For some of you, this is all you need to know about Warlock:
Civilization : Master of Magic :: Civilization V : Warlock: Master of the Arcane
The remainder of this preview is for everyone else.
Warlock is an upcoming turn-based strategy game from Paradox and Ino-Co Plus, who also developed Majesty 2. Icrontic has had the privalige of getting access to an early build. In this game, players control one of many different, customizable factions on a hex-based world map. The gameplay is very close to the most recent Civilization game—so much so, in fact, that when I first started it up, I was certain that Ino-Co Plus had bought the engine to use, as even the GUI and other secondary elements look like they use some of the same art. I had to talk to the developer and confirm that this is indeed a from-scratch engine for the game.
It’s not a bad thing, and I can’t help but think it’s in homage to Master of Magic, a game which also had its own engine but was identical looking to the original Civilization game. Even the subtitle of this game seems to be a reference to that long lost gem.
As you would expect, the game is based around cities and military units, but there are some additional elements. Spells are the big deal here. As the game’s setting is a magical realm, the leader of each faction can learn spells from their tech tree, and then cast them out on the map, spending a mana resource which is built up by having libraries and laboratories built in the cities. The spells are about what you would expect: things like “Heal unit”, “Summon Ghost Wolves”, and “Magic Shield”. There are spells for casting on cities and for friendly or enemy units on the battlefield. When the game is finished, there may be more.
Each faction has a leader portrait and a set of perks, which can be customized with a point-buy system if desired. The perks are things like bonus mana per turn or increased starting gold, etc. and the more powerful perks cost more points in the customization screen, allowing players to take lots of small advantages or fewer great advantages or a mix.
Cities are founded on the world map, paying attention to nearby resources and borders. When the player chooses to build certain structures for a city, they choose one of the hexes within that city’s control radius to build it on. This limits the types and number of buildings that each city can handle based on its geography, since some buildings require to be built on particular terrain types and almost none of the structures can be built on water hexes. This means it’s not always an advantage to build on the coastlines. It also means that buildings in a city can be captured—or blockaded—by enemy forces without taking the city, making placement of the buildings more important and near-city combat more dynamic.
Combat is handled on all the hexes outside of the cities themselves. Only one unit of any faction can sit on each hex, and each unit—typical fantasy units mostly: rogues, warriors, rangers, wizards, and the like—functions a bit differently. Most are just varying powers, but many can do special things like move farther or attack at range or fly. Damage is either physical or can be of various elemental types, which affects some enemies differently. Whatever is happening though, the player always gets a breakdown of what will likely happen in any particular unit encounter before attacking, so one never has to blindly move pieces without understanding the odds.
The map is littered with neutral towns, with which the player will be able to engage in commerce, and ‘barbarian’ structures of various types. There are domains for elementals, hideouts for bandits, and dens for all manner of mythical and magical creatures. Alongside these is an occasional portal which leads to another realm and serves as a strategic pinchpoint to another part of the map—essentially alternate planes of existence—which hold tougher barbarian creatures and unique resources.
Winning the game will be completed in several ways, but as of this preview the only one available is direct world domination with the elimination of all of all opponents’ units, so I can’t speak to the other possible victory types that will be available when the game hits release—except that one of them is currently being called ‘Magical Victory’ by the devs.
Warlock: Master of the Arcane is due out in May. Expect an Icrontic review of the game right around the release.