Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns is about gameplay. The between-mission storyline is merely charming; grand in scope but understated in presentation. The interface is almost perfectly appropriate for the tasks at hand, though certainly not revolutionary in any particular way. Every rudiment of gameplay -- each interaction designed to challenge you in the name of fun -- has already been used in other games. But this new mix promotes fresh trials of economic and military strategy in a format that feels familiar. Ultimately, each element of Kohan focuses on the play itself. This is a true PC gamer's game, complete with unfettered intention, esoteric style, and remarkable depth.
The game world of Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns is surprisingly intricate. Though Khaldun is completely invented and does not follow any established fantasy mythos, it is supported with lively characters and enough history to make it well worth the suspension of disbelief. By featuring heroes that are immortal but fallen, the story makes players feel as if they're rediscovering a rich and ancient past instead of learning about someplace entirely new. In terms of gameplay, it's also an excellent device to make character death undesirable but not permanent. The plot bobs around but it's well anchored. Interrelated tales range from epic to intimate.
The economics in the real-time Kohan involve a few key devices more often associated with turn-based strategy games. Resource management is more like that of Civilization than Command & Conquer. To claim a resource on the map, it must fall within a friendly city's sphere of influence. Consequently, the stable control of territory is more important in this game than in many other real-time strategies. The better developed a city, the larger its radius of control. This promotes a style of expansion that seems to realistically simulate the importance of supply and infrastructure in military conquest. Players are strongly encouraged to grow their populations and develop their cities, but always in the context of the overall game.
In spite of the turn-based resource management, Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns is very much a real-time strategy game. Battle takes place in a continuous flow of action that's constantly developing before your eyes. Again however, elements of less action-oriented strategy games are applied, and again, to agreeable effect. Though the units each have individual abilities and stats, they are commanded at company level and group together in tight formations. This allows for more precise, plotting control than is available in a classic RTS like StarCraft or Age of Empires (no matter how many hotkeys you use). The movement of troops in Kohan is distinctly convincing. The way they organize themselves on the battlefields is intriguing.
The various elements of Kohan work so well because they work together. The storyline may demand that players "meet it halfway," but it's worth the trip in terms of gameplay. The basic militaristic and economic structures of the game are borrowed, but their combination here should have fresh appeal to casual and devoted strategy gamers alike. More than any single aspect, Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns should be praised for its unity. It manages to play like a game we've been enjoying for years while posing new challenges to our favorite strategies and serving up frequent surprises.
Graphics: Characters and landscape features are small and iconic, but there is good variety and the high-resolution display allows for large maps in pleasing detail. No on-the-fly 3D rendering or state-of-the-art lighting effects here -- heroes and units are represented in neo-quaint, comic book-style illustration. There is professional, stylistic unity throughout the understated presentation.
Sound: Voice acting is good and adds variety and depth to the characters. The sounds of battle are believable. The score is moody and usually appropriate. Nothing really stands out, but sometimes that's a good thing.
Enjoyment: Everything old is new again. Some of the greatest pleasures of both turn-based and real-time strategy gaming are combined for a new yet comfortable experience. Conventional wargame wisdom is both challenged and rewarded here.
Replay Value: Online multiplayer features, random map generation, and the promise of future amateur and professionally designed scenarios provide enough gaming to last through your next three computer upgrades. The high difficulty level of the final single-player scenarios may leave some temporarily battle-weary.
People who downloaded Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns have also downloaded:
Kohan: Ahriman's Gift, Kohan II: Kings of War, Lord of the Rings, The: Battle for Middle-Earth, Lord of the Rings, The: The Battle for Middle Earth II, Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes, Knights and Merchants: The Shattered Kingdom, Knights and Merchants: The Peasants Rebellion, Krush, Kill & Destroy: Krossfire
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