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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RTS

 

Publisher

Strategy First

 

Developer

Time Gate Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

November 2001

 

 

- Streamlined resource management

- Grouping of units into companies

- Good AI pathfinding

- Interesting strategy element including formations, terrain, and time

 

 

- Annoying zones of control for grouped companies

- Blandness and similarity of units

- Campaigns can become boring

 

 

Review: Kohan: Immortal Sovereign (PC)

Review: WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC)

Review: Desperados: Wanted Dead of Alive (PC)

 

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Kohan: Ahriman's Gift

Score: 7.0 / 10

You’ve heard it all before; “Although (blank game name) presents an enjoyable experience, it really does not add offer any truly original or groundbreaking ideas that the gamer has not experienced before.” Now to fans of a particular genre, such a statement means nothing as anything top notch within that genre will be seen as groundbreaking. That being said, this game can most aptly be described as such. Kohan: Ahriman’s Gift (KAG) is a slickly polished RTS with almost no bugs and very few annoyances. It will for sure be a top choice among strategy enthusiasts.

ahrimans_gift_1.jpg (11700 bytes)          ahrimans_gift_2.jpg (15342 bytes)

I personally am not a huge strategy gamer although I enjoy the genre very much. This being the case, I am shall we say, not the most gifted of strategists. With this in mind, I approached the game being sure to play through the very thorough basic and advanced tutorials. These will likely not be needed for seasoned veterans of the genre or for gamers who played Immortal Sovereigns. The learning curve for the average gamer will most likely be between twenty to forty-five minutes to understand some of the strategic elements unique to the Kohan franchise.

Ahriman’s Gift is a prequel to the Immortal Sovereigns which was released last year. Having not played Immortal Sovereigns, I felt a bit lost in the story, but it cannot not be said that the story is just tacked on. The fantasy story is very rich and complex with story elements coming between missions, in the manual, during the tutorials and in the introductions to the campaigns. For those of you unfamiliar with the story line, the Kohan are a race of immortals who are trying to regain there former glory by either siding with the creator, or the dark one. When I said complex, I meant it in fantasy terms; this is a game after all and not Sartre.

For me, it was not the story elements that kept me coming back to try and complete the campaigns but rather the slick gameplay. Not much has changed in the gameplay elements from Immortal Sovereigns, as I have gathered from reading Tolkiemingway’s review of Kohan: IS. Units are pre-grouped into squads of 7, which are comprised of 4 front line units, 2 support units and one commanding unit. This makes troop movement really easy which is quite useful since the majority of missions are just about all out offence and wiping the enemy from the map. Each company can be set into different formations which affect movement, attack stats, and defensive stats. Groups of companies can be customized into different formations as well.

 

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The troop movement and AI pathfinding is quite solid and only if told to move from one end of the map to the other will they balk at your orders. The only minor annoyance I found with troop movements and commands was with grouped companies and their zones of control. Zone of control is a company’s range in which they will attack when it overlaps that of an enemy company’s or building’s zone of control. When two or more companies are grouped together, their individual 

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zones of control are retained. This means that one of your companies can be getting slaughtered while the rest o f your companies stand back and watch as long as the enemy stays far enough away from them.

A neat element of gameplay that has been included is how terrain affects movement, attack and defense. Also, if a company stays in one spot long enough, it will eventually become entrenched which provides that company with a defensive bonus. The more combat a company faces also adds to the company’s experience and stat bonuses are gained.

There are basically, four races although they are further divided into more factions. These subdivisions of categories basically affect the types of upgrades available for the elements built into your town. Available units are also dependent on the race in which you are playing. Overall there are many different kinds of units available for the individual categories of archers, melee combat units, cavalry units, and magic units and unique enhanced support units.

ahrimans_gift_3.jpg (17658 bytes)          ahrimans_gift_4.jpg (14285 bytes)

The only problem is that within these categories, the more advanced units may do more damage, but ultimately they are all the same. Stats aside, and that’s a fairly big aside, the units don’t look that different for many of the factions, and the way they are used is the same. This becomes a problem in the long term for gamers, as seeing the same basic unit types and using them in the same way can become boring. Also, there is no naval or aerial aspect to the game, so again, the types of units remain monotonous. There is also only one type of machine (maelstrom engine) unit. It is common to all races and factions, and is used primarily against buildings.

A contributing factor to the perceived blandness of the units may be the pulled back view of the game. With the player’s view very high above their units, the detail of the characters is not so distinct making the necromancer look exactly like the magician for example. The most interesting units are by far the Kohan themselves which can be used as commanding units. This gives the company with the Kohan boosted stats and increased morale.

Buildings and resource management are definitely not the main focus of the game. KAG offers a stripped down very slick approach to building management and resource harvesting. There are basically only two types of buildings that can be built; the settlement and the outpost. Outposts are used to gather resources from resource, eerr, sources, which cannot be depleted, and to consolidate a position. This is through what is known as zone of supply in the game. As long as one unit from a company is alive, the rest of the company will be brought back to life if they are within a zone of supply of an allied building. Resources include gold, iron, wood, rock and mana. Resources do not need to be harvested as they can be produced, although at a much lower rate, within the settlements.

Aside from that, there are no peasants mucking about chopping wood and such. Resources are needed to supply companies and gold is needed to create new settlements, buy components for your settlements, build outposts, and commission new companies.

This leaves the player to concentrate on the combat. The primary complaint about the campaigns is that there is not much variation. They are almost completely comprised of gathering a large force as quickly as possible and conquering your enemies. Conquered villages also become yours to use and so do their resources. This allows you to create and command the units of your enemies rather than just destroying their settlement to the ground. The annoyance lies rather at the feet of your allies. You are unable to command the units of your allies, and on their own, they leave much to be desired. They won’t attack unless an enemy enters their zone of control and when trying to overrun an enemy, they often use an inferior attack strategy.

Other gameplay elements include the discovery of new technologies by exploring the map. There is also a diplomacy option which seems a little out of place in such an offensive minded game but is surely a welcome addition to politically minded players wishing to keep the peace. For you online fans and value junkies, the game does offer online gameplay with support for up to eight players and seven different game types. For the single player experience there are three campaigns. There is also a map generator and editor included. Not much to say about these features except that they do exactly what they should do and most don’t: work.

KAG has included some minor interesting elements of gameplay and offered a streamlined resource and building system in order to maximize the combat emphasis of the game. Although nothing outstandingly original has been presented, the quirks and annoyances aren’t enough to hinder the gamer’s experience, and overall, a solid RTS experience is offered.

- Mark Leung

(November 30, 2002)

 

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