Game Over Online ~ Heroes of Might & Magic IV: The Gathering Storm

GameOver Game Reviews - Heroes of Might & Magic IV: The Gathering Storm (c) 3DO, Reviewed by - Westlake

Game & Publisher Heroes of Might & Magic IV: The Gathering Storm (c) 3DO
System Requirements Windows, Pentium-II 300, 128MB RAM, 800MB HDD, 4X CD-ROM
Overall Rating 70%
Date Published Wednesday, October 30th, 2002 at 12:21 PM

Divider Left By: Westlake Divider Right

Heroes of Might and Magic IV: The Gathering Storm is the first expansion pack for last winter’s Heroes of Might and Magic IV. It contains a set of six linked campaigns and not much else, and while it’s meatier than the Heroes Chronicles expansion packs for Heroes of Might and Magic III, it’s not a lot meatier, and it costs more. So if you were worried that New World Computing and 3DO were going to use expansion packs to squeeze more money out of fans of the franchise, at least so far your fears are justified.

The main storyline linking together the campaigns included in the expansion pack involves five heroes deciding to stop an evil wizard named Hexis. Each of the heroes gets a campaign where they seek out a set of powerful artifacts, and then they get to work together in the final campaign to track down and defeat Hexis. That’s a nice enough structure (although it’s more than a little reminiscent of the Shadow of Death expansion pack for Heroes of Might and Magic III), but it doesn’t take long to realize that something terrible happened to New World Computing’s scenario design team. The scenarios included in The Gathering Storm don’t bring any depth whatsoever to the characters or the story, and you never find out why Hexis is doing what he’s doing, or why the heroes are getting together to stop him. If you (like me) thought the stories were the best part of the scenarios from Heroes of Might and Magic IV, then you’re sure to be disappointed here.

Moreover, it’s not clear that the scenario design team was even all that familiar with the game. One of the biggest problems with Heroes of Might and Magic IV was the lousy enemy AI, but the scenario designers worked around it and gave the computer players lots of advantages (like one-way doors and portals), so the scenarios still played relatively well. In The Gathering Storm there isn’t anything like that, and, worse, the scenarios even seem to be designed to benefit the player, and so the scenarios are largely easy to complete. You just need to slog your way through them and find all the power-ups so your heroes can be as powerful as possible when they carry over.

On the brighter side, New World Computing did do some nice things in the campaigns. The heroes all start out at level five, and that means their initial class has already been decided. The scenario designers took advantage of that, and so you get to play some rare classes like the archmage, the dark priest, and the bard. Plus, the designers were creative with the bard campaign, where you have to make a lot of use of grandmaster stealth, and the final battle with Hexis is very challenging, even on the intermediate difficulty setting.

But overall the new campaigns are rather a drag. There are only 24 scenarios in the campaigns (there were 32 in Heroes of Might and Magic IV), and the objective in about 20 of them is to find an artifact. In a couple scenarios you have to visit obelisks so you can dig up the artifact, but mostly you just have to defeat a random enemy hero so you can get the artifact and move on. That is, most of the scenarios play about the same, and since there aren’t any real story elements, and since quests are few and far between, there isn’t much to keep the scenarios interesting.

And that’s bad because, like I said, the campaigns are the main addition in the expansion pack. There are some other things that support the campaigns, like the six new heroes, four new neutral creatures (including evil sorceresses who cast implosion, and gargantuan beasts who are a tougher version of the cyclops), five new sets of artifacts, and two new buildings, but that’s not a lot to get excited about. There are also some new non-campaign scenarios (which seem to be about the same quality as the campaign scenarios), plus the multiplayer patch for Heroes of Might and Magic IV if you missed it before, but in total the expansion pack only takes up 170 MB on its CD, and that includes 25 MB for DirectX.

So Heroes of Might and Magic IV: The Gathering Storm is a pretty lightweight expansion pack, and what it does include isn’t especially interesting or memorable. Usually I’d say that if you liked the original game then you’ll probably like the expansion pack, but I’m not so sure that’s the case here, since the new campaigns aren’t even close to the quality of the original ones. So if you’re leaning on the fence about this expansion pack, I’d recommend you wait. Chances are you’ll eventually have lots of Heroes of Might and Magic IV expansion packs to choose from, and one of them is bound to be better than this one.

(30/40) Gameplay
(21/30) Additions
(07/10) Improvements
(04/10) Storyline
(04/05) Technical
(04/05) Documentation


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