I’ve finally come back to HOMMVI after a decent Hiatus, and I am tackling the last two campaigns before I move onward to XCOM: Enemy within, Which I am extremely excited for. I’ve got to stick to my cardinal rule as hard as possible: One game at a time.

So, Stronghold!

This campaign finally feels like the Heroes of Might and Magic game that I remember. I’d started to sour on the game, very slowly, over the last few campaigns. The design theory was good, and it evoked the fun of my bygone childhood, but there was something a little off. At first I thought it was my adult brain taking on the child’s version of the game. The deeper I tread, though, the more I was convinced that this experiences was markedly different from the experience of my childhood. Stronghold has now confirmed that.

The Playstyle of Haven and Necropolis is extremely cautious. Sanctuary and Inferno are slightly better. Stronghold, however, is aggressive. Its Stacks are fast, its creature growth is plentiful, and it has access to almost all the best ability trees. Its is enjoyable to play, and the adventure map does not feel as tedious in these first two campaigns as they have been feeling.

The Battle map, however, is the same old boring method. Open with a withering salvo of magic and ranged attacks, have your melee troops wait for the enemy to inevitably cross the battlefield and into your threat range, and pummel them mercilessly.

the alpha strike is critical. The way the game structures its retaliatory strikes you take damage only after you inflict it, so if you hit first against weaker stacks you have a significant advantage. allowing your opponent to get the first hit is less problematic than giving ground, as the board is so compact that almost every unit can traverse it in two turns

Knowledge, though, is perhaps the greatest contributor to making Stronghold feel like the old game. I know to use the trade matrix early and often in order to get critical resources and buildings built. This allows me to have giant stacks of monsters early on. I have learned what spells and talents are good (chain lightning, Immolation) and what don’t do as much (armor of light, mass heal). I have also learned that enemies grow at the end of every week, which has contributed to me attacking early and often. Also, roving heroes are to be attacked head on, even if they are a challenging difficulty: if you come out on top, and have a better production setup (see trade matrix), every enemy stack you take out is an advantage. These are hard learned lessons over 4 campaigns, 16 maps and tons of mistakes.

In addition to the knowledge, having a both dynasty weapons fully leveled up is a huge boon that has enabled me to move forward swiftly.

I do get bored fighting the same type of armies over and over, but that is more a fault of having 5 factions with 5 campaigns each with 4 maps. Very rarely do I have to change the method I fight between hero’s or towns.

Soon, very soon, I’ll stop talking about Heroes and instead blather on about who died and how in my XCOM: Enemy Within games.

The Inferno Campaign has been the second most enjoyable campaign of the game so far. Necropolis was a ranged powerhouse and easily my favorite, and Inferno is the opposite: a melee powerhouse with some of the most enjoyable mobs so far. They cover all the basic devil/demon tropes -cCerberus, succubus, pit fiends, maniacs, lumbering rampagers and swift tormented beasts are all represented in some way.

I played a magic hero with Necropolis, might with Haven, and magic with Sanctuary so it was time to return to might with Inferno. My experience with Haven was a little harrowing, and had really put me off the concept of might heroes, but as I’ve always said: I’ll try anything twice. I rolled up a might hero, and started off into the great unknown, hoping to not hate the game. This time, though, I was rewarded with an enjoyable experince right from the go. Having the experience of what didn’t work as a might hero in Haven really helped, as I was able to build a solid might hero right from the start.

Each campaign features four maps. On the first one, your limited to your basic three creatures, called Core Units. You might get an Elite level as well if your lucky. The second map allows you access to all of the Elites and Cores, and the third gives you access to Champion units. Each of these units has to be earned and found on the map. Sometimes its a simple stack hanging around that you recruit, and sometimes its a quest. Each creature has a basic form and an upgraded form, as well. The third map never gives you access to your Upgraded Champion; that is the purview of the fourth and final map. Whats so fun about the fourth map is that you get to have access to all your creatures from the get-go. You have to spend the time and resources to build their recruitment centers, but its up to you to pick and choose when to get what units.

Each recruitment center generates a certain amount of units each week, 7 turns, so preserving these is paramount. In the Necropolis and Haven campaigns you have access to replenishment with necromancy and healing respectively. In Sanctuary you just have a million-billion units so you care less about losses. In Inferno, you have no access to anything, and your units aren’t super-plentiful, but they hit plenty hard, and seem to have a decent amount of HP among them. Magic Heroes allow you to pummel your enemies with powerful spells, which is good for armies with weaker units like Necropolis and Sanctuary, but the hardier units of Inferno have really enjoyed the plentiful buffing that goes on with the might heroes. From the ability to counter-attack before being hit instead of after, to the ability that lets you summon extra guys based on the size of your army, to the ability to call out a unit to go immediately, might heroes have some very compelling abilities.

