After the colorful Might & Magic Heroes VI, coming back to Disciples III is like moving into your parent’s basement. Fortunately, this isn’t a bad thing for the stand-alone expansion pack Resurrection, since the line of the third game in the series is gloomy, the events are dramatic and are about to become even more so because the dead have risen and invade the living.
Things aren’t different in terms of gameplay; the expansion has one race, the Undead, but that doesn’t mean its length is short. Quite the opposite, the difficulty level guarantees a strong punch even when going from Easy to Normal and it takes a while to get used to the aggressive AI and the large number of enemies on the map. Actually, it’s pretty easy to go and get into a fight not knowing with whom and if you’ll live to tell the tale. It’s just that those wolves were hidden in the thick woods, behind a mountain top or something else that caught your eye and of course you didn’t think to move the camera around at that exact moment.
The narrative aims high and those who didn’t play the original get a good reminder of the events which have unfolded thus far; further on though, the chapters get only spoken texts, no cinematics besides the beginning and the end (those too maybe not for everybody, made out of static black and white artworks). Unfortunately, the story events aren’t clear though and the ending, although trying to be a sentimental drama, just botches into a stupid choice.
For TBS fans, Resurrection comes with more of the same. The Undead castle looks spectacular, but the building method is still clearly defined: choose one of the options and the other is closed. Yet, it’s more interesting that way because you can change your ways to see which mix of troops fits you best or comes better in certain situations.
The map runaround is typical: get resources, fight, visit places filled with monsters and preferably emerge victorious with your spoils. One must also mention that the territorial ownership mechanic is specific to the series: gaining a territorial node means getting the mines; however, the node requires serious troops to defeat its guardian. Moreover, building the mage tower doesn’t imply that you learn the spells automatically, you have to buy them (and they don’t come cheap), so watch your money carefully. Not to mention that recruiting isn’t at all like in Heroes: the number of loyal soldiers or monsters depends on Leadership, so you won’t get all the army slots full until you start cracking on the skirmish scenarios.
The fights follow pretty much the same line, only that each battle is preceded by a loading screen, fragmenting the gameplay. Coming out of the fight, another black screen and these moments become annoying since violence isn’t at all rare. Unfortunately, there’s no “let them run” option (like Heroes has) and Quick Combat is activated only after the loading part. True, it’s also an advantage because you can revert to normal play at any time and retake control if you feel the AI fails. Actually, I can’t even call it Quick Combat, it’s more of an “interactive fast forward”.
Nevertheless, the AI must be taken seriously and the difficulty level is high even on Normal. Right off the bat I loved the werewolves, units that sport a lovely ability: they are immune to almost any weapon; even if they don’t do huge damage, they are perfect to hold the enemy at bay and protect the more vulnerable archers.
The AI actually uses the spells competently and seems to have infinite resources to send troops to steal your territories. The downside is that the fights are so many you get overwhelmed and in the end you want some flight mode to avoid the petty fight with 3 pitiful wolves and the 30 seconds it takes to kill them, loading screens included.
The hero gets experience after fights as well and eventually level ups, each time getting three points to spend for basic attributes (Endurance, Strength, Intellect, Agility, Dexterity) and two more for a separate skill tree with bonuses, including the needed Leadership. Troops gain experience and level up too, becoming veterans and getting transferred into the next scenario so you can buy them. They don’t come cheap, but they more than make up for the gold you choose to spend on them. They also change visualy in aspect and colors.
The graphics go for the dark side of the original, since Disciples always had dramatic accents, unlike the colorful Heroes or King’s Bounty. Anyway, even if without any improvements, the visuals are still impressive, especially inside the castles. The black-green interiors of the Undead are greatly spotted with higher reddish buildings, and in skirmish and multiplayer the other races are also available, so fans of the Empire, Alliance or Legion can put down their pitchforks.
The maps are rich with items, too crowded I might say when you step into an unwanted fight, lost in the woods. There’s no underground and no water, but it’s compensated by some spectacular backgrounds during fights and especially in sieges. The sound is good, but way too repetitive; there are no dialogues besides the narrator, only text boxes that shed light into the pretty murky storyline (on the other hand, it’s simpler like this because it’s kind of hard to find Russian actors with good English acting skills).
The game also comes with technical issues, especially desktop crashes or just “hangs” in fights. Alt-Tab is also a very bag key choice, because the game just remains stuck and must be closed from the task manager. Also, since the maps are very big and dense, it’s hard to keep track of where you’ve been and where to search further for the next mission hot spot.
Overall, Disciples III: Resurrection is an expansion that features plenty of turn-based gaming hours, but these come bundled with technical issues and a couple of design choices that get more and more annoying as you progress through the campaign.