Return to the war-torn fantasy realms of Khaldun in this full sequel to one of the most innovative and acclaimed strategy games of 2001. Kohan: Kings of War is designed to retain and enhance the distinctive mix of gameplay elements that won so many fans of the original, while implementing new features for a fuller, more easily managed experience. An instantly noticeable change is that the game world and characters are now presented three-dimensionally, with new environmental and magical special effects.
As in Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns (and its stand-alone "expansion," Kohan Ahriman's Gift), Kings of War combines elements of strategic territorial control, more common in turn-based games, with the immediacy and dynamism of real-time play. The game retains such important mechanisms as zones of supply and control, and military units are still organized by company. Hero characters return in this sequel, as well. The game features over five dozen Kohan, some familiar from earlier adventures and others that are new to the series. Heroes are at least as important and powerful as they were in the previous games, with new spells, abilities, and troop combat modifiers.
One of the biggest changes from the original Kohan games is that cities are no longer represented as small icons on the map, but as walled areas and individual buildings that are more to scale with the heroes and units. As in conventional real-time strategy games, players can upgrade established buildings and choose the placement of new facilities as the city develops. When a city is attacked, ranged-weapon militia units firing from inside the walls are the first line of defense. The game's new siege units are designed to be especially useful for destroying fortifications, however, so melee defenders will join the fight if the walls are breached.
Standard military companies now include two more flanking positions, for a total of nine units each. Also of note is the game's improved enemy AI. Computer empires will actually learn as they go, tracking which of their companies are most successful in battle and adjusting their production priorities accordingly. Six fantasy races and over a dozen different factions combine to add a layer of diplomacy and morality. The game's main story involves the old arch-villain Ahriman, who poses a terrible new threat to his Kohan kin. Editing tools and a random map generator add replay when the main campaigns have been conquered.
Kohan II: Kings of War is a fantastic, fantasy-themed real-time strategy game that no fan of the genre should overlook. The sequel to the critically acclaimed 2001 release Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, Kings of War is elegantly designed, challenging, beautiful, and one of the best games released this year.
Just like the original, Kings of War isn't about who can click the fastest or who can build the most impressive peasant train. It's about building armies and using those armies to the best of their ability. It uses basic military tactics and ideals such as flanking, entrenchment, morale, and leadership. Taking these wargame principles and using them in a high fantasy setting is something that sets the game apart from the competition.
If you're a Kohan veteran, then playing Kings of War will feel comfortably familiar due to the fact that many of the ideas from the original remain in place. You still build companies rather than individual units, and you won't see a peasant anywhere in the game; rather, your resources are "harvested" simply by building structures in your cities. Additional resources are also added to your coffers when an engineering company builds a structure on an iron deposit, wood grove, etc. The focus of the game is on creating and managing your companies, some of which are led by powerful immortal Kohan generals, all of whom in addition to being strong warriors, provide specific bonuses to the company that they lead.
The combat model is fairly similar as well. When two or more companies come within range of one another, combat ensues. It's important to note that you don't control any individual unit during combat. You don't decide when the wizard casts a spell or at which foe the archer fires his arrow. It's your job to build the best company for the task at hand and to put that company in the best position to win the engagement. For example, attacking an elite pikeman company with an inexperienced company of dragoon cavalry is a surefire way to lose.
Terrain and morale also play an important role. Attacking a well-fortified company that is entrenched and in heavy cover of woods is a tough chore for any attacking regiment; once morale drops below a certain level, the company breaks and runs for its life. (You may manually withdraw a company from a fight if you know that they have no chance.) You need to do whatever it takes to keep an least one unit of a company alive because if you can get a battle-weary company back into home territory, it can slowly replenish its numbers; if a company is wiped out, it's gone forever.
The game forces you to think about positioning and developing a plan of attack. Using swordsman to attack a position with support from archers with cavalry attacking on the flanks or using scout cavalry to draw enemy troops into a fight -- combat tactics like these are the guts of the game and a huge reason that it's so compelling. In this regard, it's a lot like the Total War series, only here you have wizards instead of Vikings.
