Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 03/29/02 | Genre: Strategy
For those new to the series, Heroes of Might and Magic IV is a turn based strategy game based on the Might and Magic RPG. The series has always had a charmingly simple core system of rules, you gather resources needed to build structures, which are needed to create troops, which are needed to conquer your enemies. You don't worry about diplomacy, or keeping your citizens happy, you wander and conquer. Where the heroes series separates itself from the rest is in its hero development system. Heroes are the lifeblood of any army, they can enhance the fighting ability of the other troops, cast devastating spells, and for the first time, they don't just influence the battle from the sidelines, but actually appear on the battlefield. The hero development system in heroes IV is similar to that of heroes III, but it has been modified to allow for much higher hero levels, and more hero specialization. Hero's can now achieve 70th level, hold 100 ranks of skills, and work toward 48 classes.
There have also been some subtle, but needed, game-play changes implemented in heroes IV, including new town defense and town development systems. Catapults are no longer necessary to assault towns, now your troops just attack the gates to get inside. Towns have also lost their built in defenses, castles still have archer towers, but you need to man them yourself. Another change in the town system is that all towns are forced to specialize, no town can build all of your races units. Each race has eight units they can build, four levels of units with two choices at each level. You can only choose one unit from each level except one, so there is a new level of strategy to town development.
The army units in Heroes IV have also been tweaked, hero units are no longer necessary to lead armies, and now every unit has special abilities. Non-hero spell casting units have gotten an upgrade; they now have their own spell lists, and spell point reservoirs. The only downside is that you can no longer upgrade your units as you could in Heroes III.
Along with the game mechanic changes, there was also a major graphic upgrade, and an interesting music change. The graphics are simply better than the series has seen before. The maps are more lush and active, and the spell effects are beautiful. The music on the other hand is hit or miss; it will either entrance you, or make you break out laughing. The music is real similar to that of heroes III, they just added some funky backup singers. To understand the backup singer effect, think Enya with the occasional opera singer thrown in.
Heroes IV does have a few problems, including the fact it was released without a multiplayer mode. A game message says only, "This feature will be available soon" so this may or may not turn out to be a real annoyance. Another problem with Heroes IV is in its lack of replay value. There are six campaign choices, but there is no random map generator, and there aren't many scenarios. If the marketing plan for Heroes IV is like that of Heroes III, these issues will be addressed in expansion packs.
Heroes IV is a great game for any turn based strategy fan. Veterans to the heroes series will quickly adapt to, and learn to appreciate, the new systems. At the same time don't worry if you are new to the series, because Heroes IV has a really friendly user interface. If you have any questions about what you see on the screen, simply click on it and it will be explained. So basically it doesn't matter if you are a long time fan, or a new recruit, Heroes IV is worth investing in.