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Overview

The Heroes Title Card

Designed by Jon Van Caneghem, Heroes of Might and Magic: A Strategic Quest, the first official iteration in the long-running Heroes of Might and Magic franchise, is an MS-DOS turn-based fantasy strategy game created and released by New World Computing in 1995. As its name implies, it takes place within the same fictional universe established by New World Computing's Might and Magic series, though the gameplay is quite different, consisting primarily of turn-based exploration and combat rather than party-based role-playing. Much of Heroes' core gameplay is derived from King's Bounty, an earlier New World Computing game designed by Van Caneghem, and the two were considered similar enough that when the Windows 95 version was released in 1996, King's Bounty was included with it as an extra. The Windows version also updated Heroes with CD audio, a scenario editor, and a random map generator, in addition to sixteen new scenarios. The game would also be ported to Macintosh computers later the same year, and a final port would be developed by KnowWonder and published by the 3DO Company, released for the Game Boy Color in 2000.

Plot

Four heroes look out over a gathering of troops.

The campaign mode of Heroes of Might and Magic allows the player to choose one of four characters: Lord Ironfist, Lord Slayer, Queen Lamanda, or Lord Alamar. These leaders belong to the Knight, Barbarian, Sorceress, and Warlock factions, respectively, and the player's character choice at the outset of the campaign decides which of these four town types they will be aligned with during play. In addition, faction alignment determines the player's starting location on most maps as well as which factions the player must conquer later on in the campaign. Apart from these differences, the trajectory of the campaign is similar for all factions.

Though it is possible to choose any allegiance when playing the story mode, Heroes is largely the tale of Lord Morglin Ironfist, who finds himself in the realm of Enroth after fleeing from the his treacherous cousin Ragnar through a mystical gate. With little knowledge of the land he and his vassals now inhabit, Ironfist soon comes into conflict with three other powerful groups within Enroth. Through warfare he is able to subdue his opponents and establish himself as ruler of the land. Though it is not expressly stated within the game itself, Ironfist's ending is considered canonical, as the succession war waged by his sons Archibald and Roland is the main premise of Heroes II.

Gameplay

A Dragon guards access to an unclaimed town.

Gameplay in Heroes of Might and Magic can be generally divided into two components: turn-based overworld exploration and turn-based combat. In the former, players direct one or more hero units over a two-dimensional map screen, interacting with various objects and entities within the environment. Each hero is possessed of a finite number of movement points, though this total can be increased or decreased depending on certain factors. Every action that a hero can perform within the the overworld area requires movement points, and once all of these points have been expended, the hero in question cannot initiate further action until the following turn. Hero activities in this mode include but are not limited to exploration, resource and artifact acquisition, combat with hostile creatures and heroes, and appropriation of neutral or enemy towns. Heroes are not only adventurers but also military generals, and as such they can potentially command an army of up to five different creature types. In some cases, units can be recruited from creature stacks or specific locations within the environment, however towns are a larger and more reliable source of troops, as the player is able to specifically purchase unit-generating structures that produce creatures at the start of each week.

While combat is fought between groups of units rather than the generals that command them, heroes can still play an important role in deciding the outcome of most battles. The most direct means of influencing a fight is through spells. Provided a hero possesses a spell book and has visited a Mage Guild, it is possible to cast a single offensive or defensive spell during each combat turn. Rather than being governed by mana or spell points, each spell can be cast a finite number of times before it must be relearned, which is done by visiting a Mage Guild in order to replenish them. Certain spells, such as Dimension Door and Identify Hero, are classified as Adventure Spells, which means that they may only be cast while on the Adventure Screen. By engaging in combat and gaining experience, heroes can also gain levels, which bolsters four attributes: attack, defense, spell power, and knowledge. Attack and defense values offer passive benefits to the attack and defense ratings of allied creatures, while spell power and knowledge increase the power of learned spells as well as the number of times they can be cast. In addition, heroes can carry a number of artifacts with useful properties, including the hard-to-find Ultimate Artifact, whose location is only revealed through obelisks.

A hero's attributes, items, spells, and creatures can be viewed at any time.

When not managing heroes during the adventure phase, players must use their resources in order to augment the capabilities of any towns currently under their control. Assuming the requisite resources are available in order to do so, a single structure may be built in each town per turn, which represents a single day of game time. Roughly half of these structures are universal between town types, including the Mage Guild, which houses up to four different levels of spells, and the Well, which increases population growth for all creature types. In fact, only creature dwellings are unique to their factions, with each town having exactly six potential dwellings in total. While common buildings have a consistent price across all factions, the price of dwellings, as well as the price of the units they produce, may vary depending on the town type. Because they produce the component units required to build player armies, towns are a coveted resource, representing a major advantage or disadvantage when they are gained or lost; capturing all opposing or neutral town is a common victory condition in Heroes. In order to better facilitate town defense and discourage attacks, players can build castles, which offer potent defensive bonuses for garrisoned troops and additional offense from ballistas.

