Have you ever felt love’s selfish prick? Have you ever taken a member of the opposite sex to a candle lit dinner, made sweet talk and conned them into coming back to your place? Yes? Ok, now imagine you were about to get lucky only for your beloved to repeat the same line of dialogue over and over until you were forced to reboot them and go through all that seduction bullshit again. Well, if you had played Eador: Masters of the Broken World while trying to finish your exams then you may have gotten a little of that experience.
Developed by Snowbird Games (the Russian dudes who made Eador Genesis), E:MOTBW is a turn based strategy game concerning a broken world named Eador. The leaders of various shards (areas) are controlled by mysterious gods (the players), who are having a massive punch-up to see who will get to superglue it back together again. Now, leave your realism blinkers off readers, because this clearly isn’t a game for those of you showering the screen with high class academic champagne and barely contained physics based rage. This is a game for the escapists amongst you who want to while away their time conquering fantasy lands. But is it up to par? Well let us crack open its chest and take a look inside shall we?
This is always an odd thing to judge strategy games on, as the graphics ideally shouldn’t be so backward and ancient that you can barely tell friend from foe (see Age Of Empires 1 for an example) while at the same time they should not being so extravagant that the frame rate makes it look like you’re walking through an art gallery (see Shogun 2). But the graphics here seem to be well within the sweet spot, they're visually appealing without making my laptop start tying a noose, and actually give the game a sense of epicness about it. It makes it a lot easier to care about adding more shards to your pane when they look like genuinely nice places that someone might actually live.
...Errrrrrrm...well it isn’t what I was expecting. It was pitched to me as a rather leisurely turn based game that you can run on a different window whilst finding other ways to procrastinate. But in reality, it is farrrrrrrr (rrrrrrrr) more intense than that. There is simply no time for rest whatsoever, and I find that marvellously refreshing for turn based strategy. It's not something you stick on and fiddle with for a bit before running off to pass the time while the other dude has a go. You will be glued to the screen constantly in order to keep track of the numerous things that will inevitably go wrong.
The difficulty is high, not obscenely high as some friends have been telling me (smug gamer smirk), but certainly more challenging than most. On the one hand literally everything has very high stakes, as the shards you choose to conquer also determine the abilities you can use in later conquests, such as stables or different spells, so it definitely holds your attention more than other turn based games. But the complexity isn’t as great as many people have claimed, it’s certainly easier to understand than most of the things Paradox Interactive have made for example.
There was one thing that did turn me off the game though. BUGS! LOADS OF EM! Fortunately many of these appear to have been patched out , and most of those issues no longer exist, but my god, there were so many. Crashes behind menu screens, not being able to close dialogue screens, enemies vanishing before reappearing with full health, the works. But as I say, these have been mostly whittled out. This would usually lead me to say that they don’t matter, but seeing as this game is on the Greenlight, one more cynical than myself might say that had more to do with Valve fiddling with it than Snowbird...
This cannot be called ‘grand strategy’, it's more ‘long term strategy’, but this is where I feel there may be a problem. While the strategy pussies of the world will complain that the game is too hard, there is guaranteed to be an opposing camp of people arguing the opposite (not because it really is too easy, but simply to spite the first camp) and my fear is that people will feel pressured to join one or the other rather than form some sort of middle camp where I could sit. I don’t find the game easy by any stretch, the constant worry over bases, expansion, construction, spells, heroes and stuff means that you are almost constantly on your toes, and I think more people should appreciate it for what it is.
It’s certainly a lot more energetic than Advanced Wars or Pokemon, but it isn’t quite as stressful as Crusader Kings 2, so there must be some sort of market for it. I sure as hell had fun with it and I went in believing it to be something laid back and easy, so instead of being frightened by all the My Little Pony watchers wailing about difficulty or being dismissive like the grand strategy anoraks, buy the game (did I mention that it was actually worth buying?), dedicate a few hours to getting to grips with it, and I’m sure that like me, you will find yourself rather charmed by it.