My only gripe with AoW3 so far… unified graphical representation of class unit

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Home Forums Age of Wonders 3 Discussions My only gripe with AoW3 so far… unified graphical representation of class unit

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    Hey there!

    I am a long-time fan of the AoW-Series, bought and played all of them although maybe not as excessively as some of the die-hard afficionados. I have always loved the superb gameplay concepts of AoW in terms of strategic options, empire-building, racial concepts and diversity and such and found AoW always clearly superior to similar fantasy-TBS titles like e.g. HoMM.

    So, what can I say? I am super happy about the announcement of AoW3 because this was one of the very few games that I had really been wishing for for the last dozen of years, a successor to the game that was as close to the fantasy TBS game of my dreams and the only true and improved successor to Master of Magic IMO. Yay!

    But there is one thing that somewhat frightens me from what I have seen and read so far:
    While I absolutely like the newly introduced concept of leader classes to further customize your leader and to increase individualization and replayability, I really find it disappointing that, if I understood right all of what I read and have seen on screenshots, the graphical representation of class units will basically be the same independent from the race. I.e. the Exalted (Angel) from the Theocrat class units will always be this being with 2 white wings, the Crusader will always be that knight in the same shiny armour, the Martyr will alway be this bare-chested guy with cuts all over his body.

    I think this is a bad design decision, mostly from a aesthetic point of view.

    This disappointment of mine is even more profound in cases where the race-class combination will produce some, em, really unconventional, units. I am totally d`accord with the Theocrat class units for the human race as they basically look like units we would expect from the classical Archon/High Men race. But Goblin-Angels? Orc-Angels? Or even Dwarf-Angels!? Elven-Angels? Goblin-Crusaders in shiny knight armour? Really?

    I read a google translation of the interview with a Netherland games journalist and understand that it seems to be a deliberate decision by the devs at TS to “leave behind conventional fantasy clichés” and I understand that there may be several advantages to that approach, this may be a serious attempt at leaving behind such “clichés”, it may furthermore save some financial and time resources when it comes to graphics work or it may even have some humoristic value as some kind of “comic relief”.
    But, to be honest, not for me, I just find all those non-human theocrat units we have seen so far plain ugly and want to offer my straightforward opinion that I REALLY dislike what I have seen so far.

    I have always loved the uniqueness and diversity of the races that we had in AoW/AoW2 and I`ll be honest and say that I´d much rather have classical(!) units (using deliberately the positive word “classical” instead of “cliché”) instead of, in my opinion, inappropriate, comical or dumb-looking units. I outright hate the look of the Goblin-Angel, -Crusader and -Martyr, yes I do.

    Let´s do some theorizing, shall we? What is a theocrat?
    It is not a well researched statement by far, more a spontaneous preliminary definition, but I’d say a theocrat is a ruler that legitimates his rulership by the existence of some god/deity or by being this deity himself. But being a theocrat alone says absolutely nothing about where on an axis between “Good” and “Evil” such a theocrat would be. So why should units of a Goblin-Theocrat look like units befitting for a cliché(!) benevolent or even biblical-christian God?
    When I think of a Goblin leader who legitimates his rulership by a deity I’d first and foremost think of some kind of evil god or at least not a benevolent god that can be related to cliché angel-like creatures. Yes, there would be goblin priest/shamans but the strongest unit of such a Goblin theocrat should e.g. be some hideous avatar or demon of this deity, a being looking like e.g. the Karragh(?) or such. But not such, sorry for speaking straightforward again, ridiculous goblin angels or crusaders.

    Or let’s take the screenshots with the undead we have seen so far.
    We can see what seems to be the classical Titan unit in that shot in the desert with the difference that it’s an undead Titan in this case.
    Hm, OK, why not, this could be the Warlord class top tier unit, the Titan, in this case from an Undead Warlord-class leader.
    But what when it comes to a combination Elf-Warlord or Dwarf-Warlord? What will we see then? A Dwarven Titan? An Elven Titan? I am really curious to see what they will look like but I am afraid they might look not like units I would wish to have as a top tier unit in my empire.

