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Dominions 3 Impressions Part One

Dominions 3 Impressions Part One

Preview - posted by Naked_Lunch on Wed 5 July 2006, 23:38:43


lol at dominons 3

Let’s recap: I had just finished polishing off a nice little preview of Illwinter and Shrapnel’s delightful 4X turn-based strategy game Dominions 3: The Awakening. I had gone over the basics and touched upon a little of this and that and then wrapped things up. Now, with over several weeks of gameplay under my belt, I’m ready to dive right into the game and get into the nitty-gritty of the newest game in Illwinter’s flagship series.

A WHOLE NEW ERA

lol @ darwinia

 

When you begin your new journey into the world of Dominions, you first must choose which Era to begin in. Eras are a new feature to the Dominions games that add an extra layer of strategy to the game along with replay value. You have three Eras: Early, Middle, and Late. Each Era sports different nations and magical/traditional warfare slant. Early is bent towards magic and thus plays a large part in combat and your overall game. Spells are more powerful, magical gems are more plentiful, et cetera. It features a boatload of new nations, many “primitive” that rely on magic and have roots in history (The Ape Kings in particular, who come off with very heavy Indian/Hindu vibes). The Middle Era is, as you may have guessed, a middle-ground featuring a balanced emphasis on magic versus traditional combat and is mostly made up of the nations from Dominions 2. It should be noted that Dom2 had only a mere 17 nations, while Dom3 boasts over 50. We’ll go into that a bit later. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Eras. The Late Era, following the pattern, is based around medieval warfare as it occurred here on Earth, with emphasis on flanking, more reliance on proper troop placement and selection etc. Not to say the Early Era was devoid of this, quite the opposite in fact, it is just more in the foreground in the Late Era. Once you’ve chosen your era, it’s onwards to select the nation you will have Dominion over.

BIRTH OF A NATION
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As stated before, Dominions 3 boasts an astounding 50+ nations ranging from your standard medieval kingdoms to Lovecraftian civilizations (The game even includes R’yleh as a playable nation!) to Ape Kingdoms and nations rooted in history such as Rome and ancient Japan. Obviously, there’s a great deal of variety to choose from. So how does one choose which nation to play as when he is confronted with such a deluge of options? Well, each nation has specific ups and downs; such as what kind of units they can recruit, what pretender gods are available to them, and how well they work with magic. For example, Mictlan priests can utilize potent blood and water spells, but their infantry uses weaker, archaic weapons. Plus, the Pretender God must be sated with blood sacrifices which are difficult to undertake. Other examples of nation traits are dominion balance (I’ll get into this later, in the pretender god section), research points, etc. Sadly, at this time not all of the nations are fully completed so it’s hard for me to really talk about balance between them. Suffice to say, the game is not perfectly balanced (what strategy game is?) but I feel Illwinter has done a decent enough job ironing out the nations, even if some seem a bit too similar at times. If you’re interested, Illwinter keeps a tidy little log of all the things they update which is available here.

LOOK UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY
lol @ darwinia

Screen showing the main god creation screen, bumped by the physical form selection screen. So what would be a god game without the gods themselves? In most god games, the god is presumed to simply be you, the player, who directs all action and whatnot. Dominions 3 gives you the chance to create your own god alter-ego, in the form of a “Pretender.” Y’see, in the Dominions universe there were a bunch of cults squabbling amongst each other over whose god was better at miracles, building wonders, making preview articles et cetera and as do all things with organized religion, it soon turned to vicious bloodshed. This attracted the attention of the One True God who was in the shadows for a while and then came out in full glory to tell all the lesser, fake gods to stay the hell of his lawn. Then, one fateful day, the One True God just…disappeared. His presence could be felt no longer; he seemingly just upped and left and, like you’ve probably guessed, the bloodshed and violence and preview writing started up all over again. Your nation feels like it wants to get a piece of this the action and so they need a pretender god to fight for. That’s where your god comes into this. You have a specific number of “spending points” to use when creating your god. It’s like building a custom computer: Some parts cost more than others, and you can gain extra points by cutting things or slimming them down. Every single option you have for your god costs points, but also has a “flip side” which can gain you points. Some physical forms can cost up to 200 points, while others cost a mere 40. Of course, you’ll be sacrificing some things such as being able to attack, move, hit points, et cetera but the smart player can balance everything out in the end.

