SummaryBest fantasy TBS there is
The GoodI've been a big fan of all AoW games, and personally think they are the best turn based fantasy games ever created. Shadow magic is the best in the series.
The 2D graphics is great. The overland map and the units are all very detailed and beautiful. You really get the feeling you're in a fantasy world.
The Random map generator makes the game very replayable, and is also fun for MP games.
The simultaneous turn option is not new for Shadow magic, but still a great feature that no other TBS has. This option lets all players play their turn at the same time, and the next turn does not start until they all end their turn.
The campaign is fun, cutscenes are good looking and the story is ok. It does get quite hard at the end though...
One thing I've always liked with the AoW games is that they focus on strategy and tactics instead of hero developing. This actually makes the game more of a wargame than others in the genre (HoMM etc). The new tactical combat system (new since AoW2) is also very good. It allows lower level units to swarm good units and drain their movement points, and also allows ranged attack units to fire 3, 2 or 1 shots depending on how much they have moved that turn. During sieges, the defender is now allowed to move unlimited number of hexes within the city walls. The fun thing with tactical combat is that an army with a low number of units actually can defeat an army with better/more units if a good tactic is used. The combats are not predetermined in any way like they are in many other games (HoMM, Disciples etc).
The Shadow magic editor is great. You can import your own pictures for heroes and wizards, you can create all sorts of events and triggers and last but not least, you can create beautiful worlds of your own! The interface is simple and with just a little talent you can make very pretty maps. The events system allows for many different type of maps to be created, they can be focused on battle, quests, role playing etc. Your imagination is the limit really... The editor is a big part of why I like this game so much.
Mod support. You can access tools in the editor that lets you change most aspects of the game (unit stats, spells, city buildings etc.. There's also an ILB-editor included for those who wants to make new unit graphics.
The BadThe music in AoW2 and Shadow magic is not very good if you ask me. Luckily you can make your own mp3 playlist, and I've converted the excellent AoW1 music into mp3's so that's not a very big problem.... :)
There's a campaign editor included in the normal editor. Unfortunately it has not been tested at all, and bugs are plentiful. It is close to unusable.
The AI has some problems, and the main problem is that he cannot build wizard towers. This can be annoying in some random generated maps where wizards start without towers.
The Bottom LineIf you like fantasy TBS this game will not disappoint you in any way. And once you get into map editing, you'll find there's not enough hours in the day...