    So, to sum it up, I am aware that it may be a bit early to bring up such harsh and specific critique, some things may still be preliminary or placeholders and I am definitely not trying to hate the game or attack the artist(s) or such cause I basically love the game and want it to become perfect. Just want to offer my honest opinion about this design decision of nearly identical graphical representations of class units for all races. I really don’t like this decision at all and I would wish that the class units would have reasonably different looks, more in tune with the typical, classical (or cliché if you like so) looks of the specific race. This issue might make the difference between AoW3 becoming a good game or becoming a truly fantastic game, at least for me.

    It may have to do with the fact that I value good graphics and a consistent and coherent atmosphere in my fantasy TBS games maybe more than others. While not too few TBS players say that it´s only gameplay design which matters in this genre, graphics and atmosphere are nearly equally important for me.

    So I would love to hear people’s opinion about this design decision and get a more complete picture what the fans and the community think about this issue as a whole. I think I perceived some very cautious critique in this regard already in one or the other thread while other people seem to be totally d`accord with this design choice. If most people think it’s OK or even love this new system (and, again, please note I only intensely dislike the highly identical graphical representation of the class units,not the class unit system itself) then so be it. I would just hate the situation when most people think that this design choice is basically meh or bad but nobody really spoke up for one or the other reason.

    Opinions, explanations and discussion welcome!


    Hmm.. Good point. Maybe each race should have it’s own, unique (more or less) class-units? (if development time/money limits allow).



    From what I understand an Goblin angel is a Goblin with feathery wings while a human angel is a human with feathery wings, and an undea… erm the leader-dependent units are adjusted to the base-race.

    From the very beginning there have been faint Biblical allusions: One of the first things one learns in the intro to Age of Wonders 1 is that the Humans arrive at the Blessed Continent after being expelled from Eden. If anything, the four spirits from AoW2 may have been deviating from this background?

    But who knows, maybe the angels we’ve seen in the artworks are those available to a Theocrat of the Spirit of Order (or maybe it’s just the leader of this spirit who is called called that, while a follower of the Spirir of War is called a Warlord and that of the Spirit of Nature is an Archdruid?

    Just because we’ll have the possibility to play as good-aligned Goblins doesn’t mean that we have to, or that they are even part of the official storyline.

    It’s an undead Titan, because the Archons have fallen to undeath.  According to Lennart Sas, “[t]he Archons suffered an ironic fate: what they fought, they have become.” ( post 494).



    Agree with TS. Devs sidestept from one cliché, but were traped by another.


    Yep i hope each race gets it’s own unique looking class units if not every race then alignment(good evil neutral) like goblins get demonic wings.At least i hope because it’s not only important for aesthetics but also for diversity because i don’t like seeing same units fighting each other .As for classes in general i think it’s slippery area i can understand goblin theocrat because religion does immediately mean that it’s good but warlord hafling and orcs that are more technologically advanced then humans…



    This may also be related to a restriction on available memory on 32 bit systems for models and textures. See my post in the system resources thread.



    Lennart Sas

    This is something we thought about extensively. But we found the tradeoff between a fixed or constrained race identity and function VS the possibilities race+classes+specializations combos bring to be well worth it.   Are you a Dwarf inventor Dreadnought or a Dwarf that builds his own religious order worshiping the forces of Earth and Fire?  There are countless of possibilities, with some combinations being more “in-character” than others.  We actually found the seemingly  mismatched  combos to very interesting,  like the little goblins going on their holy war.

    Class units are built out of the race’s base mesh + class appearance + any enchantment fx.  Functionally they inherit their race’s base abilities and stats.  Class units’ clothes are also branded with player ID coloring to match the appearance your empire, giving a consistent look throughout.


    Also i don’t think that class units should be best units but i think they might be best units in certain situations for example you play as theocrat goblin and your enemy is theocrat elf and lets say you can buy crusader unit and crusader units have bonus fighting other races or other theocrat’s units or let’s say if you play evil race then it gives boost against good races and i think then classes would work very well and i think good example would be Dominions 3 while we don’t need that many races or units as there are in there we could use unit modifiers when you get bonuses against certain units or classes


    I’d just like to know if there are functional/gameplay differences between equivalent class units from different races. Do both human and goblin angels have the same abilities heal, holy champion, etc. I know what Lennart said but except for stats it’s still a bit vague.

