Looking backward: First impressions on HoMM4

The old Heroes games developed by New World Computing. Please specify which game you are referring to in your post.

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Looking backward: First impressions on HoMM4

Postby Qurqirish Dragon » Apr 27 2007, 16:10

As many of the CH regulars know, I have complained a lot about not being able to play H4. Well, I finally got a copy, and thought it would be of interest to say what my impressions are of the game *AFTER* having played H5.

Before I get to the meat of this post (and I will probably post followups as I progress through the campaigns), let me give everyone my Heroes background.

My first Heroes game was HoMM2, when it was first released. The copy I got came with a DOS edition of HoMM1 as well, so I was able to play that as well. After a while, (I do not recall if it was before or after PoL came out), I stumbled upon a map review on the usenet newsgroups by someone with the handle of Quebec Dragon- many of you are quite familiar with him, and he has recently started posting strategies for the H5 campaigns). This introduced me to the Astral Wizard website, where I became one of the most prolific map reviewers.
Time passed and I played hundreds of maps for H2, and later H3 and the expansions, enjoying everything along the way. My interest expanded into helping out the WoG team, giving suggestions, doing some number crunching, and developing a few scripts. Although I haven't done anything for the teram recently, I still keep track of all the goings on.

However, I was not rich, and so when Heroes 4 came out, by computer was not strong enough to run it (I had a P-200MHz, H4 wanted a P3-300MHz). I saw various comments about it, but did not pay overmuch attention. I planned on joining the fray once I coupld afford an upgrade. Well, by the time my finances allowed me to get a new computer (a P4-3GHz, which I am currently using), 3D0 went bankrupt, and the game was nowhere to be found.
Ubi came around, releasing heroes 4 in several forms, but never in the US. As a result, the next Heroes game I got to play was H5. As a result, my opinions on H5 were purely from the evolutionary standpoint from H3, as opposed to the "retro" standpoint of the players of H4. This generally improved H5 in my opinion, as many things others claimed were missing in it were from H4. Since I never played it, I couldn't miss it.

Now, I finally got a copy of H4 complete, and so I finally get to play the missing game in my set. This gives me, IMO, a fairly unique opportunity to evaluate H4 as a NEW game, after H5. The game comes fully patched up to version 3, so I won't have my opinion jaded by problems that may have been fixed early on. I will not be installing Equillibrus until after I have played through most of the basic stuff, so the game will remain "pure" through my inaugural period with it. (I do plan on getting Equilibrus eventually, however).
So, without further introduction, I give you (In the next post) my initial impressions, based of my first session, playing just the tutorial map.

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Postby ThunderTitan » Apr 27 2007, 16:27

Quick, someone silence him before he ruins everything with his objective opinion...
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Postby Robenhagen » Apr 27 2007, 16:34

Not a chance - I think it'll be most interesting to hear this.

btw, I had that very same H2 + H1 DOS combo - my very first pc game actually.
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Introductions and the tutorial

Postby Qurqirish Dragon » Apr 27 2007, 17:07

Before playing the game, I printed out the PDF manuals provided for H4 and the expansions, as well as the creature build tree. This helped ease me in, as I wanted to get familiar with the changes a bit before playing. I don't know what I was expecting, but things seemed pretty straight forward.

I ran each game before installing the next, so I could see the opening movies for H4 and each expansion. The original game opening looked a lot better than the other two - both in style and in quality. Comsidering the problems with 3D0 at the time of WoW's release, I guess this isn't too surprising.

Anyway, onto the game itself. I start by running the tutorial, which I felt was a little lacking. Since I am a seasoned HoMM veteran, it wasn't too bad, but it was a bit disjointed. Using the in-manual description of the tutorial worked better than the in-game messages. The first thing noticed, of course, is the graphics. They are considerably different in style from all previous games (note: 'previous' includes H5, as for me H5 is an earlier game!), and I think I still need time to get used to them. I'm not certain how I like the isometric perspective either, but the objects are fairly large on the screen. I am playing at the middle resolution for now, as the text is too small at the highest resolution. My first action is to pick up the treasure chest - and it is worth 1500 xp - more than enough to gain a level (or so I think). No level comes. I check the hero and find he only gained 750 experience. It only takes amoment to realize that I have two heroes in the force, and so the experience was divided. Note to self: check starting forces more closely!
For now, I explore the countryside, splitting off a stack of golems and dwarves to help collect resources. This is a very nice feature. I can see myself in a normal game having a fast troop split off from my hero at the end of movement to grab resources, and rejoin the next day. I visit a few sites (including a learning stone, where each hero gets the full experience) and gain my first levels. I take a glance in the manual and find that level progression is similar to previous games. with 5 secondard skill groups, 4 skills per group, and 5 level per skill, it will take 100 levels to fully develop a hero (less a few for starting skills and free skills learned), so I will have to be a lot more careful in choosing skills- it is likely I won't be able to get everything I need or want.

