AOW3

It’s a pretty grand time to be into turn-based fantasy strategy games. Fallen Enchantress, Eador, Warlock, and Dominions 4 are all well worth playing for distinct reasons. And with the release of Triumph Studios’ Age of Wonders III at the end of this month, it might get to be an even better time.

After the jump, let’s take a peek

Age of Wonders III is very much a military-centric fantasy game with a hearty layer of spellcasting on top. It’s much more like Warlock: Masters of the Arcane than Elemental or Eador, with minimized city building and empire management in favor of moving around stacks of units and pitting them against other stacks of units in tactical combat. Short stacks. Don’t expect to group more than six units at a time. Also, make sure to leave some units to defend your city. This isn’t one of those games where you get a favorite stack to do all the heavy lifting.

The economics are pretty lite, with only a couple of resources. But the amount of detail when you level up (or custom-build) a hero is pretty hardcore, with all sorts of options for a +1 here or -1 there. This is a game that allows for some persnickety specialization, to the point that leveling up often seems like an easy choice. Why would I spend one point for, say, sleep resistance when I could save up a few more points to raise my unit’s health? The thinking seems to be that with more choices, there’s more freedom to develop your characters and armies however you like.

It’s certainly an attractive game, much more lushly detailed and animated than the competition. Let’s take a look (you can click the images below for larger versions):

AOW3_01

This is an underground map, where the going is narrow. Underground areas are full of choke points. If a unit is in your way, you’re not going to get past it until you fight it. This made it a bit of a pain to get around neutral units when I’m trying to do a quest for them. Would you idiots let me pass so I can go over there and kill those zombies like you asked me to?

AOW3_02

In case you needed proof that lady dwarfs exist. There’s no mistaking her for a dude.

AOW3_03

The maps for tactical battles are nothing if not choked with detail. Can you tell that this is a fight over a mine?

AOW3_04

I don’t know if the AI is smart for hiding behind those barriers or if I’m dumb for trying to shoot at its units from the other side. Whatever the case, here’s me losing a battle that I totally should have won.

AOW3_05

By the way, that’s one hell of a tooltip! Thanks, Triumph Studios. That’s the level of information I want at my fingertips.

AOW3_06

Well, I guess I’ll need to build boats now. I can’t very well let the Shrine of the Fickle Mermaid go unexplored.

AOW3_07

I love the cloth map when you zoom all the way out in Elemental. But I love this cloth map even more. It’s the ideal combination of attractive and functional.

AOW3_08

Again, great tooltips. How happy are the people in this city? Why are they that happy?

AOW3_09

What’s my population growth? Why is it that?

AOW3_10

Where is all my gold coming from? The empire management is pretty light, but it’s absolutely thorough and above-board.

AOW3_11

What would happen if this unit attacks that unit? Age of Wondrous Tooltips!

AOW3_12

I can tell you from first-hand experience that a dwarven dreadnought leader is not above wearing a pearl necklace given to him by a man named Jack if the necklace gives you extra hit points.

AOW3_13

Terrifying.

Age of Wonders III is due out March 31st.