Age of Wonders 4 Dev Diary #9 - Ancient Wonders
Greetings future Rulers, welcome to another Development Journal! I’m Bas, a game designer at Triumph Studios. I’d like to give you some glimpses into the grand structures called Ancient Wonders that can be found in the realms you conquer.
Each Ancient Wonder is a monument from the great ages of the past, with several ties to the old Age of Wonders lore. They make the lands more coherent and mysterious as you encounter an ancient Mother Tree guarded by vengeful Entwined, a Secret Temple desecrated by evil cultists summoning a demon or a Lost Tower of ancient wizard horribly transformed by the Astral Sea.
Ancient Wonders are, next to being monumental landmarks in the world map, also filled with adventures and the promise of loot. They are the evolved versions of Treasure Sites in Age of Wonders 3 and Landmarks from Age of Wonders: Planetfall.
Discovering an Ancient Wonder
When you first uncover an Ancient Wonder on the World map, you already get a glimpse of what’s to come through:
The name, which hints at the adventure that awaits inside.
The tier, which indicates the difficulty but also the value of the Ancient Wonder and its rewards!
The background lore, indicating what the Ancient Wonder’s original purpose was and what might still lurk inside
Beware though, that trying to enter and capture Ancient Wonders, while a dangerous ordeal in itself, also have diplomatic repercussions, other players gain grievances if you try to explore Ancient Wonders that are close to them. No one likes nosy neighbors stealing the loot.
To take you on an adventure, we’re following Wizard King Cinren Toliath of the Ashborn Hedonists.
As we’ve explored and settled a second city, we’ve encountered an Ancient Wonder called the Lover’s Spring, sounds rather inviting for our Hedonists? Let’s have a look..
Entering the Ancient Wonder
Whenever your hero/ruler with their army enters an Ancient Wonder, they’ll stumble upon an intro event that will foretell a special combat encounter. Such as a Lost Mage hungrily seeking for knowledge, or 2 dragons guarding a hoard of gold, or a bunch of demi-giants discussing what’s for dinner.
Sometimes these events also link to existing elements in the world, such as a House or a Hero. This means that the reward is also tied in with the story. Such as being able to recruit a new Hero mentioned in the intro, or gaining favor of a particular house.
Cinren and his hedonists have been invited to bathe by some suspicious nymphs, we don’t fall that easily for such a trick. But the foreshadowing of facing Nymphs is no small threat. Nymphs have the ability to Seduce units, mind controlling them until the Nymph dies.
Luckily, there is an option for us to “avert our eyes”. A painful but necessary alternative to have our troops become blinded but also immune to being seduced.. Cinren knows his people tend to give in to temptation too well, so we give the order to look away and go into the fight.
Fighting in the Ancient Wonder
Now, let’s get into the battle!
Each Ancient Wonder is guarded by a powerful army of monsters and baddies. These enemy units are themed towards the Ancient Wonder and its event. They’re connected to the entire adventure and mentioned in the intro events.
Ancient Wonders have some of the coolest looking combat maps we’ve made so far. With a big focus on selling the idea of being inside the structure and the function of the structure before it fell into disarray.
A big shoutout to Sara and the rest of the Art team, who’ve done an amazing job in making these maps look absolutely stunning.
We’ve retained a big part of the design philosophy that we used in some of Planetfall’s combat maps, where we compliment the units you’ll be fighting against with the level’s layout. Making these units truly shine. This works well for Ancient Wonders who have both bespoke maps and bespoke units you can encounter in them.
When making the Golden Ziggurat for example, we know there were going to be Dragons here as one of the main adventures. So we’ve made a nice open center battleground for your troops to walk down to with some side paths. Baiting players into piling their troops into the main room, just to let the Dragons pull off some impressive breath attacks! Some would consider us level designers cruel.
Combats in Ancient Wonders are paired with Combat Enchantments that spice up the encounter. They are made to tie in with the event and the enemies you face. Such a Lost Tower adventure where reality shifts, making your troops suddenly appear somewhere else every 2 turns! Making a tight formation relying on auras harder.