Now, onto the town.
The town screen seems muted. I find it difficult to find individual buildings. Fortunately, there is a quick-menu at the bottom. Still, the atmosphere is a bit less than I would have liked. However, this is really no different from H5, so I can't fault it. I think mouse-over highlighting, as in H3, would have been nice, however.

Time to build.
I notice that the upper levels of the mage guild are very cheap compared to previous games. Only 1 gem needed for level 3?? Then I realize that I will need several levels before I can learn 3rd level order magic anyway!
The (in)famous caravan building is disabled for the map. Oh, well. I'll have to check it out in the campaign. I build creature dwellings to get different creatures than I started with. (I started with some titans, so I plan on getting the dragon golems instead), but for now I take mages at level 2, and buy out all the forces. I split off my second hero, the Lord, to gather back my wandering golems, and claim mines (as I found out that you cannot claim anything without a hero.

Now, off to battle! I head for the suggested fight, but won't get there until day 3. Day 2 I go to build and find there are creatures available for hiring! I then recall that creature production is not weekly, but continuous here. I hire what I can after the build, and send them to catch up to my hero, who has been claiming mines and creature dwellings, and so is close enough to join up wihout waiting. I then go to fight.

The comabat screen seems a bit close. Perhaps it is the perspective, but it seems the battlefield is about the size of the H2 or H5 battlefield, and definitely smaller than the H3 one. I turn on the movement grid, and find the checkerboarding too distracting, and so I shut it off again. Movement shadow, however, is very useful. After my first attck with the titans, I am reminded of the simultaneous retaliation (and ranged retaliation). I'm just glad I didn't have the halflings attack, or I might have lost one!. I proceed to use magic against the ranged enemies, and archers against the melee troops. The battle is trivial, but this is a tutorial map, after all!
It would be nice to have a battle-log to view. Perhaps I simply missed it, but the damage and losses are on the screen too briefly to easily keep track of what is going on! I also miss the mouse-over movement shadow for the enemy. Again, I'll have to take a closer look at the options, but for now I can only see it by r-clicking on an enemy, and then dismissing the pop-up. I do note that a melee attacker gets the "2 turns" or similar notation if an enemy is out of the movement range.

The rest of the map goes smoothly, and I complete it with little else to surprise me.

Overall, my first impressions are:
1) graphics are muted, and in some places this makes things a bit hard to discern.
2) Use of potions outside of battle took me a while to figure out. I tried, initially to drag a potion of immortality to the portrait of the hero (as I did in M&M 6/7/8), but found that they are in the spell book. I think this is a little clumsy, but now that I know about it, it shouldn't be too bad.
3) daily creature growth is going to force a change in style from what I am used to. I'll probably need to keep a few armies available to gather forces without running home. On the other hand, I don't need to hire new heroes just to ferry troops.
4) windmills and water-wheels are flaggable. This is both good and bad. The good: I don't need to send someone to visit them each week.
The bad: There is no practical difference between them and low-grade mines. Also, I do not see a way to check what was produced from the windmill. (water wheel is just gold, so doesn't need to be checked)

Towns and combat will need to wait until I have had more play time. The creature-exclusion should be interesting, and it seems that eventually a party of the 5 creatures produced and 2 heroes (one might and one magic) will be the way to go in situations with only one town.

I do not see the game at this point being either better or worse than the others, just different. The large number of differences will take a while to appreciate and only then will a true comparison be possible.

Tonight I plan on starting on the campaign. Expect comments sometime over the weekend.

