previewed on PC
Heroes of Genre-Fusion?
Publisher GSC Game World, famous for their highly acclaimed RTS Cossacks, have embarked on a three part journey into the history of the great fantasy folklore. The first in this three-part trilogy is Heroes of Annihilated Empires, which promises to set the scene for the epic story behind the elves, dwarves, and other such staple races in the fantasy genre. For this task, they have attracted the help of renowned Ukrainian novelist Ilya Novak (awarded the best European debutant author at Eurocon 2005). Combining the elements of Real Time Strategy games and the character building of the Role Playing Game genre, Heroes of Annihilated Empires promises to cater to the needs of the fanatics belonging to both genres.
Heroes of Visionary Proportions?
Heroes of Annihilated Empires' most striking feature is its claim of how it differs from the increasingly plentiful market of ?mixed-genre? games. Some of the more groundbreaking of the past that succesfully blended genres, set standards that are still in use today. Most games, like for example Deus-Ex, exactly defined the balance between the First Person Shooter and Role Playing Game elements. Giving each of the two genres a fixed 'proportion' helped the developers to stay in control over how the player would experience the game. Heroes of Annihilated Empires adds a new angle to this 'fusing of genres'. Ever favouring the option of converging with their target audience, GSC Game World promises that the player can use as much -or as little- of the Real Time Strategy or Role Playing Game part as they feel necessary. You can choose to follow a more traditional Real Time Strategy route and build up a large and diverse army to use against other players. Another option is to put a lot of work into your Hero?s development. It is not entirely unfeasible to send out a strong Hero out alone to level your opponents army flat without any additional help. This variable gaming experience is sure to accommodate those who favour the strategy, those who prefer the role-playing, and those who are quite happy balancing both.
For people who have played strategy games before, the game?s learning curve for the strategy part will not be overly steep. Figuring out how to equip items or how to level up may be a little bit harder for some. This is partly because you don?t expect to find game mechanics of a Role Playing Game in a strategy game. While playing the RPG part, I died a couple of times before I found these things out myself. Sadly, my constant failure to comprehend why all of my units (who were mere Pikemen and Dryads) were constantly getting completely decimated by a screen full of dragons, lead me to play a skirmish. Here I was able to try the base building element of the RTS side of things. It was certainly enjoyable, but the fact that the game threw me into its 'Role Playing Game deep-end' without so much as a pair of armbands to keep me afloat, made me feel out of my depth.
Heroes of Great Engines?
The game's engine does not only provide the ability to roam across the map freely, it is also able to hold large numbers of units on the screen at the same time. Hundreds, even thousands of units can be displayed onscreen at any given time. All the while, the game keeps up with its acclaimed high performance. Showing a multitude of different creature meshes, spell effects and buildings, the visuals rarely disappoint.
However, it does in fact live up to most of its claims. The graphics reminded me of the quaint attraction of the Heroes of Might & Magic series (to which Heroes of Annihilated Empires owes a great deal). The Hero units level up in an interesting fashion, and the unit count is impressive. However, both genres seem rather simplified. I could find no ?ctrl+1? or similar for grouping units, but this is probably just a minor stylistic quip on my part. It is regardless a very sound and well-constructed game.
Heroes of the Hearts of Many?
Though the single player part will likely keep an enthusiastic gamer glued to the screen for many a night, it will be the multiplayer that will truly excite most gamers. Enabling up to 8 players over the Internet of LAN, it is almost reminiscent of those classic multiplayer games played by Heroes of Might & Magic fanatics. With a bit of luck, Heroes of Annihilated Empires will bring a new 'Real Time Role Playing Strategy' trilogy to the table that that promises to take off where Heroes of Might & Magic left off. Whether enjoying the narration of a famous Ukrainian novelist, or getting stuck into a long-haul multiplayer game, this mixed-genre game is set to steal many hours from gamers everywhere.