• Fantasy General II review by Rick Moscatello

    Old school mediocrity

    Way back in 1994, an awesome game called Panzer General came out. It made you the overall commander of the German army, of WW2, building your own personal military while fighting battles on all fronts. A sequel of sorts came out two years later, Fantasy General. Fantasy General basically copied the great ideas of Panzer General, although in a fantasy setting (so you had trolls instead of tanks, for example).

    A sequel in spirit, Panzer Corps, came a whopping 17 years later, under a different developer. A ridiculously good game, it basically ruined me for all other World War II games, as I played it to death many times, in various campaigns (starting at different times during the war). There are so many times you can play the Normandy invasion before you just don’t want to do it any more no matter much better the graphics are on the latest version.

    Yet another developer has released Fantasy General II, wisely taking advantage of the name and opportunity…but not doing so good a job of copying the ideas of the games which came before it.

    The campaign map...a whole world to conquer, but you're on rails here.

    FG2 puts in the role of leader of a barbarian tribe, basically going to war because other tribes pick on them…in the only campaign option you get. With but one choice here, the campaign had best be very good.

    Alas, FG2 stumbles right out of the gate, as you only get two troop choices to build your army around: male barbarians (“younglings,” not exactly a fearsome name) and female barbarians (“maidens”…I can see why other tribes picked on these people whose mightiest warriors are younglings and maidens). I can’t help but compare to Panzer General, where you immediately had plenty of options for building an army of infantry, tanks, artillery, recon, bombers, and fighters, with special armies as well.

    All possible troll upgrades...you'll get trolls early on.

    Basic troops can be upgraded, although this usually costs gold and special resources. You can often find gold by plundering and raiding (and you get bonus gold for finishing a map early), while special resources (weapons, armor, and liquid manna) are generally found randomly. So, younglings with weapons can be turned into slingers, or eventually armored slingers, while maidens can be upgraded to cavalry (somehow) or other types. It works well enough, although it’ll be a while before you can afford much beyond slingers (or perhaps I was just unlucky finding much beyond a few units of weapons in the first half dozen scenarios). It’s a decent enough system, although there really aren’t that many options for advancement (and don’t get me started on the tank options of Panzer games…).

    More unit types, such as trolls and lizardmen, will eventually appear as you progress through the scenarios and your army gets larger and larger. There are no upkeep costs, although your army size is capped by “supply,” which is simply raised as you conquer more territory.

    There's a wide array of equipment for your heroes and troops.

    You start with your main hero, a barbarian chief of exceptional power, but eventually you’ll acquire other heroes. They’ll gain additional abilities and spells as they gain experience, although many scenarios cause you to instantly lose if certain heroes fall in battle.

    My "fast moving" cavalry, slogging through a map. I say "slog" more often since playing this.

    Now, about that campaign…yeesh. Most scenarios are set in rough terrain, forcing you slog your way a hex or two at a time…it’s a rare battle where the cavalry get to do much at all besides slog, slog, slog, their way to the front lines. Most scenarios have a “surprise!” factor to them, with sudden armies appearing from nowhere, or unbalanced maps where you’ll lose just because you had no way of knowing where to put your initial forces (for example, dragons might be heavy on the right side of the map, while you deployed your ranged attack units—the only thing effective against flying enemies—evenly, a fatal mistake). Time and again I found myself clicking the “restart scenario” button after I had a clue what the surprise factors would be.

    Adding to the annoyance is maps are covered by “the fog,” forcing you explore the world hex by hex, or risk getting annihilated in ambushes if you try to push further ahead. I accept maps covered like this sometimes (eg, in unexplored swamps), but even in lands your people know, or civilized lands, you’ll still have the fog, regardless of the ability of one of your leaders to summon crows or other flying creatures which could help.

    These issues are really why this game falls so short of Panzer games, even as it uses basically the same combat system. Every great idea of the older games only gets a pale reflection in FG2, and the latter never seems to offer up any great ideas of its own.

    Bottom line, they’ve copied a great engine here, but there’s nothing in Fantasy General II which hasn’t been done better in other turn-based fantasy strategy wargames, and seeing as they’re clearly trying to emulate the ideas of Panzer General, fans of that game will repeatedly scratch their heads wondering why they couldn’t have copied the good ideas better. Toss in that the one and only campaign is loaded with battles which are more annoying than interesting, and it’s probably best to see if maybe the inevitable expansions and DLC will make this game more worth your gaming dollar.

    Overall Rating: 75
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Fantasy General II review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post