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Age of Wonders 4 review: create high-fantasy civilizations, at a cost

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Immediately after starting Age of Wonders 4, I decided to build a custom race of Molekins for the tutorial realm — a swarming, mana-channeling people ruled by the High Matriarch Enamuruonimor. I could have easily made a race of feudal toads or poisonous halflings, but as a selective isolationist when it comes to 4X strategy games, I’ve built my empire underground and made it like a horde of gophers. Unfortunately, it would be arrogant to get too creative before learning the game’s systems and synergies, and as a result, Holemind’s proud Moles paid a heavy price. I was.



This is the first Age of Wonders game since 2019. planet falland returns to the series’ original high-fantasy theme for the first time in about a decade. Age of Wonders 4 It features a story-driven single-player campaign, tactical turn-based combat, and a global spellcasting system. This is my first time playing an Age of Wonders game, but playing in the 4X genre is learning how to apply the same title principles of exploration, expansion, exploitation, and eradication. Once things started to click, I wholeheartedly embraced 4X’s school of justification. It is what leads an otherwise calm and carefree person to ruin.

The real magic of 4X gaming lies in watching shit happen, whether it’s the whimsical reactions of opposing civilizations or the exposure of deadly weaknesses that no one expected. In multiplayer, there are moments when docile friends turn into ferocious foes (and vice versa).It’s time to sink into arcane victory conditions and betrayed by a bunch of primitive hermits. Age of Wonders 4 You need to provide fertile soil for fragments of your fantasy saga to take root.

Image: Triumph Studios/Paradox Interactive via Polygon

behaviorally, Age of Wonders 4 Pretty unremarkable — usually works as expected, sometimes a bit too predictable, but at least on easy and normal difficulty you can play until you’ve completed a few games. 4X, with a much more developed RPG story, Age of Wonders 4 Pushed me into new territory.

Like previous Age of Wonder games, there is a good-evil alignment agenda system that affects the nature of random events, public perception, socio-economic and combat advantage (cannibal factions are always evil). From the world of Magehaven, Godir, a group of functionally immortal wizards, explore other worlds and recruit new heroes. A unique unit needed to discover cities, start siege, and explore wonders on the map. Each game takes place in a realm with different environmental conditions or special scenarios (for example, an undead curse, or a constant state of war). Players start with a small army and a ruler who is either mortal or Godir, depending on the backstory. Upon victory, the ruler can ascend to the player’s pantheon, where they can claim to appear in subsequent playthroughs.

The campaign story involves two opposing factions within Godir (the well-ordered Covenant and the chaotic Shadrai Alliance) and features familiar faces from previous games, such as Elven Princess Sundren of the Dysfunctional House of Yinioch. increase. Players start each chapter as agents of the Covenant or Shadrai, tasked with finding rogue Godir or investigating strange phenomena.

Image: Triumph Studios/Paradox Interactive via Polygon

Covenant and Shad’rai are not explicitly pushed, but good vs bad, it is difficult to avoid associating them with their simple duality. Good-aligned factions are hard to play here because the Realms are at a perpetual state of war, and they better support evil plans if players follow a simplistic approach of looting, vassalizing, and conquering.

The good and evil agenda might be a useful system in the regular game, but it feels undermined by the story’s enduring moral implications. I’d like to believe that I can somehow get on board with the “good” Covenant goals, but in reality, trying to reconcile the Necron’s inherent evil with a noble cause feels contradictory. increase. I’ve tried to force him to see if anything interesting happens, but like most 4X mistakes, it’s a waste of time and resources because it doesn’t take advantage of his race at all. For the wide range of possibilities 4X games have to tell emergent stories, Age of Wonders 4 Not the best candidate to tinker with for this purpose.

After failing the Frankenmohr experiment during the tutorial, I started the first chapter with a pre-set faction — the First Elves, led by the Ethyl Silverleaf (Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel’s Dead Ringer). I have built a vast and thriving empire through my First Elf affinity for nature and beasts, and have made considerable progress in the Astral affinity tree. When I finally unlocked the Astral Relay Building, it was a mid-to-late-game gold boost structure that was easy to maintain with a huge army for military victories.

Image: Triumph Studios/Paradox Interactive via Polygon

I also dabbled in a few other factions. A dwarven ruler, his Tugrum Hammerhall was understandably focused on production, and thus a very important wizard. simple construction project. Shinren, the hedonistic ruler of the elves Ashborn, had little success with his experiments with Trulas. The main reason was that I was enamored with the money-making successes of my previous approach and found it difficult to integrate Shinren’s strengths into my newfound greed. All the factions I tried, with the exception of the aforementioned Nekron, which I abandoned early on, felt well-rounded and cohesive with the potential to thrive under different playstyles and affinities. I got

The combat system is very flexible, offering both automatic and manual combat options. Encountering enemy units on the Overworld map triggers a turn-based battlefield instance that broadly reflects the terrain of the map hex. I’ve grown to love the automatic option as a neat time-saver for blowing up the inevitable low-risk battles. I was able to focus on the bigger battles that could waste my . Spellcasting, which can be further complicated by barriers and environmental hazards, and positioning. In the Overworld, games really want to pay attention to army formations and hex function. That means carefully moving each unit one at a time.

Lots of small frustrations. For example, when looting new hero gear, the prompt “open hero screen” will default to the player’s ruler, even if the gear slots are all full, which is a minor addition to his hero’s list. I meant unnecessary steps to access. It’s a small but meaningful quality of life tweak, considering the high baseline micromanagement of 4X gaming to begin with. Two units may not swap hexes. Finally, characters using two-handed weapons cannot have mounts. The most successful high of all time If borrowing heavily from his fantasy film adaptations, Have an elf use a staff on horseback.

Image: Triumph Studios/Paradox Interactive via Polygon

Despite the struggle of mastering a serious 4X in one week by the deadline, Age of Wonders 4 Great fun as a solid and funny fusion of familiar things I love. It does a pretty good job of infusing its high-fantasy setting with some serious humor and a sprinkle of cheese. Clicking on each unit produces an approximation of the hilarious grunts and “hey” that’s a nice bit of his dorky audio in the ostensibly serious genre. His Slice of Life scenarios that pop up during gameplay also make for great distractions, like dealing with a citizen’s nervous superstitions or deciding whether to ignore someone’s dinner his banquet. After about 30 hours of playing, I hit a wall, mostly due to the increased combat difficulty in Chapter 4, which didn’t mesh well with my single-minded attempts to achieve magical victories. I did.

Age of Wonders 4 Not as oiled a machine as my old 4X ball and chain— Civilization 5 and 6 —but even in those moments when the writing seems to be going in three different directions at once, there’s just the right blend of charm and heart to smooth out its flaws.

Perhaps my focus on the story lessened the excitement of seeing how the computer messed me up. Perhaps the alignment agenda is useful for moral fantasy settings, but dampens the chaotic spontaneity that usually makes 4X games so delicious. It will be simply unpredictable as there will be no one to interfere. The reality of his 4X game that no one wants to admit is that it’s no fun if you don’t win. So half the battle is trying to keep new players engaged while they learn how to improve. Just taking care of the immortal pantheon drama can hold me back, but I don’t know how long it will last. Presumably looters will.

Age of Wonders 4 will be released on Windows PC on May 2nd. This game was reviewed using a pre-release download code provided by Paradox Interactive. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, but Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased via affiliate links.discoverable Additional information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy can be found here.

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