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SummaryOne of the better games of the genre, though perhaps oversimplified in certain aspects
The GoodWhat makes the Kohan series stand out among the other RTS games is the lack of micromanagement. Normally I greatly enjoy micromanagement, but that applies to RPGs, where I usually only have to manage one character or at most a small party, and TBS games, which give me the time to consider all options and make proper decisions. RTS games, on the other hand, usually overwhelm me with too many things happening too fast in too many different places. In this game, however, that’s not the case, and I found even the insane pace that it’s capable of in certain moments to be at least somewhat manageable.
When it comes to the economy, things are simplified in a good way. Your mines and buildings automatically supply you with a certain amount of resources without needing to make use of workers to carry those resources to the nearest settlement and you try to maintain an adequate constant supply for your troops and buildings instead of worrying about how much you have stockpiled (the only exception being gold). In addition, settlements tend to take care of themselves to some extent, workers automatically building and upgrading walls after finishing the other tasks you set for them and also rushing out to fix the damage as soon as the attackers are defeated, while militia units, different from the workers, come out at appropriate times to repel the enemy, defeating weak attackers and at least giving you some time to mount a relief effort when a significant enemy force moves in. This allows you to focus on development, expansion and offense.
Removing micromanagement also means that your companies have a certain degree of independence, guarding their area but not chasing a fleeing enemy too far unless told to do so, attempting to run away when the situation looks dire, but especially automatically using their skills to the best of their abilities to aid each other during combat. And that’s a very good thing, seeing as it’d be quite impossible to manage your troops if you had to tell your heroes and support units which abilities to use every time, as it is in other RTS games.
Another good thing is the significantly improved survivability of your troops, compared to what you see in typical RTS games. No matter how much I tell myself that they’re just a bunch of pixels on a screen, I always feel very bad when sending troops to their death, which makes me always try to be very careful and defensive, which is unlikely to work in games of this genre, seeing as they usually favor rapid expansion and an offensive approach. So I feel much more at ease when, instead of individual units, I can recruit entire companies, each having up to nine units and possibly including up to two healers, or perhaps even three if the leader is a hero with such powers, and know that, as long as at least one unit from a company is left alive, all the ones lost in combat will be revived after spending a short amount of time in the supply range of one of my settlements or outposts. This makes knowing when it’s appropriate to retreat just as useful as knowing when to press the attack, and perhaps even more so, seeing as your companies and heroes gain experience during combat and become stronger if they survive more battles.
The BadBut just this experience system is one of the things I didn’t quite like. There is no choice in the development, not even for your heroes, not to mention that your companies can have all of four levels (recruit, regular, veteran and elite) and your heroes only five (awakened, enlightened, restored, ascended and Kohan Lord). Gaining a level will always give the same bonuses to all of your companies. Heroes do gain different bonuses when they level up, improving their specific abilities, but those bonuses are also predetermined, not allowing you to choose to improve one ability more at the expense of another. This may be a good thing for fans of the RTS genre who are otherwise quite bothered by the addition of RPG elements in these games over the past several years, but I’m a fan of RPGs and feel that I’m missing out whenever RPG elements could have been included and weren’t.
The major problem, however, is the fact that they went too far in their attempt to get rid of micromanagement and they removed nearly all troop management. You’re not able to choose actual combat formations, having all of three options for combat behavior, each having clearly stated effects instead of offering you tactical options. What’s more, the independent behavior of your units can hurt you at times, when they become determined to attack and perhaps even chase an enemy company despite your attempts to tell them to do something else, or they try to destroy another section of an enemy settlement’s wall instead of rushing in and attacking the settlement itself despite the fact that a breach already exists in that wall. And retreating can also be a problem, since you can’t quite retreat in an orderly manner without having your troops stop to engage any and all enemies who happen to get near. Plus that some companies will tend to lose morale too fast and run away, completely out of control, either in the wrong direction or even when the battle was quite obviously almost won.
Something else I don’t quite like is the feeling that all races are the same, only having a different name and look for their units and buildings. Haroun cities work a little differently, while the “evil” races can have a couple of additional buildings and bonuses, but that’s about it. Seeing as you will have to switch back and forth between nearly all of them during the regular campaign, even working with more of them during the course of one mission, this can serve to prevent confusion, plus that this approach tends to be the rule in most RTS games, but it still enhances the impression that this game was perhaps simplified a bit too much.
The Bottom LineKohan II: Kings of War wasn’t just a good game back in 2004 when it was released, but has also aged very well and can stand up to scrutiny even now, at least in my opinion. It even works without any problems on the latest versions of Windows and with the latest video drivers, which is something that many newer games fail to do.
On a personal level, this is one of the extremely few RTS games that I actually enjoyed playing, and in fact one of the extremely few that I bothered playing, not to mention finishing, over the past several years. The RTS genre itself still doesn’t sit well with my playing style, but Kohan II: Kings of War did manage to eliminate a lot of the major grievances I had with such games in the past. Though it still required me to employ strategies I’d rather not resort to and it certainly has problems of its own, the biggest one probably being that it was simplified too much in areas where it shouldn’t have been, I’ll still say it certainly was, and likely still is, one of the better games of this genre.