Monday, March 27, 2023
Age of Wonderful
I have played a lot of different strategy games: Grand strategy games from Paradox, games from the Total War series, 4X games like Civilization and many others. That goes back all the way to the 90s, where I was playing games like Master of Magic. I was looking forward to the remake of that, but unfortunately it turned out that the Master of Magic remake was a bit too close to the original, and has a lot of systems that three decades later feel dated. However, compared to the first Civilization, Master of Magic to me had two major advantages: The fantasy setting, and the tactical combat.
Tactical combat is probably the bigger factor here. In many of the games listed, combat isn't great. That has usually to do with it taking place on the the large strategic map, and then being either simplified or automated to a point that the results can sometimes be very weird. The Civilization series, with its focus on the tech tree, frequently resulted in combat encounters between troops of different historical eras. The Paradox games, like Crusader Kings 3 or Victoria 3, often have difficulties handling the mobility of armies on the strategic map, and combat is more or less automated once it finally happens. Some people do like the real time combat of the Total War series, but I have always preferred turn-based combat, and Total War AI tends to make weird decisions.
Given all that, I very much enjoyed Age of Wonders: Planetfall when I played it around end of last year. The different alien races and leader customization lead to a lot of replayability and variation. And the mix between 4X strategic gameplay and zoomed-in tactical maps was just right for me. I played over 150 hours of that before moving on to other genres. But having looked at and disliked the Master of Magic remake, I couldn't help but notice that Age of Wonders 4 is scheduled to come out on May 2nd, which might be a better alternative for me. But that is still over a month away, so what should I do until then?
Then I remembered that I did own Age of Wonders 3. I had played that when it came out back in 2014, but at release I didn't much like the game. However, since then the game has had 38 patches and two DLCs. So I tried the game again, and this time I liked it a lot more. Obviously it is hard to say in how far that is due to constant improvements of the game, or to changes in attitude on my side over the last 9 years. But Triumph Studios clearly improved on and supported Age of Wonders 3 for five years, and that is something I do appreciate. To many game studios are on a "fire and forget" mode, where after release only the most egregious shortcomings are still patched. Or they rely too much on paid DLC, like Civ 6, which still today is $60 game with $150 worth of DLC (although you can get it all in a bundle for about half price).
So now I'll be playing Age of Wonders 3 for a bit. And I pre-ordered Age of Wonders 4, after having studied some very interesting looking previews. Maybe Age of Wonders 4 will be the new "Masters of Magic" that I never really got.