Game: World of Magic Planar Conquest
Genre: 4X Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch ( also on Steam, Console and Mobile)
Publishers|Developers: Ultimate Games|Wasteland Interactive
Age Rating: EU16+|USA T
Price: USA $16.99|AUS$25.50|CAN $ 22.48|£15.29|€16.99
Release Date 24th January 2020
Review code used many thanks Ultimate Games
Is it 4X or 4E?
Originally released a few years ago on PC, World of Magic Planar Conquest has now been released on the Nintendo Switch. A 4X strategy game which for those that don’t know stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate with the games goal to Explore the world around you, Expand your empire, Exploit resources available to you and finally Exterminate all other leaders in the world. They tend to be top-down, turn based time sinks that you get lost in and wonder where the time has went when you do take a moment to look at the clock.
As the name suggests World of Magic: Planar Conquest is based in a fantasy world of sorcerer’s, orcs, dark elves and the Unhallowed.
The player has the role of a sorcerer lord in a world on the verge of war. Without the old gods to stop them the sorcerers have risen to claim the world as their own. But in the darkness of the planets another evil has awakened: the Unhallowed who are on a mission to corrupt all known life.
Being let down by the tutorial
The game is obviously based on Heroes of Might and Magic and has some small similarities with Sid Meier Civilization series. Like most 4X strategy games these games I mention here are deep and complex with a tutorial that explains this complexity to the player well.
I can see while playing there might be some depth to Planar Conquest. The possible depth is unfortunately lost in a jumble of menu screens and an extremely short tutorial. The tutorial lasts about five minutes and walks the player through the basics of the game and the menus. That’s it. You’re shown how to build, how to research and how to fight.
You’re never taught how or why you would want to do any of this or even what the end goal of the game is or how to achieve it or win. To put it bluntly, the tutorial is an exercise in what buttons to press in the menu and that’s all.
After the tutorial the game leaves you on your own. I thought, okay, I can handle this. I’m an experienced player and all was going reasonably well to begin with. Then something happened and I’m still not sure what that was, but my farmers rebelled, my citizens ran out of food and everyone starved to death, my tiny army deserted and then I ran out of gold. Not a great start to my wonderful empire!
Third time lucky: let’s get started
I’m an old school gamer who started gaming long before the internet was available and I like to try and work things out without to much outside help. So after a restart and another run through the tutorial I resorted to looking on the internet to find out how to play the game. I found the PC manual which did a slightly better job of explaining the game and I watched a let’s play video until I felt I had a better idea of what to do and then I tried again….maybe it would be third time lucky. Let’s see.
You have choices to make during gameplay, you can either build a strong city or cities or a large army. Or you can take a chance and manage a balance of both, but whichever you choose will come with its own risks and rewards. The map is a grid of squares, the edges of which are invisible until a unit walks over it. Some squares will have fertile soil, some will have animals, and others will have buildings. Some of the buildings will have evil inhabitants within.
Your city has a radius marked out by a fence-like structure within which any resources belong to your city. Each turn you’ll be deciding what gets built such as an armoury or who gets trained. What ratio of farmer to workers to have and maybe you’ll want to train a sage. You should also learn a new spell for your sorcerer as it might come in handy during combat. Then you’ll issue orders to your troops to explore the map before pressing the R stick in to end your turn. After that you can watch the enemy AI trample all over your resources and try to squish your army to a pulp.
Minuscule units battle it out on the grid
This is where combat starts and (which is unusual), it’s not played out on the map screen. You are taken to a battle screen instead. Here you will control your ranged, melee, aerial and magical units on a turn based battle grid. You can move your troops on the grid and cast spells or attack with melee units, and once every unit has had its turn it’s the turn of your sorcerer who is omnipresent in Planar Conquest.
A quick look in the old magic book to pick a spell and it is cast on whichever enemy you have highlighted with the cursor. There is an auto fight button you can use however I don’t recommend it as the games Al seems a bit blood thirsty and your units won’t last long against it. I found combat to be slow and my troops spent more time moving around the grid to get into a better position from where the game placed them than actually fighting. The grid is large but most of your units look minuscule on it making it hard to distinguish what unit you have selected. You can zoom in to see better and then you have to zoom out again to increase your view of the battle area to be able to see the unit you’re targeting.
There is some resources management involved since you will need to manage your city or cities, armies and production as well as your gold. Choices to be made, such as do you sacrifice your production output to train one more archer or raise taxes to bring in more gold? You should be careful as your choices have consequences which can cause a city wide rebellion! I know, I’ve been there.
Entering the battle arena
A battle arena is included in the menu options, here you have eight arenas to chose from, all with different environments. After you decide the playing environment you want you get to choose up to sixteen fighting units, from Titans to Fire Summoners. Strangely you also get to pick the AI opponent’s sixteen units as well. I found that picking my units was fine though I would have preferred the choice to have the AI pick their own units to battle against and keeping some surprise for the battle arena. It does get tedious setting it all up for battles.
The game is fully controlled by the joy-cons and it works fine for the most part, though moving through the menus shows a slight slowdown between pressing a button on the joy-con and the action being recognised by the game. Graphically it’s bright and colourful, however some items on the map are blurry and it’s hard to distinguish what exactly they are unless you move the cursor over the spot in the tile to make the tooltip pop up.
I feel the five minute tutorial isn’t long enough to equip the player with the knowledge they need to play this style of game. If you’re trying the 4X genre for the first time this is not the game to start with, otherwise you will loose interest in it before you’re completed the first game.
For those that have played this genre before you might find something you like in World of Magic Planar Conquest but for me I must say:
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure