Heroes of Might and Magic: Quest for the Dragon Bone Staff is one of the few PS2 strategy games. While the game is similar to New World Computing’s long-running PC series, the game has been given a bit of a face-lift in an attempt to make it a little more palatable for console players. Even though the formula and concept, whether or not they’ve gotten better or worse, are still up for argument, the console version of this strategy staple has several considerable redeeming points.
The hero you select at the start of your journey, be it barbarian, paladin, knight, or sorceress, never appears during your journey, except as an iconic representative of your location on the world map. The differences between the characters are minor, but some are better moneymakers or magic users than others. You are limited to only the one hero, and even though you have the occasional nifty spells and leadership modifier, they have no direct effect on your army’s success in battle. It is a bit of a shame the hero is always a no-show, since picking the barbarian sure gives the impression you’d be kicking some dragon tail firsthand and picking the sorceress implies maneuvering her to inflict some nasty fiery death. The absence of the hero on the battlefield strikes one as especially odd considering the game’s title.
After chuckling at the game’s name and popping in the disc, the first thing that PlayStation 2 owners will notice is that much of this game is just plain old ugly. The units aren’t much to look at, the world map is often far too bare and plain, and loading times are a bit of an annoyance when you try to access those much-needed army-status, world-map, and character-status screens. While there are varied battlegrounds reflecting the area of the current encounter, they’re all far too bare and simple, with only a rock or two thrown in for measure. Sound effects, be they sword clashes, grunts, or blows, are decent and competent.
The opening FMV sequence is just as unimpressive and tells an uninspired tale, in traditional sword-and-sorcery fashion, of a kingdom needing a mystical staff to destroy an evil dragon and elf wizard. To accomplish this task, you will hire an army from the units available at the castle, in dungeons, forests, plains, and hills, and wage war against rival castles inhabited by villains across the land, many of whom have a bounty on their head. So the game boils down to raising capital by defeating villains and vanquishing foes to pay for magic training, more troops, and gear (like boats). The action gets a bit repetitive as you move from area to area, killing anything you see–just to build bigger and better armies. However, there is some enjoyment to be found by experimenting with units in order to find the optimal combination of power and morale. Sometimes this can be as much fun as completing your objectives.
While this game is great, it has many flaws that would make anyone think twice before a purchase.