Warlords 4: Heroes of Etheria
What a relief they didn't. It could have been the sell-out of the century, but thankfully, it isn't. Confused? Let me explain.
Fantasy turn-based strategy fans have always fallen into one of two camps - Heroes Of Might And Magic or Warlords. It's like choosing between Pepsi or Coke, analogue or digital, Michaela Strachan or Anneka Rice. Each has subtle yet essential differences that can sway the discerning gamer. But where the two vary most is in combat. With HoMM games you control every unit, moving them in and out of the action as you see fit, while Warlords games simply resolve each conflict for you. Only Warlords IV was to be different. A year ago it was shaping up to be just like HoMM, but thankfully it's stuck to its roots and saved itself from being written off as a HoMM rip-off. What a relief.
Good, Bad And Ugly
But is it any good? Well, yes and no. Lurking beneath the smudgelike visuals masquerading as screenshots on this page (which, let's face it, look like the random doodlings of a thumbless infant) is a hybrid of classic Warlords gameplay and a few hit-and-miss new ideas.
The premise remains the same as ever. Conquer fortresses to expand your empire over a series of missions set in the mystical land of Etheria. Heroes rally to your cause, bringing with them a host of combat bonuses and enough spells to fill three-and-a-half magic books. Which is quite a lot. Unless you've got tiny magic books. Obviously.
Combat is still resolved for you, taking into account each unit's strength, attack, health, bonuses and experience. However, it does come with a new twist. You now select the order in which your individuals fight, then watch as they face off against an opponent. When one carks it, another one takes their place until one side runs out of combatants. You can also choose which spells to cast if a hero unit is a part of the group. Problem is, the battles look more comical than watching a bunch of midgets slapping each other about, but at least it remains true to the Warlords ethos.
On a further negative point, the script is unimaginative and is delivered by a disinterested grandad who sounds like he just wants to get it all over with before he dies.
Despite its flaws, though, there are endless hours of fun here, the intuitive gameplay sucking you in and keeping you hooked. The campaign map offers a semi-freeform path through the game, which combined with some fiendishly merciless Al (especially on higher difficulty levels) makes for a consistently challenging and entertaining experience. Although saying that, the Al on easier levels does tend to be overly passive.
However, had the graphics not been so utterly hideous, this could well have been pushing an Essential. Why us turn-based fans have to put up with ugly games is beyond me. Wise up developers, we're not bloody blind you know. But we do know a fun game when we see one, and Warlords IV fits that category perfectly. 'Nuff said.
Download Warlords 4: Heroes of Etheria
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
These Turn-Based fantasy games have changed little in the last few centuries. The graphics are just as unsightly, the mechanics just as simple, the gameplay just as addictive. Warlords IV, the latest in the turn-based branch of the family, presents a more streamlined account of the formula, doing away with many of the management options in favour of more combat.
The combat system too has altered, taking a cue from card-based games such as Magic: The Gathering and allowing you to choose the order in which units and spells are deployed. Despite this, the premise is more or less the same. Explore a vast land with a party of heroes and beasts and conquer fortresses as you go. Along the way you engage in battles with a variety of fearsome foes, accruing experience and followers. It's as entertaining and repetitive as any of these games, and definitely worth a look for inveterate goblin-fanciers.