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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Turn-based Strategy

 

Publisher

Strategy First

 

Developer

Strategy First

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

February 2002

 

 

- Slick presentation

- Easy to get into, great interface

- Not a lot of micromanagement

- Hard to pull away from

- Good challenge from the AI

- Four campaigns and several quests

- Included Editor will extend

shelf life

 

 

- Pale skin as you forget what the sun looks like

- Action can eventually become repetitious

- Sometimes hard to see things on the travel map

- Minor annoyance of only taking one leader to the next level in Saga mode

 

 

Review: WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC)

Review: Shogun: Total War (PC)

Review: Hundred Swords (PC)

 

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Disciples II: Dark Prophecy

Score: 8.8 / 10

 

After playing the Beta of Disciples II: Dark Prophecy (DP) to death, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the final version.  Now, after playing many hours of DP, I can say that the final version exceeded my expectations – and only misses a 9+ rating because it is such a time trap.  If I gave it a 9+ score, even non turn-based strategy gamers might go out and buy it.  Suddenly they’re staying up late playing it, coming into work later – or worse, calling in sick – and eventually severing all outside ties with the world.  It could spell the collapse of the international economy!

 

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Okay, so I have an over-inflated concept of how much weight my reviews have, but DP is a great game and should have turn-based fans reveling in the action.  I would even go as far to say, that it would be a good entry for gamers that want to try a different style and speed of strategy game as opposed to the traditional RTS. (Just remember to go to work, okay?)

 

That DP’s release follows close on the heels of the first Lord of the Rings movie can only work to DP’s advantage.  DP pits the forces of good (Mountain Clans and the (human) Empire) and the forces of evil (The Undead Hordes and the Legions of the Damned).  Each race is playable and has their own unique look to set themselves apart.  This is very apparent in the traveling screen.  The Empire’s lands are all lush and green, while the Mountain Clans freeze everything.  There’s never any ambiguity as to who controls what.  And thankfully there aren’t a lot of micromanagement headaches to deal with.

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There are two basic resources to control: gold and mana.  There are four different kinds of mana to suit the spells of the four different races.  This isn’t to say you only need to collect one type of mana though – some spells require a combination of mana so controlling as many mana sources as possible is advantageous, if only to prevent your opponent from gaining ground.  The other resource, gold, is used to build your castles, hire regular and leader units, buy rare 

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items, revive slain units, etc.  Gold and mana are easy to track and manage.  To attain these resources you’ve got to expand your influence and that’s where your fighting units come in.

 

Leaders and regular units can be hired at the Army screen at your castle.  Parties are created here, consisting of one Leader and (depending on their leadership rating) up to 5 other members.  As things start off, your units don’t even approach mighty.  No, mightiness comes later after many battles with enemy units, big spiders, polar bears, wolves, giants, and gangs of thugs.  Each encounter builds the XP of all your (living) fighters in the battle.  Attain enough XP and your units level up in a small explosion of light. (And your leader unit can learn a new abilities like Weapon Master that allows your entire party to gain 25% more XP per encounter.)  They’ll only level up if you’ve built the corresponding building at your main castle.

 

Each battle is instigated through the travel screen and reminds me of a compressed game of chess.  Once in combat you have five options: retreat, auto battle, wait, attack, and defend.  A careful balance of the four is required if you want to succeed in the more difficult battles with near equal opposition.  If you’re outnumbered and outclassed chances are you won’t even make it out alive.  The thief unit (especially the Guildmaster Thief) is invaluable in gaining information on enemy units and defenses and should not be ignored.  He can give you the upper hand in an unknown situation otherwise you walk in blind. (He can also poison whole enemy parties, challenge a party leader to a duel, steal items, and a host of other nefarious doings.)  Of course, you can always use a variety of spells (researched at your castle for a cost of mana) to soften up the enemy target.

 

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All of these variables, the various parties (friendly and hostile), spells, structures, resources, are easy to track.  Most of this is owed to the turn-based nature of DP, which allows you more time to think and plan things before acting.

 

The above is more detail than you probably need, so I’ll switch to the more general aspects.

 

Graphically, DP is great.  Much care and attention has been paid to bring the units to life.  Each unit has unique animations and the variety of units for all the races is great.  The variety increases when units level up – some units are downright huge with brutal attacks.  The ranged attacks of the spell-casting units are impressive as well.  The travel map is great too, however, it can be difficult to see units (friend and foe) at a glance.  Losing track of a party is easy to do in later levels when you might have upwards of 6 or 7 of them questing around. (Some of this is solved with the interface.)  Equal to the graphics is the sound.  Musically DP actually manages to be soothing most of the time.  Suspenseful music kicks in during combat to accompany the polished sound effects.

 

The interface is first-rate.  Even without playing through the tutorial (hidden in the Quest menu), players shouldn’t have too much trouble learning the controls.  DP can be played entirely with the mouse (unless you want to name your individual leaders).  The secret behind DP’s interface is that you’re never more than two clicks away from getting the information you want.  It’s extremely easy use and makes the game that much more fun.

 

DP is addictive.  Sitting down to play through a few turns can easily suck hours from your life as a “few turns” becomes 50 turns.  If you get sucked into this vortex, the save option will help you reclaim your life (and possibly save your marriage).  You can save anywhere and your game is saved automatically at the start of each turn.  

 

Why DP is so addictive (for me at least) has to be the delicious mix of D&D (right down to the story lines), chess, and sight and sound.

 

A downside to DP is that combat can get a little tiring after awhile.  The same animations, the same sounds, the same backgrounds – while they are numerous they do get old after awhile.  However it was not enough to kill my interest as I’ve been through the Sagas, several Quests and played four on-line games.  Quest and Saga objectives vary from Destroy the enemy to Transform a percentage of the landscape.  The on-line games are a great feature but connecting to a game can be hard, as you have to enter the IP address. (There's also hotseat and LAN play.) That being said, there’s enough gaming here without the on-line play.

 

In the end, Disciples II: Dark Prophecy polishes the turn-based fantasy genre to a brilliant sheen.  While it doesn’t do anything earth shattering, the graphics and sound are good, the interface easy to use, the challenge good, a selection of Sagas (campaigns) and Quests (with more available as people begin using the very easy to use Editor) means you'll not soon run out of things to do, and the addictive quality make Dark Prophecy worth the money.  The pros definitely outweigh the cons.

 

- Omni

(February 28, 2002)

 

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