The supreme god of the world has fled his throne, and each and every eldritch thing that lay dormant now surges to power, wielding entire nations in an attempt to fill the void. Eternal, cosmic power is the prize. To say that this is going to get complicated is an understatement. There are literally hundreds of different units, seven separate schools of magic, and enough magical gear to weigh even the chosen undead down to a stumbling plod.
Dominions 4 plays out in turns. You and your opponents calculate troop movement, recruit reinforcements, dictate magical research, and mold your war machine to one of tremendous, earth shaking proportions. As you end your turn, your forces engage enemy armies with preprogrammed formations and tactics you have given them. At a glance, it seems a tough sell for this game to distinguish itself from its peers...
Ok, so there's a Cthulhu mythos reference. That's hardly new. People do that all the time now. Any minute now one expects find the usual fantasy array of armies - orcs, dwarves, and at least three or four elven and human kingdoms apiece.
A nation of monkey people who practice blood sacrifice and are led by demons? Surely these are the only two weird ones, right?
Lizardman cultists. A race of winged people modeled after the Incas, complete with mummified leaders who persist beyond their first death. And speaking of undeath, the classic ceaseless undead horde exists in the nation of Ermor. Judeo-Christian inspired nations of giants descended from the angels! Even the nations of humanity are interesting, some based on Grecro-Roman civilization and lore, including a faction of hydra taming Amazons. Ulm is so heavily inspired by barbaric Cimmeria and the Conan universe they have a unit who spent their childhood tethered to the Wheel of Pain, just like the Destroyer himself. Each and every one has it's own suite of unique units, and most have at least a handful of spells exclusively for their own. Some units are even sacred to their people, which allows them to receive a blessing from their priests in battle to enhance their prowess. Now to complicate things further.
These are the physical forms of a single faction, Lanka. Each faction gets a smattering of gods appropriate to their nation, so expect titans for the Greek and oni for the Japanese inspired nations. Each comes with a suite of innate abilities and a point cost - choose a fifty foot tall giant and don't be surprised when he doesn't have much magical versatility. Choose a mortal mage and bask in raw, untamed arcane power - once you get around to all that pesky research. Not feeling like manning the front lines? Your god's eminence in magic can shape the blessings your priests can bestow, or, enhance and effect the very land itself. Gods of fire can, through your ever expanding dominion of the world, shape the surrounding provinces into a desolate, searing wasteland. Which, if you are in fact a race of cranky, blood hungry magma people, isn't that much of a problem. But when your neighbors and soon to be conquests are a bunch of forest dwelling satyr, and your dominion starts to bleed over into their realm...
Each faction has a flavor to it, and a story. At a glance, the Xibalba are a race of subterranean bat folk who excel at flight and retreating from battle with little to no armor and a rather skittish morale. They can also train three different flavors of giant scorpion, which is still unimpressive compared to literal biblical giants who eat fifty to eighty of your own citizens a month because of course they do. Their ancient lore tells of a great labyrinth their race would guide the sun itself through each night. Even as it eventually ascended, forever circling in the sky, they maintained their vigil, though this idle time erodes their sense of self and purpose until the priesthood becomes convinced that they must emerge from their caverns to bask in the glories of both sun and moon.
'So what? They're just a bunch of darkvision ambush junkies in a game where night attacks aren't an option!'
This isn't a pointless graphical effect. This isn't an Advance Wars mega move that lasts for a turn and is gone. Until someone finds a way to do something about it, each and every last unit that takes a single swing at anything will be doing so in complete and total darkness until someone finally finds a way to counteract it. Ever wanted to release Azazel and a cadre of other ancient fallen angels back to rule the world? Lead the Hinnom, research hard and heavy into blood magic, preform enough blood sacrifices, and you will break their bonds and set them loose on the world once more. The undead lords of Ermor can learn a global enchantment that curses each and every being in the world with rapid aging. That wizard's tower full of scholars your opponent treasures so highly can build its walls and wards as high as it wants, but when the ages start to pile up they will start dropping dead.
So now, before you have even seen what the map has randomly been generated into, you have had to consider your nation, the exclusive units, abilities, and spells, and how your god will enhance all of the above. Each one only forms a part of a complex, intertwined mess that can only be described as abusive and enthralling. How many other games let you play as a fountain of blood that demands virgin sacrifice every thirteen years?
Turn one. Your move.