Have You Played… Warlords III – Darklords Rising

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The Warlords series doesn’t pop into my mind as often as it should. The third entry is one of my favourite turn-based strategy games, a perfect example of a game that is easy to pick up and play but has intricacies that only the dedicated will discover. Across a sprawling campaign, heroes and armies clash on maps that are little more than city-nodes connected by pathways, but manage to communicate all the grandeur of a fantasy epic.

Sadly, the original Warlords series isn’t available at any digital stores. the realtime spinoff series, Battlecry, is available on GoG but the turn-based originals are nowhere to be seen. There have been attempts to remake the games, most notably in the long-running FreeLords project, but I’d pay handsomely for a copy of Darklords Rising, having lost my copy many years ago.

The game’s simplicity is the key to its appeal. Rather than pages of finicky stats, Warlords gives you cities, which produce armies, and heroes who can lead them and (in the third game, at least) cast spells. Build armies, drawn from a huge pool of fantasy creatures, and set about painting the map with your faction’s colour. At any given moment, the state of a given scenario can be seen clearly, as opposing forces carve up swathes of territory, seeking to cut off points of attack and to bolster their defences. When a three-way war breaks out, watching the AI redrawing battle fronts is fascinating, waiting for a moment of weakness, and dreading the moment when your own cities become the focus of attention again.

Everything from the plain graphics to the non-interactive battles could be a problem in search of a solution, but Warlords III’s sophistication is in its simplicity and the ease with which it portrays its enormous, involving fantasy wars.

24 Comments

  1. TekknoTroll says:

    Oh how I long for the day this will be available again.

  2. WHS says:

    I literally go looking for this every three months. It’s so irritating that the crappy RTS sequel is available but not the highlight of the series.

  3. yakcyll says:

    Warlords I and II can be found in the Archive.org’s database of abandonware games, maybe they will manage to grab a copy of the third installment too.

    • Banyan says:

      I was just coming here to say that I saw Warlords 2 available for browser play when I was looking at the Internet Archive’s catalog yesterday. My friends and I played the heck out of the hotseat option back in the day. I didn’t realize it had become an RTS and was incredibly disappointed when I grabbed a game just because of the IP about a decade ago.

    • Bfox says:

      Another mirror:
      link to lastcitadel.ru

  4. Oneiromancer says:

    The original Warlords is available on iOS (called “Warlords Classic”). Its price oscillates; it has been free twice before, but now it’s currently US$5. It seems pretty full-featured.

    Both Warlords and Warlords 2 (the original, not Deluxe) were included in the just-released 2400 DOS games at the Internet Archive. You have to play them through your browser and I don’t believe you can save progress, but it seems to be good for a quick fix. No Warlords 3, of course. I think I have my copies (the original and Darklords Rising) in a box somewhere.

  5. Brian Rubin says:

    Oh god, the best game of the series, I would KILL for this to be available digitally.

  6. RuySan says:

    Both the 1st and the 2nd are among my most played games of all time.

    Age of Wonders was a modernization of it. Even the interface is similar, but i think something was lost with the extra complexity.

  7. ThatParticularArgument says:

    I used to play Warlords II on school breaks with friends. If I remember correctly (long time ago now) there was a hot seat option so you could play on the same computer with multiple people (but had to promise to look away of course).

    /Didn’t always look away

  8. Alamech says:

    Wow, that brings back memories. I played this game on the work computer in a small rpg/larp shop in Berlin/Neuk├Âlln when I had a short internship there, sometime in the nineties. I liked this game a lot, but couldn’t play it at home because my parents were technophobes. By the time I had my own pc, HoMM3 was my tbs of choice, good times!

  9. MordreadRN says:

    I played Warlords 3 – Reign of Heroes a LOT.I still have the CD but sadly I have not gotten it to work in Windows 7 or 8

  10. Joshua Northey says:

    This sadly looks like a game I would have played to death had I gotten it at the time. Ah well a lost opportunity. Probably played Lords of the Realm, XCOM, Civ2, or MOO instead.

