Eador: Masters of the Broken World is a grand strategy game with elements of turn-based tactics and RPG elements. Imagine mixing Crusader Kings, Civilisation and Heroes of Might and Magic. You’d get a mashup of potential and that potential is Eador: Masters of the Broken World.
I’ve had the pleasure of dabbling and clawing my way through Eador: Masters of the Broken World beta, and while living up to the claims of “grand strategy” it certainly offers an initial steep learning curve. The developers were kind in sending us personalised builds with an advisor to guide us through learning the system and experiencing Eador and its many different tiers.
You are an immortal demigod and you are competing with a typical assortment of other demigods - the wizard, the dark chaos lord, the fetching warrior and so on - competing across the astral void to reunite the scattered shards as one. The basic idea is that once upon a time Eador existed as a united, great land, and for some reason it shattered leaving broken worlds to float across the eternal astral plane. As time went on the history was long-forgotten and each shard became a mini-world in itself. Returning to my description of tiers, on the top and first tier you interact with the shards, as a demi-god, a voice in the universe, conquering shards and claiming them as your own you level up, unlock skill trees and gain access to new powers. As time progresses you are awarded for your rule in a fairly basic positive-or-negative system called karma. The game hints at multiple endings and storylines depending on your chosen route and further adds to the foreseen replayability.
When you choose a shard to attack and claim you essentially take your demigod focus to that world and have a civilization-style map, the second tier. Holding a centre city you can hire heroes, construct your town and conquer the land around. Hiring a hero was my first port of call, and I had access to the four general archetypes of hero: Warrior, Commander, Scout or Wizard. Each hero offers you a different set of levelling up skills, units and behaviours. The hero section reminded me heavily of Heroes of Might and Magic. Utilising the hex-grid system you have options to travel around looting, exploring or following quests you may find. The difference between HoMM and Civ-like games is that the hero uses a party of units rather than an army, instead of 30 archers, 15 pikeman and 2 hydras represented by one graphical unit in a stack. Eador gives you levels, adding a personal touch to your party, more akin to a band of heroes straight from your D&D book adventuring together. Playing with the commander hero I was able to award one of my spearmen with a medal for his bravery.
Conquering tile after tile I tried many differing approaches, sometimes I’d go on the typical land grab blitz and other times I opted to go for quality over quantity. The tiles around my keep offered different challenges, with barbarians in one complete with a dark shaman, and a simple settlement in the other. Some tiles offered unique rewards and resources where others were simply resources sinks. I soon found myself planning my turns, movement and plans before clicking that end turn button. With each bit of land I explored I was able to set my heroes to loot, pillage, explore, quest and scout with each hero offering unique abilities to said tasks.
In the final and third tier you have the battles. As soon as battle started I shouted “Heroes of Might and Magic!.” Not only do the heroes, items, spells, levelling and units remind me of HoMM but so does the combat. I do not say this as a negative point, as still today I sit and play HoMM 3. It reminded me of the age-old adage that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The combat in a hex system pitched my hardy warriors against the defenders, and as I cut and sliced I found myself wincing as my units were wounded or even died. The system of having a party rather than an army promotes a different play style, a play style that promotes careful risk and rewards consideration. As a player who hates to lose units unless it is planned as a worthy sacrifice, I found the combat punishing but refreshingly “realistic”. I worried that being a party system my warriors would soon achieve levels of god-like ability and the competition would be a cakewalk but alas, that is not always true.
Then to add to all the above, the competing demigods are vying for power and shards alongside with you. Their own cities and influence will need to be fought back and conquered claiming the shard as your own and unlocking the next “skill” or “tech”. It is important to note that shards unlock abilities and technology but there is no tree or points system. You either have it or you do not.
Adding to all that yet again, you have the challenge of balancing karma. Karma shapes not only your interactions with the entire game but also leads to offering up 12 different endings. Bolted on to the karma system are the random events, similar to the Civ random events with a HoMM feel. These pop up offering investment in various directions with pros and cons with each decision.
Even after a couple of days of solid playing I felt I had lots to learn, and while I played a beta of the game I didn’t come across too many bugs, that or I did not notice them due to a lack of full understanding. I did, however, feel the game was cluttered at places, required some re-designs and in particular the strategy map (tier 2) had cities on every single tile, something I found odd when expecting stretches of plains, woods or desert. In addition, explanations on levelling and the ease of information was lacking, something that I was warned about prior to playing.
Eador could easily peddle each tier of gameplay as individual games, yet we are treated with a game that compliments and links multiple genres and gameplay to one game. In fact wonder if the game offers too much!
Eador: Masters of the Broken World is an incredibly ambitious game and so far the game will cater easily to fans of HoMM, Grand Strategy and alike. Keep an eye out for Eador, created by Snowbird Games set to come out Q1 of 2013 and available for PC and Mac.