Warlock 2 The Exiled Review – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Warlock 2 The Exiled Review



How does one review a game with foundations in genre he has virtually no clue about? My personal choice is always to charge headlong into the fray and kick the software around until things start making sense. With such valiant approach, we delve into the wondrous world of the Warlock franchise. Starting the game up for the first time, I was greeted with a vast amount of options to fiddle with. Needless to say, I was amazed and intrigued by the wealth of choices the game throws at you at the very beginning. Even the menus are organised quite well and aesthetically pleasing, with the odd exception here and there. So far, so good, I say, confident that the game will slowly lull me into the gameplay systems with a proper tutorial and an easy first level. My own damn fault for letting my guard down.

I was absolutely crushed during my first attempt at playing, almost immediately after travelling through the first dimensional portal leading to the second level (shard). I was struggling with the more brutish creatures during the first level, too. Don’t expect even the cowardly Rat Men to die after a single skirmish. Battles are rarely finished in one attack, meaning that the player always sacrifices a percentage of unit health during combat. Taking the sheer number of enemies on map into account, and the fact that they often randomly spawn dangerously close to your cities, it’s clear that the game can quickly devolve into a frustrating mess. You will lose troops quickly, and if you don’t invest in fast unit training, you’re dead meat before you know it. Make no mistake, this is a hardcore fantasy version of Civilization, with a surprising amount of deep systems for you to sink your teeth into. However, it’s going to complicate your life if you don’t have enough experience with the genre. It has nearly everything the famous game series has, with loads of new and different stuff thrown on top of it. Take magic research, for example. Instead of investing in the usual, boring stuff such as faster factories or better schools, Warlock 2 gives you access to a vast array of spells to research and obliterate your foes with. However, this element of gameplay gives you little incentive to use it at first, simply because you’re going to be hard pressed to actually get enough mana to cast most of these spells. This is a game that rewards you as you give it time to spread its wings. There’s always a carrot (fancy monsters to recruit, loads of gold to pillage…) dangling in front of the player, making exploration and treasure hunting an exciting endeavour. Of course, trying to make sense of all the different factors that eventually come into play seems like a daunting task at first, but it’s really nothing most 4X players haven’t gotten into contact with before.

The thing that surprised –and fascinated– me the most is the fact that the original campaign isn’t just a bunch of vaguely relatable missions. It’s all one huge, interconnected world, and the Gates we’ve mentioned before serve as teleports from one world shard to another. Naturally, having something as vast as this means that the player has to manage his resources well between dozens of drastically different cities, units and shards. Again, not for the faint of heart. In case this ‘shard’ gameplay doesn’t excite you at all, there’s a good old sandbox option waiting at the main menu that brings back the traditional gameplay nurtured by the original game. Of course, all the units, systems and quests are available there, too. The good news is that once you master all the different techniques that make the game what it is, you’re set to enjoy an experience rarely found in modern games.

Another thing worth talking about is multiplayer. I’ve had some troubles connecting to the servers set up by Paradox, but it all sorted itself out after a while. There isn’t much difference between the Exiled mode and multiplayer, with the obvious discrepancy that the other Mage isn’t controlled by the questionably intelligent AI this time around. All the diplomacy options are there, but keep in mind that there’s only one winner at the end. Interestingly, this can lead to simplistic but tense scenarios, with one player being a traitorous bastard and killing off the other player’s units – guerilla style. There’s plenty of room for low punches, making this a perfect game to play with pals. Unfortunately, there’s no hotseat option, which is the only thing missing to make Warlock 2 a complete multiplayer package.

What makes this game rise above most similar installations is the attention to detail that’s been given to nearly every aspect of the game. Graphics wise, all the units and tiles are very easy to the eyes, and the post processing effects give them additional oomph. There’s a backstory to virtually everything, including but not limited to hundreds of heroes, spells and creatures, together with interesting bits of lore that pop up on mouse-over. Not to mention an occasional well-placed joke that gives this game the charm it so clearly rests on. Sadly, I’ve encountered several CTDs (crashes-to-desktop) that kinda kill the atmosphere. Warlock 2 The Exiled is also a curiously hardware intensive game, and even though there’s loads of pretty things to look at, we feel that it should have been optimised just a tad bit better.

This has been an interesting game to review for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I haven’t played the original game and have no experience whatsoever with the series. Secondly, I’m not much of a fan of Civilization, nor of the games that are inspired by this monolithian franchise. I was struggling with basics at first, only to see my efforts worthwhile later down the road. It has been a fairly decent romp, and I was introduced to a game that I will certainly occasionally be returning to. If you’re a fan of the genre, feel free to add 10% to the final score.