Age of Wonders 3 preview: fights of fantasy

The Age of Wonders series has been dormant for almost a decade. However with the recent announcement of Age of Wonders 3, developer Triumph Studios is showing some game play and giving some insight on how the new game will be a step forward for the franchise.

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The Age of Wonders series has been dormant for almost a decade. Developer Triumph Studios is bringing the franchise back with Age of Wonders 3, and we got a look at some of its updated gameplay.

The game's look is unmistakably Age of Wonders. As Triumph co-owner and lead designer Lennart Sas booted up a demo of the game for us, it was clear the studio was sticking to many of the basic principles that made the games popular years ago. While the game is wrapped in a new 3D engine with improved graphics and art, at its heart the game still thrives on it turn-based nature of exploration and conquest.

All of the traditional races are back: Humans, Dwarves, High Elves, Orcs, Draconians and Goblins, with others races possible through post-release content. These races are divided into two factions--the Court of the High Elves and the Commonwealth Empire--with each having its own single-player campaign.

Once players choose a race, they then get down to what sets the game apart form its predecessors, a class-based RPG system that defines the leaders of each empire.

"We took tradition classes in RPGs, such as the warrior, priest and rogue, and extrapolated them to be leaders in this game," Sas said. "These classes will give you skills that you use, but also determine how your empire is upgraded."

To demonstrate, Sas created a High Eleven Theocrat, one of the six classes in the game. Your leader can sit in your capital city and direct the campaign form there with his skills and bonuses, or he can actually go out and adventure. After Sas created the character, he chose to send out a hero to do exploration. He found some old ruins that he wanted to capture for his kingdom, which immediately put the game into a turn-based strategy mode where the hero and his supporting squads squared off against the denizens of the ruins.

"We went with a Total War-influenced style for this combat to make them feel less like chessboards and more like epic battles," Sas said.

Facing is an issue in the turn-based combat now, he said, and you can flank enemy units to do more damage. Of course, as he was talking, two of his squads were flanked by the enemy AI and wiped out. "We've improved the AI a bit, as you can see," he said, noting that certain gameplay elements have been modified to make the AI more challenging. It was so challenging that Sas lost that encounter and his hero. Many of the traditional Age of Wonders mechanics were still in place, such as special armor and gear for heroes that can buff them accordingly, and if a hero dies, the gear will remain until another hero or leader arrives to pick it up and use it.

We were able to see some spells in action for the Theocrat, including an earthquake spell that can knock down walls, making it a bit easier when laying siege to cities. We also saw a few buff and healing spells that can be used on friendly units. Sas would not elaborate much on the spheres of magic, promising those details would come later.

But in addition to basic combat spells, the leader will also have specializations, as well as race and class-based abilities that will upgrade and benefit your empire as a whole. There is also a system where players can build alliances, or negotiate with other leaders in Civilization-style diplomacy. How you approach these interactions will form a basis for the evolution of your kingdom, for better or worse.

Sas said Triumph took its time coming back to the series because they had been focused on the Overlord games for the last few years. During that time, the rights to Age of Wonders was still held by publisher Take Two Interactive, Sas said. But once those rights reverted to Triumph, the developer started development of the new game in 2010.

It was important for Triumph to maintain the digital rights to the game, Sas said, so they did not want to go the traditional publisher route. This was before the success of Kickstarter, so the company was looking for a way to finance the game. It was only after he saw a mention of Age of Wonders in Minecraft that Sas contacted Mojang's Markus Persson. After some negotiations, Persson became a major investor in the game.

Triumph plans to sell the game through Steam and other digital distribution sites some time this fall.

Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 2, 2013 12:00 PM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Age of Wonders 3 preview: fights of fantasy.

    The Age of Wonders series has been dormant for almost a decade. However with the recent announcement of Age of Wonders 3, developer Triumph Studios is showing some game play and giving some insight on how the new game will be a step forward for the franchise.

    • reply
      April 2, 2013 3:09 PM

      ^ This is actually really cool. Age of Wonders 2 was awesome.

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      April 2, 2013 3:16 PM

      YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YEEEEESSSSSSSSS

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      April 2, 2013 4:21 PM

      Thanks Notch!

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      April 3, 2013 12:47 AM

      Really looking forward to this :)

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      April 3, 2013 1:26 AM

      I was lucky enough to get a demo at GDC as well - I can confirm that it is looking really good - can't wait!

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        April 3, 2013 2:07 AM

        Did you have a booth at GDC? How did it go?

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        April 3, 2013 5:46 AM

        It was nice to finally meet you at GDC. And glad you agree with the preview ;)

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          April 5, 2013 2:34 AM

          Yep - I met a number of shack people out there - really great!

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      April 3, 2013 3:29 AM

      I don't think I've played any of these before. Is this more of a 4X thing like Elemental or a Heroes of Might and Magic style strategy game?

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        April 3, 2013 2:50 PM

        4X. You can find the AoW trilogy on Steam and GOG for around $20. It's a good buy if you're into these long-play turn-based things. AoW1 is kind of a classic and Shadow Magic is excellent.

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      April 3, 2013 4:27 AM

      I never played any Age of Wonders. Are those similar to HOMM?

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        April 3, 2013 2:50 PM

        Give them a try, or look for let's plays on Youtube.

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      April 3, 2013 7:03 AM

      This is great news. I hope they don't mess it up Like Disciples III.

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      April 3, 2013 7:09 AM

      great. Hopefully they get rid of the stupid shadow world stuff and revert to a plot where you are fighting the other mages

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      April 4, 2013 7:07 PM

      i love age of wonders shadow magic (i didnt think the shadow world stuff was that cool though) and i cant wait to play this game. with that said, and i dont mean to sound cynical or picky, i have a few concerns (i may be alone on this):

      1. the camera movement seems a bit over the top in battle, id rather not have that sort of superfluous, possibly annoying camera behavior to deal with. maybe the old-school top-down isometric view of the battlefield is considered too old and boring these days, but for me it's far more practical. I don't want "exciting" distractions, im more interested in moving my troops around the field.

      If a game is going to zoom in on the action, every single time troops clash, the animation and art quality had better be absolutely stellar (i dont mean number of polygons or texture rez, i mean smooth and stylish), as cool as watching kratos thrash enemies in god of war (or devil may cry, or whatever). If the animations and art aren't totally worth zooming in on, than really dont bother moving the camera, it's just a distraction from the main event. On the other hand, to me, having a guy get tossed off to the side when he is killed is cool regardless, because you could see and enjoy it without swooping the camera around constantly.

      2. having a flanking mechanic sounds good, but showing that the AI does it, to me, doesnt show that the AI is good. to me that means that they programmed the AI to flank. If that's all the AI ever tries to do in a fight, no matter what, i dont think that's good AI. Im not a programmer, and i think it's hard to showcase AI (as opposed to graphics and animation), but one instance of the AI flanking the player, is not enough to convince me.

      What i really should say is, i wish Lennard Sas had said something like "We're teaching the AI to consider and use the flanking mechanic we've added to the game" instead of what he actually said, which sounded to me like "here's proof the AI is good, it flanked and i died". I really shouldnt pick on this game for it, because it's a quick preview, and like any game, the devs/producers are trying to sell it to the audience.

      3. lastly, and this is pretty minor and picky of me i think, but i don't particularly care for some of the art style being used. in particular some of the unit portraits, and models and textures. it doesn't help that they remind me of elemental / fallen enchantress a bit.

      i wrote this cause i want this game to rock my world, and if it does, i'll squeal like a little girl whether or not anything i mentioned is changed.

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