Much like The Feud, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is yet another take on the Heroes of Might and Magic formula. Except, instead of gold and other resources you have all your payments in blood. And all your heroes are vampires who even after dying on the battlefield raise again.

Heroes of Blood and Dark Magic

Battlefields, by the way, are made of squares instead of hexes. And that’s actually important as most units can only attack in four directions, while some can make ‘lunge’ strike at diagonal tile without the risk of retaliation.

If you attack an enemy that is already facing your troops from the other side, attack damage will increase due to flanking. And look for special items on the field – standing next to them grants active or passive ability – regeneration, teleportation, restoring mana upon killing the enemy.

You also can’t split your units or merge them in stacks. So, the three-bat squad will always be three bat tops. Or less, as reduced health means reduced attack power. But if you heal diminished squad, your soldiers will restore their numbers – perks of being undead warriors again. Also, all your units gain exp and raise the veteran level, becoming more powerful over time.

When the battle starts the game chooses a random activity, like inflicting damage or playing cards, to bring you some bonuses. The more you do the thing that was ‘prescribed’ for your army (and shown at the right side of the screen), the more advantages you get during the battle.

But the most powerful unit will always be your lord. Not only he (or she, as vampire ladies are as eager to taste enemy blood on the battlefield) hits harder than cavalry squad, there is also the whole deck of spells. Drain life from a distant enemy, cast bloodlust on allies to raise their attack, create a shield that blocks damage – each lord has a personal set of abilities. You can upgrade them during ‘level up’ for greater effect, wider range, lower mana cost, or faster cooldown.

Cost is a particularly valuable characteristic, as there are not many ways to restore mana during the fight. The range is second – it’s such a bummer when you can’t buff unit because it’s simply too far from your lord.

Dealing with Strategy

While combat spells only look like cards, cards on the strategy map are even played that way. You draw them every four turns (a year in game’s terms) as well as after winning the battle and on some other occasions. And you can play your hand, again, at any time. Just be sure that you have enough blood to pay.

Yes, blood. You pay with it for playing cards, upgrading buildings, hiring new recruits. Even blacksmiths and librarians take payment in blood for their items.

The main sources of blood are cities and villages. Also, you can be rewarded with blood for winning battles or completing quests. Here is where your vampire clan comes into play. There are three clans and they have quite a different approach to ‘the flow’ of the economy.

Dracul get most of their blood as a ‘tax’ form the human population. They can also feed, getting the triple (or even greater) amount of blood but that makes the settlement population drop to zero, so the economy suffers in the long term. Dracul vampire armies need constant upkeep, so don’t risk it without serious reason.

Nosfernus clan is versed in necromancy and its undead armies don’t need blood sustenance. But Nosfernus vampires also don’t have ‘economy’, so feeding is the only way for them to get the red liquid. They also have different units than Dracul. Such as necromancers that can raise zombies from the dead enemies. Or skeletons that must be killed twice.

Moroia have the most powerful spells but don’t regenerate mana on a global map. And while all their lords have the ability to gain mana from attacking enemies on the battlefield as a default, you’ll be powerless at the start of the fight.

Castlevania Tactics

I think developers managed to find the right balance in randomization. Yes, sometimes you will have a bad draw – veterancy+ card with all units already at max level, discount for the blacksmith who has nothing interesting to offer, no meditation that would restore your depleted mana. But you can try to exchange cards through the ‘black market’ in the city or even completely replace your deck.

Overall, the strategy level is quite decent. There is a ‘tech tree’ where you get all sorts of stats to increase, including the number of cards to draw or making recruiting units free. Every lord has five slots for equipment and weapons that grant new abilities, like magic immunity or a bonus attack.

‘Tech tree’ is different for each of three clans.

In many ways, it plays a lot like Heroes. You running your lords back and forth to protect your keeps and villages while trying to gather forces to attack. There is just far less building (each structure has only three upgrades) and more random.

With tactical combat, it’s not that simple. Especially with lacking interface options. You can’t even look up the range of enemy units, like in Othercide. However, like Othercide, Vampire Wars sometimes doesn’t preview damage correctly. I think there are also some bugs but it’s hard to confirm without clearly defined rules.

Vampire Wars

Despite some problems, this game will definitely find its fans. Vampires always fascinated a lot of people. And this world that has a lot of common with the Middle Ages and dark fantasy definitely has potential. Even if the story is a bit generic and predictable.

While the story is rather straightforward, the dialogs are solid and cutscenes are decent enough for a game that isn’t AAA title.

And the game has much potential as well. Three distinct sides of the conflict, with own units, tech trees, and even special cards. Mini-quests, like capture X provinces, and additional bonuses every four turns (you need to choose one out of three) diversify monotony of conquest. And chess-like tactical battles.

Devs only need to fix bugs and improve the interface. And add multiplayer – that’s a shame that you can compete with AI both in skirmish and in ‘sandbox’ map scenario, but not with a living opponent.

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