" I'm sure more than a couple of you monkeys out there'll get eye strain trying to figure out if the Nymph's got nippies "
Title: Age of Wonders by Triumph Studios
Format: Turn based strategy for the Windows PC
Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A
The Hype: Well the game has been in development long enough to practically fall off the sites of the hype machine. Still it boasts City sieges, dark dungeons, dozens of special locations and over 100 spells. Well since it delivers I suppose we can forgive a little lateness.
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: The visuals in this game can be downright beautiful. The vistas that make up the scenery of your little war are hand drawn, as are most of the characters. This makes for excellently colored landscapes, and good-looking characters. The only problem is size. In a decent playing size, the characters are so small that you'll never really get a good look at them. Even the lowest resolutions sport the miniscule character scale (and I'm sure more than a couple of you monkeys out there'll get eye strain trying to figure out if the Nymph's got nippies). Still, the graphics hold up incredibly well under the even the lowest resolutions. 4 out of 5
Sound: The musical score for this game is excellent. The music easily blends into the game, augmenting without being a distraction. The music is easily catchy. Each level sports its own jukebox from the musical selection, which you can tamper with to your hearts delight. Unfortunately the rest of the sound effects don't fare that well. The combat sounds are decent enough, with critters making mostly appropriate sounds. Everything else is mediocre. A lot of clunking selection sounds may make you grit your teeth, but otherwise the sounds don't really get in the way. 4 out of 5
Game Play: Let me say first that this game is fun. It's easily addictive, and easily played. Now the thing is, it's fun for a lot of the same reasons that SSG's Warlords games are fun, or NWC's Heroes of Might and Magic games for that matter. We have seen this type of thing before monkeys, but at least AoW does it right. The game plays a lot like Warlords, with stackable units moving about the map. Your kingdom also contains heroes who can lead and die in battle, one of whom is your country's leader (time to get your hands dirty, kids). The game has twelve playable races, each with their own units. Diplomacy and racial prejudices also play a part. Although the campaign seems to have Allied Victory turned off most of the time, so diplomacy becomes reduced in effect. All in all, the game may take a lot of its forms from other games, but it emulates them well, and the game is fun. 3 out of 5
Level and Environment Designs: The levels for this game are quite nice. They most often consist of a couple of places separated by mountains or water. The bigger maps though feature all sorts of terrain from desert to temperate to arctic. The game sports both surface and cavern levels, as well as randomized dungeons you can explore for treasure. Everything looks nice. The caverns give a good feeling of being cramped, and hard to navigate (mostly because they are). Dungeons are appropriate to the place you are searching, and tend to require some good strategy to explore properly (in tactical mode anyway). 4 out of 5
Multiplayer: They almost seem to be doing everything right. They've got Internet, and IPX LAN play. Support through Heat.net. Even Play by email! A turn based multiplayer option that isn't seen in nearly enough games (then again, just how many turn based strategy games are there...). The game can be played with turns happening simultaneously, so that nobody has to wait an inordinate amount of time for the others to finish their turns. Turns can even be limited, for those particularly slow folk. So what's missing? HOTSEAT!? What self-respecting turn based game can present itself, and not leave open that party option Hotseat? What is the world coming to? The maps are fairly varied, but you can't choose which races appear on the maps in question, so if you want to play a particular race, you'll have to find a map that features them. 3 out of 5
Replayability: : The game features two different campaigns, one for the Keepers and one for the Storm Lords. The campaign also branches allowing for the Neutral guys to get their kicks in. There's a lot of replayability just in the "I wonder how this part goes." Once you've finished the campaign, there's a fair selection of scenarios on hand. Once those cease to amaze, there's a comprehensive scenario editor to keep you entertained. All considered there's a lot here. Once again, though, it's all stuff we've seen before. It'll definitely entertain, at least as long as it takes for the next iteration to come along. 4 out of 5
Story/Dramatics: The story tends to be rather blah. A basic key to move you from one scenario to another, there is a couple of peaks, but nothing utterly thrilling. It's easily forgettable in the midst of merely trying to conquer whatever map you're currently working on. The story is only developed in little two page stories at the beginning and end of scenarios. Basically an ignorable plot, dramatics are a no show. 2 out of 5
Instructions and Learning Curve: There’s nothing terribly complicated here. The instructions are a great help, detailing what it all does, and how it works. Most of it is quite intuitive though and shouldn't give you much problem. There are of course the complicated combat statistics, but those can be generally ignored in favor of just trying your luck. Magic management can get a little weird if you try to balance spell casting and research, but it's nothing we're not used to in the micromanagement department. 4 out of 5
Installation and Real System Requirements: A nice easy install followed up by a game that runs pretty well. There are some known bugs with the game as it shipped, including several game crashing ones. There are patches available for it, but I'm a little sick of patch ware 'bout now. Still, with the patch in place, the game runs fine, and the scenarios run fine anyway. Minimum requirements include a P166 (266 recommended), 32 MB RAM, DirectX (for sound and video), and 350 MB of hard drive space. 3 out of 5
Well, it may have been done before, but we enjoyed it then. Triumph Studios has changed enough to keep the feeling fresh, while leaving in all those elements we loved. Great visuals and music back up solid gameplay. If only they had kept in Hot seat, what were they thinking on that one?
The Good: Great Turn based action
The Bad: It borrows a lot from the others of its ilk
The Overall Ugly: Pretty fun game to play, worth looking into for those turn based fans.
What it's Worth: Market