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Disciples III: Renaissance Review

geoff_hunt By:
GENRE Strategy 
PUBLISHER Kalypso Media 
T Contains Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood

What do these ratings mean?

[Editor's Note: It has been brought to our attention that several statements about the game crashing that was stated as fact is false. After testing Disciples III on multiple systems, we experienced periods of slowdown, but the game never crashed. Thus, the relevant sentences has been stricken and the grade has been bumped up from an 'F' to a 'D'.]

[Reviewer's Note: Mea culpa.  I did not approach this review with the rigor I should have, assuming that poor experience on one machine - a machine that's been having troubles with other games - was the rule for the game, rather than double checking myself.  I owe you the readers better than that.  Hopefully in the future I'll be able to re-earn your trust and restore my integrity.]

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!

.dat has failed on a Shakespearean scale. It’s like they’re operating in a reality crafted by the poet, one where all common sense can be abandoned by a group of people at such length that, months of development and a few million rubles later, they can release a product as knowingly flawed as Disciples 3 upon an unwitting gaming public. It’s the only explanation – they’re acting out some bizarre form of King Lear. Before I explain why, take my word on this: Do not play Disciples 3. Do not be tempted by flashy screenshots! Flee! Flee before it’s too late!

click to enlargeLet’s start with the screenshots, actually. The game’s graphics are, I admit, pretty. At first. It doesn’t take long before you run into all manner of graphical glitches, stretched or missing textures, and flickering units and frequent video driver crashes make the game hard to cope with. The style itself has a certain grim, brown-and-grey schema that rarely gives you much to marvel at. The game succeeds in painting its world as an unpleasant place to live; it also succeeds in boring you half to sleep.

But hey, turn-based strategy, right? Not about the graphics. It’s about the strategy. At least, that was the hope. It doesn’t work out for a number of reasons in Disciples 3, but let’s start with the worst offender, the AI. I have not played a game so willfully stupid since Extreme Paintbrawl. Disciples 3 offers units with a variety of special abilities, varied stats and qualities, and it even places tiles on the tactical battle maps that provide bonuses for particular unit types. The AI uses none of these; it rushes at your units, generally in straight lines, and mashes the basic attack. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that battles are almost always foregone conclusions.

Then there’s the RPG progression – your hero can gain levels through successive battles and upgrade stats and pick up new abilities. Pretty standard fare there, really, except that in light of the fundamentally broken combat system, none of it is relevant. Ever. There is no situation where your carefully thought buys makes a lick of difference. You might as well just stop bothering.

click to enlargeOkay, how about unit progression? You can upgrade the towns you control in turn to upgrade your varying units into better variants. They made the paths branching, so you can take units in different directions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply on a unit-by-unit basis, but rather to all of the same type, locking players out from trying any variety of mixed strategies. Heaven forfend you have priestesses and clerics on the same side…

How about the music? No, let’s not discuss that. It doesn’t work. The game gets stuck on the first 3 seconds of every track, looping on it over and over and over until you’re ready to chew on the barrel of a revolver.

For multiplayer, there’s no LAN or online play – just a hotseat option with a few maps as choices. Considering the three campaigns, that feels like a paltry offering, bolted on almost as an afterthought.

Disciples is, originally, a Russian game. I don’t know how the voice-overs were there, but the US version is just awful. The narrator is pencil-through-the-ear bad and the localization borders on the incomprehensible. You might expect that this will make the story hard to follow. You’d be right! It’s pretty much impenetrable too. It may be the next Chekov in Russia – but here, with this translation, it’s best buried.

click to enlargeBut the most damning thing of all: Disciples 3 crashes all the damn time. I could not get more than a half hour of playtime before it would fail on me. In a turn-based strategy game – a game that, by definition, is meant to be played into the wee hours of the morning, gripped in a ‘just one more turn’ fever – Disciples 3 makes it literally impossible. (Read Editor's Note above.)

Disciples 3 is basically just Heroes of Might and Magic 5… only worse. There are hardly any redeeming qualities to the game. As it stands, Disciples 3 is merely a poor knock-off. Maybe if it wasn’t as broken as it is in so many areas, I could contentedly give it a 'D'; it would merely be a poor knock-off in that case, not atrocious as it stands.

Be thou spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape,
That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Disciples.

D Revolution report card
  • Well, it works
  • Graphical glitches
  • Artificial Idiocy
  • Largely irrelevant RPG elements
  • No multiplayer
  • Terrible localization
    Reviews by other members
    No member reviews for the game.

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More information about Disciples III: Renaissance
Also known as: Disciples III, Disciples 3