Why Warlock: Master of the Arcane is the Best Game, and I Won’t Hear a Word Against It

One of the first computer games I ever played came on a CD that came free with some other game, and it was called Majesty. It might have even been a bonus gift with my dad’s AOL disk (Yes, this old.) This was back in the days when I gamed in my parents’ basement on a shared computer with the whole family. The only music on it was a playlist my big brother had pirated song-by-song, with Hendrix, Ry Cooder, and Steely Dan. The only strategy games I’d played before were Lords of the Realm and chess, both of which I was not very good at.

But Majesty was great. You played as a fantasy king, recruiting heroes and building guilds. Monsters spawned around you, and each level started you pretty much from scratch as you reclaimed your kingdom from the evil creatures. 

The best part of the game was the heroes. Each type had little catchphrases they’d say when you interacted with them. The knights were “Ready to serve,” and the rogues warned players not to touch their gold. I liked the creepy skeleton priestesses of Krypta the best. When they died, they whispered, “At last.”

In 2012, the makers of Majesty, Paradox Interactive, came out with another game in the same world. Though I wouldn’t discover it until I finished undergrad in 2016, I fell in love with Warlock: Master of the Arcane. You play as a Great Mage, rather like the king in Majesty, only you get direct control over your armies and get to cast spells as you expand your research throughout the game. It’s a turn-based strategy like the Civilization games, but instead of historical units, they’re fantasy ones. There are ogres and vampires and dragons, plus all sorts of elves and dark elves and goblins. And, to my delight, the developers included all the same temples from Majesty, including my creepy priestesses. 

The game has simple diplomacy, complex spellcasting, and multiple ways to win. Mostly, though, it’s about making war on the other Great Mages and building cities. I love the race for resources, the endless quest of expansion, tempered with random monster encounters and side quests. I mostly love the part when I take my dragon army across the world and burn everything in its path. Plus there’s a monster called “Cockroach of Hell,” and I’m pretty sure I’ve defeated that in real life, too. 

I’ve played this game a lot in the past year and a half. I can waste a week of pandemic time, focusing on a game, and when I win or lose, just start a new one. I’ve won on the “impossible” difficulty setting, but there’s an “armageddon” mode that I’ve never beaten. The game is difficult and sometimes annoying, and there are definitely some AI flaws, but I love the character of the game. It’s the proper mix of nostalgia and complexity, and, even though there are newer games with better graphics, I keep coming back to Warlock. I believe it to be the best game, and I won’t hear a word against it. 

However, during my research for this post, I realized that there’s a sequel game, called Warlock II, and so maybe I’ll have a new favorite game in a couple of weeks. 

What’s your favorite game? Do you have a classic go-to that you keep coming back to, or are you always seeking new games?