Age of Wonders III Feels Like A Highlight Reel Of PC Gaming's Best

Third time's the charm.

On paper, Age of Wonders III sounds intimidating. It's an independently developed turn-based strategy game for the PC with a legacy that stretches back over a decade. As someone jumping into the Age of Wonders series for the first time, I was picturing menus piled on top of menus full of confounding research trees and political stratagems I was 10 years too late to comprehend. Thankfully, Age of Wonders III is not like this at all. It's a much more approachable game than I had expected, and after spending a few days with it, I discovered it also invoked some of my fondest memories of PC gaming.

At the risk of sounding too grandiose, playing Age of Wonders III felt like playing through a highlight reel of Sid Meier's Civilization V and XCOM: Enemy Within. I settled cities and expanded my empire much in the same way as in Civilization, but when it came time for war, I dove into a separate, more-intimate screen where the turn-based battles played out. However, Age of Wonders III didn't just feel like a copy of these two games slapped together. I could see where the game took some of its creative inspiration, but it also built upon those ideas in interesting ways and wrapped it all up in a high-fantasy wrapper that was easy to enjoy.

I could see where the game took some of its creative inspiration, but it also built upon those ideas in interesting ways and wrapped it all up in a high-fantasy wrapper that was easy to enjoy.

Each game--whether it was a story-driven campaign or a randomly generated map--started with leader selection. Choosing a leader in Age of Wonders III impacted every aspect of how my empire was managed since it determined the race of my people, such as elves or orks or humans, and what types of magic or technology they had access to. Playing as a dwarven dreadnought, with all their flame tanks and other heavy war machines, felt different from playing as an elvan theocrat, who relied more on healing magic and powerful summons.

My various empires all started the same way: a simple homestead in some forgotten corner of the world. I had a handful of units to command, and sent them out to explore the countryside. My chosen leader was the star of the show at this early stage. He fought alongside my troops, gaining levels, unlocking new abilities, and collecting equipment to use in battle along the way. Gradually, as I settled new cities and my empire grew, I had to shift my focus from being an action role-playing game adventurer to more of an empire manager. There was a lot to keep up with between commanding multiple armies, assigning research, and making sure I had the proper infrastructure to pay for everything--but it never felt overwhelming.

When it came time to fight, each battle took place in a smaller arena separate from the larger world map. Fights were turn-based, and played out across a hexagonal grid. Most battlefields provided some cover, which could be used in much the same way as in XCOM. Troops standing behind a large boulder or tree would take less damage when an enemy wizard started slinging lightning bolts or some archers let fly their arrows. Unlike in XCOM, however, I could see the enemy player's entire army at all times, and vice versa. There was also considerably more magic if one of my hero units was present, though I had to be careful since all heroes draw upon a common magical source. If I spent too many spells in one battle and drained all my magic, it would leave my other heroes hamstrung in future fights.

In Age of Wonders III, your goal is always to lead your empire to victory. Allies are optional.

Of course, the true test of a good strategy game is if it can make the hours evaporate after you told yourself just one more turn. And, at least for me, Age of Wonders III definitely has the time-gobbling quality. Now I have only a few more weeks left before my entire social life is consumed in a battle hymn of fire and ice. Recently, developer Triumph Studios announced that Age of Wonders III will be released on March 31 through Steam and Good Old Games. If you're looking to hone your skills before that release date, well, I can think of a couple of PC gaming favorites to help you brush up on your skills.

Written By

Want the latest news about Age of Wonders III?

Age of Wonders III

Age of Wonders III

Follow

Discussion

71 comments
Kraken422
Kraken422

I love the simplicity of the original Age of Wonders, I still play it to this day. Three looks quite similar to two to me which I never really got into. Still something I'm really interested in checking out.

lostn
lostn

"Third time's the charm."

It's actually fourth. 

oflow
oflow

McGee is one of the few reasons I still check GS.  

oflow
oflow

People in the beta/early access are saying this is the true successor to MoM.

Evil_Sidekick
Evil_Sidekick

I played and ADORED Age of Wonders II, so, i can 't wait for this one.

adunoakenshield
adunoakenshield

I'm a big fan of Age of Wonders 1, 2 and Shadow Magic. I really hope this game will be on the same level as those games.

