Do you want to be a god? To have unending power and rule over the land? You could have subjects praying to you or building monuments in your image. They would love, worship and, maybe, even slightly fear you.
You wouldn’t want to be the god of a small place though, right? You deserve something far grander. You’ll want to spread your influence and convert people to your faith. This will make them ripe for becoming part of your lands. So, what if you must invade, conquer, and slaughter your enemies. They believe in some other pretender god, not you. They deserve this. Once you envelop them into the fold they will be happier than they are now. You are mighty and any who stand against you will fall.
Firstly, no I am not talking about the Trump administration (satire). Instead, we are talking about Dominions 5 – Warriors of the Faith. The latest in the incredible and complex Dominions game series. This is a grand strategy game of biblical proportions. You choose a faction or race to control and then create a god to rule over them. And there are so many different types of god to choose from in Dominions 5. You might want to be a dragon and rain fire on your foes or a crone guiding your forces from a safe position using your superior magic. There is so much choice that choosing a god is a massive undertaking.
That is what first strikes you about Dominions 5, it is a massive undertaking. Everything about it requires dedication, time, and patience. You need to learn its systems, and they aren’t all as simple as picking a faction and pretender god. The game is turn-based. You can recruit units and commanders, deploy your forces, construct buildings, make prophets, create magic items and so much more. There’s such a huge scope of things that you can do that it is overwhelming. The fact that there isn’t an in-game tutorial makes things worse. However, there are lots of excellently made and clear tutorial videos available on the game’s website. Before you jump into your first game, watch a few of these.
The aim of Dominions 5 is to conquer all the lands and spread your god’s domain across the map. You do this by preaching your faith and spreading it to neighbouring areas. Once this happens, you can invade and take control of that province. If there are enemy units present, then you have to defeat them.
Combat is a strange thing in Dominions 5. You have no real-time tactical say over what your units do in battle. However, you can set formations, unit positions and assign orders beforehand. This means that battles are over as soon as you move into a region and hit end turn but you can see the results of your tactical planning.
Placing archers behind a wall of infantry so they can survive a battle or telling your cavalry to focus on flanking or attacking weaker units are sensible tactical decisions. All of which your troops will not do unless you have pre-programmed them to do so.
You need to change your battle orders depending on who you face. Certain factions favour different types of unit, so it makes sense to alter your strategy accordingly. This system is so incredibly in-depth and complicated that it will take time to get your head around. At first, you will have no idea how to use it or what orders to set. However, as you play and see the results of specific battle commands, you start to understand and come to love this system. You will never be 100% satisfied with your army orders. There’s always something to refine.
Dominions 5 looks ugly. You could easily mistake it for a game released twenty years ago. However, once you understand that the graphics, animations, and everything else is simply there to allow you to play with the game’s many interesting systems, it stops being an issue. It goes from being ugly and unwieldy, to passable and unnoticed as you learn the menus and numbers. Being graphically poor is forgivable due to the wonders hidden beneath.
Each turn, you gain several different resources. Some carry over between turns, and others don’t. Juggling resources and finding the most efficient use of each is the key to success in Dominions 5. There are so many different units and commanders and each faction is so unique that there are many ways to play.
I say that there are ways to play, but unlike something like Civilization or even the Total War games, you are just trying to dominate your opponents. There are no politics, trade, or anything like that. You can research for better spells, buildings, and other bonuses, but at the end of it all your aim remains the same – take over the world. Everything leads towards that goal and like an arrow flung from a bow, you cannot change its course. If you want to win, there is no being a peaceful god. You can have peaceful turns, but you want to get back to the killing and destroying shortly after.
There’s so much to do that it’s probably a good thing there are no extra layers on the macro level. After hours and hours of play, I am still finding new things. This is a double-edged sword. You can watch dozens of videos to learn every intricate system this game has to offer, but even then, it is easy to miss details. Your god and commanders can all equip 8 different items each. Once you start to spread your dominion, you have a lot of these to control. So where did you put that magic sword? Who had it equipped? Does it even matter?
This is where Dominions 5 starts to come apart like an overfilled bag. It is like the developers went around the video game idea store and put in as much of everything as they could see. They’ve crammed it all into two bags and things are spilling out all over the place. These bags need carrying two miles home, up a large hill and across busy roads. Something is going to fall, break or become lost. Dominions 5 has so many excellent ideas, but unless you are extremely careful and willing to spend hours carrying its shopping bags, then you are going to miss them.
Each character has 18 different statistics and any number of other attributes. It isn’t often that a game can be criticised for having too much stuff. Far too often the complaint aimed at game developers is ‘too short’ or ‘not enough to do’. This is never true for Dominions 5. There are so many things to do, across 33 different factions and even more pretender gods. Within this, there are so many unique units, spells, and buildings. How do you prepare for a fight against 1 of 33 different factions? What units are they using? What spells are at their disposal? Do I really need to learn everything about everyone?
The answer to that is yes and no. If you want to be fully prepared for a fight, then you need to investigate what their units and commanders can do. If you want to know how to use a faction, then you need to spend time learning their specific intricacies.
None of this is necessarily bad. Dominions 5 could be that game that you spend hundreds of hours playing and loving. However, it doesn’t ask this nicely, it corners you and gives you no other option. It demands that you commit, knuckle down and learn. You might even want to rope in a few friends and tackle it in multiplayer form. You do not simply dip in and play a little Dominions 5. Instead, you focus and you read and absorb everything it has to offer. Much like the shopping analogy, you need to be 100% sure that you need all of this before you attempt this mammoth undertaking.
Dominions 5 is a tricky game. It is good, even great. It has a lot of clever ideas like the battle commands. However, I can easily see it putting people off. It is a game that you need to want to like. Otherwise, you are going to bounce off and never return. Whether or not it needs to be this complex and massive is a conversation for another day, but if you want a complicated and deep strategy game, then Dominions 5 – Warriors of the Faith is perfect for you. Just be prepared to spend your first 10 hours of the game learning, watching videos and not 100% understanding what is happening.
This article was originally posted on Old Grizzled Gamers. Unfortunately, that website has gone the way of the dinosaurs, so I’ve reposted it here.