Today, November 7, the second major content addition for the turn-based global strategy Age of Wonders 4 will be released. It is called Empires & Ashes (“Empires and Ashes”), and will add a lot of new things to the main game – the corsair faction, the item forge, the form ( fruit bats), four books at once, a condition for victory, two story chains of tasks, an ancient miracle, a lair, creatures in the game world and mounts, and for dessert – six musical compositions for better immersion in the world of the game.
Let’s take a closer look at the new content.
Empires and Ashes expansion and free “Golem” patch
It’s worth noting right away that the game will receive not only paid DLC, but also an update to the main version of the game, which was called “Golem”. In addition to the traditional balance changes for such patches and improving the quality of gameplay, the game will feature an item forge and a war coordination function. The patch is largely based on player feedback, so the community should be happy with the final result.
The Golem update introduces a new mechanic whereby units that dominate combat can be permanently integrated into your armies. This is often achieved by spending gold or mana. However, a new faction of corsairs can obtain captured units using the spoils of war instead.
Let’s move on to the most delicious part – the new faction. Corsairs (in the original Reavers) do not particularly like to sit in one place and prefer to regularly raid neighboring territories, extracting resources and expanding their possessions for the key goal of progressing at any cost.
Corsairs are a unique culture that prefers to take the best of both technology and magic, effectively combining the two. Magnificent aggressive warriors, but this faction clearly lacks powerful units for close combat.
Of course, it’s up to you to decide how to develop this faction, but the developers clearly emphasized aggressive playstyle, flexibility, control and long-range battles. By participating in raids, corsairs receive spoils of war – a unique strategic resource.
The cultural advantages of corsairs support the need to go to war early against potentially powerful opponents. Siege Masters provide access to the “Creating Siege Weapons” project. Essentially, these are guns that use magical seals as a resource. They are capable of breaking through city walls, which makes defensive tactics in the city ineffective.
Total war is the glorious warmonger’s best friend. It allows corsairs to ignore the Imperium’s fines imposed by declaring “unjust” wars – who are they to say what honor is anyway? Of course, there are still diplomatic consequences, but they are trivial in the grand scheme of things. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but is it mightier than the magic seal?
However, corsairs have little interest in slow negotiations, and this is reflected in the fact that they receive -1 whispering stone. This means that, unless there are special conditions, the corsairs will not have it during conquest and will not be able to use normal diplomacy with free cities. However, they have another way to guarantee submission: the spoils of war.
War spoils are a unique resource available only to the corsair culture, obtained by defeating troops of opposing Empires and Free Cities and conquering their cities. Higher level units give significantly more war spoils than lower level units, which makes sense.
Once you obtain trophies, you can use them in different ways. For example, to intimidate the enemy or engage in extortion from free cities. Or you can completely concentrate on increasing military power.
Rival empires can also be influenced using a new Declaration option exclusive to Corsairs: Declaration of Supremacy. It disables the relationship penalties imposed by the target’s grievances against your empire, and gives you positive relationships over time. However, the upkeep of this pact requires the spoils of war, and its benefits cease once you are unable to pay for upkeep.
Corsair units have a unique property – “Concentrated Aggression”. It allows you to focus on goals that have a “checked” status.
Overall, Corsairs bring some much-needed variety to the game, offering a new tactical option for those who prefer long-range combat.
The next important innovation was printing
Seals are ancient structures built by order of the Archons to protect the world outside or to seal something (or someone) within. Control over the seals gives enormous power over the world, so Godir rush to seize control of them.
If you played Age of Wonders 3, you might be familiar with how winning through seals worked there. There are a limited number of seals scattered around the world. Each is protected by an army of strong defenders. Once they are defeated, you will receive one point per turn while your troops are on top. Capturing and holding multiple seals gives more points per turn. Once you reach a certain number of points, you achieve victory.
But the seizure of the seals will not pass without a trace. There are two sources of opposition that will try to prevent you from winning this condition.
First of all, these are other empires. Capturing the seal will anger all other factions as they become aware of your ambitions to control the seals of this realm. As you get closer to victory, they will be forced to react to stop you.
Another source of resistance is the seal protectors, as they have been left under heavy guard. These defenders wake up and attack any intruders from time to time. The frequency and intensity of attacks increase as you capture more seals and score more points.
Defenders come in many different varieties, and each one presents different challenges to overcome. These can be angels, demons, elementals or dozens of others, each attack has its own theme that determines which units will appear and what combat effect will be present in battle.
Not all worlds have seals. You’ll find some of them in one of the new story worlds and can add them to your own games. Their presence is added as a kingdom trait.
For Empires and Ashes, the developers added several new combinations of volumes to the game, so each book represents some kind of connection between the Materium and something else. Each of these supports a playstyle that can be uniquely paired with certain cultures or base game volumes.
The Tome of Alchemy specializes in negative status effects, applying them both to the enemy and eliminating those that affect your forces.
The Tome of Construct combines the material superiority and protection of Matter with the discipline and combat formations of Order.
Tome of the Dreadnought – This collection focuses on the firepower of siege warfare.
The Tome of Severance is a powerful anti-magic tome that has the power to break the spells of your enemies, as well as banish their summons or project magical protection from Spellcasters outside of your own domain.
And, of course, there were new ready-made factions
Larisa Mirabilis, person, “Philosophers of the Commonwealth” faction. He owns the book of defense and leads the corsairs. Vitality and magical concentration were chosen as starting parameters. Gifted wizards and outstanding builders. The ruler receives a lightning sphere, a mount, and the “Magic Arts I” ability.
Fauster Meticulous. Krylan, “Winged Corsairs” faction. Owns a book of alchemy and leads the fruit bats. The bonuses include light step, vigilance, evasion and quick adaptation. Imperialists and Runesmiths. The leader receives a magshot musket and the “Archery I” ability.
Unlike the previous expansion, this one has only two ready-made rulers. But this decision is more than offset by many other innovations and changes.
Empires & Ashes is a great expansion that adds variety to the base game while keeping the game interesting. For a very modest price tag, you get a lot of new things that will allow you to plunge back into the world of Age of Wonders 4 while waiting for the next content addition.