The player picks or customizes a Great Mage, starting with one of the three races (Humans, Undead or Beasts) and proceeds to attempt to claim victory either by eliminating opposing wizards, casting the ultimate spell, defeating an Avatar sent by one of the gods or by controlling over half of the holy sites in the land of Ardania .
Games take place on a hex-based map. Unlike in other games of the genre, each structure is placed on the map individually, instead of being built "inside" the city. Furthermore, the player can only construct one building per population point. Building structures is free, but as noted, limited by available spaces and population.
Resource management is divided into four parts: Gold and Mana, which the player can stockpile, and Food/Research, which is used each turn, with surplus converted to Gold/Mana respectively. Food is required to grow cities and feed the armies, while gold is used to buy and upkeep the army. Magical units and enhancements do not require gold, but instead consume Mana each turn. Mana is also used to cast spells.
Spells come in a variety of different forms ranging from direct damage and healing, enchantments and debuffs capable of affecting entire players, summoning of magical units and items and even terraforming. In addition to normal spells, player can also seek the favor of one of the 8 gods gaining powerful, thematically appropriate spells and units. However, seeking the favor of one god will anger the god of the opposing spectrum. Should the player become champion of his chosen god, the opposing god will send an avatar to kill the player. Defeating this avatar is one of the victory conditions.
The map plays a large role. On the map, there are numerous special tiles containing special resources. Capturing these special resources allows the player to build a special building on top them. There are usually two buildings the player can build, with each resource tile only allowing one. For example, a tile containing silver allows player either to build a mine to boost their outcome, or a building that allows player to equip his troops with silver weapons and armor.
The game received five DLCs, two minor and three major. Powerful Lords DLC added new lords mages for the player to select and Lord of Artifacts added new artifacts which the player could craft into spells. The first major DLC, Power of the Serpent, added new characters for the player to select, a new resource node(Koalt village) and new units. The second DLC, Return of the Elves, added a new Elven faction with new units, mages and style. The last DLC, Armageddon, added new NPC faction called Dremer who appear in the new game mode Armageddon. In this game mode, after a set amount of turns, Dremer start to invade the world, slowly terraforming it into hostile world. The attacks keep growing stronger, until one of the players can defeat the threat by invading the Dremer universe itself and killing their leader.
The sequel, called Warlock II: The Exiled, was released in 2014. Unfortunately, the original game is no longer sold separately, requiring players to buy the enhanced edition that includes all the DLCs. Those who have the base game can upgrade their version to enhanced version through contact with Paradox support.
This game provides examples of:
- Alliance Meter: One that tracks how much you are favored by gods.
- All There in the Manual: Research and upgrade trees are not available in the game, forcing player to rely outside sources.
- Anti-Magic: Several spells and abilities ranging from specialized defensive ones, buffs, dispelling, banishing and generally making it hard for others to cast anything.
- The Archmage: Miralbus the Hat and Elpiritster the Eternal are ones lorewise. There is also a trait called Archmage which gives player double mana production.
- Bears Are Bad News: They are summonable unit, and also roam the map as neutral units.
- Blade on a Stick: Several units use different types of spears and halberds.
- Character Customization: Customize your Wizard. Your units too, to a degree. Player can purchase perks for units, assuming the player has the required building, as well as upgrade them as they gain levels.
- The Chosen One: Rjak is described as "Chosen Mage of Lunord, the God of Night".
- Combat Medic: Various Heroes and units can heal other units.
- Counter-Attack: Each unit gets one chance at fighting back, assuming the opponent is not attacking with range attack.
- Curse: Various spells causing various negative status effects. These can become critical late game, when even basic troopers can have enough upgrades, perks and buffs to make them near immune to all damage.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The AI has... issues in keeping its alliances. Dont be surprised to see near endless series of alliances being made, broken and/or wars declared.
- Damage Typing: A core mechanic. Melee and Missile are fairly basic, Elemental covers fire/ice/lightning, Life and Death are most effective against the Undead/Living respectively while Spirit is rare but hard to resist. What makes this interesting is the frequency, particularly among high-level units, of multiple damage types within the same attack.
- Death from Above: Almost all attack spells deliver attacks from above.
- Decapitated Army: Played with. Once the capital falls, no matter what, the player and his faction is eliminated. It does not matter if players all other holdings are still standing and his armies laying siege on the last city of the opponent, moment the capital falls the faction is eliminated. However, all the units and cities are still left on map as neutral units and cities who are hostile to everyone.
- Divine Intervention: Should player become Chosen of his god, the opposing God will send an avatar to kill the player.
