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Gameverse | April 28, 2017

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Eador: Masters of the Broken World Review

Frank Streva

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A quick disclaimer before I begin: despite being a fan of 4X strategy games, I’ve never played Eador: Genesis. This means that I can’t really pull up the original game as a reference point when judging Masters of the Broken World. From what I’ve read, Masters of the Broken World is less of a sequel and more just Genesis with a new coat of paint and some redesigned mechanics anyway.

Eador: Masters of the Broken World is a new fantasy 4X strategy game by Snowbird Games. The basic concept of Eador is that the world is broken into many shards floating in space. You play as a sort of godlike being, one of many Masters, who is trying to rebuild the world by conquering the shards and reuniting them. To do this, you travel to a shard, establish a stronghold, and start conquering provinces by any means necessary until you rule the shard.

This is the basic format of the game’s campaign. You pick shards to invade, with each shard giving you access to new structures and various buffs once you conquer it. In this way, the campaign is almost like playing a bunch of custom skirmish maps, except you gradually gain more unit and building options as you progress. There is also a karma system that changes what other Masters think of you. Your karma is generally based on the sort of units you favor (each unit has a different moral leaning) and your actions both on a shard and in the pre-invasion screen.

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Each game will start you off with a single province, your stronghold. This is the center of your empire, and losing it results in defeat on that shard. It is here where you build structures, recruit hero units, and form armies. Structures are divided into various districts, each with four tiers. One important thing to always remember is that there is a limit on certain types of structures. For example, there are around a dozen rank 1 unit structures, but you can only have four in any given game. This means that the game forces you to pick and choose what you feel would be the best choices for the current shard. Even still, the sheer number of building options can get rather overwhelming later in the campaign. It doesn’t help that the UI can be rather confusing and unresponsive at times. I’ve had times where the UI just wouldn’t register my input at first. It can be difficult to figure out prerequisites at a glance, and the advanced view can be even worse.

The main focus of your armies is the hero units. You must recruit a hero to move units around the map, much like in many games of this type. Your heroes gain experience, can use various spells and abilities, and can be equipped with items and weapons. The heroes themselves are very powerful units in battle, and can be resurrected for a price should they fall. The four hero types are Warriors, Scouts, Mages, and Commanders, and each type caters to a vastly different play style. As you recruit heroes, the price of recruiting another one gradually goes up, particularly if you already have a hero of that type. This encourages you to have a good mix of different hero types to perform different roles.

There can be a ton of things to consider in any given province of Eador. There are various structures you can build in provinces to modify income, allow heroes to recruit units and study spells, improve the population’s mood, and more. While the only primary resources in the game are gold and gems, many provinces have secondary resources like lumber, horses, iron, and so on. These resources aren’t spent like gold and gems, but rather modify the income from those provinces and provide discounts to the hiring of certain units and construction of some buildings. Random events can also cause various positive or negative effects on a province, like a serious forest fire wiping out a large chunk of a province’s lumber supply and screwing with your income.

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Each province also has locations that can be visited by your heroes, and more locations can be discovered by having your hero spend a turn “exploring.” These locations vary from shops where you can buy powerful items or special units, to battles that provide experience and loot. Exploring a province doesn’t just feed experience to your army either; it also has an effect on the province itself. Sometimes you’ll discover secondary resources or random events that change the province’s income. Exploring the province also increasing population growth, and once a province is 100% explored then you’ll get an income bonus.

My main complaint with the exploration mechanic is that it can take forever to explore a province, unless you are using a moderately experienced Scout. This is especially annoying in the early stages of a game, where many of your early turns will be exploring provinces to find weaker enemy encounters to level your hero. This means that the game can get tedious and downright boring in the early stages, when you just don’t have the income and forces to expand too rapidly.

I can be here for a while talking about all the various factors in the overworld map of Eador, but that is only part of the game. The other part is the actual combat, which takes place in a hex-based grid. Much like the world map, the combat system has quite a bit of depth to it that must be learned. Units have morale and stamina that affect their performance, there are various terrain types to consider, many units have unique passive and active abilities, etc.

