Now that the fifth Beta phase has been issued for Sorcerer King it’s high time RealGamerNewz drops our thoughts and feelings on the direction the title has been heading in thus far, the development studio’s vision for those who don’t know yet, and a general impression on how that vision is actually being delivered. Most importantly, whether or not this game is even fun. But first things first, there’s a few things you may not know about me which I’d like to disclose immediately.
A quick internet search will show you that I’ve had my hands on two of Stardock’s other games in this genre (4X Turn-Based Strategy), namely Fallen Enchantress and Elemental: War of Magic. My experiences were not pleasant and the Reviews I provided reflect that loud and clear while still giving readers an idea of their redeeming qualities. The first one, Elemental, even came with a full length book. This prompted me to attempt and bring Brad Wardell onto a Podcast of the publication I was contributing for when I made the Review. Ever the busy guy, Brad apparently never got a chance to respond. Looking back I sincerely wish that I had tried harder, since now a ton of controversy has rained down on the industry and I feel it’s all tainted the developer to press relationship quite a bit, while at the same time causing far more open transparency (albeit through callous methods). That is neither here nor there for the purpose of this Preview though, but suffice to say I found it odd when Fallen Enchantress was released and had almost everything wrong with it that Elemental did (despite clear attempts from the dev team not to) yet the press gave glowing Reviews with high scores. I might have been a bit too harsh on it, but I lambasted it for being a re-hash and even felt that Wardell himself just didn’t know when to give up on a concept after I had played it.
So with all of this personal history / bias in mind, on walks Sorcerer King to my doorstep. Is it different enough? Is it good enough? Or is Stardock Entertainment just really good at PR and Marketing now? I dug in hoping to find out… Giving every game a clean slate to be judged on regardless of who made it or the past iterations is a concept I take seriously a member of the gaming media. Forgive, but don’t forget might not be an accurate way of describing this – but let’s just say that doesn’t mean I won’t notice repeating trends nor ignore them. With that all in mind I’m thankful to be able to say that Sorcerer King is a lot better than the previous two games I have mentioned, while still stubbornly carrying out their legacy. Before I deliver some of how I feel the game has improved, I would like to speak about the developers’ vision for this game and the genre overall for those who might be reading and wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into with this abnormally upfront Preview.
After watching many developer streams I’ve come to understand what the team is going for this time around. A more approachable game that gets things right the first time rather than asking the player to bend over backwards to understand it. As for my own personal thoughts, I am pleased with what has become of this turn-based strategy series. Sorcerer King is distinguished and very different from its predecessors in many ways. Most immediately recognizable is the fact that the game is simply much easier to learn, more clear and obvious in its functionality, and most importantly – it’s more fun. Even without cutscenes players will be able to grasp the story being told here. While a few very advanced strategists can point out features and details that need re-tooling, the game is finally complete in that any player of the Strategy genre will be able to approach it without prior knowledge of the series.
Stardock Entertainment has truly produced something worthwhile with Sorcerer King. Although some polish on balance can be expected before the final release, it feels almost finished already, which makes me feel confident in this evaluation. Normally for Previews we like to stick with being informative versus evaluative, but given the history of the franchise and the high price point of entry for users it felt necessary to be judgmental. Now let’s talk about the actual details of how Sorcerer King games play out mechanically speaking.
– Build outposts to expand your territory, claim resources as your own in order to defend the world against prime evil
– Train units to expand your armies, stack them and bring dozens into each battle
– Upgrade your city with buildings that unlock a more advanced civilization, and enhance your army (among many other things)
– Gain spells, champion attributes, resource modifiers, and much more as your units and structures level up
– Craft potions, weapons, equip individual units with everything they need, auto resolve battles, or fight them out manually in strategy RPG grid style fights (some battles cannot be skipped)
– Come across interesting and varying random encounters with your choices impacting what happens in the immediate moment as well as eventual future such as robbing people, recruiting people, saving people from monsters, doing deals with neutral parties within kingdoms you wish to sway back to your side and away from the sorcerer king, and much more
All the while the Sorcerer King himself will continue to visit you and try to tempt you to join his side or at least accept his aid. It seems like a terrible idea and it’s probably better to maintain your honor in this quest since the world is depending on you as the last kingdom around. Engine performance issues are less than expected given the instability of the previous two games in the series, but there are still hiccups in frame rate and loading which is a shame. Of course, that could easily be a symptom of the game not being done yet, as it is still in Early Access, and I have not experienced anything game-breaking nor trudging along levels of slowdown.
There is so much to say about this game and much of it is good. It’s very deep and diverse gameplay, lore, and beautiful presentation make it a must have title for strategy fans of any caliber. Finally it is possible to really understand what you are doing and function in the game without being a completely obsessed person scouring every detail. But this isn’t what everybody in the existing fan-base had wanted.
Some features have been “dumbed down” or removed entirely for the favor of making this game a better title for the overall gaming public. I want to personally thank Stardock Entertainment for making that difficult decision and executing it gracefully (most of what is lacking is actually in the game in some form, telling me that the dev team tried their hardest to avoid leaving things out) and while normally I’m against this practice in games, it made sense for this one. The games that came before it were simply not that good in my humble opinion and though I sympathize with strategy fans who meticulously frothed at the mouth over tiny details and statistical charts they were influencing, Sorcerer King is simply a better, more complete package.
Perhaps since the game is still in Early Access Stardock still has time to add back in some of the pieces that players are missing. But as it stands, this game is an amazing accomplishment bridging the gap between good design, responsible scope of core systems, and ridiculously ambitious scale. I look forward to possibly giving more Early Access Impressions, and definitely performing a Full Review upon release, though it will probably be around four thousand words or more because there is so much to cover in Sorcerer King. If you love the Strategy genre, buy this now.