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Worlds of Magic: Early Access Available and First Impressions

By on September 15th, 2014 12:34 pm

Worlds of Magic: Early Access First Impressions | Choose Sorcerer lord

With its recent release on Steam’s Early Access program, Wastelands Interactive’s turn-based fantasy 4X game Worlds of Magic has taken one step closer to achieving its goal of becoming a truly worthy Master of Magic successor. Early Access is set to run until at least February 2015, at which time the game is currently estimated to officially release.

With not one, but two successful Kickstarter campaigns in its rear view, it seems a fair question to ask why Early Access, and why now? The Steam store page reveals that Worlds of Magic has entered Early Access in order to bring in additional feedback and the revenue needed to make the game as complete and polished as possible. These aren’t reasons we haven’t heard before, but if history is any indication, their desire for feedback is genuine. After all, Wastelands Interactive and developer Aaron Ethridge have been taking suggestions and criticisms from backers on a private discussion forum for quite some time. Worlds of Magic has been shaped heavily by the small community surrounding its Kickstarter already, and I’m sure they are hoping that the larger Steam community can help it develop further.

Worlds of Magic currently has “most of the game mechanics at your fingertips from the moment you buy the game.” What it is missing now is additional content, such as the remaining races, spells, sorcerer lords, and planes of existence. In nearly all cases, around half of the eventual content is now available. Aside from this content, the game still needs a lot of polish and AI development.

First Impressions

I spent a few hours with Worlds of Magic this weekend in order to provide some brief first impressions to those who may be wondering about the state of the game as it stands “right now”. It is important to keep in mind that the “right now” status of a freshly launched Early Access game is elusive, and daily updates and changes can resolve or create issues that ultimately lead to a different experience than I have had.

Worlds of Magic, more than any other title I’ve played in recent years, feels like a game from my past. More specifically, it has a very similar feel to Microprose’s classic, Master of Magic. This should come as no surprise, given their stated goal to be a true spiritual successor. While bringing this beloved game back to life is in many ways a positive thing, this reunion isn’t without its negatives. In some aspects, I think this is by design, but in others, I am almost certain it is because the game is still in a late alpha stage. I’ll be comparing Worlds of Magic and Master of Magic a lot, for reasons that will soon become very obvious, so I’ll be using the abbreviations WoM and MoM respectively throughout this impressions piece.

Worlds of Magic does a great job at recreating the Master of Magic sorcerer lord creation system. Aside from the graphical enhancements and UI changes, the system is almost identical. When creating a custom lord, you will select a portrait from one of the existing lords, as you do in MoM. You will then divide a set number of points between your desired skills, called disciplines in WoM, and your spell spheres. You then proceed to select your starting spells dependent on the points you spent in each spell sphere. While all of this sounds mechanically identical to MoM, there are some key differences primarily having to do with how magic is designed.

Worlds of Magic: Early Access First Impressions - Choosing the starting spells

The magic system in Worlds of Magic is perhaps its most unique feature. Rather than offer just 5 basic schools of magic and around 200 spells as MoM did, Worlds of Magic features 11 spell spheres and will eventually feature over 400 spells (though currently it sits at around 200). This sounds like a lot, and it certainly is, but it is important to realize that in many cases spells will overlap into two different spheres. For example, an enchantment might fall under both the Life magic and the Augmentation spell sphere. Putting enough points into either will allow you to cast the spell. This allows for some more intense customization, and if for example you enjoy city and unit augmentation spells, as I often do, Worlds of Magic offers a path that allows you to focus on exactly that.

The city management and economic system is, once again, almost identical to Master of Magic. While the UI is slightly different, the options and information on offer are very similar. On the left side of the screen you are presented with your city, and each city is dynamic in that it displays new buildings as they are built. New population members are displayed on the right, rather than on top, but you can still assign them to farm duty, production duty, or research duty. City modifiers to production of food, building/unit production, and gold are dependent on nearby terrain tiles as well as your citizens, though information on how certain tiles modify things really needs to be further explained. The economy uses a basic tax system that is empire wide, and much like MoM increasing tax increases unrest across all cities. When it comes to this aspect of the design, it is fair to say Worlds of Magic is nearly an exact duplicate of MoM right down to the buildings on offer and the trade goods/housing construction options.

Worlds of Magic: Early Access First Impressions - City Management

Graphically, the game is quite a bit behind its competitors. While graphics certainly aren’t the most important aspect of a 4X game, certain aspects of the graphics and animations in Worlds of Magic leave a lot to be desired. The spell effects, for example enchanting your city with a harvest spell, present what appear to be very basic grass looking artwork and animation that is not on par with similarly priced titles that are currently available. Constructing buildings in your city is done without much grandeur. The buildings themselves are uninteresting and bland. When constructed, they simply appear and lack even the fade-in effect that MoM contained. While graphical elements aren’t necessary for gameplay, some of my fondest memories of MoM center around the animation cut scenes that would appear. For example the city screens that would appear when enchantments like Wall of Stone were cast, and the summoning screen where your lord would pull up enchanted weapons or summoned creatures seemingly from the netherworld. Leaving these out is leaving out a lot of the charm that the classic title contained.

