Age of Wonders is a turn-based strategy PC-game released by Triumph Studios in 1999. Originally titled World of Wonders, the game incorporates elements of a fantasy RPG with 4X strategy. It has often been compared to Heroes of Might and Magic and considered the Spiritual Successor to Master of Magic. Age of Wonders was followed by sequel Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne and a stand-alone expansion AoW: Shadow Magic.Age Of Wonders 3 was released 11 years after Shadow Magic on March 31, 2014, and has its own TV Tropes page.The setting is a classical High Fantasy one, there were initially twelve races divided by alignment, the follow-ups replaced some and added three more:
Good: Elves, dwarves, halflings, high men (renamed archons in AoW2), and syrons (AoW:SM).
Neutral: Azracs (replaced by tigrans), humans, frostlings, lizardmen (replaced by draconians AoW2), and nomads (AoW:SM).
Evil: Dark elves, goblins, orcs, shadow demons (AoW:SM), and undead.
The elves once ruled a peaceful empire over the other civilized races in the Valley of Wonders. This golden age ended when hordes of humans arrived from across the sea, conquering everything in their path, killing the elven king and his court, and claiming the Valley for themselves. Years passed; the evil races began to spread unchecked by the elves, warfare became constant, and the undead were awakened in a desperate attempt to win a war. During this time, two organizations came to power led by the heirs of the elven kingdom and sibling rivalry. Julia becomes leader of the Keepers, an organization attempting to foster cooperation, diplomacy, and contain the belligerent races. Meandor founds the Cult of Storms, dedicated to reclaiming his throne and exterminating humanity.The game features kingdom-building similar to Civilization; establishing cities, constructing infrastructure, and creating armies. In addition there neutral structures around the map such as gold mines or watch towers, often guarded by independent forces, providing ongoing income or one-time benefits like new spells. Tactical combat involves stacks of units performing basic movement/combat and special abilities like spells or fire breath. Any forces in adjacent hexes to the defender will be included, allowing for multiple stacks to fight a battle.
The Age of Wonders series provides examples of the following tropes:
Actually Four Mooks: A stack is composed of one to eight creatures. On the game map the current strongest creature in the squad or a hero unit if that's the case, is the only member visible and represented the whole.
Came Back Wrong: Inioch, thanks to Meandor's fumbling with black magic he didn't understand.
Chainmail Bikini: Julia's armor covers most of her body, but it's shape is rather fitting. It's most likely meant to be comfortable though. This is lampshaded twice during her storyline in Shadow Magic, once by The Big Guy and then by The Vamp.
Combat Medic: The cleric and other races' equivalents thereof is a capable combat unit in addition to their healing abilities, to the point that it's debatable whether they're medics who can fight, or mystical warriors with healing on the side. While their actual attack and defense values are usually low, they have a useful magical ranged attack, and infuse their melee strikes with magical (or elemental, depending on the race) energy to strike hard. They're especially useful against pesky units with high defense or are flat-out resistant or immune to physical damage.
Dual-World Gameplay: Two to three levels. The Surface world has varied terrain and mimics the real world (albeit with Patchwork Map tendencies). The (one or two-levelled) Underground is a vast warren of caves that restricts movement and visibility for most races (giving an edge to natural burrower factions). Shadow Magic adds the Shadow world, a bizarre astral plane that allows rapid movement, but inflicts a debilitating shadow sickness on most races (giving a huge combat advantage to units immune to this effect).
Dungeon Bypass: Lizardfolk's innate swimming ability give them a powerful advantage on some maps, which is why they didn't appear in the sequels.
Particularly since there's a water spell that flooded the map, giving them even more water to have an advantage with.
Subverted in the mission which requires you to go through an underground tunnel under some mountains. If you try to go over the mountains instead, you'll run into a very aggressive red dragon. Also, even if you somehow managed to defeat the dragon, it actually takes longer then going the normal way because mountains give you a movement penalty.
Easy Logistics: Each unit costs a small amount of gold (or mana for summoned creatures) each turn. If you cannot pay their morale will suffer and they may desert you (summons will disappear immediately). However, it only matters that you have the resources at all. Supply lines are not addressed.
Elves Versus Dwarves: Averted. The dwarves and elves are ancient and steadfast allies, especially against the human invasion. The default relation between the two races is "Polite" (standard for races of the same alignment), one step below the best ("Friendly", default only for your own race.)
Enemy Exchange Program: You can mix units of any faction once you capture a city of theirs, but it generally causes issues due to morale penalties if you try to mix different alignments. Units might abandon your cause, and cities might rebel unless a sufficent force is garrisoned in it. However, the game also gives you the option to convert cities to allied races or just pillage and burn them.
