Special thanks to GamersGate for the review copy of this game!
Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a new installment to the Majesty series. This time we see the series taking a turn towards the 4X genre, which is known to be famous in the ever-popular Civilization series. Regardless of the high similarities, Master of the Arcane brings a unique twist to the genre, and is an overall excellent title for someone who isn't familiar with it.
For those who are unfamiliar with the 4X Genre, 4X stands for: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. The map is built up with hexagons, which serves as a grid. The grid is used for movement and to display the property that is under the leadership of your opponents. When you need to move a unit, you set the destination on the grid and your unit will move towards it each turn. When your city population expands, you will be able to control more land. When you stumble upon enemy units or cities, you will be given the choice to either exploit the faction or attempt to exterminate it. The object of the game is to be the strongest faction in all of Ardania, and to keep it under your control.
When you begin playing the game, you are given the choice of deciding the map type and the number of empires that you will face against. You also have the choice of deciding which mage will lead your army, and what abilities and perks you will start out with. I didn't expect any more customization than that, but I do wish that there would be a better choice of mages that can be chosen to lead your empire. This could be due to my lack of knowledge of the series, but I feel like some of the leaders look ridiculous and silly. Either way, it fits in well with the humor and hilarity that the Majesty series is known for, and I don't believe I've ever played a game before that features a rat as the leader of an army.
You start out with a small capital city that has a very low rank level. The rank levels up depending on how big the population of the city is. There are four very important resources in the game, and they are: Gold, Food, Mana and Research points. Food is used to feed your population, and helps it grow. Every time you level up a city rank, you can begin building structures that help you garner a different variety of units, which are then purchased for gold. Buildings also help supply your population with food, give you more research points, and help your leader gain mana that allows him to cast magic spells. You can also learn new spells through research, using your research points. Since the game is turn-based, everything from the movement of the units, to learning a new spell, is done at your own leisurely pace. The game helps you understand how many turns it will take for you to learn something, build something and how long it will take your unit to arrive at the destination you have set for it.
Eventually you will stumble across other cities that are owned by other leaders. You can negotiate with these leaders to join your side or to give you their resources. Sometimes you will come across leaders who will want nothing to do with you and will declare war. When you're in battle with them, you can take control of their town by destroying it. Another way to have more than one city is through the settler unit. There are also many mobs and mob cities scattered around that you can also attack for experience points and other goodies.
Every unit can level up and gain perks that will help make the unit stronger. To level up, you need to gain experience points through exploration or by killing enemy units. I personally enjoyed the way the units were designed, and I had a lot of laughs from the dialogue that was given. It reminded me of the kind of humor you would expect from the Warcraft games because the units have a hilarious way of speaking. It gives this lighthearted feel to the game, which is what the Warcraft games are known for. A lot of the dialogue is easy to remember because of this as well.
Occasionally you will receive a quest that will have you either kill a group of mobs, attack an enemy faction or construct a specific building. These quests are usually easy to accomplish, and reward you with gold. They are also excellent at helping you understand the game better and to progress quicker.
The soundtrack in the game is good. I enjoyed listening to the music, and didn't once feel like I needed to mute the track. I also enjoyed the ambiance and the voice acting. It really helped bring life to the game and made it feel unique.
The graphics are great as well, and you don't really need expensive hardware to run this game. I was running the game on the highest setting with my PC being average at best. I enjoyed the detail on the units, and the world looks nice and colorful.
As for morality, I didn't enjoy the female dialogue due to it being very suggestive. Also, there is a lot of magic in the game, with a lot of summoning and enchantment spells. I didn't see any pentagrams or any other satanic imagery, but I still felt uncomfortable. You can take control of an undead army. The violence in the game is very minimum and you won't see any blood or gore.
Overall, I enjoyed my time playing Warlock: Master of the Arcane. This game is easy to pick up and play, has a nice setting and is very addicting. There is a difficulty setting for when you want a challenge or when you want to relax, and even though the game is strictly single player, it still has a lot to offer. The average game could take you many hours to complete depending on the game options you have set before you begin playing the game. I'm not very familiar with this particular genre, but I have played Civilization before, so I noticed the resemblance right away and understood how to play the game very quickly. If you're unfamiliar with this genre and would like to get into it, this would most likely be the first game that I would introduce to you. However, the heavy use of magic and suggestive dialogue makes it hard for me to keep it as a personal recommendation. For those who don't mind it, you will definitely enjoy this game.