Age of Wonders 4 Dev Diary #10 – Heroes: Warriors, Governors, Story characters
Hello there my name is Simon, gameplay programmer at Triumph. Today I’ll tell you about one of the areas I worked on: the heroes!
Throughout the AoW series Heroes have been your trusted lieutenants, the commanders of your armies. They are super-units with detailed upgrade trees and inventory slots resembling those of RPG characters.
In Age of Wonders 4, we set out to deepen the impact Heroes have in the game, by giving them new roles, and a strong attachment to the realm they come from. They develop personal stories and are more persistent, they can continue to play a role even after they perish on the battlefield. Read on!
First let’s give a summary of the functions Heroes have in your empire in AoW4:
Army Leaders: Heroes are still the super units people love from the previous games. In many battles they are the strongest characters in the field, carefully tailored with skill upgrades, magical items, and mounts. Many Heroes have army-buffing abilities, like skills that increase the morale of units. If you put multiple heroes in a single army, the highest tier hero is deemed the army leader and only this hero’s army bonuses are applied.
Magical Item Wielders: Only heroes can be equipped with the magical items you find in the world. Match items with your heros’ unique skills for the best results. Heroes can also ride a variety of mounts.
City Governors: Cities in AoW4 have a hero as governor. Heroes have Affinities which translate to bonuses to your city’s economy. Note that independent Free cities also have governors. These lords and ladies are the cities’ faces during negotiations. When you diplomatically integrate a free city these characters join you as governors. Note that heroes don’t need to stay inside their cities to apply their bonuses, they are free to go on expeditions.
Ancient Wonder Explorers: Heroes are the bravest characters in your armies and only under their command Ancient Wonders can be explored. Often the associated stories are centered on the hero leading the expedition. Read the DD on Ancient Wonders here.
Besiegers: Sieges can only be started under the command of a Hero. In Age of Wonders 4 sieges are started on the world map. We’ll dedicate a separate development diary on this topic.
Outpost Founders: Heroes found new outposts, pushing the frontiers of your empire outward. Outposts can later be turned into cities; Read the DD on cities here.
That is a lot of responsibilities for heroes! Luckily your empire will quickly field multiple heroes and your ruler avatar can do everything a hero can. Typically the number of heroes under your direct control follows the number of cities you have. The gameplay systems encourage heroes to be spread out instead of clumping them together. In any of these roles emergent story events may appear that give a new dimension to the characters and actions.
Different ways to acquire Heroes
In Age of Wonders 4 there are multiple ways to recruit these powerful heroes into your ranks. The first of which is to go looking for offers yourself. Once your empire gains the ability to command more heroes you’ll get notified that certain heroes have offered you their services.
When you decide to look into the offers you’ll be presented with a carousel that gives you a quick overview of your options. From here you can decide to further inspect a hero before determining who is worthy of your supreme guidance.
Apart from going looking on your own, you might also run into heroes that offer their services during your adventures. This might be a hero that you encounter on the world map, a free city lord that feels their unfavored child could use some more experience; or maybe there is someone in your prison that has seen the error of their ways and decides that you are the rightful ruler after all. There’s heaps of unique situations like these that will make sure you can fill your ranks with cool companions. Who knows, maybe your pantheon rulers feel like dropping by and crushing some skulls together.
Naturally if your empire cannot accommodate a hero’s offer when encountered, there’s always the option to recruit this hero later. In which case you can on your own accord find these heroes' services on offer through the hero carousel, maybe even for free or at a reduced cost depending on your history with them.
Over the course of your adventures the heroes in the world who are not under your command will gain experience and level up on their own. These heroes are procedurally themed towards certain combat roles, their skillset and equipment making them formidable casters, mounted knights or caretaking shamans for example!
As you can see here when we inspect Ergot Warbuck at the start of the game. He is only level three and has access to a low tier weapon, mount and a basic skill.
