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Heroes of Might and Magic V, a DVD-ROM in English by Nival Interactive for Ubisoft, distributed with a 45-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a 1.5 ghz PC or better, for ages 12 through adult, NIS 219. - Rating: ***
If you don't like taking turns when fighting monsters, this turn-based strategy game is not for you. If you don't mind fighting in rotation against the computer and you like this sort of thing, it may attract you, but it is difficult to think of many Israeli 12-year-olds who want to hear people speaking fancy English in British accents while knocking off zombies, demons and dozens of other types of creatures.
Turn-based computer games are quite old fashioned, as gamers prefer to shoot and fight with all they've got offensively and defensively rather than wait - like a chessplayer - until the enemy has had its chance. Thus it is quite surprising that the developers of this fifth version of Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) - and I admit this is the first that has reached me - would choose this format.
The game begins with a scene of King Nicolai about to marry Isabel, a gentle-looking but tough woman. Suddenly, when the ceremony is about to begin, a fire-breathing monster enters the hall and tries to kill Nicolai, who polishes the creature off with his sword but is then attacked by others. Isabel is taken from the palace by royal guards who worry about her safety, but she puts on a suit of armor and mounts a horse to fight the enemy, even though she must wait to be reunited with Nicolai.
You are forced to go through a rather long tutorial, even if you already know how to play the game; assembling 100 peasants and 25 footmen, for example, can be annoying for those who want to proceed to the action. The game, which can be played at normal, hard and "heroic" levels of difficulty, abounds with heroes who lead their troops over maps and collect various wearable items (such as various types of shields) for bolstering their power. But the large number of heroes leads to decentralization, as separate armies cannot be easily mobilized together to fight effectively. Don't create too many heroes, even though making spells is among their skills, because each one has a limited number of movement points per turn and thus some of them won't survive into the next mission.
The gameplay combines exploration, city building and tactical combat. In the single-player mode, you begin with a Sylvan city and a hero, and you can gauge your progress by monitoring your "building tree," which develops new branches as you construct new buildings and renovate old ones. Your natural resources are wood, iron, gemstones and mercury, but your currency is gold, which you use to pay your way and develop your town. You must construct basic buildings before you can graduate to more elaborate ones, but there is a three-dimensional, green-lined overlay chart that illustrates the hierarchy for unlocking the various types of buildings. Heroes are able to expand their powers, which they can learn, Harry Potter-like, in the school of magic, and improve their combat capabilities and diplomatic skills.
The video clips are eyecatching but the regular 3-D graphics, while full of fantasy imagery, are not outstanding; it is particularly annoying to hear characters speak - their dialogue printed out at the bottom of the screen - without them moving their lips. But the interface, with a series of icons representing characters on the bottom of the screen, is helpful, and the music regularly changes its mood from serene to terror-stricken. Camera angles are not fixed, and you can zoom right in from a bird's-eye view. As the game is meant for children as young as 12, the scenes are not ghoulish, and when a monster is hit in the head with a sword, a spray of red stuff disappears immediately.
All in all, while you can spend a few dozen hours on the game, it is not very difficult, and building and slaying will become tiresome for all but the most devoted HOMM fans.
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