Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spoils of War: a fantasy TBS Games Retrospective

Back in the fall of 1995, a game caught my eye at my local PC store and after being seduced by the (very colourful) back of the box, I had to have it. That game was Heroes of Might and Magic, a game that consumed countless hours of my early twenties, a time when I should have been out either getting laid or getting a career. Instead I was gleefully stomping around the world of Enroth with Kastore and Yog and all the other Heroes, pretending to be bad-ass. Nerd Power!

Around the same time I also discovered Warlords II Deluxe, a game with similar gameplay and setting but very different execution than Heroes. The game maps in Warlords weren't as busy as those in Heroes but there were more cities and more armies and there were ruins. Oh how I loved sending my hero into ruins and hoping madly that he wouldn't die at the hands of some Troll, Spectre or worst of all, Dragon.

Between the Heroes and Warlords series those years were a full, rich oyster of fantasy gaming goodness. Oddly though, both game series had a surprising flaw. The combat was terrible. Searching ruins, collecting loot, and crushing enemies was great, but the actual moments of combat were tremedously boring. Often it seemed to devolve more into a game of luck than real strategy.

Then 1999 happened, and the game Disciples: Sacred Lands came along and resurrected the fun. The combat in Disciples was (and still is) the best comabt in a turn-based strategy game, ever. Instead of the uncontrollable randomness of Warlords or the tedious epic battles of Heroes, Disciples pitted a small squads of single units against each other in a brilliant chess-like mini-game where every choice could lead to death or victory.

I remember wishing that someone would combine my favorite elements of these three game series together. The very idea gives me chills. Imgagine a game with the colourful, loot-filled, map-stomping heroes of Heroes of Might and Magic. Now add the fast production, ruins, allies and cowboy diplomacy of Warlords. Stir in a generous helping of the combat from Disciples and bake until perfect.

I might never leave my house again.

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