Writing a review of Eador: Master of the Broken World (know henceforth as simply Eador) is a bit weird for me. This is because I’ve already reviewed it relatively recently in the form of Eador: Genesis. Eador (the subject of this review) and Eador: Genesis are essentially the same game, with the new Eador receiving a facelift and a tweak to the UI. The crunchy guts of the two games is, as far as I can tell, identical. Please excuse my ignorance if I missed some small mathematical tweaks to the rules or an updated spell description. Long story short though, more Eador is a good thing and I enjoyed playing the game this time round just as much as the last. As for the changes to the graphics and the UI, I think I preferred them the way they were.
Call me crazy but I prefer my fantasy art a little rough. I’m the kind of guy who infinitely prefers this to this. As such I don’t see Eador’s graphical update as entirely necessary or even as much of an improvement. In fact , if some omnipotent diety of gaming forced me to choose between the two, as in one would be obliterated from existence and I could only play the game in the remaining form for the rest of eternity, I would choose the old style. Also, Eador wouldn’t be such a bad game to play for the rest of eternity, it certainly is a competent and entertaining time sink. But I digress, and my soul-selling-game-to-play-for-eternity spot is already taken by another infernal TBS.
Now all this isn’t to say the new graphics aren’t good. Anyone taking a peak at the screenshots could clearly see Eador’s new graphical style is attractive and manages to maintain enough of the original’s style to recognize the relation. I particularly like the “rock floating through space” look that all of the maps now have. It’s an effective way of linking the over world and specific shard maps together in a visually coherent fashion. There’s also now rolling clouds, weather, and a whole dazzling rainbow of lighting effects. It all looks nice enough but I felt the prettiness often just distracts from playing the game. This is especially true for battles, where spinning day/night cycles and terrain features try to out-do each other in a geographical beauty pageant. The overall result being things feel just a tad messy. The new Eador would benefit from a little subtlety. I get that you’re looking very pretty now days, Eador, but would you please let me focus on winning wars instead of batting your eyelids at me.
While the value of the graphical update can be debated as a matter of taste (grimey old-school pixel-art versus shiny NU-fantasy), the changes to the UI are more cut-and-dry. The new UI is, quite frankly, worse. It’s confusing, temperamental, too small and it annoyed me. Gone are the solid, dependable side bars for hero or territory management, replaced by over sensitive radial menu’s that pop up and disappear with the slightest provocation. Building guard units and structures on territories is an absolute pain in the ass as the radial menu for these things blips in and out of existence like subatomic particles. Town construction is honestly a mess compared to the original, with the UI much more preoccupied with looking flashy than actually being helpful or logical. This isn’t to say the game has become an unplayable fight with an inoperable UI, it’s just in trying to doll it up actual usability was unnecessarily sacrificed and it disappointingly feels like a step backwards.
For all my nay-saying it’s a testament to Eador’s core gameplay that I happily wasted an unhealthy amount of nights playing it again even though nothing has changed mechanics wise. Spending even more time with the game I was made acutely aware of the myriad strategies that can be attempted to make each game completely different. One game you might have a leader hero buffing the stats of hordes of cheap undead units, the next you could have a spell-slinging wizard behind heavily armoured swordsmen. I was also made acutely aware of just how long a game of Eador can take. Although it has the appearance and attitude of more “poppy” fantasy TBS, Eador has the depth and ability to suck up an impressive amount of your free time.
I know I’ve said a number of times during this review there is no significant change to the game’s mechanics but there is in fact one which will be noticeable to some players more than others. The original Eador had a strict policy when it came to save games, only allowing you to save when you were leaving a game. You had the ability to go back a turn, but there was warnings of adverse consequences. This time around though Eador is very liberal with its save game policy offering a whooping 9 autosave points that can be booted up any time something goes wrong. It’s much more forgiving, but ruins the pressure of unchangeable consequences that the original had.
Which version of Eador you pick is going to be determined by taste. I would assume many people were turned off by the original’s pixel art (the fools) and will find the new glitzy graphics engine more agreeable. If so, they’re still getting the same great game that less shallow people have been playing for some time now (especially Russian people). If you’re a fan of the older edition of the game, and are perfectly happy with the way it looks and plays there’s no real reason to upgrade (other than perhaps more multiplayer games to be had). The graphical update is a bit over the top for me, like an ugly kid that turns into a good-looking adult but resorts to wearing far too much make-up after years of taunting. Don’t worry old, ugly Eador, I still love you. As for the new supermodel Eador, I’m giving it 3/5 grumpy goblins and I’m sure it’s going to find lots of new friends amongst the beautiful people.