Civilization V. In the world of Majesty. With rat men. And giant, firebolt throwing spiders. And magic spells. Upon opening the game, you’ll immediately be reminded of Civilization V – choosing map size and type, and being spawned with a single city and a warrior in a hex grid. But just like Torchlight was to Diablo II, Warlock has enough fresh ideas and a fantastic enough graphic style to avoid being forgotten as derivative and instead be embraced for being a unique take on a much loved title.
But let’s get this straight – despite looking so aesthetically similar to Civ V, Warlock does have unique ideas of its own. Firstly is the streamlined, no-nonsense combat. There’s really not much point in attempting to strike up a diplomacy. From the very first turn, you’ll have spiders and skeletons out to murder your troops and pillage your cities. Defending yourself from vicious neighbours is ultimately your number one priority; unlike in Civilization, where a match can, in theory, be won without raising a sword. You won’t have a choice in Warlock – powerful armies are a must, or you’ll find yourself overrun within a number of turns that you can count on one hand. I sure know I did.
You pick your hero, pick your race, pick your colour and your starting spells, and you’re ready to start up. Oh, and technology is scrapped. Unlike the passive bonuses that sciences give you in Civ, you research “spells”, which can then be directly used to aid your troops or hinder your foes in combat. You’ll need these bonuses to gain the upper hand in combat, as those frost spiders can be a real bitch, capable of inflicting a huge amount of damage to your troops each turn. Additionally, while you need settlers to found new cities, you don’t have workers to build improvements – instead, the towns themselves have two building queues, one for units and one for improvements, which each take up a hexagon of space in your city’s cultural borders. And sometimes it’s easier to just conquer a city. Each tile can contain a resource such as pigs, silver, or gold; which, as in Civ V, an improvement has to be built over these resources in order to gain their full benefits. I don’t want my precious readers to be unable to play this game without thinking of Civilization V, though, and now I’ve mentioned it in every paragraph. Whoops.
The negatives are few and far-between, but have such a massive impact on the quality of the final game. Most significantly: multiplayer. Why not? WHY NOT? Strategy games need multiplayer; at the moment, Warlock is like a book without pages, or an FPS without guns. I’ve heard talk about multiplayer being implemented in an upcoming patch, but if that’s the case, why not wait until it is ready to release the game? Multiplayer is such a key feature to this game, and I can definitely see myself coming back to it regularly if it was implemented. But single player? The lack of a campaign or set scenarios to play out, as are present in most TBS games, impacts on the longevity of single player mode – for now, you’ll just be playing game after game, maybe changing your race every now and then. While it’s definitely got a rewarding, deep level of strategy, especially for such a streamlined game, I simply can’t see myself going back to it regularly as it is. A shame, really – there are some fantastic ideas going on here, and best of all, it has windowed mode.
6.2 (with the potential of being much higher with the addition of multiplayer)
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Warlock: Master of the Arcane by Paradox Interactive.