Game: Old World
Genre: 4X, Strategy, Simulation, Grand Strategy
System: Steam (Windows, Linux, & macOS) GOG & Epic Store
Developers | Publishers: Mohawk Games | Hooded Horse
Controller Support: No
Price: US $35.99 | UK £34.99 | EU € 35,99
Release Date: May 19th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Hooded Horse.
Old World is a historical strategy game, and last month, I previewed the Expansion pack, Heroes of the Aegean, which you can read here. Old World and its expansion, Heroes of the Aegean, are developed by Mohawk Games, consisting of a small team of industry veterans. One of those industry veterans is Soren Johnson, who you may know as the lead designer of Civilization IV and Civilization III.
Shortly after we published our preview for Old World: Heroes of the Aegean, we had the pleasure of interviewing Soren (Design Director of Mohawk Games) and his wife Leyla (CEO and Creative Director for Mohawk Games) for our Interview with Mohawk Games: 4X Strategy Goodness, which you can read here. You can also find our Old World Tips Guide here.
Historical 4X Strategy
Now, let’s see what Old World is all about. For those of us that have played many hours of Civilization, you can’t help, at first, glance, compare Old World with the Civilization series. However, after spending a considerable amount of time playing Old World since I previewed Old World: Heroes of the Aegean. I can say it is similar in small ways to Civilization. But still, it is a fresh experience in the 4X strategy genre.
In Civilization, you found cities, explore the map, meet new civilizations, trade, wage war, build, research, and grow your kingdoms. In Old World, you do that, too. Also, you enact laws with the unique addition of building a dynasty, managing your chosen Nation’s ruling family, and engaging in a myriad of random narrative events.
However, unlike Civilization, where you start in the stone age and attempt to build an empire to stand the test of time well into the distant future. In the Old World, the game starts in the Ancient era. Where a turn represents a year, and each game is capped at 200 turns. At this point, the winner is declared, if not before.
There are eight Nations available to play: Assyria, Babylonia, Carthage, Egypt, Greece, Persia, Hatti and Rome. Along with five tutorials and word map scenarios, Rise of Carthage scenarios and the Heroes of The Age of the Aegean expansion add another six scenarios. The game also has multiplayer and hot seat modes to play. You can also tailor the game to your liking in the settings as well as various other game changing settings.
One of the new additions to Old World that makes it stand out from other 4X games is that each Nation has four vassal families (noble families) that provide various benefits when put in charge of your cities. In addition, the leader you chose at the start of the game will not be the leader you are playing by the end of the game.
Leaders in Old World are mortal, and once they die, the dynasty’s future depends on their heir. So you’ll marry and have a child, who will one day become your heir and take over the reins of the kingdom after they die; the rein of your kingdom will pass through generations.
The Events system of dealing with family relationships and each noble family’s likes and grievances is the aspect of the gameplay in Old World I find most interesting. Not only are you juggling other nations if they are upset with you and their armies are advancing. But you are also dealing with intricate family relationships. The events are generally well-written and make it easy to understand what’s going on and what your options are.
The way Old World expands on the normal 4X experience with narrative events, the families, and their personal development makes the player a lot more involved. It makes you care about what happens to them.
Many other people inhabited the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions where Old World is set. Other 4X games would make these people ruthless barbarians without a culture or a homeland. Old World takes another approach and adds these cultures and peoples as tribes. But, of course, there are barbarians too, who are more than happy to attack your cities. In fact, there is a scenario dedicated to barbarians where you have to eliminate them all.
Orders and Tech
Another of the Old World‘s best and most interesting innovations is its most basic Orders. I like the Orders system; however, I’m sure some players will think they limit your moves in the game, but if managed properly, they don’t.
Orders are a resource you generate that allows you to issue instructions to units; they are shared across your realm. You use Orders to move units, fight, and forage. Instead of moving every unit once per turn, each unit can be moved multiple times until fatigued or Orders are depleted.
Generating orders is rarely a major problem. But the number you can have stored in any one turn is limited. Though this cap can be raised via techs and buildings. You might have to wait to raise the cap as technological advancement on the tech tree is not predetermined as the techs are random. I like the random nature of the tech as it helps to keep the technology tree feeling fresh with each new playthrough.
Visuals and a Niggle
Visually Old World looks well; the game is based on a hex map which looks brilliant and presents a lot of useful information at a glance. There is one special quality of life improvement that I liked the most. That is the ability to undo mistaken commands. If you do something like moving a unit and then think, “I shouldn’t have moved it there, ” use the undo button to rectify your mishap.
There is plenty of info to read in tooltips that pop up to keep you on the right track. And, of course, there’s the tutorial I mentioned earlier. However, while the tooltips are helpful at that early stage of gameplay, they get annoying once you are deeper into the game. I may be wrong, but I couldn’t find anything in the setting to turn tooltips off. I was able to minimize their size instead.
Music is great with music from various composers, including Christopher Tin, who also composed music for Civilization. There are also mods to add to the game from the Steam workshop; I haven’t tried them myself…yet!
Playing Old World feels like you have an entire nation interacting deeply with other real civilizations covering a much smaller slice of history. It adds complexity and dimension to the 4X genre by taking the Civilization templet and adding to it to involve you in an epic story. I love it, as I enjoy the deep strategy it offers and the added relationship dynamics!
Final Verdict: I Like It a Lot
Note: Old World: Heroes of the Aegean launches on 19th May on Steam, and it will be FREE to everyone who owns or buys Old World on Steam. You must claim it in the first two weeks after release. The base Old World game will also be released on Steam and GOG on the same day.
Agree with this review completely. The game is fascinating and is a real time sink with a definite “one more turn” pull to it. The events mean replayability is off the wall as do the changing characteristics of the rival leaders and the families within your nation.
Hi Ian, thanks for reading and commenting. I agree the game is fascinating. Happy “one more turn” gaming!