A Barbarian fights a group of neutral wolves against a hellish backdrop.

After exploration, the second major gameplay component of Heroes of Might and Magic is combat, which occurs between two parties on a separate hexagonal battlefield. When initiated, the armies of both participants are displayed on either side of the screen, with the attacker's forces on the left, and the defender's on the right. Up to five individual unit groups can be fielded by each combatant, and each one is considered a "stack," meaning that, although they are always represented visually as a single unit, they can be composed of multiple units, growing in strength in accordance with their numbers. The number of units within a stack is displayed alongside the creature itself. All units have their own intrinsic statistics, but can also be heavily affected by their hero's attack and defense stats, as well as additional factors like morale and luck. In combat, units take turns moving and attacking opposing creatures, with movement order being decided by the speed rating of each unit. Combat will end automatically if either side loses all of their units, although it is also possible for a player to flee, which forfeits all units but allows the hero and their items to survive, or surrender, paying the opposing hero a sum of gold in order to ensure that both their hero and army survive intact.

Purchases in Heroes of Might and Magic are made by way of a seven-tiered resource system. Players can amass gold, iron, wood, sulfur, mercury, gems, and crystal, using them to purchase units, buildings, and other necessities. Apart from gold, which is primarily generated through towns, players must seek out mines and other resource structures within the overworld area in order to claim them for their faction. Any resource location that has been flagged by a player will automatically produce a set amount of its associated resource with each new day. Unlike towns, these resource centers have no innate defenses, so they can be readily captured if no opposing heroes are nearby. Of the seven, gold is by far the most important resource, as almost everything that can be produced or purchased requires it. Iron and wood are important as well, though they are primarily construction materials, being requisites for many buildings. The remaining resources, sulfur, mercury, gems, and crystal, are somewhat lesser in importance, however they are quite valuable when purchasing advanced structures and units such as higher levels of the Mage Guild and sixth-level creatures. In addition to mines and the like, maps commonly have deposits of resources that can be collected and used instantly.

Factions

Heroes of Might and Magic features four factions, each with six unique units and a single unique hero type. The Barbarian and Knight are considered "might" (read: martial) factions, while the Sorceress and Wizard are more inclined toward "magic." The four faction town types are distinguished from one another visually, though apart from the units that they produce, they are functionally identical. All towns can have a Castle, Mage Guild, Thieves' Guild, Tavern, Well, and, if close enough to the water, a Shipyard. When a player begins a scenario with a selected faction, they will typically begin play with a single town and hero of the corresponding type. This does not, however, prevent players from recruiting heroes from other factions or utilizing non-native creatures. While players are free to mix units of different factions as they see fit, they are also encouraged to tailor their army composition toward a single faction by way of a one point morale bonus when all units are of the same alignment. Conversely, if units from three different factions are used within a single army, a one point morale penalty is incurred, while four different unit types will increase this penalty to two points.

Barbarian

The Barbarian faction is more attuned to offense than other factions, and their heroes, not surprisingly, are more likely than others to receive attack bonuses when gaining a level. Similarly, many of their units are at their best when used aggressively, and they have a good mix of ranged and melee attackers. Their passive trait allows them to ignore movement penalties associated with rough terrain such as deserts and swamps.

Goblin

Goblin

  • Cost: 40 gold
  • Hit Points: 3
  • Attack: 3
  • Defense: 1
  • Damage: 1-2
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
For a level one unit, Goblins have good hit points and attack rating along with respectable damage and speed. Their biggest failing is defense, which leaves them somewhat vulnerable any time they're on the receiving end. For this reason, it is very important for Goblins to get the first hit in on their enemies, as they may be forced to take heavy casualties otherwise.
Orc

Orc

  • Cost: 140 gold
  • Hit Points: 10
  • Attack: 3
  • Defense: 4
  • Damage: 2-3
  • Speed: Slow
  • Shots: 8
Orcs are the Barbarian's go-to ranged combat unit in the early stages of the game, and are roughly equivalent in strength to the Knight's Archer. They have decent statistics in almost all areas, though their speed is something of an issue, as it will slow down heroes that choose to recruit them. Later in the game, some players may opt to replace them with Trolls.
Wolf

