Jarenth Plays: Warlock: Master of the Arcane — Episode 17: These Victories Three

In the previous installment of Warlock III: Reign of Chaos, I found and handily defeated Rjahk, favoured Great Mage of Lunord and all-around incredible weakling, by exploiting his Undead capital city’s single-minded Death Magic focus. With three enemies down for the count, and a bead on the relatively unguarded capital city of Ash-Haar, favoured of Grum-Gog, it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a shoe-in for victory. I’m winning this game, is what I’m saying.

The question, then, is ‘how am I going to win this game?’

Warlock: Master of the Arcane has a grand total of four different victory conditions. Now, one of them is triggered by capturing 50% of all Holy Grounds in Ardania and the various Other World, and I can already tell you that’s not going to be the way I win. I set myself up for this, really: with four Other Worlds, I’d likely have to conquer a minimum of two of them completely to satisfy this requirements. And that’s assuming the Holy Grounds are evenly spaced. I probably could mop up the three Other Worlds I have left, but that’s just going to devolve into endless turns of me killing all the monsters. I did a little reconnaissance into the world of Firest (located in scenic Monster County), and this is what I found:

Monsters as far as the eye can see.

So that’s not happening. That leaves me with three alternative modes of victory, each of which is at least somewhat attainable.

First, and likely easiest, I could simply continue my pattern of conquest and take over Ash-Haar’s capital city of Rat-o-Van. You might remember how I ran into that at the end of the previous episode.

Conveniently located right next to my domain.

Conquering Rat-o-Van will be a cinch. Its western approach is a small land bridge, and the city is situated directly next to water. I can simply pull the same stunt I did with Witchlea…

That is, teleport some vampires to a near-unreachable position right next to the city.

…while I send my Wolves of Helia and one unit of Trolls to hold the land bridge. My small squad of elite troops can hold back Ash-Haar’s zerg of summoned rats and level-one goblins with ease.

In fact, it’s so easy that the game decides to give me some more spells to research!

You're saying the Spell of Unity is supposed to be the final spell you can research? NOPE, SUCKA.

What’s that? You want to see what the ultimate Helia-aligned direct-damage spell looks like? I’ve got you covered:

Halfway between Sunstroke and Armageddon.

In all honesty, this fight’s over before it began. Ash-Haar attemtps to strike back with his capital city and the Rain of Fire spell, but neither of these attacks do very much: my Vampires are tough enough to eat any damage he dishes out, and both my two Wolves of Helia and my Trolls are immune to Elemental Damage (the Trolls were enchanted to this effect last episode). It takes me only three turns to bash down the city’s defenses and walk in.

Miralbus the Hat shows up for five seconds to take credit for this victory.

Defeating Ash-Haar proves my superiority among the Great Mages, and my erstwhile competitors are forced to stand at attention as I am crowned Pretty Much The Coolest Dude In All Of Ardania.

I don't know if the 'four other people in chains' is a coincidence. I choose to assume it isn't.

Or maybe I don’t do that.

Maybe I stop attacking Ash-Haar capital city on the brink of victory, pull away my troops, and wait.

As touched on in the previous episode (which has, like, three back-tracing hyperlinks now, so I’m assuming you’re covered) researching every (then-available) spell in the book gives you access to the Spell of Unity. Successfully cast this spell, which costs an incredible 5000 Mana, and you win.

I can decide to just wait it out. Ash-Haar quickly sues for peace, then starts making demands, then sues for peace again, but even during the ‘war’ periods he can’t do much, so given enough time I’ll hit that 5000 Mana cap. I decide to speed things up a little bit, though, by creating a giant supply of Undead Settlers and Meta-Teleporting them to every mana-generating resource I haven’t laid claim to yet. Beyond that, I drop everything. Turns fly by as I hit the Enter key, over and over. It’s not the most glamorous way to win, but it’s a way.

Finally, twenty turns after I could have won by conquest, I reach five-thousand points of mana. Ten turns of tense casting follow: will Ash-Haar attempt to dispel or counter my spell? Can he even?

I’ll never find out if he can, because he doesn’t.

