After all the uproar about Ubi's DRM, I thought I'd post a brief review of the recently released Disciples III: Resurrection.
Since the purpose of posting this is to compare the two, let's start with how this game compares with HoMM. Like that series, you control groups of units under the command of heroes as they roam about maps. The game is played in turns, there is a capital city to be upgraded, there are neutral stacks to defeat, and there are treasures to be found. Par for the course.
The biggest difference from HoMM is that there is no unit stacking. That peasant? He's just one peasant. The largest party you will field will be eight soldiers (one hero and seven units). Longtime Disciples fans will probably be alarmed to hear that no stacking is the biggest difference and, yes, the combat now takes place on a hex-based grid, a la HoMM or King's Bounty. However, all of the franchise's units--at least for the Empire, Legions of the Damned, Elven Alliance, and Undead Hordes--return, and have been overhauled to function in the new format.
As your heroes gain experience, they will level up using a system reminiscent of the License Board from Final Fantasy XII. There are a variety of useful skills available, but the primary targets will tend to be the precious leadership points, which allow the hero to bring more troops into battle. Units will also gain experience. If you've built the appropriate buildings in your capital, your weak troops will be able to upgrade into ever more formidable forms. These buildings tend to be part of a branching hierarchy, and you'll have tough choices to make. Do you want a powerful, health-absorbing Blood Lord or an even-more-powerful Archlich? Or maybe you'd rather trade out the ability to hit every enemy at once for weapon immunity and invest in the Wraith path? But then there's the choice between the debuffing Nothingness and the heavy-hitting Reaper! GAH! That the units have been re-balanced significantly from Disciples II so that there really aren't any duds only makes the choices more difficult.
You'll certainly want to see all of the different units the game has to offer, as the game is simply beautiful. It's not technically amazing--and there are some odd lighting-related bugs--but the art direction is fantastic, and you'll find yourself consistently impressed by the creatures on display, be they Demonologists with an ever-roaming eye bulging from their chests or beefy Elves charging forward on burly, armored unicorns.
Unfortunately, the content is a bit limited, particularly compared with previous entries in the series. There is only one campaign, focusing on the Undead Hordes. If you want to get caught up with the plot--which isn't amazing, but is admittedly more involved than in the earlier games--you can watch the lengthy (and poorly narrated) opening video or hunt down the (buggier) Disciples III: Renaissance. Or you could hope that the upcoming Disciples III: Rebirth (basically an overhaul of everything Disciples III) makes it out of Russia. That said, the campaign is pretty good. The opening missions are too slow and limited for their own good, but by the third mission or so the unit selection and opposition have expanded enough to make for a more compelling experience, and you'll likely have a lot of fun completing sidequests, upgrading your Deadmen, and leveling your Werewolves. You may want to play on the Easy setting, however; the game is extremely punishing on the Normal setting. Outside of the campaign you can play against the AI or a friend or three in the hotseat mode. Sadly, these maps aren't as unique or enjoyable as those found in Disciples II, and are limited to capturing the capital cities for each other player. There are also a few single player scenarios, but these are just some of the hotseat maps in a different menu and with no race selection. Exactly what the devs were thinking here is beyond me.
As mentioned the game is a bit buggy. The translation in the sole campaign occasionally experiences a critical failure and produces pure gibberish. I've had relatively infrequent problems with the sound cutting out and weird graphical corruption, but if you practice good saving habits they are easily handled. There are some oddities with the Elven capital--the mage buildings tend to disappear after a while--but nothing game-breaking.
So, for 20-30 dollars (depending on where you get it), you get a decent turn-based strategy title with no constant online DRM. It does require a one-time registration with Kalypso, but there's nothing else to get in your way. Feel free to ask me any questions you'd like!