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Posted on Dec 29, 2010 in Electronic Games

Disciples III: Renaissance – PC Game Review

By Jim H. Moreno

Disciples III: Renaissance. PC Game. Akella. Kalypso Media USA. $39.99.

Passed Inspection: Beautiful graphics, lengthy playtime, a step up from previous Disciples games.

Failed Basic: Repetitive after a few hours, hot seat multi-player only, no map editor.

Since 1999, turn-based strategy gamers have been adventuring through Nevendaar, a fantasy world of humans, dwarves, demons, undead, elves, and one war after another. The Disciples series of games has one of the most extensive histories of all turn-based PC strategy games, and shows no signs of coming to an ending soon.

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Disciples III is the latest addition to the series, once again returning players to the Sacred Lands in an effort to save or destroy all within. Many elements from the previous games remain, but have been thankfully upgraded, both artistically and technically. Exploration, resource gathering and management, and city and hero upgrading are where the bulk of game play takes place. Combat starts off looking very promising, but, sadly, doesn’t seem to keep up pace.

Disciples III offers players three factions to play across a 19-episode campaign:, the Empire (Men), Legions of the Damned (Demons), and the Elven Alliance (Elves). Gone are the Undead this time, but look for them to return in an expansion. The story centers around a falling star, which turns out to be a messenger angel, who doesn’t remember why she has come to Nevendaar, but knows she has a limited amount of time in the Sacred Lands. The Empire and the Legions quickly make their grab for her, while the Elves only want to see that everything remains in its natural order.

Players begin the game in control of a hero character and a small group of support characters. RPG elements come in the way of being able to increase the hero’s characteristics (Endurance, Strength, Intellect, Dexterity, and Agility), and by spending points in an extensive skill tree to gain or increase skills. Support characters may also gain levels, but only if they have a corresponding building in the main city that allows them to do so.

Aside from the hero group, two more parties may be created, consisting of a leader class and support units for each group. These may then either be left in city to act as a garrison, or sent forth into the land to help with exploration and resource gathering. The number of units in each group is controlled by the leadership score of the hero or leader of the group. The higher the score, the more units allowed per group. This, coupled with the types of buildings housed in the main city, is what comprises the strategic elements of party creation. Having three groups made up of different character classes will allow players more strategic options in dealing with the numerous enemies encountered.

Combat locations come in a variety of places, from out on the global map, to dungeons and temples and catacombs, and even within main cities, which can be attacked and conquered, albeit not very easily. On the global map, spells may be used to soften up nearby targets before engaging them in close tactical combat. Once that happens, the combat is staged on a hexagonal grid map, often with special nodes that increase melee, ranged, or magical attack powers.

Each unit has its own initiative, making much of the strategy here dealing with which unit moves when, and to what position. For example, it may not always be a good idea to keep a spell-caster behind more protected units, especially if there happens to be a node on the grid that increases magical attacks. Likewise, archers are more known for attacking from a distance, but that doesn’t mean that have to remain stationary.

Units also have their own strengths and weaknesses, which can be seen by right-clicking on them. Some creatures are vulnerable to a certain type of magic, or may only move a short distance at a time. Take a moment before combat to gauge these about your enemy, and be well aware of those of your own characters.

Learning the combat elements in Disciples III is a rather short affair. Yes, there are plenty of options, but after only a couple hours of gameplay, they start to get a bit redundant. The AI isn’t much of a challenge, either, no matter the difficulty setting. Spells and power up items come in a limiting amount, and mostly just do more damage or healing than their lower powered option. Enemy will make use of power nodes on the tactical map, but not always. It’s a good thing that the game designers made the combat maps and actions very nice to look at, but even that can’t negate the ho-hum feeling after a few hours.

One glaringly huge disappointment of Disciples III is that the only multi-player option is via hot seat. Alas, there’s not even a map editor, another vital part that should come with every strategy game. It’s these missing items that cut short any thought of replay on this reviewer’s behalf. What enjoyment to be had from the main campaign will be received in full, and then it’ll be time to move on to the next game.

In summary, Disciples III is right in line with the series, taking the quality of gameplay up another notch as it should have done. The graphics and artwork are beautiful, as are the magic effects and creature concepts. There are enough strategy and tactical actions to consider to keep players busy throughout this long game, but busy doesn’t always translate into being involved and engaged with the action. Fans of the Disciples series will do well not to miss this chapter, but if you’re a hardcore strategy gamer looking for a hardcore strategy game, this one may not be to your liking.

Armchair General Score: 75%

Disciples III – http://www.disciples3.com/
Kalypso Media USA – http://www.kalypsomedia.com/en-us/index.shtml
Akella – http://en.akella.com/Default.aspx

About the Author:

Jim H. Moreno dropped his first quarter into a video game back in 1977, and has been avidly gaming ever since. He joined up with Armchair General just before the website went live as a game reviewer, and remains a regular contributor of war, combat, and strategy articles here. When he’s not working on an ACG piece, he’s freelancing MMORPG articles for The WarCry Network and The Instance Podcast, catching some sci fi shows, or just being zen with his cat, Spritzer.

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