Friday, December 4, 2015

Age of Wonders - 13/20 hours

Not quite as many crashes in these last 8 hours, but those that happened were quite annoying. Aside from that, I'm finding Age of Wonders to be fairly enjoyable. I wish I had more control over cities, and actually getting to see upper level units in action has so far been difficult, but the actual game itself is perfectly adequate. I might enjoy it more if I didn't know that there are three more games in the series, and thus, presumably, more feature-rich versions of the same game I could be playing.

There's also a bunch of user-interface features that I had not realized I was taking for granted. Intellectually, I know that there must be PC strategy games that don't recognize the mouse wheel, because I remember first seeing the mouse wheel as an adult. But I still catch myself trying to scroll and zoom with it, and the actual mechanics for doing so are a lot less convenient. And I have to think that auto-jumping to the next unit to need orders is something that late 90s technology was capable of (. . .and I just went and double-checked Alpha Centauri, and yeah, there's no excuse for Age of Wonders' unit queue). And using the left mouse button to both select a unit and to choose its movement destination is just a bad piece of design. Numerous times, it's caused me to attempt to move my units on top of each other.

The most difficult part of writing about this game is trying to pretend the previous decade and a half hasn't happened. What would I have thought about Age of Wonders back in 1999? It's definitely interesting. I like the tactical battle view, where you can control and position the individual units in your army for maximum advantage, though I find that like Civilization V, the limitations of the AI give the human player a significant boost (it's kind of sad to think that this wasn't a problem that got solved in the subsequent 10 years between the two games' releases). But would this formula of light strategy and heavy tactics have appealed to my seventeen-year-old self?

That's a tricky question. Age of Wonders does not appeal to me half as much as the big PC game I was playing back in '99, Civilization II, and yet it was only a couple of years later that I got really deep into Ogre Battle 64. So a game that straddled those two genres, a turn-based tactics game with both rpg and strategy elements, would seem to be right in my wheelhouse, but I can't help but think that Age of Wonders' strength is also its weakness. It's not quite one thing or another, and thus it might not make the same impression as a less ambitious, but more focused game.

Still, I think I like it. And I think I would have liked it. My big wish is that I could play a more polished version of the same basic idea. And as luck would have it, I can. . .

Just not right now.

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