I got this game when it was being offered by the Humble Bundle store for free, and it has easily been one of the best free games I've received in the year 2014. A lot of reviews mention this game to be "Sid M's Civilization, but with the fantasy theme," and they are actually pretty accurate.
If you like the Civilization series (especially military victories), 4x games, turn-based strategy, fantasy themes, and disregarding diplomacy, then you should enjoy this game.
The aesthetics are great, and there are a lot of different unit types and character models. The detail put into the "world board" is very good. The music and sounds are great, and the feedback is always helpful in showing stats like how much damage is done and taken by units.
Warlock offers a helpful tutorial for people new to this type of game, however, if you are familiar at all with the Civilization series (or other games in this genre), then this part is easily skippable. Compared to Civilization V, Warlock is much simpler, and also heavily combat-based (as there are no cultural or economic victory routes). The learning curve is minimal to moderate, depending on your experience with turn-based strategies.
The gameplay is very fun - you start off by building something in your home city, and the game does a good job (like in Civ) of prompting/reminding you when you still have tasks to do (like building when your queue is empty, or moving idle units). After you building completes, you must wait x number of turns before you can build again, and this is indicated by a number next to your city name, which fills up each turn. I do not believe there is a "pay gold to rush build (instant-finish)" option.
The diplomacy is actually quite comical, as there is no negotiation ability - if the AI sends you a demand, you have to either accept or immediately go to war. You will probably notice that the AI enjoys making demands then randomly offering peace after a few turns, only to repeat this again and again.
Since the game is heavily combat-oriented, you will be focusing on building an army to destroy your opponents. There are also random creeps that will periodically spawn around the map, so it is essential that you invest in home armies in case one pops up close to your cities. The leveling up system for units is similar to Civ V, where you can choose different stats to increase (or perks) every time a unit reaches a new level (from battling). There is a large variety in the units you can create and the buildings you can construct, When you take over a city, you will have access to that particular race's build tree (ex: goblins, humans, etc).
In the pre-game screen, you can select from existing races, or create your own (you can pick from a pool of magic skills and perks like extra gold per turn).
Periodically, hero mercenaries will come, offering their service. They are very important, and boost your army strength considerably. Also, traders will come, offerring items that can be equipped by mercenary heroes. Consider investing in both of these whenever you have sufficient gold reserves.
Magic spells are helpful for winning the game, but not essential if you strengthen your stats in other things, like having a massive army, or a very high-level one. Spells include things like offensive attacks, heals (one merc hero has long range attacks AND heal spells; my personal favorite), summoning different units, and map alterations. Something fun to do to your enemy is to turn all of his city tiles to frozen plains or mountains.
Overall, the game is very, very fun, and it is easy to get into the "one more turn" mentality that results in you playing for 5 more hours when you originally told yourself you would only play for 1. If you like fantasy turn-based games similar to the Civilization series, give this game a try.
DJSF @DJSF's Rogue Reviews