Finally a Turned-Based strategy game WORTHY of "replacing" Heroes of Might & Magic
Oh no...another Heroes of Might & Magic
(HOMM) clone! Well, at least they DIDN'T COMPLETELY COPY PASTE the whole concept. At least...
Nevertheless, it is a very good turned based strategy game, which is best compared to the ONLY OTHER turned based strategy game worth mentioning: The Heroes of Might and Magic Saga.
It's been awhile since there's been a really good turned based strategy game...and after Heroes of Might and Magic IV, maybe I thought the genre would might as well be dead since there weren't any upcoming plans for HOMM V...
Then this beaut came along...totally got it by accident since it had "Medieval Fantasy" written all over it, said to myself..."hey, why not?". Once in awhile you get lucky, and Disciples II: Dark Prophecy was a real treat.
Disciples II: Dark Prophecy IS in fact a HOMM clone. The concept is the same, so if your a fan of HOMM, then you'll feel quite at home with this one. The difference probably is that Disciples II brought the HOMM imagination further...a whole lot further.
The one thing you notice in the game is the graphics. My term is that it's not "great graphics", but it's DETAILED graphics. My thumbs and toes up for the graphic artists that designed all the game play animations, background details, character portraits, etc. I mean you could no doubt actually undeniably SEE the talent these blokes have. I really love to see games once in a while where you see people actually putting their heart and soul in...as far as the artistic graphics are concerned...this is one of those games. Oddly enough, the graphics were dark and gloomy (even for the good guys)...fits my personality perfectly...although doesn't help with my depression one bit :p
The combat was quite a surprise...now you have singular units. A maximum of 6 blokes in each squad...where the strategy relies on which unit moves first (initiative) and their ability to hit the target (you can miss) and tactical blocking will ultimately decide the outcome of the battle.
Speaking of combat, there is one combat music sequence that I really liked. It had some human chanting in it that sounded really cool. The rest of the music was alright (dark and gloomy) but I realized that there gothic like chanting voices sound really great. Good call to whoever put that in the music!
Aaahh, the story line. Now this is one area HOMM could keep up with. They had a good (not great though) storyline. It could be better at least, but I'm not complaining (that much :D). The last time I say a storyline like this was probably Starcraft
...and for those who have played Starcraft, you know it DANG GOOD! But, unfortunately, the good part of the storyline (again, unfortunately) was the story being told. But how it was being told. Like Starcraft, you have to play all the races to know the overall Macro storyline...and there isn't a sequence of which race to play first...it really doesn't make much difference (unlike Warcraft III
where it's pre-chosen for you, I think).
Speaking of races, this is the step further they took compared to HOMM. There are 4 races introduced here: The "good guys" (at least that's what they look like, although it kinda grey in the story) are the Empire (Human) and the Mountain Clan (Dwarves). The "bad guys" are the Undead Hordes (no explanation needed) and the Legions of the Damned (Daemons).
The thing about the races here, is compared to HOMM, it not just a difference of color and a few unique creature abilities. There are if you get down to it, 4 different unit types...each race has different abilities than others: First is the Offence type unit - The are the standard melee combat units that can only hit other units next to them. Second is the Magic based unit which usually are ranged magic users that can hit more than 1 unit (usually all enemy units) at the same time. Third is the Ranged based unit that are ranged unit that can only hit 1 unit but give more damage than Magic units but less than melee units, and there is the Support unit that differs from each race. The support units are usually the most unique units that other races don't have in common.
What's better yet, most units (not all) can be upgraded in 4 level units. This does not apply to all units. Each race seem to be more focused in a certain unit type...in addition to that, like HOMM upgrading a unit requires upgrading a certain building. Upgrading one building may also mean cancelling another unit type. And there is a whole variety of unit types which you can choose to best fit your personality and strategic taste.
Another thing is about managing resources. The manual says that resources are not captured but controlled. In HOMM, you gain resources but sending your heroes there and capture them. In Disciples, it's the land you control that makes the difference. The neat thing in this game, is when you control the city, the entire landscape changes to that of your homeground (lava, swamp, grassland, etc.) When your land-type reaches a resource (your land grows each turn), you automatically gain control of the resource. The only way to quicken this terraforming process is to plant "Rods" by one of your leaders (units) specialized in planting these rods. And they cost money. So it's kinda balanced.
Speaking of leaders, there are 5 leader types. The first is your fighter hero, next the mage hero and the guildmaster (thief) hero. The other heroes are the Rod planters (that plant rods for terraforming), these blokes have different abilities for each race. The last is the thief, which really isn't a hero because it cannot bring other units with them. Speaking of which, the first 4 heroes can "lead" other units in combat. Although there are many leader abilities, the most important is "Leadership". Leadership dictates how many units you can bring with you. For the first 3 leaders, the leadership is 3 (with the exception for the rod planter that only has 1 leadership). This means that the hero can bring 3 units with him/her in a party. A funny thing about this concept is that there are some units that take 2 unit spaces (big units). So you can either start with 3 small sized units or 1 small sized unit and 1 big sized unit. Each have their pro's and con's, so it's really just a matter of strategic taste.
Another thing about leaders, at the beginning of the game, after you choose which race you want to play, you will also choose what leader type you want. The 3 leader types are the fighter, mage and guildmaster. Each leader type has their own advantages and disadvantages. The fighter has the ability to regenerate the health of their units 15% per turn, without going back to a city. Normally, if your not a fighter, you have to go back to a city to heal. The mage has a mage tower automatically built at the capital, get lower casting costs for spells in addition to the ability to cast twice the same spell (normally, you can only cast one spell once each turn) AND can research spell levels up to level 5. Other classes can only research up to level 4. The guildmaster thief has a bundle of additional options for their respected thieves as well as having thief building automatically built at the capital. Also upgrading towns/cities cost half their usually expense.
Another thing is building management. There are 2 different cities. Your capital and not your capital :)
The capital is the place where you make all those building upgrades for your units and other purposes. Once you upgrade a building, when your unit gains a level, it automatically upgrades without cost. You don't even have to go back to a city for the upgrade. Each capital also has a GUARDIAN which is one tough unit (999 Hitpoints) You usually cannot attack a capital (and hope to win) with level 5 creatures...and even that, they'd better have special abilities.
Your other cities can only be upgraded in size. There are 5 levels to upgrade with. Upgrading your towns/cities give bonuses like greater regeneration rate for your injured troops there, more space to put units that defend the city and faster terraforming abilities.
I really loved the voice-overs of the Legions of the Damned. It sounded like latin with an evil twist.
Other than that, the game play is more or less similar.
Hmm...the biggest dissapointment to me was combat. The combat was alright really, but it could've, should've been better. Once crappy thing about combat is you can't cast any magic. Magic can only be cast on the map, but no magic during combat. That sucks big time.
Another bad feature in combat is about using items. Using items wastes one whole turn of your leader. The thing is, each units really HAS to attack or defend, since doing nothing means getting your head chopped off. Each turn counts. There is no "status quo", so quite often you really hardly ever use items during combat, since your leader is better off attacking. It would be REALLY better if it didn't use up any turns. It would STILL be balanced anyway, since you can ONLY use 2 items in combat. Doh.
The story line could of been much better. I wish they put more effort here as they did with the graphics. Some voice-overs of the characters may need some less irritating sounds (ie Necromancer - Undead Hordes. Sounds like an irritating grandma in pain).
Last, the intro cutscene SUCKED big time. Thank you.
The Bottom Line
If your a strategy fan that doesn't think quite as fast (like me) in comparison to real time strategy games, you'll dig this game..