Guest Author - James Shea
A 2001 continuation of the "Heroes of Might and Magic" fantasy tactics series, "Quest for the Dragon Bone Staff" has unfortunately been reduced in magnitude by the sheer age of its style.
The story is almost nonexistent, but yet still central to the gameplay. The king has been poisoned, and for him to recover the hero must find the Dragon Bone Staff, an ancient artifact. The player has a time limit set based on the difficulty level, and in that time he must search the world for the Dragon Bone Staff. The way to get this is fairly linear; the player must wander the world (which consists of incredibly artificial looking blockades, like valleys and trees, closing in a single path with occasional forks) and gather clues. However, though the goal is linear, the way to get it is not. There is no tutorial, no instruction, no basic idea given; you're simply thrown into the game and told to find the staff. The world is populated by towns, monsters, and treasure chests. Besides the staff (which, ultimately, requires pieces of a treasure map to find), players can search for castles to conquer and bounties to turn in.
The week-to-week financial situation is important in this game. You get a weekly paycheck, essentially, which supplements money you earn from killing enemies and finding treasure. This money is mainly used to buy spells and troops (at towns and at special dwellings spread across the map), as well as things like renting boats to explore other continents. The main objective, though, is to find the Dragon Bone staff, and the various bounties and quests that can be taken provide pieces to that map as well as other loot. Combat consists of moving your units (one "unit" represents all the units of that type that you have, and their strength increases based on their numbers) in a turn-based grid-oriented manner. Furthermore, spells can be cast if they have been bought or found. However, apart from "attack", there's not a lot of tactical options available.
The graphics have not held up well; the maps in particular seem incredibly artificial, and the battle graphics aren't much better. The sound is bland and doesn't stand out. None of the technical aspects of the game are really worth considering.
As a whole, this game isn't even as good as the original HOMM games were. The game seems like an amateur project for an RPG Maker game or something. I can think of many games that were still good after a long time, but this is not one of them.