Necromantic: Age Of Wonders III – Eternal Lords

I don’t own a boxed copy of Age of Wonders III [official site] but I’d be tempted to buy a chunky great container for the newly announced expansion. It definitely sounds like an Expansion, with a capital E rather than a capital D, L and C, and call me old-fashioned but I fondly remember the days when such things were an event. There’s a short video below in which people ride polar bears and a spooky sphinx shoots fireballs out of its eyes. You’ll also find a full feature list, including new races, specialisations, items, rules, features and “cosmic events”.

I reinstalled the base game and its first expansion last week, having barely played it since release. Almost a year has passed and I wanted to re-evaluate my own judgement. Here’s how I concluded.

Age of Wonders III could have been constructed in the golden age of turn-based strategy. In fact, given the competition it’s going to have as the year goes on, it’s an additional reason to believe that we might be heading for that golden age right now.

That seems fair. Endless Legend came along later in the year and while I think it’s a more impressive achievement, its similarities to Age Of Wonders don’t run as deep as you might imagine at first glance. Age Of Wonders is a more traditional beast and it’s an extremely comforting game with which to spend time. Eternal Lords doesn’t sound like it’ll take players outside the comfort zone, but it does sound like it’ll add a hot tub, sauna, games room, jacuzzi and the biggest bestest beanbag in the world.

  • The Necromancer Player Class: The Necromancer’s legions march to establish an eternal kingdom, unifying all the world’s races in death. The Necromancer creates spectacular undead units, such as the Bone Collector, a crablike monstrosity which eats corpses to strengthen itself. Other units are summoned, such as the Banshee, which invokes despair in the hearts of the living. The Necromancer’s dark magic allows players to convert towns to cities of the dead, filled obedient Ghoul minions.
  • Keeper, Grey Guard and Shadow Born Leader Specializations: Champions of Good, Neutrality and Evil respectively, these three new specializations deepen the alignment mechanics and provide players of all classes powers to withstand the challenges of the new age. Learn spells to summon mighty Angels, end game units who embody the essence of each alignment.
  • Frostling Player Race: Frostlings are a race of humanoids that emerged from the frozen north. Lead by their Ice Queens, they embark on frequent raids in warmer lands. Their seafaring skills, offensive fighting style and frost magic spread fear among the coastline villages they pillage. Frostings are even more deadly in their home arctic clime, where they build cities carved into the very glaciers they hope will someday grow to cover the earth.
  • Tigran Player Race: These feline humanoids hail from remote desert lands. They worship the sun and track the cycle of day and night; life and death. Their natural curiosity about necromancy and the passing of regal souls into kingdoms of glory in the afterlife inspires them to construct massive tombs. Tigrans are natural sprinters, capable of moving far faster in combat than members of the other races, and are familiar with shape changing magic, allowing their mystics to transform into Dire Panthers.
  • Eternal Lords Story Campaign. An epic battle of the forces of creation: fire versus ice, life versus death. As Arvik, heir to a broken Frostling kingdom, you awaken forbidden necromantic powers to reclaim your realm. You will find unlikely allies, and must choose between your Frostling roots and the full potential of your new found powers.
  • Cosmic Happenings: The dawn of the Eternal Lords has triggered cataclysmic events that can radically shift fortunes. These events occur as the game progresses, disrupting the best laid plans and providing opportunities for cunning players to gain an advantage. Falling Clouds can fill the world with mist, giving shock weakness to machine and armored units and reducing sight range, while the March of the Troll King can cause armies of trolls to rampage across the map.
  • Race Governance: Relations are now tracked per race, allowing you to make careful decisions who to make ware with. Declaring war on an Elven city might give you a quick conquest, but don’t expect your Elven citizens to be happy about it afterwards! As your relations with each race improve, you will be able to earn unique racial perks that boost your armies and economy.
  • Unifier Victory Condition. When reaching maximum Governance for a Race, the production of a Unity Beacon is unlocked in cities of that race. Building Unity Beacons for the number of races set in the victory condition, makes you the Great Unifier and wins the game.
  • A dozen Mysterious Map Locations: Capture the Reef Colony Dwelling, home to horrors of the deep, and discover new treasure sites such as the Lich’s Castle, Temple of the Sands and the Hall of the Forefathers to benefit your empire.
  • Plus New Hero Items, Standalone Scenarios and more!
  • Eternal Lords incorporates feedback from the community and coincides with a free update which includes “Play by Email”, a new asynchronous Multiplayer Mode. In PBEM games, a player takes their turn in their own time and then uploads it to Triumph’s servers. Once it is uploaded, an email is sent to the next player in the game, who may then take their turn. This allows players to play when they like, without needing to set aside a large amount of time with other people to play a game all at once.

