The former Rampart of Heroes III has experienced the biggest creatures shuffle among all towns of Heroes IV. But we must stop calling it Rampart. It is Preserve now and it is completely different town. The major shift was made toward nature both in creatures and in magic. It leads to the whole new face of the town and consequently the absolutely new requirements to playing strategy.
It seems that the fashion for nature is overpopular among creatures of the new world of Heroes IV. What else can explain this huge number of followers of this town? No any other town of Heroes IV can present so many of the regular units and loyal neutral creatures. There are 16 of them altogether! In comparison to Preserve Academy looks like a poor relative.
Moreover, the town has portal directly inside the town for recruiting these neutral creatures and increasing army size.
Who could explain to me why Preserve has so many benefits? Is it that gods of Heroes are not totally objective to this town? Maybe It is not for us to decide.
However, we can analyse what we have in Preserve. Let's proceed.
4th level: Phoenixes and Faerie Dragons plus Mantises from the portal
These are the Elite units of the town. Let's start from Mantises
Did you already have a chance to meet these charming huge insects as your enemy? No? Oh, then you have a nasty surprise to encounter yet. My first face-to-face with Mantises was in single scenario and I recklessly rushed into the battle with them having only a small army and thinking to crash these nasty bugs under my mighty heel. Hah! I got my lesson and run back to my hometown without ever looking back. I lost the whole army and considered myself lucky to keep my head on shoulders with these "bugs" as an enemy. Well, I was fresh in the game and stupid, but I never made this mistake again.
(As a small digression, I must tell you that even when I play "just" against AI, I try to play as it is, without any reloading even if I made a mistake. It seems to be a very good remedy against wandering of attention and loosing concentration, but sometimes accidents occurred and then the only choice is to run as fast as you can. That's exactly what happened with me when I've met Mantises that first time.)
Well, after this encounter with Mantises I respect them very much and always accumulate them in Preserve portal for future use against my enemies. Just imagine how "happy" they were to see these creatures in my army!
Mantises are excellent fighters. They fly, possess good attack and defence (both 34), have ability to bind an enemy to the spot (like my favourite Dendroids from Rampart in Heroes III; remember these walking trees? very actual with this resurrection of Lord of the Ring cult worldwide, no offence meant).
In short, my advice try to have Mantises in your army, you'll not regret this.
It is a strange name for these dragons. Proper Faerie Dragons were left behind in Heroes III. These ones more remind of Rust Dragons from Armageddon's Blade. If it were real Faerie Dragons, then the flight through portals from the old place was too much for them and they've suffered some terrible mutation. Or maybe it was the climate of this new world.
Anyway, impostors or not, but it is what we have in the game as the available 4th level creature for Preserve, and they kept the spellcasting ability plus magic mirror ability. It means that it isn't easy to fight against them and even when they are in your army, they require special attention to themselves.
Consider situation of two Faerie Dragons fighting each other. One casted a spell, another mirrored it back to the first. It could be like tennis they could kick spells like balls back and forth, these Faerie Dragons. You must always remember about this.
Even with a limited list of spells in their disposal, Faerie Dragons could be very nasty as all these spells are effective and with significant damage for the enemy.
As for me, I prefer Faerie Dragons to two other available choices as these creatures provide a lot of opportunities for changes in tactics; they are effective in any kind of combat: open battlefield, siege or town defence alike.
Familiar Phoenixes from the town of Conflux of Heroes III. They are the same fire breathing flying birds with ability of rebirth, but they are getting old and that is probably a reason why they don't fly as fast as they had done in Heroes III where they were the fastest creatures on the battlefield. Now their speed is only 12.
Well, I have played with them for a while and wasn't impressed very much. In my opinion, they are inferior to other creatures of this level. Now that they are not that blindingly fast as before, I'm trying to avoid them.
Here I must give you the whole list. It is phenomenal how many creatures Preserve managed to combine under its banners. Okay, here they are:
In the town itself: Griffins and Unicorns
Neutral additions: Fire Elementals, Air Elementals, Water Elementals, Earth Elementals plus Waspworts.
One can spend an eternity choosing among all these creatures. To shorten eternity to the manageable period of time let's see first what these Elementals represent.
They are all the former habitants of Conflux town. Among these four I prefer Water Elementals and Air Elementals and I am ready to explain why it is so.
They showed themselves from very good side already in Heroes III both with their high attack and defence figures. Here they are strong too (16/16). However, they lost ability to shoot and became ordinary fighters. Nevertheless, even in few numbers they are very good. Even with only 40 hit points for the 3rd level they are powerful. They are fast (7) and believe me, it is extremely difficult to exterminate Air Elementals if their numbers are more than 50.
Spellcasters and shoot with their magic; they may be not very powerful as shooters, but effective in spellcasting. They can slow the enemy or low his defence and it could be very handy in the battle. When there are more then 50 of them, then they are good shooters. I always tried to have them in my army in open battles and they didn't let me down.
