Sequel to Age of Wonders by Triumph Studios, released mid-Summer 2002, distributed by Gathering of Developers, Age of Wonders II: The Wizard's Throne is a turn-based strategy game of the fantasy genre. Released by Gathering of Developers (acquired by Take2 Interactive, a mostly European based game distributor) It loosely follows the story established in Age of Wonders, and features a continuation of characters named in the first, including (the now Queen of Elves) Julia, Meandor, Gabriel and others that would spoil the storyline if I told you...
The game shifted focus away from combat simulation, to a more magic central game. Thus more emphasis is placed in developing a spell caster of considerable ability. The most interesting part of the game, imo, is the creation of Wizard's Towers and Wizard Domains. The domain is a region on the player map, in which player Wizards can affect the course of combat by casting spells into combat rounds if their combat falls within the range of a wizard domain. Certain spells, known as domain spells allow terrain to be altered (changed green forests to wastelands or just the opposite, if you're a life wizard).
The game features 7 robust spheres of magic, and the campaign takes you through them all. The game also allows for city building and development.
Developers tried to reduce the dependency on a single race and racial superiority in the game (not exactly a policitally popular notion anyhow), but it does feature twelve races, as the original game does, with the following alterations:
Azracs are gone.
Lizard folk are gone.
Highmen are now known as Archons (due to the unfortunate pronounciation/confusion of highmen and hymen, what's that called when it sounds the same but has different spelling and different meaning? Monophoneonym? no... Homophone... that's it...)
In the place of the missing races two were added... the Draconians (dragon humanoids) and the Tigrans (cat humanoids). So the races featured are:
Good Aligned: Elves, Archons, Dwarves, and Halflings
Neutral: Human, Frostling, Draconian, Tigrans
Ugly Aligned: Dark Elves, Goblins, Orcs, Undead
The game features a dramatically updated graphics engine and one of the best particle system special effects engine I've seen done. The units look sharper, larger and most of the more cumbersome aspects of the original game have been streamlined to make the game more enjoyable (die-hard fans may disagree, though in my experience most don't). All the old features are available as well, including network, andPBEM (Play By E-Mail) which is a favorite casual passtime for myself).
Main Game Creator kudos go to Lennart Sas, Arno van Wingerden, Josh Farley. Phil Steinmeyer of PopTop Games gave all sorts of interesting creative input during the development of the game, serving as a sort of executive producer. And then there was a whole supporting cast of characters under the hood, like myself who wrote the story behind the game.
It's a fun game to play, will suck up many hours, definitely worth every cent paid, especially nowadays with these new-fangled Real-time Strategy/3D Shooters... :)