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Community Discussion: Blog by killias2 | Initial Thoughts on Warlock: Master of the ArcaneDestructoid
Initial Thoughts on Warlock: Master of the Arcane - Destructoid

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I know there aren't many PC gamers on Dtoid, but I figured I'd add my thoughts on this game anyway. Let's see how it goes.

If you aren't aware, Warlock: Master of the Arcane (simply Warlock from here on) is a 4x game that borrows heavily from Civilization 5. The 4x genre (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) is basically how people refer to Civ-clones. Arguably, all four of the x's would also fit into an RTS game, and, indeed, the Sins of a Solar Empire series -does- combine RTS and 4x. In any case, Warlock is a game like Civilization and Master of Magic, where you start with one city and try to expand your control using technology (magic, in this case), military power, and economic growth. Also, like those games, this is Turn-Based Strategy. Go elsewhere, if that's a turn-off.

More specifically, as noted above, Warlock takes a lot of inspiration from Civilization 5. Like Civ 5, it uses a hexagonal map. Also like Civ 5, it uses the "one-unit-per-tile" approach to combat. A lot of the interface and controls are ripped straight from Civ 5. It also feels like a Civ 5 mod at times, as the inspiration is really quite obvious.

However, this being based on fantasy rather than history, Warlock also takes quite a bit of inspiration from Master of Magic. For those who are unaware, Master of Magic is a fantasy TBS 4x game from 1994 made by the same people that made Master of Orion. While, on the surface, Master of Magic looked like a Civilization ripoff, it actually did quite a bit to change up the emerging 4x genre: 1. It replaced science with magic, 2. It added significant role-playing elements, including heroes with equipment, levels, and skills, 3. It added portals that go to a second world, 4. New (typical fantasy) races were introduced into the game, with different units, strengths, and weaknesses, 5. It added an tactical mode, where you actually fought the battles initiated on the strategic map. Master of Magic was a huge game for the genre, and it had a rather large impact on the fantasy 4x sub-genre. Most of these additional features (portals, tactical combat, spells instead of science, RPG elements, more races) would be seen in its various followers: Heroes of Might and Magic, Disciples, Age of Wonders, and Elemental.

Warlock steps into this timeline by marrying the two divergent trends in 4x gaming. From Civ 5, it takes the interface, the combat system, and the general flow and look of the game. From Master of Magic, it takes additional races (undead and monsters are added to humans), portals to other worlds, RPG elements, and the general fantasy setting. However, despite the prevalence of borrowing, Warlock ends up feeling rather singular. The game comes across as far more about combat and exploration than, say, Civ 5, and less about RPG elements and tactical combat than Master of Magic and its ilk.

This all boils down to an interesting truth about Warlock: it's basically a 4x-lite game. For all the borrowed elements from deep, long, ambitious games, Warlock just isn't meant to be played with that sort of scale or attitude. This is a game where you'll spend far more time fighting than developing or exploring. In fact, I'd argue that Warlock -almost- feels like a blown up 4x version of a game like Master of Monsters or Dark Wizard or even Advance Wars at times. The focus on combat is really this strong. From the first turn until the last, you'll be controlling a significant (and growing) military, and all the incentives are placed on continual warfare. There are non-military ways to win the game, but even this depend on a robust military presence. Good luck getting the resources necessary to defeat a God or take all the Holy Lands without having the strongest military in the game.

So, basically, don't go wondering into Warlock hoping you'll be able to win with one well-managed supercity. This is a war game with a fantasy 4x engine. However, this isn't a -bad- thing. It actually works fairly well. I never felt bored. I never felt like I was cycling through turns. Try the demo and see if the pace is worth it for you.

In any case, there's a lot more to say here. The upgrade options for each unit are quite robust. Basically, there are four types of upgrades: equipment-based, experience-based, type-based, and magic based. You get access to new equipment by building equipment buildings, like smithies, iron forges, silver forges, gem shops, potion shops, and more. Once you have access to equipment, you can buy specific pieces for each unit. For example, you know your warrior is about to go toe-to-toe with an elemental? Buy some amulets and some decent armor, and you'll be able to withstand a lot more elemental damage. Experience based upgrades come, not surprisingly, from experience in fighting and living (each turn autogenerates some experience). These are very similar to upgrades from Civ 5: increased attack, increased defense, increased defense in rough enviroments, increased abilities to move over rough terrain, etc. etc. Magic based upgrades include enhancements and curses placed on your units either through your own means or by your enemies. These include resistances, weapon enchantments, and lots of movement enchantments. Finally, type-based upgrades involve the ability to "upgrade" your unit to a more advanced type once the prerequisites have been built. Equipment, magic, and experience based upgrades follow your unit as it is promoted. All in all, it's a rather deep and interesting system. By the end, you're main fighting forces should be nigh-unstoppable by all but the most fierce-some opponents.

As noted above, there are portals to other worlds. These other worlds include incredible resources that you can tap for more mana/money/food, more equipment, or new unit types. There are also lots of holy lands on the other side of portals. Holy lands allow you to build temples to the various "gods" that exist in this universe. These temples give you increased relations with the god they're dedicated to, as well as access to special, powerful (and expensive!) units. Currying favor with Gods also grants you access to spells and abilities not available otherwise. All in all, there is a lot going on in this game, even if the scale and the pace of the game put the focus entirely on warfare.

There are downsides to the game, unfortunately. Some of the mechanics aren't entirely clear. The AI cheats in order to be competitive. Multiplayer isn't included yet, although it is supposed to be coming as a patch. Despite the 4x genre, there aren't any fun statistics or charts available, either in-game or during the end-game. One of the victory conditions, the ultimate spell 'Unity,' is currently not enabled in the game. Additionally, you cannot select available victory conditions, and there is no information in-game on how either you or your opponents are doing when it comes to victory conditions. Diplomacy is shallow. Not only are advanced options not available (like preventing other players from entering your domain), but the AI seems somewhat easy to game through diplomacy. For example, I once declared war, took a city, then bought peace (for a cheap price) to prevent a counterattack.

However, seeing the release as just the beginning, there is a lot of potential with this game. If they fix up some of the confusion about mechanics; add in multiplayer; better balance the AI; add some better diplomatic options; add in some Civ 4-and-before style charts and statistics to, at least, the end-game; and give some more robust non-military options, I think we would have a classic here. As is, we still have a fun, if unambitious, title that will suck up hours of time.. if you let it.

Overall, I think Warlock is definitely a good game with the potential to become a great game. If you enjoy 4x at all, I'd at least give the demo a shot. If you like fantasy 4x games and you enjoyed Civ 5, you may just want to buy it right now. Luckily for us, the game's launch price is a paltry 20 dollars. This is certainly worth that much money even in its current state.



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