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Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Gathering
Developer: Triumph Studios
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

The Age of Wonders series has been steadily going strong with its sprite based 2D graphics, despite most other games making the rough transition to 3D. Thankfully, Triumph Studios knows its stuff, as it yet again delivers high quality graphics with its latest iteration of fantasy strategy games. Shadow Magic delivers the same detailed and colorful graphics of its predecessors, this time with more detail and colorful effects.

The music is still the same as what fans have been used to, as are the audio effects. The score does well to capture the fictitious realm you are playing in, as do the solid sound effects that accompany it.


Triumph not only keeps it real with the graphics, but also with the gameplay. Turn-based strategy is the name of the game here, and this game lands its style in the top of its class. This time around, Merlin the Wizard is trapped in an alternate dimension, and he is calling on all of the outcast wizards to aid him in bringing peace to the land.

Each Campaign map gives you control of a specific wizard, opposing the minions of the Emperor Phobius as they wreak havoc across the land. Fans of the previous games will be glad to know that the same enthralling gameplay is offered here, gameplay that not only includes deep city building, but also the researching of arcane spells, commanding armies to do your bidding, diving into diplomacy and at the end of it all, crushing your enemies.

Though it may be turn based, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic gives you two different options to play with. Sequential turns as well as simultaneous turns are offered, each giving a different feel to the game. The choice is yours, and both do well to satisfy different play types.

Most of the time, you will be moving your forces around a vast map, collecting resources, fighting rival armies, and meeting independent armies that you can hire to your cause. Heroes will join your cause, and they, as well as your main wizard, can be upgraded and outfitted with various weapons and artifacts.

However, there are also dungeons to explore, as well as a whole new dimension, the Shadow Realm, a place where your wizard can send your troops to fight the forces of darkness. This adds a whole new experience to the game, one that can be used to your advantage if you have the skills.

An incredibly deep single player game is not the only thing offered in Shadow Magic. The Multi-player experience is also an option well worth any fan's time. Here, you can play over the internet or opt to partake in a game by e-mail. Since Campaigns can take a considerable amount of time to complete, fighting against one of your friends over a period of weeks is not only a good decision, but also a hell of a lot of fun.


Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is not a quick and dirty game. Every map you play will require a lot of thorough planning. Even though there are many difficulty settings to choose from, no fight will be quickly won. The game is not overly hard (though the higher settings will definitely test your mettle), just don't expect a speedy outcome.

Game Mechanics:

As the gameplay is kept simple, so are the controls. Moving units around on the field is as simple as pointing and clicking, and administering different commands to them is as easy as picking them from a list. City building is done in much the same way, as building commands can be queued up to five times in advance.

Your two main sources of income are gold and mana, and each can be improved upon with upgrades from either your city advancements or resources you gather from the map. Defending these resources is almost as important as keeping your wizard out of harm's way.

With more races to play, a better random map generator, and the same intricate story line as the previous titles, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is yet another wonder to play. Not only does this title continue the epic saga of the previous ones, but it is also the best place for newcomers to start. Fans of both real-time and turn-based strategy games should definitely get a hold of this game, not to mention die-hards of the previous titles.

-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/Me/2000/XP; Pentium II 300MHZ or equivalent; 64MB RAM; 560MB Free HD Space; 8X CD-ROM Drive; DirectX 8.0 compatible 4MB Graphics card; DirectX 8.0 compatible Sound Card

Test System:

Windows XP, Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, 40 Gig Hard Drive, 128 MB GeForce FX 5200 Video Card, DirectX 9

Windows Age of Wonders II: The Wizard's Throne Windows Airline Tycoon Evolution

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated