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"I have lived since two thousand years. I ruled the Wizard's Circle and reduced it to dust and shadow. I've made way for the new age... for you to inherit. Create an empire in your own image. Become a scion of magic. The herald of technology. Inspire through faith. Through fear. Rally the forces of nature. Conquer with the blood-stained sword. But know that there is corruption... but you must face it to rule the third age of wonders."
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The third official installment of the Age of Wonders series, Age of Wonders 3 is a turn-based strategy game released by Triumph Studios on March 31, 2014.

Set many years after the events of Shadow Magic, the world is going haywire again as the traditional, tree-hugging Elven Court and industrious Commonwealth head to war. Really, it was inevitable considering the type of game this is.

The gameplay of AoW3 mixes many aspects of the prior installments. Wizards (or rather "Leaders") are back to being frontline units (casting from outside the battle costs twice as much), but are much safer from sudden death and empire failure. New to the series, units in combat are vulnerable to flank attacks; weaker units earn their place on the battlefield by being distractions, setting up attacks to be delivered by your bruisers. Units are also more explicitly categorized as Infanty, Archers, Cavalry etc, with each group having innate abilities and weaknesses (Cavalry is weak to pikemen but can Charge, Infantry can climb walls, etc).

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While many of the races don't return, a new class system adds a lot more variety to the returning races, and the base lineup of each faction has also been diversified more.

There are two DLC that expand the race and class selection, the first expansion is Golden Realms which added several new units and races, including the Halfling from the previous games as a playable race, and the second expansion, The Eternal Lord, which brought back Tigrans, Frostlings and the Undead (by means of the Necromancer class).

A list of races, characters and their tropes can be found at the character sheet.


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Age of Wonders 3 provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Four Mooks: A stack is composed of one to six 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 represents the whole.
  • Age of Titles
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
    • Although averted with the playable races this time around, it's played straight with some units, which can be "Dedicated To Evil" or "Dedicated to Good". In practice what this means is that they suffer morale penalties when recruited by leaders who don't match their alignment. Neutral leaders can still use them if they're careful, but leaders of opposed alignments will need to use some really tricky maneuvering to keep them from deserting. On the evil side this is creatures like Kobolds, Hellhounds, Archon Revenants and most other kinds of Undead, many kinds of monsters like Cockatrices and Dire Penguins, and Obsidian Dragons. However, see Not Always Evil, below.
    • Also played straight with the Shadowborn specialization introduced in Eternal Lords, due to having skills that are inherently evil in nature, and providing bonuses for having an evil alignment. One of these skills attaches the aforementioned "Dedicated to Evil" trait to every unit in your army, including ones normally Dedicated to Good!
  • Always Lawful Good:
    • Although averted with the playable races this time around, it's played straight with some units, which can be "Dedicated To Evil" or "Dedicated to Good". In practice what this means is that they suffer morale penalties when recruited by leaders who don't match their alignment. Neutral leaders can still use them if they're careful, but leaders of opposed alignments will need to use some really tricky maneuvering to keep them from deserting. On the good side this is mostly creatures like Felhorses, Unicorns, Nymphs, Phoenixes, and Golden Dragons,
    • Also played straight with the Keeper of the Peace specialization introduced in Eternal Lords, due to having skills that are inherently good in nature, and providing bonuses for having an good alignment. One of these skills attaches the aforementioned "Dedicated to Good" trait to every unit in your army, including ones normally Dedicated to Evil!
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Shadowborn, the primary antagonists of the campaign, is a secret organization responsible for flaring up tensions between the Commonwealth and Elven Court in order to weaken both nations so they won't stand a chance against the forces sealed in the Shadow Realm once the last shadow gate opens.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: There is an advanced option to give heroes the Ressurgence effect (revive at the end of the battle if you win) for all battles or only when you let the Computer fight for you, and by default its set to the latter. Since the Computer is pretty bad at resolving a lot of fights, its definitely nice to have. Even so, its better to save beforehand anyway. The game also autosaves every turn and makes a new save file when you win in the campaign, which is also handy since there isn't much of an option to replay missions otherwise.
  • Back Stab: Attacking enemies from the back or sides is generally rewarded (called flanking), but the Rogue, naturally, specializes in this, with a passive skill with the same name giving a +6 damage bonus for it.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Played with. The Destruction and Creation specializations tell the player outright before selecting them that many of the skills they grant are evil or good in nature, however that doesn't mean the player has to follow that alignment path. One might take the Destruction specialization just for useful abilities like Storm Magic and Disintegrate, ignore all the skills related to blighting the land and razing cities, and use their ultimate destruction spells to eradicate evil. Or they might take Creation and use the powerful healing spells to keep their armies of doom healed and able to cause more destruction.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A few missions get... more complicated. Probably the best example is the first halfling mission, where you are given an objective that gets discarded long before you get any chance to complete it.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The Grey Guard specialization that comes with the Eternal Lords expansion is centered around this.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Female Arch-Druids, and one outfit for the female Sorcerer. Male Sorcerers can bare their chests too. Also, the Warlord's scout unit.
  • Beast of Battle: There's a lot of them, of both the animal and monster variety. The Arch-Druid and Sorcerer classes are particularly fond of these.
  • Beneath the Earth: Caves allow you access to the underground map layer.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Beetle-riders make up the goblin cavalry, and Giant Spiders are a common sight, some of them big enough to ride.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: There's a few different varieties. Charm, Seduce, Dominate, and Convert recruit enemies to your side permanently. (Technically Seduce and Dominate only last 3 turns, but if the unit is still seduced or dominated at the end of combat then they remain with you permanently.) There's also the Warlord's Berserk spell, which drives an enemy unit mad and forces them to attack their allies. There's also a particularly interesting variation of this given in the Succubus unit's class description.
    "She came from the shadows, with a sultry song. Her nearly nude form was more than most men could resist, but I was ready. My moral fortitude is beyond reproach. I would never fall for the Rogue's trollop. She made my men lift weapons against me. I fought them, wounding many of my fellows to stop this creature whose touch caused blight. I told myself I would slay the succubus as soon as I stopped my friends, so I fought until one of my seduced friends landed a killing blow. The winged woman lay dead. I saw clearly. I had been deceived. I was seduced, not by her beauty but by my own pride."
  • Breast Plate: Surprisingly averted with Julia this time, who wears a standard Arch-Druid outfit instead of her form-fitting armor. Played straight with a few of the leader outfits, though, as well as units like the Succubus.
  • Character Customization: Even more so than in previous games. Including aesthetics on a level rivaling what you might find in an MMO, rather than just choosing a portrait image.
  • Charm Person: The Seduce and Charm abilities are available in units like Bard and Succubus. A Leader or Hero can equip ability-carrying items to be capable of seducing or charming the opposition.
  • The Chessmaster: The Elven Court and the Commonwealth might have been able to coexist peacefully if not for the Shadowborn pulling strings to incite war.
  • Combat Medic: Support units such as the priest-type units, although they generally need to gain a few ranks before they can actually heal or need a specific research upgrade.
    • Most Heroes can also do this, either with a spell (Sorceror, Theocrat, Warlord), abilities (Archdruid, Theocrat, Dreadnought) or a passive leadership ability to speed up healing on the world map (Archdruid, Theocrat, Warlord). Only Rogues are pretty much out of luck there, preferring to avoid getting hurt in the first place, and they can cast Cunning Escape to instantly retreat a wounded unit if they are attacking.
  • Creator Provincialism: Spoofed with cheat codes, which are all surnames of famous Dutch people and companies, often with some additional context ( like Tasman revealing the map). If you ever wondered, Triumph Studios is a Dutch game developer.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Ships and aquatic creatures such as kraken. Since any units who can't swim or fly can embark with an early research you don't need transports and they can't attack anything on land. Aquatic units are still the best in water so there is some use to them, but if the map isn't particularly wet...
  • Dem Bones: The Archon minor faction. Yes, the same Archons from the previous games, who died out between games and rose from their graves for some reason. There are also Bone Wyverns and Bone Dragons. For the first time, they aren't playable as a race, but instead are playable as a class (the Necromancer).
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: The Item Forge from Shadow Magic returns, although it has been toned down quite a bit and isn't available in the campaign. But on random maps its a great way to get your heroes some decent equipment.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The ultimate spell in the Destruction specialization, Disintegrate. It has a chance of causing instant death, and even if that fails it still causes massive damage (more than any other spell in the game). The only downside is it's considered physical damage, meaning that certain enemies can resist or even ignore it.
  • Dragon Rider: Wyverns can be found as mounts for your Leader and Heroes.
