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:
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.
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…
…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!
What’s that? You want to see what the ultimate Helia-aligned direct-damage spell looks like? I’ve got you covered:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And with that, victory.
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.
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.
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.