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Preview: Warlock: Master of the Arcane
Thanks to Paradox, I was able to get my hands around Ino-Co Plus’ upcoming turn-based strategy game Warlock. It is very easy to start making comparisons to Civilization when you see this game and yes, you may even feel comfortable with it because of that. However, Warlock is very different from Firaxis’ title.
If you have played Civilization, you’ll feel right at home with the basic controls except that Ino-Co allows the WASD keys to move the camera. A move that, while a small feature, I have to thank the devs highly for that. Using the WASD keys just feels more natural on the keyboard, especially the camera needs to be moved a lot. The only caveats I’ve found with the game so far are the weird things that selected troops do and even selecting a troop in general. You have to make sure you are clicking on the hex area that the troop is on and not the model itself. You may accidentally choose the wrong one and in a rush moved the wrong squad. Other than that, you’ll find yourself zipping through menus quickly.
The game does a great job with teaching you everything you need to know except one thing: special areas on the map. I once received a quest to create a Temple of some god but I have no idea how to. When I was hovering over it, it said I would be able to do so using two buildings that I already had up. Problem was that I didn’t know that I needed to be in a human or monster village in order to make it. I was playing the Undead.
Oh, did I mention quests? There are a ton of things to do on the maps in Warlock. It isn’t like Civ where all you’ll find is some Barbarians, some ruins, and some special hex areas. Warlock always has something constantly happening. You’ll run into a huge amount of monster types. In every game I’ve played I managed to find some enemy type I never saw before. Vampires, Werewolves, Dragons, Elementals, Ghosts, and much more are scattered through the map to pose challenges to you and your troops. In addition to the random enemies, a lot of them guard treasure hexes which can be collected for loot. Also, I forgot to mention the sea monsters that inhabit the oceans. Warlock gives you a reason to make a navy and enjoy it.
The enemy AI seems to do a lot more than in other turn-based strategy games. Every round they built, expanded, declared war, interacted, and even helped me take over places. When you have a truce with another nation, they may actually accompany you in battles on land or sea and even city sieges. It is pretty fantastic to watch an ally’s navy come bustling in and helping you take down a tough Kraken. Alternatively, I’ve found that certain nations will only allow you near their borders for a couple of turns before declaring war. Negotiations are important in Warlock. The leaders are stingy, too. They want their just due in order for pacts or truces. If you’re negotiating with a large nation, be prepared to gift a lot.
Warlock doesn’t have religions, cultures, or ages but it makes do with what it does have: content. I mentioned earlier the amount of things to do on the map. You never feel like you are wasting a turn in this game. Your selected hero character (Great Mage) is actually useful in the game and doesn’t just give passive abilities. Your Mage will come pre-equipped with gifts and spells and learn a lot more through research. Instead of ages and tech, you gain new spells which can lead up to a game winning spell. To counter the loss of tech trees, Warlock provides a lot more structures that can be built. Almost every structure leads to an upgrade type that unlocks even more. As you progress through your buildings, you’ll find more troop types , equipment, and gifts you can grant existing squads.
You’ll need to expand your heart out if you want certain things, however. Some structures require special hex tiles like iron, gold, magic areas, and more. Warlock promotes activity in the game. You won’t find yourself
needlessly moving troops around waiting for something good to happen. I found myself constantly exploring with my troops and finding new features in the game. One such feature is portals. You may find these hidden around the map and if you enter them with troops, you’ll be transported to an entire different world inhabited with strong creatures and high rewards. You need to be very careful in these portals, as I found out the hard way. Oh, and just because you can go in and out of portals, doesn’t mean other things can’t. Remember that!
Warlock does a great job at taking a formula like Civilization and making their own beast. Ino-Co Plus fills your map with so much that every round is just as exciting as the last. Every time I got far enough to find out a few new things, I would start over and employ what I just learned and feel anxious about it. One missing feature is multiplayer, but fret not! This is planned as an after-launch update and DLC may even come, as well (oh please give us a Vampire race!).
When multiplayer comes around, I can safely say that Warlock will become a huge part of my RTS meetings with friends. No more yawning during army movements and endless ‘End Turn’ clicking. Coming this summer, I’ll be building, exploring, expanding, and teleporting my Great Mage through the world of Warlock: Master of the Arcane.