Heroes of Might & Magic 2
Heroes of Might and Magic 2 was the sequel of a game inspired on the turn based strategy game Kings Bounty. The game design is almost the same across all saga: improve the castle, raise and recruit an army and heroes, explore the map, improve your heroes, acquire control of mines for resources, find artifacts, defeat enemy heroes and conquer neutral and rival villages/castles. HOMM3 is considered better by many fans (mostly because of few design choices) but HOMM2 feels more vivid, with an amazing atmosphere.
HOMM2 strong points (strictly speaking):
- Beautiful pixel art for both units and scenarios. It’s colorful and detailed. It aged pretty good (it’s an old game).
- Soundtrack is amazing, one of the best videogame background music I ever heard. Flawless.
- Interesting choosing for the unit sets and their visual art is very straightforward (simple but nice). The sets make sense with the castle theme.
- Campaign is fine, but there are player-made maps more interesting.
- Units are needed to win battles, but a magic oriented hero with the right spells can easily turn the tides or avoid a lot of losses on early to mid game. Also useful for guerrilla tactics with fast units.
- The scenario editor is fun and easy to use. It does everything and you can also generate random maps with it (and edit them).
- The concept of constant attack mobs, explore, collect resources, reinforce troops, build, defend, conquer … every week is very entertaining: the typical “one turn more” is more like “one week more” (7 turns).
- Varied terrain biomes, like grassland, desert, lava, … with different background music and things to collect or discover.
- Placing/moving your heroes across the map and choosing what build or what reinforce defines the strategy and every decision counts on the long run (unless you rely to some overpowered tactics).
- Player can both improve and use magic or unit physical power (att/def).
- There is a (powerful) hidden artifact on some maps.
- IA is not perfect but I consider it works fine and it’s a threat.
HOMM2 has some clear flaws:
- Most units, even weak ones, have it’s uses but peasants are totally worthless. The only thing are good for are for feeding necromancers or ghosts.
- In the other hand, ghosts are totally overpowered and can be recruited in an expansion’s building. 100% unit killed absorption makes them just unstoppable. A fairer rate would be probably 25%.
- Knight castle is just too weak. Read more.
- Magic doesn’t scale so well as raw unit attack. As game progresses, high tier units, big stacks and dragons rule. Given that, barbarian and (weaker) knight heroes are usually the best bet (no magic), with necro coming after, as the reliable heroes on endgame.
- It’s not an easy game even on lower difficulty.
Why to play?
To be honest, the main reasons to play HOMM2 are it’s game atmosphere (music, units, castles… everything combines nicely) or the nostalgia as it’s a good classic game. Actually, the game is fun too! It’s also a good idea to play this first and later try HOMM3 or HOMM5, as going back the other way could be harder, be it worth or not.
The outstanding full soundtrack:
How to acquire
The game was sold in physical format some years ago, in a compilation, but I don’t think it’s distributed like that anymore. Instead, you can get the digital download from both gog.com or ubisoft store. You can get a DRM-free copy from GOG and I’m unsure about Ubisoft store. The wisest move would check both and think what’s the best for your interest.
Version / Platform
I’m reviewing the HOMM2 with the expansion The price of Loyalty that adds more campaigns, maps, scenario stuff, units and few tweaks. It’s the lastest version for MS-DOS and full of content. Of course, I play it with DOSBox (which comes already setup in GOG release).
It’s unlikely there will be a remaster of HOMM2 to bring it back to the present day. The reason is that they tried that with HOMM3, which was very popular and a classic too, but Ubisoft failed miserably. Of course, the problem was mainly the remaster laking content from HOMM3 expansions. Whatever was the reason for that policy choice, no-one wants a re-release or remaster missing original content. The proof is in Blizzard’s Diablo gog re-release. They had to include the “3rd party” Hellfire expansion to please the fans (the clients) after released. Even if the expansion is not “so good” or “non-canonical”, whatever reason, it must be there for whoever wants to enjoy it as they did back then. That’s the point of a re-release or remaster. Playing the same game again as you did before. Otherwise, remake it like Final Fantasy 7, create a new game from a new point of view.
Going back to topic, there won’t be future for HOMM2 on the short or medium term. Of course, money rules, so if there truly was a demand for a Heroes of Might and Magic 2 remaster, we’d have it sooner than later. Until then, enjoy the old game.
Games like Heroes of Might and Magic 2
Here I’ll list few games that apply same TBS tactical combat concepts:
- HOMM saga games. There are 7 HOMM games up to now and they can fill your fancy.
- Kings Bounty saga. Exactly same concepts. In fact, the first game inspired HOMM and it was nicely remastered, you can play it today.
- Disciples saga:
- Disciples 3. This game also resembles to KB and HOMM in the tactical side, with a hex grid.
- Older Disciples games. The first 2 games are slightly different, as tactical combat is run without unit placement, like a classic turn based JRPG game.
- Master of Magic. This game is a 4x like Civilization, but it’s similar to HOMM games on the tactical combat with spell casting. Totally worth it.
- Other 4x games like MoM (e.g. AoW, check here) have tactical combat too.
Really, the subgenre of turn based strategy games mixed with fantasy RPG elements is well known but niche as the game design is limited. It’s hard to add something new that could be buy with today players or to compete with the already established sagas.
Heroes II is a cool turn based strategy game. The music sound track is totally worth it and improves the game experience.
This are the serious flaws in the knight castle design, making it subpar:
- Only 5 usable units (peasants are a big NOP).
- Most of them are low on hit points, higher defense doesn’t make up for that.
- Champions are the only really good unit. Crusaders are just ok for a tier 6 unit (useful against undead unless it’s a big stack of skeletons). The rest are plain bad.
- Archers/Rangers are their only ranged unit and are weak (almost worst ranged unit). The other units are melee and only have high defense, still weak and prone to ranged attacks.
- The only good point is that knight units/buildings is cheap and knight heroes are ok.