The newest addition to Paradox’s long list of strategy titles if Warlock 2: The Exiled, a sequel to Paradox’s Warlock: Master of the Arcane. Warlock 2: The Exiled is a turn based and hex based strategy game, in which you must lead an army and your cities to reclaim your lost throne. The game plays very similar to the Civilization series, especially Civilization 5, so fans of the genre will find it very familiar.
Warlock 2 begins with the player choosing a customizable leader figure, with particular perks and traits that can be chosen, with assigned point values according to their relative worth. There are six races to choose from, each with unique play styles, units, and buildings, and all of which can be mixed and matched with the different hero units. The array of customization is welcome, and provides a good foundation for the player’s game strategy.
Once your character is chosen, the game randomly generates a world, and sets you on a path to explore and conquer it. This is where the game truly shines, for the world creation is one of the more unique features which distinguish it from others within the genre. The world is divided into different planes, or small floating islands, each with a particular environment (tundra, desert, undead, plains etc) with different creatures and geographical features. The environment in turn impacts city building strategies, and can benefit certain civilizations over others, necessitating some changes in a player’s strategy depending on where he finds himself. Each of the different planes are connected by mystic portals, which instantly teleport units to its corresponding portal on another plane. This makes the portals vital points of contention.
Another area the game shines is in city specialization and management. Paradox games often have the reputation of being overly complex or cumbersome in terms of micromanagement, but I did not find this to be the case with Warlock 2. Cities can be made into automated specialist cities which do not count against empire city limits, allowing for expansion of larger empires without the need for excessive micromanagement. Even cities under manual player control have transparent specialization mechanics, without much sacrifice in depth. The different resources used for the game have varied use and are fairly well balanced, with most units and spells utilizing them in scale with an empire’s expansion. Paradox has learned well the lessons of its past – there is a short tutorial on the game’s mechanics, a wealth of useful tooltips, and the game runs with remarkable stability.
Where the game suffers some is in the typical problems associated with strategy games. While the different planes and civilizations provide much needed variety, the mid to late game becomes something of a grind. Even on the smallest map settings, each plane requires a number to traverse, and by the middle of the game your units may take 5-10 turns to reach the front lines from your original cities. There are spells and other mechanics that mitigate this some, but even in the 10+ hours I played, I was not able to finish a game due to the investment of time necessary to both move my units and defeat my enemies. The single player AI is not particularly impressive, but does show some skill in delaying your advances and defending its cities against your armies.
I was unfortunately not able to take part in any multiplayer games, but this game would definitely shine with brighter opponents, especially with the expansive number of spells available to players. The online lobby worked without issue, and it was apparent that other players were online, suggesting that organizing multiplayer games could easily be accomplished. This stands in stark contrast to the many difficulties associated with multiplayer in previous Paradox titles, many of which had entirely non-functional multiplayer, or multiplayer that required third party programs to make function. I’m unsure if the fact that my open lobby did not attract any more players due to technical problems on my end (such as a firewall) or if there simply wasn’t a large enough player pool to attract public players to the game. Either way, the multiplayer appeared functional, and it would be of great value and minimal hassle to begin a multiplayer session with fellow fans or friends who also own the game.
The spell book is massive and incorporates just about every strategy conceivable, from simple combat to unit buffs to massive terrain changes. In the hands of the AI, spell use is rather predictable and sometimes innovative, but in a player’s hands, truly devastating spell strategies could be devised. Spells serve as part of the reason why the player has such an advantage versus the AI, and can get a bit superfluous towards the later game, but serve the game well overall and add much needed depth. It should also be noted that, in typical Paradox fashion, Warlock 2 is very easily moddable. While it doesn’t appear to have attracted the large following that many other of Paradox’s titles have gathered, with time and were the game’s popularity to build, mods could make up for some of the balance issues and improve the game vastly beyond its current state.
Overall, Warlock 2 is an entertaining take on the turn based strategy genre, which essentially amounts to a game of civilization 5 in a fantasy setting. While the game may bog down a bit as it goes on, the variety of units and terrain, along with the unique randomization of the different planes, keep players engaged throughout. With a price of only 30 dollars, the game has great value, and despite its many flaws, fans of the strategy genre will not be disappointed.
This review of Warlock II: The Exiled was played on the PC and was provided by the publisher.