Heroes of Might & Magic II Bits


heroesiiheader It’s difficult listing all the notable parts of HoMM II as it’s a game that hearkens back to a design philosophy that’s rarely found these days: depth through complexity. It’s also not considered the best entry in the series — that vote usually goes to HoMM III — but that’s partly why I wanted to give the second game a quick overview.

The bits:

    • HoMM II is a turn-based strategy game with 6 distinct factions. Each faction has its own town/castle type with a unique set of structures. Most of these serve the same purpose, namely purchasing creatures, but some buildings are unique to each faction.

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      Virtually every corner of every map is filled with lush scenery and useful hotspots.

    • Gold and 6 different resources (wood, ore, mercury, sulfur, gems and crystals) are necessary to purchase and upgrade the various buildings and creatures.
    • Heroes are recruited in towns/castles and are required to explore the overworld map and lead creatures into battle. Each hero starts off with a handful of creatures and the specializations of his faction, e.g., barbarians begin with a high attack rating and the pathfinding skill.
    • Heroes can gain levels increasing their 4 basic stats, equip artifacts, learn magic spells, gain temporary bonuses and learn and master passive skills. Some of these can carry over through the game’s campaign(s), but even on small maps all these elements provide a steady stream of upgrades.
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The branching paths of the main campaign.

    • Overworld maps contain a fog-of-war mechanic, come in a variety of sizes, and include an absolute plethora of objects. Some of these are purely aesthetic or used as collidable scenery, but others are integral to the gameplay.There are collectible goods (artifacts and resources), single-use locations (witch’s huts that teach passive skills and tombs that can be plundered), mines (gold/mineral dispensers that provide a set amount of goods in each turn), multi-use locations (teleporters and marketplaces where minerals can be traded), reusable locations (wells that refill magic points and special hotspots that grant a boost to luck/morale for the next battle), and re-fillable locations (creature recruitment centers and mills that can provide random resources every 7 turns).On top of these, terrain types also affect hero movement, and special-purpose locations such as password-protected gateways serve additional gameplay functions. All these objects provide an incentive for the player to explore as much land as possible, but — and maybe more importantly — also give him something to do in the areas he has already conquered.
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Ah, the Necromancer’s castle. One of my favourite tactics is to send out a scout with expert necromancy and a group of missile-throwing liches, and watch the defeated armies rise up as my new skeleton minions.

  • Obelisks that are scattered around the maps reveal a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Once fully exposed, this image shows the location of a secret and powerful artifact that can be dug out from the ground.
  • Every 7 turns, towns/castles and creature dispensers get new recruits. However, once in a while a plague will strike and no new recruits will become available (worse yet, creatures that were previously available but were not purchased will shrink in numbers). Conversely, specific creatures can randomly experience a growth spurt. Whenever this happens, their base recruitment numbers will double, and stacks of these creatures will randomly appear on the overworld map.
  • As a CD-based game, HoMM II includes a CD-Audio soundtrack, with an option to use a midi one. A third alternative also exists which uses the CD-Audio with operatic vocals layered on top, giving the game a very distinct score.

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    Those bone dragons are going down!

  • The actual combat of HoMM II is also turn based, with each creature taking its turn based on its speed statistic. The heroes don’t attack directly (aside from casting spells), but their statistics are also appended to those of the creatures, effectively boosting their performance. A lot of the creatures also have unique abilities such as infinite counterattacks, recharging hit points, a chance to cancel magical attacks, etc. Unlike the sequels, HoMM II doesn’t clearly inform the player of these abilities and it takes a lot of practice to get familiar with them.
  • Magic plays a crucial part in the overall gameplay, both in combat and on the overworld map. Being able to scout ahead and teleport around the playing field, or boosting your strongest units while damaging entrenched archers, is vital to the player’s success.

HoMM II has a very steep learning curve that’s practically unimaginable these days, but in many ways it’s this barrier and that makes it such an entertaining title. It might not be impeccably balanced for competitive play, but the sheer amount of variables that must be juggled at any given moment create an experience where the player is constantly adapting and strategizing.

With each move, an overabundance of options need to be weighed; immediate tactics have to be balanced with long term plans. The economy, map control, build orders, hero progression, proper use of units, etc., are all vital to coming out on the winning side, and each turn is different from the last.

The micromanagement of HoMM II gives Civilization a run for its money, but the upside to all these elements is that the game is practically filled with “emergent” gameplay. Creating map chokepoints, playing keepaway with AI heroes, slowly wearing down the opposition through superior use of resources, etc., all fall into a metagame that’s not immediately obvious — or even consciously designed — but one that’s created simply as a result of having so many ingredients in the pot.

It’s a methodology that’s largely avoided these days, but its end results are unique and very addictive.