Enemy to All Living Things: A unit with the "Path of Decay" ability will kill tiles in its path, turning them to wasteland, while the spell "Darkland" will gradually produce the same effect on all tiles within your spellcasting range. This can have in-game impact, as certain races get economic and morale bonuses or penalties on certain terrain types.
Fertile Feet: The elven Nature Elemental. While no unit in the sequel has the ability, it's still available as an item property. Wizards with at least one Life Sphere can have a similar magic effect active in their domain that slowly restores terrain. All of the elemental wizards can turn their domains into an embodiment of their element: for example, air wizards can turn verdant grasslands into frost bitten tundras, and freeze over rivers and even the ocean.
Flavor Text: quite serious in the first games, much more snarky in the second and its standalone expansion.
For Happiness: The Flavor Text for the halfling cleric says that this is at the core of the halfling's faith, noting that halfling clerics have been known to travel hundreds of miles just to learn a really good joke that they can bring back to their friends.
Garrisonable Structures: This primarily comes from walled cities and watch tower structures whose only purpose is monitoring a wider range of the map. Terrain such as encampments and old temples (usually evil) and even resource structures can be considered "garrisonable" due to providing cover, the high ground, chokepoints, or beneficial magic effects.
Geo Effects: Certain races get bonuses on certain types of terrain, e.g. Frostlings morale is better on icy land.
Healing Spring: The healing springs can also become dangerous poison springs if the land around is changed into wasteland.
Heel-Face Turn/Face-Heel Turn: A player on the good or evil starting factions can join either of the good or evil new factions that spring up halfway through the game, although the ending will show either switch in sides to be a temporary state of affairs.
In any case, the change is often opportunistic and/or situation-based. An evil character who chooses to side with the High Men, for example, is just doing it because he thinks only they can stop the undead, who are presumably way more evil than even he is. On the other hand, if he picks the undead, it's because they offer lots of power/seem to be unstoppable. There are more than two sides in the campaign.
<Hero> Must Survive: The death of the leader means the defeat of their whole empire. No matter how badly you're losing, you can make it all better with one assassination. Conversely, one stupid mistake with your own leader can avert what would be a winning game.
Hive Caste System: The differences between units of the same species sometimes is obviously biological, at least for Draconians and Shadow Demons.
Holy Hand Grenade: A few units can deal Holy damage, which is a useful damage type in that it has a chance to cripple enemies with the Vertigo debuff. Most spells that deal Holy damage are from the Life sphere of magic, and the incorruptable, quasi-angelic High Men/Archon race has several units that deal holy damage in melee or from afar, the earliest example being the Saint unit, which can fling Holy Bolts as an effective ranged attack.
Horse of a Different Color: Most mounted units ride horses or wolves, but the Lizardmen are the most unusual and ride giant frogs. There are also specialized units which ride giant eagles, wyverns, giant moles, and giant beetles.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Well, humans are very expansionist, ambitious, and refuse to let anything like, say, the elven empire stand in their way. Most Undead leaders and Doom Priests are ex-humans. However the angelic Highmen (lead by Gabriel) claim that humans are just the first True Neutral race who can choose good or evil.
Instant-Win Condition: If you can take out the enemy's leader, you win instantly, even if they controlled 90% of the map and were about to crush you next turn. Semi-averted in the sequel and standalone expansion, in which you need to raze or conquer all enemy cities containing a wizard tower before destroying said leader unit becomes possible.
The first game also has a "leaders disabled" mode outside of the single-player campaign, for those who want to avoid this issue.
Kill It with Fire: Used quite a bit. Numerous units enjoy the Fire Strike ability, letting them deal fire damage to foes, while the fire school of magic does exactly what you'd expect. The first game also featured flamethrower siege engines, originally invented by the dwarves but buildable by anyone.
Leprechaun: The most powerful unit of the Halflings, which are actually rate the status-they're naturally invisible on the world map, have respectable melee abilities and a ranged attack, and are exceedingly frustrating to attack due to their superior defensive abilities. Oh, and they do magical damage, which is the hardest damage type to get protection against.
Multiple Endings: Six of them depending on whether the player began on the good or evil faction, and which of the final four factions he ends up supporting (you can end up leading any faction except the one you started out opposing):
Status Quo Is God: If the good elves win, everything stays much the same. This is the ending that leads to the sequel games.
The Magic Goes Away: If the (good) Highmen win, humans inherit the earth and only the player remains of the magical races (revered as an oracle if good, outcast as Cain if evil).
