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First Impressions: Age of Wonders III
While I’m still in the midst of a 4x, turn-based strategy euphoria with the recent release of Age of Wonders III, upcoming release of Warlock 2: The Exiled and Galactic Civilizations III hitting Early Access on Steam, I’ve managed to surface just long enough to give my thoughts on Triumph Studios’ triumphant return to the Age of Wonders series before diving back under. My full review is still forthcoming, but now I can confidently give my First Impressions based on the early campaign levels and game flow.
It’s good. Really really good.
Age of Wonders III grasps the concept of its Heroes of Might and Magic-inspired gameplay perfectly, with an aesthetically pleasing (and nicely zoomable) overland map with plenty of resource nodes to capture, treasure to divvy up, and lots of monsters and opponents to battle. Combat takes place on a separate tactical map that made this old Heroes and AoW veteran weep with joy. The map is enormous, hexagonal, and full of options. Ranged units suffer from line of sight and range penalties, preventing them from dominating the battlefield, while melee units receive attacks of opportunity and flanking bonuses, causing every movement and attack to be a crucial decision.
Up to six units make up a single army stack, though impressively multiple armies can join in on the same battle, allowing for some truly awesome and large-scale warfare. Units range from a small army of goblins armed with darts to large dragons, and many come with special abilities. Bards can charm units to bring them over to your side, Unicorns can phase to any part of the battlefield (once per battle), while Heroes come equipped with their own line of spells that can be researched and unleashed: firing a rain of poisoned blades, healing units, or terraforming the overland map to suit your racial advantage.
Maps can be randomly generated from Small to Extra Large (which the game lovingly warns you takes a “very long time”) and include up to eight players, or you can engage in several pre-made scenarios as well as the campaign from the two opposing side of the tree-hugging elves or tech-minded humans (I presume it plays out just like Ferngully). Despite the fairly generic fantasy world, Triumph crafts an interesting story by focusing on the characters, and the voice work and loading screens offer a nice touch to draw you into the story of the Elven Court and the Commonwealth.
In my play time so far I’ve battled a Giant Spider with my army of fire-lobbing Draconians, completed a quest for a group of faeries (recruiting them and their city), and fought an extended siege on a castle with multiple siege weapons busting down walls to get at the juicy Orcs inside.
Age of Wonders III absolutely fills the void I’ve felt since the last King’s Bounty game and mediocre Ubisoft-led Heroes title and I couldn’t be happier that the classic turn-based series has returned with such loving attention to detail on what makes a tactical strategy game so addictive and enjoyable. Provided I can pull myself away for long enough, stay tuned for my full review.