The lights are on
You know, by now, I tend to actually think the Game Informer Staff members know what they're talking about when it comes to games- as if they haven't been doing this for quite some time, so I really decided to gladly go out on a limb and try this game after reading Ser Biessener's review. Needless to say, I was not disappointed in the least, and yes indeed, Eador is a very enjoyable experience and excellent fun as well. The strategy elements are wisely and beautifully crafted, and yes, despite some minor hiccups here and there, the game is a blast to play through- but then again, one has to experience it in order to believe that statement I suppose. Trust me, you'll be glad you tried this game if you're a fan of the strategy genre, or simply want to branch out a little more in gaming tastes, or even just enjoy all sorts of games. Try Masters of the Broken World if you wish before even reading my review, or if you are at least partially interested- continue reading, and find out why I enjoyed the game even more than Adam did apparently, as our marginally different scores would have you most likely believe. Onwards, into Mordor Eador!
Let me first state that, as with many other excellent and popular games of well-crafted quality released recently, Eador is also an Indie title, and one of my favorites to date- ranking up now, I'd say, beside Terraria, Minecraft, and Dear Esther or Amnesia even in terms of enjoyment and replay value. It might not be as mainstream as some fans might like, or ever have as much appeal as juggernaut franchises such as Civilizations and Tropico in the strategy department, but Eador does many things right, and carves its own path as opposed to simply following the already blazed trails of previous strategy titles. While it might, at some times, lack in its technical advances and mechanical execution within certain elements of the game, it is the beautiful art style and simplicity that really draws me in again and again, as I am quite sure it will be with you as well.
The name itself is not just some interesting subtitle crafted like the game is a Might and Magic title, having little to no meaning other than sounding epic. Instead, it actually ties into both the gameplay and narrative respectively- as you fight to restore a literally broken world, building it from pieces floating desolately around a chaotic void. Your goal seems relatively easy to accomplish, however, conquering and reunifying the 'shards' of land spread across the void in order to create your own unique world is no simple walk in the park. Each map and environment is randomly generated, which also fits well with the aforementioned storyline, and your massive hordes, fledgling or epic strongholds, and hub world locations are well-developed as well.
Not only do you acquire access to your vast armies and armaments throughout the duration of the game, but you will also come across insanely gifted heroes to charge with the task of leading your legions to victory. If you put in enough time and effort, your heroes of choice can truly become gods of war, and do that title more justice than Kratos ever did in all of his years of wandering, suffering, and bloodlust. And with significantly less gore as well, of course. The worlds of the shard-area are made up of many incredibly detailed and differentiated environments, ranging from everything from ruinous caves to forest battlegrounds and even more there and farther between. These areas might be important in that you must control as many as you possibly can in order to craft a better world for yourself, but they also present a unique challenge and reward system in the form of the monstrous lairs guarded by foul and ferocious creatures. Your reward for clearing out all the hostiles in these locales in a great amount of treasure, powerups, upgrades, and all the items that your heroes could possibly wish for.
These little lairs affect your game in more ways than one however, as the exploring and inquisitive players among us will soon learn, often much to our dismay. There are also randomly generated narrative events set to appear throughout the story, mainly for side quest-like content, and for the benefit of fleshing things out and providing an even deeper experience. Whether it be an influx of refugees coming to your lands and causing mischief, an evil monster laying siege to your city and setting your villages afire, or simply a dogmatic cult challenging your laws- Eador offers plenty of intriguing content to keep you occupied, some of which resembles some of the quests I recall from Skyrim and Oblivion in terms of quality and likeness. Which is certainly a great compliment, especially for a team surely as small as this. Sometimes your karma might be affected for good or ill concerning your response to these situations- good if you helped the refugees, bad if you kicked them out, good for stopping the cult, etc. It all depends on your own unique interpretation of the events, your personal empire amassed, and your own playthrough- as everyone's is bound to be wildly differing in length, outcome, etc.
Battles are a true challenge, and quite a sight to behold indeed. The finely tuned combat takes place entirely on the classic strategic and tactical map, and requires some intense legwork and brainpower to complete successfully. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes, and that saying is proved correct time and time again in the wilds of Eador, according to my overall statistics in-game. Terrain, levels, abilities- it all factors in to the final outcome of the onslaught. As with the vast majority of strategy games, running and gunning won't get you very far at all here, as your feisty little mage will easily meet his doom as soon as he charges out into the open, near enough for that lone archer to snipe him from afar. Waiting for your numbers to build up, reserves to deploy, enemy's stamina to dissipate, and paying overall attention to the hundreds of tasks going on throughout the battles are the true keys to victory, and that victory comes with a sweet taste of well-earned fruit- as much as the bitter sting of defeat that accompanies your losses.
Battles might be easy against some of the relatively weaker enemies and monster AI, however, the difficulty level really ramps things up a few hours in, when you begin to clash with rival overlords and competent AI enemies. The CPU controlled enemies rarely make mistakes, so you'll have to count your blessings when they do slip up, and be quick to make your moves then accordingly. Just like a living and breathing, thinking human being, the computers adapt excellently in this world-spanning conquest adventure, so you're really going to have your work cut out for you if you ever wish to overcome them in order to become the best of the best in time. Now, however, we arrive to the mitigating factors of Eador's greatness. The occasional technical difficulties such as load times, exaggerated statistics for enemies, and randomly appearing bugs that smite your character instantly take away from an otherwise brilliantly crafted adventure and conquest tale. Noted, they will rarely happen, but when coupled with the already large time commitment required in order to get anywhere in the game, they can make situations do or die quite quickly, and probably turn more players off than one.
The game's major downfall would certainly be its greatest accomplishment as well, only in a different light entirely. It is Eador's looks that get it into trouble, not the beautiful looks of the worlds crafted in the void, but instead those of the messy design and processing interface. Stronghold building, menu navigating, and many other opportune moments for fleshing out the details of the game inevitably fall through with crappy design choices made regarding them- such as their disappearances when scrolling about, or their ultra-condensed looks that require magnifying glasses to read at all. For all of Eador's accomplishments, this just licks the icing right off an otherwise perfectly fine cake, and throws it on the floor for added measure.
Eador does feature a multiplayer component, but I will have to admit that I have not really delved that far into it, mainly for the same reason as mentioned previously in Adam's review- the game itself is already pretty slow, so I am almost positive that there will be an insane amount of connection issues, which I would much rather avoid. Therefore, I'd advocate simply sticking to single player for the time being, unless something changes for the better regarding the pacing and connection routine. Some of the gameplay is kept from true greatness by the overbearing difficulties with design and implementation, but luckily, the gameplay itself is so fun and challenging that it, along with the story, virtually carries the entire title on its own. If you enjoy a good strategy game, I'd definitely recommend that you be sure to check Eador: Masters of the Broken World out some time.
Concept: Adventuring about, saving the day, and unifying your world combines for one big RPG/Action/Strategy Indie mashup that I wouldn't want to miss.
Graphics: Everything looks pretty detailed and beautiful, if only it could keep from lagging so much at times, especially in combat and between turns.
Sound: Well, honestly, aside from clicks and clanks during battle and between menus, there isn't much of a soundtrack to speak of.
Playability: The technical interfaces are completely messed up as far as I can tell, which might or might not change for the better later on, but everything else about the game is entirely playable as well as enjoyable.
Entertainment: The game often enjoys providing you with relatively simple to solve puzzles and challenges, while veiling the ultra-complex pattern or answer it really requires until later, or you ultimately give up and die.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 8.5
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