For fans of the series, the launching of Heroes Online about three weeks ago was a major event. The game, which had acquired a cult following with its second and third titles (produced by 3DO) never really managed to live up to its own popularity again, its 4th, 5th and 6th installations failing lamentably to deliver the magic of the initial few iterations. Obviously, since heroes of Might and Magic III, every other subsequent title was aiming to match its success. That was the benchmark for Heroes Online too, a tactical MMO RPG which had a surprisingly quiet launch and which generated few ripples in online gaming circles, despite the fact that it seems to be an effort relatively well-received by the community.
The creators of the game, Blue Byte and Ubisoft, have tried to adopt the Heroes III recipe wherever they could, but the resulting product turned out to be a sort of Diablo/WoW/Heroes cocktail-hybrid, which is much more reminiscent of a dungeon crawler than the original title. While the battles are indeed turn-based, the actual game itself isn’t, as that would make a horrible MMO obviously. The strategic depth of Heroes III is thusly obviously lost, but the world, brought alive by the surprisingly beautiful graphics, is still interesting enough to get old Heroes fans hooked.
The game itself tends to become a little repetitive after a while, and the various mobs the player has to defeat on his way to ever higher levels lack most of the appeal of the original Heroes crowd. They seem to be a sort of motley crew of generic monsters assembled from the unsuccessful iterations of the game as well as from other games/the random imagination of the creators.
The game is free to play, but there’s a Hero Seals system which allows players to take various short-cuts for real money. Hero Seals have to be bought for money, but some can also be acquired by simply logging in every day and picking up the bonus rewards.
The bottom line: despite some shortcomings, Heroes Online is a surprisingly playable title. The graphics are great, and some of the battles are indeed tactically challenging and rewarding.