Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria - game review

Date: 2004-03-12 12:14:00
The review was based on the PC version.

People who cut their teeth on computer games probably often return to classic titles. I am not exaggerating when I write that it is caused by the "magic" contained in productions from the times when the personal computer market was really in its infancy. Often the simplicity of those games, combined with the refinement of individual elements, adds up to great gameplay and hours spent in front of the monitor.

The Warlords series is now 15 years old. A turn-based strategy set in the world of Etheria once captivated thousands of players. The game was addictive despite the fact that the first part of it offered only one map with eighty castles to conquer. Its subsequent editions expanded only the basic idea. This title even entered the world of RTS! Fortunately, Warlords IV: Heroes of Etheria returns to its turn-based roots.

It is said that true Genius is created in equal measure by Wisdom and Inspiration, with a slight hint of madness. I have a story for you about such a Genius. About the miracles he created and ultimately ... how he almost destroyed the world.

This tale has its roots in distant times. So distant that only a few surviving ancient dragons remember them. There was then an elven prince named Mordaine. As with many young children of the royal family, the lust for power burned in his blood. Ever jealous of his brother, Mordaine launched an uprising - a bloody civil war - but after many years of bloodshed, he and his followers were defeated and then banished from their native land. From then on, they were called dark elves.

While his henchmen conspired and plotted intrigues, Prince Mordaine plunged into dark magic, searching for a spell that would bring him victory. Finally Mordaine found his spell. He almost opened a portal to the Dark Lands and summoned four powerful creatures from there at his command. But the spell failed. The magical discharge killed Mordaine and shook the foundations of the world. The earth was cracking, the mountains were collapsing and the cities were swept off the surface. It was a dark time - 3,000 years ago - known as The Split. And it would eventually fade from memory ... but some people can't let history lie.

On that stormy winter day a messenger came to the castle, bringing news of the war. Northern fortresses have been attacked. The orcs were coming down from the mountains, destroying everything in their path. Many settlements have already been razed to the ground.

Oddly enough, the orcs seemed to have a purpose. It seemed that they were looking for something ... Whatever their motives, it was necessary to rally troops immediately to stop these bloodthirsty hordes ...

With these words, we are introduced to the only campaign in the game. The plot, although quite interesting, is presented in a way that is definitely not positive for the game. The videos between the missions are built on the principle of a camera invading static images, and the disgraceful whole is completed by a terrible English voiceover. Cenega has made a cinematic localization so that in the "movies" we can enjoy the original soundtrack, which is "supported" by Polish subtitles. During my relationship with Warlords IV, for the first time in my life, I regretted not getting the game fully localized. The voice of a certain dragon, who will scroll during the campaign, brings to mind a drunk Yoda, undergoing a mutation, rather than the creature portrayed here as full of seriousness, cunning and extremely extensive knowledge.

Our representative, and at the same time the main character in the virtual world, will be one of the "Lords of War" (that's how Cenega translated the word "Warlord"). We can choose one of the previously created by us or decide on a new one, which we will create completely from scratch. We choose the name, the name of the capital, a picture of its appearance and skills: main and secondary (six different to choose from). Additionally, we set our preferred race, out of ten in the game. The skills of the "Lord of War" affect the gameplay and their choice may depend, for example, on what type of spells you can discover, or the speed of magical energy regeneration - the same cannot be said about the choice of race. The maps in the campaign are designed for "Knights", because most of the fortresses are inhabited by them, and only the castle received at the beginning of each mission is the same as our choice. Yes, you can change the type of fortress, but it is quite expensive and therefore rather unprofitable. All in all, this choice affects two things - the length of production of "foreign" units and the types of actions that we can take when conquering the enemy's stronghold (from completely plundering and burning down, bringing a lot of money, to fortifying the castle for free). However, these are trivial things that do not significantly affect the gameplay.

There is no universal race that could easily deal with all opponents, but the weakness of some of them in relation to the rest of them is clearly felt. We will choose the preferred race from the following "basket": Knights, Empire, Dwarves, Ogres, Orcs, Undead, Dark Elves, Demons, Dragons and Elves.

