Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dominions 3: The Awakening, pt. 2

(All screenshots from Strategy Informer)

Note: This is the conclusion of a post which started here. Please read that first, because I'll be starting right off from that.

Some Dominions 3 maps wrap, so you can travel in any direction and eventually end up where you started. This one wasn't like that, so there were edges to the map, and that made a nation's initial placement very important.

My two biggest rivals had apparently started at the south and east map edges, where their backs were secure. By the time I encountered them, they'd squeezed a hapless race of lizard people between them until there was hardly anything left of that nation.

And now they were free to attack me.

The Marverni were a nation of warrior tribes not too much different from my own people. They had a massive army, the biggest in the world, led by a pretender god - a gigantic bull - which was easily the biggest unit I've seen yet.

The Hinnom were giants, bigger and better than my own troops, one on one. They proved to be incredibly hard to stop.

And while each could concentrate on attacking me, I had four different enemies in four different parts of the map. (I'm not counting the lizard people, whom we all bordered, since they were almost done by then.) Indeed, I was surrounded by enemies (mostly because of the ocean at my back).

Just a few of the 600+ magic spells

So I figured I needed to defeat Oceana and Abysia as quickly as possible, hoping to keep Marverni and Hinnom at bay until I could turn my full attention to them. Otherwise, I'd have to keep my army split into four different sections.

I still hadn't found any amphibian troops, but I had a lot of gems, so I created items which would let me send some commanders, with their troops, underwater. (Note that I led the game in gem production and money, so I really tried to take advantage of that.)

As quickly as possible, I sent about a hundred of my most expensive troops, along with my two best water mages, into one of Oceana's least defended underwater provinces. But, right away, I discovered that I'd made a few errors.

First, I'd assumed that I could buy province defense underwater, like I could on land. Well, Oceana could do that, because they had amphibian troops for that purpose. But my own province defenders couldn't breathe underwater, so I couldn't buy any defense for those provinces.

Secondly, that first underwater province was so poor in resources that I couldn't recruit aquatic soldiers there, either - or very, very few. And finally, my soldiers could breathe underwater, thanks to magic, but since they didn't have fins, they moved very slowly. Also, since you can't use missile weapons underwater, their javelins were worthless.

I did win that initial battle, but I lost more troops than I expected. And I couldn't go into any other province without either splitting my army (again) or leaving that province completely undefended, at which point Oceana would simply take it over again.

Another Dominions 3 battle

My plan still succeeded - mostly by having those water mages summon underwater creatures to aid us (again, my gem supply made a huge difference) - but it was much slower than I'd expected. I ended up killing Oceana's triton god three times (gods are hard to kill permanently) - twice because he made the mistake of attacking me on land.

And I still haven't completely knocked them out of the game, though I've taken their home province. So my plan to quickly finish off Oceana, so I could turn my attention elsewhere, was a failure.

I did destroy Abysia, though that wasn't as quick or as easy as I'd hoped, either. I'd penned them up in their home province, so they had nowhere else to go (they responded by assassinating many of my priests), then I laid siege to their fortress.

This was a nation of fire creatures and fire mages, and although they never controlled many provinces, they were very skilled in magical research. So, when we finally broke down the gate to their fortress, the battle was much harder than I expected.

One of my mages had cast a winter spell on the province, lowering the temperature there, and another caused it to rain. But even so, their fire attacks were devastating. We won, but it was quite a close call. Most of my army had run away by the end of it.

Still, that was the end of them. Since they had no more provinces remaining, there was nowhere else for them to go. Their god still had many supporters (my own priests are working hard to change that), but he can't come back without a province they control. I lost a lot of troops in the fight, but at least I could put that dominion behind us.

Meanwhile, as I say, Hinnom was proving to be really hard to stop. They kept smashing into my provinces, taking one after another (and destroying my temples). I'd follow along behind them, retaking the provinces again, until I could finally wear them down and kill them, but they were just really hard to stop.

