You did what with the world?
Eador Masters of a Broken World is never going to escape comparisons to Heroes of Might and Magic, and nor should it. Both are fantasy based empire building games where you fight in turn based battles using the units you’ve bought, trained and collected while you wander around the gaming world, conquering enemy keeps and discovering items and treasures as you level up your leading hero, amongst a variety of different races using magic and tactics to win each map. So pretty similar. But oddly, somehow, Eador has ended up better than the decades-old HoMM series, and has been released at only £14.99, so how did that happen?
First of all, Eador is not a game you enter into lightly. Getting your money’s worth out of this game is a significant time investment and at times it can begin to fell like a grind. This is the sort of game you set aside a weekend for, not one you play a turn or two every evening. Simply put, the content isn’t engaging enough for that over small numbers of turns. What is engaging is seeing your kingdom spread over the world and your army grow to unstoppable sizes as your own hero swells in power. But that can take hours, if not days to accomplish.
Everything is controlled through little radial menus that pop up when you click. On most turns you’ll be building some improvements to your towns, maybe buying some new units and then choosing something for your hero to do that will usually involve fighting something. Each fight then takes place on a hex grid where each unit has a turn in which they can fight or move, or your hero can cast spells. Everything is numbers based, but a hundred cheap militia can easily fall foul of a couple of strong beasts so the knowledge you gain over a series of games is invaluable. There’s even a kind of morality system where ‘good’ units will be less happy and efficient if they have to fight alongside ‘evil’ units.
There’s also limited resources to consider, as the world of Eador has been spectacularly broken into shards, with each having its own unique little balance of resources and territory. Controlling your resources and armies so that you can expand without overreaching is key, and surprisingly challenging. Occasionally it can seem outright unfair as you enter into a battle only to have the majority of your army killed by archers before you’ve got anywhere close, but there’s usually some way to turn it around or it’s a sign that you haven’t been managing your kingdom as well as you should have been.
Each leader you use a leader has their own skills, and currently the wizard seems reasonably overpowered as they dip into necromancy and can bring fallen units back as powerful (at least in the early game) skeletons. Unlike HoMM, in Eador your hero is actually a unit on the field so it feels more worthwhile to upgrade their gear from shops and loot as you’ll often find they are the most powerful unit on the field. That leads to a delightful game of risk/reward as you want to use their power as much as possible but you don’t want to risk them dying and all the expenses that entails.
While the game is incredibly similar to HoMM, there have been a few quality of life improvements, such as the way animations can overlap. If you give all of your units orders, you don’t need to wait for each animation to play out before you start the next, a lot of them will happen at once.The whole game benefits from this snappiness and with few loading pauses in sight, everything flows smoothly, to the point where it’s easy to lose hours for just one more turn. Within those many ‘last turns’ you’ll find a lot to do beyond the simple ‘go here and kill that’ as random events often spawn giving you some kind of choice, or there’s an exploration value for each area, allowing you to fully explore your own territory for bonuses rather than always needing to expand.
The graphics are competent rather than spectacular, but the whole game is pleasant and soothing, with enough information displayed on screen without being overbearing. Creature designs often look a little too familiar but there’s a few nice touches and the combat animations are satisfying and at least a little visceral.
If you’re not a fan of turn-based fantasy strategy, Eador is not going to change your mind. If however, you’ve grown up with HoMM and would like an alternative, look no further. At £14.99 on Steam, it’s a steal and well worth it as long as you have the time.