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Warlock: Master of the Arcane Review

Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a Fantasy TBS title on the PC from Paradox Interactive. Quite possibly one of the most promising titles from the publisher a lot of time was put into getting this game out there. This contains all the elements of a fantastic TBS title. If I was to relate it to another title it would be Sid Meiers Civilization. I will get more into that later.

Unlike many TBS titles that revolve around reality (somewhat) Master of the Arcane is an TBS set in a fantasy setting. So magic, trolls, and other aspects that would come with “fantasy” are present. You, the player, choose a wizard to play as. This wizard has set spells they are good and bad at. As you progress you will upgrade your wizard to make them better at what they do. The story and goal is very simple. Follow Sean Connery’s advice and amass armies big enough to kill all that oppose you. Your setting is Ardania. The same Ardania from the Majesty series as well as Defenders of Ardania (Tower Defense title). Now you may be wondering, just because it is the same name doesn’t mean it is the same setting as previous titles. Well, that would be the case if Sean Connery’s voice didn’t show up as the narrator. It is not really Connery, but it sounds like an exaggerated version of him. This is a game where you are public enemy number one. Cities that would simulate Norway in WWII attack you as soon as you are in range. The random monsters don’t help either. You are constantly on your toes due to the hostile nature. This plays into the immersion factor.

Every warlock you choose has their own backstory. It does not come into play during the singleplayer. As I previously mentioned, wizards have different traits and spells. The guy who looks like Jack Frost’s grandad specializes in ice spells. The undead warlock uses spells that would fit an entity that comes from hell. Every warlock is different, and you will never get a different experience. You can pick the most asinine combo ever and it could fare well in the beginning, but it is helpful to have some rhyme and reason to your madness.

One of the best aspects of Warlock Master of the Arcane is that the AI is not a 10 year old smashing his head against his keyboard. The enemy AI is intelligent and will catch you by surprise. You must treat this game like the internet. Every time you think you are safe, something will come around and ruin your day. There is never a dull moment in Ardania. It is filled with large scale. Your units will level up with experience gained in bonuses and winning fights. As for any other TBS title, there are resources to harvest and each have their own benefits and most buff your units. However, there are a plethora of uses that range from added routes to new cities. Depending on the resource you can create one or more buildings. Some will allow you to make more units, while others will power up the units you have acquired.

You can manage your cities with ease and on the fly. No one likes messing with menus within menus of words you stare at it and say to yourself, “Ok what do I do now?” There are three resources Mana, Gold, and Food. Those uses should be self explanatory. You may only build more structures when your city increases in size. I am not entirely sure if the destroying building bug is fixed or not.

As of this moment, Warlock Master of the Arcane seems like a very standard TBS title. However, there is one gameplay element that sets this game apart from Civilization and Command & Conquer. Rather than just being a commander that orders people around, you are able to cast spells. By you, I mean your warlock that you picked at the beginning of the game. Before you get up in arms about how amazingly powerful you will be and go Gandalf on someone’s ass you must know that the spell system is not quite polished. The spell casting works, but the game implies you are an incredibly powerful wizard when it seems like you just got out of Hogwarts (Man I am on a roll with magic pop culture references). Certain spells cannot be cast in the same turn they are selected. This means you may not be able to cause that earthquake until your next turn. For being a powerful warlock it sure takes a while for a spell to catch up. The game really hinges on the ability to cast magic as well as command your armies. However, the clunky magic casting system seems more like a add-on rather than a crucial element.

One major element in TBS games is the availability of a skill tree. In Warlock, there is not one. You research spells to gain new ones. You are then shown a diagram of new spells arranged in a particular manner. Much of the time, you are just selecting random spells you will never use just to see what comes up next. A great fix would to add a list of what unlocks what similar to the way Civilization does it.

One aspect of Warlock is the set up. It is very similar to the way Civilization’s way of using hexes. Sure your massive armies move incredibly slow, but odds are nothing will get by said army as well. Somethings Warlock does well includes seamless travel. In a nutshell you do not need any special requirements to traverse water. This is what impeded a game like Civ V.

There is a lot of content in Warlock. Not everything revolves around killing those who stand in your way. You can go a diplomatic approach and use your words instead of your wand. The best part is being able to talk to gods and their actions depend on how much they like you. If a god likes you they will send assistance, like extra spells that you would not be able to get during the course of spell research. If a god hates you they will send an avatar akin to the Eldar Avatar from Warhammer 40k and it will level your city. Gods like you by doing them special quests that pop up. Building a temple in their image helps, or maybe they want you to destroy a nearby village. If you fail the task, their likeness for you goes down.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a wonderful title and is a refreshing take on the TBS genre. With some added tweaking to the magic system the game would be even better. If you wish to learn the finer details of the game look to the internet. There is a tutorial video available here. I wish the tutorial was in game but hey. Doesn’t everyone learn how to ride a bike when someone pushes you down a hill? Really? You didn’t have to dodge cars on the way down? Maybe that was just me. I give Warlock: Master of the Arcane a 9/10. make sure to pick it up on Steam or Gamersgate for 20 USD.

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