The turn-based genre has three popular titles, two of them already being over 10 years old. We’re talking about Heroes of Might and Magic and Disciples, the two big rivals. Two years ago, the remake of “grandpa” King’s Bounty joined them, the game that was the original inspiration for HoMM. And after 5 years of creative fights and two production studios, Disciples finally manages to reach the third game in the series, enriching the story of Nevendaar.
The universe of the series is quite complex and really needs a summary, because it’s been quite a few years since the last Disciples and gamers have moved on to other similar titles. Thus, the Heavenly Father was so proud of his first angel, Bethrezen, that he gave him the power of creation and the freedom to forge the perfect world.
Nevendaar he called it and then sent Wotan, Solonielle and Gallean to populate it. First there were the sky tall trees and from their bodies, the elves were born; Merfolk, the people of the seas, came to life inside the oceans and Wotan hammered the mountains that became home to the dwarves. Humans were the last to come to Nevendaar, created by Bethrezen himself, proving to be the most independent of all the races, which meant that the angels had to keep their eyes on them all the time.
But the other angels grew jealous of Bethrezen and because of them, soon the humans wanted riches and started to attack the other races, which made the supreme god very angry with Bethrezen and as punishment, exiled him into the depths of Nevendaar. Unable to get revenge, he created the demons to carry out his rage to the surface.
The angels also fought one another, Wotan kills Gallean and even though Solonielle tries to save him, she fails and becomes Mortis, the goddess of the undead. She eventually finds a way to revive Gallean, but he refuses to stay at the side of the fallen creature that was once his love. Thus Gallean returns to the elves, but Mortis spreads her corruption to turn them into Dark Elves. As a result, the suffering of his people made Gallean hunger for revenge, thus becoming the leader of the dark creatures.
After two paragraphs of Tolkien-like history we finally get to the Disciples III story, born in a Nevendaar torn apart with conflicts. A fallen star announces the arrival of a celestial messenger and three races start looking for her, each for its own interest and fishy purposes. For now, we have the humans (Empire), the elves (Elven Alliance) and the demons (Legion of the Damned), but there’s already an expansion pack in the works, Ressurection of Mortis, that will focus on the undead story.
The three campaigns have 6 missions each, sporting their own hero, all gathered around the celestial messenger, Inoele. Lambert is the human supreme commander of the Imperial Guard, unmatched in fights and full of loyalty and honor. Haarhus is Bethrezen’s humble servant, a warrior demon not to be underestimated, especially since he used to be an elf in a previous life. And Arion is the leader of a small elf squad, brave, but also wise despite his youth (age is measured in centuries when it comes to elves).
Aside from being rivals, the Disciples and Heroes series were and still are different in terms of gameplay mechanics. Personally, I find the Heroes one a little more accessible and even more logical. Thus, until Disciples III, the troops in the battle screen had fixed positions; now, they can move around the battlefield just like the Heroes units, using special hotspots for attack bonuses.
This is just an example of the changes made in the new title, with many of the older fans of the series being upset that Disciples is now a Heroes clone. Perhaps it’s true to an extent, but the series’ soul is still there, from the troop management to the dark visuals and the cumbersome atmosphere that dominates Nevendaar. But this dark legacy isn’t that useful in 2010, when the more colorful Heroes V and King’s Bounty have years of success behind them. Disciples III also kind of lacks the dynamic of those two, the world doesn’t feel alive or active because everybody is crushed under the fatality of their destiny and even the heroes seem to fight with death on their shoulders, sure that all is futile.
The transition to 3D changed a lot, not only in visual terms, a transition which isn’t always simple and easy. You can end up with camera problems, pathfinding issues, glitches and bugs that are more or less visible. Unfortunately, Disciples III has them all, as apparently 5 years aren’t enough to release a somewhat “clean” game. Then again, this is true for almost all Russian games, special in terms of story and narrative ideas, but ruined by technical issues.
The basics are still there: unlike Heroes, where you have many units stacked under a single image with the number underneath (50 archers, for example), Disciples comes with less troops and only one unit with big HP (from 100-200 up to 2-3000). In the beginning, each hero has three basic troops, and gets up to 7 of them, with the army size depending on leadership. Leadership points come from the skill tree and, if you’re lucky, you can also find an artifact that lets you go beyond the 7 troops limit.