You have to come to Warlock on its own terms rather than holding against it that it looks like Civ V. This isn't an epic strategy game in the traditional sense of the genre, where you build farms on plains and mines on hills and watch the cities grow accordingly..
Great Review Mr. Chick. I think you've assigned the perfect score. I've been having a lot of fun with Warlock but my main point of contention is diplomacy. It's just pointless. You meet an opponent, wait a few turns, opponent asks for money and you only option is to accept it or go to war. As you're about to destroy their capital they offer you money and mana for peace (haha, should have thought of that before trying to extort me).
Anyway, if they just removed the diplomacy option and gave you a 10 turn grace period before you go to war with an opponent it'd be fine.
The diplomacy is a bit weird, but I've played games were I kept someone off my back the entire time and basically had a safe border going once an alliance was formed. In fact, I've had games where everyone allied with me and I was just hanging fire on my way to one of the victory conditions!
I've only just started playing Warlock and it makes a descent first impression. I started on challenging since many people have said it is pretty easy on the forums. While I haven't been threatened, I am having a hard time navigating a choke point and taking two of the AI's cities. My gut tells me that it needs the variety of factions that Conquest of Elysium 3 has to have long term replay-ability. That would be a holy alliance, the variety of factions from CoE3 with Warlock's streamlined city management and focus on combat. CoE3's hands off combat just didn't leave enough meat on the proverbial bone, but if a Unity spell was cast combining CoE3 with Warlock, that would most likely be a magical union.
I gathered you enjoyed this from both your first impression and review. Is there any chance you might still be playing or at least dabbling in Warlock : Master of the Arcane should the developer release an AI or multiplayer patch?
I believe it is five from looking in the review section. I think I like the star system better (if you must have a rating system), but without 1/2 stars, I think the gulf between three and four stars is perceived as larger than is usually intended. Especially in this case when Tom's review is a generally a positive 3 Star review while I have read 3 star reviews elsewhere that are just lukewarm on the game being reviewed.
AI: Good tactically, poor strategically. I never see them taking advantage of metal upgrades for armor or weapons. I never see them get naval or siege units. I never see them specialize their cities as they go hodge podge with all of them.
The pocket dimensions: They just seem totally pointless. If you're strong enough to defeat the monsters there, you're strong enough to wipe out all the AI players a dozen times over.