Age of Wonders II Heaven Julia with Gameplay background

News Archive - August 2003

Fri., August 29, 2003

They just keep coming

Reviewers continue to discover what what we here at AoW Heaven have known all along, that Shadow Magic is hot stuff, and not just because of the 3D box art. At it boasts a respectable 86% average, based on 27 articles, 17 of which carry numerical, star, or letter ratings. While this may not sound overly impressive, the rankings come from across the board of gaming review sources. Overall they range from a high of 92% from print magazine PCGamer to the recent inexplicable 80% from PC Game World - but when it comes to Strategy games, who cares what Goldfish think?

In other recent reviews:

Game Vortex gives it 9/10, and unlike some others lauds Triumph's decision to stick with "detailed and colorful" 2D sprite based graphics, rather then make "the rough transition to 3D" as others have.

Gaming Nexus comes through with an 8.8, calling it "a great example of how a gaming franchise should evolve."

View the summary here or click on individual items to link to the original sites.
Wed., August 20, 2003

Of worms, MSBlaster, and DirectX

If your computer is affected by the MSBlaster worm or its variants; or your computer hasn't been patched against the worm, we urge you to patch your computer as soon as possible. You can find out how on this page at Microsoft.

Also, it's highly advised you patch against another security hole that's asking for trouble: There's a problem with DirectX that allows a virus, trojan, or any malicious programs to infect your computer by simply playing an infected MIDI file. This affects all DirectX versions from 5.2 all the way up to 9.0. Thus, you can be infected by simply viewing an email or webpage that has an auto-playing MIDI file. You can find out more and how to patch this on this page at Microsoft. At least one other major media outlet has reported this.

If you haven't installed all the critical updates in Windows Update, it's probably a good idea to do so now.
Tues., August 19, 2003

So what does GameSpy spy in the game?

Not to be outdone (much), GameSpy has finally waded in with their review of Shadow Magic. Whether or not their reviewer was suffering hunger pangs or merely confusion is unknown, but they give it only a borderline "Excellent" rating of 86. *What's that you say? Whats wrong with 86? Well for one thing it's only 2 points better then they gave HoMM4 to which they make a point of comparing it favorably)

On the Pros side they list
Extremely well-balanced gameplay, multiplayer is a blast, improved magic system, great sound and graphics, loaded with options, new races.
while for Cons they cite
Spotty AI at times, especially on large maps; tactical multiplayer bug is annoying.
although they do say that
The developers are aware of the bug and hopefully a patch will be issued soon to fix this problem.
Gee, do ya think?

There are of course the usual collection of screenshots as well, including a charming picture of Julia's seven unit suicide squad facing execuction by cannon on day 77, accompanied by one of Oakleaf and a party of five surveying Skulkan's armoury in the aftermath (check the mana indicator, it's the same fight). With multiplayers like this doing their reviews, no wonder they're confused.
Mon., August 18, 2003

Come Meet Triumph Studios!

The Dutch/Belgium/German members of our community are in for a real treat! You can attend a session this coming Thursday, August 21 and meet the Triumph Studios team in person and ask questions!

Triumph Studios' session will be just one part of an exhibition on videogames called Meet the Creators in Tilbug, Holland (Theater De Vorst, willemII-straat). You can find all the relevant information here at GameOn.

Cherub Swolte has called the organizers and there are enough places to sit and there will be time for an informal chat. Lennart Sas will explain the making of Age of Wonders and take some questions too. Here's the bill of events for the first part of the day:
13:30 - 13:45 Opening Conferentie
13:45 - 14.15 Gameskool- Ruud van de Moosdijk: De game-industrie in Nederland”
14.15 - 14.45 Triumph Studios-Lennart Sas: “The making of Age of Wonders”
14.50 - 15.20 -Jimmy van der Have: Games & Communities
If anyone attends, please bring a digital camera and email me your photos! Of if anyone has a digital video camera (or even a tape recorder) so we could transcribe the Q&A session.

"Like a good BLT..."

