An Ode to Heroes of Might and Magic III
The classics never truly leave us
Great games never die; they just get uninstalled and reinstalled every few years. For me, there is one game that has seen every iteration of Windows OS since Windows 98.
I know there is some nostalgia attached. I have memories of my aunt and uncle's house and their dual computers set up to play together. I can see my father up too late on his laptop in the basement, his face illuminated in a blue hue as he clicks next turn, next turn, next turn.
It's nice to take off those rose-tinted glasses once in a while and know that my memories don't deceive me — Heroes of Might and Magic III (and her three expansions) is objectively a great game! And, I would even go as far as to say that Heroes of Might and Magic III (HOMMIII) is one of the most excellent and unique turn-based strategy games of all time.
Let me briefly introduce Heroes of Might and Magic III (1999). HOMMIII is a turn-based strategy game divided into a beautiful top-down exploration and a satisfying turn-based combat system. You control heroes who in turn command forces of mythic creatures into battle — running the gamut of beings like flipping through a D&D Monster Manual. Everything is here, from Angels and Devils to Gorgons and Efreets.
Each town in HOMMIII is unique and serves as the deciding factor in what types of units you'll be taking into battle. You want skeletons and vampires? Necropolis. You want unicorns and green dragons? Ramparts. As you progress in a scenario, you control more towns and construct more armies, mixing and matching as you see fit.
Great games never die; they get modified by the communities that love them. Sometime in my early college days, HOMMIII made its way back onto my computer to play between classes. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner: "are there any mods for this game?" There ARE mods for HOMMIII, and amongst the most well regarded is In the Wake of Gods, first uploaded in 2001. This extensive (and somewhat game-breaking) modification drastically alters the original mechanics.
Twenty years later and the beloved game is still getting modified. In 2020 a team modded a full-scale add-on designed as a true continuation of the HOMMIII expansions: Horn of the Abyss. HotA's modifications, unlike its predecessor, In the Wake of Gods, add additional content and carefully consider the balance of the game and the lore behind it (not to throw shade at WoG).
Great games never die; they get orchestras. Have I mentioned the incredible tunes? I've been to my handful of gaming symphonies and heard a spattering of video game music from various titles played at them. This orchestra, however, is dedicated to one composer and one game. Heroes Orchestra is a complete classical ensemble playing the compositions from Maestro Paul Anthony Romero and his songs within Heroes of Might and Magic II, III, and IV.
Great games never die; they get spiritual successors. Or at least that's what I'd want with all the great games left behind. When I find a great videogame, much like a great book, I don't want it to end. There is that lingering save before the final boss that you keep and sit on for a few weeks. HOMM fans have kept an eye out for those games that recapture the spirit of HOMMIII. The most recent contender is yet to be released: Songs of Conquest by Lavapotion Studios.
Songs of Conquest is a turn-based strategy game where warring factions recruit "Wielders" to control armies for their kingdom. A fantasy setting involving resource management, army building, and exploration of a vibrant environment (is this starting to sound familiar?). Songs of Conquest won the title of "Most Anticipated" at the "PC Gaming Show Presentation" during E3 2021. I am among those anticipating this beautiful game and hoping for the best.
Great games never die; they just fade away. Fade away into our consciousness that is. In some sense, all the games that inspire us will see a "spiritual successor." Whether that be new games created in homage to what came before or old games modified to create something new. The video games of yesteryear inspire today’s creations. And who knows, that little gem of a game you’ve been playing with your dad might have an orchestra.
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