Game Review - by James Allen
There have been a steadily decreasing number of turn-based strategy games lately. It seems that almost everyone has jumped onto the bandwagon of real time, and there are just a few lonely souls left in the boat of turn-based. One of these is Disciples II, a game that attempts to meld the gameplay of turn-based strategy with fantasy elements. This concept is nothing new, as fantasy strategy games have been a rather large niche in the gaming et. Will Disciples II prove that turn-based gaming is not dead in the water, or become yet another floating corpse in a sea of disillusionment?
There are four distinct races present in Disciples II, all with their own distinct look, structures, and units. You've got your humans (the Empire), your dwarves (the Mountain Clans), your devils (the Legions of the Damned), and your undead (the Undead Horde). There is a saga for each of these races, which consists of several linked quests: at the end of each quest in the saga, you get to take your best leader and five items over to the next quest. You can also play independent quests to hone your skills without the added pressure. There is also a complete scenario editor to make customized campaigns. If you don't like to play by yourself, you can try the competition over the Internet, or crowd around the computer in a hot seat game (one of the advantages of a turn-based game). There are enough missions and gameplay options to keep you busy in Disciples II for quite some time.
I actually don't remember much about the sound, since there is an option to play MP3 from any directory during the gameplay. However, while I was "rocking out" (as the kids say) to DHC, I did notice that the sound was pretty excellent. Each of the races has a distinct sound, from demonic to fruity (darn you Mountain Clans). Also, all of the spells have very cool accompanying sounds to them. So, the sound ain't half bad.
The gameplay in Disciples II follows an interesting twist on the classic formula of strategy games. When you begin a quest or saga, you can choose to be a warrior (health regeneration), mage (more magic), or guildmaster lord (more thieves), which actually impacts the strategy involved in successfully playing the game. The missions themselves involve objectives like destroying an enemy unit, capturing a city, or looting a ruin. At the beginning of each turn, you gain income that comes from the land area that is in your control. This includes gold and four kinds of mana, one specific kind for each race, although more advanced spells involve combinations of differing types of mana. If something you require is out of reach, you can deploy specific troops to place rods, kind of like building an outpost in Kohan. With the mana, you can cast many different kinds of spells during your turn, which can protect your troops or damage enemies. You need to first research the spells in your capital city.
Your capital city serves as your headquarters, where you can research spells, manage armies, create city defenses, and build structures. You can revive units from the dead or repair them if you'd like. Structures are used primarily to upgrade units once they gain enough experience. Each army actually consists of a leader and several assisting units, the number of which depend on the experience of the leader. Each race has units that implement close combat, ranged combat, and magical spells. Your party can also tote around objects, which can be used to heal themselves, trade in for goods and services from stores, or provide some bonus during combat or movement. Combat, like the rest of the game, is also turn-based. Each unit attacks in order, one at a time. Some strategy is involved in this, such as delaying attacks by specific units and determining the placement of your troops. Each turn, you can decide to assist your troops, attack, retreat, wait, or defend. If all that clicking is boring, you can have the computer auto battle as well. The only problem in Disciples II is that the game is very, very difficult. I had a very difficult time playing the missions at normal levels, and I've played many strategy games in my time. Part of this can be attributed to the ruthless AI, which will target your weaker units without question. Still, the gameplay is pretty fun in Disciples II, harkening back to the classic days of turn-based games.
You know, when I ran the configuration utility and saw that the resolution of the game is locked at 800 by 600, I was ready for a disappointment. Boy, how I was so terribly wrong. The art in this game is truly amazing. All of the units are outstandingly detailed and lifelike (or deathlike, depending on the race involved). The spell effects are outstanding: I am continually astonished when a new spell is used on me (yeah, it's usually ON me). The worlds that you play in are very detailed, which sometimes is a detractor, as it's occasionally difficult to detect some enemy units lurking around the map. I am also impressed with the way that race controlled zones are depicted. In a game such as Civilization 3, there is a colored dashed line surrounding your domain. In Disciples II, the land morphs into a very distinctive tile set: lush green for the Empire, snow for the Mountain Clans, fire for the Damned, and gray for the Horde. It's a really cool effect that goes well with the game. I never knew 800x600 could look so good! There is an outstanding graphical feast present in Disciples II.
Disciples II is a great fantasy turn-based strategy game. The game has good longevity through its numerous and long missions, scenario editors, and multiplayer capabilities. The sound is capable, and the graphics are outstanding. Finally, the gameplay is a fine creation of turn-based gaming with easy resource management and strategic but not overly complicated combat. If you like this kind of game, then you should like Disciples II. The Legion of the Damned is waiting.