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Review

Age of Wonders III Review

  • Game release: March 31, 2014
  • Reviewed: March 27, 2014
  • PC

Might makes right.

by

I once again find myself in the archer's dilemma. This is my pet name for when I want to move my archers into harm's way to ensure they deal maximum damage, and hopefully kill their target. Of course, if my archers don't kill their target, they might be torn asunder on the next turn. I could move my archers back to safety behind my other troops, but then they would incur a hefty firing penalty since something is blocking their line of sight. Do I risk the all-out attack, or play it safe?

The fantastical battlefields of Age of Wonders III are filled with such dilemmas. These tiny dramas spawn naturally from the carefully calculated combination of dozens of different systems all working together. From flanking bonuses and line of sight to magical research and the industrial infrastructure of your empire, every detail in this turn-based strategy game contributes toward making the battlefield as complex and rewarding as possible. And because its managerial aspects are kept to a minimum, Age of Wonders III is easy to pick up, moves at a fast clip, and frees you up to focus your attention on the action.

Each game of Age of Wonders III begins with you taking up the mantle of a mighty hero--such as an elven sorcerer or a dwarven theocrat--and guiding your people through conflict to prosperity, assuming all goes well. Before you can get to the conflict, however, you're going to need an army, which means you're also going to need cities to produce your army. Cities are the backbone of your empire, and they factor heavily into the games main objectives. Victory in Age of Wonders III means protecting your capital city, while defeating the enemy's hero and capturing his or her capital.

Because its managerial aspects are kept to a minimum, Age of Wonders III is easy to pick up, moves at a fast clip, and frees you up to focus your attention on the action.

Cities are largely self-sufficient, requiring little more than your input on which buildings to construct. Your recommendations determine which units a city can produce, and whether those units come with free upgrades from specialized structures. Sometimes a city's populace will become unhappy with their living conditions, but this issue is easily remedied with a magical enchantment or the ever-popular bathhouse structure. Happiness aside, the game doesn't demand much more of your time for empire maintenance. Age of Wonders III is all about its tactical combat; all other duties are in service to this feature.

Once your army has been trained and is on the field, it's time to explore your kingdom. Each of the game's procedurally generated maps comes packed with treasure sites, such as caves and abandoned temples, for you to stumble upon. These sites are usually protected by roving packs of bandits or low-level monsters, both of which are great for testing your new army before challenging one of the main players.

Regardless of who, or what, you're fighting, your army is always gaining experience and leveling up. Basic units, such as archers or knights, move up in rank as they gain experience, which awards them a flat bonus to their abilities. When a hero unit levels up, it's a bit more involved. Hero units earn skill points, which you can redeem to either increase the hero's stats or unlock new skills. There are a multitude of skills to unlock, and they can benefit either the unit or the army that unit leads. Deciding whether you want your hero to be a highly skilled frontline brawler or a leader of men who sits in the back is a way to give your army some extra personality.

A band of orc warriors prepare to drive these heathens from their magical high ground.

When you feel your army is ready--or you get ambushed--it's time to wage war. Open warfare against equally capable opponents is where Age of Wonders III really shines. The rest of the game builds towards these sorts of encounters, and they require a satisfying amount of tactical finesse. When you engage another army in battle, you are transported to a more intimate arena that's separate from the world map. The fighting takes place on a hex-based grid, which is usually filled with trees, boulders, or, in the case of urban assaults, city walls. Using the terrain, your skills, and every other tool at your disposal is paramount to victory. Rushing headlong into the fight only gets you slaughtered.

Open warfare against equally capable opponents is where Age of Wonders III really shines. The rest of the game builds towards these sorts of encounters, and they require a satisfying amount of tactical finesse.

Similar to the XCOM series, Age of Wonders III gives you plenty of opportunities to screw up in battle. Flanking attacks from teleporting foes, shield-bearing enemies who can defect arrows, and a wide variety of harmful spells are just some of the dozens of possibilities you must juggle in a given encounter. The key to victory lies in internalizing all these different factors and working out a solution that forces your opponent to make a mistake. There's a lot to keep up with, but the game does a good job of presenting all this information in an easily accessible way. And when you emerge victorious, it's because you outmaneuvered your opponent and successfully capitalized on his or her mistakes.

