My name is Tom Bird, and I’m a senior developer at Triumph Studios. Today I’d like to talk about affinities, one of the systems that sits at the heart of Age of Wonders 4. Each affinity represents an archetypal, cosmic force that defines the type of magic you can use, the elemental forces you control and the type of society your faction has.
There are 6 affinities in the game, but today we’re mostly going to be talking about Order affinity. Order is the power that brings structure to the Cosmos and to the lives of mortals. It is associated with light, faith, justice and the government of empires. In gameplay terms, Order has a focus on diplomacy, healing and city stability.
You first start defining your faction’s affinity by choosing your culture and society traits. Your faction’s culture represents who they are before you take control of them, and mostly affects your starting units. There are 6 cultures in the game and the one most strongly associated with Order is High Culture.
Here we see some High Culture elves, standing in the Magehaven, preparing to tread onto a new world!
Order is associated with Spirit Damage, a type of holy energy that is particularly effective against the undead. High Culture’s defining feature is that their units can become “Awakened”, allowing them to channel Spirit Damage through their physical attacks!
After choosing your culture, it’s time to choose Society Traits. These traits represent the general philosophy your people follow, as well as how they live and govern themselves. Each of these traits is associated with an affinity, and I’ve listed a couple of the order traits below.
The Chosen Uniters trait is the epitome of Order as a force for diplomacy. It grants you 10 points of good alignment, which improves your diplomatic relations with the other (non-evil) factions that you meet, and grants you a bonus to income from Vassals, which are cities that join your empire via diplomacy instead of conquest.
Of course, Order isn’t always about being nice to people! The Imperialists trait represents Order as a force of political and economic domination. It grants a bonus to Imperium income, which is vital for building an empire with many cities, as well as buying skills from the Empire Tree.
The final, and most important, aspect of your faction’s affinity are the Tomes of Magic which you choose to research. Each Tome contains a number of spells, units and upgrades all centered around a particular theme, and each Tome is associated with one affinity.
There are 9 Tomes of Order in Age of Wonders 4, leading your empire down a path of righteous and lawful domination.
The Tome of Faith is an early game tome that is focused on healing and support units. It’s perfect for a religious faction that wishes to shield its armies with holy power!
The Chaplain is a powerful healing unit who can Bless units to boost their combat prowess.
If you’re more interested in using your Culture’s own support units, then the Staves of Mending enchantment will grant them extra healing powers, as well as making them cheaper to support.
The Convent is a unique structure you can build in your city that provides benefits that grow more powerful the more content and happy you keep your citizens.
Focussed on the more repressive aspects of Order, the Tome of Subjugation is a mid game tome focused on the domination and control of other races.
The Tyrant Knight is a powerful shock unit, who specializes in delivering a devastating charge that shatters enemy morale.
Once an enemy has been routed, the Final Ultimatum spell gives you a chance to convince a fleeing unit that their lives would be better if they switched sides.
The Baron’s Palace gives a huge amount of income for a city structure, however it can only be built in the cities that you have conquered from your foes.
The Empire Tree
Until now, every choice we’ve made has granted affinity points to out faction, if we’d made a starting faction on High Elf Imperialists, we’d end up with:
- High Culture: +2 Order
- Imperialists: +1 Order
- Chosen Uniters: +1 Order
- Tome of Faith: +2 Order
That gives us a start with 6 Order. So what does that mean to us? Well, one system that is greatly affected by your faction’s affinity is the Empire Tree:
The Empire Tree contains the economic and social bonuses of the game (as opposed to Tomes which are more focused on military bonuses), and is divided into 7 branches: One branch for each of the six affinities, and one general shared branch.
Since our faction has 6 Order affinity, we will start rapidly unlocking skills from the Order branch of the tree (as well as the general branch) but we won’t be able to get anything from any other branches unless we get some other affinities!
The Order branch of the tree is focused heavily on diplomacy and vassals, giving you such skills as:
A Whispering Stone is a magical stone you give to a free city to help sway it to your side, since most empires only have one, this allows us to try and vassalize twice as many cities at once!
The Rally of Lieges is a mechanic that allows you to recruit units directly from your vassals and ancient wonders. This skill means any unit you recruit via the rally starts as an experienced veteran with extra health and other bonuses.
Also, as you can see this skill will take us 10 turns to unlock. If we had fewer points in Order affinity, this would take longer!
As well as permanent upgrades, the tree also contains Rites, which are one off rewards you can trigger to help you out of a tough spot or to optimize a particular plan. This rite grants you a friendship boost with every free city on the map, helping you vassalize them faster.
Of course we don’t expect the player to stick to just one affinity, by mixing and matching affinities you can find synergies to help supercharge your empire! For example, Shadow affinity has many skills themed around deception and the darker sides of diplomacy.
This means that, once we’ve done enough research into our starting tome, we could pick a Shadow Tome, such as the Tome of Souls to add a religious death cult feel to our faction. This would give us 2 points of shadow affinity that would allow us to get skill such as this:
This skill would allow us to use our extra whispering stones to speed up our magical research and keep an eye on distant lands!
This concludes our brief introduction to the affinity system! There’s a lot more to talk about here, your affinity also affects your diplomatic relations with others and your access to the Magical Victory Condition, but that will all have to wait until a future dev diary!