- aka “Where did that portal come from?”
Well, it has been a few months since my pre-preview of Warlock: Master of the Arcane from Paradox Interactive and Ino-Co. The game is now just around the corner, with a May 8th release date, and set to make Civilization fans as happy as Larry.
When I wrote the pre-preview, I was already very impressed with the way the game was shaping up. Whilst on the surface, the game played very much like the hugely popular Firaxis game, there were twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting and which made me smile. And of course the fantasy setting, within the already established land of Ardania, left me grinning from ear to ear.
The game casts the player in the role of a mighty Warlock with designs on conquering the land. Starting out with one small settlement, the player then moves units of troops around the hex-based map, fighting monsters and conquering other settlements in an attempt to dominate. From within the cities, players are able to recruit new troops and build new buildings, which in turn will make more buildings available. The player can also research spells, one of the stand out features of the game, which can then be used for a variety of purposes, such as blasting an enemy settlement with a fireball or healing wounded units.
Being that the game is turn-based, everything is doen at a leisurely, thoughful pace. That being said, barely a turn will pass when something isn’t happening. The maps are littered with enemies, special hexes which can lead to more impressive buildings once they come under the boundary of a players city, and mountains of loot. There are also frequent quests to complete, adding even more to do.
That was then, this is now. Visually, the game is looking much more polished and looks pretty much ready to ship. Warlock will be a single player experience at launch, but Paradox Interactive have already confirmed that a multiplayer component is in the works and should be with us this Summer.
I am not entirely sure how much adjustment has been made to the AI within Warlock since I last played. Finding a balance that makes the game challenging, but not impossible, must be very difficult. I will say that I have found the monster units to be far less aggressive this time around, but I also have found them to be more sneaky. On more than one occasion, I found myself one turn away from conquering an enemy city, only to have a roaming monster horde take the city for themselves before I could even step through the gates. Fairplay to them – they let me do all of the work and then swooped in and took the treasure. Was it fair? Probably not. Am I sulking? Yeah.
The biggest shock that I had when returning to Ardania was the existence of Portals. These two-way doors take you through to whole new worlds, filled with monsters to vanquish and treasures to plunder. This new element may not seem like much, but the possibility of multiple portals, additional threats and oh so much treasure just leaves the player spoilt for activity as they expand their Kingdom.
All in all, if I wasn’t excited about Warlock before, I would be now. The game is looking great and playing exactly as you would want a fantasy version of Civilization to play, albeit with enough differences to keep it fresh. There is never a dull moment as there is always something happening and the hours just seem to fade away when playing the game. Warlock: Master of the Arcane will be available to download at digital distribution portals from May 8th for £14.95.