Woven between the combat and empire building is your empire's research tree, where you research new spells and technologies for your people. It's one of your most powerful assets, but also one of the most unpredictable. Depending on your class and race, there are always a few staples on the tree--such as basic seafaring or the ability to cast more spells per turn--but the rest are randomly selected and can be unlocked in any order. If you start out with a few direct-damage spells, you may wish to press that advantage by being extra aggressive, while on the flip side, if you have a magical ward for your city, you may wish to stick close to home. While they may be unpredictable, your available research options are always balanced in such a way that you never feel at a loss or underpowered. Adaptation is the mark of a good leader.

While Age of Wonders III does a good job of providing variety in most aspects of the game, there is one area that is underrealized: the classes and races. In the end, your class and race selections simply apply subtle variations on the same core set of units, and as a result, encounters can start to feel similar in spite of the game's elements of randomness. Sure, the orc archer may have a -1 penalty to damage while the elven archer has a +1, but in the end, they both behave largely the same. This isn't to say that the core set is not fun to command; however, it would have been nice to see the differences between these different factions pushed a little further to open up even more diverse strategies and tactics in battle.

You can put a personal touch on your hero by tweaking his or her clothing and appearance.

Regardless of the class or race you choose to lead, your rise to glory will likely begin in one of the game's offline modes. Two campaigns serve as a good introduction to the game's mechanics and its mythos, while the scenario and randomized map modes are great for just whaling on the AI. However, when you're ready to take the fight online, you may experience some hiccups. On two different machines, I encountered connection errors with the developer's servers, which prompted me to seek aid outside of the game through the developer's website. If you're not already well versed in firewall port forwarding, you may find their solutions woefully underdeveloped.

Online foibles aside, with its tactically rewarding battles and streamlined empire management, Age of Wonders III is a well-crafted strategy game that doesn't let itself get bogged down in needless busywork. It pushes your focus onto its strongest suit, the battlefield, while keeping everything else in the background. Some smart elements of randomness help keep you on your toes after multiple sessions, though you will find several go-to strategies still apply regardless of the sort of army you lead. Age of Wonders III is the welcome return of a long-absent strategy series and a tactically rewarding game.

The Good
Tactical combat is an enjoyable challenge
Streamlined empire management keeps your focus on fighting
Randomization offers variety without feeling chaotic
The Bad
Playing the game online may require some firewall configuration
Different races/factions are a little too similar
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Maxwell McGee is new to the Age of Wonders series, but had no trouble diving into and understanding Age of Wonders III. And even after a dozen campaigns, he still discovers something new with every battle.

Discussion

133 comments
SicoWolf
SicoWolf

Your video reviews are always painful to listen to.

Caldrin
Caldrin

"Playing the game online may require some firewall configuration"

Well this is the case for a lot of games when one person has to physically host the game.

The game is really good picked it up on the weekend and have not been able to stop playing :)  so far I think it would get an 8/10 from me.

KTs2006
KTs2006

"Sure, the orc archer may have a -1 penalty to damage while the elven archer has a +1, but in the end, they both behave largely the same."

Actually apart from the +/-1 penalties/bonuses each race has weaknesses and bonus vs certain types of damage.If you're playing the campaign you'll see that in a map there are cities of all types and so you may end up fighting against opponents with all kind of units.As a result ,unless you plan your strategy properly,you may end up beaten by the AI in battles seemingly easy just because your units score far less damage due to your opponents resistances while receiving far more damage due to their own weaknesses.Since it's a primarily single-player TBS game i guess the challenge the AI posses is actually a crucial factor in order to rate it.And in our case AoW3 has a brilliant AI.

nukedysfunk
nukedysfunk

Rotten professional review. How about some cons outside of the multiplayer nonsense that shouldn't have mattered much anyway? Was the reviewer trying to say that the random research tree detracted from the game? He did not make that clear. A 7 score is very appropriate, but the review failed to substantiate that.


Let me help do your job. Here are a couple of obvious flaws that are hard to miss:


-General lack of uniqueness among heroes and racial factions. ie. All sorcerer heroes start out as lightning hurlers, and tend to develop in the same fashion. All factions share the same basic subset of units with only minor variations thrown in.


-AI difficulty on the default setting is based on cheats. <- It's so bad that it has to receive bonuses already on normal mode. 


Too bad Kevin VanOrd can't do every review gs puts out.


