Summary: The first official expansion to HOMM5, Hammers of Fate shares much of the same qualities as its' main counterpart, with slight improvements over the gameplay mechanics. With the notable addition of being able to queue large amounts of troops and caravan them to a specific castle with just the click of a button, it has streamlined and eased the process in amassing an army. I've personally experienced fewer bugs than with the main campaign, although the difficulty spike in the game is at times frustrating. The music and sound effects are still the same from the original, graphics for the most part unchanged, however the storytelling and cutscenes are vastly improved and do a better job of portratying the story. The bottom line is that if you were a fan of the original campaign and were just begging for more will find this right up your alley, otherwise it's the same formula and much of the same gripes from before. 3.5/5
In Hammers of Fate, there are three campaigns of five missions available to take on. There is a human-based campaign with Freyda and Duncan, then the fortress campaign with Wulfstan the dwarf, and then the shadow-elf Ylaya. Of the three campaigns, the fortress campaign presents some new gameplay mechanics that adds some flavor to the battle sequences. Namely each unit can be "enahanced" with a rune by expending resources throughout a battle. This can create a dilemma where you resources need to be set aside before a battle to maximize the use of runes and decrease on your overall losses. As far as the fortress town goes, they're also very sturdy and are resistant to siege machines which allows for a more defensive approach for the faction.
The missions themselves have some new variety, namely The Rebels and The Ambush are very event-driven and offer a new approach to the typical HOMM mission. Characters interact much better in cutscenes as they now utilize new models that actually articulate actions and expressions in a meaningful way instead of just going through random cast animations like in the original campaign. The story is a continuation of the original plot from HOMM5, picking up a few years after Queen Isabel returns back to the Griffin Empire. I did find the story easier to follow than from HOMM5, and maybe it's because I already know some backstory of reoccurring characters from the original campaign.
The music and sound effects are unchanged, it really could have needed a few new tracks to add some variety to the soundtrack but the effect of this is pretty minimal.
The difficulty in Hammers of Fate is much higher than in the original campaign, as I'm assuming that the developers anticipated it being played by veterans of HOMM5. Just playing through the first level, you'll find that it's much less forgiving and splitting your troops in a way to efficiently take on multiple objectives is imperative. The last mission in the game, The Decoupling is also highly frustrating as certain spells are necessary to complete certain objectives. Notably, there is a town to the east that needs to be taken to increase your recruitment pool but the gate to the town is guarded by 10,000 Enforcers, which is suicidal to take on with a conventional force but doable if you have Level 4 spells like an Empowered Meteor Storm or Armageddon. If you did not have the foresight to skill your hero to be able to gain these skills, you will have a tough time and in all likelihood will have to restart the campaign. If you want a challenge, if you found HOMM5 to be a cakewalk, you'll probably be content with Hammers of Fate.
In conclusion, if you liked HOMM5, buy Hammers of Fate. If you didn't like HOMM5, then don't. It's the same experience, just a few upgrades, but certainly nothing compelling enough that will change your playing experience. 3.5/5