Warlock: Master of the Arcane Preview

by on 10th Apr 2012

Now, don't take this the wrong way, but you're a rat.

A thieving, piratey, merry-go-raiding, thank-you-so-kindly, pillaging sort of beast. And in your long hold'em-up-or-I'll-poke-ya illustrious life you can be proud of never having had the pretense of being anything else.

Or so you would have others believe...

That you just came to in the middle of nowhere (plus some fathoms) with only your brain-addled honour guard doesn't change squat. You haven't lost your appetite, and the place, it turns out, isn't half bad. So you decide to take over, as usual.

This is just one of the ways to contemplate things at the start of your journey in Warlock: Master of The Arcane, and regardless of what other whims fate may hold, you are nonetheless a Great Mage.

Who exactly you want to be incarnating is your choice, all the way from King Rat to stereotypically pointy-hatted human wizard, which can be adopted unchanged or customised in terms of spells, perks and favoured deities to better match your particular aspirations.

Also within your power is the definition of the conditions you'll be facing in Ardania: find yourself in continental landmasses or islands, edge-delimited or wrap-around world, large or small, with a single or multiple portal-linked parallel worlds, with few or many contending mages.

No matter what you do, be warned - things will never be quite the same at the outset, as the land you'll be exploring is the produce of capricious occult forces. Darkest of dark magic - meddle not!

"You point, we shoot!!"

When first you set eyes upon this fabled land you shall see your first holding, a city; and there, at its centre, a castle of sorts with a high watch tower, guarded from the inside by ranged weaponry and outside by whatever pitiful forces were initially entrusted to you. Encircling it but a short distance away is a veil of clouds which cover and hide most everything else.

Another thing you will be quick to note is that there are hexagonal markings all across the ground forming a sort of lattice. More foolery from a bygone era no doubt.

You discover too the scarcity and nature of your belongings: some gold, some meat, a sprinkling of mana and magical research beakers, mostly empty. You shall have to keep good track of these throughout your stay. But, just about now, as you shake off the newfound ignominy of your poverty in this place and resolve to utter your first command, you hear a voice. A familiar voice for some reason, despite the confounded accent.

No matter - what matters is that the Gods so aid you in getting your bearings.

In cities, you are told, you will order built a number of constructions of different purposes, ranging from the recruitment and training of specific types of powerful (and not so powerful) forces, the production of food, the accruing of gold, the collection of mana, the study of magic or warfare, the forging of armour and weapons, the edification of temples of worship, shipyards, mines, as well as all sort of other resource-gathering structures and implements which harvest the resources that dot the landscape and must fall within the borders of a city to be put to good use.

To remain functional most of these buildings and troops require a constant expenditure of gold, meat and/or mana, the combination and number of which depends on their particular type. Be diligent and things will gradually flourish and prosper, expanding the limits of your domains as population levels increase.

You can also conquer cities or found new ones by dispatching humble settlers somewhere.

But, of course, if you persist in sitting there with a vacant stare like an apprentice naught will come to fruition, will it?

You must now go out and explore the vast expanses of the world, to make sure you are the one to find and take hold of the best locations, the greatest treasures, the finest allies, lest your envious peers steal from you what should rightfully be yours.

Tread lightly, for hostiles roam the land - murderous robbers, natural and unnatural beasts, usurpers of all provenance that gingerly come forth, lie invisibly in wait to ambush you as you close, or just keep to their dwellings and breeding grounds, taking acrimonious exception to oblivious or intentional trespassers alike.

All these must you mightily and mercilessly smite with sword or spear, halberd or hammer, arrow or spell. Pick wisely too the means of their undoing as some possess immunity to most forms of assailing. Look closely to their strengths and weaknesses and you will stand a chance at overcoming them, reaping rewards in wealth, spells and the occasional gifted forces.

If your troops meet not death in short order they will stand to gain valuable experience. As they grow in rank you will be asked to bestow upon them different faculties and will do well to purchase them better equipment (like enchanted weapons or fine armour) so that they can better survive, or more expediently dispatch, the veritable brutes and horrors they encounter.

Do not presume feasible, though, to fully ignore the Gods in your exploits.

You may turn a deaf ear to the requests of others, but risk the wrath of a deity at your own peril. Quests will be issued that either grant you favour or make you lose it with the God in question, if performed timely or not at all, with significant consequences in largesse or penalty emanating thereof.

Prepare yourself to be tasked with erecting a temple for instance. Something which normally entails some unpleasantness, as prodigious elementals protect the rare and unique places where that is possible and often resent being intruded upon.

It's also not nice to make faces at the Gods like that, and so the voice tells you it is time to end your turn. You don't especially like the implications of that, given the sudden proximity of a monstrous sea serpent.

Not all is bleak - you know you'll have one more spell research completed this next turn, and so one more conjuration in your spellbook inscribed to fling at the other bickering great mages when you decide to end all dealings with them and try to get some peace... by declaring war.

Another piece of knowledge you should have is that ultimate victory can be achieved not exclusively by bumping off all your peers.

Alternatively you can seize all Holy grounds rising to become the only priest of the Conclave, or you could enrage a God to red-hot fury and then defeat his avatar absorbing its power (and turning into a demigod), or you might cast the great spell Unity securing for yourself all magic.

Presently your attention is needed elsewhere. Flying serpents come threateningly into view.

Curse profusely as you may, disgracefully the airborne menace can't be properly dealt with by your hapless nearby ground dwellers. A right time to go bats?

