Friday, April 20, 2012

Warlock: Master of the Arcane

It's always amusing to come upon a game that you had no idea about and it is set to release in the very near future. Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a 4x fantasy based strategy game that is produced by Paradox Interactive and developed by Ino-Co Plus. If you see Paradox Interactive and think of games like Majesty 2 or Defenders of Ardania keep thinking about that universe, because Master of the Arcane is set in it. If you have played any Civilization game or any hex/tile based 4x strategy game like it then it will also help you understand this game. I am currently playing the beta version of the game, which is limited, but still has many options and a ton of content to explore. Read on for full impressions and a twelve minute gameplay video I put together.

You start out the game by picking a wizard and a race, the three of which I've seen in the beta are the Undead, Ratmen and Humans. The wizard is not an actual unit in the game, but he or she is the face of your empire and allows you to cast spells anywhere in your domain. The game is very much like the Civilization V, in which you start with one city, build settlers, fighting units, naval units and spread your empire. Along the way you will run into other empires, neutral cities, monster dens (like Ogres or Werewolves), sea monsters (Krakens) and plenty of unique resources. Initially it looks like a clone of Civilization, but after a short while you can see all of the unique features that the Majesty universe has added to the formula.

There are four resources in the game: money, food, spell power and knowledge. Money is of course for purchasing units, but it is also for buying upgrades for your units, upgrades that you get from specific buildings like an armory or jewelry shop. Food is all about growing your cities and maintaining your armies, if you go negative on food you cities start starving and losing population. Spell power is used for spells, that's about it, but spells are one of the major elements of the game. Knowledge is what you would normally associate with technology and tech trees in this type of game, except in Master of the Arcane knowledge is using entirely for learning new spells. There are a huge amount of spells you can learn, like summoning units, healing spells, enchantments, curses, destruction spells and all kinds of options. Spells also act a lot like they do in Age of Wonders, if you've played that. All of these resources seem simple, but they balanced it fantastically well. If one resource goes under, the rest of your resources will try to compensate for that resource. So it's not all that easy to go in the negative all that much, especially since building structures in this game doesn't cost anything other than time, some buildings do have upkeeps though.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane

Each city can defend itself, just like Civilization, but your cities are not all that strong. Cites grow over time if you have a positive food resource and for each level they will gain more hitpoints, stronger defenses and will often spread their influence. Any city under level five isn't all that strong and can be captured by two or three decent units, or one strong unit like a Minotaur or Stubborn Knights. To help protect cities you can build forts, of which there are a couple of different types, but they block a hex and are able to attack any enemy unit within two spaces of it. The first other player I attacked in the game took a very long time to kill due to these forts. They had fort of five forts blocking my way to their main level ten city, which did a lot of damage on it's own, but with forts surrounding it my forces had to take their time pushing through. There are of course very useful siege weapons, like catapults, but they are rare, very slow, fairly defenseless and have very high upkeep.

All over the world are unique resources, like Minotaur Dens, Elven Settlements, ancient ruins and many different types of unique structures. If you place a city near these and they come within your cities influence of control, then you may build very useful structures. Many of the resources often have two different options too. For instance an Elven Settlement can be used to create a buiilding that greatly increases your money by twenty per turn, or you can have it produce Elven units but then it will only give you two coins per turn. A lot of these unique units are very strong, but they have quite high upkeeps. Combining normal cheap units with these advanced units can make a very powerful army. It also helps that you can upgrade your units, all of them, with whatever upgrades you have obtained.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane

One of the major concerns with this type of game is the AI. Unlike Civilization this game has very little options for diplomacy. There are deciding factors for how another player likes you, but you cannot set up trade routes or anything like that. The only way to win in this game, as far as I can tell, is through conquest. The AI, on normal, isn't overly aggressive or overly eager to start wars with everyone, but they do explore and react to you if you amass units. I'm not sure if the lack of aggression is a good thing, but it is certainly a nice change of pace from the super aggressive, often stupidly aggressive, A.I. in every other strategy game out.

Warlock: Master of the ArcaneThe world map can be absolutely huge and there are quite a few options. There is mention of being able to teleport to other areas, that are not part of the original map, but I haven't seen that quite yet in the beta. In generally seems like a good idea to spread across everywhere and take every city that you can in order to obtain victory, but the more cities you take the more resources you need to balance, although it's not overly difficult to keep everything in the positive, especially once you obtain a lot of land to build on. I haven't beat a game yet, after four hours of playing, but I have taken out the biggest A.I. player and seem to have control of fifty percent of the world (a medium sized world). Before I finish up with my impressions feel free to take a look at the game in action. I took an hour or so of footage, but this isn't the most exciting to game watch turn by turn, like Civilization, so I broke it down into twelve minutes. It shows several parts of my game, from really early on, to my first war with another nation.

I am a big fan of Civilization and 4x turn based strategy games in general, so playing one in the Majesty universe has been quite exciting, especially seeing that they added their own unique touches all over the place, while borrowing some good gameplay mechanics from games like Age of Wonders and Civilization V. The game come outs on May 8th for PC only, presumably available through major distributors since it's produced by Paradox Interactive. I intend to play the beta a lot more, especially since I'm really enjoying the game so far, but I'm a little worried about it becoming repetitive quickly or the AI turning out to be rather dumb and passive. Will do another video or impressions before I am done playing the beta. Thanks for reading and check out the two links below for more information. 
Main Website:
Facebook Page:
*Demo Now Available on Steam 4/27:

-Written by Sean Cargle


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