Review: Warlock: Master of the Arcane (PC)
Written By Matt Sainsbury on Thursday, May 17, 2012 | 08:47
It's an understatement to say that Warlock resembles Civilization V. The interface and gameplay are so similar that it's tempting to dismiss Warlock as nothing more than a fantasy-based variation on Sid Meier’s classic. That's a valid point of view, but it's not the whole story. Once you've gotten your head around the fact that it's a great game in its own right (and it is) the differences begin to make themselves obvious. In fact - and at the risk of being labelled a heretic - I’d say that there are places where it beats Civilization at its own game.
The setting is the fantasy world of Ardania. It's the same universe that was used in Paradox's Majesty series, but the backstory is simple enough that newcomers needn't be concerned. You assume the role of one of Ardania's great mages, and it's your job to prove your worth by defeating all of your rivals and claiming the title of Warlock. After you've chosen your avatar, things progress in familiar-enough fashion. Found a city, gather resources and use them to build military units. Explore, expand, meet new and interesting monsters, kill them. It's possible to win the war by capturing the various Holy Sites in the game world or by researching the all-powerful Unity spell, but that's really not going to happen. Warlock is all about the fighting. And it does the fighting very, very well indeed.
Magic also plays its part. Your cities collect mana through various building upgrades, and it's spent on spells which you can cast directly on the battlefield. Spells need to be unlocked by spending research points and, while the research tree can feel a little too random at times, they really make a difference to the outcome of the battle.
As this is a Paradox game, you'd expect there to be a few rough edges. Are you ready for the inevitable list? Here it is: a lack of keyboard shortcuts, no multiplayer at present, limited diplomacy, a scanty manual which omits the much-needed upgrade trees, various tiny bugs, and an interface which repeatedly requires you to select units on the far right of the screen before issuing orders on the far left. These things are all fixable though, and at least they'll give Paradox something to do while they wait for the glorious Swedish summer to roll around.
So, that's the alternative point of view. For some, the similarities to Civilization will be so great that it just won't be enough. Others may find that the relentless focus on fighting doesn't sustain their interest over the course of a what can be a very long game. For my part, I like it a lot. Now, if you don't mind, I’m an old-timer and I really must go for my afternoon nap.
- Rob P
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