Sights And Sounds

Scorching deserts, verdant plains, lush jungles, cool forests, high mountains, incensed volcanoes, vast oceans - all will you find adeptly depicted and unfortunately populated, with terrain type having actual consequence to your troop movements and corresponding added vulnerability or advantage.

Of the fortuitous and ornamental you will see dust devils as they emerge and dissipate, or flocks of white birds circling peacefully on the warm currents. And, if you don't blink, you may even surprise the ent-like Demonwood picking its knotty nose. You can get that close, if you really want to.

Beyond the joys of nature and what's in your cities, there are glittering manifestations of magic to be gawked at, as spells are cast to forwarding or ruinous result in a broad spectrum of effects. And when you see a glowing portal, don't let yourself become too mesmerised by its swirling beauty or prospects of plundering, as it obviously links to another world - and it does work both ways.

Most things have some associated sounds, like the cawing of strange birds in the jungle, or frog calls in the swamps, and then there are the witty retorts of your lackeys joyfully clamouring for "Loot! Loot! Loot!" or some such, and the whimsical twang of some ranged weapons, all of which will inevitably cause your mirth, just when you meant to remain grave and supercilious while inspecting your rank and file.

Music to your ears is equally present and accounted for, which although serviceable for the general populace, is not what one would call worthy of a king's minstrel and so best left in relatively low key.

Casting Away

Many veterans will be quick to notice how this game adheres to well established turn-based strategy conventions and its similarities, graphical and otherwise, to past and present mammoths of the genre. As a result one goes in not anticipating much, but comes away with an altogether different impression.

Putting tried and true formulas to good use it is extremely accessible and friendly to all skill levels, having a clear interface with handy tooltips that convey just that prime information necessary to make a decision, while allowing you to dig deeper still if desired.

It automates what ought to be automated, lets you click through to cut short animations and troop movements, and notifies you of everything you need to be notified of.

Furthermore, it is nice to look at and pervasively entertaining in its humour, without being disparaging of the fantasy traditions it parodies in unit descriptions and acknowledgements, animations, resources or even plain old city names, like Gnomore, Odditch and Eatmor.

The preview copy on hand makes for a strong showing, being stable, featuring capable AI (that won't declare war on you willy-nilly, knowing when to stay put or even retreat) and exposing almost no glitches worth speaking of

Charged with making a parting ruling as to the worth of this offering I have to say Warlock: Master of The Arcane spells good things for strategy gamers old and new, and honest praise it is due, for it plainly can, and likely will too, positively surprise you, when it is summoned before thee by early Summer of this year.


Add Comment Comments

12 Apr 2012 - 4:36pm
Was it Christopher Paolini who admitted he wrote those atrocious fantasy novels to some sort of rhyme scheme?  Good Lord, man, have some pride.

I also remember he went about with a lute (mandolin?) to promote them.  I'd cry, but I honestly don't know if it would be fear, hilarity, or sorrow.
Space Voyager\
12 Apr 2012 - 10:07am
Space Voyager
Please take it back. Posted Image
12 Apr 2012 - 9:28am
Thanks for reading everyone! :what:

A shocking change of diet. I know, I know; don't know what got into me...

Next time, the real pièce de resistance: addled speech, shows of copy/paste withdrawal and 'have played' with plausible deniability.


I swear. :)
Space Voyager\
12 Apr 2012 - 6:02am
Space Voyager

FullAuto, on 12 April 2012 - 12:30 AM, said:

It's nice to see someone trying something different.  It may not be 100% successful, but how many writers do you know who are going beyond "This is the game, this is how it plays."?  I can think of a handful, in an industry where there are thousands of people writing about games.
I couldn't agree more. Personally I love the article, it holds its artistic ground. It may not be a style usual for articles about video games, but I consider that a + instead of -.
12 Apr 2012 - 12:56am
Yeah, a lot of people would.  They just wouldn't enjoy it.

Stunt drivers, though.
12 Apr 2012 - 12:52am

I'd play it.
12 Apr 2012 - 12:30am

SGCSG1, on 11 April 2012 - 04:49 PM, said:

The writing style for this article.... it really doesn't work.   Lots of noise.   Not much signal.

It's nice to see someone trying something different.  It may not be 100% successful, but how many writers do you know who are going beyond "This is the game, this is how it plays."?  I can think of a handful, in an industry where there are thousands of people writing about games.

For my next article, ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to use IGN's writing style, where everything is kept simple and is wrong at every possible opportunity, e.g.  "Mass Effect 3 is an isometric puzzle game where you control Leon S. Kennedy, a one-man-band, as he goes to Spain in an attempt to stop the President's daughter from launching her entire nuclear arsenal using her army of highly skilled stunt drivers and time-travelling samurai."

Needless to say, 3/10.
11 Apr 2012 - 8:27pm
Smells like a Master of Magic redux? :)?
11 Apr 2012 - 4:49pm
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.....   Civ V should be flattered.  EXTREMELY FLATTERED.

Oh, and another thing.   The writing style for this article.... it really doesn't work.   Lots of noise.   Not much signal.  

But I like Civ, so I might like this.   It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Space Voyager\
11 Apr 2012 - 5:50am
Space Voyager
Looks really nice, a Civ in arcane suit. Also Elemental series seems similar, except the hex grid and battles. I like hex grid more to be frank.
10 Apr 2012 - 10:55pm
I put on my robe and wizard hat...
10 Apr 2012 - 8:06pm
Good article Thor! Liked the video as it's often quite hard to tell what a game will be like from screenshots alone and it looks interesting Posted Image


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Game Card

Warlock: Master of the Arcane Box
Developer: Ino-Co Plus
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Status:In Production


Warlock: Master of the Arcane Video