Over a year ago, I wrote a post about playing Heroes III natively in Linux thanks to the VCMI project. Unfortunatelly, the VCMI engine is not yet stable enough for me to consider the game playable. It turned out to crash way too often, and sometimes the AI players behave in a pretty weird way.
I got tired of it and looked for an alternative approach, at least until VCMI gets more stable. Therefore, I decided to set up the game in a virtual machine (VM) running Windows XP. Sure, the OS is no longer supported, but its only use will be for playing the game every now and then.
I wanted to be able to play Heroes III in a higher resolution, similarly to what VCMI offered. I searched the net and stumbled upon the Heroes Community web-site. Amazing! Seems that Heroes III is much more popular than I thought!
I will not go through all the details, since there were so many options and unofficial extensions. Instead, I will just list what I did in order to get an extended and enhanced installation of Heroes III. So, in the VM with Windows XP:
- First, install the Heroes of Might and Magic III Complete game, provided by GOG (version 188.8.131.52). This is what I own.
- Update the game with the provided patch to version 184.108.40.206.
- Install the unofficial Horn of the Abyss addon. Only this. It is not recommended to install different addons, because of compatibility issues. I chose this one because of its active development, rich features and apparent high quality.
- Last, install Heroes III HD+, in order to play in a resolution higher than the default 800×600 pixels. This mod is 100% compatible with Horn of the Abyss.
Start the game through the HD+ Launcher and set up the desired resolution. I prefer 1280×800 pixels, which is the same as the resolution I set for the VM itself. Therefore, in the Main Settings tab I specified the following options:
In this way, running the game with the “Full Screen Mode” enabled, will just fill the 1280×800 window of the VM. There will be no stretching, so no scaling up to distort the graphics. By default, the game will keep the CPU usage constantly at 100%. This can easily be fixed from the Tweaks tab, by setting the option
The game is quite stable, with some very rare crashes. Anyway, even if a crash happens, the game can be restored from the AUTOSAVE file. Here are some screenshots of the new town (pirate themed, called “Cove”) introduced by Horn of the Abyss:
I have heard of some enthusiasts who claim they managed to do all this in Wine. If someone has succeeded, please do tell. Honestly, I do not want to bother even trying. The full game is meant for Windows, whether we like it or not. There is a native port for Linux, which does not include any expansions and has trouble running on modern distributions. That’s really a pity.
Please, do not interpret this post as a disapproval of the VCMI project. I hope that soon enough it will reach a good level of stability.