Last month we looked at the preview build for Fantasy General II, Owned By Gravity and Slitherine’s sequel to the 1996 strategy classic. What we saw from the barbarian campaign appeared to be shaping up nicely – and overall, it’s a success. However, while the basics of the game have truly been nailed – it is not perfect and lacks some longevity.
To recap: Fantasy General II is a Civilization–Xcom–Total War hybrid, bringing together aspects of the 4X, turn-based strategy and army management genres to create a fairly unique kind of game. Emphasising the Xcom similarities, the core gameplay in the campaign centres around controlling an army through a linear, hex-based map – completing various objectives to advance the story. The player travels from mission to mission, upgrading and recruiting for their army between fights, hoping not to be stuck with nothing but a band of spearmen for a large upcoming fight. This can happen, admittedly, fairly often considering the game’s rather harsh difficulty spikes.
With two campaigns, ‘Invasion’ and the shorter prequel ‘The Tale of Falir’ – Fantasy General II doesn’t skimp in terms of content. The Invasion campaign, which we previewed before, takes players across most of Keldonia and offers some genuinely engaging storytelling. Characters are established well, and early on, which is rare for a turn-based strategy game. It’s refreshing to have a turn-based experience which is linear and does not leave it to the player to create the specifics of the story. In the current landscape of games, developers use the phrase ‘player-driven story’ is concerningly often – Fantasy General II, on the other hand, leaves nothing to the imagination. It’s slightly distressing that a game with a clear start, beginning and end to a campaign is high praise, but here we are. The Tale of Falir, without spoiling anything, takes on a similar tone to the main campaign and continues the excellent world-building which Invasion begins.
This linearity, while refreshing in today’s industry climate, it is a double-edged great axe, if you will: it’s a shame that the barbarians are the only faction playable for a campaign. Not that I feel particularly sad about not taking on the role of the evil empire which uses diabolical necromantic magic to take over the world – but it would have extended the longevity of Fantasy General II to have even a few short campaigns as other factions. The minor factions of Keldonia are built up and given their own personality with rich backstories. Owned By Gravity missed out on some potentially great content by not giving me the troll-only power trip I crave, or even giving players the chance to play as other barbarian clans. Instead, the minor factions are annexed into the two major ones.
The Unity engine gets a lot of flak for being a foundational part of Steam’s shovel-ware epidemic (a quick Google search for ‘bad unity games’ will give you a treasure trove of utter garbage), but Fantasy General II appears to subvert it. While it can’t take the throne for greatest Unity feat of all time – that crown remaining well on the head of Ori and the Blind Forest– Owned By Gravity do what they can with such a basic engine. Overall, it’s put together well, it runs well, and its art assets are good. The only area in which Fantasy General II shares resemblance with the dark side of Unity is its menu appearance. Text and menus in this game look dated and, as a result, gives an amateurish look to everything outside of the actual gameplay. This is, however, a minor complaint; overall, the art style is full of charm.
As far as the way it plays, not much of the game’s meat has changed in the final build. With solid, in-depth combat mechanics which leaves room for optimising on the part of the player – Fantasy General II is still satisfying to play. Coupled with a solid skirmish setting, which appears to be inspired by Total War’s custom battles, the singleplayer experience will keep players going for a while. Despite an online setting, the fairly low player numbers don’t lend themselves to random online challenges – so perhaps a trip to Reddit, or to your fellow Fantasy General II-owning friends is in order. The online mode, however, is more of an addition than a key component of the game.
I’m full of praise for this game because it fills a niche gap in the market which takes the best parts of some existing games to do something new. But, at £30.99, it’s a hard sell for anyone who isn’t passionately into turn-based fantasy strategy. Based on the Steam Community announcements, the devs are listening to players and improving the game – which is promising. If more factions are playable in the future, this game could be something truly brilliant with a player base large enough to support some online play.
When players think turn-based squad/army strategy games – sci-fi usually comes to mind. And, similarly, when fantasy and turn-based strategy are mixed it is often in the form of a civilisation builder experience. So, when a new Fantasy General game was announced, I was personally excited to see what we would get.
With the resurgent popularity of high fantasy RPGs, in the form of Dungeons and Dragons, in the last few years alongside the success of turn based games such as Xcom II in 2016 – Fantasy General II is an exciting upcoming feature in my Steam library. We were given the chance to charge straight into the Invasion campaign to see what this new game has to offer.
This new addition to the franchise is set in the fictional land of Keldonia, three hundred years after the events of the original, 1996, Fantasy General.
The game dons an aesthetic which barbarianly yawps ‘1990s high fantasy’, and a soundtrack which perfectly sets the tone of the game.
REVIEW CODE: A FREE PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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