Available: Q1 2005

Battle Mages: Sign of Darkness © Targem Games / Buka Entertainment
Preview By: Dennis Sloutsky

Battle Mages released at the beginning of this year was one of the sleeper hits of 2004 – with its combination of RTS/RPG gameplay and slick looking graphics, the game has found its way into the hearts of thousands of gamers worldwide. Now, so not to disappoint the fans, developer Targem Games and producer Buka Entertainment are hard at work on an expansion pack for the game, dubbed Sign of Darkness. Here's a short snip of the plot, as provided on the official website.

A thousand years had passed since the great battle between the Lord of Chaos and the forces of the Order. Little by little, life returned back to normal. The rulers of Humans, Elves and Dwarves became allies; and Daenmor land, their new home, was divided into Human Empire, Elven Woods and Dwarwen dungeons. Only the Orcs, eternal rebels continued their raids, but they were soon pacified by well organized Imperial army.

The Mage Guild, created by humans who have discovered magic properties of the Crystals, became the most potent organization of the new world. The Guild’s towers may be found all over Daenmor and the chosen few can freely travel between them. Thanks to the mages who put an end to famine and diseases, the golden age of peace and welfare has come.

The story begins, when a young neophyte journeys north, to learn from an eccentric wizard, one of the most ancient and powerful Guild’s members. The apprentice doesn’t know yet, that his teacher-to-be is one of the Keepers, and that his destiny is to become a catalyst for the events, that will make Daenmor shudder...

Fans of the original game will be happy to know that the expansion pack will feature four new campaigns, including a campaign for the Undead, which could not be controlled in the original game (and who also have a new school of magic available for them – Dark Magic). Each campaign will feature a unique hero character (mage), armed by his own sort of magic and supported by his own kind of troops. Speaking of the troops, the Dwarf race is now also a playable side in the game, and it obviously means that some new troop types are now available, as well as upgrades for them.

A very important new feature added in troops management, is the ability to carry over surviving units from one mission to another, which might be quite handy in order to assemble an army of “super-units”. The game engine itself has been vastly improved, and now it features real-time day/night and weather conditions. In addition to this, the guys from Targem Games really took players' input close to heart, and have also overhauled the game's control interface and units' control options, and added lots of new items and artifacts. All that in addition to spending long hours on creating 16 new game maps (each of which will take up to 3 hours to complete), with dozens of dynamic quests and optional tasks...

Not all expansion packs are bound to be better than the games that spawned them, but Battle Mages: Signs of Darkness, seems to be one of those few that managed to do that. We'll keep you informed about this title, as it's currently closing to completion, with projected release date of Q1 2005.