--Please, if you wish to comment on my thoughts, do not argue with me. I am trying to give my honest impressions, and do not want to get expectations that are unwarranted. From comments when H5 came out, I already know what a lot of poeple believe are the good and bad points of H4 (both directly and in comparison), and I am really trying to not think about them while learning the game.

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Postby gaspi2 » Apr 27 2007, 20:36

Enjoy the game:) Good luck and Happy time kill:)

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Postby Metathron » Apr 27 2007, 21:18

I'm glad you're finally giving the game a chance, Q!

Enjoy the campaigns, they are pretty great, and come share your opinions afterwards. :-D
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Postby wimfrits » Apr 28 2007, 6:53

Interesting!
Looking forward to reading your next comments.
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Postby Sgt_BFG » Apr 28 2007, 10:15

Interesting thoughts, I hope you have fun playing H4! :)

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Postby Qurqirish Dragon » Apr 28 2007, 13:16

Metathron wrote:I'm glad you're finally giving the game a chance, Q!

Well, it wasn't just a matter of giving it a chance - I always wanted to (although I was nearing the "I give up" stage of getting it), but I, until recently, didn't even have a chance to GET the game.

Enjoy the campaigns, they are pretty great, and come share your opinions afterwards. :-D


That's my intention. I'm about 1/2 way through the first scenario of the first campaign, so I do not have enough to make a substantial post yet. Probably tomorrow sometime.

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Postby Meandor » Apr 29 2007, 9:12

First campaign? Lysander?
...

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Postby Siegfried » Apr 29 2007, 9:21

That's the only campaign i ever successfully made. It's the ideal beginners campaign. The only problem i ever had with this campaign was, that i never got the heroes to the maximum possible level.

The others are much tougher. At least for me as a casual player. I'm currently stuck in the second scenario of the barbarian campaign where a lvl 18 hero plus a lvl 10 hero plus 50 cyclops are facing an opponent with short over 50 behemots, 43 fairy dragons and enough other stuff. No chance. The hero is just killed right away with the first strike.

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Postby ThunderTitan » Apr 29 2007, 15:30

Siegfried wrote: I'm currently stuck in the second scenario of the barbarian campaign where a lvl 18 hero plus a lvl 10 hero plus 50 cyclops are facing an opponent with short over 50 behemots, 43 fairy dragons and enough other stuff. No chance. The hero is just killed right away with the first strike.


GM Combat + Potion of Immortality when ever it's your turn. Use MR against the Dragons.
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Re: Introductions and the tutorial

Postby HodgePodge » Apr 29 2007, 17:08

Qurqirish Dragon wrote:I do not see the game at this point being either better or worse than the others, just different. The large number of differences will take a while to appreciate and only then will a true comparison be possible.

I agree with you QD that Heroes 4 may not be better or worse than the others when it comes to gameplay but in my opinion, the one element which makes this game a real gem is the fantastic Map Editor that gives Mapmakers the potential to create the most fantastic maps and campaigns ever played in the Heroes Universe. There are so many wonderful fan-made maps that I have replayed many of my favorites without becoming tired of the game, even after all this time.

When I first started playing Heroes 4, it took me about a week of playing to get used to it and start loving the game. Since then, it has remained my favorite Heroes game. Most of the 'naysayers' are people who never gave the game a chance beyond the first week … they have missed out on the wonderful experience of playing all those delicious fan-maps and campaigns.

Equilibris has also added renewed interest and has balanced some aspects of the game; in addition to adding on new adventure map objects and artifacts. I hope you will continue to enjoy playing Heroes 4, get Equilibris, and see for yourself why the game still remains a favorite among us Heroes fans. :-D
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Postby Siegfried » Apr 29 2007, 19:45

ThunderTitan wrote:
Siegfried wrote: I'm currently stuck in the second scenario of the barbarian campaign where a lvl 18 hero plus a lvl 10 hero plus 50 cyclops are facing an opponent with short over 50 behemots, 43 fairy dragons and enough other stuff. No chance. The hero is just killed right away with the first strike.


GM Combat + Potion of Immortality when ever it's your turn. Use MR against the Dragons.

That works only for a few rounds. The dragons cast Confusion on the Cyclops, and the Behemots kill the hero. So he gets alive again, drinking another potion. Then the same again. Until there is no more potion. Exitus.