DoomSky
DoomSky

Must say I am rather sick of Civ 5 by now I had alot of fun with it but things like diplomacy, big empire=low culture and constant gold to maintain relations with city states have gotten me rather tired of it. Looking forward to some fantasy empire building! 

lonechicken
lonechicken

Looks promising, but saying something has elements of Civ 5 doesn't necessarily get Civ fans excited. There's a pretty big contingent of us who couldn't get into Civ 5 and even despise it.


Since the initial release of Master of Magic, there have been tons of HoMM-like games (which isn't a bad thing), and plenty that claim to be inspired by MoM but ended up being closer to HoMM. AoW, Fallen Enchantress, etc. But there hasn't been any true MoM successor. Maybe this will be it.

genjuroT
genjuroT

Heavy similarities to Disciples and Might and Magic. Except this looks like what Disciples 3 should have been. Disciples 2 is still my favorite of these kinds of games(so far). [edit: This game looks really good btw]

gino_pachino
gino_pachino

am i the only one to see no similarity between this and civilization ??? lol i dont undertsand how it is similar. It like saying legend of zelda is simmilar to skyrim lol .... I think it would be more accurate to Say that this game is similar to heros might and magic  anyway can wait to get that game the the both before was a great game

jemoedr
jemoedr

To be honest, even the design of the menu's are largely the same as in Civ V. It almost looks like they even stole some textures.


It looks like a mix of Civ 5 and LoL...

maitkarro
maitkarro

Why I didn't bother with this game because there is the same kind of game out there for some time already, Fallen Enchantress Legendary Heroes. Much more interesting, but maybe not as user friendly. Graphically AoW III is better, seems at least.

sadface1234
sadface1234

Master of Magic is back, kinda of funny as i just binged some MoM after getting it from GoG. Said man i wish someone would remake something similar, and here it is! 

banana23man
banana23man

Reminds me a lot of HoMM 3 (best game of the series). I think I'll pick this up. 

Vexov
Vexov

Its the style Heroes of Might and Magic needs to take, the older way just doesn't work(well, not with current owners and devs).

piotrjustyna
piotrjustyna

Nice article, Maxwell. Looking forward to this title.

radikel
radikel

Wow! Never played Age of Wonder before, but have played a ton of "Civ" "HoMM"(only upto 4...recent ones are a travesty) and "4x Space sims"


This seems like a mesh of 'civ & HoMM'....totally stoked!!!

gjgeraldy
gjgeraldy

Does it still have a play by e-mail feature?

Jinroh_basic
Jinroh_basic

definitely worth a look when it's out... though i find the writer's exclamations unwarranted as the gameplay shown so far hardly deviates from the franchise formula. which self-respecting pc gamer hasn't played AoW before anyway?? 

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

this game is going to be epic and Galactic Civilization III is coming out also. Crazy year indeed.


what a shame Rome total War 2 was such a dissapointment.

grove12345
grove12345

Age of Wonders Shadow Magic is perhaps the only game i will consider to defeat 1993s (thats freaking right) Master of Magic. I love how the title incorporated a story,quests, and hidden heroes into the map itself in addition to what you are supposed to do. Its like instead of playing a mission each map had its own story to tell.


But since it seems developers now in days lack any skills. I doubt this will be better than than the 10+ year old predeccesor 

Oloryn
Oloryn

I absolutely loved the look, feel and style of the last entries in the Age of Wonders series, so when I recently read this was coming out, I was beyond excited to revisit it. I'm glad to hear that it's shaping up well!

PlasmaRush
PlasmaRush

Great article Maxwell, thank you.

n0xinab0x
n0xinab0x

Any bets on who's doing the review and the score? 

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

I can't get enough of Strategy games. This one looks amazing, but since I've been burned far too many times on Pre-order, I'm afraid I can't do that...


still psyched for it, it looks awesome!

cirugo
cirugo

First PC game I've been excited about for a very long time.

Suaron_x
Suaron_x

AoW Shadow Magic was the spiritual successor to HoMM3 and a very fun game to boot.  I've been waiting for another game in the AoW series for a long time now, but Triumph had been busy on the mediocre Overload games.  Based upon the review it doesn't sound like much has changed from Shadow Magic.  It would be nice to know if it will be released on physical media. 