When it comes to exploration, Worlds of Magic already includes a variety of buildings and special minerals to discover and interact with. While my favorite building thus far is the Lost Tribes, a site that immediately provides a free population to one of your cities, there are many other useful locations. The oracle can provide you with a glimpse at far off locations. The watch tower can extend your view. Dungeons and bandit camps can provide loot and experience. While there is no quest system or force driving you to conquer these locations, as we’ve seen in other recent 4X games, I’ve found it is still worthwhile to seek these out for the benefits they offer. There are also numerous special minerals and resources across the map, but unfortunately I’ve found little in-game info about the specific benefits of each of these. I’d be remiss to not mention the neutral cities that you will also run into across the map. Thus far they seem to all be high men cities, but I assume this is alpha placeholder stuff. These cities do produce units that will wander around, and along with the occasional wandering monster, these can make you think twice about leaving your capital city undefended.

I’d like to go into greater detail about how the game progresses past the 50-60 turn mark, but I’ve been prevented from doing so due to some game halting stability issues. Despite saves and reloads, I have found I always hit a point where the game freezes trying to process one of the AI’s moves. I’ll be left with little more than an hourglass a developer console popup indicating a code error such as “Array index is out of range.” This is expected out of alpha software, but since you may be considering making a purchase, I feel it is important to note that at least some people may experience critical game halting bugs. This is why aspects like artifact creation, unit diversity, and advanced spells can’t really be evaluated at this time. While I’d like to see if my initial findings hold true deeper into the game, I suppose that will have to wait for a full preview article closer to release.

Worlds of Magic: Early Access First Impressions

Worlds of Magic is doing a good job at emulating its mentor, but this alone is not going to be able to carry it to success. In some cases it has borrowed too much without learning from what other newer titles have evolved on. A prime example would be the tactical combat system, which feels clunky in its animations and uninspired in its design compared to recent 4X games featuring tactical combat. In other cases, it has lost some of the most charming aspects in this new incarnation such as the summoning animations and the interesting looking cityscape.

With nearly half a year until release, I firmly believe it is possible to polish the game and turn it into something truly special. I truly hope Worlds of Magic will begin forging its own path, as just being an imitation of Master of Magic, however nostalgic we might feel about it, simply doesn’t feel like enough in an era of very tough 4X fantasy competition.

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  1. Sam says:

    I got the game. I have gotten past turn 130 or so by staying in my city. Wave after wave of spear guys come up, attack, retreat, and vanish.

    I cast the Power From Every Kind of terrain spell on my city and it has a pointless black blotchy animation.

    I loved the original mom,so I have high hopes for this one–but its got a long way to go.

    Good review.


    • Leszek says:

      Hi Sam,

      Did you checked the build after last patch, the swarming neutrals issue has been solved.

      • Sam says:


        Yes, I played post patch–I know the patching is fast and furious and I can see they are working it. After the patch it sent lots of object set to not defined object in little red letters down at the bottom of the screen etc. I don’t want to belabor the work in progress aspects here.

        I think its going to be a great game–but its alpha, I didn’t expect more and I am glad I bought it.


    • Keith Turner says:

      The issue with tons of neutral city spearmen swarming the player seemed to go away with the patch they applied on Saturday. I did play before and after that patch, which is why I didn’t mention that issue here. The lockups I experienced came from games created after that patch. I had 3 or 4 games all get to a point where I could not continue.

      • Leszek says:

        We are investigating the issue, another patch should come tomorrow or Wednesday.
        Now we are doing our best to address the bugs, and then the improvements we have found to be most crucial.

        The community that trusted and joined us provides an enormous amount of great feedback. We are planning to make a good use of it.

        I will ask Aaron to jump in and answer any doubts from the review, also if you guys have any questions, just ask. We are here to create worthy successor to Master of Magic.

        • Mark says:

          I have a question:

          Other than modern graphics and sound, what does (or will) Worlds of Magic offer that MOM did not have?

          In other words, does WOM expand and improve on MOM or is it just a close re-creation with modern graphics?

        • DrBalthar says:

          I’ve got a question too haven’t had time to look at the Alpha but will the final version include an underworld as there was in MoM too? That I found one of its unique features compared to all the other 4X planet-based games.

  2. Gary says:

    Thanks for the first impressions. I’ve got this game on my radar, but I’ll be waiting until release and reviews (especially yours).

  3. ashbery76 says:

    After watching a few vids this seems another game like Lord of the Bland Sun that have no immersion and lacking an identity.The indie devs seem to focus purely on the mechanics and I’m not sure that is enough now.

    • t1it says:

      Word. Which is why I appreciate Zero’s efforts in SD2.

