As a kid, I was given a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic II on CD-ROM. I didn't know the magic I had in my hands at the time, on my old beige Pentium machine. Until one day, I decided to sit down and learn how to play the game.
While that era of gaming was the advent of plug and play peripherals, games, and software certainly were not. You'd read manuals, familiarise yourself with the game's rich lore, and read every inch of the lavishly appointed scraps of dead tree that made up a box the size of potential.
This is the reason I really wanted to like Disciples III - it has everything Heroes of Might and Magic II had - hex based combat, resource management, battles, throngs of units, and artwork, fantasy tropes, and strategy galore.
What it lacks is execution and polish, right from the start. It goes on further and deeper.
Disciples III opens with an illustrative sequence of monochromatic art. It's all very breathtaking, gorgeous and produced by clearly talented individuals. Then the average voice acting with average intonation drawls on about the history of a world.
Character after character. Fable after fable. Conflict after drama. Drama leads to conflict. It is difficult to focus on the plot being spoken of - there's so much depth it names it sounds like a dramatis personae, and not the introduction of a game.
Story is important. But so is game play.
While I long to read the glossy manual of a game launched decades ago, I don't long to be thrust into a new game without the gentle hand holding tutelage we've come to expect from modern titles, which is a shame.
A further shame is that when you jump into the game play and press various buttons in the interface - you expect them to... well, work. Not for you to be greeted by a black screen and ongoing music.
But wow, the music! The game's soundtrack is fantastic, well presented, and sounds amazing, even on average speakers. They've done a really good job of optimising this element of the game. Pity about the rest.
Further to this, the need for a third party launcher on top of the game is a damn shame, given I have it on... uh... Steam. I got this game in a Humble Bundle pack, and I'm bitterly disappointed it can't live up to the weight of the expectation I put upon it.
I loved, adored, and still cherish those countless hours, sore eyes, and pixellated dreams of Heroes of Might and Magic game play, and was quietly hoping that Disciples III could bring me just a fraction of that joy and nostalgia.
Sadly, (and wonderfully) - it makes me hunger even more for those days of my youth, and the letters yet to come in my Steam game library.
All screenshots taken from the Steam store page for the game.