The Empire Has Fallen...
The evil forces of Lord Bane and Lord Sartek have formed an unholy alliance intent on overrunning the prosperous Selentine Empire. Darkness sweeps across the land as the evil lords send their hordes of zombies, ogres and skeleton warriors to conquer and pillage your beautiful homeland. The end seems near. But wait, there is one hope. (You knew I was going to say that, didn't you?) As the Lord Paladin, you can turn your tiny army into a major power, ally the feuding factions of knights, and purge Lords Bane and Sartek from the land.
Warlords III: Reign of Heroes is a turn-based fantasy strategy game produced by SSG and published by Red Orb. Up to eight players control cities, armies, heroes and magic while attempting to expel all non-allied players from the game. Each game begins with each player controlling one or more cities and one or more armies. Your cities can produce eight army types, which depend on which race you chose. During the course of the game, mercenaries can approach you and offer to join your side for a fee. You also start the game with one hero and can hire more later on.
Warlords III is subtitled "Reign of Heroes", and it is the heroes inWarlords III which help keep it interesting. Heroes are practically essential to building an army which is truly of the highest caliber. Heroes are able to explore ruins and mystical sites in order to find allied monsters to fight for you, as well as enchanted items and that perennial favorite, gold. As heroes explore ruins and complete quests, they increase in ability levels, an effect that anyone who has played RPGs will be familiar with. Whenever a hero gains a level, he or she gets an ability point to spend. Ability points can be used to buy greater strength, leadership skills, or knowledge of magic spells.
Once you have amassed a large enough army, you can take it out into the world and try to capture either the cities of enemies or of neutrals. Combat is handled by comparing the adjusted strength of two opposing units and applying a random number to yield the result. A unit's strength is adjusted up or down by bonuses and penalties such as morale, fortification, leadership and the like. Once you capture a city, you may pillage, sack or raze it.
One of the major complaints from players of Warlords II was that the game did not let them improve their cities. Warlords III has addressed this point, but only in a very minor way, because Warlords III lets players increase the fortification level of a city. It does not let the player build a new city, or build docks, or mines for an existing city. It's a good step, but I wish the folks at SSG had given the player a little more power to improve cities.
Game play itself is pretty good. There is a total of 64 units so things rarely get dull. On the other hand, of the 64 units, many of them are a lot alike, which is a shame, because with a fantasy setting like Warlords III has, there was room to make a truly rich cast of creatures. The individuality of the heroes helps to compensate for the sameness of the creatures. The game's AI is unexceptional but does make a good effort to kill off your heroes.
Warlords III is a good game for anyone who likes Warcraft II but was annoyed by the real-time aspect of the game. The lack of a good unit mix is made up for by a good group of scenarios and a multiplayer feature, which includes play-by-email. Gamers looking for an extremely detailed strategy game should look elsewhere, but fantasy gamers who appreciate simple rules and a wealth of options will find that Warlords III is right in their realm.