I picked up the Heroes of Might and Magic V bundle in a GoG deal recently, and tried it out to see how the new ‘post 3DO’ games are. First gripe: Each expansion is a separate program with its own campaigns and scenarios, instead of wrapping up into one big interface.

Mostly, it’s HoMM. Heroes wander around a map of paths and choke points defeating monsters and taking cities. They went with a low-poly somewhat clunky-looking full 3D environment that reminds me, stylistically of WarCraft III. It’s certainly not bad, but I’d prefer not to have to wrestle with the camera (there is a ‘Classic HoMM view’ which fixes the camera pretty well vertical, but there’s still a problem of things tending to get hidden, especially in underground caves). It’s pretty clear visually most of the time, though I don’t think I can tell most mines apart at a glance like in previous games.

Both the main map and battle maps are pure square grids now, unlike the hex grid battles from earlier HoMM games, though I recall HoMM IV went to a square grid also, though it was a finely-grained one, where even the smallest units were several spaces. Now units are one or four (2×2) spaces large. An annoying visual loss here is that the hero’s movement trail is just a series of dots, whereas they used to be arrows whose length gave you an idea how much movement you were consuming. On the other hand, combat now shows the order everything is going to move in, and you can see how many creatures you expect to kill in an attack.

Heroes can attack physically in battle as well as cast spells, but aren’t on the battlefield the way they were in IV. In fact, the game seems fairly close to HoMM III, but touches of IV do show up, notably, peasants are back, and can be upgraded to conscripts. They move at a semi-decent clip, so they aren’t the absolutely useless troops they were back in II.

All I’ve played so far is the first campaign (five scenarios), which gives less of an impression of the game than it should. Some of the scenarios take quite a while, as they have expansive maps with lots to explore. That isn’t necessarily bad, but at the same time, it’s more of a tutorial sequence with only two of the scenarios even featuring an AI player, who has limited resources. There’s a couple of full cutscenes… that I wish were better done. The rest is handled with in-game machanima, that often just consist of a couple of hero characters standing and talking. The plot is-well worn, but well done enough for me to be happy with it.

But all it features is the human (Haven) faction, and a variety of enemies. The only other faction I’ve got any handle on is the demon (Inferno) faction, which serve as the main enemy. I don’t have a very good feel for the game as a whole. I had to do quite a bit of flipping through scenarios to find that there are six factions in this version (the same number II had) but I have no idea what the others are like.