This week sees the release of Age of Wonders III, the turn-based strategy game developed by the Dutch Triumph Studios. This game has been on the market in various guises since its inception as World of Wonders way back in 1999, and although the graphics have been overhauled, the concept and gameplay have remained faithful to the winning formula that has gained it a huge following in the gaming community.
Age of Wonders III takes strategy gaming to new levels with its 4X (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) principles where you strive to make your empire the dominant one. Each player constructs their society from one of six available species, choosing from humans, draconians, high elves, dwarves, orcs, and goblins, and adapting the unique abilities of their race to suit needs and intentions. Furthermore, there are six different classes a leader can be. The Sorcerer style of leader emphasizes the use of magic for enchantments and summoning powerful beings. The Theocrat constructs an organized religion based society breeding zealots, followers, and religious warriors. The Rogue-style leader favors less direct approaches to situations, employing stealth, thievery and political manipulation as well as using dark magic in both diplomacy and warfare. The Archdruid is a warlock-esque figure who channels the power of nature to their advantage by being very self-sufficient and being able to call upon wild creatures of the forest. The Dreadnaught heads a steampunk styled society, using large industry, machinery and armoury-units like cannons and tanks. Last but not least there are the Warlord-class who specialise in direct conflict and combat tactics.
The game is played via a series of hexagon tiles seen in the isometric and are used to expand an empire out into the world beyond. Because the game is essentially turn-based, it takes on aspects of RPG and becomes an intense strategy-fest where crushing your opponent becomes an exercise in guile. Out and out battles – whether conducted in the open field or as a city siege – take the form of combat within a separate hexagon grid-based 3D battlefield where units are designated both movement and space. Each side can lead up to six units into battle, and work to make best use of them in order to defeat their opponent in an intense battle of wits.
The latest version comes with a number of enhancements, including upgraded gameplay on the battlefield and intensive online multi-player modes that are sure to keep the ardent warrior in you entertained with many hours of excitement and potential extermination of your foes (real or imagined).
Age of Wonders III has been over three years in the making and represents a leap forward in the High Fantasy gaming world. While its launch was finally announced in October 2013, it has been in development since 2010, so there has been ample opportunity to dig out any bugs that may have snuck in there as well as polishing the gameplay. Initially only available for PC, Triumph is preparing to launch the game on Mac OS X later on in the year.
If you’ve not played Age of Wonders before, then you could do much worse than to go out and get yourself a copy, and if you’re an old hand at the genre but don’t have it, why aren’t you up the shops already!?