Sorcerer King is a 4X game set in an already-conquered world

Stardock is venturing into the 4X genre with the upcoming Sorcerer King, in which you've already lost and the world has already been conquered by an all-powerful AI.


Developer Stardock is preparing to venture into the 4X genre. However, the studio behind Galactic Civilizations and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion are looking to make this particular entry a little different from its contemporaries. To start, you've already lost. Indeed, the villain has won before the game has even started. So rather than compete against fellow players, Sorcerer King will see players compete against an almighty AI villain that controls the game's world and is seeking to destroy it by becoming an all-powerful god.

"In the past couple of years, I've been playing a lot of fancy 4X games," Stardock president and Sorcerer King lead designer Brad Wardell explained to Shacknews. Among the game he's played and credited as solid entries to the genre include Age of Empires III, Warlock 2, and Endless Legend. "And it hit me that it would be interesting to make one of these games... where you lost. The bad guy won. The game starts out where the Sorcerer King already conquered the world. You are not the Sorcerer King. It's really his game. You're like a minor faction in his game. He's the one playing the 4X game, so to speak. He's researching technology, he's sending out settlers, he's learning new spells, and everyone's basically been killed off. And now what he's trying to do is, he wants to become a god. Your job is to stop him from becoming a god. You are the last of the kingdoms left. You're down to your last city. And you have what is called the 'Forge of the Overlord,' which allows you to craft magical items to equip all of your guys with.

"The other guys, the ones who were in the previous 'game,' they're basically just remnants of their former selves. You must go out and try to win them over. You don't win them over through the traditional 4X diplomacy screen. There's no treaties, there's no trading of goods, there's no caravans or anything like that. Instead, they ask you to go on quests and do them favors, in order to build up favor with them, so they will fight on your side. But at the same time, the Sorcerer King is trying to do that with them, as well, to get them to succumb to his will."

There are hundreds of different quests available, all written out by Cracked's Chris Bucholz, to help keep the game's tone light-hearted. Each one helps contribute to the player's army or contributes to the player's personal inventory by gaining craftable items. Building up armies will allow players to take on the Sorcerer King's powerful forces, eventually making their way to the Shadow Gate. The idea is to eventually take on the omnipotent mage himself. However, time is of the essennce, since the doomsday clock will constantly be running. Expect the quests to vary in design and feel more akin to certain roguelikes that PC users may be familiar with.

"The quests in this are much more like [FTL: Faster Than Light]," Wardell explained. "You're going to get a set of choices and each choice has a particular consequence to it. When you're playing the game, you'll go, 'If I choose this path, it's going to give me these crafting items and I need these crafting items in order to construct a Ring of Dodge' or 'If I choose this, I'm going to get a fireball spell' or 'If I choose this, it'll lower the doomsday counter' or 'If I choose this, it'll gain me favor with one of the minor faction.' Each game, you may choose a different thing, based on what your particular needs of that game are."

The 'Game Master' duties will all lie solely with the titular Sorcerer King, who will not rely on scripted events to make his moves. As the player collects the magical shards necessary to defeat him, the King will likely be playing the game himself, in an effort to destroy those shards. Players must not only exercise effective strategy, but they must also do so in a race against both the King and the clock.

Wardell notes that the Sorcerer King will see the player's army as a minor faction, one worth dealing with in various ways. This includes diplomacy, as the King's envoys will occasionally bring some 'deal with the devil' offers to the table.

"It is pretty tempting on Turn 10 or Turn 15 to get something that gives you an extra 5 HP," Wardell added. "If you have only 10 out of 500 doomsday points on there, what's an extra 5 doomsday points?"

Players will start off by controlling the Wizard, but will eventually gain access to six different playable sovereigns over the course of the game's development. Each sovereign will have their own skill tree, spells, and special units. Games will all unfold differently across several different maps, with Stardock on the lookout for player feedback throughout the course of the Early Access cycle. Map sizes and pacing settings will also influence how long each session lasts, though Wardell puts individual games at an average of about 300-400 turns.

Sorcerer King is aiming for a spring 2015 release on PC, with the development team offering live streams of the game's ongoing progress each Wednesday. The game is available now on Steam Early Access for $34.00, 15 percent off of its normal $39.99 price tag.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
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    October 2, 2014 9:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Sorcerer King is a 4X game set in an already-conquered world.

    Stardock is venturing into the 4X genre with the upcoming Sorcerer King, in which you've already lost and the world has already been conquered by an all-powerful AI.

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      October 2, 2014 9:13 AM

      Stardock is no stranger to 4X; they developed Sins of a Solar Empire back in the day.

      Just insert "once again" after "4X genre" and you're golden :-)

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        October 2, 2014 9:20 AM

        Man I want a Sins 2!

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        October 2, 2014 9:23 AM

        They also made galactic civilization. 3 is currently in the works.

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          October 2, 2014 9:54 AM

          I played the beta and it's already looking solid. But it's missing some features and functionality with colonies so it's still incomplete. I'm just gonna wait for final release but it will be great.

