Warlords III: Darklords Rising
If I told you that last summer I chose to spend more than 80 per cent of my spare time locked in a darkened room playing a turn-based strategy game, you'd probably think I was certifiable. Despite the sunny weather, the abundance of top London totty, and countless party invites, this sad, humble reviewer found himself gripped by a gaming addiction so powerful that it almost caused him to lose his mind. The drug: Warlords III: Reign Of Heroes.
On the surface it seemed rather unassuming (especially by Quake 2 standards, the benchmark to end all benchmarks at that time), with its shitty, spoddy graphics and cliched scenarios - not to mention orcs and goblins (gleurk!) and turn-based gameplay - but once consumed and digested it proved nothing short of blindingly addictive. For me - as I'm sure was the same for all other Warlords 3 addicts at the time -hours turned to days, turned to weeks, turned to months. I could forget daylight. So it was with trepidation that I approached this all-new/all-improved Warlords 3 title in fear of a repeat of past excesses.
For those who don't know: the original Warlords III came oul about a year ago through Red Orb. It featured one excellent campaign (Bane Wars), 12 one-off scenarios, a random map generator and loads of multiplayer features. It scored a straight 90 per cent and surprised us all. Darklords Rising, although a standalone game in its own right, is an update that incorporates all the above features plus a whole load more. Four new campaigns have been implemented: Drak-Dum - a dwarven assault on an underground fortress; Thalassia -civil war in the grasslands of Thalassia; The Horn of Kor - orcs fighting for the return of a stolen artefact; and, most interestingly, Bane's Revenge - a subtle twist of roles which sees you on the side of evil, fighting against the scourge of good. All are well put together, and extremely challenging to boot.
Fifteen new standalone scenarios have also been included, on top of the original 23 from Reign Of Heroes, some of which are bloody weird and very hard to crack. On the multiplayer side of things, developers SSG have incorporated nine different types of play into Darklords Rising (King of the Hill, Fortress, Clash of the Titans, among others), so if you're fully tooled-up with the Internet and can gain access to Broderbund's Red Orb Zone, you can play much more varied games than you ever could before. And there's more - much more: enhanced Al (which seems just as good as it was before - to be honest I didn't really notice any major differences); more heroes (five); more units (31); more spells (19); more special abilities (nine); an enhanced random map generator; and the inclusion of simultaneous turns, which enables you to charge, do battle and retreat in real time. Which is nice.
Next Big Thing
The biggest addition, however, has to be the inclusion of a comprehensive scenario and campaign builder with the package. This enables Warlords III players to create their own games, save them and swap them with their friends. And because the files are small and backwardly compatible with older versions of the game, non-Darklords Rising owners will still be able to play them. Red Orb also plan to make the best ones available for download on their website. The map editor is really easy to use and the documentation is good, so actually building a level is extremely easy. There are a few niggles, such as the lack of a proper Cundo' feature when laying landscape tiles, and the hit-and-miss process of judging brush size, but these are minor faults and will probably be eradicated in future updates (won't they, SSG?).
Once a number of scenarios have been built they can then be strung together using a simple Windows campaign maker, complete with rule tables and text interlude editors. It's all very Cwhat you see is what you get', and it had me occupied for hours on end. In fact, I'm still mucking around with the editor now, and plan to release the results into the public domain at some point in the near future. Stay tuned, Warlords III fans...
But I Bought Reign Of Heroes!
Red Orb, quite rightly, are offering a $10 rebate on Darklords Rising to those who can produce proof of purchase of the original Reign Of Heroes (in my case, a page from the manual). This being the case, current Warlords III owners can get back everything they had before, plus the editor and all these new features and enhancements, for a measly 25 quid. Even for newcomers, Warlords III: Darklords Rising still remains excellent value for money at full price.
It's difficult to convince people to part with their money for a game that looks as seemingly old and outdated as this. However, rest assured that Darklords Rising is great fun and brilliantly designed. It doesn't matter that the game is set in a fantasy world of goblins and mages (you can do what I do, and erase it from your mind using Cmind rubbers'), because the most important thing is that as a turnbased strategy game, it enables you to do exactly what you want with the minimum of fuss and effort. Couple with that a now infinite range of ways to play, and you have what must be one of the most dangerously addictive games ever devised.
Download Warlords III: Darklords Rising
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode