Palm Heroes in Review – Heroes of Might & Magic in the palm of your hand

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I remember the good old days in university… ah my Alma-mater! The insightful lectures, the engaging seminars… Yeah, right. More like the long boring sermonic chit chats from old fogies. And after classes we must have spent hours in the dorm huddled around an old PC playing Heroes of Might & Magic 3. It was and still is one the best games of all time and is the unrivaled party game up there with the great Worms series.

You can only imagine my excitement when I learned that the developers of Heroes for the PocketPC platform have concentrated their efforts on the iPhone version! I’ve been following development since the first beta sparks and bought Heroes soon as it came out (which would really tell you something if you knew my habits). I’m happy to say, I haven’t been disappointed one bit!

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For those of you familiar with Heroes of Might & Magic 3 – you can stop reading this and go buy the game already because the game is close enough to the original title. For everybody else – read on as I tell why this is a game you can’t miss.

As you charge into the main menu, the game’s quality should already be hitting you over the head. For some general control tips, definitely check out the invaluable help section as this game has one the most thorough use of the iDevice’s multi-touch capabilities I’ve seen in any gamy or app – up to three finger swipes! Also, regardless of whether you’re new to the series or a veteran of many HoMM battles, you should start with the tutorial map.

At first, you might be somewhat confused by the interface, but it will soon pass as you grow accustomed to it. I should pause here and say that the game generally has 3 main aspects – the strategic aspect of building your towns, acquiring resources and managing your armies; the tactical aspect inherent in battles; and the RPG aspect which is evidenced in the training and equipping you heroes to become ultimate fighting machines – all are integrated seamlessly. Here are a few statistics which can give an overview of the scale of the game: 6 distinct races, 48 heroes with 4 attributes and 22 secondary skills; 7 resource types; 45 creature types, each one with their own abilities; and finally 4 schools of magic with over 40 spells and over 100 artifacts. If this sounds overwhelming, it is at first. But as you grow familiar with the game mechanics, I guarantee that this game will earn a permanent spot on your iPhone.

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Okay, so the most important part of the game is the heroes. They are the only ones who can freely roam the landscape and get into fights. The more powerful your heroes become, the more they define the outcome of the battles. They have 4 attributes (attack, defense, spell power and knowledge) and each one of them has a significant influence the game. Attack and defense are added to the an army’s attack and defense, while spell power and knowledge vary the spell damage and how many you can cast. Sometimes just a single well-placed spell can change the outcome of a battle. Heroes can also choose up to 6 of the 22 secondary skills as they level up. They range from Logistics which give you more move points on the general map up to archery, which gives bonuses to any units in the hero’s army with ranged attacks. Another thing you can use to spice up your hero’s performance is artifacts which add a variety of bonuses to a hero; these range from attribute bonuses to special powers such as giving creatures immunity to certain spell levels or preventing the enemies from running away.

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Speaking of battles, they are fought on a tactical hexagonal map. The creatures move and attack in order according to their speed. Also, morale and luck can play a significant role in the outcome, as they influence the chance that a unit can move 2 times in a row and deal double damage, or freeze in terror. Many units also have their own special abilities, i.e. ghosts can make more ghost from the living enemies they slay, many units can attack several enemies standing close to each at the same time, Vampires regenerate, etc. It’s impossible to list everything in just a review article, but believe you me, a smart usage of some abilities can often win impossible battles.

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I’ll just add a few words regarding the “town” aspect of the game. Each race has their own town type, where you can build army housing, taverns, mage guilds, etc. You can’t build new towns, only captures existing ones. On the other hand, you have accessto your enemies’ races through captured towns, giving you access newer, more powerful flesh weapons. I would advise against mixing many different creature races in one army though, since it decreases morale.

A town’s tavern gives some statistics on the enemies and the ability to hire new heroes, and if you flee from battle, you can choose must choose a town with a tavern to run to. The mage guild are the main source of spells, and upgrading them is one of the top priorities. Army housing buildings give you the ability to hire units. The amount of creatures available for hire grows weekly (that a week of game time, not real time of course), so even you have that zillion gold, you probably won’t be able to hire a million dragons. Unless you’re playing a REALLY long game. Also some armies require resources as well as gold to be hired. The marketplace allows you to exchange various types of resources dependent upon a rate which is commanded by the number of marketplaces you control. I should note that for HoMM fans, a small, yet strategically advantageous feature has been added: wood mills and ore mines can be built inside of towns!

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No review would be complete without mentioning Heroes’ grand exploration opportunities. There are around 70 external dwelling types which give bonuses, resources, house treasure, raise your hero’s stats, and much, much more. You can even go treasure hunting by scouting out obelisks which are scattered all over the map. Find the treasure and receive near god-like powers!

Unfortunately, I have to say that there are things the developers could greatly improve on in their next versions. One of them are controls, while very user friendly, are often not responsive enough, the greatest faux pas is that the all-important finger is prone to block the cursor (this ain’t no stylus game!). Also, a zoom function would nice, because it’s often difficult to hit that one place you’re trying to hit, and efficient usage of the hero and town screens needs either more screen real estate, or ZOOM. A serious downside for some could be the absence of any campaign mode, and while there are over 100 maps in the game, a first-time player can easily get lost and even miss the tutorial. Another suggestion is that Heroes would be better with a tip of the day – something to ease players into this complicated game world.

To sum it all up, the game is awesome. It is the famous Heroes of Might & Magic in the palm of your hand (hence the name). While for the occasional gamer, it may be a bit difficult to master, anyone who invests the time to understand its mechanics will be rewarded by literally hundreds of hours of gameplay. Of course there are issues and many things the developers can still build into Heroes, but they are no matter – as you immerse in the Heroes experience you will realise that at $1.99, Palm Heroes is the best quality to price ratio I’ve ever seen (up there with the great AK-47).

Editor’s Note: The developers of Palm Heroes has sent us word that they have almost finished an update with all new and improved controls. We’re told that you will only need one finger most of the time to scroll the map and choose where to move.

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App Summary
Title:Palm Heroes (v1.0)Developer:Palm Heroes Team
Price:$9.99App Size:7.4 MB
  • A unique merge of TBS and RPG
  • 100+ hours of gameplay
  • AI is reasonably challenging
  • The graphics are authentic
  • The game autosaves at the end of each turn
  • No campaign mode
  • The tutorial map is hard to notice
  • No help section
  • Sometimes unresponsive interface
  • The screens should be optimized to fit the iPhone screen better

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In the world of strategy gaming, there are only a few games worth noting outside of Palm Heroes (Who wrote this?). They are:
Worms in ReviewReign of Swords Episode IIRailRoad Madness in ReviewQuantum Collapse in Review

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