Now let’s fast forward a bit and see what this hero looks like a little later in the game at the moment of recruitment.
As you can see Ergot has gained a more powerful orb, selected multiple skills that fit with a damage dealing battlemage and even gained some signature skills that fit with this role. You might note the cost for recruiting him has also risen accordingly.
Now let’s have a look at an endgame comparison. This is Nanoc Warbuck, belonging to the same free city as Ergot, Nanoc was tasked with guarding the city. Here’s Nanoc at the start of the game.
And here’s a look at Nanoc in the endgame. He’s gained a lot of equipment and skills as well as seemingly having tamed a spider and infused a lance with its poison. He even became the leader of the army he is in. The army itself seems to have earned its stripes as well.
Next to assigning an archetype this same system also picks a starting trait for the hero. This is a very impactful bonus that gives the hero an extra combat ability, passive bonus or something to add to a city when this hero is a governor (more about that later). Some very special heroes might even get multiple of these, but we’ll leave those up to you to find.
Link to free cities
During your time in Age of Wonders 4 you can encounter two types of heroes: Heroes belonging to a free city and heroes rising up from the ranks of your chosen race.
Free city heroes
Heroes belonging to free cities are generally a higher level as they’ve been well trained. This naturally makes them more expensive as well. However since these heroes have the backing of a free city that opens up a lot of opportunities. Having them under your control will improve your standing with the city as well as create new lines of communication, opening up more quests and story events relating to the city. All of this can help you define the fate or role of such a city within your realm and/or empire.
Next to the relationship benefits, free cities can have access to powerful upgrades that can impact the hero. These range from transformations and enchantments to special traits that give additional affinity points for example.
Heroes rising up from the ranks of your own race do not have any connection to a free city. Generally they are cheaper to recruit and are lower in level. Just like free city heroes, these also unlock their own storylines found in quests and events. Though they don’t have a free city that gives them transformations and special upgrades, these heroes do of course benefit from any magic you’ve cast upon your own race. These heroes are your solution for a purist playthrough. Who has time for all the drama of free cities when you could also bring them to their knees with heroes risen from your supreme race … right?
Your empire can get legitimate access to new heroes as soon as it consists of multiple cities. For every city you control in your empire you can command one hero. However for the more power hungry rulers there are ways of circumventing that little rule. It’ll just cost you some resources.
Should you dislike anything about the presentation of your hero or feel that they would look a lot cooler with a specific visual item, you can always jump into the hero editor during gameplay. This lets you edit your hero to your liking, from visuals to names, titles and even appearance- and grammar gender. All your changes can be easily reverted by clicking the reset button if you don’t like where you ended up. On top of that, using this editor is permanently free from any resource costs. So nothing’s stopping you from unleashing your full creativity and going wild making cool heroes that perfectly fit your empire!
As your heroes travel the realm going on all sorts of adventures, they get experience points for doing all kinds of actions. Once those points lead to a level up, your hero gains a skill point. These can then be spent to gain powerful abilities and passive bonuses.
These make up the meat of your hero’s skills and are divided into three categories:
As you might expect these play into the different combat roles found in Age of wonders 4. Warfare skills are aimed at roles that employ physical damage using swords, lances, giant battle axes and more. Specializing in getting damage and defense numbers up while triggering bonuses upon killing your enemies on the field of battle.
Battle magic is the kind of magic that hurts when you’re on the receiving end. Generally found on powerful mages wielding magical orbs. These skills specialize in using elemental magic, optimizing spell usage and increasing (status) resistance.
Last but not least we have support skills. These revolve around being the leader of an army and giving bonuses to all the units in that army. Ranging from gaining experience faster or increasing accuracy of units to fully restoring the action points of a unit. There are a lot of useful bonuses here that can make even seemingly low tier armies very difficult to deal with.
All of these categories have a default set that each hero has access to, which can then be expanded upon by your chosen culture and tomes.
