Review: Warlock - Masters of the Arcane
Put a sword and sorcery twist on the Civilization formula.
Warlock: Masters of the Arcane is the latest PC game entry by Paradox Interactive. This game is essentially a Civilization V clone, but that's not a bad thing if you're a fan of Sid Meier's strategy franchise. Warlock has many of he same bells and whistles as Civ, but it has taken an interesting twist on the genre. Instead of focusing on historically accurate environments, Warlock instead tries its hand at a fantasy setting. Instead of developing India from 2000 BC to the great beyond, you'll wage magical warfare against Lich Kings and Orc generals.
Again, a lot of the things this game does are much in line with what Civilization already has done. You'll choose a Warlock that is in control of a certain race and you'll be tasked with expanding your influence throughout the world. You construct buildings, harvest resources, wage war, and maintain diplomatic relations with the other competing Warlocks. Warlock: Master of the Arcane even uses the same tile system implemented in Civ V.
What does set Warlock apart from Civilization V is its more streamlined approach to the Civ formula. Paradox Interactive has taken out some of the more complex aspects of Civ V and replaced them with mechanics that are better suited for combat oriented strategy players. Paradox has done away with Tech Trees and instead allows you to research various spells which can grant offensive or defensive buffs, destroy enemy units, or heal friendly troops. The biggest difference, however, is the inclusion of deities and portals to other worlds.
Each Warlock will begin in favor of a deity or two. This may change depending on how you intereact with other players or the gods themselves. From time to time you will receive requests from cities or the gods themselves that will range from either building a certain structure or defeating a certain enemy. These at first carry little to no repercussions, but as the game progresses you'll have some tough choices to make on who your allies are. This is a fun twist on the influential persons found in Civ V. Famous people who wold grant you benefits if you'd accomplish certain feats. the gods in Warlock may de-buff city production, or send plagues or swarms of enemies to attack you. Warlock: Master of the Arcane also includes an interesting game feature which allows you to travel to alternate worlds in which more enemies and resources are at your disposal. Another fun twist that will have you fighting on multiple fronts. End game scenarios will have you switching hectically from realm to realm battling enemies and managing cities.
With that said, this game does come with some problems. On the graphical end of things, Warlock is not as pretty as Civ V and it also lacks personality. It is a little jarring when you start to notice the lack of polish either in the sound or the presentation of the game. It would also be difficult to step away from Civ knowing Warlock has some other minor gameplay issues that Sid Meier's game doesn't. For example, I encountered overlay problems from time to time , where I would try to click on one thing but couldn't help but accidentally click something else. That, and the simple fact that Civilization lays out certain actions much more cleanly would often leave me with a feeling of wanting to just jump back to that old mainstay.It was also difficult knowing when a city's population would increase (an important aspect in City development).
The biggest negative I have for this game, however, is that for its emphasis on combat, the mechanic is still not as complex as its inspiration. You cannot stack certain units on the same tile, nor do you get benefits for setting up certain formations. I wish the game would play to its strengths a bit better as a change in style is simply not enough to make this a worthy alternative to Civilization V. Also, this does lack multiplayer functionality. But at $20 price range, it is less of a detriment than you'd think.
Despite all of its faults, Warlock: Masters of the Arcane is still a fun take on the Civilization formula. The game is good enough to not simply call it a clone, but to look at it as more of well crafted mod for Civ. It will allow you to enjoy a fun game of strategy without having to commit hours upon hours of time nor having to understand the intricacies of the title. I can't help but feel that this game at times is the Gillberg to Sid Meier's streak of excellent franchise entries.
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