Game Revolution has posted its report card on Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, giving the stand-alone expansion a solid "B." The reviewer must have either been really hungry while writing the review, or has some kind of promotion deal with Subway Sandwiches. Regardless, the author really enjoyed all of the new things Shadow Magic has to offer, but was put-off by the fact that the sound had not been upgraded all from AoW2, nor had the graphics:
: "While the multiplayer game hasn’t changed at all, Age of Wonders continues to serve up super-sized portions with fries on the side. The lengthy single-player campaign will take you through 16 long levels, some of which might take you more than a full day to complete (depending on how well your fridge is stocked with luncheon meats and bread). Now add to that a dozen stand alone scenarios, a smart random map generator and the full AoW toolset, which lets you edit everything from maps to items to units, guaranteeing more downloadable fan content than you can imagine. You’re definitely going to have to make a run to the deli."
You can get your own sandwich at... erm, I mean read the full review here.
Sat., August 16, 2003

A Star is Born (Four, actually)

The reviewers continue to line up, passing out the kudus. Spotted by AoWH fiend, er, friend, Bard Taliesin over at The Lifeline the latest is from TechTV X-Play, a cable television show devoted to console and PC games which promises to feature AoW Shadow Magic this coming week. In their website announcement, they give it four out of five stars and note that
The "Age of Wonders" series is growing up fast. Though not quite a full-fledged sequel, "Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic" is much, much more than a stand-alone expansion pack.

Dawn of the new age

The "Age of Wonders" franchise puts heavy emphasis on those mainstays of high fantasy: kingdoms, creatures, and magic spells. Gameplay is a hybrid of "Civilization" and "Heroes of Might and Magic." The first game was rough around the edges, but it showed promise. "Age of Wonders 2" further polished the design. "Shadow Magic" plays like a "player's choice" edition. Its many changes and refinements make it more playable and enjoyable than its predecessors.
They praise most of the new features, and even note that
And if you're facing a hopelessly one-sided encounter, you can surrender before engaging in battle. This keeps the game moving along.
Ohhh-kay. Well they are a site geared more to fast action then strategy games. In any case, you can read the entire review here. According to the site, the program itself airs in the U.S. Monday August 18th at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time, and again Tuesday the 19th at 4 p.m. and Saturday the 19th at 11 p.m.
Thurs., August 14, 2003

"Pinnacle of turn-based strategy..."

Gamezilla has posted a very, very short review of Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. Although no composite score is given, they awarded the turn-based strategy/RPG hybrid their highest "Recommended Buy" seal. Here's a snippet:
Those out there who have enjoyed such titles as Warlords and the Heroes of Might and Magic series will have an advantage of sorts, in that basic gameplay is similar. But thankfully, the developers have deleted the outdated “stack” type of battles for a more balanced, 3-dimensional angle to movement, even allowing for “quick battles” in case you want to cut straight to the chase. AoW:SM also boasts excellent racial delineations, well defined characters and NPCs, and possibly the best AI that I’ve ever gone up against. Graphics are top notch for this style of game, and in-game audio is also excellent, with fantastic thematic elements to set the mood.
Wed., August 13, 2003

Gamespot Reviews Shadow Magic

More big praise for Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. Gamespot, one of the larger online gaming magazines, just posted its Shadow Magic review, giving the latest stand-alone TBS/RPG hybrid game from Triumph Studios a high 8.7/10. This rating is only 1/10th lower than Gamespot's review of AoW2: The Wizard's Throne. Gamespot essentially loved all of the new content and features in Shadow Magic, and only found fault with the fact that the sound effects had not been upgraded and that the graphics had been carried over from AoW2:
However, Shadow Magic features an enhanced version of Age of Wonders II's map and campaign editor, including a random map generator that lets you quickly and easily specify concentrations of monsters, resources, and treasures on the map. It's clear that between the enhanced editor, the random map generator, and the game's own dedicated fan community of mapmakers, Shadow Magic offers plenty of replay value right out of the box and will continue to offer even more in the future. You can even find competition online from the game's most dedicated players, and while the multiplayer can be remarkably time-consuming, it works well for what it is, especially with the rebalanced races.
You can read the full interview here .

