I actually quite like the spell research. It was quite annoying to me having a town with useless spells in its guild. I mean, when you pay the big 10 of each precious resources to build mage guild level 5 and get magic mirror or sacrifice, that was always a sucky feeling because you basically just wasted your resources to get a crummy spell. I am so glad that this has been changed so you can actually make that stupid spell go away. Before spell research was a thing I often decided to build the grail in a random conflux town I had captured JUST so I could get the spells I wanted (I would often make at least one of my enemies conflux aligned to facilitate this). I now rarely have to do this, which makes the game more enjoyable.
I also LOVE the changes made to combat! Specifically the ability to change the actions of various creatures with special abilities (such as the ability to change whether your harpies strike and return or strike and stay or whether your shooters shot or melee). This is something Heroes 4 had that I soooo wished that Heroes 3 had, and now my wish has finally been granted!
I just played again after finally being able to update (was unable to for a while). I was unable to try the spell research thing because it appears disabled by default (unfortunately). I did, however, try out one of the new artifacts for the first time: THE Horn of the Abyss. It is a very powerful item... possibly the most powerful item in the game now. Perhaps Armageddon's Blade, the Cloak of the Undead King, the Power of the Dragon Father, or the Angelic Alliance are comparable in power, but perhaps not. I am not really sure what competitive players would think, being only a casual player myself. Like Armageddon's Blade, the Horn of the Abyss is not enabled by default.
Spoiler on what the Horn of the Abyss does...
It summons Fangarms, a new monster, whenever a stack of living monsters (excluding other Fangarm stacks of course) on either player's army is killed. These Fangarms are permanent and will stay with the owner of the horn even after combat. They tend to add up after a while, much like Power Liches do with the Cloak of the Undead King. I noticed that this even takes precedence over the Rebirth ability of a Phoenix stack. The Fangarms themselves are a level 5 flying melee unit that can hypnotize those it attacks and is immune to mind effects. They are somewhat slow, however.
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Sorry, about the confusion caused by behind the scenes activities here. We were investigating things. Nothing was actually deleted and now changes made to this thread have been reverted. The missing thread has been returned, but to the off-topic section. It can be seen here. Further clarification will be sent in PM.