Once every five levels your hero unlocks one out of four signature skill slots. These allow you to pick a skill that’s a lot more impactful than your regular skills. Not only do these provide abilities that can turn the tide of any battle, these skills also provide your hero with an affinity point. In turn those affinity points will help you get new tomes of magic and provide bonus income to governed cities.
Should you be unhappy with any skills on your hero, you can opt to respecialize the hero. This will reset all regular skills and signature skills. Be wary of your decision though, your hero might accept your request to change once but if you persist on changing multiple times it might just take some Imperium to convince your hero.
Throughout exploration and conquests you’ll come across powerful artifacts you can equip on your heroes. The central Arsenal that we introduced in Planetfall returns. All unequipped items go to the Arsenal, reducing micromanagement. Heroes have the following slots:
Primary: Weapon associated with your Hero’s default attack. Both primary Melee and Ranged Weapons go here. Note that some weapon types also take up the secondary slots (Bows, Staffs, Double Handed Swords)
Secondary: Used for Shields. Blocked when ]double handed weapons are equipped in the primary slot.
Head: Armor, magical defenses, and Vision enhancement
Torso: Armor, magical defenses
Legs: Armor, magical defenses, sometimes movement enhancement.
Ring: Grant passive properties/abilities.
Misc (3x): A Wide range of Items. Some give new active abilities (Magical Wands go here) and special buffs.
Mount: Your mount of choice. Ranging from horses to spiders, great birds and wyverns. Affects movement and some mounts give special abilities. Staves, Polearms and Heavy Two-Handed Weapons that aren't Lances disable this slot.
Here are are some example items for you to check out:
As mentioned above heroes have an important role to fill as Governors of your cities. As governors heroes can approach you with requests for their city opening up unique story events and quests. Which hero you select to be looking over your city for you can also yield hefty bonuses. As their affinity points are linked to income bonuses, increasing your income of a specific resource per affinity point. This is where synergising with signature skills and free cities giving affinity point upgrades can become quite rewarding.
Next to the affinities coming into play, heroes also have traits that can have a huge impact when they are chosen as governor. There are traits that give a city more fortification health to fend off besieging armies, or allow for the recruitment of special units such as trolls and ogres. Some even give the hero more affinity points that are shared with the rest of the empire. Such a perk might just allow you to unlock that one powerful tome of magic you otherwise could not get to.
Hero Prison and Crypt
The role heroes play doesn’t necessarily end when they are defeated on the battlefield. Their dead or unconscious body (this is based on chance) gets transferred to the crypt or prison of the victorious player.
Basic actions involve setting them free or returning their remains. By expanding the Wizards Tower with a special crypt and prison rooms more options are available.
Wizards Tower Prison
Convert - Starts a process of re-educating the hero so they can come and serve under your command
Execute - kills the hero and moves the hero’s items to your arsenal and the body to the crypt. If you have a hero belonging to a Free City or player faction your relation will be negatively impacted.
You get knowledge per turn for each hero in your prison.
Wizards Tower Crypt
Resurrect - resurrects the fallen hero under your command.
You get mana income per turn for each hero in your crypt.
Players taking the Shadow Path of Necromancy can Animate fallen heroes for the cost of Souls and gold. This of course turns the hero into one of the undead.
Heroes and Events
We’ve already done an extensive DD on narrative events but for the completion of this week’s topic its good to highlight that Heroes (Living or dead) are the most common actors in events. Heroes represent free cities or come to you in their function as governor of your own cities. Also heroes in the field may come with special requests. Keeping your heroes happy has many beneficial effects for your empire. Here are a couple of examples of hero-based events.
In Age of Wonders 4, heroes have made their way into more game systems than ever before. Not only are they the awesome champions of the battlefield, they also prepare sieges, provide boons to cities as governors, have relations/origins to factions in the world and take center stage in the narrative events. Furthermore, you can recruit rulers that have ascended to the Pantheon to aid you.
Choose your Heroes wisely Ruler!