There are differences from the earlier games, however. You may now research individual technologies at specific structures inside your cities. This is similar to most real-time games; these technologies boost attacking strength and defensive value, things like that.
One of the biggest changes from how the earlier Kohan games worked is that you no longer need to have everything inside your supply zone for it to function. For example, in the original game, if you built a mine on a gold deposit, you needed to build a structure (an outpost or settlement) for your kingdom to reap the benefits from the mine. In Kings of War, once you build a structure, it's ready to go, and supply is no longer an issue. (Supply still works with company healing just like before, however.) Kings of War also limits the number of settlements (cities) that you can build. You now may only build settlements on designated locations that vary from scenario to scenario.
One thing that hasn't changed from the original Kohan is that the CPU A.I. in Kings of War is very good. The CPU uses smart battlefield tactics like trying to get the flank and attacking your weak spots. On the harder levels of difficulty, Kings of War provides a stiff challenge.
The most noticeable change when comparing the original Kohan to Kings of War is that the former was a colorful, 2D sprite-based game, while the latter is a gorgeous, full-blown 3D feast for the eyes. The game uses a three-quarter overhead perspective and the camera is easily zoomed via the mouse wheel. While you can't effectively play the game when the camera is zoomed, you sure do get an up-close look at a battle -- and it looks fantastic. The camera is not on a rotating axis, however, so you can't spin the it around to the exact view that you want.
The battles in Kings of War are huge (we're talking hundreds of units) and extremely colorful. The spell effects light up the screen and the vivid colors of the units themselves help to make the battle scenes a thing of beauty. The units are also fairly large and full of detail; the battles in Kings of War take on an epic feel that few games can match. The landscape is equally impressive. Water flows down the river, trees sway in the wind, and snow gently falls when battling in the mountains.
It's rare when a franchise makes the jump from 2D to 3D that the game actually benefits from the decision. Here, however, it's clear that the added graphical flair and the easy-to-use camera is a huge boon to the game rather than an unnecessary change.
Kings of War comes with a 25-mission single player campaign that tells the story of the rise of The Fallen. While the campaign is completely linear and leads you by the nose, it does tell both sides of the story, allowing you to play at least one mission from the perspective of each of Kings of War's six unique races: Drauga, Gauri, Haroun, Human, Shadow, and Undead. The campaign introduces several new heroes to the world of Kohan, but also contains many old faces from the earlier games in the series.
On normal difficulty, the campaign isn't too tough (there is normal and hard, and yet no easy level), but is a lot more challenging on the hard level (as you'd expect). The structure and storytelling in the campaign are both very well done, and while some mission choice would have been greatly appreciated, the campaign is a lot of fun, if a bit on the short side.
Of the 25 missions, a handful of them take no more than 20 or 30 minutes at the most. If you play a few hours every night, you can get through the campaign in about a week's time. While the campaign is enjoyable, it's really a warm up for when you take the game into skirmish mode and online.
Online play supports 2-8 players via LAN. You can play team games or free-for-alls and the game's random map generator does a fantastic job of creating playable maps, but if you want to build your own, Kings of War has a robust map editor that lets you build any kind of map that you wish. Skirmish team games are an absolute blast because of Kings of War's clever A.I. CPU teammates act like actual teammates, giving you gold when you need it, building settlements when new locations are spotted, etc.
Even after the campaign is over, Kings of War provides almost unlimited replay value, not just because of the options available, but also due to the race and faction structure. As noted earlier, there are six playable races in the game and they each provide strengths and weaknesses, but on top of that, there are five factions that also help differentiate each race: the Royalists, Nationalists, Ceyah, Fallen, and Council. You could play a skirmish game pitting Drauga Nationalists against Drauga Royalists, and while each player is playing the same race, the faction differences make the races play a bit differently.
People who downloaded Kohan II: Kings of War have also downloaded:
Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, Kohan: Ahriman's Gift, Lord of the Rings, The: The Battle for Middle Earth II, Lord of the Rings, The: Battle for Middle-Earth, Knights and Merchants: The Peasants Rebellion, Knights and Merchants: The Shattered Kingdom, Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes, No Man's Land
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