HEX-COM: Commanding A Wizard Host In Warhammer: Arcane Magic

The Warhammer universe has been getting an awful lot of love these past few months, especially on mobile and tablet. It was only a few weeks ago, in fact, that Deathwing appeared in one of our weekly columns, putting a tactical spin on the popular Warhammer 40,000 license.

In this week’s edition, however, we’re moving away from bolters, plasma guns, and chainswords. Once again, we’ve forayed into the vibrant world of Warhammer Fantasy, where its amalgam of races live under constant threat of Chaos. It’s one of those universes that never ceases to amaze, boasting a rich history that spans three decades, so it’s a wonder why more video games haven’t made use of such an original, timeless setting.

With its latest release, Norweigan developer Turbo Tape Games hasn’t taken the conventional fantasy route. Using the Warhammer world as its backdrop, Warhammer: Arcane Magic shuns blades, mauls, and axes for a powerful grimoire of spells. Naturally, each of its playable characters ascribe to one of the many orders of magick present in The Old World.

It’s these disciplines that influence which spell cards you can activate in battle. Each has its own cost, range, and duration, as well as several other attributes players which you will need to keep in mind when engaged in a fight. These crop up intermittently as your party of wizards explore Arcane Magic’s various stages. Trigger one and – zap! – a forcefield will suddenly appear, cramming all of the action into a nicely spaced area.

Naturally, battles are conducted using a turn-based system, but whereas enemies are able to move around and make free use of their limited commands, players are slightly restricted. A shared mana counter will dictate how many spells you can cast in one turn, preventing mighty wizards from simply spamming the same attacks over and over.

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It’s a clever way to hamstring players and get them thinking tactically. For example, I would often find myself without enough mana to finish off incoming enemies. Knowing they could close in and kill me with a melee attack, I would always try to save just enough juice to use a wind spell and push them out of reach.

Although each wizard has their own prescribed list of spells, this doesn’t stop them from experimenting in other fields. Hexes, augments, vortexes and other strange sorceries can all be equipped to a character’s loadout, though many of these cards will expire after one use. At its core, the strategy element is solid yet Arcane’s surrounding feature set lets it down somewhat.

For a game that costs £7.99, it can justifiably be seen as a high-end purchase, yet there’s a nasty twist in the tale. As we’ve come to expect in just about every free-to-play mobile game, Warhammer: Arcane Magic has also fallen prey to the allure of microtransactions. By slapping a few extra quid on the virtual counter, players can gain access to a range of feature to instantly boost their spellcasting prowess.

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While letting punters pay for packs of random spell cards isn’t such a crime, locking nearly half of the game’s characters behind a paywall is taking things too far. Although developers will always argue that premium options are only there to act as a shortcut, one has to question just how much influence this business model has when it comes to slowing the pace at which players progress to begin with. Thankfully, Turbo Tape has already responded to criticism, removing the pricetag from Warpstones – the only way to heal characters in game – but for many this simply won’t be enough.

By all means if you’re crazy for anything Warhammer related, then give Arcane Magic a try. Don’t waltz in, however, thinking the game won’t start to tug at your purse strings. Although a decent strategy game with a fun amount of depth, the range of content on offer and ways in which some of it is gated just isn’t acceptable for mobile title that already costs the best part of ten quid on entry.

Image Credit: Jon Sullivan

1 Comment

  1. Oh dear, microtransactions everywhere, sucking out the fun.

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