Published on October 14th, 2014 | by Tony Odett0
Age of Wonders 3: Golden Realms Review
Summary: The first DLC to Age of Wonders III is a homerun, with a fun new race, a new campaign, and a ton of extra content.
Strategy games have a certain reputation- stuff, buttoned-up, dry think-fests. People think they lack color in favor of complexity. Lighthearted humor tends to infrequently enter the equation. This is why I appreciate the new Golden Realms expansion to Age of Wonders III. This DLC confounds those expectations, offering hilarity and nuance to a game that needed that sort of depth, not to its strategic models, but to its personality.
Golden Realms is the first major content pack to Age of Wonders III. Its two major additions (excepting the mechanical upgrades) are the new Halfing race and a matching Halfing campaign. In comparison to the original set of races, I found the halflings to be more delightful and humorous than any of them. Their race-specific units included farmers that could launch chickens to confuse their opponents, jesters that launched rockets to hurt their foes (clearly inspired by a certain pair of mischievous hobbits), and a unit that could make a feast in the midst of battle to both heal friendly units and increase morale. The Halflings are fun and amusing to use. They do include the more standard mage/nightwatch/rider-type units, but I found my armies always included the more compelling race-specific ones. Not only were they fun to watch, but they presented unique challenges to employ in battle.
The Halflings seem to be a cross between hobbits and leprechauns, as the poster child for the game’s new luck mechanic. While in the past, hits were always guaranteed, Halflings have a chance to dodge attacks completely using luck. When they do so, the Halfling units are surrounded by an explosion of (I kid you not) four leaf clovers. It’s a magically delicious way of giving units a chance even in situations where it seems they should be completely destroyed. Luck is dependant upon keeping your units in good order, though so making sure your Halflings avoid getting covered in poop is a must.
I’m actually not kidding about the poop. Golden Realms includes a number of new wandering monster units, one of which is a poop-throwing monkey. Closing the range doesn’t help you out either, as melee units will also be overcome by the stench as they close the range. I’ve never laughed quite as hard during a 4X game as the first time I saw my units pelted by that unexpected projectile.
Poop units aside, Golden Realms includes a brand new campaign, which, while only maps long, is quite entertaining and much less formulaic than the original two campaigns. The Halfings lose their homeland and their leaders, and flee to new begins. These beginnings see them divided, in civil war, while simultaneously trying to rebuild to combat outside threats. It’s a nice storyline and worth a playthrough.
Golden Realms also adds a litany of new units, maps, treasure locations and units. It’s a very good add-on pack. The pack doesn’t make any essential changes to the core game, but does give a bunch of reasons for veteran players to jump back in. Additionally, new players, who were looking for a little bit more “fun” than the core game provided, will appreciate the Halflings and their unique brand of humor. That said, this is definitely targeted at gamers who have already played quite a bit of Age of Wonders III, and those that have will find good reason to spend a whole lot more time with the game.
Golden Realms was reviewed using a copy of the DLC provided by the developer.