So about that whole Master of Magic thing

I’m not so sure - I believe even the shortcomings in it’s AI were a thing that made MoM a better game, at least in some ways.
As others have written, MoM cared little for balancing stuff, and there were approaches that were clearly better than others.
Against a competent AI, many ways of playing the game would have been blocked off, because they were simply not efficient enough.
But it was lots of fun just setting your own objectives, jerking around as an allround wizard, a guy without ANY magic, whatever combination of spellbooks suit your fancy, any given race etc.

Even the improvements to the AI the later patches added made this part of the game suffer. The AI got pretty good at clearing out caves, towers, nodes and stuff on their turf, so just hoping to gain more spellbooks or traits during the game as loot ceased to be an option. You also were much safer in Myrran in earlier versions for the same reason.

The worst thing that can happen to the MoM recipe, imo, is the attempt to make everything balanced in a Starcraft’ish manner, be it to allow competitive multiplayer gameplay or be it to allow the AI to utilize and counter any strategy the player could employ.


Um, isn’t that why you’d want an update in the first place? To add competent AI? One of the reasons so many of use were excited about WoM being the spiritual successor to MoM was that Brad Wardell could code a decent AI. Sure, nicer graphics would be great, but it’s not one of those games that just needs a cosmetic upgrade.

While some amount of imagination in that department CAN be a good thing, I’d much rather have a MoM remake without imagination than one with weird things I never heard of and thus know nothing about.

Orcs, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings? Everyone knows those, and can set up his game to retell a familiar story in a game that features them.
Totally weird creations and races may appeal to a number of players, but will alienate those that like to see familiar faces.
SOME creativity is always fine, though - for example Arcanum wasn’t all weird, it was a fantasy world in which technology an magic clashed, but they still had orcs and elves, iirc.


AoW replaces city micromanagement with tedious unit micromanagement. I actually liked the city management in MoM because, due to local resource access and race, cities felt more distinct than in other 4x games.

I agree that the best original worlds still have some grounding in a familiar part of history or fiction. Its just that computer games, and especially turn based strategy games, keep recycling the same limited bit of fiction over and over.

If Tolkien inspired fantasy made up 2% of all strategy games, then it would probably be my favorite strategy flavor. I love classic fantasy, but its been overused in every genre of game. There are so many interesting time periods, myths, cultures, fictions out there. Why keep recycling the same one over and over?

I disagree that unit management in AOW is tedious. But thats just personal taste. I agree the racial differences in cities was a good tweak on the Civ template. Like I said, I loved MoM, but I found AOW to be even better.


About the originality/familiarity/imagination, one of the good things from AoW SM is that apart from the typical humans, elves, orcs, goblins, undead, dwarves, etc, it also have a few more original races like Frostlins, Draconians, Nomads, Archons, Syrons and Shadow Demons.

Personally, I find it’s more about execution than any particular source of inspiration.

I’m also more of a gameplay guy, meaning I can deal with clichés as long as the gameplay shines.

Naturally, I prefer both the fantasy-atmosphere AND the gameplay to be top notch - but it’s rare to get both in strategy games.

But I’d take a familiar setting done well over a unique setting that’s average or below par.

It’s strange, because I get so sick of games aping other games in terms of features -without improving them (or, as is sadly the case with this particular genre - even matching them) - but I don’t really care about clichés much in terms of setting/story.

I just need enough variety to make choices interesting. Whether it’s about dwarves and elves - or noogles and frogies - is of almost supreme indifference to me.

Usually, I find the “unique” take is simply putting a different name to similar races with almost identical racial features. This goes for everything, including classes, spells, monsters, and so on. A fireball is a fireball, regardless of what kind of element it comes from or what you call it. If it’s a ranged AOE damage spell that burns stuff - it’s a fireball to me.

So, I think I’d prefer the focus be on gameplay innovation over setting innovation.

It has been a long time since I have played AoW:SM, so my memory might be a bit flawed on it. However, when comparing it to MoM some differences were:

  1. AoW:SM seemed to have far fewer spells than MoM. Certainly I do not recall world spells at all like Armageddon, Spell Seal (the one that counter spelled every enemy spell cast), Time Stop, etc…

  2. I am not sure, but wasn’t spell school tied to race? Where as in MoM you can be any race with any magic.

  3. Wizard customization was vastly superior in MoM than in AoW:SM.

On a much more subjective note, for whatever reason AoW:SM didn’t feel nearly as rich as an experience as MoM did.

