Game Review - by James Allen
Another week, another real time strategy game. It seems that these must grow on trees, since there are so many that borrow from the formula established by their ancestors eons ago. Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns focuses on fantasy real time strategy, involving knights, spells, monsters, and the sort. Rarely we have an actual change in gameplay in this genre, usually just an alteration of the graphics with a slightly changed storyline. Can Kohan break from the mold, or be banished for all eternity?
Kohan features several ways to explore and conquer the world of Khaldun. There is the campaign, a story driven mode in which you try and complete certain objectives using the tools at your disposal. Custom scenarios can be made as well, using either random maps, or those made in the included map and scenario editor. As for the games themselves, you can set one of several win conditions, either destroying all the enemies and their cities, or accumulating a certain number of gold, cities, or percentage of cities. To learn the game, there is an excellent included tutorial, which teaches everything you need to know about playing Kohan with ease. In the story, we have four different factions, each with their own variations of units and advantages. Each faction, the Ceyah, Council, Nationalist, and Royalist, has their own specific building modifications, upgrades, and units, which makes playing them each a slightly different experience. It becomes really interesting when you conquer a city belonging to another faction, and begin to mix your units. You can also alter the difficulty and infamous fog of war settings. There are a number of impressive features in Kohan, which make the gameplay experience that much more enjoyable.
The sound is wonderful in Kohan. The background music fits the fantasy style very well, and creates an immortal atmosphere. Each unit has their specific sound, and will announce themselves when called upon. Possibly the most impressive use of sound is during the sometimes large battles you can encounter. The chaotic nature of these quarrels is also shown through the sound. You hear the clashing of troops and the summoning of spells in a fantastic melody of destruction. And with the soundtrack chiming in the background, we have the full fantasy real time strategy experience in Kohan.
Gamplay is where Kohan makes some new innovations, which takes the complication and pandemonium of past games and throws it out the castle window. The basics are still there: build a city, form an army, crush the competition. But the intermediate steps make playing Kohan very enjoyable and fun. You economy is based to supply and demand: each unit you build require a specific combination of stone, wood, iron, mana, and gold. If your city does not supply enough to your troops, you begin to lose money. By building specific buildings such as a quarry or woodmill, you can counteract this downward trend. But, you are limited by the size of your city as to how many building components you can have. Thus, it is paramount that you expand your settlement, and found other cities. You can also upgrade each component, but the trick is that you can only choose one upgrade: will you choose the sawmill, wood export, or carpentry guild? The key is to make your cities varied in the services they provide, as all contribute to the welfare of your civilization.
Creating units is an easy task, with the help of Kohan. Depending on what components you have in a particular city, you can choose from a number of units to comprise your front line (4 units), two support units, and a leader. If you have one, you can use a Kohan as your leader, a special person who gives your troops specific advantages, those of which are different for each Kohan. As for the individual units, they are sorted between infantry, archer, cavalry and support units. What you determine to be your front line is the basis for a troop: if you make settlers your front line force, you can go inhabit some more cities. Making an effective combination of several different companies into one cohesive regiment is the key to successfully conquering the opposition in Kohan.
A company consists of seven units, but they all follow as a group, always staying together. This makes large battles much easier to handle, especially because of the great AI. You units will automatically engage any enemy that comes too close to their location. After they engage the enemy, you need to do nothing. They will go into the most effective formation, and keep fighting until you tell them to retreat or surrender. This gives you time to check on your other units or cities. It's a neat interface that works very well in the game. If you troops get damaged, you need only to take them to an allied village to repair them, over time, back to full health. This means, unless they die, any friendly village acts as a repair station for any unit. Coupled with the very effective automatic militia guarding all the villages, this eliminates the effectiveness of sending waves of one company at the enemy, and expecting to win (Cossacks). This pumps up the strategy volume, and makes planning an effective attack, along with settling numerous villages, of utmost importance. Zones are also an important aspect of Kohan. Your zone of detection specifies the range in which you see the enemy, and subsequently engage them. The zone of population determines how spaced cities must be placed, and the zone of supply is the region in which your troops can be repaired and mines can function. These all spell out the limits on expansion of your civilization. The bottom line is that all the individual elements included in the gameplay arrive at one conclusion: Kohan is a great game.
The graphics, although not 3-D accelerated, are very easy to understand and are very well done. Each of the units are easy to identify, and everything is appealing without being drawn down by too much clutter. Often, developers strive to give us too much, and end up making the game hard to play. I prefer easy to use controls over a 3-D world where moving units around and panning the camera are a chores in themselves. And this is what we have in Kohan: easy to use. Everything is presented in a simple arrangement, which is sometime hard to accomplish with heaps of data to feed to the user. But Kohan pulls it off in grand fashion, especially during combat, where flashes of spells bounce around the screen, and toward the opposition. Though not land by any stretch of the imagination, the graphics in Kohan are very well done indeed.
Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns is the kind of refreshing breath we need in real time strategy gaming every once in a while. Using an innovative city and unit construction scheme, Kohan melds the fantasy and strategy genres into an appealing mix of spellbound wonder. The extra hint of role playing (without it actually being there) completes the package, and the result is a game that should not be missed by followers of the real time strategy game.