    The problem with shared aesthetics is that it’s also difficult to differentiate the units conceptually. For example the religious dwarf “worshipping the forces of earth and fire”, how does that fit in with angels and knights in shinning armour? How does whatever the goblins worship fit?

    If the goblin “angel” had bat wings and “acid smite” it might make more sense. That kind of variety is an insane amount of work though. Still, I hope there’s at least some noticable gameplay difference between equivalent class units.


    Thanks a lot, Lennart, for providing insight into the design process and the units’ build details.

    I really applaud your decision for the race + class + specialization approach as this truly sounds like a myriad of interesting customization options worth exploring.

    However the formula you gave for unit build of “racial base mesh + class appearance + enchantment effects” is just what I was afraid of and what I was critizising.
    So this means we WILL have “Dwarf Titans”, “Elf Angels”, “Orc Crusaders” in shiny armour and such?
    Pity for me as this will probably kill 90% of the fantasy-immersion factor for me.
    It just sounds like the class units will just look like built together out of a toolbox and out of similar parts.

    I understand that creating racially individual class units might be an intense effort when taking into consideration the multitude of options available. Still, it`s  a pity should we get only those unified toolbox class units since there is so much room for creativity in this.
    They just feel too much like something of a “shortcut” for me personnaly to adore them.

    I would love if there were the option and the resources for TS to reconsider this.





    Hey, nothing ever stopped you from creating a High Men/Archon leader who draws upon the spheres of earth and fire… 😛



    I did not like the idea too. Possible for the undead normally. The angel of death, death knight, etc. But the same thing is repeated for each race is not necessary.

    Please think again and do not make quick decisions. =(


    I think people don’t like this ”tradeoff between a fixed or constrained race identity and function VS the possibilities race+classes+specializations” is because in age of wonders series and sp campaigns there were always a fight between good and evil and people always took it for granted but new campaign storyline might change that and even explain why races started to change since we know that there will be 2 main factions so maybe it will be ideological fight between them which would explain changes in lore.



    absolutely share opinion with topic starter – i very like game concept of different classes which affect available units, but i dont agree what theocrat’s goblins or undead empire units must look like “holy” angels/crusaders of christian/chatolic church – let them look like some cultists of fire god (goblins) or followers of Mortis-kind death-goddess. Human engineer calss have dreadnought unit to buils, but other race’s engineers have the own way of technology progress so goblin’s engineers would can construct some abominational looking machine lookink like pile of junk on wheels throwin barrels of acid and poisoned pikes uppon enemy.

    pls, guys, dont go far from Epic Fantasy cliche – after all it was thing why many of us love AoW games – they do best job in using this cliche to firing up player’s imagination and he see real epic story on his display and in his head.

    ps: greenskin goblins with angel wings are funny, but it isfun only for few minutes. we look for aow to play it for years, and feel of be part of true high fantasy genre was that force which bring player back to play in AoW1/SW.



    I think, until we see actual gameplay its better to reserve the final judgement on the new system, as we know only the basics of it and have no information on the alignment system. No sense in running around waving hands in panic yet.



    Wakah-Chan, if this goblin angels will be only one “holy” (crazy comedy) alternative to some fire goddes avatar or another unit of different cult type – then this option is accepteble and may be even not so bad to see it in 1 of 20 games vs goblin race player for variety. but “another one holy goblin empire!!”.. all of us already saw what can be when someone’s “creativity” brings some “reimagination” to old good games: woman-diablo, homm6 which was deprived of one its firm feature – city build screen, and other painful reincarnations (mutations in their case) of great series.



    I like the angel wing/halo aesthetic, which is older than Christianity by the way. I really care about visuals too, but my biggest worry with the Theocrat class is that from what we know it does seem specific to one morality and god. If you look at human history, theocracy is often a terrifying experience. They should just change the name to something else if it is so specific, unless the “specializations” do include different gods and moralities.



