Turn Based Strategy games (TBS) have been harder and harder to find these days. With the exception of a few, I can hardly think of three off hand. Real time Strategy (RTS) seems to be taking over, however, Summitsoft have released a new TBS, Empire of Magic. Is the magical new TBS able to cast a spell on you? Read the rest to find out!
Empire of Magic (EOM) has some great graphics for a TBS, a lot better than I expected. Even with a lack of graphic options, I ran EOM on two systems. The first was an Athlon XP 1400+, 512 mb's ram, and a GeForce 2 MX 400. The second is a Duron 1gh, 192 mb's of ram, and a GeForce 2 MX 200. On both systems, EOM ran flawlessly. Granted the top down view does not really put graphic strain on your computer. Since you are looking down on the game, most of what you see is the terrain and the tops of enemies and your troops. For the most part the spells are visually pleasing. Whether it be beams of light from above or vines wrapping around your army to protect you, the spells are definitely nice to watch.
One of the things I think EOM is lacking most is sounds. There is not a lot of music to speak of. Ambient sounds like water trickling as you walk over a bridge or excavations sounds from the mine as you rescue stranded miners sound as you would expect them to. There are points in the game where characters talk or a narrator reads to you, which in my opinion, is really good. No voice overs that just sound like they are reading from a script in a hurry. I think what kind of bothers me is that there is no sound as you move across the terrain. I think this would have added to the game if you could hear your horse trotting along. Most of the sound in EOM is in battle. Swords and magic missiles smacking your enemy till he falls dead is great.
And now to the most important thing (at least to me) - the gameplay. When you start a single player game of EOM, the first map is the tutorial. As you ride your horse towards the bridge, as it tell you to, scrolls unravel on the screen and give you the general idea of how the game is played. As this does help, the entire tutorial is in the games manual! During the tutorial you start with one hero, as you cross the bridge there are three more guards you may add to your group, however, you are only allowed three to a group and two heroes cannot be put in the same group.
Since I am talking about groups, I will just go over them now. All group members have different attributes according to level and what they are. For example; mages are going to have more magic than a guard. You can access the attributes by right clicking on their portrait. Aside from the attributes, all characters have for bars adjacent from their portrait. These are Hit points (HP), action points (AP), Mana (M), and experience (E). Hit points are pretty self explanitory, Ap is used for movement, combat, and casting spells. Mana is your spell points, run out of these and no casting spells for you!. Experience, well that is basically straight forward. I will mention this about experience; if you are fighting with three people and only one does the fighting, the one that is hitting is the one who will receive the EP, and not your group.
AP and mana, I think, is your biggest concern in EOM. I will go over this a bit. Let’s say you have three people in your group; a horseman with thirty ap, a druid with twenty five ap, and a guard with twenty ap. You can only move as far as the person with the lowest ap, in this case your guard. So lets say you move as far as you can and after you finish your turn, a
skeleton attacks your group. The guard, since he has no ap left, cannot fight. However, the druid and horseman can still fight. This is why watching your ap is so important and where strategy comes in. Of course, you can get rid of the slower group member by left clicking his portrait and then moving the other group members.
Any time you are roaming the map, and there is nothing in the way, you can unpack camp/tent to regenerate lost hp and mana. If your hp is full, then your mana will regenerate. If they are both down then it depends on the character as to what goes up the fastest. Ap only comes back on your next turn. Towns also regenerate mana and hp. Speaking of towns, they are nice to have as you can rest, hire armies, and train in them. After taking a town, you will notice seven slots. The first three are your active group. The three to the right are for armies guarding the city. And the one to the far right is for rest.
The rest slot is also where a hired army from the inn will be. Combat is relatively easy. When you engage an enemy, you go to the combat screen. You will notice a hand beside your portrait, in and out of combat. This is your spells. There are three icons at the bottom of the combat screen; two crossed swords, a boot, and a single sword. The crossed swords are auto battle. Put simply, press this and the computer fights that round for you. The boot is for running away from a battle, which you can only do if you are the attacker. The single sword is for manual combat. Manual combat is fairly simple. Click on the guy you want to fight with, click on the enemy you wish to hit, repeat the first two for your other group members, and the click the single sword.
You may, instead of clicking on the portrait, use a spell. Click the hand, choose your spell and target the enemy or yourself. Spells can also be cast outside of combat. When you use a spell outside of combat, it targets all enemies or friendlies in the group, whereas in combat it only affects one. I find that the magic casting outside of combat is a good addition to the game. Now some of your magic will differ outside and inside combat. For example, magic fingers only appears in battle and it will be flash outside of battle. This adds a lot more strategy to the game as some of the enemies can also cast spells.
Although EOM has multiplayer, I wouldn't recommend this game for multiplayer alone. As the game stands now, you can only play on two maps. Dragon Duel which is 64x32, rectangular, and Rafinery (no that is not a misspelling that is how it is spelled in game) which is 40x40, square. Also, you cannot play over the net, only on a LAN. I played it with my two computers and it was going smooth until I went to next turn. It never went to the next turn! I tried it over TCP/IP and IPX/SPX and had the same problem. I have not been able to find a patch so hopefully this will be resolved soon.
Empire of Magic is a fun and challenging game. Having the action points as a main constituent of the game really makes you think before you
move around the map or engage in a battle. EOM is addictive, as I played it for ten hours straight before stopping to eat. The part of the game I like best is the actual strategy involved. EOM is a good break from all the RTS games that are out. I would recommend Empire of Magic to anyone who likes Disciples 2, Age of Wonder, or the Heroes of Might and Magic series.