Review by Dark Hunter

Reviewed: 09/01/02 | Updated: 09/11/02

A Great Expansion to a Great Game

When speaking about expansion packs, some vital questions come to mind. One, does the original game need an expansion? If so, then does the expansion add to the gameplay to be worth your money? And finally, how does it change the game and keep it up to date? The answers determine the quality of the expansion; sometimes it can be considered a patch like most of the expansions out there, and some other times it rocks like Armageddon’s Blade; a glorious expansion to one of the greatest turn-based strategy games ever, Heroes III.

Plot:

Heroes of Might and Magic III had six campaigns that lead to the same point; the restoration of Erathia, but the expansion offers six new stand-alone campaigns. Armageddon’s Blade campaign continues the original story of Heroes III; Queen Catherine is to rule peacefully after her enemy King Xenofex of Eofol died, but his heir Lucifer is seeking for Armageddon’s Blade, a legendary weapon rumored to set the world on fire. In a surprise move, Queen Catherine decides to break the truce and declare war on Eofol, so the attempt to defeat Lucifer and save the world lies in your hands.

Other campaigns include: Dragon’s Blood, Dragon Slayer, Festival of Life, Playing with Fire, and Foolhardy Waywardness, *Stupid names! No need to shout that out!* each with a hero around which the story circles. Dragon’s Blood campaign is centered on the search for a vial of dragon blood, which is told to transform men into powerful dragons. Dragon Slayer gives you a quest of finding and killing an Azure Dragon. Festival of Life is about youngsters seeking to rise to the throne. Playing with fire is about a Fire Witch who must fight off the forces of a Death Knight raiding her homeland. Foolhardy waywardness sets you shipwrecked in an island with no hope of surviving except to appease the locals. Overall, nice assortment of stories.

The campaigns are well knit; they unfold step-by-step with some twists and surprises. The story isn’t the best you can see, but it’s enough to keep you attracted to the game.

Gameplay:

The gameplay in Heroes of Might and Magic truly shines. For those not familiar with the series, your job is to maintain a kingdom where you build towns, recruit armies, and hire heroes to lead them. Each turn (day), you are given some points of movement with which your hero would explore the map capturing resources, conquering towns, defeating monster stacks and sticking enemy heroes to the ground.

Armageddon’s Blade follows the same principle of Heroes III but it offers a lot more. The most noteworthy addition is the new town called ''Conflux'' with a full compliment of heroes, buildings, and troops. Now, there are more than 120 creatures, 50 spells, and countless artifacts to be found within the various scenarios.

Another nice change to the gameplay is the ability to recruit non-upgraded creatures if you have the upgraded creature building. For the first glance, you might say: “Why the hell do we need Red Dragons when we can get Black Dragons?” but after further thinking you will recognize that sometimes you will need to create Red Dragons, who knows when you’ll be low on resources.

Bare in mind though, that Armageddon’s Blade can provide a challenge to all players, it’s not as easy as Heroes III, nor it is as easy as most strategy games for that matter. The game is so deep that fifteen Archangels defeated about three hundred Hydras without losing a single Archangel, *That’s true! Don’t keep staring at me like that!* taking advantage of the great speed and movement of them, and that’s what makes the game great.

Replayability is greatly enhanced by the random map generator that enhances both single player and multiplayer a lot, all you have to do is just set your parameters and the generator will do the rest. Besides, there are 38 new single scenarios to add to the value of the game. Even better yet, the new campaign editor gives you the chance to create your own campaigns full with scenarios and cut-scenes to be carried throughout them. All that ensures the game will serve you for quite a long time.

It’s the legendary “One more turn” gameplay that gave the Heroes series its unique identity; there’s always something significant about to happen in a few turns, and for that reason you can spend sleepless nights playing the game. *Yawns* Overall, the game is fun, challenging and highly addictive, and that’s why it’s truly an exceptional gaming experience.

Graphics:

Now, where have I seen these graphics before? Never mind, expansions usually don’t add to the graphics that much, it’s the gameplay that matters. Armageddon’s Blade features the same old beautiful graphics, towns look good and detailed, especially the new town “Conflux” with its architecture inspired from Taj-Mahal. In-battle graphics are great; spell animations are very well done, such as the Implosion spell, which seems as if you poured boiling lava on the target, amazing. Creatures are spectacular and so are heroes; their portraits seem as if it was a real photo. The graphics aren’t breathtaking, but for a turn-based strategy game, they get the job done.

Sound/Music:

*Raises the volume to the highest* Wow! Incredible music, first of all, each town has it’s own music that gives you the feeling in which town you are, for example, when you are in an Necropolis town, you hear a spooky grave music. In-battle music is spectacular as it pumps enthusiasm into your blood with the typical war drums.
Sound in the game is fascinating, everything you can think of has a sound, your horse galloping, birds singing, neutral monsters moving, everything! It also sounds like real life. Spell sounds are great too, such as the Chain Lightning spell; it gives you the feeling some really nasty thunder pounded the target, wonderful!

Conclusion:

*Panting* Armageddon’s Blade is one of those games worth a try even if you’re not a turn-based strategy games fan; it’s massively addictive, it has splendid music, as well as a good refined plot. It adds a lot to the original Heroes III, without needing high requirements; any Pentium II with 64 MB of RAM and a Direct X 6.1 compatible video card will run the game as smooth as ever, and that is considered a very low-end PC by today’s standards.

The game is a winning bargain on it’s own, but I guess it’s maybe better to get Heroes of Might and Magic III complete with both expansions; Armageddon’s Blade and The Shadow of Death.

Ahem, if you’d excuse me now, I have a kingdom to conquer.

Overall Ratings:

Plot: (8.5/10)
Gameplay: (9.5/10)
Graphics: (8/10)
Sound/Music: (9/10)
Overall Score: (8.75/10)

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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