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Rob Zacny

Three Moves Ahead 172 - I AM WARLOCKED

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Better late than never, freelance friends Jason Wilson and Rowan Kaiser join Rob for a love-in on Warlock: Master of the Arcane. They discuss how much it improved with patches, how its trans-dimensional map is both amazing and wasted, and how it solves classic problems of the fantasy strategy game. Big thanks to Jonathan Downin for taking on production duties this week.

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Hell yeah. I haven't played this game but this episode might give me the prod I needed to do so.

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I picked up Warlock on the Steam sale just so I could figure out what the heck you guys were talking about...

...this is not the first time this has happened...

...this week

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I followed this a bit through the Rock, Paper, Shotgun coverage and being a big Fall From Heaven fan it piqued my interest so I actually pre-ordered it. Overall I liked it quite a bit, especially the dimensional portals, only got a couple of gripes:

- Repetative unit speech

- Replayability hit by being able to conquer other races cities. You can essentially play all three races in one game.

- Bit too easy. I can only manage about Prince in Civ, but in Warlock I cruised through normal and challenging and only found it got hard on the highest difficulty setting.

Those are the only major gripes I have, everything else about it I liked, especially the price (only £15).

One thing I think it really has potential for (assuming it gets mod tools) is getting a Warhammer mod. It's a 4X with a focus on war, with a robust magic system, the three starting factions just need minor tweaking (to represent Empire, Vampire Counts and Orc/Goblin and has the beginnings of Skaven) and the portals can be retasked to demonic incursions. The lack of a traditional tech tree isn't a problem and technological advancement being linked to getting bigger cities would actually work better than a regular tech tree in a Warhammer game IMHO. SInce Games Workshop seems focused on releasing 40K video games and almost nothing for Fantasy I think Warlock is the best base game for a Warhammer mod out there.

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Just fired up warlock for the 1st time after having grabbed it in the steam sale (that price really did make it a no-brainer). Starting to get grips with it and so far so good, but not really in a position to comment too much on what the guys said in the podcast yet.

However..

SInce Games Workshop seems focused on releasing 40K video games and almost nothing for Fantasy I think Warlock is the best base game for a Warhammer mod out there.

I'm a bit torn on this as the base for a Warhammer fantasy mod, Warhammer is just such a overwhelmingly Nihilist property that I always feel a bit unsure about any game set in that universe where you have a chance to do anything other than just delay the march of the evil powers and the eventual destruction of civilisation. In fact the only time I've seen a really good job done of this license is probably the Chaos in the Old World board game (where you were the evil powers carving up the world between you).

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I need to go back to this game and see if the patches made a difference; it was just a bit too easy at release. I did enjoy it though, with a couple caveats. I too was disappointed in the lack of relevance for the portals. More importantly though, I really don't like the random magic research system. I really wish it had a tech-tree type system with exclusionary choices; i.e. the option to focus either on one of the elements in a fire/air/earth/water/void/holy type system, or a buffs/summons/direct damage. There just aren't enough hard choices in the game for me other than the 2 building options for many of the special resources, which I love.

If I recall correctly one of my favorite features in Master of Magic was how the number of spell books in a given element you chose in hero building radically changed the way you played the game. Could be rose-colored glasses there as I haven't played MoM in quite a while, but I remember the magic system being a lot deeper.

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I'm a bit torn on this as the base for a Warhammer fantasy mod, Warhammer is just such a overwhelmingly Nihilist property that I always feel a bit unsure about any game set in that universe where you have a chance to do anything other than just delay the march of the evil powers and the eventual destruction of civilisation. In fact the only time I've seen a really good job done of this license is probably the Chaos in the Old World board game (where you were the evil powers carving up the world between you).

I wouldn't be expecting a mod to put the Warhammer map in there and have each civ start where they should, I'd be looking for Warlock with Warhammer flavour.

I also disagree that Warhammer Fantasy is a setting focused on just trying to hold back evil powers. Warhammer 40,000 , yeah that's the case, but not Fantasy. Whilst the evil powers are allways scheming the good guys are more than holding their own and it's not a hopeless world.

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I bought this game on day 1, I had been following it since it was announced on the paradox forums. I was really satisfied with it, i don't like civ games very much but Warlock is great because of its fantasy theme and focus on combat.

I find the game is pretty simple to min/max, I play humans because gold is the best resource, and I only keep a few off race cities for food/mana production. It is kind of nice that the monsters put alot of pressure against you if you expand to quickly but the AI is hardly a challenge. I guess I should play on the hardest difficulty but I hate fighting against a cheating AI since its more of a grind and less of a strategic victory.