Bexorcist
Bexorcist

Why does this game have the same score as Escape Goat 2? :D

andypark87
andypark87

Is this even a review? Wtf gamespot...

Stesilaus
Stesilaus

The "Age of Wonders" games are primarily single player games that one plays against AI opponents.  To spend so much time bickering about problems in the online mode and say nothing---not even one word!---about the strength of the AI is beyond absurd.


This game deserved a more diligent review.  At the very least, it deserved a complete one.


Dirk_McHardpeck
Dirk_McHardpeck

Why is Max making his voice sound like a bad Ron Burgundy impersonator?

Godlikan
Godlikan

Its a fine game indeed, I disagree with review a bit but its not to my taste because units don't feel unique and because of random spell book.

GymFox
GymFox

I tend to agree with reviews of GS (I like the reviewers), and I know that reviews are essentially editorials on games (i.e., relatively subjective), however, I have to disagree with a 7/10. Looking to the left I currently see an average user score of 8.6, which I think is totally in line with the overall quality of the game, re-playability, presentation, story, and world. Not really b!#ching b/c Maxwell still gave it great marks and assessed it fairly, I just think the score should post at least an 8. Perhaps after the game, server, and drivers have been updated they should revisit the review with an update! Anyways, just my two cents! In the end, an absolute masterpiece of PC Fantasy Strategy gaming!!!!   

WOLFMAN_III
WOLFMAN_III

I've been into AoW sense the first one. And it is my opinion that this (AoW III) is the best one yet! 

virtualskill
virtualskill

 poopy review...not enough "cons" to warrant a 7...I'd say this is better than a LOT of strategy games in recent years...Certainly better than the new Heroes game..

Hellcanwait
Hellcanwait

could GS at least let someone who knows and gives a shit about the tbs genre review this game.

mrroco300
mrroco300

Hmm I might actually have to pick this up.

dpclark
dpclark

I'd get this game, then saw it requires Steam.  The era of PC gaming independence is dead.  Might as well get a console.  The first thing a reviewer should say is whether a game is beholden to the Steam juggernaut.

cboy2332
cboy2332

Can't believe with hero 6 got an 8 but this got a 7. It is much better than hero 6

silvergun77
silvergun77

Worst review I've ever seen, got this yesterday and no way is this a 7, where can I put an official complaint into . Civ 5 got a 9, heroes 6 got a 8 (heroes 4 even got 8.8 somehow), what's going on with gamespot , Soon as I saw the reviewers picture and daft name I knew he would not have a clue. The games fantastic best strategy game since heroes 3. Ubisoft and Sid take note this is how to make strategy games better than the originals. Can triumph studios please take over heroes franchise please, you could work with the guys that made kings bounty we could have one a game on our hands, and Sid can you also give up the civ franchise as well as we all know you stole the idea from the avalon hill board game and then claimed it's your game .

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

"If you're not already well versed in fireIf you're not already well versed in firewall port forwarding, you may find their solutions woefully underdeveloped.wall port forwarding, you may find their solutions woefully underdeveloped."


Most turn based games need a host to play multiplayer. Heroes 3 you had to do this.


Just go into router, put the ports forward , done. If you want to play online games like Heroes (for the best experience you have to do this with heroes of might and magic also) and other turn based games without getting disconnected heaps. Either forward the ports or use a direct modem (without a router), then you dont have to worry about ports at all.


I hate port forwarding , it pisses me off to no end. because sometimes it works, other times it doesnt. 


Ive also noticed in Wondows 8 its particularly irritating. Like the ports wont open till IN game sometimes. Which is friggin annoying, because sometimes they just simply wont open.



sadface1234
sadface1234

"Playing the game online may require some firewall configuration" ..... ummm what are you a console peasant? L2 Port forward, it should not be looked negatively on the game as it depends on the ROUTER not the game...


My friend had to port forward Titanfall but there was loss of points for it on reviews.  I did not have to port forward AoW 3 to play online, but because Maxwell McGee had to we will take points off and make it a negative part of the review.

emerin76
emerin76

Definitley look forward to all nighters with mates playing this one...like we did with AoW2 + Shadow Magic.

trasherhead
trasherhead

Why does the reviewer sound like the announcer at a sports game? Some seriousness would be nice, don't try to be funny or cute. This came off as just tacky. 

janlappalainen
janlappalainen

not much reviewing in that review - more like a short tutorial

Leozaur
Leozaur

>Playing the game online may require some firewall configuration
Seriously? Is that a valid argument? Where have you seen a game that wouldn't require any firewall adjustments to play online (if you keep whitelist or similar policy)?

meatz666
meatz666

Nice review, Max.