      But anyways this looks like a cool game, I’ll buy it and hope it sells well if it’s half-decent. Then release an expansion or two and then I’ll be 100% happy with the game.
      This is the situation of 99% of all PC games now so it’s not something “negative”, compared to everything else ;)

  4. Keith, that is an excellent review!

    Early access has flushed a number of bugs we didn’t know we had. As Les mentioned we are working hard to fix them.

    We’ve also already started discussing things like improvements to the battleboard with the community.

    As you pointed out we’ve been listening to our community from the beginning and we still are.

    Worlds of Magic is a gem, it may be a gem in the rough, but it’s still a gem. Over the coming months we plan to polish it up into something truly special!

    • Keith Turner says:

      Thanks Aaron and Leszek for stopping by and leaving your comments.

      I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on the game as it develops further in the coming months.

  5. Mark says:

    A remaking of MOM is certainly a worthy goal and even more admirable is the dev’s practice of listening and responding to their fan’s feedback. If anything can do MOM justice its that sort of attitude.

    I will be watching the development of this game closely but as always I will be waiting for the official release and reading several *final* reviews before making up my mind to purchase.

    I wish the devs the best of luck.

  6. UncaJoe says:

    Thanks for the update/review Keith. As usual, it was really helpful. I for one appreciate your honesty regarding bugs and problems. I’m thinking seriously about buying it now, just to see if the dev’s are really doing anything about the issues you reported. Because if they are, this is certainly going to be a gem of a game.

  7. DrBalthar says:

    From all the 4X Games I have backed in the last two years (Predestination, M.O.R.E. and this one). I have most faith on this one to turn out to be really good. I really have lost faith in the other two by now.

    • Leszek says:

      I’m afraid that M.O.R.E. is not gonna make it.

      • DrBalthar says:

        Yeah I don’t know I have mixed impression on why they have gone for a second kickstarter while not having shown any playable game for public yet. I have the feeling they are trying to go for a scale way too large for what they can handle which always has the danger that all the individual parts will be stretched too thin to hold the game together.

        • Leszek says:

          Are you referring to MORE or Worlds of Magic?

        • Gary says:

          Leszek is asking because Worlds of Magic did the same thing as M.O.R.E. is doing… a second Kickstarter project (before the first was delivered) to allow better art assets and more stuff :)

          So I’d say that a second Kickstarter is NOT indicative of anything nefarious :)

      • Gary says:

        Oh, I think M.O.R.E. will make it, it’ll just be late.

        • DrBalthar says:


          Sorry that probably wasn’t clear from the context I meant M.O.R.E it is true that WoM did something similar but I think during the 2nd one they showed some actual gameplay and they had a small combat demo for public download. While this one (M.O.R.E) still has nothing after nearly two years

      • IdeaLCenter says:

        Oh… so little faith in also Polish developers group also creating 4x game? That’s shame…

        In my opinion 4x space games are a little more complex than i.e. WoM so we need more time to finish it, especially that we didn’t start creating our game from some middle part of it.

        • Leszek says:

          I’m sorry guys, but if after two years, you are only able to show some scenes with space ships, few animations and some GUI, then I can doubt. It really hard to see the progress between first and second campaign.
          Give us something playable.

        • Gary says:

          To Leszek: I really don’t think it’s appropriate for other developers to be commenting on someone else’s game, especially for those devs to have done two Kickstarter projects, themselves.

        • Happy Corner says:

          I concur. These sorts of pissing contests should be left to the fanboys – not the game makers themselves!

        • Leszek says:

          I’m not sure where there is any sort of pissing. I’m really not commenting the game, because there is simply no game visible yet.
          I’m not going to argue which game is harder to be made, because we have got completely different points of view.
          I’m just saying that I have missed the first campaign and I don’t see enough progress after two years to support second one.

          I really wish the MORE team all the best, but I still doubt. Two years is really enough to create prototype and some pre-alpha gameplay.

          Good Luck IdeaLCenter

  8. Marlowe221 says:

    Thanks for the impressions. As usual, Das24680 is doing a LP of this game on his Youtube channel – no affiliation, I just like his videos a lot.

    One thing I hope the Devs will consider is raising the number of squares the basic units can move on the strategic map. From the videos I’ve seen it seems to take a LONG time to get anywhere.

    Edit: Or maybe make the squares on the strategic map somewhat bigger so that there are fewer of them?

  9. Leszek says:

    To be clear, I’m a head of Wastelands Interactive

    Indeed. We have made second campaign half year after first one and actually there was a gameplay demo included.

  10. Pankratos says:

    Godspeed you, guys! Just please don’t repeat the mistakes of Fallen Enchantress and Age of Wonders 3. Competent AI is a must. Race and unit variety (and uniqueness!)is a must. Global events and independents is a must. No “colorful bra change on hero puppet”, please.

  11. solops says:

    Just tried it out. Looks great. Fantastic ideas. UI is not very intuitive. I have been fighting it all morning. I am sure I’ll get the hang of it, but…should I have to fight this long to learn a UI in a modern game? Sure, a little work is to be expected, but some obvious stuff is not obvious. Eventually, it might be a favorite.

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