A welcome change of pace for strategy fans
Kohan II is a beautifully polished realtime strategy game with a clean, elegant interface and attractive audio-visuals. Kohan II distinguishes itself from the majority of today's fantasy RTS games by its macromanagement style of play and its de-emphasis of RPG elements.
Kohan II abstracts traditional RTS gameplay up one level to reduce micromanagement. The player orders automated squads instead of individual troops; base-building, troop training and resource gathering are similarly automated. The player doesn't get bogged down in details: Kohan II is a game of patient planning and execution of large-scale strategic maneuvers.
Where many of today's fantasy RTS games are moving towards RTS/RPG hybrids (e.g., Warcraft III, the Warlords Battlecry series), Kohan II keeps the focus firmly on strategy. There's no D&D style class or skills system grafted onto the troops. Squads and heroes have a simple experience ranking, just enough to encourage the player to figure out effective ways to assemble and deploy troop combinations.
The result of these design decisions is a game that's simple to play and free from many of the frustrations that plague RTS games: no need to organize troop tactics in the heat of battle, no wayward troop AI, no erratic troop formations and pathfinding, no repetitive base-building.
The single player campaign's plotline is serviceable but lacks a spark of inspiration. The same basic concepts can be applied successfully to most of the maps in the single player campaign; variety comes from adapting to geographic features rather than mission goals. It's a tribute to Kohan II's solid underlying mechanics that the single player campaign doesn't get boring despite this shortcoming.
Upgrade paths are limited and the different races have a samey feel to them. There's a lack of options and variety in building and upgrading bases and armies compared with the best RTS titles. Kohan II also suffers by comparison in its lack of tactical nuance. The player decides when and where to attack but with few exceptions the details of battle tactics are best handled by the game's AI.
Kohan II removes the player from the heat of battle, creating a less intense and frenetic experience compared to traditional RTS games.
The Bottom Line
Kohan II is an unassuming game at first glance. I didn't find it instantly addictive, but the more I played it the more I came to appreciate its unique take on traditional RTS gaming. I recommend it to RTS fans who are getting burned out playing endless variations on the same style of gameplay. If you're looking for an RTS game that emphasizes pure strategy, check out this game.