Wolf

  • Cost: 200 gold
  • Hit Points: 20
  • Attack: 6
  • Defense: 2
  • Damage: 3-5
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
As the fastest unit within their faction, Wolves are able to strike quite rapidly, and are rewarded when doing so with a second attack after the first one connects. Unfortunately, their defense rating is quite poor, being only slightly better than the Goblin's. If the player can adequately protect them against enemy retaliation, Wolves make for great shock troops.
Ogre

Ogre

  • Cost: 300 gold
  • Hit Points: 40
  • Attack: 9
  • Defense: 5
  • Damage: 4-6
  • Speed: Slow
  • Shots: None
The Ogre is a bruiser unit that possesses high hit points as well as high damage and attack rating. Its defense is not quite as high as that of similar units in other factions, however, and it suffers from extremely slow speed as well. This last fact limits its utility somewhat, as players must accept a movement penalty, but, if nothing else, it is a great garrison unit.
Troll

Troll

  • Cost: 600 gold
  • Hit Points: 40
  • Attack: 10
  • Defense: 5
  • Damage: 5-7
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: 8
The Troll is easily the best ranged unit in Heroes of Might and Magic, as it is the only one above level four. Though it does less damage than the Druid, the Sorceress' level four, it has better attack and hit points with an extremely useful special ability. At the beginning of each combat turn, the top Troll on the stack is able to completely regenerate its own health.
Cyclops

Cyclops

  • Cost: 750 gold, 1 crystal
  • Hit Points: 80
  • Attack: 12
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 12-24
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
While certainly not the most fearsome level six creature in Heroes, the Cyclops is also more reasonably priced than others and enjoys better population growth as well. The gaze of a Cyclops can affect two hexes at once, and this attack has a twenty percent chance to paralyze its target. If the player is unwary, Cyclopes can also inadvertently cause friendly fire.

Knight

The defensive counterpart to the Barbarians, the Knight faction is focused on survivability over raw offensive power. This is reflected in their units, which often have higher defense than attack, as well as their heroes, who have a high probability of receiving additional defense with each new level. Knight heroes are also renowned for their leadership, bestowing a single-point morale bonus automatically, in addition to normal bonuses.

Peasant

Peasant

  • Cost: 20 gold
  • Hit Points: 1
  • Attack: 1
  • Defense: 1
  • Damage: 1
  • Speed: Slow
  • Shots: None
The Peasant is, simply put, the worst unit in Heroes, bar none. Every one of the unit's core stats (hit points, attack, defense, and damage) is at the lowest level possible, and to make matters worse, it is quite slow. The fact that it is also the cheapest and most numerous unit in the game might be seen as a plus, but most other units can make short work of them.
Archer

Archer

  • Cost: 150 gold
  • Hit Points: 10
  • Attack: 5
  • Defense: 3
  • Damage: 2-3
  • Speed: Slow
  • Shots: 12
The Archer is the only ranged unit available to the Knight faction, and is roughly on par with Heroes' other level two ranged unit, the Orc. Despite the lack of other options to choose from, Archers are oftentimes benched due to their speed. With most other Knight units being of Medium speed or higher, taking the Archer usually means accepting a speed penalty.
Pikeman

Pikeman

  • Cost: 200 gold
  • Hit Points: 15
  • Attack: 5
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 3-4
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
A fairly plain unit when compared to other level threes, the Pikeman's only truly spectacular feature is its defense rating, which is on par with that of most level fives. This means that they can theoretically stand up to more punishment than other units, however their hit point totals are somewhat on the low side, and their overall attack potential is nothing special.
Swordsman

Swordsman

  • Cost: 250 gold
  • Hit Points: 25
  • Attack: 7
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 4-6
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
The Swordsman is essentially a moderately upgraded Pikeman, with exactly the same speed and defense, but better attack values and hit points. Like the Pikeman, the Swordsman is somewhat behind the curve when compared to other units within its class, however it is also the game's cheapest level four, making it easier to amass than its contemporaries.
Cavalry

Cavalry

  • Cost: 300 gold
  • Hit Points: 30
  • Attack: 10
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 5-10
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
The Cavalry continues the Knight faction's trend of underperforming in terms of overall unit strength, however the price differential between the Cavalry and other level fives is quite dramatic, costing 200 less than the Unicorn, 300 less than the Troll, and 500 less than the Hydra. Though they may not stack up in one-on-one fights, they are an excellent value.
Paladin

Paladin

  • Cost: 600 gold
  • Hit Points: 50
  • Attack: 11
  • Defense: 12
  • Damage: 10-20
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
While the Paladin is statistically the worst level six creature in the game, its price is about on par with most level five units, and it is the only top-tier creature that can be purchased with only gold. It has the special ability to attack twice in one turn, which goes a long way toward evening out the playing field, and it enjoys better-than-average population growth.

