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Review by: Jim Brumbaugh
Published: October 8, 1997
The world of Etheria is under attack. The year is 1232 S.E., representing nearly one-and-one-quarter millennia since the founding of the Selentine Empire. A profane alliance between Lord Bane, the fabled Dark Horseman of Death, and Lord Sartek, the Dark Horsemen of War, is now threatening the Empire. After capturing the lands and ports of the High Elves in the Northern Tundra, their campaign of death and destruction has taken a southern turn — to the Selentine Coast. As they descend upon the homeland of Siria, it is the destiny of the Sirian Knights to reclaim captured lands and drive the evil forces of Chaos and the Undead back to the hell from whence they came.
In Warlords III: Reign of Heroes, the player is in command of mighty armies, led by Heroes who have been endowed with unique military qualities. Through a use of superior military force, and the discovery of abilities that will enhance the attack and defense values of Heroes and those armies traveling with them, the player must crush all opponents on the map until none but his own are left standing.
The first basic unit of Warlords III is the army, and about sixty different types of armies can be encountered in the game. Types of armies include standards like Cavalry, Infantry and Archers, and they extend to more unconventional units such as Undead Beasts, Pegasi and Elementals. Each Warlord in the game has access to only certain kinds of these units, which is just one of the many elements of play that can be configured prior to beginning a new game.
The second basic unit is that of the Hero. Heroes will make themselves available to the player — for a price, of course — at various points throughout each game. Heroes are vital to the player’s cause, mainly because they can perform so many tasks that other units can’t. First, they can search ruins found throughout the land, in an effort to locate gold, information, magical items, mana crystals, or powerful allies which will volunteer to join the player’s troops. Second, they can embark upon quests which will garner a reward. Quests come in easy, medium and hard varieties, and the reward provided for completing a quest increases with the difficulty of the quest assigned. Third, they gain experience by searching ruins, completing quests, conquering cities and defending against enemies. As a Hero gains experience, he/she advances through ten different experience levels. At the point of attainment of each level, the Hero gains ability points which can be spent to provide the Hero with new abilities, or to increase the strength of existing ones. Fourth, Hero units have the ability to use magical items and, eventually, certain classes of Heroes can cast magical spells. These spells are learned through the expenditure of ability points, and a spell can be put in play by a Hero if there is enough of the right color of mana to cast and maintain it.
Other than units and ruins, the other items which will appear on the Warlords III map are cities and sites. The acquisition of cities is one of the most important activities in the game, as the whole point is to eliminate the other players from the map. Cities appear in one of four levels: Razed, Village, Fort or Castle, and Stronghold or Citadel. Given that the player has enough gold, he can increase the level of one of his cities simply by paying the appropriate price for the level of increase desired. As the level of a city increases, not only does the defensive bonus of the city grow, but the amount of gold and mana produced by that city every turn also multiplies. The player also produces military units from within his cities, and he can also obtain a new quest when visiting a city. Sites are places on the map other than cities and ruins, and they consist of special locations such as ports, shrines, mines and stables. All sites except for the shrine lend some sort of bonus to the nearest city, such as an increase in income for that city, or additional strength or movement for units created there. The shrine, in addition to blessing all armies produced in the nearest city, also blesses all units which move over the shrine. This action not only provides a one-time increase to the strength of each unit, but also cures the units of disease and poisoning.
For the player of Warlords III, there are a great number of play options to keep him occupied for a long time. First, “The Banewars” is a complete campaign consisting of ten different scenarios. In this campaign, not only can the player develop Heroes in each scenario, but he also has the opportunity to bring some of them forward to a new scenario as he progresses through the campaign. In addition to the campaign, thirteen additional scenarios are included in the product. One of them is a recreation of Illuria, the only map which appeared in the original Warlords. If these scenarios are not enough to keep the player interested, the random map generator will allow the player to set up any type of game he might wish. Literally thousands of different maps can be generated, which include the ability to set the size of the map, and to specify the number of cities, ruins and sites that appear. In the event that the player desires a different type of challenge, Warlords III can be played via LAN, internet, modem or E-mail. Additionally, Red Orb has a game matching and chat service on the internet called the Red Orb Zone, and software is included on the Warlords III disc to get the player up and running on the free Mplayer internet gaming service.
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