I guess the main appeal is that the battles are often puzzle-like when you are trying to min/max. You want to rotate your soldiers, keep your soft archers out of harms way but also in range to attack the tough enemies. You have to decide which spell to use, healing, damage, or maybe a freeze spell to buy you some time. Its very easy to attack an enemy you can destory, only to realize that theres some vampires or perhaps a fire elemental sitting in the fog of war thats gonna toast you next turn. Usually this means your unit is dead, but sometimes careful planning and lucky rolls can save the day.

The main complaint I have with the game is that your casting potential never grows during the game except for one spell thats really powerful. I wish it was something like you can spend 10% of your mana pool per turn so that having 5000 mana is actually useful.

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Its very easy to attack an enemy you can destory, only to realize that theres some vampires or perhaps a fire elemental sitting in the fog of war thats gonna toast you next turn. Usually this means your unit is dead, but sometimes careful planning and lucky rolls can save the day.

Those moments when I am ambushed or ambush the AI certainly do provide a pivot point where the tide of battle can change for the worse. Its another one of those little things that pushes me towards the sort of risk averse play that the guys talk about in the podcast. It does however encourage me to play a good mix of units a 'combined arms' approach, although its closer to a RPG group than a army. A couple of high resistance melee units backed up a high level healers is normally the backbone of any force.

Also as Rob commented when a healer units hit the higher levels and pick up their are of affect heals they really can become game changers. A lot of battles seem to come down to one side's Warlock getting off a big spell & bursting down the other sides support troops.

I'm not sure about it's longevity however, and a few interesting scenarios or steam achievements would certainly be very welcome.

@2000AD

The "Good" factions certainly do have their moments of triumph in the Warhammer world, but its normally not long until something goes wrong. I'd love just to see a Mod that improved the diplomacy options and hugely upped the spawn rate on the elemental from portals. It would be fun to fight to quell the invasion before turning on each other :D

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I'm out of gaming except for what TMA talks about or is discussed in IRC, but listening to this I think I need to add WAMOTA to my Steam wish list!

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I am going to try the Warlock demo, enthused by the episode but not sure if it's something for me yet. I already fear going into the portal don't make me go into the portal

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The portals are so underdeveloped it's kind of sad. I treat them like Buffy-style hellmouths that I have to keep policing in order to keep elementals, demons and big bads from flooding through and wrecking my plans.

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Yes the portals are a big dissapointment. I usually play with only 1 or 2 even on a large map because by the time you are strong enough to clear one out you can kill the AI ten times over.

It would be cool if they made the alternate worlds very alien with strange terrain, resources that offer unique bonuses, and maybe even monster cities. I think they just didn't have enough development resources to do something on that scale.

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I'm actually beginning to see some decent value in the portals in larger maps.

The key for me so far has been to go in (relatively) early, IF & only if you get the invisibility spell.Then use cheap units to bait mobs away from their spawn points and grab them for the rewards. All the while moving a few similarly invisible settlers through and building up a few citys's in the corners of the map.(i'll post a pic later about what happens if you don't go in early).

The key thing to remember here is that although the monsters are as hard as nails, they have no cities or magic to support them. I pretty much just used units as spotters before nuking mobs to the ground with the biggest spells i had.

Once you have carved out a little kingdom there in the portal worlds there are some pretty nice rewards. Generally at the very least there is a lot of high quality resources in a very small area, and if your lucky there are a few extra rare one that give you special units. Think Black Minators are tough, just wait until you have a fully upgraded Golden Dragon.

The obvious question is: why aren't you getting torn apart by the other AI mages while your army is off galavanting the other side of portals.

The answer is: bribery & lots of it.

I've found The trick with making peace with a AI is to remember that just peace isn't good enough.

Splashing out the cash (or mana etc) to get 3-4 levels up on the diplomacy scale can seem eye watering expensive but my experience has been as long as you don't have troops to near their border or any major religious conflict they very rarely break the higher level agreements & even if they do, they have to do it 1 level at a time buying you a few turns to mobilize.

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As you can see, deciding to poke your nose through a portal late in the game is a interesting experience

dragonsallthewaydown.jpg

Sorry for the small image size but it was either this or filling the whole darn screen, can seem to get images to resize here (though I swear I was doing the bbcode right)

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I really liked this episode, inspired me to pick up the game on Steam Sale.

At some point in my game I just stumbled across 2 unguarded opposing warlock cities. I conquered them not thinking anything of it only to then find he had 3 more heavily fortified cities right after those 2. Now I'm stuck in this just constant onslaught of enemy units and using all my resources to just try and hold those 2 cities. Totally zaps my whole effort in the game. Reminds me of some of what Rob talked on the show where you just can't fight on 2 fronts, etc...

It's been a cool experience, not my usual game.

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