  11. Gothnak says:

    I did enjoy this when i used to have it on my Amiga back in the day, great game.

  12. sinister agent says:

    Never played any of these, but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun one of the spin-off series, Warlords Battlecry 3, is. One of very few starcraft/C&C style RTS games that held my interest for more than an hour.

  13. Ashrand says:

    Another great game that sadly won’t be coming with us to the 64-Bit era (barring a remake)

    tried so hard to get this working under win 7 and failed miserably

  14. tom29 says:

    Oh god, the best game of the series, I would KILL for this to be available digitally.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Well I had thought that I had bought a copy YEARS AGO from directr2drive, when it was a GameSpy/File Planet service. So I launched my GameFly download manager, because D2D died YEARS AGO and all our accounts were migrated to GF. It was then – ta daam! – that the GF DLM announced that the GameFly service is no more, and that it is now – ta daam! – http://www.direct2drive.com

    When it went from D2D to GF, there were a few games that did not get transfered, and now that it’s gone BACK to bloody D2D, I’m sure there are a few more that have died too. Possibly WL3 was one of them, but now I’ll never know…

  16. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    Warlords III – what a great game, with suprisingly challenging AI opponents. Quality fantasy TBS distilled down to its pure essence. I played the heck out of this but sadly no longer have it.

    Everytime I visit Gog, I hope to see it listed….

  17. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I think, Warlords 2 might have been the first turn-based strategy game I ever played. I’m sure it was the first I played in multiplayer.

  18. Moorkh says:

    Easily the high point of an already great if far too short series. Creating army sets felt like deck building and added a whole new level of depth. Hundreds of hours sunk into random map conquests. Thank you Adam!

    warlorders.com has the instructions on getting the game to run on W7 and even 8, I think. But don’t expect DLR to turn up on GoG anytime soon – apparently, crucial code for the game has been irretrievably lost at some point in the past. :(

    To make matters worse, Fawkner and his team were hit so bad by the harsh TBS winter of the early noughties – publisher excitement about those kinds of games turned from bad to worse shortly after and Infinite Interactive only just managed to fund the very ugly and seriously compromised, essentially forgettable Warlords 4.

    Unfortunately, Steve Fawkner has apparently not yet smelled the roses of the current TBS, indie and crowd-funding spring. While they are reportedly considering (not even “gearing up”, yet) another entry in the series, they seem to expect their fortunes to lie in a mobile-first, multiplatform, micropayment-heavy concept instead of going back to DLR and expanding on what worked so well there.

    If you disagree with their conviction that there was no market for a PC-focussed DLR-2-ish game, please pay them a visit – Steve regularly visits his own forums at link to infinite-interactive.com

    RPS, as a supporter I expect you to interview Mr. Fawkner ASAP – I don’t think you ever have and this can clearly not be allowed to stand another day/week/year!

  19. Alexskr says:

    I guard my copy of this game with my life. It was my first interesting (played some crappy ones before) computer game and one of the best ever and I really don’t think any game has quite matched it in a few areas and I am the type of guy who usually gets mad at overly nostalgic gamers. Anyways I have it working on Windows 8 thanks to this thread link to warlorders.com and now I still play it from time to time.

  20. Nerfbat says:

    I found warlords 1 and 2 (and deluxe) on myabandonware and abandonia. They work with D-fend (because I can’t be arsed to figure out dosbox command line stuff) on my win7 64 bit, though I have to figure out how to turn on sound in 2. But hey, not bad for a few minutes search.
    Simply unzip the folder, start up D-fend. Drag the folder onto the D-fend screen and it’s pretty much set. Be sure to select the right executable as program file if that doesn’t work.

    It seems the originals are abandonware. If not, and I’m being super rude for pointing out where to find them and how to get them to work, I’m sorry!

    • mukuste says:

      Legally speaking, there is no such thing as abandonware, so if you want to be strict about this it’s still illegal. I won’t cast any stones here though since I’ve played many “abandonware” games over the years.