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Jan 25 2013

Review of Eador: Genesis

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Eador: Genesis is a turn based strategy game that looks a lot older than it actually it is. Admittedly it came out in Russia in 2009, only recently translated into English, but it resembles something released in the 90’s. And that’s one of the many reasons why it’s awesome. As pointed out in my Conquest of Elysium 3 review I have something of a boner for old school fantasy pixel art, and Eador certainly sates my desire. This isn’t hip and trendy pixel art but ornate and slightly dorky, just the way I like it. Eador’s 90’s fantasy throwback art style is fortunately contained in a modern, sensible and relatively intuitive UI and the game provides a classic fantasy TBS experience with an interesting focus on forcing the player make tough decisions.

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Look at all that divided land

After spending some time tromping through Eador’s fantasy landscapes I knew what I was playing was good, but I couldn’t quite work out why. I was expanding my lands, exploring provinces, constructing buildings, and fighting monsters. All being activities I had done many, many times before but in Eador I always had a pressure on me, never quite able to get everything done in the turn that I wanted. Every single turn felt tense, exciting and important. Then I found myself wondering why I was only ever able to build one building, purchase one upgrade to my stronghold or why extra heroes were so exorbitantly expensive. It was because by limiting my resources (either by the amount of buildings I could construct a turn, or what a hero is able to achieve in a turn) my choices in Eador became important. Each turn becomes a healthy debate between a set of possible courses made all the more intense by the fact there’s no in game save option. You have to live with your choices without the benefit of quick save and load.

The over/meta map is pretty out there

The over/meta map is pretty out there

Although there isn’t the ability to save and load once you have committed to a session (the game of course saves as soon as your ready to leave), you do have the ability to move one turn back into the past. This is particularly handy if you do an impressive job of catastrophically cocking everything up in a single turn. This isn’t without consequence though as the game notifies you doing so will ” sacrifice a portion of your glory”. Your guess is as good as mine what this actually entails because the game is without documentation of some of its core mechanics which is my major (and possibly only) complaint about the game. Searching high and low on the internet I was unable to work out what the actual in-game punishment for stepping into the past is but it does exist and is all the more sinister for not being explained. There is also a morality system, shaped by your in-game decisions when ruling provinces that’s left inadequately explained other than “it affects your Karma”. I’m sure as time goes on and the english wikis expand this will be explained by fans but it’s disappointing to find it lacking when the rest of the game is given a pretty solid treatment in the tutorial.

The morality system comes in the form of a choose your own adventure style events that pop up each turn. If a kindly wizard gives all of your citizens an enchanted gold coin do you thank him with magic gems or steal all the gold coins for yourself and execute him? When your followers ask for a religious statue do you build it, or throw them in jail for even asking? When things are tough and you’re low on gold, it starts to become pretty tempting to be an evil dictator.

Oh, I remembered my other complaint about the game. Bizarrely some systems cause the game to run too fast which actually causes the animation to run unplayably slow. To solve this annoying and odd paradox requires you to set up a power management profile in windows 7’s power options and set its maximum processor power at 50%. Strange, annoying, but necessary and I think the game hoodwinked me into be more lenient regarding this because of its old school charms.

Go on, be a dick, you know you want to

Go on, be a dick, you know you want to

Heroes in Eador are the most vital part of your arsenal and getting more than two is generally out of reach until you have a massive economy built up. As such, the importance of heroes coupled with their limited supply is a major part of creating the decision making tension each turn. This is because heroes not only push forward into new and uncaptured territories but they also are able to explore territories you already own. Exploring a territory is like a lucky dip, you may encounter a party of monsters that gives a hero a much needed experience boost and drop some helpful items, you could find a shop selling powerful items for your hero to wear or you might find an area where you can recruit monsters normally unavailable to your armies. Exploring provinces is also needed for the simple fact that the more explored a province is, the more people can settle there and a bigger population means a greater gold income. Hero’s also have to spend a turn entering previously explored areas of a province to access whatever special goods or services are available there.

God I love battle screens that look like this

God I love battle screens that look like this

The four heroes you have to choose from are each different in their abilities, all offering their own strengths and play styles. The commander will allow you to quickly recruit a larger number of units into his army and also buff their base abilities. The wizard has an obvious focus on spell casting. The scout is a ranged hero but has interesting abilities relating to exploration and pre-battle abilities. Finally the warrior has the most health and is able to load up on heavy weapons and armor making him one of the most singular powerful units in the game. Each time you recruit a hero, the price for recruiting another will shoot up, and the price for recruiting another of the same type will go up even more so. This works into the games tough choices dynamic, as while it’s possible to get more than one hero or two of the same type, it’s so expensive that as you’ll be giving up so much gold in exchange for the extra heroes you’ll spend a lot of time considering if you made the right investment.

Speaking of investments Eador: Genesis is going for only six bucks. That’s pretty magical deal for a game that’s giving Conquest of Elysium 3 a run for its old school turn based fantasy strategy money. They are two very different games though. Where COE3 will have you rambling through a huge map constructing your army out of whatever comes to hand, Eador: Genesis makes you focus on a creating a certain strategy and sticking to it. It does so by limiting the amount of heroes you can recruit , only allowing you to build a limited number of unit recruitment buildings in your stronghold and making you give up much-needed expansion time to take the chance exploring your existing realm for goodies. Eador: Genesis is a chunky strategy game that gives you a constant stream of tough choices which will entertain you every turn of the way, it’s getting 4/5 mage towers. 

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