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It’s me again, back with a new review of Old World! I want to thank Mohawk Games and their publisher Hooded Horse for being kind enough to provide me with a copy of the Steam version for review purposes. This is more of an impressions review than anything else, but it’s great to see it finally available on the main PC platforms. Old World made my Hidden Gems list last year, partly because I picked it up very late in the year and didn’t get more time with it.
If you asked me what my favorite types of games were, the strategy genre would be pretty high up my list. My gaming tastes have changed greatly in recent years. While I still sway towards RPG, simulation, and sandbox games, I’ve branched out more recently. I’ve grown to enjoy shooters as long as they have some immersive or customization aspects, such as the Stalker series, Ready or Not, or Cyberpunk. Chill, wholesome games have also been more enjoyable. A few years ago, I would never have liked games such as l Lost Ember, Spiritfarer, and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, but I seek them out more frequently. Tastes can change frequently with time.
I’ve always enjoyed strategy games, though. Strategy games have been high on my priority list, especially the 4X genre. Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate, lovely words that sum up: build a gigantic empire and take over the world or universe. They’ve had steady releases over the last few years, trying to become the next Civilisation series. Humankind came out last year to a lot of hype, and I wish I enjoyed it more. While I had fun with it at times, parts just feel too unbalanced and buggy: bad things for a strategy game. It helps that Humankind is part of the massive Xbox Game Pass system, which is a great way for people to try out games they might otherwise reject without paying for a game upfront. I might write something about the Game Pass and gaming subscription systems in the future, and I always recommend it as an option for people who want to test games before buying them outright to own them.
Old World didn’t receive much attention when it was released last year, partly due to its timed exclusivity on the Epic Games Store. The Epic Store’s focus on timed exclusivity has brought plenty of controversy for consumers, and I understand the annoyance it causes. I’m not keen on exclusivity either for games, though I find the whole thing petty at times. Guess I don’t get angry about stuff much. Still, Old World is now out on all PC platforms, launching in May on Steam and GOG. It’s a solid 4X title that focuses heavily on story choices and boasts some impressive customization. Options and choices are great for strategy games, and Old World packs a lot into its package. I like it a lot more than I did Humankind, and Old World has the potential to challenge the Civilisation series.
When I started playing it on Epic, Old World didn’t have too much going on. There are plenty of ways to customize a playthrough, but there was no dedicated tutorial. There were tips and options available if the player wished, but I would have preferred a tutorial. Well, the release of Old World provided just that, with a high-quality tutorial campaign to teach the player the ropes. It explores the journey of Phillip of Macedon during a five-scenario campaign, and I learned almost everything I needed. Also included in Old World is a simple skirmish mode, a campaign about the rise of Carthage, dedicated map scenarios as well as a fully-fledged map editor. That’s a lot of content available.
This kind of deep strategy game needs solid tutorials, and it’s odd how many games struggle to get that across to the player. The Paradox library of games tends to have issues with those: massive, deep games that take dozens of hours to learn. Crusader Kings III, their most recent big release, has been made more accessible, and I’d argue it’s been their best game to date partly for that reason. Old World is difficult to master but is easy to learn, and with that solid tutorial campaign, I can recommend it to anyone interested in strategy games. There are plenty of resources to collect and things to build, with a key focus on diplomacy and warfare. Settlers found new cities, workers erect buildings and chop down wood, while scouts have a large line of sight, exploring the world and gathering resources.
What I enjoy about Old World is how it provides a blend of story choices and player accountability. Characters will evolve as they do in Crusader Kings, giving every run a different twist. In one of my custom maps, I played Carthage with Hannibal. Over time, different events show up and keep things dynamic. Events are frequent but never frustrating. With several different factions with their unique units and bonuses, there is plenty of variety. I ended up caring for my characters. When Hannibal ended up catching the plague and dying, I hadn’t properly set up my heir, and my fledgling empire collapsed several years later. With all these different things happening, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into.
There are also mods, and Old World comes with built-in integration with mod.io for plenty of ways to change up a game. I wish Steam Workshop was available because it would greatly improve the accessibility, but that might be an option down the line.
Overall, I’ve found Old World to be a solid 4X title, and there’s a lot to like about this. While it contains solid roleplaying mechanics like Crusader Kings as well as strategy elements, I never needed a degree to learn how to play the game, which I enjoyed. Sometimes the biggest problem with these games is learning how to play them in the first place, and while Old World is hard to master, it’s easy to learn. The 1.0 tutorial campaign and all the different modes provide a fantastic opening sequence, and I wish more games did this. There have been a few issues with bugs here and there, and it runs hotter on my laptop than a 4X game probably should, but at least it has Geforce Now support. It runs considerably better than it did on release last year, however.
I’m looking forward to playing more Old World. If you all don’t mind, I have a continent to conquer…