Rate this Review: Warlock Master of the Arcane
Genre: Strategy, System : PC, Available : Downloadable
Developer : 1C: Ino-Co, Publisher : Paradox Interactive AB
In an age dominated by first person shooters and action RPG’s, strategy games have somewhat taken a back seat. Enter Warlock: Master of the Arcane designed as a turn based hexagon grid game. As a Warlock/Mage/ other magical spell caster stereotype(the game doesn't really seem to make up it’s mind as to what you are) it is your duty to bring peace to the land by whatever means possible.
If you have played Civilization titles then you pretty much know how the game works. Each player takes turns building up cities, producing units, and moving said units across the map to do battle. There is a choice of three races all with slightly different units but mainly divided into melee, range and spell casters. The races being cliché humans, the not really scary undead and the ugly and unappreciated beast race made up of rat men, orcs, goblins and trolls. To produce these units players have to construct certain buildings and ensure they have the available resources. Other units can be produced by having a city close to a resource node and building on it. For example being close to a donkey’s resource node will allow a city to produce the much feared stubborn (donkey) knights.
The player can win the game in multiple ways. The easiest and most straight forward being to destroy all your rivals. Other ways require a lot more effort, by doing quests for the gods and gaining favour with them being one. Sadly there is no way of knowing which god is which and quests to gain favour don't frequently happen. The more favour you have, the more access you have to powerful spells. But once at a high enough level of favour the rival god will summon a (over)powerful avatar at your home city and will pretty much destroy your city and make you lose the game unless you are highly prepared. Unfortunately the amount of resources needed to defeat the avatar and gain favour with the god make it a rather poor choice as a victory condition. Another condition is being able to cast the “unity” spell after extensively and exhaustively researching it. Casting it is the issue as other mages can easily and most likely counter it. The trick is, to be at peace with all the other great mages.
Regrettably diplomacy is pretty much handicapped and plays out horribly. One can only declare war, declare peace, no hostilities pact and demand tribute (or trade). The A.I is extremely war happy and there is no way to counter negotiate, it is either meet their demands or war. If seeking peace (the way to win with the unity spell) be prepared to spend a lot of resources as the A.I continues to demand tributes to keep them happy. If war is more your thing, be prepared to deal with spam from the A.I as they repeatedly ask for peace while you are attacking their main city. After the 7th time of saying “No” to them, one would think they would get the hint that you don't want to be friends with them.
The problem with these victory conditions is the amount of effort required to pull them off. It is so much easier and less annoying to just kill your rivals, rather than go through the laborious process of making them all happy, or keeping one alive and dealing with spam in order to buy time to summon an avatar.
The game has been designed as combat focus and it shows. Both economy and diplomacy are terrible. Units gain experience and level up and once at a high enough level can advance to a stronger unit. Perks are gained for each level although sadly they aren't very exciting. Some being +20% damage while others are +20% resistance to missiles and so on. Apart from the different looking units there is no visual way of seeing if a unit is low level or high level (the perk icons are really small even when the unit is highlighted).
Combat is inconsistent, with all units being able to counter attack and do damage when melee units attack them, while range units cannot counter attack other range units. Enemy players will cast spells on you and on your units and unless you pay close attention, the spells are sometimes easy to miss. Balancing of units is not complete and as such some are weak for their cost while others are insanely strong.
During the game the player will encounter various wild mobs, these are for the most part a pain to deal with as they will get in your way. The major annoyance is that when your army is out destroying other mages your cities will be constantly under attack by continuously spawning wild mobs. While cities are able to fight back it is time wasting having to spend a quarter of a turn telling your cities to attack. In one case an ogre spawned near a new city and proceeded to capture it long before any of my units got close to defend it. Wild mobs also become stronger as the game continues making this a huge problem in the game.
There are other realms on the map containing rich resource nodes if people venture into them but they are protected by extremely high level creatures. The units needed to defeat these creatures would be much better utilised in simply killing off your enemy.
Disappointingly at the time of this review the game has no multiplayer mode to speak of and there is no story line or campaign missions or anything to really flesh out the game. Although Paradox Interactive has stated multiplayer will come in a later patch. The mages perks which make each one different are weak and won't be a governing factor if you win or lose and the higher difficulty rating doesn't make the A.I more intelligent, it just gives them a lot more resources(in a sense playing against a cheater). The game still feels like it's in beta in some regards, given how incomplete and unbalanced the game features are.
It's very much an average game. It will satisfy some strategy game fans but anymore looking for a more exciting turn based game should look elsewhere. Battle for Wesnoth and Heroes of Might and Magic come to mind. Epic_Bubble