Hell, it’s about time, too?
Back when Heroes of Might & Magic series was the top of the Turn-Based Strategy Genre, the Disciples franchise offered an alternate yet strikingly similar experience, albeit in a much darker universe. While many Turn-Based Strategy fans enjoyed both franchises, some quietly preferred the dark, gloomy setting in Disciples over the more colorful scenes delivered by the Might & Magic games. More recent games such as the highly successful Kings Bounty, have stuck to the ‘wooly and colorful’ formula and perhaps because of that, the anticipation of a sequel in the Disciples franchise ran high amongst those who prefer the gritty over the lush. Disciples III delivers the bacon, retaining its long tradition of seeking a path of its own with rich lore and wonderful hand-drawn graphics.
Aficionado of the genre will find the game easy to get into, offering fresh gameplay elements without deterring so far from the beaten path that it becomes unrecognizable. If you are new to the series, you may want to check the manual. There is a large section devoted to catching up on the lore that will bring you up to speed on the antics of Bethrezen and his fellow angels as well as the subjects in the land of Nevendaar.
Players will likely spend most of their time in one of Disciples III’s lengthy campaigns. In each of the campaigns, the storyline unfolds through the eyes of the hero under your command. Other playable and non-playable characters show up on regularly, some joining your army for extended periods and adding special benefits otherwise unavailable to you. While the story elements are sometimes a bit far between, the storytelling is engrossing enough to make you want to see it evolve. It may even have you empathizing with vile Legions of the Damned on occasion.
Following the suggested order for the campaigns you kick off with playing the human Empire faction. After that you can try your hand at controlling the Legions of the Damned and the Elven Alliance respectively. Each of the factions feels completely different, largely due to the fact that their supporting units are very different. During the Empire campaign I heavily favored healing units to back up my front-line warriors, only to find that I needed to reconsider my play style as I took control of the Legions of the Damned. They do not have healers and rely completely on finding healing objects, spells and runes on the overall map. I changed my tactics to do as much damage as I could before my opponent got a chance to wear down the more squishy units in my army. This turned out to be quite refreshing but at times a little frustrating as well. My interest in actually buying and producing runes was rekindled whereas before I would just sell them in order to get as much money as possible, as quickly as possible in order to advance my city.
Playing the campaigns, maps start out at a modest size but become larger as you progress. The only real drawback is the increase in load time. This isn’t a big problem on powerful gaming rigs but could pose a problem for older PCs.
Class selection isn’t quite what I had expected it to be. The game offers three options, Warlord, Guild Master and Mage but none of these have a particularly big impact on how the game plays. So little in fact, that one could easily call them perks rather than classes. Playing as a Warlord lets your units regenerate 15% hit points at the end of every turn, as a Guild Master you gain 30% more resources and with the Mage perk you can cast spells not once but twice when on the world map.
Rich lore, addictive gameplay.
The AI is decent but could have used a bit more work.