Age of Wonders 4, easily Triumph's best 4X, received a meaty free update alongside its premium expansion this week. The expansion itself is pretty tantalising, introducing a new form with the Avians, the Reaver culture, new tomes and a whole lot more, but the free update feels almost as significant.
The Golem update, which is available now, throws some new features into the mix while also overhauling a bunch of existing ones, cramming in enough stuff to make it DLC-scoped.
Golem's highlight is the Item Forge, a new city structure that, once unlocked, lets you disenchant items and use their essence to forge new ones. Per the patch notes: "You can change damage channels of primary weapons. You can add passive properties on almost all items. You can add active abilities on staffs, melee weapons and wands."
Other new features include war coordination, introducing a new panel to the Free City interface that lets you boss your vassals around, ordering them to attack infestations or enemy cities, or defend your own territory. Expect to see a bunch of new events, too, with the addition of 18 war-focused events, as well as six warlike quests. The Pantheon has also been updated with a bunch of new unlocks, including new banners, hero origins, society traits and Item Forge visuals.
Triumph has also used this update to overhaul a couple of existing systems. There are significant changes to "water gameplay" and how coastal regions work, with new unique ship models, tweaks to water vision range, new water combat maps and the ability to build land improvements on coastal provinces when you annex them, like farms and quarries.
Form traits have similarly been overhauled, with a new point buy system in place, where traits cost between 1 and 3 points (you get 5 to spend). Existing traits have been tweaked, and new ones have been introduced, letting you give your fantasy races a hideous stench, reducing enemy resistance; make them light footed, so friendly units don't block movement; or bless them with sharp eyes, giving them increased vision and sensing range on the world map.
Check out the full patch notes to see the rest of the changes. They're pretty damn extensive. This is very much in keeping with the model publisher Paradox uses for the likes of Crusader Kings 3, where each expansion comes with a free update that's just as wide-ranging as the premium stuff.
There's enough in here to dig through that it should keep you plenty occupied even if you don't shell out for the DLC, though the Empires & Ashes expansion absolutely does seem worth checking out. I'm very keen to build an empire of colourful birds who ride bear mounts—one of the other additions that comes with the DLC.