Warlock Master of the Arcane takes the player on a trip through the mystical world of magic, monsters, resource management, and hex based movement. Does it follow through with a quality product or is it a house of smoke and mirrors?
To any anyone who has played through Civilization (any of the 5 games) should be very familiar with Warlock Master of the Arcane’s system. Warlock starts you off by choosing either a pre-built hero or you can pick and choose between a few perks and starting abilities to create your own hero. During gameplay you will find that there are only a few perks that really make a difference (Mana Trap for instance) so you really will not have a need to venture into many of the pre-built heroes. Once you magic man has been selected you are thrown into the struggle with very little assistance. One of the largest flaws in this game is the fact that you have no idea what is going on. There is the occasional advisor window that pops up in an attempt to suggest actions to you, but for the most part it is up to you to figure out how to play the bulk of the game. That is all good but what about all of the special tiles you might find on the board? What do they do? Well special buildings use these tiles…. only you don’t know what special buildings they refer to until you unlock them and the description of the building tells you that it requires “a magical mountain” or “a source of mana”. This can become very frustrating when trying to plan out where the best place to throw all of your buildings and where you should plop down your new cities. Trial and error are really going to be your only ally here. The game is broken up into turns, much like a board game. Each turn you choose to research a spell, construct new buildings on your hex tiles, recruit new units, or move existing units. Each of these actions will require resources and a certain amount of time to complete them. During your turn you also have the option to cast spells if they are ready and you have enough mana to do so. This adds a unique element to the game but early on in a game they do very little. Not until you have some of the bigger and more expensive spells can they turn the tide of a battle. Now on top of managing your lands, resources, units, defending your areas from enemies there is also special portals that can teleport a unit to “another world”. These other worlds are essentially just alternate maps. So not only do you have to worry about your bases on the main map but you can also have multiple other areas to worry about. This is where confusion ensues and the player looses their hair, we haven’t even gotten to the basic mechanics. Once you actually get things going you will run into the next issue. Combat is all based on vague statistics. Depending on the terrain your unit is on it can either buff or de-buff your stats. Lets say you are on an elevated terrain, you will receive a +25% to attack or defense. If you are on molten lava you will loose 15-25% depending on the terrain. This truly does not seem to help in a fight. Hovering over a desired target with your unit selected will give you the chances of victory. That would be awesome if these numbers mattered. A giant with an attack value of 15 vs a group of rogues with a value of 7 should (with rationale thinking) wipe out a majority of the group, especially if the group has a really low defense. That is not the case. You would have more luck throwing a wet cat at a pine tree and how ever many monkeys fall out of that tree will be the amount of damage your unit deals and takes. Once you have all the town management and attacking down pat it should be about time to start on the campaign. Correct, if there was a campaign present. Warlock Master of the Arcane posses no missions, no campaign, and no story to be spoken of. With all the fantasy and magic present in this game they really missed a huge chance to make a mediocre game entertaining. Warlock is essentially a very large, animated board game. There are a few quests here and there to pick up but these usually consist of build a dock in 20 turns or slay this pack of dragons and you will get some gold. Not what you would expect in a fantasy strategy game. Something that is a huge plus in Warlock is the abundance of units. If you only had a hand full of units in this game it would get very boring very fast (even more so than currently). That is not the case, in Warlock you have a total of 183 different units to unlock and control. This is a staggering number compared to any strategy game. This is one of the real crowning achievements of Warlock Master of the Arcane. Warlock you get a big smiley face in the awesome column for that one.
Check out a little Warlock Master of the Arcane gameplay footage.
Warlock does a great job in the graphical experience department. The art style is done very well. Each unit was obviously taken into consideration during the creation process. No two units are carbon copies of one another. This gives the player a feeling of a more organic game, as well as creates a vested interest in unlocking the next, more powerful, Avatar or Supreme unit. The spell effects are also done very well especially once you get further into the game. Unlocking the huge area of effect spells that decimate multiple tiles of enemies has a beautiful detail about it. The spells earlier in the game do lack the pizzazz of the more powerful spells but that is expected.
In the audio department Warlock does a decent job. Nothing here jumps out as amazing. There is a quality sound effect for every spell, unit, attack, or general action. Quite a few of these sounds do tend to get repetitious and can start to eat away at your nerves, especially when on hour 5 of a match. The one thing that would have made Warlock just that much better would have been voice-over for each advisor as well as a narrated in-depth tutorial.
For the most part the gameplay of Warlock Master of the Arcane closely mimics Sid Meier’s Civilization, which is a very entertaining and challenging game. The difference is that Warlock tries to throw so many elements to freshen up a tried and true system that it just dirties the water and makes gameplay a tedious task. Warlock is in no way a broken game or a terrible experience, but it does get old very fast. This would have been a great budget title, not a $20 game. If you are a huge fan of the strategy genre, you love high fantasy, or you enjoy games that are a larger investment in time then this may be the game for you.
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