By Mohammad Abubakr (Abubakr)
The strategy genre has always been one of my favourites. When I was asked to cover Worlds of Magic, I was looking forward to trying out this 4X turn-based strategy game. Developed and published by Wastelands Interactive, Worlds of Magic is a spiritual successor to Master of Magic. The game revolves around the idea of exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination. Read on for my thoughts on Worlds of Magic.
Being given access to the beta version, I ran into some difficulties starting up the game on its release date. However, this was easily resolved by verifying files on Steam and was most likely caused by Steam missing files or conflicts updating from the beta version. This was understandable as transitioning from beta to full release can cause some problems in game clients and it is only being mentioned in case others face the same issues. Simply verify your game files with Steam, and Steam does the work for you.
After having resolved this issue, I booted up the game, and after having modified video settings to suit my needs I was presented by the main menu. My first impressions were great, the menu looks good and the music is amazing. Wastelands Interactive seems to have put a lot of time into the game’s music which is great to see in a strategy game. Often times you will take your time planning moves and play slowly, it’s good to do so with a good soundtrack playing in the background. I am not someone who listens to music but even I can appreciate the work that was done on this soundtrack.
Players are able to play the game in the single player, hotseat and arena game modes. While the Steam page does say the game is multiplayer, I was not able to find any option to play online but players can play local multiplayer with the hotseat game mode. Single player is self explanatory and consists of the main game. The arena game mode allows players to experiment and practice with custom battles, I enjoyed this game mode as the combat system in Worlds of Magic is great but more on that later.
Kept it simple and went with the High Men for my first game.
In the single player mode, players are presented with many options to make their own unique game and sorcerer. There are multiple types of planes to select between that are used to randomly generate your map. These planes include prime, air, earth, fire, paradise, shadow, and water. The prime plane is the basic balanced plane while the others have their own unique pros and cons. You may also select the number of enemies, difficulty, and map size. One option I enjoyed using was doubling the walking distance allowed per turn to make the game go a bit faster, however this is not recommended if you want to get a taste of the game as the developers intended.
After selecting the map options, you can select a faction and create a sorcerer lord. Each player plays the role of a sorcerer that can use spells to aid their faction in and outside of battle. There are 8 factions or races available that all have their pros and cons along with unique units. This means that selecting a faction is more than just choosing those which are visually appealing, you must decide based on your planned playstyle. Selecting a race does not affect which spells you have access to as you create your own unique sorcerer.
There are multiple disciplines and abilities players can invest in to create a sorcerer that matches their playstyle. Alongside these disciplines are various spell circles such as fire and air which all feature their own unique spells. There are over 400 spells divided into 13 spell circles. In order to avoid overwhelming new players, there are predefined sorcerers available. I personally recommend selecting a predefined set up until you are more familiar with the game.
With 8 playable races, 7 planes of existence on procedurally generated maps, 10 terrain types, 80 military units, 40 wandering and summon-able units, 40 heroes and champions, and 400 spells in 13 spell circles, Worlds of Magic has done an amazing job with customization. All of these options are great to see and while it may be overwhelming for new players, the pre-defined Sorcerer Lords help guide new players.
So many options available for customization!
However, it is not just enough to have a lot of options for customization, it is important to have interesting and fun gameplay. The game is definitely interesting with its 4X turn-based strategy coupled with tactical turn based combat. You can compare the game’s map gameplay to Civilization and the combat to Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Having played and enjoyed both Civilization and Fire Emblem, I was hoping Worlds of Magic’s gameplay would provide me with similar entertainment. However, the execution was not what I had hoped.
The map play is quite good, but the tutorials and interface could use some work. When I first started out, I was left thinking, “Ok… now what?” I was only able to progress due to my experience in other games from the genre. I can see players without previous experience in the genre becoming confused and even frustrated when they first play the game. You should not have to consult the manual or wiki to begin playing. In-game tutorials should be enough. The current tutorials only really tell you about the controls and explain some menus but they do not recommend your next action. An adviser system would be nice to help guide new players when it comes to strategy, as of now you are forced to experiment on your own to see what does and does not work.
Unlike Civilization, the combat is a lot more involved. When engaging in battle, both sides deploy their army on a grid. You then battle it out moving and attacking turn by turn along with using your sorcerer’s spells in a fashion similar to Fire Emblem. I am a big fan of this combat system, and it’s great to see it being used in more games. The combat uses the D20 battle combat mechanics found in Dungeons and Dragons. This combat system is easy to use and understand with the UI clearly displaying stats, potential damage, and accuracy.
The strategy portion of the combat is very well done. However, the animations, interface, and sound could use some work. The combat does not feel as ‘epic’: your armies attack each other, and you don’t feel like you are in a war. Better animations and sound could improve on the combat.
You can fight battles with multiple units forming an army.
Conclusion: Lacking polish (3/5)
In conclusion, the idea of the game is quite interesting, but the execution was lacking. The developers focused too much on providing a lot of customization which led to the game missing much needed polish. Small changes such as a better tutorial system, improved animations, and better audio can have a huge effect on the game. It is better to have less features that are well made than a large number of features that could use some improvement.
There is definitely a lot of replay value in the game with the procedurally generated maps and customization options, but I don’t know if I will make use of this replayability due to the current state of gameplay. I would have preferred to see less customization and instead have the developers focus more on polishing the existing features.
There are a good amount of graphical options available and the game doesn’t look bad. The models are well made, but the animations could use some work. The game looks good on the map view with a lot of the environment being animated but the battles feel lifeless.
The mouse is all you need to play this game. The interface could use some improvement to be more intuitive and improve the control for newer players. The control scheme can be modified for those used to RTS games in the options.
There are a lot of options available for players in Worlds of Magic. You can research new spells, train units, expand your territory, and destroy enemy cities. While there is a lot you can do, these features lack in polish. I would have preferred less features with more polish.
With so many options available, the customization in Worlds of Magic is amazing. You can create an army and sorcerer that matches your play style. The developers might have put too much time into this category though as it seems to have degraded the quality of other features.
Without being able to play online, it is quite hard to comment on the community. With Worlds of Magic being a spiritual successor to the classic game, Master of Magic, there is bound to be a good community around the older game. The game only came out this week and only time will tell if the community thrives or withers away.