I'm writing this review on October 30, 2004. First of all, some background. I have played a lot of HoMM I, from Nov. 1995 until Nov. 1996. Then, I played a whole lot of its sequel (HoMM II), from Dec. 1996 until Dec. 1998. And then, I played a titanic lot of HoMM III (and all of its expansions), from March 1999 to May 2004. I can easily conceive that I'm still going to be playing at HoMM III in 2009. So, I had high hopes for HoMM IV, which I purchased at the beginning of April 2002. I had very mixed feelings about it from the start. Some new features were very cool, but there were enough mediocre features to make me revert back to HoMM III after a few weeks. What I really did not like : 1. The too yellow interface is much too bland & bright. HoMM III was a darker grey, and at least, in HoMM II, you had the choice between the dark gray & the bright yellow. Why impose a uniform interface color, when 5½ years earlier, you had allowed the user to freely select his favorite color? Why do some designers feel the arbitrary necessity of imposing their preferences on the faithful fans who buy their sequels? 2. The hand-painted, 2D inner cityscapes were superb in HoMM III. I still have the creeps when I enter the sinister Necromancer's domain. But in HoMM IV, for the sake of "evolving" to a pseudo-3D cityscape, the designers have conceived ugly buildings that are aligned on a hill's levels, like cans of soup & sauce on kitchen shelves. Exquisitely hand-painted 2D beats rudimentary pseudo-3D, all of the time. 3. The thundering pseudo-opera music, in some castles, is so offensive that I leave ASAP. Again : In 1996, they gave me the option to turn the opera off, and 5½ years later, this freedom of choice has been removed. Why? 4. To add insult to injury : there are very few large maps offered. They seem to have financially cut corners on map-design. And as any fan of the first three titles know : awesome, amazing maps will attract & captivate you far beyond the pretty features. 5. The map editor is much more cumbersome & complicated to use than the one in HoMM III. It took me HUNDREDS of hours of tiresome toil to build fantastic maps. 6. I loved the style of the sieges in HoMM 2&3 : it was castle-siege. Now, it looks & feels like you're assaulting flat forts and door-panels. I miss the good, old catapults. But... 2½ years after its 2002 release, I have finally fallen in love with the game. That is mostly due to those hundreds of hours of map-design I have invested. It took me a lot of hard work to obtain those huge, complex, immersive maps I wish I had had in April 2002. I can't wait for 2005's HoMM V.
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