  • Dual-World Gameplay: With the underground, again.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Pointed out as an option in one of the campaign missions, using specific units to tunnel underground.
  • Easy Evangelism: The Theocrat and some of his units can get the Convert ability, which basically uses this method to turn enemy units to your side.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The ultimate unit for the Sorcerer is like something out of the Cthulhu Mythos, with a unit description written by someone who went mad from seeing one. It's even named "Eldritch Horror."
  • Elemental Embodiment: Air, earth, fire, and water (well, frost) elementals return, and this time they're joined by blight and spirit elementals. The shadow stalker unit for the Rogue class also has aspects of an elemental, in its case a darkness elemental.
  • Enemy Exchange Program:
    • You can mix units of any faction once you capture a city of theirs, though it takes some time to "absorb" them into your empire. However, the game also gives you the option to convert cities to allied races or just pillage and burn them. Due to the class system however, you won't get to build units specific to the enemy class, though they can get said units through other means such as charming them or getting them as quest rewards.
    • The Necromancer is more limited here since he can only control ghoul cities, which requires conversion on its own, unless he releases conquered cities as vassals (a feature introduced alongside the expansion). The same goes with every other class conquering a ghoul city.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Glutton, the pinnacle unit for the Naga, which actually has the ability to swallow units whole as an attack.
  • Faction Calculus: 9 races and 7 classes so far, which can also lead to some interesting mixes.
    • Powerhouse: Dwarves (strong but expensive units), Dreadnought (takes a while to get going with his machines).
    • Cannons: Orcs (physical strength but vulnerable to magic), High Elves (ranged strength but low population growth), Warlord (though plays more as Horde with the Raise Militia spell in the early game).
    • Horde: Goblins (cheaper but weaker units), Archdruid, Sorcerer (both are big on boosting their numbers with summons), Necromancer (weaker ghoul units but can easily revive them or raise cadavers as meat shields).
    • Subversive: Halflings (frail but can avoid attacks if lucky, lots of tricky abilities), Frostlings (freezing enemies), Rogue (stealth, poison, can steal income from enemy towns), Theocrat (conversion, healing, protecting their important units with Martyrs).
    • Balanced: Humans, Draconians and Tigrans.
  • Fallen Angel: The Archon Revenants, who actually complete a fall started way back in the first Age of Wonders. Previously they were disgraced angels trying to earn their way back to Heaven, but sometime between Shadow Magic and this game a large number of their race gave up and sold their souls to an evil god, transforming into undead.
    • The Eternal Lords Expansion brings us an actual Fallen Angel summonable by any leader who chooses the Shadowborn specialization. Their abilities include Life Stealing and a petrifying scream.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: The fairy fire fairies and apprentices shoot works like this, dealing fire, frost, and shock damage at the same time.
  • Garrisonable Structures: In addition to the cities and watchtowers from before, there are also small outposts that can be built to bring resource buildings under your control without having to build a new settlement.
  • Geo Effects:
    • Somewhat expanded from previous games, with any tile having a climate(except underground, which is considered its own climate) and a terrain type, which mainly affects movement costs. Each race has different preferences for both, though magic can change this: an advanced Fire specialist can both spread tropical/volcanic terrain and enchant their cities to like it, for example.
    • In addition, fighting on certain spots like a mana node causes unique effects. Sometimes they benefit the defender, but the nodes in particular have effects that target at complete random.
  • Guardian Angel: One type of wizard shrine is dedicated to the aforementioned figure, restoring the health of all troops entering it and giving them the Regrowth buff.
    • In opposition to the the Fallen Angel entry above, the Eternal Lords Expansion brings the ability to Summon Arch Angels if you chose the Keeper of the Peace specialization for your leader. Special abilities include returning to life if you win the battle they died in and making units around them happier and therefor more likely to Criticaly Hit their foes.
  • Guide Dang It!: Research works in strange ways this time around. Some research goes along a set path (Increasing spell points, Seafaring and Logistics and at least one path for every class), but the tooltip doesn't always tell you this. The rest is pretty much random, but you only get a limited amount of choices at the same time for each of the three categories, so if you want to get a specific research you'll have to know which type it is and finish other stuff in the same category and hope for the best. The ingame manual, the Tome of Wonders, helps to some degree.
  • <Hero> Must Survive: Your Leader isn't quite as vulnerable this time around, but most missions have this condition for one or more of your normal heroes.
