Warlords III: Darklords Rising

Demanding and abstract, Warlords III offers a no-frills challenge.

Turn-based strategy games are probably the most sophisticated and demanding type of computer games. They have the abstract strategic challenge of a game like chess, but roughed out with variegated terrain, evolving units, multiple opponents, and the random factor that makes intuition nearly as important as logic. Take all those elements and wrap it in a quasi-Tolkien swords and sorcery milieu and you have Warlords 3: Darklords Rising.

Like previous games in the series, Warlords 3 takes a simplified approach when addressing its strategic game. It doesn’t have the immediacy of an X-COM, the rich variety of a Heroes of Might & Magic, or the complex economics and scientific development of the Civilization series. Diplomacy, tactical combat, economics and adventuring are all pretty thin, completely secondary to the strategic game.

11_1Adventuring consists of moving a hero into a ruin and rolling dice to see if he dies or comes away with a treasure. Diplomacy is limited to bribery. Economics involves only holding cities, which generate income with which to pay your troops or improve city defenses. Tactical combat is non-interactive — move a stack (a number of units) against an opponent, and the stacks roll dice, one unit squaring off at a time. The extent of your involvement in pitched battles is the pre-combat ordering of stacks, and making sure you have a hero with some magical powers to tilt the odds in your favor.

So it’s the strategic game that is the heart of Warlords 3, and it involves mainly the raising, positioning, and movement of armies. And this is where Warlords 3 becomes quite enjoyable, and it’s what’s made the previous installments in this series so popular. It’s a rip-roaring good strategy game, once the war gets going, and the many options and levels of artificial intelligence make for a varied and enduring gaming experience.

Essentially you expand out from your core, seize cities and try to restrict access to your interior cities, because you’re vectoring all new troops out of there and onto the frontier. The vectoring feature is nice, allowing you to automatically route newly produced units from interior cities to jumping-off points on your periphery.

9_1The biggest problem with Warlords 3 may be its lack of immediacy. The world is somewhat bland and you never feel personally engaged. Troops are devoid of morale, and you can draft army after army from your cities without impacting its population, health, or loyalty. It’s a rarefied, abstract world of strategy, lacking personality that some of the other higher ups of turn-based strategy – like the Heroes series – doth posses in greater supply. Despite this, one could never honestly call Warlords 3 a terrible computer game.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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