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Age of Wonders 3 appeals to different play styles, including hardcore and old school

Age of Wonders 3 features turn-based strategy that can be played several different ways for those with varying amounts of free time, Triumph Studios director Lennart Sas told Polygon during a GDC demo.

Age of Wonders 3 is the first title in the series to be released since 2002. Players command armies while conquering new lands and races and establishing an empire. In addition to its single-player mode, the game features an email-driven campaign that works similar to its regular multiplayer, but slower. Once a player takes their turn, an email is sent to the other player, alerting them of a new round. According to Sas, it's the kind of mode meant for players who have 15 minutes here and there to play.

"These games going on for sometimes a couple of weeks," Sas said. "And play whenever you want — you might have ten games going on. It is old school, but [it works] for people who have busy schedules and can't commit to spending two hours a night."

Age of Wonders 3 includes more than 150 units, six races and classes, and up to six heroes per army. After creating a lead character, players will conquer and transform inhabitable land as they explore. Each tile on the game's map is moddable, and players can even replay battles to learn exactly why their hero died.

"War is a nasty business and you just have to make the right trade off."

In battle, it's possible to turn humanoid enemies into new recruits. During the demo, Sas was able to recruit a group of Human Soundrels mid-brawl, who then joined his side of the fight. But certain characters will have higher resistance and be harder to recruit, Sas said. High level heroes and leaders often have greater willpower that can make them immune to mind control spells.

Players will also encounter different heroes that can be bribed with assets such as items, cities or treaties. When approaching new, already occupied territories, players will also have the choice of absorbing the population in their army. There's also the option to raze the cities, grant citizens independence or migrate them. Negative actions against races, such as razing or migrating a town of humans, will sour their opinion of you. Trying to absorb them into your forces afterwards will be difficult and create unrest within your empire.

"It is sort of a trade-off," Sas said. "War is a nasty business and you just have to make the right trade off."

Players will be able to set their own difficulty and change AI levels to tailor the game to their level of experience. Triumph Studios wanted to appeal to both hardcore and new players.

"Hard to please the hardcore."

"The biggest challenges are innovating while not pissing off your core audience," Sas said. "Sometimes you take out a race and replace it by a different race or change the movement of a unit in combat ... people will start to complain and mess around in the forums. Hard to please the hardcore."

In order to stay true to the game's audience, the team had to recapture the essence and art of the franchise. Sas says that the Age of Wonders recipe remains the same, but the game is markedly improved.

"The previous games, the magical spheres felt detached from your main empire and now everything feels more integrated," Sas said. "We also tried to make it accessible, people shouldn't need a manual to play this game. Like in Civilization 5, we felt was a really great advancement with interface with these types of games, you can sit down, start playing without needing to read a manual."

Age of Wonders 3 is currently slated for release in the fall. The game will be available for Windows PC.