Yeah, this is what I was getting at about the AI. I am not asking for a Deep Blue driven Grand Master Chess AI, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask for a game’s AI opponent to be able to play its own game-- something that has become incredibly rare in recent years. Was playing HoMM III the same challenge as playing a person? No, but the AI could not only play the game, but it also put up a reasonably entertaining fight. The AI on HoMM IV on the other hand failed utterly on both accounts. It had to be given ridiculous sums of units and resources for free and it would still die repeatedly to trivial encounters just outside its own castle that was already leveled up to OP levels beyond reason from turn one. Frankly, it just didn’t work and in a genre that is primarily about single player, that is a problem. And sadly HoMM IV is not alone in the slightest in this regard as many (dare I say most, or possibly just short of all) games of late seem to fall prey to this as AI doesn’t sell games nearly as well as screenshots it would seem.
Again, I don’t need the a great AI. I routinely play Acenscion against the AI at lunch even though I rarely lose, but its AI can still play and it gives me a way to enjoy the game alone. If the Acenscion AI was like most recent 4x games, then the AI would start with 40 victory points, a pre-built deck, and still lose because all it did was buy Mystics (basic resource card) every turn.
I loved AoW and AoW SM, but the AI in it was just barely better than HoMM IV and leagues from HOMM III’s. Which was a painful shame as once I learned the game, then there was nothing to do other than play the map. I know player made AIs showed up much later, but by then I was long past interested in saving the game, but still depressed over the critical misstep of AoW:SM. I very much hope the new one will be different.