    Reading this thread and especially Lennart’s reply, I am not overly concerned. Some of the ideas may feel incongruous, but approach it from a different point of view: This increases the replayability of AoW3 by an order of magnitude.

    Hand up everyone who ever played Dominions PPP, Dominions 2 or Dominions 3? To go with the latest installment, ypu pick one of three eras, one of 20+ nations in that era and then one of 20+ different options for the god chassis for that nation. Then you customize the basic god chassis with basically endless combinations, which results in no two games being alike,  since the god design affects how you play.

    The race + class + specialization Triumph has chosen for AoW3 duplicates this effect (though not *quite* to the same extent), which is a good idea. Nobody bats an eye at the concept when used in a different kind of setup (sci-fi, different mythologies than basic etc), but I think a lot of people expect AoW3 to be a reimagining of the first two games, instead of its own creature that has a common root with the other two.

    But I suppose we will learn more of these new mechanics as time goes by.



    I for one am pretty excited about the concept as I think it adds another layer of strategy, along the lines of Dominions 3.  By adding a whole new variable, you increase the strategic layers exponentially.  Now when i pick a leader, it’s not just what he looks like but how his class synergizes with my race.  Graphically, i don’t understand enough how different each race’s version of a specific class unit will look, but knowing TS and their attention to detail and ability to create games with “soul”, I imagine there will be unique twists.



    I am actually, a bit scared to place my opinion on this one. I sometimes feel “i want everything to be perfect” but it might also mean so much work for the studio itself.

    I am a very easy man to go with. I could even play an identical AOW:SM with better graffics and more options :p

    But i’m growing to like the “different leaders” idea more and more. I mean it makes sense for the third age.

    But the thing is, for example, elves never had to do any real enginerring because they had the force of nature itself always helping them. (i might be wrong on this one). So..if i chose an elvish Engineer will i be seeing evish tanks and seige machines and elvish canons? It’s kind of interesting, but from my point of view, each leader class should give different race-unique units. i know this is a lot of hard work.

    But you could make a big unit tree for each race, with many unique units. And only 3-4 of them will be unlocked according to your leader class. Am i making any sense? My english tend to fail me sometimes.

    So the idea would be like, for the elvishrace, i.e X main units. And Y unique units. And each class would unlock only just a portion of Y units. Which will be similar but yet different from other races. I.e elvish engineers could have some sort of technological-patch on their treants, or on their eagles.

    And i will have to agree that i do not believe that “theocrat” means holy. We should also be able to see some hellfire demons and other abominations. Which can be done if each races keeps it’s unique units. Although i do understand this is a LOT of works, but i think it’s the actually “awesome” way to go with this tactic.


    I think we can all agree that it`s still too early to make a final(!) judgement on this system.
    But personally I feel I have seen and read enough to calmly raise my hand and say “Ehm, this would be an issue for me if I understand correctly what I see and nothing will be changed”.

    What use in waiting to judge until the system is final and nothing can be changed anymore and to get an answer like “It’s too late now, guys, if you had spoken up a few months earlier we could have maybe changed some bits but now it’s too late”.

    Too much stuff in this world goes wrong because people remain silent and speak up and react too late, methinks.

    Just to make it clear again:
    I LOVE the approach of race + class + specialization because it will multiply the customization options and replayability but I HATE how I understand it will be implemented with regard to the unified graphical representation of the class units.
    I WANT to play a fervently religious, theokratic goblin tribe/empire but I do NOT want to play such a tribe with top tier units that look like the Archangel Gabriel with a goblin body glued to its wings.
    Or an Elven Realm lead by a theokratic ruler with “Elven Angels”.



    If every class needs unique meshes and units for every combination with races that’s ballooning a 1 unit job into a 10+ unit job, for every job and unit combination, turning “hey, I’ll get this done over the weekend” to “I’ll work on minor aesthetic shifts for months” possibly ending in “Gee, we don’t have the time to make these models for this other race idea I had”

    Yeah, this would be a cool thing to see, but leave it to the modding community. I’d like Triumph to have as much time as possible to manage the already heavy complexity they’ve undertaken.


