Thursday, May 04, 2023
Age of Wonders 4 - Enchanted Archipelago and Crimson Caldara
I now have 24 hours of Age of Wonders 4 played, and finished the second and third story realm: Enchanted Archipelago and Crimson Caldera. I played both with the same leader / faction: Feudal dark elves, riding on spiders, but using order and nature magic with a good alignment. I played both stories on normal difficulty.
The Enchanted Archipelago was the least fun of the three stories up to now. The AI isn't great with ships, and the graphics and animations of ship combat in AoW4 are strangely sub-par. Even Planetfall had nicer ship combat. But this second story mission still wasn't terribly difficult, and I finished it in under 40 turns.
The Crimson Caldera was a lot more fun, and quite challenging. It showed, how you can get a very different experience by messing with some parts of the game. Diplomacy was basically turned off, and right from the start I was at war with 5 enemy AI and about twice that many free cities. I can see how with DLC and mods there could be a lot of interesting rules variations and scenarios for AoW4. A big lake of lava in the middle of the map saved me from being assaulted from all sides, but it meant that I also had to take the long way around to conquer all the enemies. That took 112 turns overall, so I finally got into the end game. On the final turn I cast the spell that starts the countdown for magic victory, but then used the bonuses that spell gives to conquer the last enemy capital and leader.
The culture you choose in AoW4 gives you access to three tier 1 units, two tier 2, and one tier 3. You need to upgrade your city to tier 2 and 3 to get those units, so at the start you can build just the tier 1. Other units, up to tier 5, come as part of the tomes. Sometimes you get other types of units from events or as loot, but mostly you'll have the units from your cultures and your tomes. I now completely explored the feudal / order combination. I don't think I'll play that particular combo again anytime soon, because one ends up doing a lot of similar battles over a hundred turns, if you do them manually. But on the side of spells for quite a while I relied on a cheap nature spell, Mark as Prey, from the Tome of Beasts. I makes one enemy unit suffer flanking damage from every attack, regardless from which direction that attack comes. For just 5 mana that ends up being a lot more efficient than casting any damage spells.
With the "beta (hotfix)" version I was able to play the game without crashes. Today Paradox patched the main version of the game, I assume using the same fix. Still they accumulated several hundred negative Steam reviews complaining about crashes. I guess that is only fair. It seems the release version had lots of problems with regular Nvidia graphics cards, and that is something you would think should have been tested before release.
This weekend I'll be playing the fourth story mission, The Eternal Court. I'll make a new leader and faction for that, but haven't decided yet which one.