I'll give you three guesses as to who is the "dedicated fan community of mapmakers" Andrew Park is referring to...

Lennart Sas Interview

Gaming Illustrated has interviewed Lennart Sas, co-founder of Triumph Studios and the designer and project manager for Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. The interview basically takes you through all of the new improvements in the new game, but there are also some interesting tidbits about things like new buildings:
G.I.: What new structures will players see and/or be able to take control of on the map?

Lennart Sas: There are new structures like the Dungeon where you can free the captives who can then join you. A set of ‘recruitment structures’ has been introduced where players can directly produce units. They range from Druid’s Circle where you can recruit sylvan creatures to the Dwarven’s Market place where you can buy excess war machines. There’s a new Arena where you can upgrade your troops to veterans by training them. Another interesting one is the anti-magic zone where players have no domain and no magic can be used at all.
You can read the full interview here.
Tues., August 12, 2003

New v1.1 Patch for Shadow Magic

Triumph Studios has just released a new v1.1 patch for Shadow Magic. The patch is 5MB; you can grab it from the official site. This patch does not make many changes to units or game elements, but is directed at some major gameplay functions. Kudos to Triumph Studios for reacting so quickly in addressing these problems for the community!

  • The "Always Allow TC" option now works properly.
  • Combat in PBEM games is no longer unstable.
  • User created modifications ("Mods") using Custom Resources can no longer overwrite the default resources. Users who made Custom Resources with v1.0 are encouraged to reinstall the game to prevent compatibility or stability issues.
  • Get the patch here.

    AoW:SM Toury at The Battlefield

    Webmaster Napoleon over at The Battlefield has announced a new AoW:SM 1on1 Tournament. For those unfamiliar with the site, they are a Multiplay and Competition site under the World of Strategy banner for a number of TBS games. Besides AoW series, they also offer Forums, Clan Rankings, and Ladders supporting Civilization, MoO 3, and Rise of Nations.

    Registration at the site is required. Go have a visit. It's the neighborly thing to do.
    Sat., August 9, 2003

    It's like Age of Empires....

    Not long after Just RPG created a new "turn-based RPG" category for Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, has slid Shadow Magic into this new genre as well in its new review:
    The Shadow Magic experience is a fine contender in the current turn-based RPG sphere. The graphics are admirable, gameplay – once learned – is addictive, and the fantasy premise is immersive. The supposition of power and stature will lead most devotee status in no time.
    I didn't know there was a whole "sphere" of turn-based RPGs, but at least it's good to know Shadow Magic rules the pack! Curiously, Elited analogies the empire building gameplay aspect in Shadow Magic to the highly successful RTS series Age of Empires:
    The basic premise of gameplay is much the same as Age of Empires, where you will build an empire. Whether you are winning over halflings with your impressive linguistics or vanquishing orc infestations from the safety of your tower, AOW: SS is full of hair-raising conflict. Although, these “all-mighty” wizards would appear all the more powerful if they didn’t have to send out their meek little halflings to do their bidding for them.
    There is no score given in this short article, but it's an overall positive write-up. You can read the full article here.
    Fri., August 8, 2003

    Turn-Based RPG?

    It sounds like a whole new genre, but that's what Just RPG calls AoW:SM in their review:
    Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is an excellent turn-based strategy RPG. Brought to us by developer Triumph Studios and publisher Gathering, old and new fans will find much to like in the continuation of this much beloved series.
    They go on to say some other very nice things, predictably perhaps for a site that is mainly devoted to RPG's emphasizing the improved quality of the cut-scenes, and voice acting - the very things many of the die-hard strtegy buffs complained about in AoW2:WT as being a waste of time and money. In fact, one of the few "Cons" they list is
    No voice for events that occur within the campaign scenarios
    It just goes to show that the devs really are listening to the market though, and trying to reach as large an audience as possible while not driving other segments away and that in the long run can only be good for the community.

    Editor Poll

    We've got a new poll up where we ask what you think about the new AoW:SM editor. Let us know your opinion!