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  1. #1 by Robert Schultz on December 7, 2009 - 9:13 am

    I loved Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) 1, 2 and 3.

    After that they got a little iffy for my tastes.

    The music in them were all great.

    I also really enjoyed the original King’s Bounty which HOMM is slightly based on.

    Might and Magic itself (1 through 6) were all superb.

    Thanks for writing this article, it was a great trip down memory lane :)

  2. #2 by The Management on December 7, 2009 - 12:33 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been meaning to give King’s Bounty a try. It sounds like a pretty bizarre amalgamation of fantasy tropes and RPG/strategy gameplay, but people seem to dig it.

  3. #3 by Tomis on July 8, 2010 - 5:46 pm

    I still play HoMM2 to this day (at least a few times every couple of months). It doesn’t matter if HoMM3 gets the popular vote, HoMM2 will always be very close to my heart. What you’re doing with this article is spoiling the fun, just like trying to dissect a joke to extract the humour. You can’t really explain this game, in order to understand it you need to play it.

    Oh, and by the way – “HoMM II has a very steep learning curve that’s practically unimaginable these days”. Screw the pussies who whine about how “hard” a game is to learn or play. “Consolization” (or, as we call it, the run after the money) destroyed PC games as they once were and transformed the industry in a place where developers try to make not the best game but the game that will bring most money.

    The hell with all that. If you want to experience what a real game feels like you’ll go back to the golden age (I’ll say it started somewhere around 1994 -at least for me, but it’s an open subject- and ended somewhere around 2003) and play what really made gaming history, now forgotten by the hordes of mindless zombie gamers. HoMM2, Total Annihilation, Freespace (1&2), Nox, Red Alert, Quake I (one of a kind), Bullfrog games (hell yeah…. Dungeon Keeper, Theme Hospital), Worms, Mech Warrior, Commandos, Thief, System Shock 2, NFS 4 & 5 (the last two proper NFS games), Half-life,Fallout, Abe’s Oddysee, Monolith games(Claw, Blood 1&2), MDK !!!, Myth – The Fallen lords, Planescape torment, Baldur’s Gate, Quest for glory V, Rome: Total War (2004, but still), Rainbow Six (the proper, first three games, of the series), Unreal, Rollcage, Ultima IX, Rollercoaster Tycoon (omg, great game, along with Theme Hospital), Gruntz, Max Payne (1&2), Battlezone, Sanitarium, Panzer general, Caesar III, Hitman…

    And that’s just off the top of my head. If you’re a gamer you don’t need most of the shit they publish today. Make yourself a favor and revisit all the classics first, you’ll hardly need anything else.

    I mean, what the hell… gog.com is opened 24/7 (amazon and ebay too). Why spend 60 bucks on utter commercial crap instead of buying proper games that catch you and don’t let go? I feel sorry for the ‘gamers’ that missed the golden age, really.

    That’s my rant for the day, tomorrow I’ll code some more on my new game project. I want to make a proper game, as they once used to be. Gameplay and feeling, not marketing and flashy graphics. Games can be art if you let them.

  4. #4 by Tomis on July 8, 2010 - 5:53 pm

    And by the way, how can you not love the artwork, sound and music in HoMM2 and HoMM3? How can you possibly improve on those to create a better game? You can’t, it’s like trying to upgrade the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling paintings. Living proof of this are the rest of the HoMM games, a disgrace to the HoMM universe.

    *sigh*

  5. #5 by The Management on July 8, 2010 - 6:09 pm

    Heh, so what you’re trying to say is that you were also a fan?

  6. #6 by Tomis on July 9, 2010 - 2:09 am

    Why “were”? What bothers me is the Carmack-like attitude that games are consumables – you play them for a couple of month, two years tops, and then you throw them away in favor of the next “new” thing. That’s not how things should be. Being an aspiring indie developer myself I can understand this point of view (you want a steady cash flow through the years) but the gamer in myself just can’t let go from the past because a lot of games created in the golden era are still the best, by far.

    Anyway, I’m still a huge fan of the HoMM (2&3) games and every “new” gamer should start by playing these. You can’t dismiss them by saying “oh, they’re old” because they’re simply too good to be matched by anything out there today. Gotta run for work. See ya.

  7. #7 by suhen on December 23, 2011 - 12:55 am

    hi, i was wondering if anyone could pls tell me which flash player do i need to be playing homm2?? its been very frustating .. as i have downloaded the game .. and i cant seem to be playing it .. because i dont know hw to mount it on a virtual drive .. i loved this game back when i was a kid .. i would really appreciate it if any 1 could pls gimme a step by step on wht to do … thank you ..

  8. #8 by Solitaire on January 26, 2012 - 9:59 am

    Oh I spent too long on this. I also got super addicted to Age of Wonders which borrows very heavily from this.

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