Kalypso MediaDeveloped By:
E10+ (Everyone 10 and Up)Release Date:
July 13, 2010Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written by:
Christian HigleyAugust 9, 2010
- Bad AI is never a positive point for any game. For some games more than others, however, bad AI can be downright crippling. Strategy games, for example, are built on foundations of intelligence and strategy. Whether youíre playing chess or rock, paper, scissors, real-time or turn-based, the quality of your experience is largely dependant on the quality of your opponentís skill. If your opponent is too punishing, then you canít have fun; too easy and you canít learn. Disciples III treads both extremes, but never finds a space in-between.
For a turn-based strategy game in the style of Heroes of Might and Magic or Kingís Bounty, Disciples III makes a few clever attempts at spinning some of the niche genreís conventions. Parties are much smaller and more expensive to maintain. Each individual unit gains experience, levels and upgrades, making micromanagement a must (in theory). Battle grids are littered with randomly-generated areas that enhance the power of your units, making map-control key in any battle (in theory). Your strategic approach should be static and ever-evolving, managing a delicate balance of strengths and weakness while you level up and build your army (in theory).
From a slightly wider perspective, what Disciples III lacks is a tricky little thing called, ďbalance.Ē ďBalanceĒ is one of the most ethereal concepts in gaming. I would bet money that very few of you reading this could really define ďbalanceĒ as it pertains to videogames (I know I canít). We donít even always know it when we see it. The absence of balance, however, is palpable. When itís missing, we donít need to see it; we can feel it.
Iíve never played such an easily-exploitable game as Disciples III. All those concepts I mentioned earlier only exist in theory because the AI doesnít seem to be aware of their existence. It will send paltry, low-level groups right at you to die, with no attempt to build or level its troops. It will never attempt to exploit those special power-enhancing spots or stop you from doing so. To compensate for the AIís weakness, youíll occasionally be forced into a fight with pre-generated, overwhelming forces that will usually just steamroll you until you grind enough to defeat them.
Iím going to diverge from my review for a moment to write a complete walkthrough to Disciples III: Renaissance. Ready? Here it is: build an army with a couple fighters, a summoner and a crap-ton of healers. Now use the auto-battle feature to let the game play itself. Congratulations, you just found the ĎWin Button.í
With that party, I could simply march into a fight, turn on auto-battle, and let the crappy AI hand itself to me. With so many healers, my fighters were basically invulnerable and my summoner simply defaulted to zerg-rushing my enemy with weaker, summoned units. This ďtacticĒ never failed.
Sure, I won a lot, but what was the point? The game was playing itself while I watched health bars. I never needed to learn each of the units and their various strengths and weakness; I never had to take advantage of magic and items (of which there are many, suggesting they must serve some purpose); in short, I never had to play the game in order to play the game.
The only thing Disciples III has going for it is that itís very nice to look at. In terms of both graphics and overall aesthetic, the Disciples world is a very pretty one. The fantasy setting remains mostly straightforward, pitting factions of humans, elves and demons against both each other and various forms of monsters, creatures, spirits and undead. However, its elaborate, Gothic style isnít quite like anything Iíve seen before.
Unfortunately, the writing in Disciples III never reflects its unique art design. From the get-go, the plot is as generic as you can get: a warrior finds a mysterious, magical, amnesiac girl on a sacred quest, and they set off on a grand adventure against the forces of evil. The dialogue follows suit, with some of the most bland, rigid lines Iíve ever heard. To be fair, I canít shake the feeling that this may be a consequence of the originally Russian gameís translation into English.
Besides looking good, there isnít much I can recommend about Disciples III. Aside from its easily-exploitable AI, the game suffers from a number of bugs and a general feel of being unfinished. For example, turning auto-battle off in the middle of a fight usually resulted in one of my units getting ďstuckĒ at an intersection in the grid. And there were a couple occasions where the name of an item displayed as a broken line of code.
What I donít understand is why a series that, I hear, was once a unique and enjoyable niche-genre unto its own decided to make such a sudden shift. I never played the previous Disciples games but Iím aware of their cult-following. If the gameís transformation into a Heroes or Kingís Bounty clone was meant to appeal to a wider audience, I fail to see the logic; the Heroes/Kingís Bounty audience isnít that big. At the end of the day, youíre better off playing one of those other games. Disciples III never manages to be more than a poor imitation of its competition.4/
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