Against both Hinnom and Marverni, I took to attacking weakly defended provinces, ramping up the taxes, then leaving again before they could counter-attack. My goal was to cut into their income and, especially, to destroy their temples.

That worked best against Marverni. They had a truly massive army at the start, but I was able to whittle it down. I even sent a "thug," a strong unit decked out in all the magic items I could create, to sneak around behind enemy lines, attacking wherever he found an opportunity.

We even killed the Marverni god, and I'd been wondering if that would even be possible. Honestly, he was huge! But he didn't have enough support units in one battle, so my guys surrounded him and eventually cut him down. True, they'll probably resurrect him again, but we've already taken one of their fortresses, and we're besieging another.

One of the 2,000+ units in the game

But if the Marverni have been easier to defeat than I expected, I certainly can't say the same about Hinnom. Every time I think I've got them weakened, they come roaring back. Right now, in fact, they're making another strong play for my territory. (Clearly, I haven't discovered the right tactic against them. I guess I need to think it through.)

Still, I'm so far ahead of the other dominions that it's just a matter of time, now. When I finally finish Oceana, that will free up a lot of experienced troops to throw into the fight against Hinnom. (Marverni is already on the ropes. I'm really not very worried about them.)

This has been a lot of fun, but I probably won't wait for the final victory. I'm anxious to start another game with a different nation, a different god, different opponents, different kinds of magic, and a different strategy altogether. There are just so many different options in this game that I'm really eager to try something new.

The huge variety of, well,... everything makes it hard to know where to start, but it's worked well for me to just jump in and try something. Tir na n'Og was a random nation - and it wasn't even a nation described in the manual (for which there are suggestions on how to play them). But it was still fun.

If this game sounds fun to you, too, then check it out. You can try the demo for free here. Or watch a few of these videos. As I say, I've really been enjoying it.

Note: Check out my other game posts here.


Russ said...

(Retyping this, managed to get a long winded with it.)

Never played 3, but I'm currently using 4 to fill in my dead hours at work. Honestly, I love large scale, meaty strategy titles, but there is one thing that some have that I hate.. game enders.

Like Supreme Commander had the Heavy Art towers (or nukes.. or Experimentals), or Space Empires had the black hole generators.. I find the struggle the most enjoyable.. that back-and-forth in the middle of the game, where you can see the battle-lines, where the uncertainty is. Once it turns into a steamroll, I lose interest.. and when game-enders are a part, the game itself turns into a race for the game ender, not towards the struggle between armies.

In Dom4, I've found two such game enders. Two spells to be exact. The first is Burden of Time. This is a global spell that causes all your units to age rapidly, and leads to 3 outcomes: Your army becomes non-existent as the all die in a few years. You bankrupt yourself recruiting as fast as they die. Or you spent an obscene amount of Astral gems -every turn- as the Undead AI will abuse the spell mercilessly.

Second is Enchanted Forests. I am currently playing Dom4 (got it open in the background right now, in the middle of loading a new turn) as the Kingdom of Man. Playing on the largest map I could make without the game crashing, against two Undead AIs allied with each other (trying to go for the zombie-apocalypse vibe). I managed to subdue the lower right corner of the map (30-40 territories), and after a series of purely brutal fights.. managed to establish a line of heavily manned fortifications, complete with priests and a unlucky hero armed with the Forbidden Light Artifact.

This was going great for a while, trying to hold the line, while trying to break a water mage through the lines to get to the ocean (almost made it too.. she is currently trapped in a province 2 spaces from the ocean). Then I managed to get my hands on an established Nature Mage. After reading the spell list, I used Enchanted Forests, thinking it would help defend my borders. (It is supposed to spawn independent armies to fight for you in every province except wastelands, and in your dominion)

Nope. Next turn my message log was over a hundred messages long. Seems not only do the forests fight invaders, but they also take territory.. within 10 turns, I went to owning half the map. The undead menace is over, and now if I want to win, I have to play mop-up... something I'm not exactly enthused over.