- Dual-World Gameplay: Main starts in Ardania, but depending the how player sets up the game, there can be up to 7 alternative dimensions to explore.
- Elite Tweak: As troops upgrade, they stack up more and more buffs and perks, eventually becoming near immune to damage.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The Armageddon game mode takes place during the end of the world. The player's job is to try to prevent the end while still competing with other great mages.
- Enemy Exchange Program: Your starting race is only important in the starting turns, since the player can very quickly capture a neutral city from a different race. Cities keep their original race, which allows player to construct buildings and units unique to that race. This can be useful, if you for example play as Elves, who need lots of mana but can't produce it well. Elven players might be interested in capturing a few undead cities and use those to generate mana, as undead specialize in mana production, despite cities of other races having reduced resource production and population growth.
- Horse of a Different Color: The Order of Stubborn Knights rides... donkeys.
- Hostile Terraforming: The terrain that Dremer units occupy tends to be converted into an infected mess that heals them while harming you.
- Magic Enhancement: All of the schools of magic have a few unit enhancements.
- Mana: It powers your spellcasting and maintains your magical units. Players can contruct buildings to increase the mana generation.
- Master of Illusion: Quite a few spells of Sorcery revolve around illusions. Illusion-based attacks are nasty, completely bypassing defenses... but on the other hand, some units, particularly the undead, are completely immune.
- Morale Mechanic: Player seek favor of one of the eight gods by doing things they consider good (killing opposing gods' special units, for example).
- One-Gender Race: Arethi Elves (from the Return of the Elves DLC) are all-male race.
- One-Man Army: Any high-leveled, well-equipped, advanced hero or even unit can take down multiple units that have not been upgraded sufficiently. There are also certain neutral units can utterly destroy non-upgraded army all by themselves.
- Our Elves Are Different: Originally there were just a simple resource node that gave player a special unit. Later, another Elven species was added as a full-fledged race in the Return of the Elves DLC. They use Mana to maintain most of their stuff, like the Undead, but unlike Undead, Elves do not have access to advanced Mana production facilities and only build a limited amount of them. What they do do well is research new spells. In addition, their units are stronger and more expensive than their analogues of other races. They also avert common Elven stereotypes with them being a phisically strong all-male race, having only a basic archer but a lot of warrior class units and lacking any kind of nature theme.
- Place of Power: Maps contain special tiles. If player constructs a special building on these, they can gain access to powerful units, perks or massive upgrades in resource production. For example, normally mana collector produces 3 mana per turn. A magical testing area, a special building, produces 10.
- Portal Network: Portals link different worlds together.
- Regenerating Health: A few units continuously regenerate during combat, including hydras, werewolves, and every Troll unit. An expensive and high-level nature spell can grant the same power to any unit.
- Religion is Magic: Temples provide you with Mana.
- The Remnant: Any time a faction is defeated, all their remaining units and cities instantly convert to neutral cities and units that can be conquered freely.
- Revive Kills Zombie: Taken to an extreme with the terraforming spells avaliable to worshipers of Krypta(death)/Agrela(life) who can create magical terrain that heals/harms their respective side of the Life/Death dynamic.
- Shout-Out: Bordering on Canon Welding, you can play as Tlaloc's chosen or the immortal R'jak.
- Stubborn Mule: The Order of Stubborn Knights rides donkeys, and are unique in sense that they never retreat, even if they are only one health point from death.
- Squishy Wizard: Wizards, Clerics and other magic using ranged units.
- Summon Magic: Player can summon variety of creatures to serve him. As long as player has mana to maintain them, they will serve and act like normal units.
- Units Not to Scale: All units appear huge compared to cities and buildings they walk on.
- Veteran Unit:: Each unit gains experience and levels longer it stays alive and how much it does damage to the enemies. There is also a special unit called Veterans.
- Wizard Beard: Miralbus the Hat, Nicals Frost and Elpiritster the Eternal sport ones, with Miralbus being closest to the stereotype.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Mana and Food. Gold is produced as, well, Gold. It is abundant and easily acquired and used for pretty much everything. Mana acts as Lumber, being little bit harder to get, and used for spells and certain special troops. Finally, Food acts as like Power, each turn player produces certain amount and it never stored. Some races have resources act in different roles. Humans, Monsters and Elves all need food to grow their settlement and provide upkeep for troops, while Undead do not need food, but need mana to sustain their troops and cities.
- Zerg Rush: Less viable than in other games of the type. Since only one unit can occupy a tile at a time and armies are expensive, players often resort smaller, elite armies rather than expendable units.