Sorceress

The Sorceress faction focuses more on spellcasting than combat prowess, with their heroes receiving spell books by default and having a tendency to gain knowledge bonuses when leveling. They are also masters of the sea, being able to move at twice normal speed when travelling over water. The Sorceress' unit composition is perhaps more balanced than other factions', with two ranged, two flying, and two ground melee troops.

Sprite

Sprite

  • Cost: 50 gold
  • Hit Points: 2
  • Attack: 4
  • Defense: 2
  • Damage: 1-2
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
As the only level one flying unit in Heroes, Sprites enjoy extremely high mobility for their level. This is further complimented by their special ability, which prevents enemy units from retaliating against them. Their hit points are somewhat on the low side even when taking their level into consideration, so enemies that can land a hit on them will often kill quite a few.
Dwarf

Dwarf

  • Cost: 200 gold
  • Hit Points: 20
  • Attack: 6
  • Defense: 5
  • Damage: 2-4
  • Speed: Slow
  • Shots: None
The Dwarves are strong second-level units with high hit points and damage potential along with reasonable defensive strength. They also have a one in four chance to ignore spell effects entirely, making them quite useful against spellcasting heroes. Unfortunately, they are also the only Sorceress unit with Slow speed, making them a tough sell for heroes.
Elf

Elf

  • Cost: 250 gold
  • Hit Points: 15
  • Attack: 4
  • Defense: 3
  • Damage: 2-3
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: 24
Statistically, the Elf might not seem much better than the level two ranged units of the Barbarian and Knight factions, however its special ability, which allows it to fire twice on each target, makes it clearly superior. Its defense is fairly lackluster, and furthermore it cannot attack twice from close quarters, thus properly defending Elves is crucial to their success.
Druid

Druid

  • Cost: 350 gold
  • Hit Points: 25
  • Attack: 7
  • Defense: 5
  • Damage: 5-8
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: 8
Behind the Barbarian's Troll, the Druid is the best ranged unit in Heroes. Their raw damage is in fact higher than the Troll's, but their attack rating and hit points are significantly lower, not to mention their lack of any regenerative abilities. They do have better speed than their Barbarian counterpart, though, so Druids will be able to attack first more often than Trolls.
Unicorn

Unicorn

  • Cost: 500 gold
  • Hit Points: 40
  • Attack: 10
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 7-14
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
The stately Unicorn is the best level five unit in terms of damage, and its other stats are respectable as well. While the Unicorn does well defending the Sorceress' more vulnerable ranged units, it is also an excellent attacking unit. This is in no small part due to its special ability, which gives it a twenty percent chance to blind its target upon successful hit.
Phoenix

Phoenix

  • Cost: 1,500 gold, 1 mercury
  • Hit Points: 100
  • Attack: 12
  • Defense: 10
  • Damage: 20-40
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
The Phoenix is the second most potent level six creatures in Heroes, being roughly half as strong as the Warlock's Dragon, though also half the price in gold. It easily outclasses the top-level units of the Barbarian and Knight factions, though their production per week is lower as a result. In addition to speed and flying ability, they can attack two hexes at once.

Warlock

Like the Sorceress faction, the Warlock emphasizes magic over might, as their heroes start with spell books and have a high propensity toward boosting their spell power stat when leveling up. All Warlock heroes have an innate sight bonus as well, allowing them to see further than other heroes, which can be useful early on. Warlock creatures are among the strongest in the entire game, though with a hefty price tag to compensate.

Centaur

Centaur

  • Cost: 60 gold
  • Hit Points: 5
  • Attack: 3
  • Defense: 1
  • Damage: 1-2
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: 8
The only level one creature with a ranged attack, Centaurs are uniquely capable of overcoming the poor survivability inherent to low-level units, as they have no need to get close to their opponents. Not surprisingly, this makes them the best level one unit overall, as they can freely fire upon a variety of foes without having to worry about catastrophic retaliation.
Gargoyle

Gargoyle

  • Cost: 200 gold
  • Hit Points: 15
  • Attack: 4
  • Defense: 7
  • Damage: 2-3
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
Gargoyles are superior harassment units, having both Fast speed and the ability to fly. This makes them one of the best units when blocking ranged attackers, as they can quickly cross the map to prevent shooters from taking advantage of their range. Gargoyles also happen to be surprisingly durably for their level, though their offense is not nearly as high.
Griffin