The style of play that Inferno has is a no-mercy, hit first, hit hard melee beating. They have only two Ranged units, one Core and one Elite, but they can’t hold down the fort for you unless you do some serious work on them. Instead, you summon a huge amount of extra demons and charge them into the face of the enemy until there is no enemy left. Speaking of summoning demons, each faction has its own unique ability and Inferno probably has the best. When you build the requisite amount of points, you can designate a place on the board where a new stack of one of your units will be summoned in a turn or two. This area of the board is impassible to all units much like a rock formations. It can also be destroyed with enemy attacks similar to how you can destroy castle walls. As a final benefit, it occupies the same space as the unit stack does. Placed properly, this will block enemy advances, funnel them into your stronger units, and distract enemies as they attack the portal. Its control, offense and defense all in one, and is by far the best ability that I’ve had so far.

As cool as the Inferno Campaign is there is a downfall. The main character, Kiril, is supremely effeminate and could be labeled with a strong Emo title. His voice is grating, he has a pet name for the demon in his head, and he is completely unphased by the two succubus who are hitting on him the whole time. Its a little strange and off putting, but who plays these games for the characterization, right?

I’ve taken down the Sanctuary Campaign!
In roughly 1/2 the time it took me to grind through the Haven Campaign, I’ve managed to fight my way from a mage seeking refuge on the islands controlled by stereotyped naga to the home of my former husband and murder him. I am pleased.

Sanctuary plays with weaker mobs, larger stacks, and fewer hitpoints than both Haven and Necropolis. I always felt that I was on the back foot going into a fight. What did happen, though, was that I was able to play the game like I’d wanted to from the start: get in the enemies face, mix it up, and really not worry about the actual mob count. If a whole stack went down it would be just a few days before I was back up to snuff.

Each of the three factions I’ve played so far has had a very distinct playstyle.
Necropolis: Regenerating ranged powerhouses that have cheap foot troops to run interference.
Haven: Fast, fragile, elite troopers that do good damage, with a strong defensive bent.
Sanctuary: Slow, Fragile foot troopers that make up for their weak damage output in overwhelming numbers.

Each has played very different, despite every hero having both might and magic powers, and having access to similar powers within both might and magic. It has given the game a longevity it might not have otherwise.

The final map was difficult. It wasn’t Haven level ball breaking, but I did have to start over once, and I recieved a tip from my buddy that helped me roll the map.

The final map has both Haven and Inferno on the same map, with a neutral town in between. There is also a special quest to beat the mission without taking any haven towns that wasn’t the final keep with Gerhardt in it that I wanted to complete. The first go round I was super cautious. A giant demon and his army threaten you to come after him after you take your first town, but he is clearly super-powerful and outnumbers you significantly. He lets you keep the one town you take first, but the second and third town are both his, and he lets you know it by attacking with overwhelming force if you manage to capture either. However, he will not come out of his keep and attack you unless you are close enough that he can sortie out and return to base. If he comes out however, he destroys you. I played around him cautiously for over 10 months in game time before I gave up and started again.

There is a secret island base, way north through the waterways, that allows you to pick up an extra 2-3 weeks worth of creatures for a pretty cheap cost. Grabbing that allowed me to blitzkrieg the map once I’d restarted. I sent my second in command to get them while my main character torched everything between my starting village and the one town the demon would let me take. At this point in the game I was firing chain lightning at the top of every battle, and it would kill the whole opponents side. I’d gotten it at the end of the last map, where it was a little underwhelming. However, starting the map with it is completely brutal, but this only lasts a few weeks, a month at most, before everything starts having to many dudes to just blow away before they can harm you. With that knowledge in hand I waited for my second to get back from his recruitment mission. Once he’d returned I waited just a little more until the start of the next week, grabbed all the newly minted soldiers from both my towns, and then bolted straight towards the main badguy.

Each enemy group, when you hover over it, has a threat level. It goes, in order: Trivial – Low – Average – Modest – Severe – High -Deadly. Normally I would wait until something was at least average before attacking it as the losses I would suffer would be to great. The chain lightning had given me confidence, however, as it ripped down even severe threats for me without suffering a single loss. Emboldened, I attacked the demon in his volcano hideout. With the help of my friends from the north and my powerful early stage chain lightning, I tore him apart. I was most pleased! From that point on I had an upper hand. I had three, and then quickly thereafter four, towns and each was producing massive quantities of gold and troops. I was able to quickly beat the mini-boss and then the final boss.

While the final boss was uninteresting, the mini-boss took a few tries. She whips every square in her front arc and within her 4 square reach on her second activation every turn. It took a few goes at it, but I eventually found a solid strategy that enabled me to drop her without only some major losses among the ranged troopers.I simply ran around to her back without attacking the first turn, and then she’d not hair-whip and kill everyone. I was able to quickly replenish the ranged losses and go after the main boss, taking the level and the campaign.

Now, onto the Inferno Campaign, which I have been looking forward to for a while. Its got succubus, pit fiends, and cerebus!