Warlock 2: The Exiled
PC (Steam) // Mac (Steam)
You are a warlock, you must build cities, fight monsters, conquer everyone else.
A few months ago I reviewed a game called Warlock: Master of the Arcane. Overall the game was decent. It seemed to be very similar to Civilization in the overall gameplay, activities, and goals. Ok, the game was identical to Civilization if you were to add magic and dragons. Warlock was not a perfect game, it was rather flawed. Nevertheless I liked Warlock: Master of the Arcane for what it was. Unfortunately there were a few really big issues I had with the game. I wanted more, I wanted a better experience, I wanted balanced gameplay, I wanted a complete experience. When I heard that Paradox Interactive and Ino-Co Plus would soon be releasing a follow-up called Warlock 2: The Exiled I nearly wet myself. All I wanted was for Warlock 2 to be a good game.
I have now spent a significant amount of time with Warlock 2, and I can without a doubt say, this is a much better experience. As with the previous Warlock game, anyone who is even slightly familiar with the standard turn-based city management genre should be able to instantly pickup this game. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it functions very much like a board game. Each player takes a turn where they can choose what units to build, research technologies (spells), create new buildings on tiles they own, and attempt to complete whatever the set objective for that game may be.
The main game mode called Exiled will thrust the player into a true story based single-player experience. The previous game had a campaign as well, but this time it takes a front seat and stays in your face. Unfortunately the story is not a compelling one. After the events of Warlock: Master of the Arcane, you have been exiled to a world and you must take vengeance on those who have wronged you. There is so much room for an amazing single-player experience here. The only problem is, you are left with a predefined series of scripted text in conjunction with random events that act as a way to burn up the players resources instead of challenge them or pull them into the world. This is not a story, this is more like a chore. You are left reading and attempting to complete specific quests to unlock new areas or collect a small amount of gold as a reward.
There are other modes in the games as well. You are not stuck with the campaign mode. You can also create your own custom game in the sandbox mode or play along with a group of friends in multiplayer mode. These additional modes do not really change much of the game other than removing the story elements and allowing you to get down to what the core of this game actually is, a solid turn-based city manager. Warlock 2 does a great job once you take away all of the filler and fluff. Warlock 2 is actually an enjoyable game.
The player starts out on one of many randomly generated worlds with portals interconnecting each one. Most of these portals cannot be accessed until the player defeats a certain boss or luckily guesses the correct answer to a series of “diplomatic” questions. The world of Warlock 2 is massive. You are introduced to beautiful landscapes with interesting treasures and enemies to fight. Even on the smallest size map you will be overwhelmed with the scale of the world. It is understandable that Paradox and Ino-Co Plus wanted the player to be challenged with such a large play area, and you do have plenty of room if you wanted to play a game with a large group of friends. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to explore the game in anything that can be considered as a quick match. Warlock 2, just like its predecessor, is going to require multiple sessions to complete a single game.
Just because Warlock 2 is a large investment in time should not be a deterrent. Due to the size of the game and the amount of area that is left to explore will only leave you with new secrets and challenges in each new world you discover. One of the real gems of Warlock 2 is the number of lands and units you have the ability to unlock. Warlock 2: The Exiled has in the hundreds of units for you to collect and conquer the lands with. The amount of possibilities is simply staggering. Completionist fans will find this to be one of the most amazing things about the game. But the real improvement you will find over Warlock: Master of the Arcane is the overhaul to the game’s combat system. The fighting in the game is much smoother and easier to understand. There is also much more balanced combat, fixing possibly the biggest issue with Warlock. Playing through the game you will notice how natural the fights are. The overall experience is incredibly enjoyable, the gameplay is the real redeemer. I found myself coming back over and over again because I just wanted to play a game that would allow me to relax and just have fun. There seems to be a lack of stress when playing Warlock 2. Maybe that is why the incredibly long games didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the experience, the opportunity to mindlessly play the game and watch my favorite show on TV or listen to an album. Warlock 2 provides an outlet that is almost on a casual level while still being so deep that you can bury yourself.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints about this game and possibly the thing that could have made Warlock 2 such a strong game, the audio. Overall in the game you do have fairly decent music. It is appropriate for the setting and does not impose on your experience. The problem lies in the rest of the audio. It seems that all of the unit sound effects were borrowed from audio libraries that we have all heard over and over again. Archers firing their arrows will remind you of a door stopper being flicked, the warriors with scream their battle cry that you will swear you have heard in whatever the last game you played was.More attention really should have been paid to these little details. Voiceovers are also nearly non-existent, other than the helping voice of what can only be described as a strange breed of Sean Connery and Deckard Cain.
When you break everything down, Warlock 2: The Exiled could have been a really good game. With the right amount of attention of features Warlock 2: The Exiled would be an amazing game. Even with these nit-picky Warlock 2 is not a bad game. I constantly came back to put in a few more hours into the campaign or play through a random Sand Box game and didn’t care if I won or lost. Warlock 2 provides the player with a very enjoyable and human experience. Nobody is perfect and neither is this game. That is what makes it so appealing. There is humanity in Warlock 2 and maybe in the next installment we will all understand how great this game actually is.
Strong gameplay, beautiful concept, hundreds of units to unlock, large selection of spells.
Poorly executed and forced story, no voice-overs, very long games.