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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: October 29, 1998
At a former job I used to work on a Macintosh and subsequently needed to have one at home as well. Desperate for decent computer games to entertain myself with, I browsed through the five or six available for the Mac at that time (as if that’s an exaggeration) and came across Warlords. I bought it, played it, skipped a lot of meals, spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to capture that one final city, and essentially fell in love with the whole concept. Warlords III: Darklords Rising is the latest game in this series, and expands on Warlords III: Reign of Heroes. It offers all the same gameplay as Reign of Heroes, but adds so much more, including new features and functionality.
For those who aren’t familiar with the game, let me give you the quick-and-dirty description of gameplay. Players each control a side that features different types of armies. The Sirians feature traditional knights and cavalry; the Orcs of Kor use wolves; and other sides may feature undead, like Lord Bane’s minions. The game is played on a map that features cities, which serve as a source of revenue and production of units. Players decide what units to produce, group them together into “stacks” of up to eight units, and try to eliminate each other. You can explore ruins to gain powerful artifacts, hire heroes to lead your forces, and have your heroes take on quests to obtain additional items and benefits. Obviously there’s more too it than that, but you can get a fuller description of the gameplay from our review of Reign of Heroes, because Darklords Rising is the same as far as the basic elements are concerned.
If you didn’t follow that link, you’ve probably played Warlords before or are at least familiar with the concept and just want to know what’s new. Well, here goes. One of the new things in Darklords Rising is the fact that there are now five new hero classes: summoner, alchemist, monk, bard, and barbarian. Each brings a variety of characteristics to a table already crowded with hero types. For example, the summoner and alchemist have lower hits than fighter heroes, but have the ability to use special skills like summoning or creating special beings (i.e., demons, golems) or using special attacks and spells (i.e., teleport, wall of force). Speaking of spells, there’s a number of those too, fifteen to be exact. Lifesbane is the most powerful of the lot and summons skeletons, wights, wraiths, and undead beasts (all at once). There are a number of other spells that will summon golems, items, demons, and other things. Other spells give units improved abilities like bonuses in fear, poison, siege, and leadership.
There are lots of new armies in Darklords Rising. On one hand you have bats, archers, and barbarians. On the other are the more serious units, like fire and ice demons and black dragons. Several siege armies have been added and include cave wyrms and catapults, which are great for attacking heavily fortified cities. Since you can’t have new armies without also adding some new abilities, Darklords Rising adds some of those too, like lightning, acid, and curse. Two very nice abilities in the game are banding and warding. Banding is like a multiplier for certain armies, and gives them added strength when several are included in a stack together. Essentially, each individual unit of a certain type fights with the the total strength of all of those units in the stack. So three peasant armies in a stack, each with a strength of one, will actually have a strength of three if they have banding. Warding is a protective bonus against acid, lightning, and assassination bonuses. Basically this makes a few of the lesser units more useful because they provide protection that more powerful and expensive units can’t (i.e., knights vs. knight lords).
You’ll find that the campaign and all of the scenarios from Reign of Heroes have been included in Darklords Rising, which is a very nice touch. You’ll find two short and two long campaigns have been added, as well as the ability to play new standalone scenarios and use the random map generator. Throw in the editors that come with the game, and you’ve got enough gameplay to satisfy any Warlords junkie. Each of the campaigns allows you to play as a different side, and they do vary enough from one another to make things interesting. Plus, they give you ample opportunity to try the new heroes, spells, armies, and so forth.
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