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This review is based on the Complete version, with neither expansion pack installed yet. From the very beginning, you can tell that this is not quite like the ones before it. Not everything is different, but quite a lot is. There were two things I almost immediately thought of as being similar to this Age of Empires and Diablo. Not specifically, necessarily. However, this felt like a mix of the three franchises. I would say that anyone who loves strategy and role playing is likely to fall head over heels for this. It takes a while to get used to, to get into, for those who have played the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and it might take even longer for anyone coming in with no prior exposure to them(obviously, I can't say, since I've never, nor will ever, be in that situation with this). This has far greater freedom than the earlier ones, with advanced classes, and immense customization of the Heroes. They are even part of the battles, now, and they can die, and be resurrected(in fact, that's a more available of a power, now, not just Necromancers can regain those lost in war), and any player can capture and imprison enemy Heroes, and those can be freed if that Town is conquered. You are asked to make choices to a considerably larger extent than before, you can't construct all buildings or have all soldiers, for example. And there are countless new tactical opportunities. Your armies can move independently. Reinforcements can transported through caravans between Castles, fast. There are potions, and aside from Artifacts, you can get "items", that aid in a similar, though lesser way(and are common). There is an almost overwhelming amount of data, numbers and stats, available anywhere in this by pointing and/or right-clicking. There is no way to play this "casually". You're in or you're out. I'm not saying you can't play for a short time in fact, that's easier than before, now that you can truly save basically anytime, anywhere, even in combat. No, I'm saying, this is too complex to just sit down with, not intending to really get into it. If you do let this sink in, you're in for countless hours of fun. They thought of, and included, mythological creatures and abilities that they didn't have in the other ones, and they are distinguished and unique. To name a few, this has Satyrs and Leprechauns, the latter ones obviously being able to dispense luck upon their allies. The resolution determines how many of the displays you can see, so if you can, I'd advise keeping it at the top one, 1280x1024. Colors are much brighter, in stark contrast to the, as another reviewer puts it, opaque ones of the third, Restoration of Erathia. That takes a little getting used to. The graphics far surpass those of all of the earlier ones, with this brand new, fresh engine. Animation is rich in detail and realism, the movements, magic and everything look much more natural and organic than ever in these. It's too bad there's only one CGI cut-scene, because it's fantastic. It introduces you to the new, and gives an explanation for it. I'm not sure why that included the visual of a nuclear explosion(!), other than that it is one of the most powerful images of destructive force that we can all recognize. This comes with a Campaign Editor, and it's vast, yet intuitive and easy to use. You can edit quite a bit in it, and it will allow you make individual scenarios or to string them together. That, and this comes with six already made. They vary in length, and all are instantly available for you to play. The plot of each is separate, and very different, if they do refer to one another on occasion, and all are engaging, interesting and develop masterfully. There are twists and turns, the majority of them surprising and unexpected. The story-telling is this time entirely limited to text, with a speech as a preface at the beginning of each level, and one after all of the last ones. They keep to the fitting language almost invariably, occasionally broken briefly by instances of new terms and such. There is wisdom in several of them, if also a hunk of cheese here and there. While this doesn't take the full step away from going back and forth between two sides, one map to the next, it is mighty rare. One is a tragic tale of love. Another is about revenge. At the start, you can select the difficulty, out of the 5 settings. These affect the game-play more than before. The voice work is good, with a little overacting. This has some very welcome changes, to the interface, among other areas. However, they do bring up a few more issues than they solve. That is forgivable, with how much it does bring with it. Such as the team-play opportunity, and Taverns being less limited in what Heroes you may recruit there. Or how about the Stealth Skill, that allows you to sneak around, spying, and even gaining experience points without fighting the opponents. The designs are imaginative and creative. Apart from the shroud that we're used to, this also includes the old favorite from RTS titles, the Fog of War. The music is not the way it is in the others, and perhaps less epic, which is arguably my subjective, and thus personal, opinion, and it is still beautifully scored orchestral pieces, and they sound marvelous. Fighting continues to be comparable to chess, as it should, as we want it to, it's just more dynamic. Attack and retaliation, when they both occur, happen simultaneously, a change that gently leads the elephant in the room out. Seriously, what kind of troops just stand still, as the other side throws what they have at them? No cussing/sexuality, and this is mild enough for any age to play. I recommend this to fans of RPG. 10/10
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