Kohan: Ahriman's Gift is a prequel to Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. Although it could have been just an expansion, you won't be disappointed with the new units and maps. As Roxanna Jovidan, part of the Ceyah, you've been trapped in an amulet for six long ages, continuously waiting and becoming angrier as time dragged on. Now Roxanna wants nothing more than to please her lord and master Ahriman and be co-ruler of Khaldun, armed with the best armies and a need for vengeance.
The balance between combat and economics is both subtle and complex, and features the solid gameplay of the original. Enhancements include the use of supply zones where your armies heal and a system of control that allows you to judge the reaction range of your armies, both nice approaches in a large scale RTS. Actual battle mechanics seem a bit weak as far as tactics are concerned, and the main thrust is more about gaining an economy, expanding, setting up outposts in important locations and deploying armies strategically for maximum efficiency in battle.
In both Kohan games, you can directly build armies, each with six distinct units, rather than simply click on a structure to build units as in most RTS games. The front line always has four units of the same type (infantry, cavalry or ranged), but the two support slots can be filled with any type of unit available, with the exception of a hero. Support units are more powerful and usually wield special weapons or feature special effects to augment your other units.
Your unit captain is either a default character or one chosen from your list of heroes, each with his or her own powers and special abilities that affect the group. Picking and choosing the right combination is interesting and enjoyable, and can affect the outcome of battles. Units require a certain amount of upkeep, though, which ties into the economic aspect.
Four types of resources can be gathered through various components you attach to each city. Unlike many real-time strategy games, you don't have to worry about harvesting wood or mining for ore since the AI takes care of it, freeing up more time to concentrate on battles. The catch is there are only a certain number of slots open in each city for the components, so you need to build carefully, allowing even more opportunity to make interesting strategic decisions.
The units you create depend on what faction the city originally belonged to, and what components are attached. Most forces you purchase, with exceptions, require upkeep in the form of those resources, thus balancing the use of expensive powerful units with cheaper ones for use as cannon fodder becomes critical.
Aside from the main Ahriman's Gift campaign, two smaller and rather similar campaigns are available, with action centered on annihilating everything that stands in your way. The maps and the circumstances are different, but in the end it boils down to who has the bigger army and can produce the fastest. The increase in the number of multiplayer maps as well as inclusion of a random map generator, along with a level editor for creating your own maps, expands game life dramatically. The editor is fairly simple to use and those with the patience to design a map will be enthralled.
Menus are easily navigable, allowing even novice players to take a quick romp through both the basic and advanced tutorials, which make the learning curve for a complex game quite manageable. Graphics are beautifully rendered though small, and the lack of a zoom feature is puzzling. Even with no real control over battles, short of establishing units and strategically deploying them, a zoom feature would have been a bonus.
While it doesn't differ too much from the original, Kohan: Ahriman's Gift is a solid, standalone entry that at times feels like an epic adventure, with the fate of the world resting squarely on your shoulders. Highly entertaining and rarely frustrating, RTS fans will find plenty to like.
Graphics: The graphics are detailed but small (minimum resolution is 1024x768). A zoom factor would add to the effect during battle scenes
Sound: Sounds are decent with the slashing of swords, slinging of arrows and men screaming as they die, but suffer somewhat by repetition over the long haul. Voice acting is solid but the limited number of phrases tends to get on your nerves sooner than later. Roxanna's repetitive vow to do everything in the name of the Dark Saadya becomes tedious.
Enjoyment: Plenty of fun, good decision-making and lots of choices make the game enjoyable. Throw in the editor and random maps and it's a keeper.
Replay Value: Creation of maps, playing the saga or random campaigns, and the choice of four races makes every game different. Additional campaigns or scenarios would have been better and given the game less of an add-on feel.
People who downloaded Kohan: Ahriman's Gift have also downloaded:
Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, Kohan II: Kings of War, Knights and Merchants: The Peasants Rebellion, Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes, Lord of the Rings, The: Battle for Middle-Earth, Legion Gold, Lord of the Rings, The: War of the Ring, Knights and Merchants: The Shattered Kingdom
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