PC | World of Battles: Morningstar Review
Developer Frogwares does good things with an old formula in World of Battles: Morningstar. This free-to-play fantasy real-time strategy game doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to elf-on-orc action, but it touches all the bases in providing smart rock-paper-scissors combat. It’s also an ideal training ground for genre rookies looking to get their hoofed feet wet, and possesses a huge range of units across eight races, along with a few promising massively multiplayer online attributes. The most prominent objection comes from the cost of the “free” play, as a micropayment system all but requires you to lay down a fair amount of cash over time to keep up with other players online and gain access to the most powerful goodies.
Gameplay basics offer no surprises. World of Battles is set in a traditional fantasy realm peopled by eight races from across the moral spectrum, so armies are pulled from human knights, dwarves, elves, undead, and so forth. Visuals are good, if a little behind the times, with lots of intricate detail on units. The color palette is decidedly dark, and even a bit on the grim side, being more Warhammer than Lord of the Rings. Units incorporate recognizable characteristics blended with fantasy flair.
Everything is familiar enough that you can break things down to cavalry, archers, pikemen, and so forth, though. This leads to a standard rock-paper-scissors combat recipe where you know that pikemen work well against cavalry, cavalry can charge over archers, and so forth. So while this makes the gameplay rather predictable, it also gives matches a smooth-flowing feel. Knowing what to expect is not always a bad thing.
You do get a considerable amount of content for nothing right off the bat, however. The game comes with a lot of free units, and you can cycle through the offline solo missions and take part in online battles to earn the gold coins needed to buy more goodies. Unit configuration options are plentiful. The feel is very much Warhammer-like, with a tabletop wargame atmosphere to both building armies and sending them into the field. Weapons, armor, and other gear can be bought for many parts of a soldier’s body, allowing you to kit your troops out like they were party members in a role-playing game. Master units and giants are also available, dishing out area effects like hit-point boosts and superior attacks.
Battles themselves offer more than just a simplistic clash of armies. Terrain comes into play in most scenarios, unit special traits can often turn the tide of battle if employed properly, and area spells can be cast to protect your troops or lay a beating on their foes. At the same time, the tactical elements are brought forward in a way that should be appreciated by newcomers to RTS gaming. The offline battles are geared to teach basic concepts for going into battle. The arena tutorial that makes you pick the units best suited for combat against oncoming enemies, for instance, does a great job of instructing you in the basics of the RTS rock-paper-scissors formula. Many games take this knowledge for granted, so it’s welcome that World of Battles places an emphasis on training players. Maps also practically shove the need for tactical thinking in your face. They all feature hills, forests, towns, and other features that can be huge advantages in battles when used correctly.
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