Pyrrhic Villainy: If the evil elves win, their king falls in the last battle, and the player (the obvious successor) is unable to prevent the civil war that will destroy him.
Downer Ending: If the Undead win, an evil player will become one of them, but a good player will realize his error and try to run only to be hunted down by the demons.
Our Elves Are Better: The regular (good) elves are Wood Elves and their subterranean, green-skinned evil cousins are Dark Elves both in name and in fitting the trope to the tee. The role of High Elves is (somewhat) filled by the "Pure Good" but ultimately creepy and of questionable morality High Men.
Shoot the Medic First: Averted. Cleric-type units, which boast the Healing ability, can only do so once per strategic game turn and thus only once per tactical battle, or not at all if they already used it. They tend to be targeted anyhow because they boast a reasonably powerful ranged magical attack. More advanced units with Healing also tend to be targeted quickly because they usually possess other, more dangerous, abilities. Finally, Leaders are always targeted first as they tend to be the most dangerous units on the field, regardless if the leader can/can't cast multiple healing spells.
Short Cuts Make Long Delays: A major aversion occurs in the Keeper campaign. If you can remember the way through the Underground Path, you can literally walk straight past an entire map of enemies. If you have the haste spell and click fast, you can complete the entire mission in under 30 seconds.
Shout-Out: The Bible; humans expelled from "their garden", the angelic Gabriel, the mark of Cain in one ending.
Storm of Blades: One of the most powerful spells in the series features a volley of sharp projectiles raining on the entire field. The spell appears in the second game, but this time, it rains actual swords, that only hit enemies. It is also the most powerful spell that can be used by heroes, which means you can actually use this spell several times in a single fight.
Super Drowning Skills: You can use transports and certain enchantments to move troops across water. If the transport is destroyed or the magic dispelled before they reach land, any of them lacking an innate ability to swim will drown.
Suspiciously Small Army: There is a maximum of eight units per hex, and each unit on the battle screen is merely 1 person. This leads to battles over large cities being fought between armies of around 20-30 people.
Take Cover: Objects in the way of a ranged attack have a chance to block it.
The Farmer And The Viper: The Keepers attempt to raise some goblins to be good. The Cult of Storms has no trouble convincing the goblins to riot and help kill the Keepers' leader.
Turn Undead: An ability every cleric unit has by default.
Universal Poison: Poison is both a damage type and stats-weakening (but not life-sapping) Status Effect. A unit can be hit by Poison-only type attack and suffer Hit Points damage, but then becomes "Poisoned" only if it's also hit on second resistance check.
Valkyries: Work for the High Men. In-story it is said that they used to perform their standard function, but with the mass appearance of the Undead, so many souls of fallen warriors became trapped that they took to direct action to set them free. In game they're mounted on flying horses and have a Holy Strike ability.
Age of Wonders 2: The Wizard's Throne and Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic:
Most of the above tropes apply again, of course.
Alien Invasion: Shadow Demons are this, Legions of Hell and a Bug War at the same time. It is unknown where the Shadow Demons came from, and for how much time they have been invading worlds, but they are hinted to be doing it for a long time.
Antimagical Faction: The Phobian Empire is on a crusade against magic, or so they say, since their commanders actively use it.
Artificial Stupidity: You can negotiate with rival wizards and trade them spells, resources or locations - and they will trade for a watchtower in your territory right next to a stack of dragons that can retake it at a moment's notice. Even better, you can give them a magic item with a serious drawback (like The Halfling's Ring which gives invisibility (which many high-level units can see through) but increases physical damage by 50%) and the wizard will always equip it.
The spells Hellfire and Tremor damage everything on the battlefield, including city structures you might have planned on using. The former is useful in moderation, though, as machines are weak to fire.
Damage-Increasing Debuff: Handicaps inflicted by attacks include Cursed (from attacks with Death damage), Poisoned (Poison damage) and Vertigo (Holy damage); these are defense reduction overlapping with elemental weakness. And of course, there are many debuff spells. Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic adds Shadow Sickness, forced on most normal units visiting Shadow World without protection.
Damage Typing: set of flags for an attack (may stick Standard Status Effects): Fire (Burning), Cold (Frozen), Lightning (Stunned), Magic, Poison (Poisoned), Death (Cursed), Holy (Vertigo), Physical, Wall-crushing (2x for machines and gates, affects walls and other map objects)
Dead All Along: Merlin realizes that he can master the death sphere of magic without Gabriel's guidance because he had drowned before Gabriel "rescued" him in the beginning of the campaign.