See, Petit, McShea, VanOrd. That's how you do a review.

You don't talk about feelings political agenda, what is considered correct.

You talk about THE GAME.


But I got the impression, by the video, that this is an 8... :)

komuchen
komuchen

The only bad about this game are technical problems, and I'm not talking about teleport, because Xcom is THE KING of bullshit with this and there is no contender to take the crown from Enemy Unknown/Within.


I mean, the framerate is crazy - even though the back of the box says 8800/HD 3870 are the minimal, I would hate to see this game on specs like this. On gtx 460 it jumps from 27 to 60 FPS at random on nearly min/med settings. It is little bit annoying. At least this is an issue that can be fixed and I hope will be.

papattorney33
papattorney33

Can't help but feel Gamespot brought in their "B-team" for this review...

LogicBomb47
LogicBomb47

An incredibly low score ... from an incredibly ignorant reviewer. I do believe I am "done" with this website.

Act_Chill
Act_Chill

I watched the whole review and read the article. The only thing he mentioned as a negative was lack of differences in races? That makes it a 7.0? Thinking of the ultimate old school 4x game, Master of Magic(MoM), each race had subtle differences with the main one being their top tier units were unique as in this game? If elves get +1 attack for archers and orcs get -1, it becomes more efficient to go all mostly melee or mostly archers even if they can build the same units. In MoM, most of the units were common among all races and same with heroes. What helped MoM was the combo of racial bonus, magic element picked, perks, and the randoms champs you had to fight for you. In Age of Wonders 2, there were several elements to master. The review didnt go into the magic system much. Also, can you customize a race? 

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

@Stesilaus Yeah some reviews not focusing on certain things is pretty odd. The AI for a single player game like civ or this is one of the most important parts of the game. It has to be good

paulszki
paulszki

@virtualskill Yeah, it felt weird. Going in, knowing that it got a score of 7, I was waiting for the mentioning of a major flaw or a couple of annoyances that somehow hinder the gameplay. And then there was only a complaint about some hickups in online play and the line "some go-to-strategies for every faction" that could maybe be interpreted as a negative.

There are a lot of somewhat flawed but still highly regarded games out there (e.g. Mass Effect series was awesome but had so many annoyances) so it seems weird if the only thing that keep this game from reaching a critical 8+ score is some early connection issues (Look at the score for Diablo 3 which had a disastrous start as an online only game). I don't care for bad reviews (and a 7 isn't bad), it's just that the review sounded a little too glowing for the actual score being so low in relation to what was said.

GymFox
GymFox

@mrroco300  please do, it really is a masterpiece of Fantasy TBS!! 

Caldrin
Caldrin

@dpclark As others ahve said you can get it on GOG btu whats wrong with steam. Steam is one of the best things to happen to PC gaming for a long time.


All my games in one place that I can get access to no matter where I am in the world.. great sales offers on all the time, tons of other really nice freatures, I can play games offline if I need to..


I am not sure where PC gaming would be without steam.. I certainly would not have most of the games i own on there and I have over 300 i think.

Unit-Soldier
Unit-Soldier

@dpclark  You can get the game from gog.com and that version does not require steam to play.

Leozaur
Leozaur

@silvergun77 I second that. Unfortunately Katauri guys (King's Bounty and formerly Space Rangers devs) are now on indefinite MMO Royal Quest, so we won't be seeing any more games like that from them. :(

The MMO is quite alright, though. It doesn't seem like promised English version is coming any time soon, but Russian is 2 years in "public beta", which they said equals "release" for an MMO.

ggregd
ggregd

@meatz666  You're telling people how to review games when you base your score on 5 minutes of gameplay video.

Wildwolf124
Wildwolf124

@LogicBomb47  While I see a 7 to be somewhat lower than what the negatives entail, It is not a "low" score and he is most certainly not an "ignorant reviewer". So stop getting pissed off about some arbitrary score a single reviewer gives a game. A single good or bad score does not a good or bad game make.

blackadderDAAN
blackadderDAAN

@Act_Chill I think the reviewer diddnt look past the fact that each race has an irregular, swordsman, pikeman, archer, and a priest. So all races do have one of each type. But on the other hand no one of them is the same with maybe the only exception for some machines. The differences are big enough to be very distinct from eachother. So i also doubt this critic.

