Strategy games are infamous for having a larger scope than many other genres. It’s not always true, but more often than not, strategy games are huge. Snowbird Games took that reputation and decided to embrace it with Eador: Masters of the Broken World. Eador isn’t just huge; it can be gargantuan.
Many subtitles attempt to be clever or philosophical, and some just use made-up words, but Eador: Masters of the Broken World is completely literal. The world is broken up into numerous shards floating in the Astral, while demigods fight each other for control of them. On each shard, the demigods fight each other across an assortment of provinces through Hero units, who conquer the provinces in the name of his demigod, kicking the rest of them off the shard in the process. Rinse and repeat, and you’ve got the overarching process of how to win a custom game of Eador, though a custom game can vary from a small one-on-one game to a colossal 12-player free-for-all. The campaign plays similarly, though with a storyline that unfolds as you go and eight different endings. It can take anywhere from 30 to 120 hours to get each one, according to Snowbird, and I can definitely believe it.
Eador shares a lot of core gameplay with Heroes of Might & Magic, though offers a few quirks of its own. For one, Eador rewards a well built headquarters, as opposed to Heroes, which has you expanding as quickly as possible, gambling that you can get more towns than the enemy, leading to an eventual victory through sheer army size. – Jeff deSolla
On a provincial scale, there are tons of things to occupy each turn: buildings to build, troops to hire, spells to learn, unexplored lands to explore and even abandoned ruins to ransack. Moving to new provinces and exploring ruins generally leads to combat against the inhabitants. These battles are turn-based affairs set on a small hexagonal grid with your army on one side and the enemy on the other. Good tactics and strategy are called for during battles, as you’ll need to use the terrain to your advantage to gain an edge and survive. Hills give you more defense and a longer range for ranged attacks, while forests will increase the power of counterattacks.
Don’t worry too much when you lose units, though. You’ll go through a lot of them while slowly building up an elite fighting force, as those who survive gain experience and gain perks and power. Your hero will also gain experience with each fight and, after level 10, be able to specialize within its class. Speaking of, there are four classes of heroes to choose from, each with different benefits and drawbacks. The Warrior is lethal in melee combat, the Commander can control larger armies, the Scout gets more benefits from provincial exploration and the Mage is capable of strong magic and rituals.
As with all strategy games, brute force and numbers will not always win the day over superior tactics. This holds true on the macro-level as well as in battle. Victory in Eador isn’t necessarily measured by having the biggest and strongest armies, but by being intelligent with the troops, resources and shards that you control.
Masters of the Broken World does little to build upon the first game, being more of a re-release with additional polish than a full sequel. Fans of the original may not be impressed, especially with the higher price tag, but Broken World offers a more streamlined experience with a much fairer difficulty curve, and ultimately is the superior version. – Jeff deSolla
Along your journey to becoming the master of the broken world, you’ll encounter a variety of unique resources that will give you advantages such as more powerful variations of units or cheaper troops or structures. A random event system is also in place, and it helps make every game feel more like an organic story than a formulaic game. Many random events will set off their own miniature story arc. For instance, you might have a province that is being terrorized by harpies or trolls, so you’ve got a choice of what to do about it. Do you ignore those in need? Do you blackmail the populace into paying you to take care of things? Or do you hire a famous hunter to come in and wipe them out for you? Each choice has its own set of consequences, and may end the arc or move it to the next section. I hired a hunter to take out the harpies, but when he tried, he brought down the wrath of a swarm and I had to send in my hero to solve things.
There are a few issues with Eador, mainly related to just how massive it is. Most buildings are upgradable or have prerequisites that must be fulfilled before they can be built, but there’s no easy way to tell what buildings have or are prerequisites for others, nor to see what needs to be accomplished to upgrade an existing building. Unfortunately, it won’t even tell you that a building cannot be built when you put it in the building queue until it actually tries to construct it. Combat is also somewhat slow. It’s possible to speed it up with a slider, but it’d be nice if there were less elaborate animations as well.
The graphics look surprisingly good for an indie strategy game, even on the lowest settings. The fact that the graphics scale so well across a great difference in computer power is great news, and speaks to a company that really knows how to make a game well. It runs almost as smoothly on a laptop that can’t even run Team Fortress 2 as it does on a desktop that can eat Skyrim for breakfast.
There’s not a lot of strong competition for this style of fantasy strategy game these days, but even if there were, Eador: Masters of the Broken World would still contend, based on its successful marriage of tactics and scale.
This game was provided for review by GOG.com.
Cons: Building construction can be confusing, combat tends to be slower than you’d prefer, largely a remake of Eador: Genesis rather than a sequel