Weekend Flashback Review – Warlock: Master of the Arcane

Originally Posted July 30th 2012

Keeping with the Indie PC Games, Warlock: Master of the Arcane plays like Civilization 5 if it were set in a fantasy world, instead of embedded in history. A fun twist on a classic, it added in things like multiple maps via portals, spells that you can cast, and of course a number of different mythical creatures. A fun game, with a sequel that released in 2014, The Exiled, it finally added multiplayer, and is a game I’ve always considered picking up.

Let’s get this right out of the way first. The similarities between Warlock: Master of the Arcane and Civilization V are very strong, which is a benefit to Warlock. It takes the systems and improves and expands on them in an interesting way, adding multiple features that work entirely different than in Civ. Now that we’ve got that sorted, it’s time to continue.

When you start up a game of Warlock (which currently only includes Single Player, though the developer has mentioned being interested in possibly implementing Multiplayer later) instead of choosing a country or faction, you create your Great Mage. There are multiple races to choose from, such as Human and Undead, with more available via downloadable content. You also pick some perks, such as starting with more gold or mana, and spells, like fireballs or healing, from a pool of points. This can also be circumvented for a default setting if you don’t want to edit the fine details of your character.

After your character is created, it’s time to set up the game options. Generally, all these settings are similar to that of games like Civilization, the landmass type, how many opponents, etc. There are, however, other different options, such as number of Worlds. This may seem slightly odd, but once in the game makes a little more sense, as there are portals around the map that transport you, essentially, to another entire game world. This broadens and lengthens the game considerably, especially when the Monsters that inhabit the world are deadly, have their own cities and make turns just like another Great Mage would, even attacking your capital city without bias.

The game itself moves very quickly in the early rounds, meaning that there’s no waiting around until you need to. In each city you can build specific structures to either increase your mana supply, gold supply or unlock new units to buy. You even select which hex you build the specific buildings on, making it a lot more akin to a real-time strategy building system than a turn-based one. Though there aren’t any worker units, settlers are still here to help you expand your empire. Tile specific structures also mean that you can generate unique units when specialised buildings are placed on them, letting you have a number of different mythical creatures and making city placement extremely important.

A unique an interesting mechanic you can use in Warlock is spell casting. Dependant on how much mana you have, you can use this to cast a multitude of spells, ranging from fireballs and lightning to healing and defensive buffs for units. Some of these take time to cast, meaning you wait turns for the spell to charge, whereas some can be instantly cast to change the course of certain battles. The more powerful spells take longer to cast, but generally will have the best effects. There are even spells that spawn units of troops in case seizing a city isn’t going entirely your way.

As per usual for most turn-based games, the matches tend to last a vast amount of time and can severely change, in terms of who’s in the lead, at any point in time. It can be tense and positioning forces becomes extremely important, spreading them between attacking your enemies and protecting your own cities.

Warlock is an interesting game that at first glance could have been a modification for Civilization V, but the unique ideas (and cheaper pricing) mean it’s hard not to recommend to fans of the strategy genre. Casting spells, commanding armies of undead and defending against mythical creatures is fun, and the mechanics specific to the game truly make it stand out. Now, if only there was multiplayer…

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