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Postby gravyluvr » Apr 29 2007, 20:35

Heroes on the attack... Creatures for defense and neutrals... Hit and Run!
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Postby ThunderTitan » Apr 29 2007, 21:40

Siegfried wrote:That works only for a few rounds. The dragons cast Confusion on the Cyclops, and the Behemots kill the hero. So he gets alive again, drinking another potion. Then the same again. Until there is no more potion. Exitus.


Buy enough potions so it changes to "until there are no more Behemoths"!

Or when you're at your last potion retreat to the nearest town, buy more potions, attack again. Rinse and repeat until they're dead.
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Lysander's first mission

Postby Qurqirish Dragon » Apr 29 2007, 22:24

So I have now finished the first map of Lysander's campaign. I'm still getting used to the large number of new site types - particularly the 'pseudo-mines' such as the imp pit or the apprentice's lab (which are basically the same as the classic leprechaun garden of 500 gold or 5 gems per week, only in other resources).
Caravans make their first appearance, and to a limited extent I find them useful, but since I can send the troops out without a hero to meet up with the main force on the go, I find them so far to be of limited use. I mainly used them to gather peasants from their dwellings to get the added income- although I stopped with that after a while anyway. I found that the daily production of creatures doesn't impact me too much once I am exploring far from home. Every week or two, I would buy the forces I wanted and send out the two week force to meet with whatever hero needs them. This force is strong enough to cause any creature stacks that spawned to shy away.
I am finding mage guilds, at least early on, to be of limied use, since so many skills are needed to learn extra levels of spells. On the bright side, however, there seem to be many more ways to gather skills than before. Of particular note is that you can turn down the option to learn a new primary skill. Of course, there is no reason to every turn down improving a skill or subskill, as unlike in H5, choosing a subskill does not limit what other subskills you can get. The jury is still out on which way is better for me. I think it will mostly depend on what sort of map I feel like playing.
I also had my first encounter with sea encounters in this map- with both mermaids and pirates. This definitely spices up the sea areas. It also gave me the first occurrance of an enemy offering to surrender to me. In no other heroes game has an enemy offered to pay me to escape (even in human vs. human, if a hero surrendered you are forced to accept the payment). Unfortunately for me, the first one I let go ended up making a quest almost impossible to complete, as the merfolk were a required kill, and they now moved half way accross the map! I won't be making that mistake again!
I also found that I really need to learn the strengths of the new creatures- and even some of the old ones were very surprising. a moderate stack of griffin caused a lot more casualties to my forces than their other-HoMM game couterparts would have against a similar stage army. The fact that they aren't a standard creature in any of the towns should have been a tip-off that they weren't necessarily the middle-level creatures I was used to. I think I'll take the battle-diving H5 griffins as an opponent over these beasts :D
Of course, just knowing the level of a creature didn't make things too easy either. A group of venom spawn made quick work of a secondary force. Fortunately, I had the foresight to save before that battle so I wasn't set back several weeks.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the multi-level quests in the map. Granted, most of the time I actually finished both parts before knowing the quest even existed, but that can happen in all the HoMM games (well, not 1 or 2, since they didn't have quests, but I think you know what I mean.)
At first, I didn't think I would be able to max out my hero levels - I was very surprised at having a level cap of 18 on the first mission for a campaign - but Lysander and one other hero both made it to level 18, and my other heroes didn't do too poorly, although one is only level 6.

On to interface issues. Believe it or not, I think I like the H5 spellbook better than this one. I think that the book is too cluttered- I think 4 spells per page, rather than the 6 per page that it has would be better. Either than or making the pages large in the higher resolutions (the book doesn't fill the screen when opened). Also, a tab to show just spells of a particular type would be nice. There is a tab for only artifact-spells (such as potions), but not the reverse. On the plus side, it is much easier to get full descriptions of the spells than in any other game in the series.
Another thing I miss is the "next hero" button. Even the keyboard shortcut doesn't work as in the other games. I want to be able to skip to the next hero that has movement points remaining, not just the next hero in the list.

