Game: Heroes of Might and Magic IV (Vanilla, The Gathering Storm, Winds of War)
Developed by: New World Computing
Published by: 3DO
Release date: March 28, 2002
The five games in the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise are like a demographically diverse set of siblings. They all look different, but have a similarity of features that confirm their parentage. The eldest is starting to show his age, but a quick glance at the younger ones will confirm a deep respect for his achievements. The second is quirky and charming, though his looks are also fading he still has enough in the bag to impress people at parties. The third was the sibling that had it all. Looks, strength of character, friends, fame. His popularity spread beyond the family to anyone he touched, to the degree that all other siblings pale in comparison. The fifth wanted to be so much like the third that people can’t look past the similarity, now despite his youthful appearance and noble characteristics no one takes him seriously because all they see is his older brother.
Given that this venerated, slightly dysfunctional family will soon be getting a new brother/sister from a different parent (in this case the hard work of the folks at Black Hole Entertainment), I thought it would be a good time to look back at the fourth, and least understood child of this series. The red headed stepchild that was always teased about being adopted if you will.
Heroes of Might and Magic IV was a game that came at a difficult time for it’s developer, publisher and indeed the franchise as a whole. Heroes III had brought the series into the bigtime. It fleshed out the gameplay that had proved so popular in the second installment, added a deeper layer of strategy, covered itself with shiny state of the art graphics, a well worked UI, pretty much bug free engine, a mountain of content on release followed by 2 content bloated expansion packs. It was well received by fans and critics while hitting sales numbers not seen by any turn based strategy game outside the Civilization series. In short it was a winner on every conceivable measure and, as games like that have a tendency to do, it made it very hard for any sequel to tread the hallowed ground it walked upon.