, the troops can actually be taken out of the garrisons and placed in your army. So I immediately headed toward the garrisons to bolster my army.
If you leave the troops in the garrison, they'll quickly be defeated. But if you put them in your army, their fighting ability can double/triple/quadruple thanks to the combat bonuses granted by your high level heroes. Unfortunately, when I was playing, the enemy did managed to overtake some of the garrisons before I could rescue them.
In previous maps, I complained that there was no way to learn Town Portal. As a result, scenarios dragged on longer than necessary. This map finally grants you the spell. However, you can only obtain it by completing a short quest.
In the middle of the map, near the shore, there is a seer hut requesting the Armor of Wonder. I obtained the artifact (quite accidentally) by fighting the hydras next door. The seer then traded me the Tome of Earth Magic for the Armor of Wonder.
With the Tome of Earth Magic on hand, I was now able to cast every Earth Magic spell in the game, including Town Portal. I can't tell you how great this made me feel.
I gave the artifact to Adrienne and appointed her my official town defender. The other benefit of Town Portal is that it allowed Adrienne to escape defeat if Lord Haart or another high level enemy hero came knocking on the door. Discretion is the better part of valor, especially when the scenario is programmed to end in defeat if Adrienne ever runs, surrenders, or falls in combat.
There are many ambushes on the map, often featuring nasty configurations of bone dragons and vampires. If you're not careful, a powerful hero can be instantly wiped out, just for exploring!
Thankfully, not all scripted events work in the enemy's favor. Eventually, Tatalia will rise up and flock to Adrienne's aid, populating your key cities with fresh recruits. Just make sure Lord Haart doesn't take them before you do.
Lord Haart flies the blue banner and is pretty easy to spot. He's the one with the massive army of death. If this were Heroes V, he would leave a huge, fiery trail wherever he went.
I encountered him several times on the map. Every time, he swarmed me with summoned elementals and then retreated. However, I finally defeated him in the end by capturing all of his cities so he had no place to run.
All in all, I found this map incredibly infuriating. The enemy heroes are fast and coordinated. They combine their forces and attack relentlessly. It's important to understand the layout of the map and target the enemy one color at a time, rather than rushing foolishly into battle.
The Tome of Earth Magic is crucial for the defense of cities. Without it, the map is nearly impossible.
I also found it critical to leave secondary heroes near subterranean gates to serve as 'sentries.' Their job was to prevent stragglers from secretly capturing your cities. Because most of your cities are wide open (meaning they are situated next to a gate or ocean) it's very easy for a far away enemy to suddenly recapture them.
That being said, the map is the ultimate test of micromanagement and multitasking ability. If you complete this scenario, you can pretty much complete anything else the game throws at you. It doesn't get any tougher than this.