Saturday, June 09



A.K.A Warlock: Master of the Arcane.

It's a fantasy turn-based strategy game.  It's twenty currently ten bucks on Steam.  It has "Master of" in the title.  So I was pretty much guaranteed to buy it.

Two questions, then: First, is it any good; second, is it a replacement for Master of Magic?

And the answer is, first, yes, and second, not really.

As I said, it's a turn-based fantasy strategy game, with a hex-grid map that looks a lot like Civ V.  You build cities, and then add buildings and defences in the hexes surrounding them - one building per hex.  The cities produce units depending on the available upgrades, from basic foot soldiers up to dragons and elite paladins.

You send your units out to explore and patrol the world - or, as the case may be, worlds, up to seven in all - and conquer it before it conquers you. You can select up to eight computer opponents, but perhaps the most dangerous opponent of all is the world itself, which is filled with neutral cities, spider nests, ogre dens, kraken lairs and whatnot, all of which spawn units to attack you if you don't wipe them out first.  At one point one of my coastal cities was surrounded two deep in krakens waiting their turn to attack.

As a warlock, you can research and cast spells.  The research tree is relatively shallow, and if you select a larger-sized world the game will take long enough that you end up with access to every one of the standard spells.  There are some extras you can unlock by building temples to the various gods - also the only way to get access to the strongest units - but even so it seems to lack some depth.

Combat is pretty straightfoward.  There are no stacks, no hero units, just one unit per hex, so you move your armies around and arrange your formations as best you can.  Since there's only one unit allowed in a hex, moving armies into position can be frustrating; the game won't allow you to order an army to an occupied hex even though you know the hex will be vacant by the time you get there.  It will automatically generate a path through known free hexes, but that could unexpectedly take your elite were-paladins five turns out of the way.  Units can move through hexes occupied by allies, so with a bit of planning this is generally manageable.

Spells are a mixed bag.  The direct attack spells seem underpowered; I just didn't bother using them after a while.  On the other hand, by applying a combination of experience-earned perks, purchased upgrades, and enhancement spells, you can turn a small number of your elite troops into unstoppable killing machines that can take down enemy cities single-handed.  Every permanent spell has an upkeep cost, so you can't run wild with this, and you'll find that you need to keep a good assortment of lower-tier units and defensive works in play to keep your industrial base safe as you expand: An enemy dragon or a kraken hit squad arriving at an undefended town can really ruin your day.

Like Master of Magic (and this game is clearly inviting the comparison), Warlock offers the possibility of parallel worlds, indeed, not just one, but as many as six.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to be particularly distinctive (as the alternate world in MoM was); they're just more of the same.  In the one complete game I've played so far, by the time I found a gate to the parallel world it had been entirely overrun by neutral forces; the area I arrived in was quite literally wall-to-wall fire elementals.

On the plus side, the game looks very nice.  Graphics are clean and detailed, and the game only stuttered once (after I switched from full screen to windowed mode, I had to restart to get it to work properly).  There are a few details in the user interface that need some attention, such as the flickering if you bring up a monster details popup right on top of the monster itself, but on the whole it seems very competent and well-tested.

So, classic for the ages?  No.  Master of Magic for the new age?  Sadly, no to that as well.  But worth ten bucks on Steam if you like that sort of thing?  I'd say yes.  There are already two DLC upgrades available to add further units, which would be questionable for such a new game if they weren't priced at (with the current sale) $1.49 and $0.99 respectively.

Overall, a solid game engine just needing some more depth and variety to the gameplay - more spells, more city upgrades, more units, and please, more distinct worlds.  A worthy start, and if the creators keep pumping out cheap DLC to extend the game piecemeal - or bring out an expanded sequel with the same engine - I'll be there.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 09:00 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Hmmm...The game sounds like it would be disappointing when compared to Age of Wonders, let alone Master of Magic.  It would probably be inferior to Elemental but given the mess that game was released as (Being gradually patched by Stardock to acceptable mediocrity, if with some glaring flaws still remaining from birth.), Warlocks probably sounds like a better game to play.

Still waiting for a true successor to MOO.  Oh, Kickstarter, where are you?


Posted by: cxt217 at Thursday, June 14 2012 11:15 AM (hEbnX)

2 Yes.  In this case the technical execution is sound, and they just need to add more options to sustain interest.  I expect that's a lot easier than scrambling to fix a bug-ridden mess.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Thursday, June 14 2012 12:05 PM (PiXy!)


I think I might have some reservations about the game design, probably identical to your reservations about Warlock, and the need for more and more varied content.  I am interested in it but probably not enough to buy it before there is a sale on it again, and with more than two DLC.  Then again, the number of turn-based strategy games of either sci-fi/space opera setting or fantasy is not exactly overflowing at the moment, and the number of turn-based RPGs is only slightly larger.

Heh, maybe time to play Xenoblade to distract from how depressing the gaming scene can be...




Posted by: cxt217 at Thursday, June 14 2012 01:54 PM (hEbnX)

4 I picked it up, too. It was billed as a spiritual successor to the Majesty series, but really is only shares the same fantasy setting (Ardania?). Aside from the magic and multiple worlds/maps (very much like MoM), it's Civ5.

So far, the closest I've seen to being Master of Magic 2, are the Age of Wonders series and, recently, Stardock's Elemental series. Granted, Elemental: War of Magic was a dismal failure, but I'm playing the beta for the sequel, Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, and it is measuring up relatively well. (At least, not a dismal failure, :-D )

Posted by: Mark at Friday, June 15 2012 12:53 PM (cVJnl)

5 I picked up the Age of Wonders series on GOG, but haven't had time to play them yet.  And I was intrigued by Elemental, but never got around to trying it.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Friday, June 15 2012 01:31 PM (PiXy!)


Age of Wonders, especially Age of Wonders 2 and its stand-alone expansion pack/sequel Shadow Magic, is the closest any fantasy turn-based strategy game has gotten to being a MOM2 in my experience.  My only complaint is that there is not nearly enough of MOM's city building/Civ features in any AOW title - otherwise AOW would be perfect.

Elemental had some nice ideas for a fantasy turn-based strategy game, but woeful execution, along with questionable design choices, crippled it.  I bought it the day it came out, and while each version of the patch has made it more playable, I still find it lacking, both from problems in execution and problems with design concepts.  As mentioned earlier, some of the more objectionable features of the game have been left untouched by the patches.

I find it strange that Warlock is a spiritual successor to Majesty, since Majesty is a real-time fantasy strategy game - which I quickly came to loathe and drop after buying it.

BTW, I should mention that with the possible exception of Civ3, any Civilization or Civ-like game developed by Firaxis after Alpha Centauri - which is my favorite computer game ever - does not exist to me.  But I am eagerly awaiting their XCOM game.


Posted by: cxt217 at Friday, June 15 2012 02:31 PM (hEbnX)

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