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by Red Orb Entertainment
Warlords III is the latest in the Warlords series of strategy and conquest games. While this third version of Warlords has some differences from the previous two editions, the overall premise is the same. Take over cities, which produce military units, assemble the produced units to capture or destroy your opponents cities, and when you capture all other players cities, you win.

What it is about:
While the idea is simple, the many factors that come into playing a game of Warlords III make it complex to master. While a player can win by simply capturing cities and building masses of armies, there are a number of additional factors into making "the perfect army" to conquer the world. No single faction has a distinct advantage, and winning is tough without a good strategy and a little luck.

One of the first things I want to explain about Warlords III is the general game idea. The goal is to conquer the world. To conquer the world you need to own many powerful armies, to get powerful armies you need cities to produce them, to get cities you need armies to take them over, and I think you get the idea. Each player controls a single faction in each Warlords III scenario. Each faction has it's own distinct troop types. For example, a player controlling the Dwarves would be able to create dwarven infantry and dwarven crossbowmen that take a number of hits, but aren't the best fighters around. The Horse Lords on the other hand have incredible cavalry, but their units excel in speed, not fighting ability. Each faction has it's own strengths and weaknessess, and overall, the game seems to balance the different factions pretty well.

The first step in Warlords III is to conquer cities to produce your armies. There are a number of differing strategies to use to conquer a number of cities. From my experience the best strategy is the "perfect army" approach. This strategy means creating the best army possible that can't possibly lose. Then march this army around and take over everything in sight. Because the "perfect army" embodies a number of new features in Warlords III, I'll take some time to describe how to create this army. One major feature of a perfect army is its heroes. These Heroes can increase the power of any armies that are grouped with it. Heroes also gain experience for things like completing quests and winning battles. Given enough experience, a hero can raise a level and when he does you can assign him bonuses, abilities and spells. Heroes can also search ruins that are scattered about the map. These ruins can provide a player with gold, magical items, or powerful allies. This might make ruins sound pretty good, but there is one down side. Ruins may contain powerful monsters that your hero will have to face alone. Your hero may not die often to these dragons and ghosts, but when he does, you'll kick yourself for having risked your hero one to many times. With all these abilities a hero is one of the most versatile of units around.

Other factors to consider when creating a perfect army are the combat strengths of your units as well as their special abilities. Each unit in the game has it's own combat strength, a measure of the unit's effectiveness in battle. While units with higher combat strengths are more likely to win fights, there are other factors to consider when deciding what units to use. There are abilities such as leadership or morale, which provide a bonus to the combat values of all units in a stack. Usually heroes provide these kinds of bonuses, but some powerful creatures also give bonuses to creatures stacked with them. There are also abilities that subtract from the combat bonus of your opponents. Abilities such as chaos, fear, and siege reduce bonuses that opposing armies get, as well as reduce their overall combat strength. Finding a group with the maximum bonus is the real key to creating a winning army. There are a few other new abilities given to units. Units may now have a "missile" attack, which allows free shots before combat begins, or an "assassin" ability, which functions like the "missile" attack. The major difference with the "assassin" ability is that the assassin has the same percentage chance to kill its opponent, no matter what the power of the opponent. All these abilities provide a number of differing units, each with their own specialities.

Unfortunately a single player doesn't get the opportunity to make all these units. A player is restricted to producing units that their group can produce. For example, if I was playing Warlords III with the "Horse Lords" faction, I couldn't produce dwarven infantry or goblins, just because the Horse Lords specialize in horses and human troops. In the previous versions of Warlords, a player could make whatever units a city could produce, independent of which faction they were playing. Although this made some strange combinations, like Dwarven factions making skeletons, it was nonetheless fun. It seems that limiting the units a player can produce is the only major step backward from previous Warlords versions.

One new thing that is included in Warlords III is the single player campaign game. In this campaign, the player controls the Sirian Knights in a number of linked scenarios against the evil Lord Bane. Throughout the scenarios you are constantly rallying your knights and pegasi against the undead armies of Bane, taking the fight to different parts of the world, both above ground and below ground. One of the nicest features of the campaign game is the ability to keep your experienced heroes between scenarios. By the end of the campaign game I ended up with a hero that almost couldn't die. Taking heroes from one scenario to the next also gives the separate levels some sense of cohesion. The levels feel like they are linked in some way because the same characters are appearing over and over.

The campaign game is very well made and challenging, although the only complaint I have is the way that the latter levels use vast amounts of troops to compensate for a weak AI. While this it is common to substitute troops for an intelligent computer player, its still a let down to know you lost simply because you started with many fewer troops.

Overall Warlords III is a step in the right direction. It's fun game play, simplicity, improved graphics, interesting sounds and excellent units make it a great game. I know I've played it for hours and hours simply to see what all the new units do. Warlords III is fun because of its simplicity, easy interface, and interesting idea.

While Warlords III is a step in the right direction, I would still compare it to taking two steps forward and one step back. Warlords III did remove one of the more fun features of the game when they limited what troop types each player could build. While this is more realistic, I have to say it's a negative aspect of the game.

Warlords III is a fun game, and if you've never tried any kind of strategy, this is a good one to start with. I have enjoyed playing Warlords III immensely, and I recommend it to all game players.

--David Korus