    Please no ” leave it to the modding community”.Either make it right or don’t do it at all


    I think Triumph have a golden opportunity to do something wonderful here! My message to Triumph: we’ve patiently waited 10 years for AoW3, a few extra months to sort out the devilish details, such as what this thread is about, is fine by me. I’ve been a fan for nearly 14 years now, so please don’t make the same mistake as Stardock did with Elemental….



    oh, and yes I would prefer the extra customisation, not the same “angels” for every theocrat, or the same juggernaut for every engineer, e.t.c.



    I think my idea is the fuckin’ best


    yeah your idea is pretty good 😀



    The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Goblins with angel wings is comedy gold and as long as there’s a good (lore) explanation as to why the other races can have it too I’d probably like it. That said, I have a hard time imagining a ‘good’ Orc in AoW, as they’ve always been characterized as evil in the previous game, unlike in say HoMM. Whereas Goblins are feeble minded, so it makes sense that they can be converted. Then again, the Undead being ‘good’ can make sense to if they were the Archons before they got corrupted. Undead, but still with a touch of good/holy in them. (A rotting undead angel? Yes, please.) So perhaps the other races have similar reasons.



    I totally agree with the OP.


    People’s approaches to games are naturally different, but when I play a fantasy TBS game I am NOT looking for comedy or “comedy gold”, not at all.
    And people’s sense of  humour differs as well, goblins with angel wings and similar stuff are not comedy gold IMO but one or two short giggles for me, at best.
    And like with all comedy or fun stuff, when you hear the same joke every day or every hour, it gets old very quickly, even more so when it’s only a soso joke.

    When I play a fantasy TBS I am looking for an atmospheric, high fantasy world wherein epic battles are fought and the world should be believable(!) within its own fantasy limits.
    But a world full of Goblin angels, Elven angels, Dwarf titans, Elf Juggernauts and such would not be such a fantasy world I would like to play in, it would only come across as a fantasy comedy or, even worse, a parody.

    I admit that I don’t even care so much for any lore-related explanations how races might have changed in order to explain how they are presented in AoW3. While I generally like playing the official campaigns as some sort of extended tutorials to thoroughly grasp the game concepts and such, my main interest lies with single map scenarios, be it single player, multi player or story based and for these types of games, a believeable, rather classical than not fantasy world is nearly indispensable IMO.

    I think that the suggestions the Dio made are going absolutely into the right direction.
    Having graphically race-unique class units or a set of race-unique units of which only a certain subset is available to the player, depending on the leader class chosen.
    Personally, I would even prefer having a lesser number of class units per class than now (I think it’s 4 or 5 at the moment?), maybe only 2 or 3, as long as they have a racially unique look and are not just those cookie-cutter toolbox units that look practically the same for all races which we have seen so far in the screenshots.

    Yes, it would mean additional effort, time and resources but I don’t agree with Alex Fisher that this would necessarily detract TS from dealing with the other important, complex stuff of their project. I don’t know the team composition at TS but usually art design and graphics modelling etc. are not done by programmers or game designers themselves. So all that would be needed basically is more artists/modeller manpower.
    But yes, this would equal to higher costs and lower ROI and we all know that publishers and investors HATE this.

    But when publishers take the strict economic stance (“let it do the mod community”), who am I not to do the same?
    If money and creativity is being saved and only those shortcut cookie-cutter class units will be offered, I will in return choose the “save money” option.
    Once the final product nears release I will take a close look whether the product is convincing me in terms of graphics, creativity, atmosphere and immersion.
    If yes, AoW3 will be a “day-1-must-buy” for me or even a pre-order, if not, AoW3 will turn into a “maybe-buy when there was a price drop of at least 50%” for me.

    So I guess the equation with me is, if the publishers/investors/devs invest the necessary 10%(?) more of the overall budget for bringing us exciting, varied racial class units, they will  get 100% money from me, if they don`t, they will get only 50% or even less from me. I think it is clear which option is the win-win option…
    I’ve come to learn that the language that companies understand best is “money” so I am going to vote with my wallet and recommend everybody else to do so to, after having said your opinion loud and clear.

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