Deadly Upgrade: The Martyr enchantment doubles one unit's HP, but this unit dies once the battle ends.
Design It Yourself Equipment: As in the first game, items can be created in the Map Editor, but Shadow Magic enables the player to make them within the game, subject to some limitations that prevent overpowered equipment being made - no Physical Immunity, only one level of bonus Wizardry, no more than 3 enchantments per item, and some enchantments can only occur on a particular body slot, limiting what powers can stack.
Disc One Nuke: Courtesy of the Design It Yourself Equipment. In a campaign game you can bring equipment and heroes across scenarioes. Lingering on the first level to build superior equipment for later scenarios.
Expy: The Orc Glutton has a strong resemblance to Jabba the Hut. Also, the Nomad Pit Guard is basically Goro with a whip.
Face-Heel Turn: Meandor, the leader of the Dark Elves, is now dead, but his ghost has reconciled with his sister Queen Julia, leader of the good elves. Technically still evil, but the goal is now restoring the Balance Between Good and Evil and simple survival, not Good vs. Evil.
Firewood Resources: Small wood bundles were terrain items that gave your closest city an instant structure building bonus
Giant Flyer: In the skies of the Shadow World swim the whale-like Skwahl. They aren't present as a playable unit but the description of the Syron Forceship says they are made from hollowed carcasses of old Skwahl.
Glass Cannon: Any 1-level unit with Poison, Lightning or Cold range attack is very fragile, but even 2-3 of them can hurt a lot. The nastiest is Syron Lightning Catcher whose attack covers 7 hexes and stuns; Frostling Snowscaper is a cheaper basic unit, but with a single Frost Bolt is more luck-based.
I Shall Taunt You: Human Swashbucklers can taunt enemy units, forcing them to attack the Swashbuckler, ideally wasting their turn trying to reach him and collecting attacks of opportunity from units they must pass by. Heroes can get the skill as well. In Shadow Magic Bomber (Goblins), Glutton (Orcs) and Leprechaun (Halflings) got this ability as well.
Incendiary Exponent: Burning unit have -1 HP/round and -2 Attack. Not counting special qualities, Human Infantryman recruit has 12 HP, attack 7 dam 5, Knight has 20, 14, 9. With up to 3 strikes/round, it's quite possible to cut down few weaker units while aflame.
Instant-Win Condition: A bit more complicated this time around, as a slain Wizard can respawn at any town he owns with a Mage tower built in it, so winning this way is only possible if you have already taken most of his territory or if he lacked the funds to build a backup tower.
Ice Queen: Artica, one of the wizards in the circle of Evermore. She is the leader of frostlings and she masters the sphere of air.
Javelin Thrower: "Throw Spear" ability allows a single rather strong ranged attack. Nomad basic infantry unit Spearman, has this.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: while a neutral faction, they are the main enemies of the expansion, both regular and nomads. Their respective leaders are both allied with the Shadow Demons. On the other hand, in the Wizard's Throne, Merlin, the player Character, is human and the one who brings balance to the world.
Love at First Sight: Merlin spent maybe half a day with Julia before she was kidnapped, and there's no indication that she showed any interest in him, but Merlin repeatedly states that he can't stop thinking about her and tries his best to rescue her.
Mage Tower: A critical mechanic and serving a dual purpose. Wizards who sit in a tower will have their domain (spell range) extended, and can cast adjacent to allied heroes. Even more importantly, if a wizard dies, he or she will be resurrected at a tower on their next turn. And if there's no tower to resurrect at...
Magikarp Power: Shadow Magic allows you to buy dragon hatchlings. They start off rather weak and are often targeted by the enemy, but if you can build their experience to gold medal rank they will grow into full size dragons.
Proud Merchant Race: Halflings and Tigrans are skilled traders and their cities contribute more gold.
Squishy Wizard: Attempting to prevent the One Man Party in the first game. The player character is no longer "super" hero unit and must be stationed in a tower to use global magic across your territory. While your wizard can still equip gear it's usually better in the hands of your recruited heroes who are in the field and end up as one man armies anyway.
When Trees Attack: Elves got a Treeman. "Concealment" means that if this wall-crushing behemoth stands in a forest, foes will not see it until it's one step away.
Word Sequel: Age of Wonders, Age of Wonders II, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. In this case, Shadow Magic is a corrected and expanded version of II they were too decent to present as a fully new generation.
Wreathed in Flames: Ignition ability and Fire Halo enchantment. Anyone who isn't immune to fire is set aflame upon striking such an unit.