Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a unique blend of turn-based strategy set within the fantastical world of Ardania, home to the Majesty games.
Upon starting a new game you have the opportunity to select various options to shape your experience within the game. You start by selecting what difficulty you want the game to be at and from there on you get to shape the world and the rest of your gameplay. You have the option to change world size along with how the land is formed and how many other worlds there are and then you get to select and customize your character. What the game doesn’t tell you is that selecting your starting race doesn’t actually limit you to that races buildings and units. You can also select what spells you will start with and what perks your character brings to the game though the game doesn’t make a great deal of effort explaining what each of the spells do.
Thankfully your starting selection doesn’t limit you to certain spells at all. On your first turn you will be able to select what new spell to research with details of how many turns it will take to research, how much the spell costs to cast and what it actually does. Once you’ve researched a spell you may cast it by clicking the casting icon in the upper left corner of the screen and select a certain spell assuming you have the mana to cast it. Some spells take more than one turn to cast and will be available to you once you have spent the correct amount of turns channeling the spell and can either buff your units and buildings or cause death and destruction to your enemies.
Unlike games similar to Warlock: Master of the Arcane you do not need workers to run around and work all of the tiles or hexes but instead when you build a building you must select which hex you construct it in. Some of the buildings are limited to certain hexes with natural resources on them but others can be placed wherever you want. Each turn your cities will grow a certain amount and their population level which is shown above each city determines how many buildings can be built in each city. I wasn’t able to find anything that increased population growth as I played but that may have been more to do with lack of explanation of certain goings on within the game.
Every time you open something new a tutorial window pops up and explains exactly what everything does in the screen you are currently in but after a while they become extremely frustrating as a lot of the games features are either self explanatory or common amongst other similar games. You can turn these off but by doing so there’s a good chance that you will miss some of the finer details. I felt that some of the buildings that buff units were glazed over a little too much. While it’s self explanatory that having a smithy will allow your troops to be better equipped for battle it wasn’t until I finally got into a war with another of the great mages that I realized just how important they are. A single group of footmen easily dispatched many of my skeletons due to the sheer amount of buffs they had on them, both spell related and building related.
Controlling troops feels like it could have been implemented better. While the left click for selection and giving commands is common amongst turn-based games there are times that the game just doesn’t seem to register that I was clicking on a UI element and not one of the hexes. Like other games in this genre each turn you are given a list of things to do and the button in the bottom right will change it’s text based on what you must do next. Unfortunately this sometimes seems to get confused and it will tell you that there are “Enemy at the Gates” (an event that happens when an enemy unit is within striking distance of one of your towers or cities) yet the game will give you command of a unit instead of a castle or tower. This puts you in a situation where you may give your units orders to defend a castle and then accidentally move them off the next turn, leaving it free to be taken. There doesn’t seem to be any way to give units a permanent defend order like there is in similar games which means that you’ll have to give the defend order to each unit each and every turn. This is fine when the number of cities you have are in the single figures but not so great when it hits any higher.
During the game you will see a number of neutral factions that you can conquer and begin to produce their buildings and units but you may also come across portals to other worlds. Should you find them it is highly recommended by the game to take a large group of troops there with you. Nevertheless I decided to go with six groups of skeleton soldiers and a couple of skeleton archers and we got completely annihilated. Upon entering the portal you’ll end up on another world with no cities but lots of roaming monsters and dragons and various other big things. Taking these down is not an easy task but the rewards are great. Upon settling in another world you are able to exploit the resources there that are not normally available on Ardania and use them to your advantage. There’s also a large amount of space for more cities so securing one of the portals is normally a high priority.
In short Warlock: Master of the Arcane plays a lot like a game of Civilization but with magic and alternate dimensions. As a fan of both Majesty and Civilization I can honestly say that there are a lot of neat concepts that would make for an extremely enjoyable game if there weren’t so many issues with the UI and list of things to do not always displaying what was appropriate i.e. displaying “Enemy at the Gates” when it should have been saying “Assign Unit Orders”. If these were fixed then I’d definitely recommend the game but for now I feel like it’d be better to wait and see if it does get fixed.
Review Score : [starreview tpl=16] Title : Warlock: Master of the Arcane
Format : PC
Developer : Ino-Co
Publisher : Paradox Interactive
Release Date : May 8th 2012