Heroes of Might and Magic 3 was a game created by masochists for masochists; A game made by people who thought that adding a skill that gives you a 15% chance to learn a spell by watching someone else cast it would be valuable to anyone, and played by people who travel around with one fire resistant unit so they can safely cast a nuclear bombs upon an army of hundreds, incurring thousands of gold worth of damages upon the enemy, at the cost of almost nothing for themselves.
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is a turn based strategy game wherein you recruit heroes, armies for them to command and send them against your enemy. Victories in battle yield XP that can be spent on useless skills like Scholar, that lets your heroes trade spells with one and other, or amazing things like diplomacy that will make neutral creatures join your army instead of fighting you, at the cost of absolutely no gold to recruit.
Heroes come in a variety of classes, but the easiest way to categories them is (surprisingly) into might and magic heroes. Might heroes excel at providing passive buffs to their units attack and defence skills and using skills like offence, for extra damage, defence, for extra defence, and stacking these skills with things like archery, magic resistance and their specific unit speciality to make the armies at their disposal incredibly tedious to defeat. In the early to mid game, coming against a decently levelled Might hero could spell disaster if you’re ill prepared.
However, given enough time to breathe, Magic heroes can absolutely dominate any game. They excel with skills like intelligence and mysticism, which allow them to have a larger pool of mana to cast spells from, and a faster regeneration for that mana. By becoming proficient in one, or multiple, schools of magic, a high level Magic hero can teleport to any owned territory on the map from anywhere on the map (Earth Magic), stack blindness on all the units of an enemy army so that every unit in the enemy roster misses their turn for several turns (Fire Magic), allow their strongest units to travel the length of the battle map in a single turn to wreak havoc on the enemy lines (Air Magic), or protect their units from hostile spells by dispelling all negative effects (Water Magic). In truth there are far too many spells in this game to go over, all of which are far too powerful for this game to be even remotely balanced.
Each hero type belongs to a specific faction. These factions are the Castle, Rampart, Stronghold, Dungeon, Necropolis, Inferno and Conflux, all of which encourage a different playstyle. For instance, the Necropolis has a number of Necromancer heroes who, after battle, can raise a percentage of fallen soldiers as skeletal minions to regain some of their numbers. Provided they pick their battles wisely and are able to keep at arms length from other players, a good Necropolis player can amass a couple hundred skeletons in the course of a single in-game month. With the right combination of artifacts, they can raise liches instead of skeletons. Liches being powerful ranged units with an area of effect attack. If you mouse over an enemy player playing as the necropolis and they have several stacks of a couple hundred liches, you had best surrender.
As another example, you could play as the Stronghold. Although lacking in spells, a player who can properly level a Might hero and who is comfortable with playing aggressively can be a very dangerous opponent. The reason for this is that it is incredibly easy to get access to their most powerful unit early in the game, which synchs well with the passive buffs Might heroes pass on to their army. Although it can be difficult to get a high number of these units, the aggressive nature of the faction means they will often benefit more from early game engagements, and so they won’t really need all that many.
The conclusion I draw about this game is that it isn’t balanced in the slightest, but neither does it pretend to be. The whole point of this game is to put your absolutely insane plan against your enemy’s absolutely insane plan, and the winner will be determined by the player whose plan was the most completely and utterly unfair, broken and overpowered.
For example, I once played a free-for-all game with a friend against the AI. While I was busy buying soldiers, fighting and earning XP, my friend was busy doing absolutely nothing except rushing their way to being able to recruit Black Dragons; The strongest unit in the game, that also happens to be 100% resistant to all magic. This was their absolutely broken plan, and it was executed against me when they besieged me with a full army of troops backed-up by a number Black Dragons that went well into the double digits. Comparatively my army was pretty awful from all the previous fighting I had done, and I didn’t have enough high-tier units to stand a chance against the Black Dragons in a fair fight. In a balanced game, this scenario would spell instant defeat for me. Alas, I also had an absolutely broken plan. Using my expert fire magic skill, I used a spell to make all of their units turn on one and other, inflicting massive casualties upon themselves for multiple turns in a row. Whenever the spell expired, I’d simply recast it and the cycle would begin again. Of course this spell wouldn’t effect the Black Dragons, but it did mean that I could use my entire army to focus them down until they were all slain, as the rest of the enemy army was too busy killing itself to support the dying winged beasts. In the end I prevailed, even though I had absolutely no right to, given how thinly I had spared my armies, how damaged those armies were from constant battles against the AI, and how poor I was from having to constantly reinforce them.
If you couldn’t tell by now, I find this game to be incredibly fun and I would highly recommend it.
NOTE: Do not buy the Steam version of this game. It is incomplete. Go over to GoG and buy it there, where it is often on sale for cheaper and contains all the expansions. The amount of content contained within that version is staggering when compared to the lacklustre Steam version.