Released on March 31st of this year, Age of Wonders III was developed and published by Triumph Studios. You might be saying to yourself “Age of Wonders III ? I don’t even remember Age of Wonders II“. Well there’s a good reason for that, the last game in the series was released way back in 2002! Today we’re having a look at the latest game in a classic series that dates back to 1994.
Age of Wonders III is a 4x (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) game based in a high fantasy setting. The inhabitants of this world include many of the traditional fantasy races such as dwarves, orcs, humans, high elves, draconians, and goblins. A huge amount of units, classes, spells, races, and abilities form the core of a very robust game.
For those that have never played an Age of Wonders title before, gameplay could best be described as a mixture between the classic Heroes of Might and Magic games and Civilization. Players familiar with either series will enjoy the engaging styles that Age of Wonders III employs. The addicting aspects of base building, exploration, and politics a la Civilization will keep you saying “just one more level” all night long. We call that “gamecrastinating” btw. Combat is reminiscent of the glory days of Heroes of Might and Magic with a wide rage of fantasy units, expansive battlefields, and intricate turn-based strategy.
New to the series is a leader class based system that allows the player to customize their leaders to best fit their style of play. Depending on how you customize and equip your leader, you will gain access to to unique units, new empire building options, and varied appearances for your army. While not every army needs a leader unit in the party, leaders can bring specializations to accompanying units such as statistics buffs and new abilities.
Base building is similar to that of Civilization. You build a base, you explore around it, terraform the land, build new structures inside the city, queue up unit productions, etc. Each city belongs to a specific race and provides access to that races units and building. The city may be converted to another race of your choosing provided that you have another city of that race already under your control. Depending on the races preferences you’ll need to terraform the land around that city to best suite the people. For example, draconians enjoy barren deserts while elves prefer lush forests. It adds a unique element of strategy to the whole empire building genre that should switch things up enough to satisfy even the most battle hardened of Civilization players.
The single player campaign features an engaging and well voice-acted story featuring the high elves and their quest to unite the ancient races in a battle against the evil Commonwealth Empire. Each mission plays out on different map with various leader units, races, and quests. Throughout the campaign players will gain experience with the various leader classes, which is essential to fully understand the multiplayer aspect of the game.
At no point in my playthrough of Age of Wonders III was I unhappy with the overall game. There were a few times where I wished objectives like “keep this leader alive no matter what” were a bit less harsh with their instant-fail punishments. Thankfully the game autosaves at the end of each turn, allowing players like me who forget to save for hours a chance at a do-over. Ultimately, in a game of complex politics and empire razing it’s fitting that there are serious punishments for making poor tactical choices. So I guess in the end I’m ok with having to do a turn or two over because I was lazy and auto-battled an opposing army with a leader that I wasn’t supposed to let die.
For me, the units and combat system are the stars of Age of Wonders III. So many diverse units mixed with customizable leaders makes for lots of unique tactical choices. With such a wide variety of options each player has the ability to play exactly how they want on both the single player and multiplayer battlefields. Simply put, if you enjoy the classic Heroes of Might and Magic combat system, you’re going to absolutely love what Age of Wonders III brings to the table. Its emphasis on tactical combat mixed with strategic army building makes for some of the most addicting gameplay we’ve seen in years.
We cannot recommend Age of Wonders III more for players that are looking for something a bit different after playing through their 500th Civilization V match. We liked the game so much that we gave it our highest review score to date. Fans of classic 4x strategy games will be delighted in the depth, customization and combat in Age of Wonders III. In fact, just stop reading and go buy this game now.