The challenge is gone, the story that was building is ruined, and now I'm faced with the choice of starting a new game.

I really do hate game enders.

Bill Garthright said...

I played Dominions 4 not long ago, too, Russ. I just haven't been blogging about games (or much else), lately.

Anyway, I know what you mean by "game enders," though I didn't encounter them in Dominions 4. But I always hated nuclear missiles in Civilization II for the same reason.

You say, "Once it turns into a steamroll, I lose interest." I'm the same way. In fact, I tend to love the early part of games even more than the middle, and I rarely even get to the end-game without starting over.

In Dominions 4, I had a lot of fun, but when I got powerful (and the game slowed down, since I always play on huge maps), I'd just start a new game. That's why I never encountered your game-enders. :)

BTW, I've been playing Europa Universalis IV lately. I've owned it for several years (just can't pass up a sale), and even bought the Conquest of Paradise DLC when it went on sale, but never played it. It's just so daunting for a beginner.

But after watching a great video tutorial on YouTube, I started playing, first as the Iroquois (which isn't a good choice for a newbie, but I had a blast) and now as the Ottoman Empire.

I stopped playing the Iroquois in the mid-1700's (the game begins in 1444 and ends in 1821), when I'd finally succeeded in westernizing, and I seemed to be powerful enough to keep the Europeans off my back.

The Ottomans are a very different experience, as they start out very powerful. I've had some very tough battles, but I've always been the aggressor. And you make a lot of enemies that way. Heh, heh.

Anyway, I'm not even a century into the game, but I've had some great leaders, and I'm already westernized. At this point, it's just a matter of waging war slowly enough that I don't piss off everyone at once.

I'm kind of curious how big I can get, and it's still fun, but... I don't know for how long. If I think of another country I want to play, I'll probably be tempted to start over yet again.

And I've heard of a new way to play Dwarf Fortress (starting with no supplies at all), so I really want to do that, too, once the Starter Pack is updated to the latest version of the game. Ah, too many games, too little time. :)

Russ said...

~Ah, too many games, too little time.

Isn't that the truth. For that reason alone I have forced myself to not purchase a new game until I have finished* the game I am already working on.

*Granted, finished is subjective, especially when it comes to sandboxes and strategy titles. In those cases I rely on achievements (for sandboxes) and winning a map or three on the hardest difficulty (strategy) before I move on.

...which fails me as a metric when it comes to Mount and Blade. One of the last games I've purchased, and the one I need to beat before I allow myself to buy anything new, (Fallout 4 is sitting there..taunting me..). As both a very longwinded strategy game set in a sandbox, the achievements alone require several plays through a game that usually runs 40-50 hours..or longer.. start to finish. Even worse, I fell in love with the Prophesy of Pendor mod. So even when I do play, the achievements are disabled.

(But on the bright side, I both get to save tons of cash on not racing to buy New Release titles as soon as they hit the digital shelves.. AND by the time I get around to them, critics/users have gotten past the fanboy/brand hater stage, and decent reviews can be found.)

Bill Garthright said...

Ah, that's where we're different, Russ. I jump from game to game, rarely getting very far in any of them.

I usually do wait for sales, but sometimes I can't resist (Fallout 4, for example).

Sometimes, I buy a game - or support it on Kickstarter - just to support the developers. I can't tell you how many Kickstarter games I've never even installed, let alone played.

And I don't stick with a game if I'm not having fun. It's surprising how much my tastes have changed over the years. Some games I'm certain I'll love, but... just don't hold my interest.

BTW, I loved Mount and Blade. I was terrible at it, but I still loved it. Then they changed the combat just enough in Warband to make it completely impossible for me.

Apparently, the original game wasn't hard enough for their hardcore fans, people who'd grown up with video games. I was so disappointed!

Luckily, there's no shortage of games to play these days, huh? :)