Age of Wonders 3 Review

A magical world unfolds

Now I will compare Age of Wonders 3 and Age of Wonders 2 many, many times. Let’s be honest: the third part of the strategic series was mainly released thanks to gamers’ warm memories of the second part (well, and the rise of niche projects on Steam, but that’s a separate story).

Hence the agenda: at first glance, AoW 3 is the same as AoW 2, just in 3D, and if that’s really the case, why bother? It’s easier to reinstall the classic version on your computer and enjoy it. But if the game is actually different now, is it worth the time and money for the key?

But first, a brief description of the gameplay for those who are completely unaware. Age of Wonders is a fantasy turn-based strategy game about powerful mages sitting in towers and poisoning enemies with venom from half a map away, while simultaneously sending their heroes to abandoned mines for loot. Important differences from “Heroes”: heroes themselves function as powerful units (yes, I remember the fourth part, but there was still a rollback), regular units are purchased individually, and there is a domain system. Within their domains, players can unleash global magic that improves crops everywhere and burns enemies alive. If desired, one could, for example, flood their entire kingdom so that random goblins couldn’t even come close.

So, has our beloved series changed significantly, and if so, in which direction?

Another gameplay screenshotScreenshot from Windward

First about the picture.

The transition to 3D, of course, deprived Age of Wonders of some charm. The global map, however, still pleases the eye; the tactical combat, on the other hand, suffered the most from the transition. Firstly, the units, despite being poorly drawn episodes before (see all the dark elves from AoW 2), have now lost a lot of individuality. All the basic fighters of all races look practically the same. Whether it’s dwarves, orcs, or some dragonlings – they all look like the same gray-brown ants. Secondly, despite all the new pits-columns on the battlefield, something is off with the front line. If before you could attack a besieged fortress from eight sides, now our fights are strictly face-to-face. The lost maneuvers are a bit regrettable.

But let’s get back to our beauties, this time the real ones. One thing that can be aesthetically pleasing in Age of Wonders 3 is the global map. Well, that’s a familiar feature in games of our genre.

In terms of the first point, there is a parity. AoW 2 is two-dimensional-warm-vintage, AoW 3 is three-dimensional-bright, and both are sometimes comically crooked.

Screenshot from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Now let’s talk about the actual game.

Local battles have remained unchanged except for some details. The most noticeable change, surprisingly, is the ships. Twelve years ago, such technologies did not exist! If there was a river-sea in the way, we would give the units the ability to walk on water, and if necessary, they would fight like in Chinese kung fu movies, flying over the sea! Now we have, firstly, a shipbuilding school, where heroes with regular troops can build themselves a boat or two. And it doesn’t stop there. If you build a harbor in a coastal city, you can even construct special warships!

Naval battles turned out to be somewhat unusual and silly. Units on ships shoot arrows, and only mages who can cast fireballs and certain sea monsters can show any meaningful abilities. It would have been better to stick with kung fu. However, I suppose it’s a matter of taste and habit.

Another tactical change is that now one squad can only consist of six units. Considering the straightened front line, there is no real difference. Especially since the focus in AoW 3 has shifted towards global domination.

A different scene from the game

Despite the overall weakened global magic, control over the map has become even more important in the new Age of Wonders. Sitting back in defense while simultaneously leveling up heroes in distant lands has become more difficult. Plus, now enhancing magic doesn’t last forever: in AoW 2, you could choose the “cosmic” branch of development and apply fifteen different buffs to your entire party, but now comrades with “stone skin” only work until the end of a specific battle. You can no longer create terminator-like heroes-mercenaries, you have to crush your enemies with truly powerful military-industrial complex.

After these adjustments, AoW 3 matches resemble “Civilization” more than the spiritually close “Heroes”. Here we have a capital, there a frontier and bunches of armies, and here Gandhi dragons, and it’s better not to mess with them. The resemblance to Civilization is reinforced by the notifications at the beginning of each turn, simply copied from “Civ” (correctly, by the way, copied – even though in AoW you can set up chains of building tasks for cities five steps ahead, by the second hour of the game you start to wonder how you could have played any turn-based game without such an interface before). Ships, again…

Quests and exploration

Meta-gaming in AoW 3, it seems, has changed. The conclusion is that you can still play it and, if you enjoy such things, even should. Something tells me that the upcoming Warlock 2 will develop the fantasy “Civilization” theme even better, but even here everything is quite good.

Plus, now we have a decent map generator in addition to the campaign and scenario pack.

Age of Wonders III
4X Strategy, Co-op, Multiplayer
Triumph Studios
Triumph Studios
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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