Age of Wonders 3

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Age of Wonders 3 Game Poster Image
Complex, violent strategy hard to master but rewarding.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Campaign wins are cast as positive for the good guys, their goals, and their empire, but these wins are caused by crushing enemies, taking revenge, and causing destruction.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players can play as good or bad and can choose to absorb cities for new units, resources, and defense. You can also plunder them for treasure or raze them to the ground.

Ease of Play

Learning the basics takes hours, and getting good at tactics and strategy takes a significant time commitment.

Violence

Automatic-combat option spares battle details, but manual combat shows every melee attack, arrow strike, sword swing, and pike jab. But cartoonish characters and distanced camera angles minimize the impact of violence and quick splashes of blood.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Age of Wonders 3 is a complex downloadable strategy game that takes time and patience to learn. Although its two single-player campaigns provide traditional "good guy" heroes, other modes give players the freedom to either treat lands and people with benevolence -- or crush them under their heels. Violence is mild and cartoonish (with occasional splashes of blood), but you watch every attack if you choose to manually conduct every battle. Plus, the game's online multiplayer components (the pregame chat lobby and in-game chat) are unmoderated.

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What's it about?

AGE OF WONDERS 3's two-sided story campaign involves an age-old conflict between Humans and Elves. Before Humans came, Elves lived in harmony. But Humans invaded and destroyed the Elven home, causing the Elves to split into two factions: the Dark Elves and the Wood Elves. Now, the Elves must face down the Human threat together. Of course, the Human perspective on history is decidedly different, as Humans created an ambitious, ever-expanding authority called the Commonwealth Empire intended to bring peace and prosperity to all peoples. They see the Elves as nostalgic rabble-rousers and are bent on crushing their rebellion for the good of the world.

Is it any good?

Age of Wonders 3 is great entertainment -- once you learn the ropes. Getting comfortable takes time, and beginners are likely to feel a bit at sea about their objectives and how to achieve them. The in-game glossary is packed with useful information, but using it could feel more like homework than fun. Until you've figured out how best to gather resources, earn money, and build an army, you'll likely suffer many quick and embarrassing defeats. But once you have hold of the basics, you're in store for hours of fun, trying out the races and classes and upgrading heroes, discovering their strengths and weaknesses. But empire building is really what Age of Wonders 3 is all about, and what's fun is figuring out your own unique approach.

If jumping right into making all the decisions yourself sounds intimidating, you can start with the two story campaigns. Beginners are told to start with the Elven campaign, but considering its over-efficient and ruthless AI opponent, playing it can be frustrating. Newbies are better off starting with the Commonwealth campaign, since it's much more forgiving and, ultimately, more fun with its Dreadnought hero and cool gadgetry. Of course, you can practice your skills in scenarios that give complete freedom aside from different win conditions (survival, team battle, and empire building) or try out new strategies on randomly generated maps. However you choose to learn, you'll be rewarded for your efforts with the thrill of discovering new territories, building cities, finding hidden treasures, and making an empire run like a well-oiled machine. If you're patient enough with its tactics, you might find that Age of Wonders 3 is your new favorite strategy game.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about political conflicts like those in Age of Wonders 3. Why do nations and people go to war? Is there ever a "good" reason for war?

  • The option for automatic combat lessens the impact of the game's violence; is that limited-violence option more appropriate for younger gamers? How does the combat compare to other strategy titles?

  • Discuss what makes a good ruler. Is it better for a ruler to be loved or feared? Why?

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