Every book has an introduction and every story a beginning. The legendary Heroes of Might and Magic series traces its origin back to 1986 when a previously unknown company New World Computing developed its Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum. The game offered what seemed like unlimited opportunities by the standards of that time: as many as six hero classes, five races and three alignments. The economic model included multiple resources like gems, gold and food. All of this laid the foundation for the subsequent games Jon Van Caneghem contributed to. The first game wasn’t a Heroes adventure, though.
Caneghem’s King’s Bounty, released in 1990, became the very first turn-based strategy. It told the story of King Maximus on his quest for a legendary artifact. The problem was that the location of the artifact was marked on an ancient map, parts of which were in the possession of evil guys. The game offered two play modes: a strategic map for travelling and a tactical map for resolving conflicts in a battle.
The two mentioned projects were finally merged into a single whole in 1995 in the turn-based strategy Heroes of Might and Magic: A Strategic Quest. Its plot links the various parts of the original Might and Magic series into a single story about the aristocratic family of Ironfist who was to found the new kingdom of Enroth. The Heroes was only meant to be a complementary game for the main series but gamers demanded a sequel. The release of HoMM II: The Succession Wars marked the origin of a new series.
The peak of its popularity fell on the third part called Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia. Released 12 years ago, the game still makes an entertaining pastime for loyal fans of the series. Its beautiful visuals, engaging plot, optimized balance and excellent multiplayer mechanics remain unsurpassed even now. Intended as the next hit, Heroes of Might and Magic IV was too buggy, lacked balance and had too high system requirements for the general public to appreciate its plot and 3D visuals. That was a failure. The rights to the series were sold to the publisher Ubisoft a few years later.
One of the world’s major publishers and developers of video games contracted Nival Interactive to create a completely new project. HoMM V ushered in a new game universe and received a rather ambiguous welcome. On one hand, its music and 3D visuals were splendid and contributed to a picturesque fantasy world but the multiplayer, enemy AI and simplified battle mechanics were far from perfect. Some of the shortcomings were eliminated with two add-ons, yet it is the next title in the series that is expected to contend for the title of the best turn-based strategy ever.