NecroDrow
NecroDrow

@Act_Chill  Each race has core units irregular. archer, infantry. pikeman, cavalry and unique racial modifiers and terrain likes/dislikes(very important for morale) 


Each class has unique set of additional units with racial modifiers depending on race and unique research tree and spells ONLY for that class. 


Each leader except race and class also picks 3 specializations, and leader look customization is better than lots of RPGs/MMOs.


So 6 races times 6 classes times 14 specializations(each with 4-5 additional spells/empire wide effects). 


Do the math...

GymFox
GymFox

@Unit-Soldier @dpclark  Exactly, GOG provides DRM-Free copies of many, many goods games. Go pick it up from there and have a god damn good time! It really is worth it 

ShimmeringSword
ShimmeringSword

@ggregd @meatz666 You can't deny it though, Petit heavily weights game scores based on political agenda. McShea geos into every review with bias. VanOrd usually gets it right, but probably gets some hate for agreeing with Petit.

kadatherion
kadatherion

@Wildwolf124 @LogicBomb47  Well, considering the reviewer is literally ignorant about the franchise plus he has obviously barely played even this one game he was supposed to review (he doesn't even know about class specific units, which he'd know if he'd got to at least mid game in a quick scenario), I'd say the adjective "ignorant" is kinda well deserved and appropriate. 

For once relatively (with emphasis on "relatively") very few people here are complaining about the score itself (except for the fact it was clearly given at random), most are instead pointing out the faults of the review itself. Which, at least lately, is quite memorable for this site and its average user base. Which, in turn, tells a lot about how incredibly amateurish the aforementioned review is.

Act_Chill
Act_Chill

@troll_eat_troll @Act_Chill  Are you trolling or serious lol. A game starts at a 10 and score is reduced based on short comings in a variety of attributes. Some break it down as graphics, sound, game play with a little bit of originality mixed in. 

Wildwolf124
Wildwolf124

@kadatherion  Fair enough. As a person who has not played this game or any other in the series, I would not know of the errors on the reviewer's part. But, I just found it pointless to belittle the reviewer who most likely hasn't done this much if at all. And at least he gave the game a good score, and not give it a low one out of his own ignorance of said game.

ggregd
ggregd

@Act_Chill @troll_eat_troll  "A game starts at a 10 and score is reduced based on short comings"  They've specifically said on several occasion that's NOT how it works.  

The score is an overall impression, not a test grade.

Act_Chill
Act_Chill

@GrahamZ  Each reviewer has expectations on what a 10 is or expectations on graphics, sound, and what they believe is fun. If they believe the graphics are 8/10 they may not have started at a 10 and created a detailed list of all their graphics issues and the amount they deduced for each thing to bring it down to an 8, but what their expectations are is what a 10 is and falling short of that makes it a lower score. By default, a score lower than a 10 is missing something and therefor what is missing is causing a subtraction from 10 to get the lower number. 


Alternatively you can say the culmination of all the positions is what gives it an 8 and that all games start at 0. It is all perspective. 


As far as MoM goes, most games had glitches and crashes were common back in the day. PC games even today are released with glitches. Later patches fixed all the bugs. Game even works great on modern computers with Dos Box. No issues. Day 1 issues can be annoying, but to me if the game is fixed in the first month I am satisfied enough. Never fixed for takes a year to fix (Diablo 3), that is a different story. 

GrahamZ
GrahamZ

@Act_Chill @troll_eat_trollActually, most people don't give ratings by starting at 10 and subtracting, but instead simply rate based on their overall reaction.  The review itself may then count negatives.  But you can have a perfect game that just isn't fun to the reviewer, or a bugfest that is fun as hell (Master of Magic is one major example -- it was filled with all kinds of issues, but because it was so much fun, it almost consistently garnered very high ratings).

Age of Wonders III More Info

First Release on Mar 31, 2014
  • PC
Age of Wonders III marks a modern reimagining of the series, where you join a clash of kings, queens, and dark lords for the spoils of an ancient paradise.
7.5
Average User RatingOut of 47 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Triumph Studios
Published by:
Triumph Studios
Genres:
Strategy, Turn-Based
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
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