For anyone who’s played the Heroes of Might and Magic or King’s Bounty games, Disciples III will be very familiar. More familiar than, say, Disciples II. While the original games kept the combat simple in contrast to the genre’s typical hex-grid tactics-fests, the latest one gives in to peer pressure.
Which is unfortunate, since those games are very good, and that makes for tough competition.
Disciples III: Renaissance puts you in control of a fantasy hero, moving via a turn-based interface over the land, collecting resources and treasures and weapons. If you run into an enemy, though, you’re put in control of a fantasy hero, moving via a turn-based interface over the land. Except this time you’re usually hitting monsters in the face.
You do have help, though, and that’s where the battles are interesting. You raise a team of archers, mages, giants and such, and these guys also get to hit monsters in the face. (Usually. Not all monsters have faces, after all.) All the while you’re taking over castle cities, building structures to enhance your team and recruiting up to two other heroes to raise their own face-hitting armies.
If you’ve played games in the genre, you should have a pretty good idea how this goes. Renaissance does have its differences, though. Unlike most games in the genre, you level up your team RPG-style. Rather than collecting a stack of 62 archers, you shape and improve your one archer with stat boosts and abilities. It’s quite intricate, and you’ll need a high tolerance for micromanagement to take care of everything.
Disciples III is a good-looking game — though the team certainly knows it and shows it off just a bit too much. Many interfaces are dominated by carefully-rendered creature art. It looks nice, but with a game this complex, the extra screen real estate could have made things clearer and more intuitive. With a title like this, though, you’ll play long enough to get used to everything. The sound, on the other hand, is just painful. You’ll want to turn off the unit talking, as they say the same thing every turn and you have about four or five units at once. (Heck, the goblin just says “Goblin” when it’s his turn. Seriously, guys?)
The game includes multiple single-player campaigns and online play, as well as a limited hot-seat mode. The campaigns focus on the game’s three factions: the humans, the elves and the nebulous evil faction of hellfire and brimstone. There are some subtle differences between the three, but it’s not a large change in strategy between the three. Each has their back-line casters and their front-line beaters. The difference comes in upgrading the units through branching paths, but most can be shaped similarly to suit one playstyle if that’s what you want.
Disciples III is not simple. It takes real commitment to grasp the game’s many controls and systems, but it’s eventually a rewarding experience for those who’ve exhausted the latest King’s Bounty. Part-time gamers stay away: this is one for the true believers.
Pros: Full of strategic depth, lush worlds
Cons: Just not as tight as King’s Bounty