Kohan II: Kings of War
Developer: Timegate Studios
Publisher: Global Star/Take Two
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2 - 8 via GameSpy or LAN
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If thereís one thing the world of PC gaming does not need, (besides another first-person shooter) itís another Real-Time Strategy game (thatís RTS for you abbreviation nerds), and with the promising Warhammer: Dawn Of War being released around the same time, Kohan II: Kings of War already has its back against the wall, but believe me, it wonít go down without a fightÖ

The main key to making a RTS for the PC now is innovation - most new games have had their own unique selling points, for example: being able to take over your opponentís vehicles in Codename: Panzers made people think differently about attack strategies. With Kohan itís hard to pin down a single feature that is new or innovative - everything feels similar, and easy-to-use, yet at the same time, it feels different and more engaging.

The story picks up where the previous Kohan left off, with the immortal Kohan race rebuilding the world after the great war against the Ceyeh that destroyed it. After the borders of Istaria are attacked, apparently by the Ceyeh, the Kohan send out an army, led by Naava Daishan to sort things out again. Confused? You will be. A lot of time has evidently been spent making a script with more twists and turns than a day out with Colin McRae, and so many characters to remember your head will spin. All criticism aside, the story does actually provide some plausible reason for going to capture/retake a town, or ambushing a convoy, unlike some RTS, and itís pretty fun to try and guess who will double-cross who.

The world in which Kohan is played out looks particularly lovely, from the lush plains to the snowy upper reaches. Each unit has its own independent movement animations, and although they all move together, they look autonomous, not to mention nice. Merciless pawns of war have never looked so good! The buildings from each race all have their own style and animations, so there is always something moving, and something to watch. The only downside for all this beauty is that it was so beautiful that when more than about four or five companies were on-screen at one time, the game slowed down to the smoothness of a time-lapse CCTV camera. Granted, the test rig isnít the fastest of PCs, but RTSs shouldnít take that much power to runÖ

For me, the gameís best point has to be its unit creation system. Instead of creating Single units, like 10 soldiers and 4 archers, and moving them all together, Kohan has a much better system in place - ďDIY companiesôĒ. Each company needs a captain, but you can either choose a captain, or a Kohan character, who possesses special powers to help the whole unit. After that, you need a main column for the centre, and can choose flank and rear support units to compliment the main bulk of troops. This means that you have nearly endless combinations for different situations, like swordsmen, with archers on the flanks, and medics/priests for support, or a catapult with heavy soldier support on the flanks and rear, or just a huge bulk or cavalry to run down the enemyÖ

This tailor-made unit option is important if you want to out-smart the AI, which has definitely been doing its homework. If youíre not careful, you can easily be wiped out by the sneaky and evolving AI. Unlike most AI, where the tactic is to throw as many troops as possible at you, and keep going until you/they are dead, Kohanís AI uses its virtual noggin to attack you. Itíll throw a false attack to one side of your base, enticing you to commit all your troops, and then sneak a larger force behind you to pick up the pieces, or send in one company to make you chase them across the map, and into an ambush. Having loads of heavy bruisers on the battlefield is one thing, but you also need to watch out for the AI, and make sure that each unit has a specific use, otherwise youíll get rather swiftly killed.

Each company affects your economy though, which isnít just a matter of accumulating loads of gold/wood/iron, like in other RTSs, itís a little different here. Gold is the only resource that accumulates (every minute). The other resources (iron, wood, stone and Khalundite) are a set number depending on how many mines for each youíve got. When you build or recruit units, that number goes down, and if it goes into minus, it starts nicking gold out of your reserves. This means itís up to you to think about which units you make, so that you donít overuse one resource and neglect another. Itís not as complicated as it sounds, but it adds a more strategic element to the settlement part, instead of your standard ďgrab every resource around, and build as much as you canĒ strategy.

Another element with the towns is that as you upgrade them, you have only a few slots in which to construct buildings. This means that you canít build every type of building in one town, and to get all the units available, youíll need to build another settlement somewhere else, but also in a specialised settlement area. This leads to the creation of specialist settlements - one for a cavalry base, another for a siege base and so on, mixing things up a little more.

Kohan II: Kings of War is a fantasy real-time strategy game, but has enough innovation and draw to it to make it a worthwhile purchase. The AI is top-notch, as are the graphics (even though it is a little hard to run smoothly). The story is also interesting, and despite the fact that itís a little hard to follow, with all the races being new, and confusing, the world holds water. The single-player campaign boasts 25 missions, and with the custom skirmish as well as online play for up to 8 players, thereís enough here to keep you sieging and pillaging long into the future.

Best Bits

- Innovative unit structure.
- Lovely graphics.
- Strong story.
- Lots to do.
Worst Bits

- Storyline and races are a bit confusing.
- Some weird voice acting.
- Hi specs required to see it at its best.

by: Crazypunk

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