Rainbow magics sparkle everywhere.

Casting the Spell of Unity, I am united with all the magical energies surrounding Ardania — united with, some would say, the very concept of ‘magic’ itself. Now a being beyond mages, beyond mortals, beyond gods, the fate of Ardania quite literally rests in the palms of my hands.

No, really.

Or maybe I don’t do that, either.

Maybe I’ll wait, even more. Turn after turn after turn of aimless waiting.

The Gods of Ardania, you see, are more than just spell-and-unit dispensers. They are the forces that shape this world, and they are the whole reason this tournament of Great Mages started in the first place. And while they’re usually content to let the mortals sort things out for themselves, they are not above a little personal interference, when properly motivated.

When motivated, for instance, by blind, seething hate:

Which, in fairness, I kind of deserve.

I’ve been building Temples to Helia wherever I could, to get new spells and the general approval of my divine patron. I haven’t explicitly mentioned this after that first Temple I built, but trust me when I say they’re pretty much everywhere at this point. Helia loves me, now, as much as possible. And Lunord hates me.

So I wait. I wait for tensions to rise, for tempers to flare, and for my Goddess to make that final, fatal decision. And eventually, she does:

"Please beat the game. As a reward, you win." -- Helia.

Kill the Avatar of Lunord. There’s a stretch goal if I’ve ever heard one. Drunk with confidence and hungry for power, I accept.

I can’t find the Avatar at first: the Quest seems to point to an empty square near St. Mouseberg. It isn’t until I end my turn — and a massive floating man appears, strikes at one of my cities, walks off again, and disappears — that I remember that Lunord’s disciples were invisible. It stands to reason that Lunord’s Avatar is, as well.

Still, no problem, right? Invisibility only hinders detection. I Meta-Teleport my most powerful unit of Elder Vampires over to St. Mouseberg. They walk around a bit, find the Avatar, and attack for what seems to a be a tiny amount of damage. The Avatar, on its own turn, retaliates by killing the Elder Vampires in a single hit.

My Elder Vampires, who’ve been with me since their somewhat random appearance back in Episode 2. The hardest hitters I have on call, and my first, last and often only shock troop against anything that isn’t Death-immune. Dead, single hit.

It is at this point I think to look at the Avatar of Lunord’s unit screen, and it is at this point I discovered how boned I may or may not be.

I am about *this* boned.

Because I don’t have screenshots of every sub-ability here, let me run down the list for you. A thousand hitpoints. An innate regeneration of fifty hitpoints per turn. One hundred attack damage. He flies, is immune to impassible terrain, can detect invisible units, is invisible himself, and is immune to negative spell effects. Oh, and he can Hit-and-Run, meaning his one attack per turn does not drain his moment points. And to top it all off, his basic attack Cleaves three hexes.

I’m boned. Can my units ever stand up to this? I discover that the only units I have that can survive a single melee attack from this guy are my first, kitted-out Wolves of Helia, and my Trolls (regular, even, not Old). Both of these are Melee units, though, which means they can’t actually attack the flying Avatar of Lunord.

I’m boned. I can try to box the Avatar in, but I simply don’t have enough units to keep him in one place, and he can just fly around impassible terrain and water and Cleave my damage-dealing units to death. And unless I deal more than fifty damage each turn, he’ll simply regenerate out of it again. I guess this is my own fault for underestimating the wrath of a God, even a God as terrible and dumb as Lunord.

I’m boned.

…am I?

I'm not.

Elemental Resurrection. I didn’t think too much of it when I got it, but in this horrible situation, I’m willing to try anything. That’s when I discover it lets me resurrect one of my own deceased units from a list. A list that seems to be organized simply by time-of-death. A list that my level eight Elder Vampires are currently topping. Two clicks later, they’re back in action.

And I generate enough mana per turn to cast Elemental Resurrection indefinitely.

