Heroes of Might and Magic II
a game by New World Computing
Civilization Has A Lot To Answer for (the game that is - regular civilisation has enough troubles of its own). The world of top-down, gradually expanding exploration games was never the same after the man Meier got his hands on it. Still, it's seen good times and bad. For every Blood & Magic there was a Command & Conquer, so I suppose it's all balanced out. And now, hoping to tip the scales in favour of goodness, comes Heroes Of Might And Magic II - and jolly good it is too.
Well, all right. Not jolly. Try engagingly good. Starting with a small town, you have to recruit powerful warriors to raise armies and explore the world at large, looking for treasure, resources and adventures. Despite these attributes, it isn't an rpg but more a resource management game, only with the emphasis on exploration.
It works surprisingly well because there's so much to be found while exploring. You can engage in the storyline if you want (a tale of good brother versus bad brother), but mainly the fun is to be had by stopping off at each new place you discover - that and the fact that there are so many different types of characters to play around with. Each town has various types of creatures to recruit, and since each town can be expanded to provide you with more options, Heroes becomes a game with definite long-term appeal.
Sauce for the goose, arsenic for the gander
However, one air bubble of opposition in the overall wallpaper of mass approval is that Heroes is very firmly rooted in the fantasy Dungeons & Dragons arena, and it's this that tends to limit its appeal. Games like Civilization (which, to be honest, is its closest rival), while being similar in style, do seem to have a more global attraction to them. Because of the very fantasy-quest-based nature of the game, Heroes is going to struggle slightly to reach a large audience.
This is a pity really, because apart from that (and a combat system that is perhaps a bit too basic), 1 thoroughly enjoyed Heroes. It strikes a perfect balance between resource management and world exploration, and thanks to the custom game options and the multiplayer networking facilities, it has enough variety to see it lasting long after the campaign storyline has run out of steam - even if the main protagonists do boast a pair of stunningly amusing moustaches.
2018-10-31 Heroes of Might and Magic II game added.