Sorcerer King Review – Fantastical Asymmetric 4X Strategy

  • Developer/Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
  • Platform: PC
  • Review code provided by the publisher.

There's something rather invigorating sitting beneath the surface of Sorcerer King by Stardock Corporation. Something that takes the 4X genre and transmogrifies what might seem tedious to some, into something very compelling to play. Even 4X naysayers might enjoy this.

Complete quests and go on adventures in Sorcerer King, an asymmetrical 4X strategy game.

Sorcerer King is being advertised as an 'asymmetrical' 4X strategy game, which is quite the different premise than the usual. In it, your goals differ substantially from the other factions. You aren't all starting at the same point, and the primary villain, the Sorcerer King, is already supremely powerful.

Pick your character, or sovereign, each with their own base abilities and strengths. The sovereign is you, much akin to the race you'd choose in Galactic Civilizations III or the nation in the Civilization series. Then you can pick your first army, the first of many, to be commanded by a hero. You, the sovereign, and your heroes can be suitably leveled-up. There are many different skill trees that you can explore. And within those are some great advantages to building your army and keeping it mighty, which is vital in Sorcerer King.

The end game is to destroy the Sorcerer King before he's able to cast a deadly spell that'll destroy the world, and everyone in it. A countdown meter at the top of your screen fills up after actions that might displease this Sorcerer King. Never fear, because you can also take action and cast spells to delay or reverse some of that timer. It fills up rather fast, and is a source of extreme anxiety.

Turn-based and 4X it may be, but resources are scarce. You have to strategically build up that army, hoping to all that is good that the random miscreants populating the map don't end up trying to destroy your hard-earned assets. You have to clear those villains and beasts before you're able to actually build in that area. And your initial army is going to be very weak compared to the random factions and scoundrels out there. So be careful and don't rush things. Sorcerer King calls for slow and deliberate action.

And those battles, though. They are quite well done. It's exciting to handle them yourself because it's very much asymmetrical with the different spells that you can cast and items you can use. If you're careful, you might be able to defeat an enemy far larger than you are. The key is to gang up on each individual enemy unit.

Don't be me and rush into things. 62 turns and I was decimated. Ogres are strong, that was my lesson. Oh, and spiders don't like fire. Yeah, that too. Don't go around picking fights if you don't have to.

Let's make something!

Crafting is another key element. You have to craft. That is, if you wish to actually do well here, you should definitely take advantage of the simple yet thorough crafting mechanism. Even crafting armor can have an appreciable effect on your unit's ability to survive. You can Enchant items too for even more effectiveness and survivability.

What else makes Sorcerer King different from the rest of the stable? Quests. No, you're not just building up your empire simply for the sake of expanding. You can take on actual quests with your heroes. When you uncover lost or abandoned villages you can sometimes get the option of embarking on mini-quests that can reward you handsomely for completing them. It's a very fascinating addition to the traditional 4X experience.

There must be something bad, right?

And there is, mostly that performance can get a little slow when you're further on in the game. The more assets there are on the map, then the more has to be computed and the longer it takes. That and some weird anomalies have caused some in-game windows to temporarily disappear while waiting for your next turn.

The other small negative is the weird difficulty if you're not prepared for it. You can't just go on and explore, expecting everything to start out on the same level. It's disconcerting when you get slaughtered within 62 turns.

And our verdict?

But mostly it's amazing. It's addicting and easy to get into. The fantasy storyline and asymmetrical aspect are very enjoyable. And of course that hilarious commentary you'll see throughout. If you like fantasy lore, or you're a fan of 4X strategy games, then you'll really like this game. The replay value is very high. It's difficult to get tired of it though the same overall story is being told.

Check out our video review below where you can see some battles and of course the overall mechanics itself. This is overwhelmingly fun. One of the best 4X turn-based strategy games I've ever played.

Sorcerer King is available on Steam for $39.99 with a mostly positive reception from players.

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