Dark Ways and Deeds | Tearing the Veil | Summoning the Dragons | A Flamboyant Exit
I wish to thank maltz for his outstanding work during the past year and a half. Not only did he write all the articles for the two expansions, he posted walkthroughs for the original game and updated all walkthroughs based on the patches as needed. He joins The Quebec Dragon and Harukaba as one of the most influent walkthrough specialist of the Heroes community.
Flying to the Rescue
M1: Dark Ways and Deeds
- Map Size: Normal
- Level Cap: none
- Difficulty Index: 4/5
- Last Updated: November 14, 2007, Patch v3.0
The first thing you'll notice about the third campaign of the TotE trilogy (out of the HoMMV trilogy) is there are only four missions. (Yeah, just when you think you've got a bonus from Prologue.) As you can expect, things are a little more compact here. This mission one actually works like a mission two in terms of your main hero's level. You are introduced a familiar name with a new portrait and voice - Zehir. Finally you get to play real Academy in the campaigns!
As of patch v3.0, the Academy ultimate "Arcane Omniscience" (cast every spell on the expert level) now requires fewer skill points. Its requirement, though, is quite far away from a fail-proof magic hero before you get it at around level 24 or higher. Since now there are Memory Mentors like McDonald's in each map, I suggest you spend the skill points in actually helpful places during early levels, and decide whether to shuffle for the ultimate when you can do it all at once.
Pick the Phantom Force magic as the bonus, just in case you won't get it from the mage guilds. You start on an island at the SW corner, with a tiny army and, wow, level 25. Looks like the game is no longer about career planning? Also, no matter how many times you restart the mission, you are getting the same skills including the out-of-place Luck. However, Zehir's stats do vary. You already have more knowledge points than you need, so the higher the Attack and Spell Power, the more powerful your Zehir. Yet all of this is soon going to change, so don't go crazy on restarting mission yet.
Don't bother attacking the shooter stack beside you for now, and go south a bit to flag the Sawmill. The lv-2 spell shrine teaches you Arcane Crystal, an interesting new spell. You can use it in a few ways:(a) Prevent any shooting stack from shooting (because the Arcane Crystal is considered hostile).
(b) Stop the advance of enemy units if positioned in a bottleneck tile.
(c) Damage nearby stacks when you attack and break the crystal. I have never seen AI attack the Arcane Crystal, and you can attack it with your hero to avoid damaging your own units.
Sounds pretty good, but later on you will instead cast the level-4 new Summoning spell "Blade Barrier" when you need corner-camping protection.
Talk to the Djinn beside the spell shrine (1) and boom - Zehir summons his own Castle on the Cloud! But nothing is free. It costs Zehir a lot of EXP points - hm... I lost count of the zeros! You are back to level 8!
Now your luck really comes into play. The game is going to randomly substract 17 (= 25-8) skills from Zehir. If you are lucky, you will completely lose the useless Luck but keep Expert Summoning. If the opposite is true... please restart the mission on heroic.
Approach your town (A), and a wizard hero brings you another news (followed by a scream). At the beginning of each week, you have an option of trading resource and EXP points for troops. You won't lose that much EXP anymore, and the resource requirement is quite reasonable. In this mission the trade is flat rate of 1500 EXP + 5 Sulfur for 30 Magnetic Golems (on heroic. On lower difficulties you get more units for the same price.). In future missions you'll get other deals.
The trading option will be automatically available on Day 1 Week 2. Even if you click Cancel at the beginning of the week, you can always go to the spell book and cast "Call to Arms" to complete the trade. Magnetic Golems are very useful in this mission because they actually absorb magical damages, not just immune from it. They also reduce the magical damage suffered from nearby creatures. Since you fight nothing but Warlocks in this mission, you should definitely carry a good stack of Magnetic Golems. Try to buy them every week until you are powerful enough to dominate the opponent without it (so you can keep the EXP points).
Hire a new hero from town (A) and pass the units to Zehir, and proceed to flag everything on the island. From the high-level Academy building (offers tier 4 and 6) spend your money to buy the Mages - you definitely need more shooters early on.
Zehir's special ability is to replace a dead stack with elementals until the end of combat; therefore you should use 1-unit sacrifice stacks routinely. Make sure to pick up the Lion's Crown (L) - it is here for a good reason. Down the hill lies a Hill Fort. Note that upgrades for low-tier units are cheaper at a Hill Fort, but starting at Tier 4 you are paying more than you would in the town. Since caravan does not ship units already hired, later on I think you should just build all the upgrade structures in town anyways instead of using the Hill Fort.
When you have run out of things to do on the surface, go underground through the stairs at (I). You will be met by the previous campaign-3 main hero in Hammers of Fate - Ylaya. Ylaya is not here to help you blast through the dungeon, though. In fact she just clarifies your mission - to eliminate the SoulScar clan (as always), the Purple player. Three Dungeon towns (B), (C) and (D) are awaiting your conquest through a very linear dungeon, and you will build up your town and slowly gain ground on the Warlocks. The mission is not very easy, though, because the AIs are always coming at you and their spells hit very hard (even Titans die fast!). By the way, you automatically fail the objective of gaining information on Isabel, so don't worry about it.
