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Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria Preview
developer: Infinite Interactive
PIII-450, 128MB RAM
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 21, 03 (released)
|» All About Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria on ActionTrip|
Recently it has become rather difficult to keep track of all those games that have been inspired by 3DO's renowned turn-based strategy, Heroes of Might and Magic. But, believe it or not, Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria is not one of those games. It actually continues its own saga, which started with the first Warlords game back in 1990; created by the Australian development team SSG. Thanks to Ubi Soft and the developers at Infinite Interactive, we managed to try out the latest build of the game, to get a better idea of what we can expect in the final version (due out this November).
I will spare your pitiful settlement.
Eat my Dragon Fire!
The fantasy-themed storyline involves players in an all-out war between several races that inhabit the world of Etheria (experienced players will recognize the setting from previous Warlords games). The game sets off with a tale about a young and greedy dark-elf prince named Mordaine. Mordaine is your standard power-hungry madman who doesn't let anything get in the way of his struggle for domination. In his effort to emerge as a ruthless ruler, Mordaine opened a portal to summon great demons that could help him take over the land. Unfortunately, instead of harnessing this incredible force, he accidentally unleashed an unspeakable horror (OOPS! - 2Lions), which eventually turned Etheria into a barren wasteland. This terrible period has always been referred to as "The Sundering." Almost 3000 years have passed, and mysterious forces are attempting to realize Mordaine's plans and succeed where he had failed.
In terms of gameplay, Warlords IV offers a subtle mix of fantasy turn-based strategies such as Heroes of Might and Magic and Age of Wonders. The good thing is that the game features its own gameplay style, which cannot be found in either of the aforementioned titles. Although moving units across the 2D map is very similar to Heroes, the battles are handled in a completely different manner. Instead of placing your units around the battlefield through the old hex-grid (or square-grid) system, the combat revolves around two specific melee units, while ranged units act as back up. This particular method of turn-based combat appeared like a much-needed refreshment to the genre. Over time it gets easier to grasp all the rules of the game. Actions such as sending specific units into the fray, casting appropriate spells, using the hero's special abilities are easy to learn. The entire system was devised so players can go through battles carefully, with enough time to decide which hero or unit should head off into action.
Throughout various scenarios in Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria, players will be encountering many different races, such as Dwarves, Ogres, Orcs, Undead, Dark Elves, Demons, Dragons, Elves, and others. As you'd expect it, there are sets of skills and abilities unique to each race (as far as we know there are over 120 different races altogether in the game). Also, at the beginning, players can select one of the following fields of expertise for their hero character to specialize in: combat, divine magic, nature magic, summoning, necromancy, and rune magic.
Similar to other fantasy themed turn-based strategies, Warlords IV focuses on enhancing the experience of your hero characters. You can do this by visiting various structures that are scattered throughout the map. On these locations your armies usually encounter monsters and characters with hostile intentions towards any newcomers. Fighting, of course, lets you toy with the diverse combat abilities and skills of your units. As you achieve victory, you may level up hero characters, thereby increasing their skills in leadership, combat, magic, etc. Unlike other games of this type, Warlords IV gives you the opportunity to level cavalry, infantry, or any other basic units that make it through the battles. As you complete a scenario, you can choose several heroes and a few experienced units to join you in the next missions. This option gives you a solid head start on the rest of the game.
Things are getting hotter by the minute.
The mighty Orc Elf-slayer!
In Warlords IV, the term 'strategy' has a slightly different feel to it. Instead of worrying about how to use multiple units effectively, you must think carefully which of these you should send into battle first. Primarily, your attentions will be to organize each army and the units within its ranks before you march to battle. Other tactics can be used as you progress through varied scenarios. Thankfully, the campaign and skirmish maps were designed very well and will give you enough to tackle with throughout the entire game. Each city you encounter along your journeys can be plundered or razed. These two tactics may not be the best possible solution if you wish to use the advantages and technological progress made by its former inhabitants. On the other hand, it is an excellent way to get your hands on some extra cash, which can naturally increase your production. Of course, players can simply march into the city and preserve all the structures found within it, without plundering and destroying the place.
Warlords IV features solid graphics. It's safe to say that the game has just enough eye candy for a fantasy turn-based strategy. Still, if you're expecting anything out of the ordinary, and what we're used to seeing in Warlords games, you better think again. Character animation is excellent and the maps were imaginatively designed. Once the combat commences players are treated to a wide array of cool-looking colorful spells. From a purely visual standpoint the game is very similar to the previous Warlords game. Still, credits should go out to the creative team responsible for character art and the overall design. The franchise has definitely retained its unique visual identity.
In all, the gameplay offers a satisfying range of challenging missions and tasks. So, if you're out some for solid turn-based fun set in a rich fantasy setting, Warlords should be on the top of your shopping list when it comes out. So far, we've found the gameplay to be quite addictive, and even though this particular build is laden with bugs (one nasty save game bug in particular), we're fairly positive that the retail product will be polished up and quite up to snuff.
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