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          October 2, 2014 10:35 AM

          Saying Stardock is venturing in to the 4x genre is like saying Valve is venturing into the FPS genre with Half Life 3. 4x is like, their thing.

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            October 2, 2014 10:37 AM

            Is really love a Bioware RPG though. Especially if it had a cool plot twist at the end.

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            October 2, 2014 1:07 PM

            Yeah, seriously. There's 3 GalCiv games, plus 3 Elemental/Fallen Enchantress games. This is their 7th 4X game! Ozzie must not be familiar with Stardock because a venture this isn't.

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          October 2, 2014 1:45 PM

          I played a ridiculous amount of GalCiv 2 back in the day, so I'm hoping GalCiv 3 lives up to the greatness of its predecessor.

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        October 2, 2014 9:31 AM

        I thought Stardock only published Sins?

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          October 2, 2014 9:34 AM

          I think you're right. But their Gal Civ games are definitely internal, and they made Fallen Enchantress (and the lesser versions that came before) as well.

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          October 2, 2014 9:37 AM

          Yeah, Ironclad was the dev.

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        October 2, 2014 10:27 AM

        They also made Elemental: War of Magic and Fallen Enchantress, this is far from their first attempt at the 4x genre

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        October 2, 2014 6:55 PM

        we all live with our mistakes here on shacknews

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      October 2, 2014 9:24 AM

      OoOoOOoOo this sounds like it could be a lot of fun!

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      October 2, 2014 10:05 AM

      Whats a 4X game?

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        October 2, 2014 10:10 AM

        it is like connect 4. really fun multiplayer

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        October 2, 2014 10:13 AM

        The term "4X" originates from a 1993 preview of Master of Orion in Computer Gaming World by Alan Emrich, in which he rated the game "XXXX" as a pun on the XXX rating for pornography. The four Xs were an abbreviation for "EXplore, EXpand, EXploit and EXterminate".[1] Other game commentators adopted the "4X" label to describe a game genre with specific gameplay conventions:[2]

        Explore means players send scouts across a map to reveal surrounding territories.

        Expand means players claim new territory by creating new settlements, or sometimes by extending the influence of existing settlements.

        Exploit means players gather and use resources in areas they control, and improve the efficiency of that usage.

        Exterminate means attacking and eliminating rival players. Since in some games all territory is eventually claimed, eliminating a rival's presence may be the only way to achieve further expansion.

        Think like Civ or Alpha Centauri or MOO or Sins of a Solar Empire.

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        October 2, 2014 2:07 PM

        its 4 games in one thus 4 times the game

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        October 2, 2014 2:12 PM

        it's a game where quad damage is on at all times

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        October 2, 2014 2:51 PM

        An alcoholic game based on the worst beer ever made, XXXX Gold.

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          October 2, 2014 6:56 PM

          i havent had that, but rolling rock is the reigning champion in that category as far as im concerned

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      October 2, 2014 5:00 PM

      This sounds interesting. I like the premise.

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        October 2, 2014 5:23 PM

        I'm not sure why its being couched as so original though. Fighting back against an evil that has taken over the world? That's like half of all video games ever

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          October 2, 2014 5:40 PM

          Generally 4X's start you off in some kind of a balanced state though. Like in Civ - every player, human and AI, starts off with a single settler and a single warrior. Even playing field, at least in theory. Basically every 4X works that way. The idea of starting a game in an already existing world with established factions (where one is dominant) seems fairly unique.

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            October 2, 2014 6:21 PM

            Wonder how they keep you from getting curb stomped right off the bat. LIke you would.

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              October 2, 2014 6:31 PM

              I imagine there must be some element of "you're too small fry at the start for the dominant power to care" kind of setup, otherwise yeah, you'd get stomped in the first 5 turns, and that wouldn't be much fun.

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                October 2, 2014 11:20 PM

                AI War has the SF version of this premise, and it's best described as 'The AI plays Risk while you play AI War.' A lot of the strategy is in improving your position without provoking the AI into considering you a serious threat. It's really cool.

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            October 2, 2014 8:11 PM

            It's not really a new concept in fantasy/HOMM/Age/whatever 4x games though. They're all like that.

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              October 2, 2014 11:16 PM

              All those games you mentioned start in a balanced state, though? This sounds more like a fantasy AI War.

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      October 2, 2014 7:36 PM

      LOL, what's with all the "ventures" into the 4x genre today, shack? What's tomorrow's big news? Bungie dipping it's toes into the waters of Console FPS? Blizzard trying its hand at an RTS or Action RPG? Or maybe something really crazy like Ubisoft making an open world action game?

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        October 2, 2014 11:07 PM

        It's not a venture in this case though - Stardock has made numerous 4X games.

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      October 4, 2014 8:23 PM

      Lighthearted? Yeah.. no thanks. The vast majority of indie games I've been playing lately are a shitfest of lightheartedness. Its not so bad when the team can't really afford to have a full time game design team to mold a serious storyline or background into their games, but when larger studios do it, its mostly a big fucking wank. Sure, sometimes a "Dungeon Keeper" will come along.. but the rest of the time you just have a big steaming turd.

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