Age of Wonders 3 is a fantasy/strategy game that is enjoyable and fun once you learn the game mechanics. However, fantastic combat aside, it can seem slightly shallow at times compared to other strategy games especially when it comes to the victory conditions.
I played several games mostly focused on the random maps as I found the scenarios tedious with the slightest misstep leading to the game over menu. Victory conditions are limited to wiping out the enemy… and that seemed about it. I didn’t find any other ways to win the game as I attempted to learn the game myself without the aid of a guide or researching online. Having multiple victory conditions can greatly enhance a strategy game of this nature in the same vein as Endless Legend or Civilization.
As part of these victory conditions during scenarios, your main hero(s) cannot die or you will have the privilege of viewing the end game menu. For me, this defeated the purpose of even having hero units as you were basically forced to keep them back away from battles, preferably defending your cities. However, on random maps, your heroes, including your main one, will respawn at the throne city after several rounds if they are defeated. You will only lose if your hero dies and you lose your throne city. Also, cities without armies are completely defenseless and will be taken over instantly by an invading army, therefore forcing you to defend each and every city with a full army of 6 units for fear of losing it. If your gold is limited, this could keep you from amassing a large assault army when taking over the enemy. This is balanced better as you build the buildings that you need in your cities and can then have them focus on increasing gold output which allows for more armies.
Combat is highly enjoyable and far better than other similar games. I found a wide variety of different combat maps. One of my favorites was the city maps where you had to breach the walls or attack the gates until they crumbled. Some units can sabotage the walls while others, such as trebuchets, are meant for specifically attacking walls and gates. Having several armies invade a city is great fun. But I did find myself skipping some of these battles due to time. Also, you are given a likely outcome of the battle which can tempt you to skip over them.
The Eternal Lords expansion pack adds a new class, two new races, several leader specializations, and some other features including cosmic happenings. I found the two new races enjoyable but they lacked features that stood out. Many of the starting units between the races are similar but as you advance your cities and research new spells and units, you will find the late game units standing out more. I especially enjoyed a rogue-type unit that could attack once per battle without receiving retaliation. Some of the side units such as dragons, which can fly, are a lot of fun as are some of the units you can summon such as the Horned Gods which seem to destroy everything in their path.
I played a random map as several of the classes but didn’t find a lot of significant differences between them. Your main hero has different abilities depending on its class but you can recruit several more heroes and all their skills begin to blend together. You are able to research different spells and unlock different units depending on your class. In the end, the classes blended together and I didn’t find one that I really preferred over the others except for maybe the units they could spawn.
Some of the features such as the cosmic happenings add variety to the game overall but are minor changes more than anything else. The treasure sites were also nice and offered up good rewards but at times felt full of overpowered armies that you send cannon fodder at until their health is whittled down. There are definitely enemies that you want to stay far away from unless you have several armies and were willing to sacrifice numerous units or you want to wait and unlock more advanced units later.
Overall, Age of Wonders 3 and the Eternal Lords expansion are fun and keep bringing me back even when I’d lost and not been sure why. With limited time, many adults like me want to play enjoyable games and can easily get distracted by the next game if one doesn’t “click” right away. Age of Wonders 3: Eternal Lords didn’t click right away but I kept coming back for more as I figured it out and that’s a sign of a good game. A few gameplay features aside, Age of Wonders 3: Eternal Lords is a great game and worth your time. I’ll definitely be playing it some more.