    In the previous poll we wanted to know what new features you are looking forward to most in AoW: Shadow Magic. There were two very popular options: "New units and abilites" and "Random map generator". Together they got 76% of the votes, while "The new campaign", "More editor possibilities" and "New terrain and extra level" shared the remaining votes (listed in order of popularity).
    Tues., August 5, 2003

    More Power!

    The new map editor that comes with Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is one of the best features in the new game package. With it users can modify nearly every portion of the game and create their own rule sets and new campaigns. Although some fans want even [evilgenius]MORE ultimate power[/evilgenius] over the editor, Triumph Studios programmer Josh Farley has commented on the limitations of the editor (as small as those limitations may be):
    "Remember that the game was never designed to be modded by outside users. The feature was added to [AoW:SM] for a few reasons:

    (1) Our Editor Tools were already pretty intuitive tools, so no new work would need to be done to make the interface "more presentable."

    (2) We knew a portion of our audience would greatly enjoy the ability to play with more of the game's rules.

    (3) We knew this was likely to be the last AoW game on the current engine, so adding this feature would give the game longer legs with no new AoW game coming for a while.

    (4) Someone (ahem) figured out a way to easily add support for this feature, without requiring a great deal of work on our side, or requiring hacking on the user side.

    But since the game wasn't created from the ground up with the intent of end-users editing every last detail, I'm actually surprised at how MUCH of the game you guys are able to access. Because when it comes down to it, it's always simpler to hard-code settings than it is to make them editable."
    You can read the full thread here in our forums.

    Personally, I think Josh is right. Look at how long the original AoW1 has lasted? The inclusion of the random map generator and the excellent editor in Shadow Magic virtually ensures the map making community will be tinkering with Shadow Magic for years to come. Indeed, some of the best stuff for AoW1 is only just coming out now, nearly 5 years after its release.

    Shadow Magic hits the right spots.

    Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic has garnered a very postive 4/5 in's recent review. There are no additional screenshots, but all aspects of the gameplay are examined. Here's how the author sums up:
    What else can I say, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is a marvelous game that'll sure to please strategy genre fans. Those with a itch for RPGs just might love this game too. With a 16 scenario campaign and 19 standalone scenarios, this game won't be beaten overnight. There are countless possibilities for replay once you do. The ability to play your friends over e-mail is just... amazing, although the game might take a century or two to complete. So the next time you're in your favorite retailer, don't miss out.
    You can read the full review here.
    Mon., August 4, 2003

    Step into the Shadow Portal

    Fellow Ager Anata has just launched The Shadow Portal, a sleek new fansite dedicated to Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. Amongst other game info, you can get custom portraits for Shadow Magic. Be sure to also check out the wonderful "How To" article for creating your own portraits. Step into the Shadow Portal.
    Sat., August 2, 2003

    GameZone Reviews Shadow Magic

    Another positive review for Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic from GameZone, giving it an 8.4/10 overall! Their review is broken down into five categories: Gameplay, Graphics, Sound, Difficulty, Concept and Multiplayer. Here's what they had to say about "Concept:"
    The concept for Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is excellent. The way the game combines strategy, role playing and world building into the game might seem to be too much. But all three concepts are essential to the game. The RPG elements will make you use more strategy during the game. The World Building elements will allow you to build better cities, and build better armies as well. You also have the opportunity to build and maintain alliances with other characters in the game. This opens up a trading market to obtain new items; then incorporate the campaign editor, which allows you to create your own campaigns and play other players campaigns as well. This is an excellent and well thought-out concept.
    You can read the full review here.

    Shadow Magic Review at GamesDomain UK

    Our friends "across the pond" at GamesDomain loved Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, giving it 4.5/5 stars and awarding its "Top Game" award. Here's a snippet:
    Shadow Magic doesn't require the original to play, so it's also the perfect jump-in point for new players. The newly included three-step tutorial is a boon to these newbies as it does a fair job of teaching the mechanics and some elemental strategy. It's no substitute for practice; AOW is a hard game with a steep learning curve, but practice in a game like this, and against AI this sharp, is a pleasure by itself.
    You can read the full review here.

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