Age of Wonders 4 Developer Diary #10 - Heroes

The latest developer diary for Triumph Studios' upcoming Age of Wonders 4 is dedicated to the game's heroes who, this time around, won't merely lead your armies, but will also serve as governors, expand your empire with outposts, explore Ancient Wonders, and prepare sieges on the world map.

The diary itself greatly expands on all these points and more, but here's just a general overview if you want the quick version:

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 heroes’ 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.