  • Hero Unit: The Leader and Heroes (duh), which aren't as powerful.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Theocrat class is pretty much based on this, especially their strongest unit, the Shrine of Smiting.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Leaders and Heroes of each race get their own default mount with regular horses being used only by humans. Orcs get dire horses, elves have unicorns, goblins ride wargs, dwarves use boars, draconians raise prehistoric raptors, halflings choose ponies, tigrans ride tigers, and frostlings ride polar bears. You can also find more exotic mounts with special abilities which are used as equippable items for your Leader and Heroes.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Sort of, as stated above. If a Leader is killed in battle, he flees into the Void and will respawn in a few turns at his Capital city, much like the Wizard Towers worked in the second game, but you only get one Throne, though it can be moved quite easily even if you lose your Capital. You only lose if you lost your Capital and your Leader is in the Void at the same time. That being said, some campaign missions operate like this, as do specific game modes such as the Seals of Power introduced in the first DLC.
  • Kill It with Fire: Used quite a bit. Draconians have quite the affinity for it, and Fire specialists naturally do as well. The Dreadnaught class also favors it a bit, building Flamethrowers among their arsenal of siege weaponry. And of course you are free to combine all...
  • Lethal Joke Character: Halfling Farmers from the Golden Realms add-on. The chickens they throw are quite lethal (more powerful than Human Civic Guard's crossbows, for example). Though they are usable only once per battle.
    • This trope applies to most of the Halfling units, really. All have underwhelming statistics compared with their peers, and many fight with odd weapons (party fireworks, cooking implements, or the aforementioned chickens), but their innate dodge mechanics and surprisingly strong special abilities make them a force to be reckoned with.
  • MacGuffin: The Oscillator Gem, an artifact Edward and Laryssa uncovered from Melenis' hideout in Nirvenkiln, is mainly used to fuel the Commonwealth's mana-based technology, only for it to be stolen by Laryssa, who wants to keep it safe from the wrong hands. It is mentioned again in the Golden Realms campaign as an artifact Laryssa gave to Ham, who gave it to Karl, in turn. It is revealed that the gem is Melenis' Soul Jar.
  • Magikarp Power: This game is all over the dragon hatchling idea from Shadow Magic, even though those are themselves absent. A lot of animals and all elementals come in 2-3 forms, starting with the baby being able to evolve if it survives until the gold rank, and sometimes the Mature version gets it as well, resulting in a tier IV unit. Draconian Hatchlings can do it as well, and there are research upgrades for a few other units as well.
    • Most hero units start off fairly squishy, having statistics somewhere between T2 and T3 units. Once properly leveled up and equipped with "legendary" and "mythic"-quality items however they can become nigh-invulnerable and defeat entire armies in solo combat.
  • Military Mashup Machine: The Dreadnoughts Landship. A ship on steel wheels with tons of cannons.
  • Multiple Endings: Two for each campaign in the base game and three in the Eternal Lords campaign.
    • If the Torchbearers win (in both campaigns), they inform Saridas and Leonus about the Shadowborn, and they take steps hunting them down.
    • If the Elven Court wins, Sundren turns it into a totalitarian state where humans were enslaved and all dissidents - whether Shadowborn or just people who disagree with the government - were put on trials presided by a Kangaroo Court. Other races stop supporting the Elven Court, leaving it at the mercy of the wizard kings once the last shadow gate opens.
    • If the Commonwealth wins, Athla runs out of mana decades later due to overexploitation thanks to the technology Edward devised, sparking widespread rebellions and leaving Edward alone against the forces from the Shadow Realm.
    • The endings of the Eternal Lords campaign depend on which leader you allied with in the end: Werlac (Shadowborn), Melenis (Undead), and neither (Frostling).
  • No Experience Points for Medic: Averted, healing or buffing allies gives experience as well.
  • Not Always Evil: Certain creatures encountered in the wild automatically come with the "Dedicated to Evil" or "Dedicated to Good" tags. If these units are summoned using magic, however (such as a Hellhound summoned by a Fire specialist, or a Cockatrice summoned by a Sorcerer), they do not have that ability. Presumably their dedication to their masters is enough to override their own nature.
  • Not Playing Fair With Resources: The AI difficulty levels only change how much free money they get. Simply rushing the enemies before that gets out of hand is pretty much mandatory in the campaign on anything but Easy.
