Warlock: Master of the Arcane Preview

In Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Paradox Interactive attempts another deliciously clever hybrid, this time mixing classic turn-based strategy in the vein of Sid Meier’s Civilizations series with fantasy elements. In fact, the fantasy world in which you play is Ardania, the world created for the Majesty series.

Despite looking (and much of the time, feeling) like a Civilizations rip-off, Master of the Arcane has a lot in store for a player. All the classic actions are available, from building military production centers to researching magical spells and developing a thriving economy, but they’re simplified. Instead of bombarding the player with list after list and giving hundreds of micromanagement panels, Master of the Arcane streamlines the whole process, presenting the entirety of the brief preview I was given to play in two primary modes: City View and Map View.

The City View is the primary view used to recruit soldiers, build new buildings, or generally maintain and control your city.  All actions can usually be done in a few mouse clicks, letting you focus on the really juicy bits of the game: laying waste to neighboring kingdoms.

The Map View is where most of the action takes place. This is where you deploy your soldiers, explore the map, find new resource locations, and battle your opponents. The main focus of this mode is to expand your main city. Your metropolis is surrounded by a colored ring that represents its area of influence, and each new building expands your city’s influence ring one more hex in diameter, which then allows you to take control of any resources within the perimeters. There is a truly vast array of resources available, from basic farms to mines, pumpkin patches, fishing villages, and much more. Each resource provides your kingdom with different bonuses and advantages. However, if a player is more focused on conquest, the game allows for that as well.

Taking neighboring cities is pretty easy at first, providing a player has enough troops to do the job.  After sacking the castle in the center of the enemy’s town, ownership of that town and its influence turns over to the player, which then adds to their building empire. This is one of the fastest ways to expand your influence, and picking off vulnerable kingdoms within easy reach is a necessary facet of the early game. It’s when your power butts up against another dominant kingdom that the game really becomes interesting. Spells researched, military prowess and economics all become extremely important, as should be expected from a Civilizations-style strategy title. Although the build I played was limited to single player, it looks like the multiplayer portion will be very interesting.

It’s hard to get a sense of the true depth of the game from the rough build I was given to toy with, but overall, Warlock: Master of the Arcane looks very promising. Paradox is quickly becoming known for its innovative titles, and this one looks to be no different.

Master of the Arcane is slated to release in Q2 2012.

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