Age of Wonders III encourages this type of emergent, player-centric storytelling. The more I play, the more I realize that its strengths come from the unique melding of role-playing and turn-based strategy. It trusts you to create your own rich role-playing experiences and lets you control the narrative through empire-building and a robust tactical battle system. The result is a vibrant, special game that is ruthlessly entertaining. Age of Wonders III’s latest expansion bolsters an already exceptional core with more races to play, a better grand-scale strategy, and an excellent morality system.
Those familiar with the Age of Wonders series, particularly the third installment, will immediately recognize the tactical/strategic duality driving each session. You’d bounce between macro- and micro-management, controlling both the direction and structure of your civilization as well as the outcome of individual battles. However, that two-stage system is hard for any game to pull off well, and it was one of Age of Wonders’ weakest points. While tactical bouts had plenty of variety and the available options made matches thrilling and tense, the large-scale planning lacked depth, leading to a lackluster half. Eternal Lords finally brings enough new features to flesh out the game and cover almost all the base game’s weaknesses.
For starters, two new races (the Frostlings and the Tigrans) are added to the basic Dwarves and Elves. Both have a visual flair and uniqueness all their own. Frostlings, for example, are an offensive race with bonuses for ice magic. They dwell in cold areas and can take advantage of often-barren land to launch raids on more temperate cultures. Tigrans are their natural foil. Based on the mythology of ancient Egyptian culture, they are a quick, desert-dwelling class of felines. They worship the sun and idolize the duality of nature. To wit, Tigrans specialize in necromancy, and they worship the dead as well as the living. This makes Tigrans an ideal pairing for Eternal Lords’ new class–the Necromancer.