Slow Learners: Disciples III

A few kindly readers have mailed me about this strategy-RPG, having noted my mildly terrifying obsession with King’s Bounty earlier this year. I’ve never dabbled with the Disciples games before, but certainly this Russian fantasy hybrid appeals to my unrepentantly nerdier instincts.

Unlike KB’s cheerfully low-fi Warcraftian look, this seems pretty hung up on spectacle. KB was really a 2D sheep in 3D wolf’s clothing, but this one’s definitely making a virtue of that third dimension, and then slathering it with moody gloom. What this trailer seems to lack is the charm and cheer that made KB such a rare delight, but it’s entirely possibly the six shiny minutes of footage beneath the cut are solely trying to dazzle us with pixel power, and the brainier best is yet to come.

The music’s a bit much, but it looks agreeably fiddly and epic. Hopefully it has character as well as complexity. It’s enough to make me want to dig up Disciples II, anyway. God knows there’re enough 2008 games I’ve yet to play, but I definitely want something KB-esque to lose myself in over Chrimbo.

More details here. Thanks to João and Nelson for the tips.


  1. Flubb says:

    I liked the concepts behind D1 and D2 but everytime I’d find myself at a point where I would inevitably die and there would be nothing to do except reload the entire damn level, which could have taken you an hour or so to reach.
    Plus the computer cheated horribly.

  2. Sargasso says:

    Completely agree with Flubb about the pain of having to restart entire levels.

  3. Bhazor says:

    Good lord! That woman is actually wearing Armour that could survive a light breeze.

  4. Caiman says:

    I thought the original Disciples games were somewhat under-rated, and D2 has some very nice pixel art. The game took a little getting used to – it was quite a steep learning curve, and it was mercilessly difficult at times – but overall it was great. I’ve no problem with D3 continuing their tradition of eye candy, as long as it’s unique and atmospheric, but let’s hope the game is a little more forgiving this time.

  5. Derek K. says:

    Empire’s probably still b0rked.

    But I have something like 9 Disciples games now, counting expansions, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get this one too.

  6. Skittles the Mincing Pirate says:

    The Disciples games always struck me as Heroes of Might and Magic sans the colorful charm.
    Playing them only confirmed that suspicion.

  7. Rhygadon says:

    I played a lot of Disciples I and a fair amount of II — and yes, prettiness was always a significant part of their appeal, but there was also a distinctive and fairly engaging game under all the glitter. It reminded me a bit of Kohan in that choosing the composition of your armies was a significant layer of strategy and source of replay value.

    I don’t remember having to restart levels, but I do remember a parallel problem: since units that level up (from combat experience) become substantially more powerful, if an important veteran unit dies in a fight you’re basically forced to reload; sacrificing an experienced unit was almost never worth it. This means that a) you have to replay more fights than fun would dictate and b) prudence dictates that you should fight every little neutral mob on the map so you can level up for the big fights. (King’s Bounty has some of the same problem re: leveling-up the Spirits of Rage.)

    I wish more developers would realize that their seemingly cool unit-experience mechanisms often wind up *constraining* strategy rather than expanding it.

  8. Lavitz says:

    Omg! Finally some gameplay feed. Been waiting for this quite sometime. So it’s jrpg / rts ? Rpg rts? or RPG point and click ? anyways ,I’ll definitely keep an eye on this game.

  9. Nelson says:

    @Lavitz: It’s TBS

    Disciples II Gold hooked me pretty bad and I’ve seen it in stores for as low as $2.50 now, so there’s no excuse not to grab it if you’re into this kinda thing. ;) The art was beautiful, almost like playing in a painting. And it was fun watching your units transform as they leveled-up. A really nice, lo-fi gaming experience. Luckily, D3 looks to be making the transition from 2D to 3D quite well. Thanks for posting Alec!

  10. Subject 706 says:

    Aaah, Disciples. I’d say that no other game has made demons look so convincingly evil and horrible. They were great games also.

    They are not supposed to be cheery, happy and colorful, you fairies! They are supposed to be dark and gritty!

  11. Feet says:

    Looks like my cup of tea, if a bit overly heavy on the black eye-liner.

  12. Jubaal says:

    It looks pretty beautiful graphically, but why would you ruin that with those big ugly blocky health bars. Surely they could have thought of a smarter more aesthetic way of doing it!

  13. alco75 says:

    The art direction in D1&2 was great, but the gameplay was awful, especially having since played KB.

  14. mist says:

    I enjoyed Disciples 2. =)

    As others said: it’s more a of a dark and gritty game, with demons and undead as playable factions, and the land changing to whichever side owns it: if you’re playing demons/undead, you’re basically looking at a hellscape/horror-movie-graveyard the entire game, with just hints of dwarven snow-landscapes and human non-cheery forests (that you then proceed to conquer and change to your favorite hell/graveyard =)).

    So, a big difference with King’s Bounty, which is pretty lighthearted (at least untill the Elven continentent.. didn’t get any farther because of L4D -_-)

    And judging from this trailier, Disciples 3 will continue with the evil/dark look.

  15. monkeymonster says:

    A final fantasy clone? Wrapped up in different paper with a dark bow dripping in black evil goo… Was never a player of such games but dead useful as co-pilot.

  16. an ape says:

    To be fair, everyone in Disciples looks positively evil.

    Looking forward to this, there are some simple but really tight mechanisms in this game, lots of fun.

  17. Severian says:

    as always with TBS, the issue is AI. if only developers would put as much time and energy into writing complex AI as they do for drawing “kool” demons. Disciples II was a fun game but ultimately fell apart because the computer was incapable of actually waging war. Unfortunately, the same critique was true of Age of Wonders, Warlords, etc. Damn, even Vic Davis’ excellent Armageddon Empires was dumb as a rock sometimes. Only Civ and GalCiv have done a decent job at turn-based AI and until that problem is fixed, fantasy wargames will always make me feel like a grognard in a babypool.

  18. Severian says:

    P.S. the brilliance of King’s Bounty is that it’s not a wargame at all, but a series of increasingly difficult tactical battles. AI behavior is relatively simple and easy to code.

  19. Bobsy says:

    My favourite bit was where no-one could stand still, swaying back and forth instead.

  20. PleasingFungus says:

    Disciples II was really nifty (especially the transformation/upgrade mechanic, as others have noted), but Rhygadon’s complaints are pretty much spot on. Had no idea the devs were still around. Will have to keep an eye on Disciples III. (It was fun! It was deeply flawed, but fun.)

  21. Skurmedel says:

    Where’s the petition? This looks way to colourful compared to the old Disciples!

  22. Frank says:

    Another way the disciples 2 system was broken: it was optimal to drag every battle out to 20 rounds to fully heal when playing the human side. More KB obsession please.

  23. zomg says:

    ogre battle rip-offs ftw fucktards