10/14 – Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic
Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.
The 4X strategy genre is an interesting one to follow. The genre has always been niche and has certainly had its ups and downs but despite this, there has always been a fairly steady influx of new games in the genre. Still, most fans stuck to a couple very well known names: Master of Orion, Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic being the most prominent by far. It was tough for any newcomers to break fans off from these series. Yet still, developers continued to try. One series that did manage to foster its own dedicated community was Age of Wonders. Today’s game is the third entry in the Age of Wonders series: Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, developed by Triumph Studios and released for Windows in 2003.
Just getting this out of the way up front, despite the name, Age of Wonders 3 is actually the fourth entry in the Age of Wonders series, coming out 11 years after Shadow Magic. Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic takes significant inspiration from Master of Magic and will seem very familiar to fans of that game. Players start custom games by choosing a race from one of 15 different options and then crafting a wizard to guide that race. Wizards can be customized by dedicating them to various different types of magic such as Fire magic, Water magic or Death magic. Dedicating your wizard to only one domain will make them less flexible but will give them significantly stronger spells later in the game.
Once players choose their races and wizards, they are given a city and some starting units and resources. Like most 4X games, players must build out their empire by maneuvering their armies and strengthening their cities. Unlike most 4X games, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic actually has players play out each battle in a turn-based tactical map, similar to battles in Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea. Each unit has its own stats and abilities that the player can customize and utilize as units level up and get stronger. Players can also hire heroes to lead each group that has their own leveling tree. Finally, by building up the kingdom, players can expand their Wizard’s domain, or their range of influence on the world map. If a battle takes place in a Wizard’s domain, that Wizard can cast spells, directly affecting the battle even if the wizard isn’t physically there.
Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic has a single-player campaign, allowing players to play through the storyline about the encroaching Shadow World, a layer of darkness that contains demons seeking to take over the overworld. This campaign contains a significant amount of special scenarios for players to play out against the AI. The game also has online multiplayer for up to 8 players.
Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic was well received in 2003 and though there was some confusion about whether it was an expansion or a true sequel to 2002’s Age of Wonders 2, especially considering it used the same graphics engine, there were enough gameplay changes and additions that fans welcomed the new entry to the franchise. The entire Age of Wonders series, including Shadow Magic, is currently available on GOG and a fan community continues to support the game with fan-run tournaments and unofficial patches to this day.
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