But, if the player has made some of the alternative choices in the introduction event, they get their own beneficial combat enchantment that helps even out the odds in combat. Some of these benefits do require some extra consideration when fighting manually to get the best result!
One of these benefits is the Cooling Vents in the Magma Forge Ancient Wonder while facing an army of splitting Fire Elementals. By spending some production or passing a Materium check, several locations in the battlefield now apply Wet to your units which increases Fire Resistance and dispels Burning!
For Cinren and his now blind hedonists, the combat is going to be hard fought in the soothing waters of the Wellspring. The Arcanists in particular have trouble pulling off their lightning bolts while being blinded. But luckily we have enough melee troops and Cinren himself with a Godir Greataxe, to reach and vanquish the Nymphs and their Thralls.
Resolving the adventure
After a victorious battle (I hope), you’re greeted with a celebratory resolution event. Here a new dilemma is presented: your reward!
Rewards are different per adventure and often grant a great chunk of resources. But more than that, you can get unique rewards by choosing one of the event options.
Some of the unique reward options are even locked behind specific conditions, such as affinity or alignment. Making the event in a different playthrough offers you different rewards!
As a fixed reward, our troops get to actually enjoy the spring and fight harder in the coming battles! But Cinren gets to make an extra choice for a special reward. Of course we’re going to get our very own Nymph unit! The power to seduce units belongs to the Hedonists!
Annexing the Ancient Wonder
Once you have cleared the Ancient Wonder, you’re granted ownership over it. While owned, you can annex it as a province into one of your cities’ domain. Doing so grants multiple bonuses:
Rally of the Lieges unique units
Other unique bonuses
These are very strong, and way better than regular nodes. Especially Imperium is rare to get in the world map.
The Rally of the Lieges units are wildlife units that fit thematically with the Ancient Wonder itself and can not be acquired anywhere else. They wonderfully complement your lineup, such as being able to recruit Bone Dragons from the Lost Tower while playing as a master Necromancer ruling over an undead race!
Some other unique bonuses are granted such as making unit summons a lot cheaper or increasing the income of Province Improvements in your domain. They always count as a specific improvement type themselves, and therefore work with other bonuses and city upgrade requirements.
Cinren order’s the annexation of the Lover’s Spring into his second city, the Lover’s Spring grants us happiness and heals our troops quickly within the domain. Acting as a beacon of growth and joy.
But not only that, we also get to recruit some very rare Fairy units as the spring attracts the local Fey! These are a collection of flying Tier 3 battlemages and Support units, and they will complement our army well as we make our race of tricksters and pleasure seekers. Playing as mystic also means that they benefit well from our unit enchantments such as Scrolls of Power, increasing damage on all our Battlemages and Support units!
Each unique Ancient Wonder has one of a selection of Adventures inside of them. Each with their own events, combat encounter and Combat Enchantment(s). This means that entering locations that look the same in a playthrough actually result in completely different encounters!
An Adventure is a series of events and a special combat encounter with special combat enchantment(s) that is put inside the Ancient Wonder, these events have special requirements for certain options, be it in the intro or resolution event, so encountering an adventure you’ve had before can lead to different results!
For the modders out there, this means you can easily add extra adventures to existing Ancient Wonders!
While on Cinren’s Journey to become a Godir, we come across multiple Castle Ruins ancient wonders. Each with their own adventure, foes to fight, challenges to face and rewards to gain!
I hope you enjoyed as we explored the Ancient Wonders together! On their own they're a real step up from the Treasure Sites of Age of Wonders 3 as we’ve added more content, more complex maps and combat challenges, events, lore and greater rewards.
But it’s with your journey where they’ll really shine, from creating an eternal war machine by capturing a Magma Forge as Demonic Industrialists, to fielding Blessed Souls from a Secret Temple heralding the return of a race that call themselves the new Archons, to saving an Ancient Mother Tree as a fearless Druid restoring the lands. It’s the connection between their story and yours that makes them truly wondrous!