Winds of very little change.
The land of Erathia is dead, lost long ago in the mists of time. In the age of Heroes III, huge battles were fought that tore the land asunder. Few escaped through magic portals into the land of Heroes IV, but they brought their conflict with them. Life vs. Death. Chaos vs. Order. The battles are never-ending.
And neither, it seems, are the expansion packs. Heroes of Might & Magic IV: Winds of War is the second expansion pack to come out in about a year. The first, entitled The Gathering Storm, gave you the standard additions of heroes, campaigns, artifacts and maps. Not much of an update, and sadly, neither is this.
This time around, five new heroes have risen to prominence. Spazz Marticus wants to rule the world, and luckily his royal father just "happened" to die, leaving Spazz in charge of the whole kingdom. He may be young, but he has the desire hold the world in the palm of his hand, and nothing will get in his way. Honestly, the old king deserved it, I mean, who names their kid Spazz? Well, maybe Frank Zappa.
Representing the barbarian hordes, Mongo is sent out across the land to spread his peoples' influence. His goal is to crush the kingdom of Channon and sit his throne on the skulls of his enemies. Mongo? Are these names getting worse? At least he may have a future in acting.
Erutan Revol has had enough. He's a pissed-off forest dweller who has decided that humans no longer deserve to walk this earth. Can you say eco-genocidal rampage? Well, if your name was 'Nature Lover' backwards, how would you feel?
Mysterio the Magnificent has a more personal goal. He seeks what man has sought since the dawn of time: immortality. Of course, he's not above conquering the land in order to do it. Obviously, this all occurs in-between bouts with Spiderman. Didn't The Vulture already find the secret of eternal youth?
Finally, there's a not-quite-dead guy named Baron Von Tarkin who's just a little bit touchy about people who are alive rubbing his face in it. I mean, look at them, with all their hair and skin...it's disgusting. So he's decided they all need to die, then be brought back to undead life to swell the ranks of his army. (Baron Von Tarkin should not be confused with Grand Moff Tarkin, not that you would...okay, so not all the names are that funny.)
Besides those five horribly named heroes (starring in 6 campaigns), Winds of War gives you three new creatures, six new buildings and a host of single scenario maps. No new features are added to the game, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Heroes IV is a very good and addictive game. However, these days many games have downloadable content adding maps, characters and scenarios, and gamers are starting to expect more out of their expansion packs.
Of course, that leads me into a rant.
The box for Winds of War, one of the most boring PC game boxes ever encountered, even touts that several of the maps were designed not by the experts at New World Computing, but by avid HMM gamers, who used the supplied Map Editor and made the maps in their spare time. Excuse me, but we're expected to pay for this? I mean, CounterStrike is the best example of what amateur game designers can do (and is amazing), but even though it's available for retail, you can still download and install the latest versions online for free.
Expansion packs nowadays need to add to the core of the game. For RPGs they tell an additional story. For first-person shooters, they give you new levels to explore and weapons to frag with. With real-time strategy, you get new units and new powers that add a dynamic play value to the game. However, with both this expansion and its predecessor, Heroes IV expansions only give you more of the same... and charge you $30 for the pleasure.
Does that make this a bad game? No, it doesn't, but it is a bad expansion. Unless you've finished every campaign and scenario in the original Heroes 4 there's very little reason to get this add-on (except maybe to laugh at the funny names). If you love Heroes 4 and too much is never enough, then by all means drop some money. Though, if history is any judge, there are many more expansions to come. Hopefully, those will be more worth it.