  • One-Man Party: Maybe not quite as extreme as in previous games, the Game-Breaker potential of item crafting has been scaled back quite a lot. But by the end of each campaign you'll have quite a few powerhouse heroes who can at least clear resource buildings single-handedly without breaking a sweat.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The third specialization introduced in the Eternal Lords expansion, the Grey Guard, can summon a unit called the Chthonic Guardian. Visually they look like an angel statue carved out of raw stone and are actually much better at defending then attacking. Their unit description also states that rather than being the servant of a god they protect the "Gateways between Good and Evil".
  • Overrated and Underleveled: The campaigns are pretty bad at this, pretty much every character who joins you starts at level one and no equipment. Even in the final missions. This includes Julia in one case. Even enemy leaders don't fare any better, but by the time you'll be facing them they usually managed to get at least a few levels and items. Characters who didn't directly carry over to the next mission will still be stuck at whatever level they were before when they come back.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The troll's description starts off like Three Billy Goats Gruff with satyrs, then veers completely off-course. "You know how this story ends. No third brother came, because there were only two satyrs. So the troll ate the poisonous mushrooms that always grew there in abundance because no one else can eat them without dying. Moral of the story: Don't be a stupid troll."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The monster hunter unit's description is from a book called "Catch Them All", written by Ashley Katsun. Hmm...
    • The unicorn's description is a poem that includes the line, "Ever singing that friendship is magic".
    • The Horned Helmet of the Verbose Dragon Slayer, the Trinket of the Moongate and Halfling Trick Bauble reference various other fantasy worlds.
    • One of the heroes that can join the player is Per Notchson, a dead ringer for Markus "Notch" Persson complete with his trademark fedora. Per was added to the game as thanks to Notch for sponsoring Age of Wonders 3's development.
    • The Night Wish spell for Rogues has been confirmed as a shoutout to the band Nightwish. The spell icon is based loosely on the cover art for the 2011 album Imaginaerum.
    • Ham the Wanderer, a halfling adventurer often quoted in unit descriptions, references multiple events in The Lord of the Rings, such as hiding from "black riders" in a ravine or stabbing a monstrous spider in the belly.
    • The blight elemental looks more than a little bit like Slimer from Ghostbusters.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: In three of the campaigns, at least one hero will leave your army with the equipment you give them if you pick certain decisions that will affect the ending you'll receive.
  • Storm of Blades: One of the Rogue's offensive spells, adding poison for good measure.
  • Stripperific: The succubus unit, naturally.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: This time around its only six units per hex, down from 8. Though on the other hand at least most regular units are represented as squads of up to something like 20 soldiers. Also, armies on neighboring hexes may join the fray, creating the potential for battles with dozens of units on each side.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sundren's brother, Thannis of House Inioch. He goes off by himself to negotiate with the Commonwealth, in the lands of a man who is supposed to be neutral but is known to have an extremely strong Commonwealth bias. Even after it becomes obvious everyone else present is just looking for an excuse to start a war he still tries to negotiate for a peace treaty. He doesn't last long.
  • Unluckily Lucky: Many unit descriptions are written by a halfling called Ham the Wanderer, who is often getting himself into deadly situations, only to be saved at the last minute by dumb luck and/or something embarrassing.
    • With the first DLC bringing the Halfling race back... that's pretty much their specialty. They have inherent physical weakness but the ability to dodge attacks as long as their morale is positive.
  • War Elephants: Elephants can't be built, but Arch-Druids can tame wild elephants and use them in battle.
  • You Don't Look Like You: The various Shrine structures are all dedicated to Wizards from previous games, and most of them do not look much like their counterparts. Considering the wizards themselves don't appear in the game, it's unknown if their appearances were actually Retconned, or if the statues just aren't a good likeness. For reference, the changes are...
    • The Shrine to the Guardian Angel depicts Ariane as a Winged Humanoid even though the previous games never depicted her as having wings.
    • The Shrine to the Fickle Mermaid depicts Nimue as a mermaid even though the previous games depicted her as human in appearance.
    • The Shrine to the Frozen Beauty depicts Artica as a Bald Woman even though her previous look showed her with Rapunzel Hair.
    • The Shrine to the Queen of Spiders depicts Arachne as a Drider even though her previous look had human legs.
    • The Shrine to the Earthen Mother depicts Mab as obese, even though her previous look was rail thin.
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