I never thought the AoW combat was better. I thought it was more tedious. Fights took longer, ranged combat was much more fiddly.

No, spells weren’t tied to races. 6 magic schools.

The customization is almost the same in AoW SM. 17-18 special skills to choose (1 virtue, or 1 flaw and 2 virtues), 6 points to distribute in 6 magic schools (from 0 to 4).
MoM had more of granularity and flexibility, with more freedom when you choose skills and magic books, true, but overall they are not that far away.

Now, in spells, there were a lot more in MoM. Around ~150 in AoW SM, and MoM had… more than 200? Almost 250?

Well, of course the combat was much longer, it was more detailed, with more options, with bigger scenarios and bigger armies and sieges and etc etc
I agree with archery was a bit fiddly.

I think I read somewhere that MoM had 60 spells per school. So at 5 schools, that would be 300 spells.

Yup, for some reason - I seem to remember that number from the manual. It was a really good manual - back in the day. Well, apart from the out-of-date information which was par for the course.

In fact, the MoM and MoO2 manuals are among my favorites ;)

AoW combat was really awkward - to my mind. It was slow and it didn’t feel, at all, like you were fighting with armies.

MoM was not particularly tactical in nature, but at least your armies looked a bit like armies - and the fights were over very quickly. This, combined with your actions still mattering a lot made for a great combat experience.

Thanks Deept, i actually googled up a bit for the answer, but without result.

DKDartagnan, in MoM the units were little groups of 6-8 soldiers/units, instead of the AoW model of just one unit. It’s curious, I think it’s something subconscious. If we see 1 unit on screen, even if we know it’s just an abstraction of a bigger army, it’s just one unit in the end, in some corner of our minds. But it seems easier for our brains to reinterpret a group of 6-8 soldiers as an abstraction of a 500-1000 soldiers or whatever.

Did unit attack strength scale with remaining HP in AoW? Even if it’s seen as one of the unbalancing factors between races, having attack scale to number of units remaining is a great feature. It offers a nice, easy level of abstraction for attrition within units.

It’s not particularly unique (off the top of my head, Kings Bounty and Advance wars have similar mechanics), but using the number of units as visual shorthand was very effective.

Yup, I know there weren’t many soldiers pr. unit - though my memory cheated me, as I thought it was more like 12-14 pr. army.

I agree that it’s not really logical - but it certainly works for me.

Interestingly, I never really felt the same connection to a semi-realistic amount - like in Total War. Then it becomes too impersonal and you really lose sight of what’s happening.

I think the MoM compromise is excellent for playability, especially in a fantasy game with the emphasis on strategy.

Another thing that is interesting about MoM’s magic vs everyone else was the flavors of each school. In most fantasy / colored magic games you have a lot of overlap in spell schools and thus they are not very distinct.

For example in MoM take Chaos (Red / Orange magic). In a lot of games you would refer to this as “Fire” which makes it quite generic. However in MoM it has some unique properties. With two small exceptions, all nukes belong to chaos. Lighting, Fireballs, Doom bolt, etc…

The exceptions are: Life as a “star fires” nuke which only works against Chaos and Undead units. Death has a drain life spell.

Contrast this to a lot of games which might have Blue as Water or White as Air having an Ice bolt or Lighting Bolt. Not so in MoM.

When considering why other games are missing the MoM feel, this is another consideration that is always overlooked.

Attack strength does not scale in the AoW games. For all intents and purposes, a unit in AoW feels like a single entity, not a group.

I’ll loved, LOVED both games, but as much as I think AoW: SM is the closest we’ve yet gotten to a MoM 2, MoM is still the superior game in nearly every respect save graphically.

You’re forgetting:
Dispel Evil (life)
Holy Word (life, just mass DE)
Ice Bolt (nature)
Psionic blast (Sorcery)

Just in terms of targted/controlled AoE spells (obviously call lightning and vortex are out there as well). DE and HW are very specific, of course. Ice Bolt and Psionic Blast are quite good though.

But this also points out why Chaos is interesting. The Nuke spells all tend to have additional benefits. Firebolt is vanilla, certainly. Fireball has some special mechanics with regards to how it interactd with individual members of a group IIRC (and you can really up the power). Lightning Bolt pierces armor. Doom Bolt ignores most defenses entirely, more than making up for the inability to increase it’s power. Etc.

But I agree, each school has a definite flavor that really makes things interesting.