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The tactical combat is quite fun and satisfying, and the AI is actually pretty good. The AI will use terrain to their advantage, attempt to target your weaker support units, and even focus their attention on wounded units. However, like many things about this game, there are various gameplay and technical issues that need to be addressed. Even with the recent patch that sped things up, some animations can take a while to perform. The audio, animation, and damage numbers are also all out of sync. It is pretty common to see units die before the damage numbers and attack animations have finished, resulting in units slashing at the air or taking damage from a unit that died before its own attack animation went through. It can also be difficult to tell what type of terrain a unit is currently sitting on.

That’s really the problem I have with the game: It is full of rough mechanics and glaring technical issues. I already mentioned the rather awkward UI, various issues with the combat system, and the tedium of the early stages of a game, but late game can also be rather tedious too. By this point you’ve pretty much done everything you can leveling up your heroes and improving your kingdom. Now you just have to conquer the enemy, be it a faceless local lord or another godlike Master such as yourself. Sieges against an enemy stronghold can take more than a dozen turns, assuming you don’t have siege weapons. Problem is, it can be a while before you get said siege weapons in the campaign, making the endgame of your early campaign missions seriously drag on.

Another annoyance is the general lack of information in some parts of the game. Not all of the mechanics are explained all that well, and looking through the manual didn’t help. The screen before combat is also mostly pointless fluff with very little true information. Telling me that the enemy force contains three giant slugs tells me nothing about what giant slugs are and if my army can take them on. It gets worse when you consider that units also level up, though the Scout has the ability to determine what level the enemies are before you enter the encounter. Sometimes a screen will pop up with your hero saying something vague like “Looks like we can win without casualties” or “If we win this, I’d be surprised,” but these only appear some of the time and are often misleading.

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If rough mechanics where the only thing wrong with Eador, I wouldn’t mind giving it a recommendation. This game can be pretty engrossing and downright addictive at times. However, I’ve also encountered numerous technical issues as well. The game is obviously poorly optimized, with a very inconsistent frame rate. This isn’t an isolated issue either, I’ve heard reports of people with PCs far better than mine getting choppy frame rates and bad performance. Occasionally, the AI will lock up during their turns, forcing you to exit the game and reload your last save. Even when the AI isn’t locking up, in larger maps they can take upwards of a minute to perform their turns.

I’ve not encountered them personally, but I’ve read quite a few posts on the GOG and Steam forums about the game not starting or crashing with an error message. I’ve consistently encountered a glitch where the game won’t display the name of my Scout hero during battles, replacing it instead with “hero.4.name.” I’ve also encountered, and heard reports of, enemy units with glitched out stats that make them far harder to fight than they should, or even accounts of buffs and debuffs not working correctly. There have been several instances where the game just wouldn’t let me click certain buttons, forcing me to restart. In one bizarre situation the game actually took control away from my army, like the game got stuck on auto-combat even when I had it turned off.

I don’t play multiplayer in these sorts of games, but I’ve heard from others that the multiplayer component is pretty much broken right now. It wasn’t working at all on launch apparently, and even with the recent patch it is still full of issues. If you really wanted to play Eador with others then this might be a huge problem for you, though given how slow a game of Eador goes I can’t really imagine this game working well in a multiplayer setting anyway.

Because of these numerous technical issues, I have a hard time fully recommending Eador: Masters of the Broken World, at least in its current state. The game is far from being unplayable, but the technical issues are common enough that it can really hurt your experience. It’s so frustrating because I really want to say that this is a good game that is worth your money, but I simply can’t do that right now. Despite my complaints, I have managed to get quite a bit of enjoyment out of Eador. When everything is working right, Eador can be quite addicting despite its rough mechanics. If Eador‘s faults were just these rough mechanics then I would probably say go for it. Eador has the foundation of a solid strategy game, and I can see a ton of potential in this title, but as of right now I’d recommend waiting until the first time it goes on sale on Steam or GOG. Hopefully everything will be ironed out by then. I may come back to this one after a few more patches with my updated impressions.

You can find Eador: Masters of the Broken World on GOG.com and Steam for $20 or your regional equivalent.