At the beginning of each mission, we take care of one castle, the capital where a special unit is permanently located - our "Lord of War". Most often, we also start with a "starting unit", perfect for conquering a neighboring fortress.

The game itself can be summarized in a few words. The player's goal is to capture the capitals of the opponents. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of diplomacy here. Sometimes we will also have the opportunity to perform additional tasks, which unfortunately only boil down to conquering new places, and the quality of their fictional surroundings also leaves much to be desired. As soon as we defeat our rivals, we choose any three units that will go with us to the next mission.

The game does not have an advanced economy - each city generates some specific income, while the army is paid every turn. If we collect enough gold, mercenaries will start reporting to us, most often with some experience in combat.

Exactly - experience is very important here. Units are determined by attributes such as Strength, Life, Upkeep, and additional skills. The latter allow you to interact with the enemy in combat or give your friends special bonuses, healing or blessing them. When a unit gains a certain number of Experience Points, it moves to the next level and the player increases its Strength / Life / one of the skills. In this way, you can create interesting "combo armies", defeating even the toughest opponents. You can place as many as eight units in one department, but three are enough for quick and trouble-free handling of the computer.

The fight itself, although it is the most important element of the game, is carried out ... ascetically. When hostile armies meet, the player's only task is to put new units into battle to death and life, because a monster once chosen cannot be withdrawn - it fights until the enemy unit is completely defeated or its own end. Often the only solution is to send a few "novices" into battle first, in order to reduce the monsters of the enemy army, and only then do our experienced warriors enter.

The whole thing is completed with magic. This is exactly the type of spell you would expect from a fantasy strategy - both in quantity and effectiveness. The mission's magic tricks alone cannot be won, although they can significantly affect many situations.

The campaign consists of ten storyline missions and twenty optional missions, the completion of which gives you additional bonuses in the future. In addition, we also get about thirty maps and a random area generator - all this provides entertainment for many hours.

Artificial intelligence deserves praise. For a long time in a turn-based fantasy strategy I have not come across a computer that was able to show initiative. Although he cannot plan large-scale maneuvers, he can be demanding, taking into account individual actions directed against specific castles / units. Of course, it cannot be denied that if we learn enough about the rules of Warlords IV, the gameplay turns into a joyful slaughter of enemy troops - even the best AI will not replace a living opponent.

The sound of the game itself is at a decent level (I do not count the votes in the movies in this case). Music that is playing all the time in the background does not attract much attention. It simply is, because it is - it neither spoils the climate nor builds it up.

I would like to be able to say now that the graphics make up for all the aforementioned shortcomings. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The graphic design, although legible, differs significantly from what is required of today's titles. The fight looks especially grotesque, where the grim characters wave their weapons in the air, pretending to deliver blows. Anyway, everything is best seen on the screens - legible, aesthetic, albeit a bit archaic.

The multiplayer mode has not been forgotten - if we want, we can compete with as many as seven opponents. Unfortunately, official servers collecting internet players are very often empty, so the only solution in Polish reality is to find a rival on your own, which unfortunately is not an easy task. As a last resort, we will invite our colleagues and take advantage of the possibility of playing in the "hot chair" mode, in which players simply change at the computer when it is their turn to make a move.

The intuitive interface and handy help deserve praise, thanks to which even novices should learn Warlords IV relatively quickly. Along with the game, released in our DVD Box (which the above mentioned regrets), we receive a comprehensive, 50-page manual.

The reviewed title undoubtedly differs from today's computer games. However, there is something in it, the "magic" of the old games, which does not let you go away from the monitor for hours. As if not to complain about Warlords IV, you have to admit one thing - amazing gameplay. If someone likes not too complicated (but also not poor!) Turn-based strategies and will be able to accept this title as it is, there will be some really solid entertainment waiting for him. It was not uncommon for me to sit at the computer "only for 5 minutes" and spend a few hours with it, overwhelmed by the magical world of Etheria.

Sir Torpedo