Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 17, 2016

If I hear the name "Warlords", I think of the PC game from 1989 and the games in the same series that followed it. But in fact "Warlords" is a pretty bad name for a video game, because there are so many different games using it. There is an arcade game of that name from the early 80's, World of Warcraft had the "Warlords of Draenor", and a search for "Warlords" on the iOS app store gives you a number of different hits, including a port of the 1989 PC game.

The game I want to talk about here is called "Warlords - Turn-Based Strategy" from Black Anvil. Which, as names go, is probably even worse than just Warlords. It isn't very snappy as a title, and as it turns out to not even be correct: The turn-based gameplay is tactical, not strategic. But apart from the bad title, the game is quite good. The core gameplay of Warlords is tactical turn-based battles on a hex map. There are different types of units which each are strong against some other unit type, and weak against another in a classical rock-paper-scissors system. And the hex maps have hexes of different heights, with units getting advantages when hitting downhill, as well as other terrain features like forests, swamps, or villages, each affecting the units on them. Which makes for pretty interesting short battles, designed to last just between 1 and 5 turns.

The strategic map around that is real-time based, not turn-based. You conquer provinces, but in fact you don't have an advantage from conquered provinces except for very few with features like the port or the merchant. While you don't play, some of the provinces get taken back by the orcs, while others get raided by bandits, so you end up fighting over the same province several times while expanding your map. That is not a bad thing, think of it like mobs respawning in a MMORPG, sometimes its helpful for farming xp and loot.

Each unit is collecting xp to gain rank. It also collects shards to get a promotion from 0-star up to 5-star, but those are much harder to get. In addition to that, ranks unlock rows of upgrade slots, each taking 4 upgrades that can be found as loot. Each upgrade strengthens the unit, and getting a full row gives an additional bonus. All in all, there are a *lot* of ways to make a unit stronger. The disadvantage is that it isn't always very obvious how strong or weak a unit is, but it keeps the game flowing.

You can play Warlords for free. Once ever 3 hours you get a free chest from a basic merchant ship in the harbor, once every 43 hours a free chest from a smuggler ship, which gives better stuff. You can get the same chests much faster if you spend money, but I feel as if that is optional and not strictly required. You might expand your territory faster if you spend money, but that isn't really all that much of an advantage. I haven't tried the PvP part, which thankfully is optional, so the game isn't really "pay2win".

Overall "Warlords - Turn-Based Strategy" is a nice little fantasy tactics game with continued unit improvement. I like it!

I'm not sure I completely agree that PvE games can't be "pay2win." You can win at the game, and you can pay to get there faster. I understand if there is no direct PvP, your progress is your own and the progress of another player has no effect on you. But the perception is that this kind of payment scheme has a significant impact on design decisions. I know a lot of players envision something like this conversation happening between the development team:

"In this part of the game we want them to grind orcs for an hour."
"Make it 10 hours instead, and add an item in the shop that makes it 20 minutes, so they're forced to give us money."

People don't care about the other player doing it in 20 minutes, they care that now all these 10 hour grinds are added making the game worse.
PvP is just facing other people's armies, they don't actually control them, so its just another form of PvE.
PvP has a win condition. PvE doesn't.
If players communicate or even see each others' profile, they can compete to be first regardless of whether there's formal PvP.
I've picked up the game, any hints on how to spend the freely obtained "cash shop currency"?
Consider that my player profile is that I will never spend money in this kind of game and I'll dump it in 1-2 months, at least this is what I observe from my iPad gaming history.....

Once you reach the merchant, you can exchange the cash shop currency for gold. So it's either buying smuggler ships or gold, and I was under the impression that gold was more useful.
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