The Disciples series has been something of a title that has lingered on the periphery of gaming. There are those that are great fans of the series, but bring it up in a conversation, even with people who profess themselves as gamers, and you'll find yourself in the company of a lot of confused looks.

That said, for those not in the know, the series is something of a darker take to the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise, showing very similar gameplay, with minor tweaks. As a hero (or heroes) of a racial faction, you explore a landscape, collecting resources, fighting enemies, building up your cities and heroes, and eventually conquering your opponents is the name of the game. While it sounds pretty good on paper, Disciples III has problems that come from a lack of tactical depth, a severe issue of repetition, and a lack of real challenge.

The campaign is the meat of the game, and follows three playable races: the Empire, the Elven Alliance, and the Legions of the Damned, all of which are exactly what their name might imply, with few (if any) surprises within. Each of the factions have their own story to follow, and while it's an epic tale, it's unfortunately all mostly within cutscenes, and is narrated in such a laughably bad manner to the point where it's hard to concentrate on what is actually being said.

If you've played any game similar in style to this (like previous Disciples titles, or Heroes of Might and Magic), you'll know what's in store for you: you have heroes scouring the countryside for treasures, monsters, and power while you upgrade your towns, allowing for stronger armies to accompany your heroes, taking on bigger and bigger foes until you dominate the landscape. Everything is divided into turns, so that means your hero can only go so far, and you can only do so much in a town before you must go to the next turn (and let your opponents do their thing in the meantime).

Battles are interesting (at first), having differently-configured battlefields, with various boosting spots showing up throughout the battlefield that make your units stronger. Things start out pretty well, with decent tactics, but as you play more and more, things get really repetitive, and much of the challenge just flies out the window, especially as your hero grows in power, as well as the ability to attack enemies from the world map with spells. There's an auto-battle option that I found myself using more and more as time went on, even with the lack of tactical ability that the AI possesses.

Upgrading your heroes is interesting though. As you level up, you gain stat points to distribute as you see fit, as well as ability points. The ability grid allows you to fully customize your hero, as gaining an ability will unlock adjacent abilities. The problem arises with the fact that only your main hero's levels will carry through each scenario, which means having to re-customize heroes over and over again. Once you figure out a build that you like, repetition sets in quickly.

This is also amplified by the army upgrades. Your army only upgrades via building construction in your cities, as opposed to experience like your heroes. You're given a choice in this regard, though building one kind of upgrade will lock out another. For example, giving a caster unit an area of effect to their spell might be beneficial, but it will prevent you from giving them the upgrade that doubles their strength. Again, like the secondary heroes, these upgrades don't carry through after each scenario, and since often one upgrade path is often noticeably better than the other, you'll find yourself simply repeating the process each time you get a city. It gets dull.

Disciples III: Renaissance does not have a lot going for it. Well, strike that, it does have a fantastic art style that will draw you in very quickly if you allow it. But the lack of tactical depth, the repetition of battle, upgrades, and heroes levelling, a campaign that's long but not terribly interesting, even the poor audio all work together to make playing this game a chore. There's some hot seat action to be had, but there aren't enough maps to make that interesting either. If you're looking for a fantasy strategy/tactical mix in a game, look elsewhere; Disciples III will not be sparking a renaissance anytime soon.