In my opinion, you can’t have a proper strategy game without skeletons and casters. I’m a discrete fan of the strategy genre only when fantasy is involved as I’m not big on history and epics inspired by it. This means that for the past few years, a certain franchise has been turning me away from the genre, but now, with a promise of ogres, rats and dragons, I approached this game with optimism and discovered that it is a mana-infused graveyard full of potential.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a new turned-based strategy game set in the fantastical world of Ardania where monsters and adverseries lurk under the fog. There is no story mode as of yet, and as this is still an early build of the game, I was only able to experience some of the gameplay and general feel.

The game starts off with your basic map size/game difficulty options and has you select one of 12 preset mages to represent your forces. You are also given the liberty to create your own mage by mixing and matching skills and spells. Once in the game,  it did not take me long to grasp its layout and interface. There is a plethora of menu items and options available for you,  but the game is very welcoming and it all proved to look more complicated than it actually is. Once you become familiar with the interface, the game opens up and offers a streamlined experience of fun that translates in to a black hole of game time.

You start off with a capital city where most everything will be taking place until you conquer other castles. From there, you are given the power to build farms that provide produce to mainatin your population, as well as train warriors, rangers and mages to do the fighting for you. The interface is a bit on the clunky side for my liking, and even though this game is all about the strategy, a little tweak can go a long way in eliminating the drabness of the grey, browns and blues that dominate your castle menu. Aesthetics aside, the game still requires some ironing and core duties such as managing your resources were tasking. I found myself struggling to maintain an army, versus produce as well as justifying why up-keeping it requires mana. It could be a balancing issue, but for a game based on warlocks and magic, I wasn’t doing much casting due to the lack of sufficient mana and the time delay required for some spells to be ready. There are also some inconsistencies that currently plague the game: After completing a building, you have to wait a turn or two before issuing another build order, something I am yet to comprehend, and some missions you receive during the game were illogical, asking you to build a harbor when the only body of water available in your vicinity is a small pond.

During your progress, you will encounter your oponents in battle and will be given diplomacy options. You may either declare all out war on them, make a pact, or demand offerings of gold and mana from them. In my time with the game, I wasn’t able to grasp the importance of allying yourself with another great mage or declaring war versus demanding gold and mana from them, which always made more sense to me. I’m sure this will be dealt with upon final launch of the game as the AI is still being balanced and worked on.

In return for these issues, however, the game has immense potential and offered me a phenomenal experience that had me go through the classic just-one-more-turn syndrome. Every turn and coming of a new day had me watching the screen anxiously as my opponents played out their moves: Will they attack? Will the monsters involve themselves in battle? Do I have enough mana to cast that devastating spell? It is this fun factor that I look forward to when playing games. It just goes the distance in proving that its not what the game is dressed in or how it moves around, but what it gives you in terms of entertainment.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane is available for the PC