Tzardok
Tzardok

I waited so long for this sequel, its seems it was worth it. Can't wait to lead my Draconians to victory, by the sword and claws.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

Sounds exactly like Fallen Enchantress (and the other games in the franchise), suprised there's no mention of the Elemental games in the article... and comparing the combat here to XCOM? Really? FFS who's writing these things?! Sounds like the person hasn't heard of anything not AAA and older than a couple of years. /rant

lostn
lostn

@lonechicken AoW is a lot closer to MoM than it is to HOMM. You research spells, you build things in cities that take turns instead of instant production, you don't need heroes to lead an army, you have gold and mana resources, upkeep to pay for your spells and units, the combat is closer to MoM, just look at town interfaces, it's a MoM clone. Your troops come in units too, just like in HoMM, and you can't stack 100 of quantities of the same unit together into one space. Each spot in your army is one unit.

It's not a mirror image of MoM, but it's the closest thing anyone has ever come to it. 

There will never be a true MoM successor because no one even knows who owns the rights to it right now. The studio and publisher is defunct. I think Ubisoft purchased the rights to the name but they don't own the license to make a game with it. 

There is a Kickstarted project called Worlds of Magic that sets out to remake MoM. They even use the same font in the title. Check it out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/304725524/worlds-of-magic-a-new-classic-4x-fantasy-game

jesot
jesot

@maitkarro  I mean, Fallen Enchnatress is one of those games that takes from the AoW series...

jesot
jesot

@banana23man  Reminds me of Age of Wonders...  Which is pretty similar to the Heroes series.

blackothh
blackothh

@Vexov Black Hole Studios and the heroes franchise got totally screwed by Ubisoft, I was so disappointed with the rollout of heroes 6. Especially since my game has been bugged into tutorial only mode for a year and you need uplay to play the game just pisses me off. 3 is my favorite, and 2 and 5 are close behind for me.

prats93
prats93

Its basically Master of Magic reborn.

GreyHuntr
GreyHuntr

@gjgeraldy I believe the devs said that it wouldn't be included in the initial release, but would be added later.  There is definitely no LAN support though.

jesot
jesot

@Jinroh_basic  It's kind of funny(/depressing) to see people comparing it to a bunch of different games that are inspired by the Age of Wonders games.  It's just Age of Wonders, people.  Get educated.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Jinroh_basic  

You would be surprised.

With that said, Age of Wonders has a lower profile among computer gamers than you would think.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@n0xinab0x  

Likely a freelancer, or perhaps Shaun McInnis.

grove12345
grove12345

@cirugo  since COH2 was a flop, this is the only PC game i caught (outside of steam $5 sales) in like 8 years

lostn
lostn

@Suaron_x "AoW Shadow Magic was the spiritual successor to HoMM3" 

Umm, no it wasn't. The two games are very different. AoW Shadow Magic is the successor to AOW2, which was the successor to AOW1, which was the spiritual successor to Master of Magic. 

HoMM is also a clone of MoM, the granddaddy that started the turn based fantasy empire building genre. AoW does not borrow anything from HOMM. They both borrowed from the same source, with AoW sticking much more closer to the formula.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@Suaron_x  sigh , theyve never really matched Heroes 3 ever again :( I suppose Heroes 5 is pretty close.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Suaron_x  

Indeed, Triumph wasted its time on the Overlord games. So much wasted potential in those titles which are clearly not its forte.

lostn
lostn

@1wikkid1 You're too young to know what this game is 'exactly' like. Fallen Enchantress is the copycat. The AoW series started in 1999, all 3 previous games coming before FE. The game it copied it is not FE.

lostn
lostn

@1wikkid1 Actually it sounds more like the previous AOW games than FE, which by the way preceded FE. FE is the game that cloned AOW. 

Dezuria
Dezuria

@1wikkid1 it is kinda like Fallen Enchantress in ways, but even the old AoW game was much better than FE, in my opinion.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

@lostn @1wikkid1  Is it currently fashionable to flaunt your ignorance? First, I never even made a mention of anybody being a copycat, that bit you've pulled 100% out of your rear end. Second, I've been a gamer for a better part of a decade before AoW was released... if you're 12 (or 14 whatever, don't really care either way) that doesn't mean that we all are. Now go back to your little troll hide-away and sulk.

Tzardok
Tzardok

@1wikkid1 but no one is better than Laharl. Just saying it... :)

lostn
lostn

@1wikkid1 @lostnHere's your quote:


"Sounds exactly like Fallen Enchantress (and the other games in the franchise)"

The word "exactly" pretty clearly implies copycat. You're definitely 12 if you didn't even know that.