Whenever I’m told to play an indie game or am presented one, I generally groan to myself and think, “Great. Another retro 2-D shovelware platformer.” and cry because I get forced to play it. Snowbird Game’s Eador, Masters of the Broken World, however, came as a shock to me because not only was it not a retro 2-D platformer with a world rotation gimmick, the gameplay contained a surprising amount of depth that managed to draw me into the universe and keep me immersed for hours.
There are three main elements to the gameplay: province/empire building, building up your hero, and combat. Empire building most closely resembles that of the Total War series. You have a main hero/general unit that leads lesser units to fight against enemies, who can range from common villagers to monsters to the armies of enemy nobles. These enemies are often standing in the way between you and your attempts to add the province to your kingdom. Movement across the map is turn-based, and a player can only move from one province to another per turn. A player is able to build structures in his main castle/base so that he can enlist a wider variety of troops, use stronger magic, or buy better items to equip his hero with. Provinces can be explored in order to expand its gold output per turn. Exploration doesn’t require much input on the player’s part as you just sit in the province and end turn until you can’t do so anymore. Exploration often leads to more combat scenarios, in addition to getting more loot from these encounters. Guards can be hired to defend provinces and castles from enemy nobles who are also attempting to dominate the map. Random events also appear sporadically which, depending on how they are handled, can lead to unrest from your subjects, eventually leading to revolts. After a map has been conquered, the player then moves onto a different world or shard, as they’re called in the game, to continue domination with a new hero.
There are four main heroes for a player to choose from: the warrior, the commander, the rogue, and the wizard. The warrior is essentially a melee unit who does a lot of damage and can take a lot of punishment, commanders sacrifices the defense and damage of warriors in order to passively buff the troops under his command, rogues specialize in ranged combat, and wizards are…well, wizards. Heroes gain experience from combat to level up, which will improve their stats and allow you to allocate skill points to buff their class skills. Leveling up will also allow you to attach more troops to your hero, so you can fight with larger armies over time. Items such as armor, weaponry, and magic can be purchased from stores or found as loot. You can then equip those items onto the hero unit to make him even stronger. Heroes can eventually specialize in their classes. For example, the wizard can eventually become a necromancer, which is incredibly awesome because necromancers are underrepresented in video games.
The combat system is very similar to that of Civilization V’s where combat is turned based and units move over hexagonal tiles. Units are allotted a certain number of movement points per turn and can only attack once unless they activate an ability that allows them to attack twice in one turn. Unit movement and the ability to fight is governed by their stamina bar. Expend too much and you’ll be forced to stand still for a few turns, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. Units can range from peasant militiamen armed with spears to crossbowmen. Your army doesn’t necessarily have to be composed of humans either; units such as orcs and goblins can be hired to fight for your army as well. Units have Dungeons and Dragons style alignments such as lawful, evil, or neutral, so the game emphasizes placing units with a similar alignment in the same battalion to fight more efficiently. Inversely, if you place an evil goblin in the same platoon as a good priest, they suffer combat penalties due to conflicting alignments. Units, similar to those in Civilization V, can level up individually after gaining experience in combat. Leveling up units leads to improvements such as new abilities like being able to move one more tile or simply gaining more stats.
I really love the gameplay in Eador. I’m a big fan of the combat in Civilization V and to throw heroes into the mix as well as unit alignments really provide a wide variety of choices for the player. There also many different races for the player to ally himself with ranging from elves to humans to goblins. Conquering provinces and expanding your realm is simple and satisfying enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the player and detract from the focus on heroes and combat. Exploring provinces adds a good chunk of playtime to each map as well. The medieval fantasy aesthetics are well done, and when the graphics are maxed out, textures for the world and characters are detailed, and the weather effects such as clouds and lightning are really well done. The animations for combat are really cool also. For example, the commander hero has a banner that he puts down on the ground before attacking an enemy with his sword, and then he picks the banner back up. Overall this game feels like a big board game, like Risk mixed with Dungeons and Dragons.
Despite the game being very fun, there are a few gripes I have. The first problem I have with the game is there’s no encyclopedia or bestiary provided in the game that covers unit strength or game mechanics. Eador provides unit information outside of the game as a PDF, so in order to access that information, I need to alt + tab out of the game to look at the PDF. Total War and Civilization games provide information about units and mechanics in game so that you can plan for battles much easier. There have been many occasions in the game when I would engage an enemy only to discover that they overlevel my army by a large amount and one shot all my units, and I didn’t have ready access to that information.
Another issue is that the game suffers from poor optimization. I can never get more than about 30-40 FPS in combat even on the lowest settings, and on max I get around 28 fps at most. This really holds the game’s potential back as the combat becomes very jagged at times. 30 FPS is playable, but there should be no reason that I would be unable to get 60 FPS on it at least on max settings considering the strength of my rig. It’s very unfortunate that this game is held back by technical issues.
If you’re looking for a game that is a mixture of Total War, Civilization, and RPG elements in a fantasy setting, then check this game out. I was definitely surprised at the depth and complexity of the game as well as the production values. I really think you’ll get your money’s worth out of this game.
Available on: PC; Publisher: Snowbird Games; Developer: Snowbird Games; Players: 1-2; Released: April 19, 2013; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $19.99: Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.