Eternal Lords is out on April 14th.

25 Comments

  1. c-Row says:

    Wait, this is already the second expansion? I didn’t even know about the first one.

    • llfoso says:

      The first was just a DLC. It was pretty small. It added the halfling race, two specializations and a few other features.

      • Jockie says:

        Added a pretty meaty story campaign based on the Halflings too and a new victory condition based around holding shrines as well as Naga dwellings which can be captured and produce their units. It’s not small for a dlc really, more like a mini expansion.

        • jasta85 says:

          and also it added wild magic, which is impractical in a lot of situations but funny as hell. Turned some boars I picked up randomly somewhere into a dragon in one battle, that was definitely fun.

  2. Koozer says:

    I am incredibly disappointed that the beanbag link is broken.

  3. llfoso says:

    For those who don’t know, the Race Governance feature is being undersold in the description. There’s a whole new layer of diplomacy being added on. AI personalities, vassal states, city betrayal, spells which manipulate diplomatic relationships, etc. Do I invade that dwarven city and make my other dwarven cities unhappy? Do I spread my attention across multiple races to benefit from each of their strengths and keep independent cities happy, or focus on one race to unlock their powerful high-tier perks earlier?

    • killias2 says:

      I read more about it a few days ago, and it definitely piqued my interest. I’m surprised at how little emphasis was placed on it above. It seems like they’re adding the diplomatic element to the game that was sorely missing initially. AoW3 seemed decent enough when I played it near release, but I knew straight way it was too single-minded for me. Here’s hoping this is a big enough change.

    • bishmanrock says:

      It still irks me they haven’t added any message function for multiplayer (specifically, PBEM and hotseat) yet – despite going to town on diplomacy. All the other games had it, so why not III?

      • It's not me it's you says:

        PBEM is literally the last dotpoint in the article.

        • bishmanrock says:

          Yes, I know PBEM is being introduced, what I was saying is that there’s no way to message people in-game, like in Shadow Magic PBEM.

  4. BathroomCitizen says:

    I bounced right off Endless Legend after TRYING to like it, but it just felt a bit sterile.
    I really agreed with John on that one, it felt like doing my taxes – a clean interface and pretty graphics covering up for numbers, numbers and numbers.

    I feel bad, because I think of myself as someone who’s really open-minded and likes every type of game, but –gosh– I was bored to tears with Endless Legend!
    Maybe I’m just getting old and will have settle for the proven and tried stuff like Age Of Wonders III.

    Am I the only one who didn’t like EL?

    • llfoso says:

      I think most people got bored with it quickly. It got rave reviews because it offers a very unique short term experience. Game reviewers don’t generally get a clear idea of staying power because they write their reviews after a week or two of play instead of six months.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      It’s a great game, but it’s major focus is city and empire management, as opposed to AoW3 which is very much an in-depth 4x tactical combat game. Depends on what you’re looking for, really.

    • Voqar says:

      I’m not as enthralled with endless legend either. It has some interesting ideas and takes on things, as did endless space which I actually like more, but overall EL just doesn’t do it for me. Lack of any kind of global magic system I think is part of it since that’s usually a core element of fantasy 4X (warlock, aow, elemental, MoM, Dominions for examples). I find the tactical to be pretty weak too vs something like AOW3.