lol @ darwinia
You begin by selecting a certain physical form, which range from stone monoliths a la 2001 to sacred cows and liches. Basically, your god’s physical form acts like a super commander. It has all the same stats as commanders (Hit points, morale, strength, and so on and so forth), which we’ll get to in detail later, but also has special powers unique to the form: Monoliths have extremely high starting dominion and are very hard to kill, but they cannot move nor strike back.
lol @ darwinia
Physical form, along with nation choice, also determines what type of magic your nation will wield, which is the second step in making your god ready for primetime. Magic comes in 8 flavors: Fire, Air, Water, Earth, Astral, Death, Nature, and Blood (Which, along with Death, is banned by some countries). Nations like R’yleh, which were a star-dwelling species from the beyond specialize in astral magic, for example. Amazon-like nations will focus on nature and so on and so forth. Dragon forms will focus on the elements, liches focus on death, I think you get the idea. Selecting your magical domain is like putting ranks into a skill in D&D. As you put more ranks into a magic, you gain bonuses: Topping off Astral magic with a max of 10 ranks will net you +3 magic resistance along with upgrades to the spell Twist of Fate. Putting ranks into magic, as with everything else, costs points and it can get very expensive. When ranking up a learned magic, the point cost can increase dramatically. 8 points into Astral (I started with 1) cost me 224 points, leaving me with a pathetic single point left. Learning new magic costs points depending on how much you've already learned. It averages around 30-50 points and skyrockets up from there for each rank. That said, magic can be researched during the course of the game, so I personally think it’s good to add maybe one or two points into your strong areas and then move onto the next step which is…

lol @ darwinia

The Dominion itself. This is where you get to customize how your empire will work and how strong your initial dominion is. You have seven criteria to min/max, each with a max of 3 (10 for Dominions strength) ranks: Initial dominion strength; Productivity/Sloth; Order/Turmoil; Heat/Cold; Growth/Death; Luck/Misfortune; and Magic/Drain. I’ll go over each of these individually:

Initial dominion strength: Measures the divine power of your god and the influence it exerts over surrounding territories. If you strength is high enough, it can even convert nearby provinces. Unlike the others, it isn't a scale. You have a minimum amount of strength and build off that.

Order/Turmoil: 1 point in order gives you +7% income along -5% chance of random events. Turmoil, along with all the other “flip sides” give you the opposite I.e. one point in turmoil gives you -7% income etc.

Productivity/Sloth: Income + 2; and a 10% bonus for starting resources.

Heat/Cold: Heat and cold is somewhat specific to your nation. Caelum, for instance, requires 2 ranks into cold to operate as Ulm would with an equal balance. Both heat and cold cause -5% income and -10% supplies per rank

Growth/Death: Growth gives you +2% income, +15% supplies, and an increase in growth of 0.2%

Luck/Misfortune: 1 rank for luck equals random events +5%, but the chance of the outcome being good is an extra 13% (Get it? 13 is the so-called unlucky number? Get it? Hahahahaha I hate my life)

Magic/Drain: Magic ranks allocate 1 research point per rank, while drain ahems drains a research point per rank.

Now, you might be asking yourself why bother shifting magic towards drain, growth to death…well, every time you tip the scales in the “good” direction it costs a lot of points. Dominion is probably the most expensive portion of the god creation sequence, but it can also net you the most points. Turning the scales the opposite way can get you a lot of points that can go towards more magic ranks or a different physical form. Also, fiddling with your dominion scales can add challenge to the game for veterans. And now, we’re on to the final step: The Awakening.

lol @ darwinia

This is a new feature to Dominions 3, replacing the castle building portion (more on castle building and fortresses in the turn options section). Honestly, I wish they’d left the castle building in or at least modified it so it couldn’t be exploited so easily. This step is really just selecting three options: Awake, Dormant [God cannot be used for a year and a half], and Imprisoned [god cannot be used for three years, give or take a couple of months]. Besides the challenge it offers, choosing dormant and imprisoned give your bonus points, 150 and 300 respectively, to go towards other criteria. It’s not much, that’s for certain and I really do miss the castle building, but for experienced players it might be fun to fiddle around with and test your Dominion prowess.

INTERFACE TO FACE

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Perhaps the biggest addition to the game besides the requisite new units and whatnot are in the interface improvements. Most of the complaints lodged against Dominions 2 were about the archaic interface and general complexity issues. While there’s not much you can do about the complexity (considering it makes up the meat of the game, after all) Illwinter did improve the interface quite a bit. Now, when most game companies talk about interface improvements and “streamlining” we’d take that to mean “Our games weren’t selling enough so we’re dumbing them down to the new lows to try and attract an audience that doesn’t even care.” Thankfully, that’s not what Illwinter did, instead they cut out needless clutter and generally improved things all around. For instance, instead of having to manually tweak the tax rate for each province, which can get cumbersome when you have a whole bunch, the rate is automatically set. Also, whenever you highlight an option an informative tool tip pops up and gives you the lowdown. While no replacement for a manual or good tutorial (Which the game sadly lacks) it makes it easy for newbies to get into the swing of things.

 

Hope you enjoyed my preview and thought it was very informative. Stay tuned for Dominions 3 Impressions Part 2: This Time it's Personal in which I'll cover the options you can do within a turn, combat, sound/graphics, and then wrap it all up with my final consensus.


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