What follows is the most insane game of Cat-and-Mouse I’ve ever played. I lose a lot of troops to Lunord’s Cleave at first, but slowly, I start to get a handle on his targeting preferences. I walk in troops from all over the continent, unable to spare the casting time to Meta-Teleport them in: almost every turn is spent Elemental Resurrecting whichever hard hitter got killed that turn. What little gold I have is spent drafting low-level ranged units (Goblin Archers or Goblin Sharpshooters) to deal as much damage as I can per turn,and to build Magic Towers in every nearby city that has population to spare. On the rare occasions where no heavy hitters die — whenever the Avatar kills a low-level unit, attacks a magic tower, or just does nothing for no reason — I spend my spellcasting time on two castings of Incinerate, my highest-damage single-target spell.

It lacks the raw appeal of Armageddon, but makes up for it by being so incredibly useful in this situation.

And slowly, ever-so-slowly, the Avatar’s health starts decreasing.

While I’m fighting here, my empire slowly turns to dust. Ash-Haar, unshackled from the presence of my troops, starts taking the towns on the southern hemisphere. Monsters smash my towns up good, and the cities of Grasshill, Vaindryn and Los-Agrelas turn brown in quick succession. I don’t care anymore. All that exists is the here and now.

Dozens of turns later, with the Avatar’s health in the red, he floats up to the city of Webshire (the battle has been all over the map, as the Avatar always tries to get out of sight range after attacking) and… simply sits there. This looks like a good thing at first, but I quickly realize that I suddenly can’t really damage him anymore. He’s regenerating, slowly but surely, and I don’t understand what’s happening.

A second glance at his info screen reveals the reason: because I’ve more-or-less boxed the Avatar in, and because his health is critical, he’s gone into Defensive mode, pushing his resistances through the roof. He’s also leveled a few times during this fight, picking perks that focus mainly on increasing Elemental and Missile resistance. I clear a path for the Avatar, and he gladly trades defensive immortality for the ability to run. I also switch out Incinerate: because Death damage is the damage type he is currently weakest against, I now spend my free castings with one of the most unassuming spells in my book.

I talked down this spell in the earlier episodes. I would like to issue a formal retraction of this talking down.

And finally, forty turns after I could have cast the Spell of Unity — seventy turns after I could have defeated Ash-Haar — the Avatar falls. I consider giving my Vampires, the only units who ever dealt double-digit damage to the Avatar, the honour of the killing blow… but then I realize there’s only really one way I can end this fight.

You probably saw this coming.

And with that, victory.

"Well done! Here's your victory." -- Helia.

The Gods of Ardania cannot be killed in the technical sense, but defeating their Avatar grants the victor the erstwhile God’s divine power, securing them a place in the Ardanian pantheon. As the powers formerly Lunord’s suffuse my mortal frame, I am filled with some apprehension. Will I now be the new God of the Moon, opposing Helia in the celestial order? Or will this be the dawn of a new age, where sun and moon can once again work together for the greater good of all?

Time will tell, I suppose.

First, though, let's get some temples to Me up and running.

So in what way did I win? That, dear readers, is something you get to decide for yourself. I’m fond of all three, really: the natural flow of conquest, the character-correctness of Unity, the desperate battle against near-insurmountable odds of ascendance. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all equally valid. They all end, at least, in the exact same way.

A roll of the credits, and a boot to the menu.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of this Let’s Play. I hope you all had a good time reading it, because it was certainly amusing for me to write. If you did stick with me all the way through the end, I’d be grateful if you left a comment of some sort. What did I right, what did I do wrong? What should I do differently for a next LP? And is there a specific game I could or should be playing for a next LP?

Because as far as I’m concerned, a next LP is coming. It might be a little while, and I’ll probably restrain the pace a little next time — I’m still a little surprised I kept this three-updates-per-week scheme up for as long as I did — but I certainly had fun. So if you have any good suggestions, feel free to tell me!

Once again, thanks for reading. Hope to see you all next time.

– Jarenth, Master of the Arcane.

6 comments

  1. I had a delightful time reading this, so thank you very much. I bought the game in part because of this LP, and given as the game doesn’t make a lot of things clear (such as needing Holy Ground to build Temples), I learned a few things about the game too.