First, turn west a bit to pick up a useful artifact of the rough terrain, the Boots of Swift Journey at (2). You can also flag a Gold Mine there. I suggest you simply sweep clean everything along the main path and temporarily ignore the branches. There are hardly any serious shooter/caster stacks, so you won't lose a lot of army along the way.
At (3) you are greeted by a group of Assassins, who made an escort offer. As Zehir suggests these assassins should become your canon fodders. In fact, you receive a secondary objective of getting rid of the Assassins. In order to earn a quest check mark, you have to completely lose them ALL before hitting the garrison at (4). You can't just disband the group - you have to get them killed on the battlefield! It is harder than you think even on heroic. You don't get any reward by completing the side quest, though. If you have any leftover Assassin when touching the garrison, the Assassin will turn against you. If you attempt to disband or transfer the stack to another hero, they will also turn against you. If the Assassins do not die from natural causes, you fail the objective but nothing happens.
By the way, the garrison at (4) is very small. It is also unlikely that you are going to see any powerful AI army before taking town (B).
There are a couple of carry-over artifacts that you should consider picking up:Runic Set: R1 (axe), R2 (armor).
Sar-Issus Set: S1 (the great 1/2 mana cost ring), S2 (robe)
Dragon Set: D1 (flame tongue), D2 (mantle)
Dwarven King Set: K (greaves)
It is likely that the AI will pick up the artifacts in their territory before you do - but they will always leave the artifacts behind when they flee.
After taking town (B) you are 2 vs. 2 against Purple. However, the Purple heroes will soon run out of things to do, and will now throw themselves at you one after one. Their army usually consists of two weeks of full town production (4 dragons, etc.), and the AI Warlocks often cast Destructive spells that kills a lot of your army even if you protect them with Magnetic Golems and the magic damage reduction artifact you forged back in Town (A).
The battles are all very tough, and it is very likely that your Academy units aren't enough for the Warlocks to kill. Therefore, at some point you have to rely on Dungeon troops to stay alive (hence you are given the Lion's Crown to keep their morale at -1 or above). You can either build up town (B), or directly rush towards town (C) with a backup hero carrying the new creatures from town (B). I went for the latter option because I simply didn't have the resource to build up town (B). This way the mission also becomes easier, because soon you can out-grow Purple.
If you absolutely have to go back to town (A), use the one-way portal at (b) that takes you to exactly where you started the mission ((b'), on the surface). You can quickly return to town (A), but there is no easy way back. The portal (b) is guarded by a large number of Water Elementals. Normally this would be a no-no, but you now have Magnetic Golems, the predator of pure casters. Try it yourself and laugh!
There is also a side quest available at (5). A tan (brown) Dwarf hero asks you to find a Hammer artifact, which is shown to you at (6). You can quickly access this area directly through the two-way portal at (c), but the portal is guarded by really powerful creatures, very likely the largest army of the mission. Even if you can defeat the stack, I suggest you not to do it because the AI heroes will gladly use the portal to invade your towns when Zehir wanders away. Let's just leave the quest for now. By the way, when I gave the Hammer to the dwarf, I got a Dragon Teeth Necklace artifact as the reward.
p.s. There have been bug report of this sidequest that the Dwarf hero is not responsive to the hammer you present. Try to give it back with another hero. In my game I defeated the neutral stack guarding the hammer with Zehir, transferred the hammer to a secondary hero, greeted the Dwarf with the secondary hero the first time and got the necklace back at the same time.
The Summon Phoenix spell will largely increase your chance against the Warlock army. You can try your luck from the mage guilds by building it up to level 5, or simply break in the Mage Vault at (7). Against a powerful AI army I always open the battle with Summon Phoenix, followed by Summon Elemental and a Phantom Force on the Elementals.
After taking town (C), stay around until you can hire yet another week of creatures, and push forward. Depending on your skill choice, this might be a good time to return to your Academy town (A) through the portals (c) and (b) to pick up a few high-level spells. In my game, I gave Zehir Expert Light and Dark Magics so he can reach "artificial omniscience" before he has enough skill points to go for the real ultimate. I picked up Word of Light, Divine Vengeance, Frenzy and Puppet Master back in town (A). They made my mission 2 a lot easier.
Note that as soon as you make the two-way portal of (c) available, the AI heroes will start pouring through and threaten your town (B). But now you should have a much stronger army to hunt them down, so you only need some patience. Other than the Magnetic Golems your upgrade choice does not matter very much, since you are just fighting with the Phoenix and the Elementals. Things will become trickier when the opposing hero has the Elemental Balance skill - but I have never seen any hero with it in the entire campaign! Your Phoenix will become the power house for a long time.
You won't win the mission unless the message "the Purple Player is defeated" pops up. Even if you own all three Purple towns, you still have to hunt down the last Purple hero. It will be easier to use a secondary hero to carry the Dungeon creatures, and tag out the little Purple runners between the second and third base!