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Kohan 2: Kings of War Review

GAME INFO
publisher: GlobalStar Software
developer: TimeGate Studios
genre: Strategy

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PIII 800, 256MB RAM, GeForce, Radeon 7000 or better card
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.kohan.net/

release date: Sep 07, 04
» All About Kohan 2: Kings of War on ActionTrip


September 30, 2004
Branka "Nikerym" Todorovic

No rest for the wickeeeeed!

"Listen, brain, I don't like you and you don't like me. But now the time has come when you have to pay me for putting up with you. I am supposed to write a review of that Kohan game, you know, and *you* are supposed to help me. Don't you dare fail me now! Do you understand? Here, write something while I go and munch on some Doritos or something..."

"Ahem. Come here, child, and hear the tale of heroes of days long past. Their mighty swords brought death, and with that death came justice; their lips spoke about freedom, but the road to freedom was painted in blood. Hear now the tale of the powers of good and evil, of the great hero who was in fact my second son-in-law and drove my poor daughter crazy, (That sunnovabitch!). Everybody knew about his affairs and goings-on but her, (Poor thing!), and if he was the noble one, I'd rather be on the side of the bad guy. Now, where was I? Oh, yes! Hear the tale of the bad guy Melchior (or something). He must have taken his name from the good professor Tolkien, and that guy was not that bad at all; he just had that really weird sense of humor. He thought it would be a very good idea if he would take his armies to the desolate wastelands and the big snowy mountains and all other sorts of places where people with a great amount of energy and spare time like to go... So there they were, and the good fellow, you know, the one that wronged my poor little baby so, decided to follow. You now see why I told you that was not a happy marriage, and the great battles were fought, and many people were killed, and I can't remember what happened in the end for the love of God, damn this crippling senility of mine!..." (Trailing off...)

On second thought, I'd better not consult the-thing-formerly-known-as-brain for my review of Kohan II: Kings of War, as it tends to oversimplify things a bit (though there is a point there, one might add). Now, I shall start by solemnly declaring that I have never considered myself a fan of the original Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. (I was! WOOT! - Ed) I could never understand what possessed all those people to play it. The game was never quite to my taste, and although it could boast with a relatively original approach to the genre its AI was somehow lacking, which was its biggest drawback in my opinion. Then again, after all these years I've seen quite a few games which did not have a remarkable AI but were not *that* bad, after all, so I loosened up a bit.

When I installed Kohan II: Kings of War, I promised myself I would not be too critical as far as the AI was concerned. I did not stay true to my promise, of course, and never intended to in the first place. Therefore, I will begin by saying that I was not very enthusiastic about the AI in the sequel. As far as I could see, there was improvement made but still I had an impression that sometimes my soldiers were behaving as a fleet of beheaded chickens. They would not notice dozens of enemy soldiers even if they were shooting at them (though a few chops in the head with a battle axe would definitely help). And even though they've been granted with an option to run from an enemy rather than be overrun by them, they would sometimes be most unwilling to do so (hesitation is a bad thing if you're a slow runner and there is a very angry cavalry armed with spikes after you). This is not a rule, as they are not always slow-witted, though; they must've had a hard day's night or something like that. Sometimes they would really surprise me with being intelligent and all that, attacking the strongest enemy, retreating when they were outnumbered and stuff, but they just never seemed to decide if they were going to play stupid or what. Your enemy follows the same rule as your lieges, so sometimes they'll rush towards you and split your army in half at no time, and sometimes they'll just wait for their units to get stuffed with arrows, then suddenly notice you and break off from their slumber. I have heard different things about the AI in the game (all of which were contradictory), but I'll just go so far as to say that the AI is unreliable. That goes for path finding too - sometimes your units will think that the shortest way is not the best one, so they'll go around the city in order to confront the enemy on the other side of it rather than go through the nearest gate. Don't ask me why, because I don't think they could answer that question themselves. If you're going to play this game, you'll have to understand that there would always be a hint of surprise about your and your enemy units' actions. Now, as I feel guilty about not keeping my promise, I will also admit that I have seen a lot of games with even more unreliable AI, so after a while you'll get used to this and start to enjoy the game (which was my case).

Another thing is the units in the game. There are a lot of them. Every race (six of them in all - Drauga, Gauri, Haroun, Human, Shadow, and Undead) has its own units that mostly differ in name as they are rather similar. But, the problem with those units is that at least half of them are redundant. There are only several useful units in the battle, so you'll normally decide to recruit them. After some time, when you try out every available unit, you'll realize that you always keep picking the same units for the main army and the support. I sometimes recruited those "redundant" units in order to make a change, but that was it. That was bad, because the animation of units is really good and different units would most certainly add to the variety of the game not only in the terms of visuals, but also when the gameplay was concerned. This way you won't even use most of them once you recognize the ones that will do the job. Good thing about units is that they are made into formations, which are very difficult to wipe out. One company is alive as long as one unit stands, so you can retreat and run with the last remaining unit to your city where the formation will replenish. Units gain experience just as heroes, so you will take care not to get your entire formation killed, and this way you also won't have to wait for an eternity before you can go to battle again.

Then there is the deployment of your troops, which can ask for more of your attention. You will always have to take care what your boys (and sometimes girls) are doing, as you will have to switch between the three available formations, and they will sometimes fail to recognize the right moment for the "honorable defeat," so there. Maybe you've now concluded that this is not a playable game, but don't be discouraged. No pain, no gain so with time you'll learn to take care and react fast. The game is not much of a challenge on the normal difficulty, so take your time and practice. When you become friendly with the gameplay mechanics, you'll wish to play on the hard level, because otherwise it won't take you more than a few days to finish this game (which has a great replay value though).

The battle itself looks and plays very well and although you can't control your units during the battle (you can only order them to retreat), you can predict the outcome by considering the factors such as the experience and morale of your units as well as the configuration of terrain. You can't expect your army to march uphill through a thick forest, meet up with a more numerous and more experienced enemy waiting for you behind the fortress walls and be happy about it. You wouldn't be happy about it, would you? Well, I guess not. There is not much of a tactics in terms of the actual combat, so take care of those basic things. Also, bear in mind that an experienced hero is much stronger than an inexperienced one, so if you happen to lose them in battle they will lose their levels when they are revived in the city. Now you do not have to pay for their resurrection, but they will have to start all over again and that is no way to play this game, as experienced heroes bring bonuses to your army and you won't go far by getting them killed all the time. Although the first missions on normal difficulty are not much of a challenge, it won't be a piece of cake later on in the game.

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HIGHS
Great visuals, story has nice twists, fairly good management, great replay value;

LOWS
Linear campaign, unreliable AI, half of the units are redundant.

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