Warlock 2: The Exiled – Review
A mix of randomly generated islands, mythical beasts and magic spells, Warlock 2: The Exiled is the sequel to Paradox Interactive and Ino-Co Plus’ Warlock: Master of the Arcane, and a take on the classic hexagonal turn-based strategy, with more of a focus on combat than its counterparts such as the classic Civilization.
There are a number of game modes on offer, allowing you to play through the classic sandbox mode of the original game, complete with its new units and spells, or through the new game mode – Exile. Where Civ has a pretty typical world domination victory condition, a staple of the turn based strategy,Warlock 2’s new Exile mode delivers the action with a storyline. You are one of the last Great Mages, exiled from the land of Ardania and now on a mission to unite the various planes and take Ardania back from the ultimate evil, The United One.
As you progress between the various randomly generated shards, The United One’s allies assault you, attempting to catch you off guard and bring you down. On top of this you will also have to match blades with numerous enemy monsters and bandits, as well as the rival Great Gages who are themselves trying to unite the lands and claim Ardania. Diplomacy and trade become key as you try to balance the threats and keep your eye on the prize – the total annihilation of your enemies –there are no diplomatic victories in Warlock 2.
While the story is fairly solid I’d argue that the turn-based strategy is probably better off without them. Once you’ve played through a few times the story-based events are no longer a challenge; you know when the two headed dragon is going to attack and that you should keep troops back to defend yourself; you know that about 100 turns in a mage is going to try to ambush you. Exile mode would have been so much more enjoyable if these things had been randomised, keeping you on your toes throughout the game.
I’ve played a number of different turn based strategy games and the key always seems to be keeping the player interested with new units and buildings as you progress through the 100+ turn game, and Warlock 2 does this pretty well. Expanding on the original Warlock, The Exiled increases the number of races, mages, mythical creatures, and even the spells. Added to the original Human, Monsters and Undead races are the Elves, your classic bow-wielding Legolas impersonators; the Planestriders, a strange mix of different outcast races; and finally the Svarts, the masters of technology. Each race has its own strengths and weaknesses, for example many of the undead units are relatively weak but are created through mana and thus easily replaceable, while the Svarts start with quite a bit more gold than others.
Magic, as you might imagine, is key to victory and the spell book has been significantly expanded to include things ranging from the standard Heal and Fireball to the aptly named Armageddon spell. Not everything is about the destruction of your enemies, however, and many of the spells are actually aimed at changing the environment, increasing production of food, or turning your enemies’ land into a hazardous swamp or sinking it beneath the sea. Huh, maybe it is all about destruction.
Much of the gameplay revolves around this need to build your reserves of mana and support your troops with spells from on high, while balancing the need for food and gold to keep your people and cities in good health.
Spells are nothing without an army to crush your enemies, and the standard races have seen the addition of some new powerful units alongside Heroes who randomly appear to be recruited. These super units are generally the spear-tip of your army, hitting the enemy where the fighting is at its most brutal. From horse-mounted knights to dark wizards and giants, your heroes are incredibly expensive, but powerful and capable of being outfitted with gear that you loot from enemy bases or craft yourself using some of the higher-level spells. This adds an element of the RPG to this already complex mix of gameplay mechanics.
The core mechanics work just as well as anything else seen in the genre. The addition of the multitude of mythical creatures keeps the game interesting as you jump from plane to plane. On the first few playthroughs you’ll continually be surprised by the breadth of units on offer across the multiple races, and the vast range of magical spells is incredible. There are some minor control issues and areas where UI navigation could be improved – switching between the various planes is a bit of a pain – but nothing that really interferes with how enjoyable the game is to play.
Visually, Warlock 2 stands out as a more impressive example of what a 4x game can look like; it won’t blow you away but, compared to the original, the visuals have seen a definite improvement. The UI is a little messy and could do with another pass in terms of ease of navigation as there are just too many buttons on there, but the environments and units look sharp and when combined with the visual effects of spells and attacks it all makes for a rather pretty title.
Paradox Interactive have stuck the pun-tastic tagline of “Pure hextacy” on Warlock 2 and, despite how much I hate that, it does ring true. As a fan of the hexagonal turn-based strategy, and a bit of a fantasy nerd, it’s everything I could possibly want. I enjoyed what Paradox and Ino-Co Plus have done with Warlock 2, they’ve taken the strong foundation of the original game and added to it successfully. While Exile Mode isn’t the greatest, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and if some changes could be made would be excellent.
My own tagline? “Warlock 2: The Exiled – Ever wanted to see a dragon fight a giant space robot?”Pros
- Solid turn-based strategy
- Looks great
- Huge breadth of units and magic spells
- Exile Mode could be better
- UI is a bit scruffy
Warlock 2: The Exiled is an example of a well put together turn-based strategy; it won’t blow you away with stunning visuals or the best written story, but what it does do is add elements to a genre in ways that are fun and keep you hooked for a good few hundred turns.
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