• Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords Expansion Review

    A kitchen sink with little kitchen sinks in it

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    Age of Wonders III is a kitchen sink turn based fantasy 4x game. What’s kitchen sink? That means it has everything in it. Dwarves, elves, halflings, humans, draconians, orcs and goblins, are the main playable races, but there are plenty of other races around. You play as the leader of one of those races, along with a plethora of classes: sorcerer, dreadnaught, rogue, theocrat, and more.

    Pick a race, pick a leader, pick a bunch of play options, and you’re slapped down on a fantasy world ripe for plucking, filled with random treasure and adventure sites. You go forth and conquer, with, of course, a few different victory conditions.

    Age of Wonders III is an awesome game, but the designers really felt it just didn’t have enough, hence the Eternal Lords expansion. It’s a tough goal, since if any game already had everything it needed, it would be Age of Wonders III. So let’s talk about what’s been added, from least to most significant:

    First are the alignment-based specializations (for good, evil, and neutral). These basically don’t work. Alignment just isn’t handled well in Age of Wonders III. Make alliances? Your alignment turns to good. Make peace? More good. Allow monsters to run away? More good. Kill evil monsters? More good. It’s very hard to not to drift towards good—as you investigate sites, you’re going to find monsters and kill them. If you want to go to war, you probably want peace on another border. About the only way to get to evil is work, very hard, at it. Burn down cities that you’d normally want to gain a benefit from. Avoid seeking gold, magic items, and experience in dungeons and such. Run away from evil wandering monsters, and seek out the very few good monsters on the map. Start wars with everyone, even if you’re in no position to win.

    Even trying to get “pure good” for the specialization is tough, since you’ll probably have to declare war sometime, or accidentally bump into good aligned but hostile monsters. So this part of the expansion is a write-off.

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    Sure hope you like snow in your kitchen sink.

    Two new player races enter the board: frostlings and tigrans. The frostlings are, naturally, a cold-based race, and happiest on cold terrain. Since snow isn’t a very common terrain (and you only set it in the north), the frostlings come with ways to spread their snow-loving ways. It’s a very playable race, and while Age of Wonders III doesn’t exactly need more races, the frostlings fit in well enough.

    The tigrans are basically the opposite race, favoring the desert. They’re not quite as distinctive, but certainly every bit as playable as the other races. I guess the bottom line is, with so many races already in the game, it’s tough to do anything that stands out. Also, the class-based units available to all races tend to overmatch any of the “standard” units each race can build, further making it tough for a race to really distinguish itself from the crowd.

    Game-wide random events are now part of the game. These won’t change anyone’s strategy, but add a nice effect, boosting one race or another from time to time, or adding other minor effects (like increased production) for a few turns.

    There are a bunch of other little effects and additions, including many more new magic items (and a slightly better build-your-own-item system), but let’s get to the two biggest changes:

    There’s now a vassal system for cities. When you conquer a city, you usually just take it over and have it start building for you. Unfortunately, the game is pretty tight on gold. It’s expensive and time consuming building up the city, building the troops-building buildings, and then building the troops. Or you can just put the city on “build merchandise” (i.e., make more gold) and be done with it. The end result is most cities in your empire have no troops, nor the ability to make troops. A random wandering or enemy unit can just walk in and conquer your city…and it’s time consuming to march the army back and reconquer it.

    A vassal city takes responsibility for its own defense…you can have an army defending it in three turns, for nothing (instead of the 10 to 15 turns, and 500 gold, it would take you to do that on your own). Naturally, you don’t control the vassal, but from time to time the vassal will give you a choice of tribute, in the form of gold, mana, or troops. You won’t ever take mana, of course—the game still provides ridiculous overflowing amounts of mana with no way to spend it as fast as you get it, alas.

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    The other big, and the biggest by far, addition is the Necromancer class. Playing as a necromancer is an all-or-nothing affair, as the necromancer ruler turns all his cities into cities of racial undead. So, you can have undead halflings, or undead tigrans, or undead orcs, or whatever. (Even as this class, incidentally, and declaring war on everyone, I still couldn’t maintain pure evil status.) I’m not real happy with this, as sometimes I’d like to have a few living subjects, especially since I still can only hire living heroes, and often found magic items that really only help a living army.

    The necromancer also is able to create undead troops while on the march, but it never seems to pan out. All he can make are feeble “cadaver” units, and then only on occasion. I think one time I managed to have two cadavers simultaneously in the whole army, they’re just too fragile to really get much use out of them. Considering that undead units can’t heal, it’s a little difficult to keep an undead army on the march (although usually the trope is that undead armies are so dangerous because they don’t have to worry so much about logistics).

    So, the necromancer is a bit of a bust, but amusing enough to play through one time, I suppose.

    Age of Wonders III is already a must-have for any fan of this genre. While the expansion isn’t critical, that’s more a testament to how great AoW III is all by itself. If you’ve played the game to death, the expansion might not add enough, but if you’re new to the franchise, you may as well just get the expansion while you’re at it.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords Expansion Review started by Doom View original post
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. jakt's Avatar
      jakt -
      Looks good, just need an editor to look it over.
    1. jakt's Avatar
      jakt -
      bump
    1. jakt's Avatar
      jakt -
      OK...so it's going live tomorrow.

      Thank you for not publishing immediately. Please be sure to follow How to Publish an Article! exactly. The preview break was missing, causing the previews on the front page to be broken.
    1. maximusboomus's Avatar
      maximusboomus -
      Quote Originally Posted by jakt View Post
      OK...so it's going live tomorrow.

      Thank you for not publishing immediately. Please be sure to follow How to Publish an Article! exactly. The preview break was missing, causing the previews on the front page to be broken.
      My bad! I did a read through, reads well to me.
    1. Doom's Avatar
      Doom -
      Hmm, preview break...never did it before, but it is in the instructions. I'll try to follow "PREVIEW BREAK
      A Preview Break or [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] MUST be placed a maximum of 3 lines down from the top. This includes images and spaces." next time around.

      Thanks.
    1. maximusboomus's Avatar
      maximusboomus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Doom View Post
      Hmm, preview break...never did it before, but it is in the instructions. I'll try to follow "PREVIEW BREAK
      A Preview Break or [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] MUST be placed a maximum of 3 lines down from the top. This includes images and spaces." next time around.

      Thanks.
      I usually remember to add them... You're doing a great job DOOM, keep up the fantastic writing and reviews!