A byzantine game ending before 286 AD

Field of Glory II: Empires review by Rick Moscatello-aafogsplash-jpg

While the name might indicate a sequel, Field of Glory II: Empires (FOG2) is only loosely a sequel. The original had a great ancient battle system…but nothing else. FOG2 has everything else you could want in a game set in the ancient world, and a decent battle system in its own right; the only link between the two is you have the option of exporting your battles to the original FOG, fight it out there, then import the combatant armies back…it’s a little too involved, but there if you want it.

Speaking of involved, FOG2 is a magnificently involved 4x game. You start as a country, shortly after the death of Alexander. At this point in time, Rome is a city and not much else, and the rest of the world is controlled by Alexander’s generals, who divided up his empire…with each planning to take it all at some point.

The scale of the game is huge—from Spain (a couple dozen provinces, each captured individually) to western India, from the northern Congo to England and Northern Europe, the world is captured in detail, with many ancient structures (eg, the Pyramids, Acropolis, and many others) already built by the time of Alexander. Past that, you can build a ridiculous array of structures, well over a hundred, and eventually you can build more wonders like the Colosseum, Archimedes’ Workshop, and many, many, others.

Field of Glory II: Empires review by Rick Moscatello-aafogbattle-jpg
If outnumbered, try to fight on restrictive terrain.

Military matters are similarly handled in great detail, with Roman legions (among other troops) evolving over time into ever more lethal troops, and you can build special “provincial” forces once you capture enough provinces in a given area. Troops have incredible variety, and a decent array of abilities (eg, mountaineers, skirmishers, siege specialists, and so on), and of course can gain experience over time. You can (and should) give your armies generals, greatly enhancing their effectiveness on the battlefield.

Field of Glory II: Empires review by Rick Moscatello-aafogrome-jpg

It’s very difficult to discuss this game without glossing over some parts, as there are loads of little details. Every major country has a host of special rules which apply, affecting everything (and the devs are working on adding content for the less popular countries; there are over 150 countries here). On top of that, your leader/chieftan/emperor usually brings a set of special rules (eg, poor diplomat, good administrator, or bad military), and don’t worry if you don’t like them, because he (and your generals) will die of old age over time (alas, I got a Depraved Roman emperor, age 23….). Bottom line, the game manual is over 200 pages (helpful tutorial in the back, by the way), and it really only skims over the many complexities here. Actually, the game is so complicated that you can play reasonably well ignoring much of it—the many things you don’t do exactly right will offset by the things you’ll accidentally do well.

As your empire expands, you have to be very careful to maintain loyalty in your regions, which are prone to citizen revolts, slave revolts, and even full blown civil wars (one time I had 3 different civil wars ongoing…). You’ll also have to worry about decadence; a decadent kingdom can slip into decay, leading to even further problems. Be sure to build culture buildings to offset this, with an eye to preserving your Legacy.

Field of Glory II: Empires review by Rick Moscatello-aafogwinning-jpg

Legacy is key to winning, At the end of 190 AD (the game starts in 310 BC), the winner is whoever has the highest legacy score. You need not be a great conqueror for this, it’s possible to play defensively and win, or even to have your empire break up in a civil war a time or two, collapse into decay (decaying countries actually make the most Legacy), only to rise victorious in the end. It’s not an easy system to understand…but it’s a fun system and ultimately that’s what you want.

For all the greatness here, there are some issues. Walled cities are far too easy to capture with even a small army (in fact, small armies have an advantage during siege, due to the frontage rules). Newly recruited units spawn outside the city—recruit units in anticipation of an attack and they’ll die right outside the city walls! Even if you put a huge army in a region in anticipation of a revolt, and you destroy the rebels…you’ll still be kicked out and lose control of the region. Armies of rebels, even slaves, are alarmingly well equipped (c’mon, now, one of the slave revolts had war elephants!).

That said, I have to give some props to the devs here, it’s not easy to make a game this complicated and give it competent AI, but they managed it, without giving it insane production advantages like a Sid Meier game. They actually had to do so, because you have the option to “switch countries” mid game if you wish—when things get grim, just take over the country beating you, or whoever is winning, and you can see for yourself they have a plausible situation. Of course, if you like playing at a disadvantage, there are difficulty levels for that as well. A typical game, by the way, is around 500 turns, and you can easily blow 5 minutes on a turn…the play value here is extreme, even if you only give each major country a single try, you’ll be past 500 hours of play value. I can’t recall the last time I played a game which could so consistently keep me up far too late playing “just one more turn.”

Bottom line, there’s lots of awesome in FOG2E, even if it doesn’t mesh with FOG. Any 4x fan looking for a very deep game won’t be disappointed.

Overall Rating: 94