Griffin

  • Cost: 300 gold
  • Hit Points: 25
  • Attack: 6
  • Defense: 6
  • Damage: 3-5
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
Amongst level three creatures, Griffins are hard to beat, as they enjoy solid stats all around, good speed, and the ability to fly. They are tenacious fighters, with the unique special ability to retaliate not once per turn, but against all melee attackers. Flying a pack of Griffins into the enemy's army poses a significant problem, since any who attack take damage.
Minotaur

Minotaur

  • Cost: 400 gold
  • Hit Points: 35
  • Attack: 9
  • Defense: 8
  • Damage: 5-10
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
Much like Griffins, Minotaurs are solid units overall, with good stats and no glaring deficiencies. They are sturdy enough to lead an assault without fear of heavy casualties, and strong enough to cause serious damage with each hit. They are even capable of going toe-to-toe with some level five creatures, though this is best done when they have strength of numbers.
Hydra

Hydra

  • Cost: 800 gold
  • Hit Points: 75
  • Attack: 8
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 6-12
  • Speed: Slow
  • Shots: None
The Warlock faction's pronounced unit price becomes impossible to ignore with the Hydra, which costs more gold than the top-level units available to the Barbarians and Knights. Those willing to pay the price will be rewarded with a potent, albeit slow, level five. The main attraction of the Hydra is its ability to use its multiple heads to attack all adjacent hexes.
Dragon

Dragon

  • Cost: 3,000 gold, 1 sulfur
  • Hit Points: 200
  • Attack: 12
  • Defense: 12
  • Damage: 25-50
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
The most powerful unit in all of Heroes, and accordingly the most expensive, Dragons have twice the hit points of their closest competitor, the Phoenix, along with higher damage and defense. They have total spell immunity, flight, and an attack that affects two hexes, and while purchasing even a single Dragon is a significant investment, it is usually worthwhile.

Neutral

Neutral units are simply any unit type that cannot be produced by one of the four main factions of Heroes. With one exception, these units can still be recruited by the player, however this requires visiting a specific domicile within the overworld map. Recruiting neutral units and, more importantly, denying other players the option to do the same, can be an extremely advantageous move, especially in an otherwise even scenario.

Rogue

Rogue

  • Cost: 50 gold
  • Hit Points: 4
  • Attack: 6
  • Defense: 1
  • Damage: 1-2
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
The Rogue is, in price and statistics, a level one equivalent. Taken as such, the Rogue's most notable features at a glance are its extremely high attack rating and speed. In addition, the Rogue has the special ability to prevent enemy retaliation. Because of its extremely low defense, it is a unit that must attack first and avoid being counterattacked at all costs.
Nomad

Nomad

  • Cost: 200 gold
  • Hit Points: 20
  • Attack: 7
  • Defense: 6
  • Damage: 2-5
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
The Nomad is roughly akin to third-level faction units, with a fair amount of hit points, decent defense, and good attack strength. Perhaps the Nomad's biggest advantage is speed, which allows it to get first strike in many situations. While it has no special abilities, it is a well-rounded unit, and one that is hard to criticize too harshly for only two hundred gold.
Ghost

Ghost

  • Cost: N/A
  • Hit Points: 20
  • Attack: 8
  • Defense: 7
  • Damage: 4-6
  • Speed: Medium
  • Shots: None
The only unrecruitable unit in Heroes of Might and Magic, the Ghost is comparable to level four faction units, if somewhat weaker. The Ghost's standout ability is its special, which causes any unit killed by a Ghost to become a Ghost itself. This allows a stack of Ghosts to bolster their own numbers on the fly, becoming stronger as they kill weaker opponents.
Genie

Genie

  • Cost: 650 gold, 1 gem
  • Hit Points: 50
  • Attack: 10
  • Defense: 9
  • Damage: 20-30
  • Speed: Fast
  • Shots: None
Statistically, Genies are similar in strength to the sixth-level units of the Barbarian and Knight factions. They have very strong attack, defense, and damage for the price, though their hit points are somewhat low. Genies are intimidating mostly due to their special, which gives them a ten percent chance to cut the size of a unit stack in half regardless of strength.

Reception

Heroes of Might and Magic was a well-received title by critics, laying the groundwork for future games in the Heroes franchise. Special accolades for the game included an Editors' Choice award from PC Gamer, a Golden Triad from Computer Game Review, Turn-Based Strategy Game of the Year from Strategy Plus, and Strategy Game of the Year from Computer Gaming World.

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