Age of Wonders is still somewhat of a question mark

A world of high fantasy and adventure awaits you in the Age of Wonders. You are the supreme ruler of the race of your choice ( Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, High Men, Azracs [desert dwelling humans], Frostlings [cold dwelling goblin like race], Humans, Lizardmen, Dark Elves, Goblins, Orcs or Undead ). Your goal in Age of Wonders is to lead your race to supremacy over the others (your choice of computer and / or Internet opponents ) in this turn-based city centered simulation of the times of wizardry and warriors. Players of the Warlords series will notice a similarity when they play Age of Wonders.

Each race starts in a single city with the capability to build two units and install one. New units are a function of the size of the city and the race you are playing. Each city can be upgraded, allowing for new units to be produced there. In order to produce a new unit, however, it must first be installed.

This represents the preparation necessary to train and accommodate a new unit type in the city. Once this installation is over then the city can start producing these new units. Each unit takes a set number of turns to build (which is displayed when the unit in question is clicked on) and up to five units, upgrades, etc., can be queued up which cuts down on the constant need to check cities after they produce something. Now you must take your forces out and conquer the surrounding cities and begin the road to being the supreme ruler of the area.

In addition to cities, there are other structures to be placed under your benevolent control. They include mines, various buildings that help nearby cities, wizard towers ( where spells may be purchased ) and power nodes, useful in generating magic power. Caves allow you to travel underground and in some cases provide shortcuts from place to place on the surface, for those races that can travel underground. There are also exploration sites, where treasure, allies or instant death can await your leader and heroes and the troops they control. The entire force can assist the leader or hero in defeating the guardians of these assorted exploration sites. There are also teleporter sites for instant travel from point to point, but be careful as the destination may be guarded by other forces that do not want you in their areas.

The magic system is much more intricate than others in this genre. There are eight spheres of magic which include Life, Death, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Cosmos ( generalized spells ) and Special ( powerful spells which can not be learned but must be discovered ). The first six spheres are the area of specialization for your leader and heroes based on the choices you make when starting a new game. You utilize your leader s research skill to research new spells.

Cities, though, are the center of importance for success in Age of Wonders. Each city, once captured, may produce a variety of units, install new units to produce, be upgraded to allow for new units types or just sit and generate revenue for your war effort. And lots of resources will be necessary for this purpose. Troops all require a certain amount of resources to maintain each turn, based on the type of unit it is ( this information is also shown when deciding what to produce at any city ). Larger more powerful units require more maintenance than do the ones you start with.

As in any game of this type combat is frequent and bloody in Age of Wonders. Combat can either be handled by the computer, as in Warlords, or you can opt to take personal control of the combat, in which case the scene changes to a detailed depiction of the area being fought over. You then control the movement and actions of the troops under your control. I personally loved the ability to control the various units in combat and enjoyed the uniqueness of the animated fight sequences when units clashed.

The gaming area was beautifully depicted and was a joy to wander around in and discover new and exciting things that were put into this game. Tactical combat maps are also exquisitely depicted complete with opening doors and gates and line of sight obstructions like trees and hills. All in all this is a very visually pleasing game to play.

The minimum requirements for this game is a Pentium 166 MHz processor with a Pentium II 266 MHz processor recommended. My original test machine is somewhat between these two and has a 266 MHz Pentium processor. Based on the games performance on this machine, I would not recommend it be run on a minimum configuration machine. I would recommend a 300 MHz plus Pentium II in order to get acceptable performance out of this game. If you enjoy this type of wargame, and are running a 300 MHz or better Pentium II computer I believe that the game would be a welcome addition to your collection.

I received an upgrade to a 500 MHZ Pentium III for Christmas and ran this game on it. It is indeed a different game. In simultaneous mode all the computer opponents were done before I was and tactical combat was a pleasure to behold and take part of. This is certainly a worthwhile game if you have a 300 MHZ Pentium II or better machine!

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