I had my first seiges (as attacker) in this map. The battlefield is a little larger in seige battle, which was nice, but the lack of ability to break into the castle anyway other than by flying of the main gate really reduces the options in this type of battle. Particularly since I generally killed most of the enemy forces through the wall instead of what in other games would be the normal combat mode. I don't know if the towers for ranged troops are a benefit or a hinderance to the defender - more seige experience is needed before I can decide that.

Expanding on my first impressions:
1) As I get used to the game more, things are easier to spot, but the graphics are still a bit dull for my taste. I don't think more experience will change this aspect.
2) I still think it is a bit clumsy using potions outside of battle, and as I noted above, I would have liked a way to filter than out of the spellbook.
3) Also as noted above, the daily growth of creatures is NOT forcing a change in style, as sending out troops too quickly becomes more of a hassle than it is worth.
4) no change on flaggable sites.
5) My main force ended up exactly as I predicted - a might hero, a magic hero, and 5 troops (in this case squires, crossbowmen, ballistas, crusaders, and angels) My seconday forces gathered pikemen, monks, and champions from other towns. I didn't knwo what I would prefer at the time, so I built varied forces. I do think come things complement each-other. For example, I think that from level 2 and level 3, it is important to choose 1 melee troop and one ranged. From my experience, I think I like the pikeman/monk combo better than the ballista/crusader combo, since the pikemen can get the no-retaliation strike, and ballistas cannot be raised by the angels. A force without angels, however may do better the other way, since resurrection is as important. Speaking of which, having two heroes with the resurrection skill in one force doesn't help. I need to remember this as my forece develop further in map 2. I have three heroes with life magic. One has grandmaster resurrection, the others have advanced and expert levels. If I pair off my four heroes in map 2, I think the one without life magic will pair off with the expert, while the others will go together. (Although I need to check the levels first of the heroes. That may change things.)

Since I am still early on, I cannot comment about the AI quality yet, but considering I enountered huge AI armies only inside towns, it does appear to be a bit timid, as I have heard.

Current standing of heroes 4 with me:
Not the best, not the worst. Definitely not worthy of the ridicule I had heard from die-0hard H3 fans at the time. I can see it has the potential of being a much better game than the others, but a few flaws (some of which I have mentioned already) hint that there may be problems still to come.
My overall feel so far is similar to the feel I had during the H5 closed beta-test. This, in itself, indicates to me that it is probably going to be of similar quality, but for different reasons (since the two play in considerably different manners.)

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Postby Qurqirish Dragon » Apr 29 2007, 22:28

ThunderTitan wrote:
Siegfried wrote:That works only for a few rounds. The dragons cast Confusion on the Cyclops, and the Behemots kill the hero. So he gets alive again, drinking another potion. Then the same again. Until there is no more potion. Exitus.


Buy enough potions so it changes to "until there are no more Behemoths"!

Or when you're at your last potion retreat to the nearest town, buy more potions, attack again. Rinse and repeat until they're dead.


Please, try to keep strategy advice to other threads. I don't want advice (which may contain spoilers), and since this thread is for my impressions, I think my desires should be held above general discussion in this topic :D
If I was certain that I will keep up these posts until I finish the campaigns through all 3 games/expansions, then I would have asked to make this an article series (rather than just a forum topic), but I didn't. Maybe I should have asked anyway :|

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Postby Pol » Apr 29 2007, 22:57

Mmm. The game is making autosaves from "This Turn" and "Previous Turn" like nice points of return when needed. It's not always hit but it's a nifty feature.

Indeed game seems to be cycling active armies, regarding the left movement. But .. here is a reason for.

Hah, I remember in AB as I vigorously attacked Griffin Conservatory with upgraded Water Elementals. What I can say - I was beaten tremendously.

It took me long time, months actually, but I get used to h4 graphics.

So, just my two cents ;)
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Re: Lysander's first mission

Postby Gaidal Cain » Apr 30 2007, 6:59

Qurqirish Dragon wrote:The fact that [Griffins] aren't a standard creature in any of the towns should have been a tip-off that they weren't necessarily the middle-level creatures I was used to.


Actually, it's third level Preserve.

the lack of ability to break into the castle anyway other than by flying of the main gate really reduces the options in this type of battle.


Try attacking the gate in melee. Or were you referring to the fact that that doesn't always help, since the way in can still be blocked?
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