Etherlords II Review (PC)

Etherlords II is a card based fantasy game. There is an average pole playing game that serves as a basis for you to practice your skills but the game really shines on the multiplayer side. Each of the four parts of magic has a color associated with it. All of them come from the white magic. The forms of magic you chose determines which spells you can cast. There is a large variety of spells for each path and this provides an above average level of replay.

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Upon entering the game you can choose to go into the role playing game, duel against the AI or go online to take on others in multiplayer mode. The duels against the AI allow you to get a solid feel for the different magic types and what the strengths and weaknesses are for it compared to the other types. You can select your magic type and the opponents, what level you will be and your spells to use. While this part of the game provides the least amount of playability, it allows the experimentation that you can only get against other players the hard way. The AI provides a strong opponent and until you can do fairly well against it, you will want to get in more practice.

No matter how you chose to play the game the core is the same. It is you and your opponent one on one in a card duel. You start each duel with a single ether channel and you get them more as combat continues. At the beginning of each combat round you get the number of ether points equal to the number of channels you have. You use these points to cast the spells, summon the creature or use the enchantments that are in your deck. While you can carry posses a large number of cards you are limited to the number that you can bring into the duel. Thus you must choose the cards that you have that will best help you against the given opponent. There is no single ďkillerĒ deck that you can build that will get you past all those before you. Combat is kept to a reasonable length because if you use too much ether it disturbs the forces and you begin taking damage based on the amount you have used. This effectively limits the number of rounds that a given duel can last. This forces you to make the most of the ether that you have before its too late. There will be no long protracted battles. Some of the best duels have gone to the person that can last while the other gets hit with the disturbances. The outcome is that any given duel is going to last only 10 minutes or so.

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One feature that stands out is the ability to have the AI play the deck you picked against another AI opponent. In the beginning this allows you to not only try new decks but also see some fairly good strategy for playing the deck you picked. The AI is no push over in this area and while it can not match a seasoned human opponent it can prepare you so that you donít have a large learning curve when you try your first multiplayer session. The AI was one of the more pleasant surprises in the game.

The role-playing game is not the strongest part of the package. If you are looking for something along the lines of a classic RPG then you wonít get much from it. Plot line is thin, the voice acting melodramatic, and the story too linear. It does however provide you with the opportunity to hone your fighting skills in an entertaining milieu. You chose which type of magic you wish to use and then go through the campaigns using the spells based on that type. It provides a means for you to gather resources as you go to purchase ever more powerful cards to use. While there is some choice in which opponents you fight and in which order, there are enough chokepoints in the campaigns to keep you going down the one chosen path. This part of the game isnít a complete throw away, but it isnít why I would sink my money into purchasing this product. That comes in the multiplayer part.

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The multiplayer section is what makes the game. You can play either online or in ďhot-seatĒ style using a single computer. The game server allows you four modes of play, training (like the duels you conduct offline), blind, duel or round table. The blind and duel modes are one-on-one duels against another human but differ in how you can build the deck you use. Blind limits your options on which spells you can use and duel mode is more open ended. The round table games are single elimination combats between eight different players. The player are matched as close as possible with others that are close to the same level. You increase in level and power as you win more duels. As mentioned earlier, the duels will only last for 10 minutes so it isnít a problem to finish an eight player tourney in a single sitting with it lasting no more than one hour.

While this game will appeal more to those who love the card based combat games, there is enough here for anyone. If you have been interested in this type of game but wanted to avoid a strong learning curve against those that have been playing it for a long time, this is a game to get you past that problem. It has good content for both the novice and the experienced player. If you are starting out there is more than enough assist to get you past the first portion and before you know it you will be ready to take on other human players.

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