I’ve been a fan of Stardock for ages now. Their game that won me over was Galactic Civilizations 2, and it still occupies a permanent place on my hard drive and in my heart. The same level of detail that they painstakingly put into Galactic Civ is visible even in such an early beta. The unit combat and movement is well done and the huge monsters surprised the hell out of me once I encountered them. Everything is very well rendered and as in Warlock, when you zoom out to a certain distance, the map turns into a cloth map with symbols representing the units and towns. The game promises to have several customizable character classes and the ability to choose starting spell books like the old Master of Magic game did. The beta is still currently locked on Wizard and you are unable to choose spell books and starting abilities.
"The game promises to have several customizable character classes and the ability to choose starting spell books like the old Master of Magic game did."
The game does some things well at this point, such as the aforementioned unit combat and map system, but it still lacks the polish on the magic system. Spells are researched the same way that they are in a regular 4X title. You can allocate your mana between storage, research, and mana spent in leveling up your wizard. The magic feels rudimentary at this point as you have very basic spells available and the animations and general feel of the spell system is undeveloped. The Shards you are supposed to protect are located on the map, but the fog of war prevents you from actually going to them to defend them. Your character is not new to the world so the locations of the Shards should be revealed at the beginning of the game. The general graphical user interface is sometimes hard to read and you have to hunt for information like when in the city management screen.
"One good thing the game does is the combat system. Combat is tactical and the units move depending on initiative rather than one side taking turns and then waiting for the other side to make theirs."
Speaking of the city management; the whole thing is a mixed bag. You are unable to build shrines around Shards which would help you increase you magic ability, especially early in the game because that option is not in the game yet. City growth is done like you expect – excess food increases the growth and you expand your tiles of influence. Your production value doesn’t seem to matter at this point because everything from units to archery ranges depends on your mage “summoning” them. You spend more time building units early in the game that it’s difficult to try shoehorn in an upgrade to the city.
One good thing the game does is the combat system. Combat is tactical and the units move depending on initiative rather than one side taking turns and then waiting for the other side to make theirs. This is why the game feels more like an RPG with tactical combat between small groups of characters rather than a game like Civilization that empathizes strategic thinking and large armies. You have a hero at the start of the game and by equipping them with weapons and armor, you can make the most of them. I usually use all of my unit buffs on the heroes to ensure longevity. Losing your hero isn’t the end of the world as they reappear at your home city and must recover their lost health before they can venture onwards again. There is not an option to flee from combat – so once you’ve committed to battle, ensure that everyone’s okay with dying and have made appropriate arrangements with their loved ones beforehand.
"If the game turns out like I think it will, I’ll have to make another permanent place on my hard drive next to Galactic Civilizations 2."
There are side quests and stories when you encounter inns or caves and the like. There are events like rescuing fugitives or stopping a bar fight through a story system that gives you three options. Most are hilarious and I want to click them just to see what happens. All in all the game shows promise and it’s worth tracking their progress as it develops. If the game turns out like I think it will, I’ll have to make another permanent place on my hard drive next to Galactic Civilizations 2.
Preview by: Mark Brenner