Lest ye be destroyed utterly
Age of Fear 3: The Elementalist Expansion is a small add-on for the turn-based strategy RPG Age of Fear 3: The Legend. You play as a druid and her Man-Spider friend as they learn the secrets of Grey Top Mountain. From developer Leslaw Sliwko, this expansion adds to the original game four new battles and a unique item upon completion: The Elementalist Staff.
Age of Fear 3’s low-key graphics, quirky UI bugs, and deep tactical combat gives us a charming game with plenty of room for new and veteran players. The expansion doesn’t change much about the core gameplay, or even fix some of the bugs present, but the new dynamic of summoning units for army creation allows things to get interesting.
The gameplay is wonderful and shines as an example of deep tactical combat in the modern age of games. You are forced to make choices and plan your troop movements ahead of time, lest ye be destroyed utterly. There’s no grid, no hexes, and movement is restricted by environmental obstacles and even your own teammates. The choice of not allowing friendly units to move through each other one was a bold choice, and one which engenders thoughtful executions of your troop movements.
Troops level up after combat, and you can have up to thirty of them in your army, but you are limited on how many to bring into a battle based on your hero units’ leadership skills. The majority of your units have abilities and special uses that are unlocked upon leveling, but they can only use potions for equipment. Heros are allowed to be fitted with armor, weapons, rings, and magical items, in addition to potions. Once your hero dies in battle, however, the game is lost and you’re returned to the title screen.
When you have thirty units with multiple skills to buy, it becomes a click fest of tedious extremes
The expansion only adds about five hours of additional gameplay, so if you are interested, you might get more bang for your buck waiting for it to go on sale. If you want the ability to summon elementals and outfit your army with them, while progressing through the game, then definitely hit this one up. Age of Fear 3 is a spectacular game, but it needs a little bit of polish around the ages. The expansion is fun, but doesn’t add enough to fit the current price tag.
There’s also a bit of tedium involved with maintaining your army. Certain things could easily be streamlined in order to get you back into the battle quicker. You need to click through each unit in your army to level them up and spend your experience points. When you have thirty units with multiple skills to buy, it becomes a click fest of tedious extremes. As it is, the leveling system brings much frustration to the player’s desire to keep their army up-to-date.
The item system is fantastic though; some items, for example, are cursed and can’t be removed, or will turn you into a demon forever. They are strong items, but have long lasting consequences to your gameplay. For instance, there is a crown that, when worn, can never be removed but allows you to animate the dead and force undead opponents to fight for you.
And this brings me to a much loved feature of this game: enslavement and persuasion.
Some heroes and items give you the ability to capture opponents, forcing them to fight on your behalf. Most games tend to give high resist to this type of feature to the point of worthlessness, but in Age of Fear 3, if you can approach your opponent and launch the ability, you will get them to fight for you 9 out of 10 times. The best part though, is that these units will carry over from the battle and become part of your army, allowing you to level them up and bring a unique combination of units into each battle dependent upon your need.
As for the story, it’s told through letters, or a diary, of some Lord who is corresponding through letters with the main villain chasing you through the countryside. Plenty of humor to keep your ears perked, many bad jokes that will make you shake your head, and a well-weaved tale which alters upon your choices throughout. While the music gets annoying, and the sound effects are played out, the 2D low-key graphics never get old or disorienting.
The Verdict: Good
Age of Fear 3 is a lot of fun, and if you like to think long and hard about your next move in war games, pick this one up. Good tactical combat, restrictive movement and no-hex system create more realistic troop movement. Large armies and RPG-like leveling system will be rejoiced by many types of players. This expansion specifically is light on material but if you're a fan of the original game, get it!It won't add much or fix existing bugs, but for $4.99, it's a welcome addition to an already good game.