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Disciples 2: Dark Prophecy Review
publisher: Strategy First
developer: Strategy First
genre: Action Strategy
PII 300, 32MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 600MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jan 22, 02
|» All About Disciples 2: Dark Prophecy on ActionTrip|
Branislav "Bane" Babovic
When the first Disciples appeared towards the end of 1999, it didn't do too well on the market, but it did manage to win the hearts of many fantasy-strategy fans. Age of Wonders, and another sequel to the HoMM serial appeared about the same time, and gave Disciples some pretty tough competition. And even though it used the same principles as HoMM, the first part seemed somehow superficial. Now, the sequel is something completely different.
Disciples II continues the story of the first part and deals with what transpired after the Great War between the human Empire and dwarven Mountain Clans on one, and the Legions of the Damned and Undead Hordes on the other side. The emperor is old and slowly going insane because his only son went missing and is considered to be dead. The Empire is falling apart bit by bit, and the demons and undead are back again for another war.
The game can be played through one of the four campaigns (sagas), each of them covering one of the races I mentioned. Each of the campaigns will give you a different view on the war. I also have to mention that the campaign is full of interesting twists, spells and treachery, which make it involving and tense.
Apart from the campaigns, you can play any of a dozen of single Quests. Each scenario has common goals for you to achieve (capture resources, conquer land, kill a hero, conquer a city) and great atmosphere to follow.
Every fan of the genre will have no trouble in getting grips with the gameplay. Heroes and their armies move around the continent maps, conquering cities and resources, exploring the terrain, and fighting the enemy. Maps contain a large number of different mana sources, and the more complex spells you want to use, the more different types of mana you will have to gather. Gold is, on the other hand used for trade and army upkeep.
Heroes can be recruited in towns. They can be warriors, wizards, scouts, thieves or plant rods. Each of the heroes has his own advantages. Heroes can further recruit a certain number of units depending on his Leadership stat. Units and heroes have different ways of development (through guild structures you can build in the towns), which practically makes all units in the game slightly different and enhances the gameplay by offering many strategic possibilities.
Each race has a specific terrain it inhabits - the demons live on molten lava, the humans prefer green grass, the dwarfs are more into snow, and the undead feel at home with their ash covered desert. The more cities you own, the more your influence will spread. Maps usually contain a large number of neutral cities to bee conquered, and neutral units to be killed for XPs. As heroes develop they will gain the ability to use an array of different magical artifacts like crystal orbs, magical flags, magical tomes, and alike.
The combat takes place on a single screen, in turn-based mode. Classical positioning of your units is highly recommendable, as it can determine the outcome of the battle - fighters first, followed by archers and finally mages. The player with the higher initiative starts the fight.
The thing that makes combat unusually appealing and interesting is the combat animation. The exceedingly detailed characters have been perfectly animated, and simply look great regardless of whether they are wielding their swords and axes or casting spells. The continent maps also contain a lot of details, which can seem a bit confusing at first, but I am sure that anybody will find their (and their heroes') way easily after but a couple of turns. You should just keep in mind that each type of terrain has its own movement penalties. A lot of small things on the map are animated: both the passive ones like waterfalls, fires and smoke, and interactive ones like magical shops and ruins you can explore.
Spells are being researched in your capital, and used on the main map only. The spells will spend a certain amount of mana when being researched as well as when being cast. They can strengthen your units, heal them or improve their stats during the next fight, but you will in all likeliness far more often use the offensive spells to attack enemy units on the map. Each of the spells has a unique animation on the map, displaying precisely what it does, be it an ice blizzard or a tornado of blood.
The graphics in Disciples II can only be displayed in a fixed resolution of 800x600 with 16-bit colors, which I'm happy to say in no way hinders their overall quality. One of the best things about the graphics is the well-recognizable Disciples artwork, which only enhances the great fantasy atmosphere.
Sound is another great upside to this game. Apart from the well-done hero comments, each type of the terrain has a specific set of melodies which make you really get into the groove.
Disciples II is one of the best games in its genre and there is no better way to wait for the fourth sequel of HoMM than to play a bit of D2: Dark Prophecy.
Extremely catchy game with great visual and audio effects;
Enemies can be annoyingly slow, some minor bugs.
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