Fire Elementals and Earth Elementals
In my opinion the most cute creatures of these inseparable four. However, we are not at the fashion parade here and cuteness will not help you in the battle and these two are not especially good there. Fire Elementals are shooters and by nature resistant to fire, that's all they can do. There are higher hit points for Fire Elementals (50) then for Water Elementals (38), but still for me it seems, that Water Elementals are better, though it could be a marginal difference.
Earth Elementals are definitely one of the worst creatures regarding their effectiveness on the battlefield and it is because of their speed it is only 1!
New creatures in the game, reminding us about the ties of Heroes with its parallel universe of Might and Magic games. Waspworts are excellent shooters with the additional ability of casting weakness to the enemy. The only minus is the speed, which is very slow for this level (4), but phenomenal sturdiness and vitality in the battles can counter even this as they have attack and defence characteristics both at 22. I always tried to have them in the army. They are not just your ordinary empty headed pretty flowers, they are real fighters and you better look for their sharp pointy teeth!
Town dwellers: Griffins and Unicorns
Frankly, I didn't yet decide for myself who is better among these two, they look both very effective.
These creatures have lived in this town from the ancient times of Heroes I through all the changes and are as loyal to it as Minotaurs to Dungeon Lords. Moving to the new world didn't change them much, they still have their unique magical ability to blind an enemy. The only bad thing, in my opinion, in these Unicorns is that something profoundly strange has happened to their tails and manes. Is that they by mistake bathed in a lake polluted by some chemical wastes, maybe from the magical laboratories of Academy? Bad for them. However, rainbow coloration didn't prevent them from being good and reliable fighting unit in any battle.
Griffins moved to Preserve from Castle. They were tired of all the noise created by the clinking metallic armours of the knights and left for quiet and serenity of natural environment. The old king Gryphonheart of Erathia who in his time befriended these proud and noble birds and enlisted them as the loyal followers is probably turning around in his grave, though it is doubtful that anything was left from his tomb after all the earthquakes and fires and destruction.
Griffins kept their ability of unlimited retaliation. As the flying unit, they are extremely effective. It is tough to fight against Griffins with their high hit points (95).
That's all about the 3rd level. A lot of creatures to choose from and, honestly, it is impossible to recommend anyone in particular. They are all good with their advantages and unique abilities.
In the portal Satyrs
These are absolutely new creatures of Heroes IV, probably the natives of this new world. For the second level, they have quite impressive statistic and the special ability of increasing moral by mirth spell. They are strong in defence (13) and could be effective in sieges at the first stages of the game when your hero will summon them with the special spell. Can't say anything else about them, as I didn't use them as the regular unit in the army, only as the *call help* in battles.
Regular town units Elves and White Tigers
When building this level in Preserve I didn't think too long and immediately chose Elves, remembering them from their excellent performance in Heroes III. Good statistics, double shot, first strike ability what else could you want from your shooters in the army?
New creature and extremely rare, listed among the creatures in danger of extinction. Vigorously protected in Preserve. I tried to play with them a couple of times and got an impression that they are kept in the town more like a rarity than a fighting force, despite their ability of first strike. They are probably too precious to waste them in battles.
In the portal Leprechauns
Little green guys increasing fortune. Slow moving (6) and I do not like slow creatures, that's why practically didn't use them. Not very effective.
Town dwellers: Sprites and Wolves
One more fugitive from Conflux town of Heroes III but what a dramatic change in them! They were nice but weak girls before, but now after they have passed a severe school of training and hardship Sprites became a tough unit with impressive fighting abilities. Flying is their advantage along with no retaliation ability. They are quite fast and despite not big amount of hit points (7) they are standing steadfast on battlefield. At the first stages of the game, they are very effective in sieges and in open battles.
The former member of Stronghold army who probably didn't receive proper care and attention from the barbarians or simply got tired of letting smelly goblins ride on his back all the time. Anyway, Wolves returned to the woods and now live in Preserve.
They have double attack and speed of 7 but still they are not as good as Sprites. I used them more as the diversion.
Heroes: Druid and Archer
Hero of magic orientation with the most varied opportunities in this direction, providing the right movement up the experience ladder. With right tactics in upgrading and skill learning, Druid could become extremely powerful hero terrifying for all neighbours around. To the advantage of Druid, it must be said that it is much easier to begin the game with him than with any other hero of magic. He is much faster in upgrading. Therefore, he can quickly grab so necessary resources and mines.
As any other hero of might orientation not very effective in single scenarios.
Town Magic (school of Nature magic)
This magic school is the most diverse in the game. It has very good compatibility with the Death magic, the fact very surprising and unexpected by itself and never before encountered in Heroes games. Nature magic very effective in battles, especially with its collection of summoning spells.
Preserve kept the specific place in game as a heritage of Rampart from Heroes III. The town requires special approach, especially with such a unique qualities of its army and unusual magic school. The playing strategy for Preserve sharply differs from any other town in the game. The magic hero of Preserve (Druid) definitely has an advantage before any other town hero at the first stages of the game because of the Nature magic school and strange abilities of his army units.