Welcome back to another Game of the Year list. This year, I’ve tweaked the format again — many of the games I played in 2014 were released in previous years. Sometimes, I played the old game “as is”; sometimes, I played a new port or an expanded version of the old game. So I’ve broken this post down into two parts. First, I review the accomplishments of 2014. And second, I take a look back at the notable games I played, whether or not they were originally released that year.
A few years ago, I linked to an alternate genre classification system for games, as proposed by Russ Pitts and Steve Butts in The Escapist magazine. I paraphrased their system as follows:
- Action vs Strategy deals with how you play the game. Action games emphasise the player’s physical skill at controlling his/her on-screen avatar. Strategy games, on the other hand, are about planning, analysis, and working out how to get the most out of the avatar(s), rather than about direct control.
- Exploration vs Conflict, meanwhile, focuses on what you have to overcome. Does the challenge in the game come from defeating opponents who are playing the same game you are, with the same objectives? Or does it come from discovering and overcoming the environment? The former, what Soren Johnson might call a “symmetrical” game, is Conflict. The latter is Exploration.
You can see this in the following chart from the Escapist article: games that require reflexes (such as shooters, racing games, and platformers) are at the top of the circle, while those that don’t are at the bottom. Citybuilders, which pit the player against an impersonal environment or ruleset, are on the left; Civilization is on the right.
I thought of this while playing Warlock 2: The Exiled, a game that looks like fantasy Civilization V but is really — to quote Rachel’s guest review — about “mage versus world”. The AI players in my game have been passive, content to march their armies back and forth and beg me for alliances; in Civ, this would have been a recipe for boredom, but in Warlock 2 the slack is taken up by wave after wave of wandering monsters, all the way up to dragons!
My first scout killed some cockroaches and some wolves, then was mauled by a giant bear.
My second scout found some demonic trees and was turned into fertilizer before he could retreat.
My third scout killed some wolves and some weak spiders, reached level 3, and was immediately eaten by the giant killer spider lurking behind the weak spiders.
My fourth scout was diverted to help clean up a rogue infestation near my second city. After that he headed out into the fog and had dinner with some angry zombies. He was the main course.
My fifth scout killed the bear that killed my first scout, and discovered ogres. This was not a fortuitous discovery.
My sixth scout survived until the end of the game despite some hairy moments involving fire elementals, imps, vampire lords, sand golems…
My seventh scout found a trio of polar bearmen.
As the sequel to 2012’s Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Warlock 2 builds on that foundation and manages to make its predecessor all but obsolete. Warlock 2 offers most of 1‘s content, along with a bevy of new features, systems, modes, options and content. Unfortunately it also inherited the first game’s biggest flaw: weak AI opponents. As such, the game’s world is your main opponent, and what a hostile, merciless opponent it can be! The list above is a fairly standard record of the first 20 turns of my Warlock 2 games.
When I reviewed Warlock 1 at release I found it to be enjoyable, and a little unusual. It looked like Civilisation V, a similarity which only ran skin-deep. Far from being a 4X empire builder, it was a tactical wargame powered by copious magic, a hostile world, and unhinged comedy. Warlock 2 is no different, and in the crowded turn-based fantasy strategy game market of 2014 that’s all the more important. Warlock 2 is not directly comparable to Age of Wonders III, Endless Legend, Elemental, Eador, or any of the other releases which we’ve seen in the last year.