by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Master of Magic was the High Fantasy equivalent of Master of Orion. The game never gained the amazing momentum and fame of its space-themed older brother, in part due to lower production values and less advertising. You wouldn’t know it talking to its fans though. Anyone who played and loved the game will speak about it with endless enthusiasm and it is that very same enthusiasm that got the spiritual successor Worlds of Magic funded during its Kickstarter campaign.
That was three years ago, and the game is out but I would not call it finished. Worse still, the game doesn’t look all that much like it was portrayed while Wastelands Interactive was trying to raise money.
Worlds of Magic
Backtracking a little bit, Worlds of Magic is a 4X strategy game. Players take the helm of a budding empire and lead it to become the largest, most powerful empire on the face of the planet. Part of the game plays out on a campaign map filled with cities, armies, and unique locations that can yield a variety of rewards. Many of these have guards that keep would-be conquerors at bay during the early stages of the game.
Naturally, you are not the only one with designs upon the planet’s throne. AI players will occupy the empty slots that you define in the game setup screens and can be befriended or fought. How you fight them is somewhat up to you. Leading your people as a Sorcerer Lord, you support them with an incredible set of magic spells across illustrious sounding schools such as Augmentation and Biomancy. Choosing to create your own Lord gives you complete freedom over schools and starting spells.
Master, it is not
I would not fault anyone for thinking that the above sounds exactly like Master of Magic. Technically, it is, but there is so much wrong with the game that I’d rather muck about with DOSBox and play the old classic. Simply put, Worlds of Magic is horribly broken and lacks any sort of polish.
The clunky campaign map looks nothing like it does in the “Gameplay First Teaser” video that was used in the Kickstarter campaign. If I’d have to describe it, I would liken it to a Pin Art toy with oversized bumps and far too square-looking. Adding insult to injury, it is so littered with “bulky stuff” and unnecessary icons that it is difficult to make your way through the visual chaos. Granted, the tile textures look warm and varied, as do objects, and the chosen graphical style is appealing but the blockiness and chaos negates any of those positives.
Things progress from bad to worse when you enter the game’s tactical combat sessions. If the campaign map looked unappealing, the combat arena looks downright depressing. And again, it looks nothing like the gameplay teaser which featured all kinds of interesting looking objects and obstacles, dynamic lighting and far more exaggerated size differences in units from various races. In reality, the map looks barren with only the occasional rock or city wall breaking up the monotony. Unit animation is capable though not brilliant, but the same cannot be said about spells and ranged weapons. These - if the effect’s animation isn’t actually missing - feel stiff and inorganic.
Inviting art style, good character customization.
Where do I start.