    I think this format lends itself well to turn-based strategy, although RPGs could probably work too, so I’d like to see either of them for your next LP. Perhaps a playthrough of Civ V with the new expansion to showcase some of the new features? I also appreciated the regular updates – at least two per week is my preference, but if time only allowed for one per week I’d enjoy it just as much.

    I shall definitely be reading your next LP – thank you once again. :D

  2. Had a great time reading this! I agree with the poster above – this format lends itself best to strategy games like Warlock, or games with random generation and emergent gameplay rather than fixed narrative. Maybe you could LP Crusader Kings 2 next?

  3. I greatly enjoyed this series. I tend to get bored reading LPs so I tend to stop them. (Same with Video LPs. I’ve only watched a few full Spoiler Warning seasons), but I kept up with yours from beginning to end.

    Because of that I have to say I can’t think of anything you could have done better. There are things you could differently, but nothing that would be better. Just different. So I say keep going, do what you like. Experiment if you wish. You definitely have the talent for it and I’ll keep reading.

  4. “will Ash-Haar attempt to dispel or counter my spell? Can he even?”
    The only way to stop Unity is to blow up the capital city. The AI is really, really terrible against a Unity attempt, essentially doing nothing at all to stop it. They just keep up their petty extortion and minor border wars (which you can probably counter by placing any Defending unit on the city and giving them regen (Fervus is the best God if you ask me; 15 hp/turn regen)), never even truly attempting to stop Unity. The only way an AI casting Unity fails to win, is when the player eliminates them. I genuinely dislike Unity because of this.

    “Both of these are Melee units, though, which means they can’t actually attack the flying Avatar of Lunord.”
    And then you cast Levitation on the Trolls after dispelling their Elemental Immunity. ;)

    ————
    As you probably noticed, I thouroughly enjoyed this ordeal. Reading about your rookie mistakes, and then bitching about them, was fun.
    With how horribly breakable Warlock is, the forwardlog was a really good move. If you think simply having some Vampires levitate over water is lame, you’ve not tried hard enough. I’m not sure quite how much damage a unit can deal with a single hit, but it’s a ton. That is a non-Siege unit, against a damaged city (the damage is capped by the city’s health). If the turtle had Demolisher (siege), it could probably deal 600 damage with a Crit, which instantly demolishes most cities. Turtles also hit a two-square line, by the way.
    So what I meant to say was, the forwardlog is good for ‘blind’ LPs.

  5. My experience is close to that of Aulayan – this is actually the first LP that I read from start to end.

    I think one point that helped me enjoying it was the fact that this was an (almost) blind LP. I never played this game, so it’s easier for me to identify with someone who plays it for the first time. It also caused you to introduce every new meaningful strategic element as you discovered it, meaning that I didn’t get confused because of some missing prerequisite knowledge. But I wouldn’t put it beyond you to create an equally easily understandable non-blind LP. Good job on cutting the boring busy work, too.

    Finally, having a caption AND an alt text on every image strikes me as a bit overkill. I would suggest to just use one of both and put your funniest line in it.

  6. A rather late post, but you know what they say. Opinions:

    – Loved the caption AND alt text idea, actually. I’m a sucker for alt text, what can I say? But mostly it was like this: the caption made me smile, then the alt text made me laugh outright.

    – At least once in every episode I thought to myself: “This would be SO fitting in a Morrowind LP!” I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the way you narrate, the (sometimes subtly sarcastic, sometimes obviously cynical – sometimes both in the same sentence) comments, the hilarious remarks about some easy-to-miss detail. That, in my opinion, would be gold in a Morrowind LP – moreso even than here!

    – You have a way of writing words that makes it easy for me to empathize. I’m no professional critic, but I’ve read enough in my life to know that that’s real talent.

    – The structure may or may not be suited best for turn-based stuff, I can’t really tell. My hope is, even if you do not go for the Morrowind LP, that your next LP will be of something old-school, preferably RPG. And to clarify, when I say old-school, I’m not talking about Ultima II. I’m talking about post-Fallout, pre-Neverwinter Nights II.

    This, of course, is one reader’s opinion, and I will read on even if what you write is on the opposite end of what I suggested. You’ve won me over, just like Shamus won me over some years ago. Cheers!

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