Eador: Masters of the Broken World Review

Eador: Masters Of The Broken World isn’t quite as bizarre as it seems at first. It’s a bit strange – mostly thanks to the flowering of innovation and experimentation in Eastern European development houses – but it’s a sort of cultural strangeness, rather than any sort of downright surrealism.

Eador: Masters of the Broken World is actually a remake of a previous game – Eador: Genesis – but with an actual budget and development team. Genesis was developed by essentially one programmer who farmed out art duty with commissions, which makes it the largest single-developer game I’ve ever played. It was very well-received in Russian-speaking countries, but the lack of an English translation kept it from breaking into the Anglophone world. Genesis was finally translated in late 2012 after the announcement of Masters of the Broken World, presumably to build excitement in English-speaking countries that had yet to experience it.

Eador: Masters of the Broken World
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Snowbird Games
Publisher: Snowbird Games
Released: April 19, 2013
MSRP: $19.99

Both Eador games start with the same premise, and this story preamble acts as the tutorial to the game mechanics. You are a villager in some backwoods town who has been apprenticed under a powerful wizard. The wizard reveals to you that it is your destiny to overthrow the nearby king, and gives you advice on how to go through with it. Once you do, you find that things aren’t quite as they seem; the world is broken into shards, and it has always been this way. You decided to inhabit a mortal body to see what it is like, but now that you are back in your original form, you remember your goal: unite all the shards and form one single, unified world from the shards floating in the void.

It’s, to be blunt, a very Russian sort of story. There is a strange optimistic fatalism infecting every inch of Eador’s otherwise generic fantasy setting. From your sassy responses to the imp’s wry, bleak stories, Eador comes across as a universe where everyone is “used to the pain.” Things are bad here, but nobody really cares anymore. They just shrug and soldier on with their lives. The mortals don’t care, and the immortals ruling the shards are too petty to think about the future. You seem to be the only one with any sort of genuine concern.

If you have played any game in the Heroes of Might and Magic series (hopefully HoMM2 or 3), Eador will be instantly familiar to you. You control a hero that captures provinces for their income and fights off enemy incursions. When your hero encounters an enemy, he enters into a tactical battle on a hexagonal grid and dukes it out with the individual units. If he wins, you get the spoils of war; if he loses, you have to revive him at your castle and rebuild the army from scratch.

Where Eador sets out to make itself unique is in how it handles provinces. Eador’s province system is something akin to a cross between the provinces of grand strategy titles (Total War, Hearts of Iron) and a randomized dungeon crawler. Once you have defeated the garrison and taken a province, you must set up your own garrison and improve the area. Most importantly, though, your hero can “explore” (spend a turn to find stuff and tick up the exploration percentage) the province, unveiling battles to level your hero (and his army) and creating events that can add bonuses or detriments to the province. The battles can be performed at any time, so exploration is ideal if you are idly building up for your next big push.

Building up your castle is very simple. You select the structure you want to build, pay for it, and it’s built. You can only build one structure per turn, so you have to prioritize what you want first. Structures provide both passive (more gold per turn) and active (new units, spells, and items) bonuses to your army, and each castle can only support so many structures of a particular type. I’ve found it best to specialize in a particular alignment: good, evil, or neutral. Alignments give you access to different kinds of units and strategies (good, for example, focuses on health and defense), and having units of the same alignment in an army boosts overall morale in battle.

When you encounter an enemy hero, attempt to conquer a province, or go into a dungeon, you enter the tactical combat mode. As mentioned before, this is a map where each of your army’s units is represented on a hexagonal grid that they move around on and attack through. Your goal is to overwhelm the enemy with superior numbers or strategy, and force them to either retreat or die. If this isn’t your thing, you can auto-resolve battles, just like in the Total War series. Perhaps I’m bad, but it always felt like the computer auto-resolved battles better than I actually fought them. I kept playing each battle, though, as auto-resolving every time reduced a lot of the depth.

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