Heroes of Might & Magic: First Blood Part II
As the fog lifted from the battlefield, the carnage of the previous day's battle revealed itself. The necromantic hordes were once again driven back, but the heroes are well aware that the war is far from over. They've been fighting the same war for over a year now, with very little change. Needless to say, it's getting a bit old.
And so is Heroes of Might & Magic III: The Shadow of Death. This is the third Heroes III product out in a single year, and it's nearly identical to the previous offerings. Don't get me wrong, Heroes III is one of the most addicting strategy series on the shelves, but the game market has changed drastically in the last year, and a rehashed old game just doesn't cut the mustard.
Though we've seen it many times before, the gameplay in The Shadow of Death is just fantastic. This is turn-based strategy at its very best, ladies and gentlemen. Search the map, control resources, build your armies and crush the enemy. If you are unfamiliar with the series, best read the review of the original Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia . . . I'll wait for you here.
Done? Good. Besides including all the changes that were in HOMM III: Armageddon's Blade, The Shadow of Death gives you new campaigns, new single player maps, and the brand new combination artifacts.
The combination artifacts are really the only thing exclusive to The Shadow of Death. This new option makes it so that when you collect a series of artifacts (i.e. all the body parts of Legion), they combine to form a more powerful artifact, sometimes with global ramifications. Basically, it just means they added new artifacts to the game.
As for the other differences, they can all be obtained by downloading the latest patch for your version of either The Restoration of Erathia or Armageddon's Blade.
The graphics in The Shadow of Death are identical to the two previous titles. When The Restoration of Erathia was released a year ago, it's graphics were dated, but practical. While I suppose that significant graphical improvements are going to have to wait until Heroes of Might and Magic IV (no, the game has not been announced, just assumed), it would have been nice to see some effort put into spicing up the look of the game.
Besides having 7 new campaigns, The Shadow of Death includes the original 7 campaigns from The Restoration of Erathia, but does not include the campaigns from Armageddon's Blade. Since Armageddon's Blade is an expansion disk, it will also install on top of The Shadow of Death. Of course, if you're able to actually play every single map, mission, and scenario that these three disks offer, you have way too much time on your hands.
There are some multiplayer issues, however (note: this gets confusing, but bear with me). While The Shadow of Death multiplayer works against The Restoration of Erathia and vice-versa, neither can play Armageddon's Blade. However, if the server is running Armageddon's Blade and every client has The Shadow of Death, you can play the Armageddon's Blade missions. 3DO, where's the patch to fix that??
All in all, Heroes of Might & Magic III: The Shadow of Death is still a good game. Hardcore fans might be disappointed with the identical gameplay experience, but The Shadow of Death is a great title for those new to the series. Hopefully, 3DO's dedication to the Heroes III franchise means that we'll get a real sequel some time in the not-too-distant future, because if another version of HOMM III comes out, the confusion will drive me crazy.