Hey, hey people! Sseth here. Today, I’ll be covering a game designed on a shoestring budget, while its own parent company was going bankrupt, Heroes of Might and Magic 4, and, despite how little time and money they had, the outcome is pretty damn impressive. It also managed to produce two expansions on a nanofiber budget. The result? Well, have a look for yourselves. Story. To recap the events of Heroes 3, some mages enchanted two swords to each have a nuclear yield of a small sun. Stated only in the fine print to the shipping invoice, these swords shouldn’t touch or else warranty is null and void, since the planet will erupt in a nuclear explosion. So, two heroes do exactly that and kill everyone. Some people manage to survive by following portals to a new planet, so they can ruin it all over again. Unfortunately, there’s no Geneva Conventions or NATO oversight for wizardry, which is, arguably, the greatest cause of death in the Might and Magic universe. War crimes by practitioners of the arcane are rarely prosecuted, as mages will often teleport out of courtrooms and cast mass Alzheimer’s on the judge and jury. The only people not susceptible to magical subversion are Barbarians, being so mentally retarded, they’re not even considered a vegetable anymore. Gameplay. Heroes 4 is the most Hero-centric game of the entire series. Heroes in this game have a physical presence in the battlefield and can be killed. It’s just gonna cost you your entire army to do so. Heroes go from being fragile glass, to killing two or three black dragons per attack. As Heroes level up, the power gap between them and normal units only increases. At some point, you’re left feeling like a Dragon Ball Z character, if the plot of Dragon Ball Z involved slaughtering entire populations of crippled, boneless children. And that’s a good feeling. To all the Heroes 4 critics out there, have you never experienced the intoxicating sensation of absolute control? Of absolute power? I have. Once. My friend was in anaphylactic shock from his nut allergy and I stole his EpiPen®. I’m really sorry about that, by the way. I thought the nut allergy was a joke, I mean, I’m not gay either. I’ve also got an allergy to nut. Heroes 4 plays differently too, but maintains many of the older games’ mechanics. You explore and plunder the lands and slowly build up an unstoppable team of adventurers to dominate rival players. The original campaigns are all good fun and tell some enjoyable stories, with lots of colorful character development. In fact, some of the campaigns have such lengthy dialogue in text, that you feel like you’re reading a short fantasy novel instead. The same can’t be said for the two expansions, which sound like they were recorded off a copper wire inside a submarine, with maybe a small paragraph of text explaining your motivations, that can be summarized as, “Hey, faggot! Some necromancer is resurrecting people’s assholes and ruining the prostitution industry. Stop him by collecting his offshore banking details hidden across seven tax havens!” Both the expansions feel like some filler bullshit, intended to suck up as much of your time as possible, to justify the original box price. Don’t expect anything more than a handful of new units and structures. There’s less units in the game compared to the third title, and they don’t have second tier upgrades like before. But every single creature has special abilities and properties that make them distinctly unique, such as these Irish migrants, violent and aggressive, but easy to kill, with the ability to give themselves extra luck, once per turn. But they’ll need a lot more than luck to unify their island. There’s lots of little quality of life improvements from the previous game. You no longer have to visit every single fucking neutral dwelling to collect your forces. Instead, you use a caravan system to safely and quickly transport troops between structures and towns, provided there’s a direct logistic route available. In towns, you now need to pick upgrade paths to choose which higher-tier units you’d like to produce, allowing you to adapt your strategy according to the enemy or what sort of resources you’ve got access to. The unit models look all right. Maybe they’re 3D models baked into 2D sprites, who knows? Whatever they are, most of them are quite well animated, with joke animations if you mouse over them. Like this female chaos sorceress, who’s undergoing chemotherapy. As for the combat itself, there’s some new movement grid that I don’t exactly understand. But I do appreciate that projectiles and spells now have collision and actually require you to have direct line-of-sight to your intended target. This means that you can actually conceal your shooters and spellcasters from direct attack by placing bulkier melee units in front of them. Resource management in the game is some weird shit, since most towns produce less gold, even when fully upgraded, and many buildings cost more resources than you’d find on the map. Again, Heroes are necessary to build up a reliable line of credit. High-ranking shekel collectors and Jewlords can be elected as governors for cities if they have a nobility skill, improving unit recruitment and providing extra daily gold and resources if they completed an accountancy course. Some upgrades and towns also make no fucking sense. In Heroes 3, building a citadel and a castle would greatly improve your defenses, while in 4, they provide you with a wall and a gate and can be killed in a single turn, despite costing the equivalent of several max-level units to build. Unlike in Heroes 3, where all the towns are represented by different factions, Heroes 4 towns are grouped loosely by their school of economic ideology, contrasted by their polar opposite. These are order, planned economy, chaos, anarcho-capitalism, nature, the free market, life, crypto-theocracy, death, communism and might, the single market ethnostate of Zion. Supporters of their respective ideology are varied and diverse. The free market commands phoenixes, capable of reincarnating after a market crash, while communism boasts Bolshevik vampires that sustain themselves off of grain and blood of Polish peasants. Heroes are multidisciplinary in this game, since on top of mages and Super Saiyans, you can also recruit Heroes skilled in stealth, who can sneak across the map undetected, so long as the enemy doesn’t have a superior scouting skill to reveal them, allowing you to stealthily flag dwellings and disrupt supply lines, or even potentially taking an undefended city under your opponent’s nose. Heroes 4 allowed you to do something wacky as well. Creatures can be split from Heroes and used to independently explore and take resources or items, but can never flag dwellings by themselves. It’s an interesting idea that also means your main Heroes never have to leave the front line, since reinforcements will reach them manually, from nearby towns. Remember diplomacy in Heroes 3? A lot of people complained about that. So, now, you have 2 diplomacy skills, allowing you to convert a fraction of neutral monsters to your side. However, one requires money, and the other one requires nothing. Also, it now works on enemy armies, allowing you to pay off a portion of the opponent’s army and persuade them to turncoat before the battle even begins. There’s a huge range of spells in this game, and that’s part of the main allure. Learning the highest level spells takes time since there’s now five levels of mastery for each school, up to Grand Mastery, which also requires proficiency in sub-skills to reach. But it’s well worth it, when you turn your eight-man party into an eight-man group of immortals, by casting Divine Intervention every single turn. On a final note, the music in Heroes of Might and Magic 4 is absolutely fantastic. The other Heroes games are also great in terms of music, but the compositions here are much more reminiscent of the opera performances you’d hear in Heroes 2. It’s very calm and soothing and doesn’t grate on your ears even after you’ve listened to them for a few hours. Conclusions. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this essay as much as I enjoyed writing it. Heroes 4 is a fantastic game that never got the exposure it deserved from living in the shadow of its universally acclaimed predecessor. But it’s still worth playing and provides you with hours of fun. I also got it for only about $10 on Good Old Games. Here in Scandinavia, $10 will maybe buy you two small potatoes and some grilled firewood. But this? This will keep the hunger pangs at bay for much, much longer. As always, more content to come. So stay tuned. A warm thanks to the many members of the Merchants’ Guild, funding and bankrolling these terrible videos. You’re all truly wonderful, and I’m running out of Heroes games to review, so I can feel the noose closing in on me. Have a good one.