      I think AOW3 is an excellent game and I can’t think of any other (similar) game that comes close to matching its tactical combat. The tactical in AOW3 is a ton of fun. The variety, depth, and build up of troops, armies, heroes is all excellent too.

      My problem with AOW3 is that it takes me an eternity to complete a game even on a smallish map – which isn’t a bad thing per se, I just seem to suffer from gamer ADD lately – flitting around between my huge ton of games and backlog of games I’ve yet to give proper time. I do a lot of co-op with friends as well and when that’s hot and heavy it throws off my backlog even more.

    • RuySan says:

      When did people started bouncing off everything??

      I don’t think this expression was ever used on these comment boards before 2015. Every time i read it, the word “bounce” becomes stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

      bounce! bounce! bounce!

      Seriously, stop with that.

      • airmikee says:

        “Bounce” meaning “leaving” has been a slang expression for a few decades.
        link to 90sreality.com
        “Bounced off” would simply be the revival of the term. Etymology is fun. Like how “decimate” used to mean “to reduce by 10%” but people used it so often in the sense of “total destruction” that most dictionaries have changed the definition. Or how ask and aks have nothing to do with ebonics and have everything to do with with old English words ascien and acsien, which both meant the same thing.
        Words change, idioms fade in and out. It’s much more entertaining to observe and study than it is pretend like it’s worth getting upset about. :)

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      I like Endless Legend, and it does a lot of things very right – good UI design, distinct factions that played very differently, ignoring magic – and puts them together very well.

      My main issue with it is the tactical combat – which is fiddly and not satisfying. There’s not enough control over the individual units in battle.

      I should try out AoW now – big fan of the earlier ones, but haven’t played this one as yet.

      • Premium User Badge

        Neurotic says:

        Do do! It’s my favourite hexer of recent years, and one of the very best since AOW II/SM. You can also find it quite a bit cheaper than Steam/GOG if you look around a bit.

    • killias2 says:

      I liked EL a fair amount, but it’s true that I didn’t spend that much time with it. Personally, I think it was just the right game for me at the time. It wasn’t bite-sized like Warlock. It wasn’t as flawed as Fallen Enchantress or Legendary Heroes, and it was more innovative. It was more innovative than Endless Space, and, IMO, just came across as a more interesting game. For whatever reason, it’s Endless Space, not Legend, that really bores me to tears. And then Beyond Earth came out and basically felt like a mod for Civ 5. By comparison, Endless Legend seemed positively brimming with ideas. I don’t know, maybe it won’t stand the test of time, but it’s definitely one of the best 4x offerings as of late. Of course, YMMV.

    • Gibster says:

      I did a playthrough of the Drakken this weekend (my second playthrough) and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after the ending. Needless to say I did “bounce” and am not terribly motivated to go through another entire game (atleast to the end). It can be a bit of a struggle to enjoy and you do have to put in a fair amount to get out more later on especially. The beggining and mid-game are both really good but the end game turns into a grinding clickfest, especially if you choose the wonder victory (hitting “end turn” 50 times until it completes). The world is unique and somewhat entrancing but it lacks suficient lore and character to feel “alive”.

      AoWlll on the other hand, might be limited in its diplomacy and city management, but it nails the rest. The world is alive with bandits to kill, taverns from which to recruit troops, and dungeons to loot and explore. The tactical battles beet everything else by a mile everything else centers around them and the armies you build but it does a damn good job of it. The variety of units is imense and the race on top of class and specialization customization means its easy to create a leader tailored to your style of play.

  5. airmikee says:

    Back when Yahoo still had their auction site competing with eBay I picked up a movie for $4 + shipping that I thought, based on the horrible online translators available at the time, was about necromancy. I didn’t discover the translation error until I actually put the tape in and watched the movie.

    link to en.wikipedia.org is what I ended up watching.